[Sally] 28.2.16 We leave Villa Amengual and head for Puyuhuapi today. It's a nice cruisy ride for about 30kms with paved roads, following rivers in a valley and fabulous scenery, then we hit the dirt again. The road is very rough with big stones, loose shallow gravel, tyre track ruts and a gazillion pot holes - it's not a question of avoiding them, it's a question of choosing the path which will be least damaging. We ride through the Queulat National Park and the Queulat pass climbing up to 500metres and down again with tight switch backs on narrow gravely roads - hmmmmm, not a very relaxing ride but it's through lush green forest. We stop a few times for roadworks which has the unfortunate effect of cars queuing up behind me - I don't like cars behind me on this sort of road - they can go faster, get a bit impatient and try overtaking where I can't really move to the right as that puts me in the 'rough'. I pull over when I can to let a few cars passed, but misjudge the camber and drop my bike - booooooo - and Jeff is out in front, out of sight. The first car just passes by and motors on - yeah - thanks very much, I was getting out of the way for YOU. I make a feeble attempt to pick my bike up, hoping I look sufficiently girly and helpless. It works ... the next car stops and helps me pick up my bike - thankfully you don't need any Spanish for that, except "muchas gracias".
There are a few things to see on this route and we were going to go to Puyuhuapi first, make camp and then come back tomorrow. But the road is so rough I don't want to ride it twice so we stop at the first attraction which is the Enchanted Forest. We don't know what to expect and don't get changed out of our riding gear - although Jeff leaves his jacket on his bike thankfully. At first, it is indeed very enchanting - it looks like something out of a fairy tale with quaint wooden bridges over rocky streams and lush green tangled trees, plants and flowers. Then the trail starts to climb up quite steep rocky, muddy paths and after an hour of walking up in our riding boots and pants, it becomes a bit dis-enchanting. It takes us 2 hours to reach the top but are justly rewarded with a blue lagoon fed from a glacier up above. There's a fast flowing stream from the glacier and I'm glad I can fill up my water bladder which has run dry.
It takes us 4 hours in total and we're quite hungry when we get back to the bikes, but all we've got is a packet of biscuits and a packet of almonds. It's enough to keep us going for an hour or so. We decide to head straight for Puyuhuapi as the day is rolling on. We continue on this rough road and it gets more tricky as we approach the town with more traffic and trucks passing us coming in the other direction - the trucks don't care - they just steam roll passed us. I'm glad when we get to town. We find a camp site near the lake, but any hopes of a Sally's world camp site are dashed ...
We've arrived on a Sunday and by the time we've set up camp it's about 9pm and no cafes or restaurants are open. We manage to find a 'back yard' takeaway open a couple of streets back from the main street.
The next day we go to the supermarket to get something for breakfast. They had no bacon so we settled for hot dogs, but strangely the supermarket didn't sell any bread. Uh? We tried another shop, but no bread. The guy gesticulated around the corner somewhere, so off we trotted and tried the petrol station down the road, but no bread. The guy pointed down the road. We stopped at a house/cafe and asked for bread, but no bread. We walked down the main street again and asked a cafe if they would sell us bread, but no bread. They pointed down the street a bit. We were walking passed normal looking houses when I suddenly spotted a sign in the front window of a house: "PAN $500". We live and learn a little each day. Anyway, it's about 2pm by the time we get breakfast! We decide to take it easy the rest if the day and play Brits with their deck chairs and tins of beer on the 'beach'.
When we arrived at this camp site last night we were the only English speakers, the rest were Spanish. Tonight there are 4 separate Australian couples - small world! One couple came in on an inflatable canoe - canoeing around all of the fjords and lakes in this beautiful part of the world.
It's time to leave our Puyuhuapi camp site and we aim for Yelcho Lake today. One of the Ozzie couples says its got camp sites right on the lake, and hotel and cabin accommodation. We'll see how we feel when we get there. It's only 140km away but I know there's a lot of dirt road to come, and as usual I get nervous in the morning. My stomach churns at the thought of the dirt roads, what we might face and for how long. It's usually worse where they are actively working on the road construction - having laid down fresh gravel to justify my fears! We arrive at the turn off for "Yelcho en la Patagonia" and that is scary in itself - entering into even more rough side road than we've been on for the passed 2-3 hours. We make it - all hot a sweaty from the dusty hard ride, and I plead with Jeff for a hotel room. It's quite expensive by our usual standards but I feel the need for a bit of luxury for one night. It's lovely with a nice restaurant and right on the lake shore. We strip off, put on our swimming togs and "dive" into the lake. We're pretty sure it's fed by surrounding glaciers as the temperature is just mildly above Antarctic conditions. We're brave enough to dunk ourselves in it for a few minutes, then go and have a couple of beers on the restaurant deck over looking the lake.
Checkout's not until midday so we have a lazy morning and I don't need to get nervous too early, and that's just about getting out of the driveway! I'm consoled by the fact there's only a short distance of dirt road before we get to some paved road again for a bit. The dirt/gravel ends at a bridge, and what amazing views from this bridge...
We're heading for a campsite on the shores of Lago Blanco today. We stop off at Chaiten on the way for lunch and food supplies for camping. Chaiten suffered from a Volcano eruption in 2008 and you can see it's still trying to get back on it's feet. We go to the supermarket for food - we manage to get bacon this time, but no bread again. We'll have to make do with what we found 2 days ago. We continue, and run into dirt road again - it's pretty hard packed but quite narrow and dusty - causing blinding dust clouds when cars or trucks overtake - that's fun. We find the campsite - and again we're confronted with very poor quality side roads of large deep gravel a deep trenches - making it the final riding challenge of the day just getting to the accommodation.
We make camp at a lovely spot on the lake shore and beside a running stream where Jeff has the chance to try out our water filter for the first time, and I cook up a storm with bacon butties.
The next day we have 2 ferries to catch to get to Hornopiren, the first one is 25kms down the dirt/dust track. It takes us about 3 hours to get breakfast, pack up the camp and load our bikes, so we're up at the crack of dawn to be able to get the 11:00 ferry.
We meet a German couple at the ferry wharf who have been riding their motorbikes through the Americas for 21 months - they started in Alaska. Small world again - we learn they entered the Horizons Unlimited 2017 Calendar competition and have been selected in the short list of 30. Here is the photo they entered.
We find a cabin in Hornopiren for the night and shop at supermarket for dinner and breakfast. From Hornopiren, we head to Puerto Varas, via Puerto Montt, a ferry and only a small stretch of dirt road. A few kms before Puerto Montt we see a pair of bullocks tied together by a plank of wood between their horns being led by a farmer down the road. This may not be such a surprise in this remote part of Chile, but what does surprise me is that a few kms further up the road is the quite large, civilised city of Puerto Montt - what a contrast! This is also the end of the road for the Carretera Austral - what a privilege it is to have ridden through this part of the Andes and such fabulous scenery - albeit quite challenging at times with the dirt roads. But one day quite soon the whole of the Carretera Austral will be paved and then it won't have so much character. Here we leave you with a 5 minute video clip of what it's like riding on this great yet challenging road, starting leaving Yelcho Lake hotel driveway.