Week 99 & 100 - Bike Trouble Strikes!
We left Rio Tranquilo in the morning and headed North to Coyhaique. There were some roadworks on route but overall it wasn't too bad. We then hung a right and headed towards Paso Coyhaique, but found an awesome wild camp about 6km before the border next to river, so decided to stop there for the day and chill out. It was quite evident that people had been there before and we even had a horse came to visit. Unfortunately our bombproof cheapy Chinese tent zip broke on the outer door...not so bombproof after all but to be honest, we were amazed by how much it had withstood already (just not the heavy handedness of Suzie!), especially with the Patagonian winds recently! In the morning, we made some fresh coffee and opened the cake bar thing we'd bought the day before. It was literally the only portable food-like thing that was available...and we'd been planning to cross the border so that would have been allowed but not fresh food...or maybe we just wanted cake for breakfast?! Lol! Any excuse! Whilst we were breakfasting and starting to pack three cowboys came by on horses so we waved. They didn't seem at all fussed that we were there and carried on by.
After packing everything up we continued to the border. All-in-all it was quite an easy border with no searches on this occasion, which was good, and we managed to arrive just before a few other people which was lucky because that would have made a huge difference to our speed of crossing. We then headed off to Ruta 40 once again. We'd planned to take a shortcut route that I found on the map, but the road was so bad with loads of really loose gravel and strong winds that we just did the 124km easier dirt road straight to the tarmaced Ruta 40, rather than 300km of not so nice dirt road in the wind. We'd normally have chosen the longer more scenic route, but in this case it wasn't looking like much fun so we were happy with our choice. We topped up our tanks with fuel in Rio Mayo and met a couple two-up on a bike in the petrol station who were from Chile, so we got ourselves a coffee and sat and chatted for a bit, as you do...definitely a great part of the adventure! It was then time to get on the road again, and once we reached the Ruta 40, it was then 231 km direct to Gobernador Costa, albeit a tad tedious. However, lucky to be on our bikes in Argentina so no moaning here!!!
On arrival in the town we saw the other couple’s bike at hotel (the ones we'd been chatting to back at the petrol station). We didn’t camp as the weather forecast was really bad and tent zip had gone. In fact, the weather was forecast to be pretty bad for the next five days so after spending one night in the over-budget hotel we'd found, the next day we went in search of cheaper accommodation. After a bit of a walk around we found 'Dormis Lo De Betty' cabañas. It was WAY cheaper, but also much nicer than the super cramped hotel room. We decided to book four nights so that we could sit out the storms. It was definitely a good call as many people we met said how bad weather had been further north and where we were going to next. Phew! The bonus to slow travel! Fourtunately the small town had a really awesome veg shop, and the locals were very friendly. As an aside note, I also found out that my article about Bolivia had been published in Overland Magazine, so I was very chuffed, as it had been a small goal of mine to have an article accepted by them as it's such an excellent and beautiful magazine. Happy days!!!
We set off again and managed to get off Ruta 40, then headed on much nicer dirt roads to the Carrenleufu border, a route suggested to us by Sabine and Wolfgang (Ride2Kite). There were beautiful views and another stunning lake. If we'd arrived later we would have wild camped but there was no need as there was still plenty of the day remaining and we were happy to carry on, especially as the weather was very much on our side. At the border we realised there was an issue with Kelvin’s bike because his chain was loose again, which was odd. We tightened it but hadn't yet worked out the reason why it was loose so quickly again. Unfortunately they did a full search of all our luggage which meant taking it all out of the panniers…a tad annoying but ok, and the guy was really friendly and asking lots of questions, so it passed the time nicely. He also told us if we had a big issue with the bike then there was a ferry direct to Puerto Montt from Chaiten, rather than going our proposed route, which involved two ferries and crossing the island in the middle on our bikes....definitely the preferred, more interesting option!
It was then dirt road all the way to Villa Santa Lucia, a town partially destroyed by a huge land slide. It was so awful. There were still huge ruins there, and heading North you could see where the landslide had started and how it had followed the river valley to the town devastating everything in its path. It reminded us just how powerful nature can be! We hadn't quite seen anything like this, where there were still flattened houses and buildings from the landslide. The few places we'd been previously with such huge, devastating landslides had either been flattened out, cleared and rebuilding had started, or just nothingness...no sign that there was ever a town there before, like the town near El Ruiz in Colombia that we had no clue about until after because there was literally nothing left!
We stopped in the village because Kelvin felt his bike was feeling odd again, and the chain was loose once again!! Then Kelvin discovered the extent of issue; the frame had cracked right through both sides!! No wonder his bike felt squirrely! We both felt like crying. My bike had finally got sorted and now Kelvin's bike was causing us grief, and we were trying to get to Santiago so Kelvin could go home to see his mum who'd had a stroke, and we also realised it would mean foregoing the beautiful Chilean lake district, which we'd really wanted to explore. Luckily for us, at this point the road turned to asphalt and we rode the next 75km to Chaiten VERY carefully. We went to the ferry ticket sales office to buy some ferry tickets direct to Puerto Montt, as the border official had recommended should we have issues, but the next one wasn't going until Monday and it was now only Friday. Bugger! At least there could be much worse places in the world to be stuck. We decided not to buy tickets just yet as another biker showed up and said he may know someone who could fix the frame for us. We thought it'd be worth investigating at least, because if we could then it'd mean a more interesting trip heading North to Santiago!
The chap took us to the mechanic he knew of, and he quoted us $500USD to weld it up or USD $1500+ to take the bike to Santiago! That was more than flying the bike to Spain!!! We thanked them and went off to have a chat about it as we didn't want to make a rushed decision as it was a lot of money. After a bit of a chat we decided to ask the biker community for help instead, as we just weren't keen to have the engine removed where there was no airport, because if all went wrong Kelvin may miss his flight back to the UK, and that was really important. We decided at that point that camping was a bad plan as it was already 8pm and we were both feeling so deflated. After asking at a few places we eventually found a Hostal that had a reasonably priced room for the area; Restaurant El Quijote with it's lovely owner Javier. There was only street parking but it was a small, seemingly safe town. We had dinner in the restauraunt and it was awesome plus we really wanted a drink. We also met some other travellers in a van from the USA (Colorado) and a girl who was working there from Norway. Javier was a great host and so friendly, we felt we'd made the right choice!
We were happy so we booked for the three nights. The next day we went and booked ferry tickets for Monday at 10.30am. Our friend Sabine Batt (Ride2Kite) put us in touch with a guy called Charlie in Osorno, and with that we arranged an action plan! The rest of the day was spent faffing with the bike, chatting to the biker community and liaising with Charlie.
In the evening we just shared main meal as they were so large, and we also drank some wine with Javier and his brother. We all chatted until midnight and Javier offered to take us to the thermal baths in the morning. We obviously jumped at the opportunity! It was quite funny because the French and German couple also sat in the restaurant were not impressed with Javier singing and dancing, but we found it funny and it definitely kept us amused and lifted our spirits!
The next morning we were up early, and we were all ready to go and Javier was having to close the place for the day, but unfortunately the other couple staying got up late and didn’t check out on time, so we all ended up waiting around for a while. However, a little while later we were on our way in Javier's car to the Thermals. It was sooooooooo nice! We spent a while there just relaxing and enjoying the warmth of the thermals surrounded by forest, it was absolutely lush! After that we piled back in the car and Javier took us to his 'Campo', where the items on the menu were beer and Pisco sours, with a forest and mountain backdrop! Hard life! It really was such an amazing place, and Javier showed us all around the place and explained his plans to make an area for camping, BBQ's and more.
As if the day wasn't great enough already, on the way back to the town we stopped at a rodeo. There was a huge 'Asado' (BBQ) on the go but it wasn't going to be ready for quite a while so we got some giant meat empanadas. The locals were so lovely the atmosphere was buzzing, and there was lots of drinking going on! The 'cowboys' showed off their skillful lassoing techniques and it was quite funny watching the tug-of-war as the competition was fierce and not a lot of movement to begin with, then one team seemed to get a second wind and started to edge backwards steadily, winning the day. We would never have know about this event unless Javier had taken us so we were super grateful.
Later in the afternoon we went to Santa Barbara beach with a beer. It had been a thoroughly packed day, and this was a great finale! Javier and I promptly fell asleep and Kelvin chilled out and went for a bit of a stroll around the bay. It was then time to head back to the hostel/restaurant. There was a couple eating in the restaurant but once they'd gone, Javier closed the place again and cooked Asado. There was a couple from Holland staying and another chap joined us for some food and wine. The meat tasted absolutely fantastic and another brother of Javier’s joined us to, so through the evening we ended up chatting to a few different people, which was great. Javier told us that he is one of ten siblings!!
We'd had an awesome day, superb evening and it was yet another post midnight bedtime, but very much worth it!
It was now monday morning and we were up sharp at 7am. We got the bikes ready, had breakfast and a shower, then left for ferry 8.55am after bidding a fond farewell to Javier. Unfortunately, when we got to ferry terminal they said it was running late and expected at 11am. Then later, after there was still no sign of it, they said it'd be arriving at 12.30pm. Then later they said 3pm!! Hmmmm, I think there were some porkies being told as depending on their location, it wouldn't have taken a genius to work out how long it would take the ferry to get there depending on the speed that it would normally be travelling at, but hey, this is South America, and we love it!
Fortunately our wait wasn't completely boring. We met three cyclists, one of whom had a congenital leg amputation called Damian who was from France. Then there was Gabriel and his friend. We all chatted a while, and we were listening to their cycling travel experiences and Damian was telling us about the issues getting parts for his prosthesis...definitely an added headache when you're on the road in the middle of nowhere! We also met a couple from Santiago on a Varadero motorbike, who we spoke to briefly, however they obviously anticipated the additional tardiness of the ferry and disappeared off for most of the afternoon. They were really lovely and gave us their number in case of any issues we may have. Finally, some dolphins came for a bit of a swim in the bay, which kept us entertained for a while. So all-in-all, not a bad day, however our only or main concern was the time at which we'd now be expected in Puerto Montt!
At last the ferry arrived, unloaded and was re-loaded by 2.30pm! At least that was earlier than the last anticipated arrival time so no complaints here! Charlie agreed to still pick us up and it was going to be a very long ferry ride. To our dismay there were loads of kids running around and lady chatting loudly on phone most of way, so we literally slept about 20 mins. We were so tired! The ferry docked at midnight and Charlie arrived at 12.40am. We got Kelvin's bike all loaded and got going. I was so very cold trundling behind the van in the wet frezzing fog, but I got there safely and then we took off the panniers on Kelvin’s bike and left the bike ready to go on the back of Charlie's motorhome. Finally, we were in bed around 3am.
Charlie was working in morning so he really didn't manage to get a lot of sleep and we were even more thankful that he'd gone out of his way to pick us up! We slept solid until 9am and then snoozed til midday...yes, lazy sods!
Merkén (Charlie's dog) was hanging around and he was lovely. We played with him in the field next to the chalet we were renting in Charlie's back garden and he came for lots of cuddles, which I really enjoyed. Having him to play with, a nice hot shower and yet more beautiful surroundings definitely made up for the bike issues we were having, plus the added bonus of getting to meet lovely new people, Charlie and his wife Sandra!
Whilst we were killing time waiting for the bike to be sorted we went into Osorno on the bus and went to'Jumbo' shopping for some groceries as well as some other bits and pieces, then went in search of some Wifi. We found a great little cafe that had good wifi and had some nice coffees to boot, so we spent a bit of time there making a plan of action and contacting a place to stay in Santiago. The second time around Kelvin got haircut for 4000 Chilean pesos, and found an even better cafe with betterWifi, so we stayed even longer this time!
We were invited to have wine and snacks with Charlie and Sandra that evening so we gratefully accepted and it was a great evening, and the bike was due back all repaired the following day. Time to relax!
Finally, on the last night we had Pisco sours with Charlie and Sandra, and got the maps out for some route planning...love it! I'd actually come down with a cold during our stay there so we really didn't get to do much exploring except for our couple of bus trips in to Osorno, which was a shame.
It was then time to pack up and get on the road once again, so we said fairwell to our lovely hosts and saviours, then headed North in the direction of Santiago. When we got to Chillán we decided to stop, and went for a Chinese after we found a place to stay for the night. It had all been motorway. That first day we covered a huge (for us) 550km first day The following day we covered over 400km. It was a means to an end and it would mean that Kelvin would get to Santiago in time for his flight, but there were so many tolls!It was 600-800 pesos each per toll, and they were placed maybe about every 100km! This is why we prefer the scenic back roads, or at least one of the reasons! We saw volcanos to the East and wished we could go, plus we missed Lake District, however we finally got to Hostal Casa Matte and parked up. We met the friendly, welcoming owner Cristian, and then made ourself comfortable in our new bunk room, which would be my room for the next couple of weeks while Kelvin was back in the UK.