Well, the internet worked last night – After a fashion !! I eventually managed to get everything up loaded, but it was just to slow doing some of the other stuff like the map and the naming of the slides, so I gave up. I was sitting outside and it was getting cold – I will do that another day ! While I was trying to do all that, the Patagonian sunset over the lake was superb – Trouble was, after all those photos today, my camera battery was dead, so I only got three photos – And after that, it got better ! But at least I got to see it !!
Woke up reasonably early and went to check out the view – Not as dramatic as I had hoped, but certainly not the worst sight of the year so far ! Once breakfasted and packed up, I continued on round the southern end of Lago General Carrera, and while the views remained excellent, the road was still a disaster, with more corrugations than you should shake a stick at. Not a fun way to start the day. My rough plan was to mosey round to Cochrane, and then head south west to Puerto Yungay, and then maybe to Villa O’Higgins, the official end of the Carretera Austral. Rounding the SW end of Lago General Carrera, we then went up a rise and were looking back over 3 lakes – the big General Carrera, then Lago Bertrand and then the smaller Lago Plomo. All pretty impressive. From there I followed the valley of the Rio Baker, and its tributary Rio Neff – These are BIG fast flowing rivers, with a LOT of water in them, and the water is the palest ice blue. It passes through narrow gorges where the water rushes through, and a few minutes later widens out and looks like the most serene river – Until you see just how fast the water is moving ! Lots of lodges and “activity” centres for climbing, kayaking, and lots of other young people’s things all the way through this valley down towards Cochrane. Also lots of lovely Scottish Thistles – I think there are more here than in Scotland – Maybe they should be called Patagonian Thistles ? There were also signs saying that Huemules (a kind of deer) could be on the road and that we should take care. Of course, once they put up a sign like this, all the huemules disappear !!
Eventually reached Cochrane, and by now the road was becoming consistently bad with corrugations. But each town / village has paved roads, which lull you into thinking that things are improving ! In fact, in the middle of Cochrane I came out on to a great section of divided highway (in the middle of town) with benches and grass and all sorts – I thought things were looking up. As I turned onto this bit of road I looked up to the right and it changed into dirt, so thinking it was just a dead end, and the main road must be the good bit, so I turned left. Then my Garmin started flashing that I was going the wrong way – And after following the good road right through town (where it eventually stopped !), I did a U turn and went back up the road – Yup, that dirt road I had discounted initially was the main road out of town !! Whoops !
Almost immediately, the road got so bad with corrugations that it made all previous roads (that I have been complaining about), look like billiard tables !! The corrugations were atrocious, and it was not as if they were just occasional – They were continuous !! We passed over bridge (20 metres of smooth concrete !!) over a river which disappeared down a hole – So I got out for a look, and this river absolutely roared through this narrow gap in the rock, and then fell about 30 metres, with the spray causing rainbows in the sunlight. Very dramatic, but no path or anything – You had to risk life and limb to climb over fences and lean over rocks to see what was happening ! Then it was on down this TERRIBLE road – I was doing less than 20 kmh, although the locals, all of whom seem to be in identical red Mitsubishi pick ups (Government cars ?), were flying down the road. Lots of bicycles, even one with those super fat tyres, trying to make it easier on the corrugations and dirt, and all had to wear face masks because of the dust thrown up by passing vehicles. Not a pleasant day out for anyone !!
The scenery was pretty good, but the road was getting worse. Poor old Troopie was all right driving wise, but being essentially a motor home with everything inside, she was shaking to pieces inside. I could go at 10 – 20 kmh and it was OK, but I would never het to Puerto Yungay 120 kms away, let alone Villa O’Higgins, and other 100 kms further. More importantly, I was not having fun either. Cars coming the other way were going very fast, throwing up rocks, and the road was narrow – Single car width in many places. I had 3 or 4 near misses with idiots flying over brows towards me and nearly pushing me off the road (and I was on the OUTSIDE, with the cliff beside me !), and in the knowledge that I would have to come all the way back up the same road, I made a decision over lunch by the roadside that I would turn back. I still have a lot of miles to go, and a lot of great scenery to come – I am afraid the last 150 kms of the Carretera Austral will have to remain unconquered by GBC until another day. After my lunch, I did the 30 kms back to Cochrane, and if anything the road seemed worse than earlier ! I spoke to a few cyclists and when I said I was turning back, they said they understood – they weren’t really enjoying it either. But then they do not have to ride back up the road again – They can catch a boat round into Argentina !! I was a little bit upset to start with, but there is so much more to see, so……
When I was almost back to Cochrane, I came round a corner and there was a pop top Troopie – From Switzerland !! Ueli and Kathrin Wurth. www.matembezi.ch So I stopped and interrupted their lunch and we swapped tales. They have come down through Africa and parts of the Middle East, and have already been on the road 18 months. Theirs is a fine Troopie – They have really done the inside up well, doing it all themselves, and it really looks nice. I still like mine, but theirs is the first one I have seen that comes (very) close to the good layout and efficiency of Troopie !! There were several bits of their I would be more than happy to transfer into Troopie !! They are heading North, so I probably won’t see them again, but very nice to meet them and know yet another Troopie on the road !!
Then it was back through Cochrane, and then north. But I had found out today that there is another border crossing into Argentina that means I don’t have to do the same crossing at Chile Chico twice – But it’s a very small one called Paso Roballos. About 17 kms north of Cochrane I therefore turned right onto this single lane dirt road – The surface of which was FAR better than the one I had been fighting for the past 24 hours !! And dramatic ? It is unbelievable. Hardly anyone on it, and it winds though these valleys where enormous herds of guanaco graze – Hundreds of them !! Amazing scenery all the way as we went further and further out into no where on this little dirt road. Suddenly I see a big roof over a hill – and when I round the curve, absolutely in the middle of NOWHERE, there is this big resort / hotel / restaurant, with sprinklers watering the grass and everything !! I thought I was about to fall off the map, and then I find this – Totally gobsmacked !
From there I continued for about another 30 kms, passing lakes, rocky cliffs, lots of guanaco, and looking for a place to stop before I reached the border. Nearly stopped at a couple of roadside places, but then at almost 6 pm, I saw a little turning, and it went down to a river and even had 5 or 6 parking bays in the trees, although they were a bit over grown. How perfect – And far enough off the road that no one could see me. So I back into a parking area, set up, cooked my spag for dinner, and then hit the hay.
What an amazing day – A bit of disappointment, a lot of horrible roads, easily the worst of the trip so far, but then I am camped tonight in the most beautiful bush site in the middle of nowhere (unless there is another hotel just around the corner !!
Just to give you an idea of how bad the roads were today let me tell you something. JC turned water into wine at Canaan, and everyone thought that was pretty clever. Well today I managed to turn milk into butter, I also turned a tomato (remember those over ripe ones I was forced to buy yesterday ?) into tomato puree, while simultaneously turning 3 eggs into a mess that covered everything in the fridge !! The fridge was a MESS when I opened it up, and considering I have done almost 50,000 kilometres to date and NEVER had such problem, it gives you an idea of how bumpy the roads were today !!
PS The fact that the water in my water bottle was still water at the end of the day and not wine was a bit of a disappointment, I will admit. But I am working on that !!