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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JimsBeemer, Mar 6, 2019.
Merry Christmas and wishing you best on your travels south.
Feliz Navidad all, and thanks for the holiday wishes. We are doing Christmas in Puerto Varas, staying at a Guesthouse (B&B). Leaving Osorno, we tried to get a festive, holiday picture of us with “Ramon the hotel guard dog” (say it like “Rudolph the red nosed ...”) who was decked out with a sleigh bell collar (he didn’t seem to mind that he jingled every time he moved). But despite being very friendly with us earlier, when we were dressed up in our fluorescent yellow rain gear, he wasn’t to sure about us! He would only let Carol, not me, get close enough to pet him - a good judge of character I guess, lol.
For 2020 I decided to become a paid advrider supporter - for one I like and use the site a lot and figure I should help keep the lights on, and in addition I can now add more than 10 photos per post - up to 25! I've actually felt that the 10 picture per post limitation plays a positive, passive-editing role, forcing me to think carefully about what photos I want to include, and how they help record the journey and story. Hopefully I wont go to overboard with the photos and turn this into the equivalent of Uncle George and Aunt Ginny's 100 picture slide show of their RV trip across South Dakota, lol! (Totally fictional - but you get the idea).
We were in Orsono with Christmas only a few days away and we figured we should find a place to "hunker down" through the holiday, and we were thinking to layover in Puerto Montt since it is the starting point for the Carretera Austral. But the salesman at Motoadventura told us (true as we realized later) that Puerto Montt is not much of a destination city - it is an industrial port town. He suggested we stop instead at nearby Puerto Varas, and that is what we did. It pays to listen to local advice!
For Christmas, we wanted reasonably nice lodging, not a camp gound or basic hostel. Among the Lonely Planet recommendations was "Galpón Aíre Puro", a guest house run by an American ex-pat named Vicki Johnson. So from our hotel in Orsono, I called Vicki to make sure she had secure parking and an available room (yes on both counts) and we made our reservation. Turns out we were the only guests. Vicki told us that due to the civil unrest, tourism is suffering. She told us she has seen an 80% drop in advance bookings going into the summer months, compared to normal. Her guesthouse is on the upper level of a huge old barn that she has extensively remodeled, with commercial units on the first floor (a cafe, and various clothing and jewelry stores, and her own chocolate shop) and this gives her a stable base so she can weather the storm as it were. But the economic impact will be felt by those people and communities that depend on tourism.
Vicki is an interesting woman (and a great hostess)! She has lived in Chile for 40 years, the last 20 in Puerto Varas. And she is a serial entrepreneur who has and has had multiple businesses over the years, including her current converted-barn with commercial tenants as well as the guest house, her own chocolate company, an up-scale baby-food business (!) that exports to the USA, and past other export businesses. And she comes from a fascinating family; her parents, back in the height of the cold war (1960), decided to buy an old bus and tour the world, along with their eight children. From their family website:
"With national fear of foreign nations running rampant, Vernon Johnson decided to do his part for world diplomacy. Believing it could be achieved by face-to-face interaction with strangers, he took his wife, Anne and their eight children (aged 2 – 17) on a 20-month journey, against the stern admonitions of friends.
It was hard enough to travel behind the Iron Curtain under the best of circumstances, but the Johnsons did it in a converted 1947 municipal Bus that broke down often. "
1960, eight children and a 1947 bus and they traveled through Europe, the Soviet Union and Japan. Talk about "adventure travel" !! Vicki was six years old when they left.
We stayed at two nights at Galpón Aíre Puro, Christmas Eve and Day, and enjoyed walking around the waterfront, relaxing in the common area, and cooking our own meals in the Guest House kitchen. And the internet was sufficient for us to do a Christmas day six-way Skype conference call (with some video but that was spotty, but still fun) with our five grown children and their families, grand-kids included. Our youngest son and his wife organized this, and it was really great to connect with everyone on the line together, each family taking their turn to say how their Christmas was going and what was new. Made us homesick! That feeling lasted a few days but I will say that once we got moving again, Patagonia has done it's work on us and we are still looking forward to getting home, but the journey at the moment is just amazing - as you will see in later post.
Dinner in Orsono - I learned (see beer glass) an important new word: "Shop" means "Draft" - used only in Chile and (I read) Brazil. Good to know! Southern Chile has a strong German influence, which is seen in words like this as well as the styles of beer and names of beer brands. Suddenly I find offerings like Dunkel and Bock - have not seen much of that until now.
Walking back from dinner in Orsono, through the Plaza de Armas (ever town has a "Plaza de Armas") which is where, in every town, we see the most evidence of the protests and civil unrest. This building has been completely burned out, with some damage to the adjacent apartment building. Lots of graffiti, and all the ground level shops have their windows boarded up. Was quiet this night.
I triumphed over Google Maps this time! I made a route from Orsono to Puerto Varas that was off-highway, and I made some "intermediate stops" on the route to force it to stay on track. It was a short but lovely ride through the countryside, everything green and fields of color due to wildflower blooms (some sort of daisy/dandelion flower here - but not the typical dandelion I know from the states).
Still en-route to Puerto Varas we came through this little village, and I stopped to get a picture of this Araucaria tree growing in someones yard. It is the national tree of Chile. It is an evergreen with really strange foliage, and it has cones, but is not directly related to the pine tree. They are prevalent in the Patagonia region.
Vicki Johnson's converted barn. The guest house "Galpón Aíre Puro" is on the top floor. Outside it looks like an old barn - which it is - but inside she has done major renovation/remodeling and it is very open, modern and stylish. She let us park our motorcycles behind and inside the gate, where she parks her own car.
Our room at Galpón Aíre Puro" came complete with Christmas cookies, fresh made!
Christmas surprise for Carol! I found Pisco Sour in a bottle in the local grocery. Not as good as a the hand-made cocktail, but she was happy. It has become her new favorite drink since we first tried it in Peru.
Puerto Varas from the lake waterfront.
Interesting sculpture at the waterfront, Puerto Varas
Volcan Orsono from the Puerto Varas waterfront. We never got a clear view of it while we were there, the summit was under clouds the entire time. But it is one of the many (many!) volcanoes in this part of Chile. I learned that the name for this type of almost perfectly cone-shaped volcano is "stratovolcano" They are like a cartoon version of a volcano - so perfectly cone shaped with a caldera at the summit, and this type is very common in this stretch of the Andes.
The German influence is seen in the Architecture as well as the beer. All around Puerto Varas you see this influence all over - it is like you are in a small German village.
This bird! We have been seeing (and hearing) them for several weeks as we've marched south. It is a "Black Faced Ibis" and it is big, and noisy! They roost high up in the tops of trees, and make this honking noise that can keep you up at night, especially if there is a half dozen or more of them going at it. These photos, and a short video that captures their "honking" sound (which Vicki Johnson at the "Galpón Aíre Puro" said sounds like they are laughing at you - sort of does). I assume they are noisier than usual now, being early summer and probably mating season. But they do make a racket.
One of several pair that were up in the trees when we recorded the video.
The day after Christmas, we headed out from Puerto Varas, headed towards the famous Carretera Austral (Ruta 7)! For me, this begins a portion of the trip I have dreamed about for over a decade. We headed down through Puerto Montt and onto the start of Ruta 7. You don't go very far before you come to the first of several ferry rides, and after that you start to run into the first unpaved segments. Much of Ruta 7 is paved, but not all, and the last section going to Villa O'Higgins is unpaved. But the unpaved sections are still part of a highway that gets significant use and maintenance, and the road surface is good. There were some less than pleasant sections further on, when we ran into a layer of golf-ball sized river stone on top of a very hard base, but for this segment it was hard packed with a little bit of sandy-rock, easy going.
Hope it isn't TMI, but I try to be "real" in recording our trip. For Carol, anticipation of a non-paved segment is a source of some anxiety. She is not fond of riding in dirt in general, and with her vertigo issues recently cropping up, the extra vibration from a gravel road can cause problems and make it hard for her to ride for long without stopping to let her head and eyes rest. But I got a copy of a Carretera Austral map that shows which segments are paved and which are "ripio" (gravel), and this has been useful, because knowing in advance what to expect helps to remove the anxiety of the unknown. And so far the map has been pretty accurate, and she has done great - no issues and she isn't hating me for dragging her down here yet! She has even commented several times how beautiful it is and that she has enjoyed much of the ride (we are in Coyhaique as I type this). That makes me happy! I read this out loud to her to make sure she was ok for me to post and that it was all "accurate" from her standpoint - she gave it the thumbs up
We made it to Hornopirén, where the next ferry segment departs. The weather forecast was for rain the next day, so we booked two nights in the Hosteria y Hostal Antupirén. The next morning we woke to the sound of a steady rain, and lying in bed I said to Carol (channeling Agent Smith from "The Matrix") " Do you hear that sound? That is the sound of a good decision!" We met a Brazilian couple at the hostel who were continuing south, and from them learned that you really need to get your ferry ticket in advance because they fully book - oops, did not know that! So on our "rain day" we walked to the ferry ticket office to try and get tickets for the next day. They were sold out for the 10:30AM departure - but gave us tickets for a midnight departure (only two trips a day) and put us on a waiting list for the AM departure, and told us to show up at 10:00 AM. In short - we got on, along with a half dozen other motorcycles and that many cars also on the waiting list, and there was still room for more. So either they under-book, or there were a lot of no-shows.
We are riding on the Carretera Austral!! That has been my dream for so long, hard to believe it is happening.
Ferry #1. Several more to go.
View from the ferry.
Stopped for lunch along the road - started raining. A compact umbrella is a very useful thing to carry - we found that out first in Central America, where we found ourselves trying to sort out border paperwork in pouring rain, standing outside the immigration or customs window with no protection.
In Hornopirén, in front of our Hostel. Carol in the foreground.
This little boy was being allowed to row the boat all by himself - but his dad, in another boat, had a long rope tied to it so he could "reel him in" if necessary. The boy was getting pretty good with the oars!
Even here in tiny, remote Hornopirén, signs of the unrest. A.C.A.B. is one of the key calls of the protestors, and stands for "All Cops are Bastards" and the origins of the acronym are from the anarchist movement and skinhead culture dating back decades. Somehow it resonates here.
Our hostel in Hornopirén - our motorcycles on the side, covered up.
The ferry south from Hornopirén south to Caleta Gonzalo is actually two ferry rides, covered with one ticket. The first segment is over 3 hours long, going through a fjord or such, between mainland and a pinensula. Then you get off at a lonely dock (map labels it "Leptepu") and everyone rides south on a dirt road for about 11km and gets onto a second ferry that is sitting there wating, which takes you on a short, 20-30min ride across the channel to Caleta Gonzalo. We heard that there was another ferry, operated by a different company, that goes directly from Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo, which goes out into open water around the other side of the peninsula - and in fact that was the ferry I thought I had purchased tickets for! But when we started up the fjord, I realized otherwise. Spanish is still not my strong suite! I heard from others that this two-park trek is much prettier, as the ride up through the fjord has the better views, and it is less expensive. So a happy mistake!
Once we got off at Caleta Gonzalo, we continued south on ripa, and stopped for the night at a campground at Lago Blanco - first time we've camped since Peru! Was nice to get the gear out, and it was a beautiful (and free) campsite.
We got to the ferry dock plenty early, anxious about our "wait-list" status. The riders behind Carol were also there for the wait-list; we were number 1 on the list, they were number 2. Turns out you could have been #20 and still made it on board! The other riders were from Brazil.
We are on board - everyone is on board! And you can see a bit of the vehicle deck below, with space still available.
A black necked swan hanging out around the ferry dock. We have seen quite a few of these in last week or so, and there were plenty along the shores here in Hornopirén.
Some views from the ferry ride up the fjord.
Here we have boarded ferry #2 for the short ride across the channel.
Riding south from Caleta Gonzolo on Rt 7 - spectacular views.
Chillin at Lago Blanco
This is a little, sparrow sized bird that was in the bushes near our camp. He is little but he makes a loud, strange call. Took us a while to locate him as the source, because we assumed we were looking for a much larger bird! Pretty.
The campsites all have a covered cooking/sitting area - speaks to the amount of rain that falls here I expect!
The last time we had the tent out was in Perú! If I was doing it again, not sure I'd bother with the camping gear. But I was happy to camp again.
View of the lake from our campsite.
As the stars came out, I saw this from the sitting/cooking area of our site. PacMan-like moon about to consume Venus! Got out my tripod to get this shot.
The bird that was in the brush near our camp was a "Chucao Tapaculo" (figured out after some on-line searching)! Here is a video I made of it, caught in the act of making that strange call. It was dusk, so the video is a bit fuzzy, but if you had been there you would be impressed it came out as well as it did! Image sensors these day are amazing.
From Lago Blanco we continued south, spending a night in La Junta (Hosteria Rayen) and another in Villa Amenqual (El Michay Hosteria) then arriving in Coyhaique, where we are now. The ride has been just incredible - especially the last bit coming from Villa Amenqual to Coyhaique. I described it to my Mom as this: Imagine you are riding through Yosemite Valley, but Yosemite Valley is a hundred miles long". And the wild flowers, Lupine in particular, are in full bloom at the moment. We saw hillsides blanketed in blue, and the air was filled with sweet flower fragrance. Pictures hardly do it justice.
Along one dirt section, we came to some pretty steep switchbacks with sharp uphill turns with pretty bumpy/rocky road surface. We've seen worse but this was the first real test for Carol's new Rekluse clutch, aside from the already-proved convenience in stop and go city traffic. But this is the type of off-road situation in which it is supposed to shine. She was very happy - she said it made a huge difference. Happy me - I did something good!
Here are some photos from the two days riding from our campsite at Lago Blanco to Villa Amenqual
Juan Carlos and Edriana, our hosts (owners) at Hosteria Rayen in La Junta. We stayed up until midnight discussing our trip, Chile and the USA. Juan Carlos is a proud Chilean, and kept correcting me when I would say "como se dice en español?" I was repeatedly (good-naturedly) informed that they (Chileans) do NOT speak español, they speak castilian, a proud distinctive it was clear, though the distinction is lost on my limited vocabulary. I avoid politics in my report, but it does come at you as you travel. We had to handle the question we've been asked several times - "How did the USA elect a crazy man for President?" Quote is direct, not my editorial comment. That is always fun - and it is interesting to me that our election is so important to the rest of the world that people we've met are generally aware of the Electoral College and what it is, something many Americans don't really understand. Juan Carlos makes a mean Pisco sour! Entire conversation was in Spanish (oops - Castilian!) which was fantastic for Carol and I as a learning experience, though it certainly slowed things down
South America (and not just Chile) is a land of substitutes when it comes to coffee and sugar. I've decided to quit thinking of Nescafe as coffee in any way shape or form, and just view it as another hot beverage. It is much more palatable that way.
HOsteria Rayen - there was construction going on in front (new sidewalks going in) and I had to jump the bikes over the curb to park in the dirt. Didn't drop either of them! Almost dropped mine getting out.
Leaving La Junta for Villa Amengual, the pavement ends pretty quickly and turns to ripio. But the views just kept getting better and better.
Lunch stop! We typically try to find a place where we can get off the road, and setup our chairs and REI table and make some sandwiches or have crackers and salami, and take a good 45 minutes to an hour break. See that green "Kermit" chair? That was a concession to Carol. We have REI/Helinox chairs (one of which I am carrying), but Carol LOVES her Kermit chair (which to be fair I bought for her as a Christmas present) and wanted to bring it. It is to big and heavy but she loves it ... so we brought it. It is comfortable. But I like to slouch, and the REI/Helinox chairs let you do that - in fact they almost demand that you do that, which is why Carol prefers her Kermit.
Another lunch break - you can see Carol sitting in her Kermit chair in front of the motorcycles, admiring the view.
The GoPro has been just fantastic for grabbing pictures like this "on the fly"
Just as you get to Villa Amenqual , the road turns to pavement again.
Hosteria El Michay in Villa Amenqual
View of Villa Amenqual from the Hosteria El Michay
View from window in our room at the Hosteria El Michay.
The ride from Villa Amenqual to Coyhaique was the most incredible ride - this is the ride I described to my Mom as "100 miles of Yosemite Valley". We were certainly blessed weather-wise; it was sunny with no real winds until right as we got into Coyhaique. I note two spellings of Coyhaique, it is also spelled Coihaique. Not sure which is "correct" - have seen both on maps.
Photos! Note the wild flowers.
The city in the distance is Coyhaique - a surprisingly large town for being so remote.
I made a short video of our ride from Villa Amenqual to Coihaique -
Great RR! My buddy and I are planning a similar trip (just the SA portion) this fall. Unsure if we should cancel based on the unrest. Reading your report is making me want to say to hell with it and go. Enjoy the ride!
Wow! You carried a Kermit all the way there? That’s commitment! Ride On and Happy New Year!
We crossed on over into Argentina - now the windy part ensues! While I work on getting some photos downloaded to catch up, here is our route from Santiago to Puerto Varas. I've been trying to include these route overviews from time to time, because when I'm reading someone else's trip report, I wish they had done the same! I like to visualize the route.
I am making these by exporting my GPX track from my Garmin Inreach account, and then using Google MyMaps. I import the GPX and do a little editing to make it more legible. The green and red bullets are places we stayed over at least a night - sometimes more.
I just realized I can share a link to the actual map as well if anyone is interested to drill into the details of the route - here it is;
And here is our route from Puerto Varas to Argentina (Perito Moreno). There are some "gaps" in the track. Weakness of the technology is that the user has to remember to turn on his Inreach Mini for it to work! Fortuantely both times it was just part of the day. You will also note that from Chile Chico there is a track going back SE along the lake - that was a (long) day trip by bus to see the Marble Caves, pictures coming.
We have finally made it to the winds of Patagonia. I want to share and recommend this great website and app to others planning such a trip. I found this years ago, and I've used it to sort of "study" the wind patterns in Patagonia, and now I'm actively using it to plan our daily ride schedule. The web site is windy.com, and they have apps for phone/tablet on iOS and Android. I've used this to plan or anticipate conditions when we've travelled to the Pacific coast back in California - it is reasonably accurate (as weather forecast go). We stayed put today because it was predicting 30+ mph gusts today south of us, and not as bad tomorrow. You also quickly realize that morning is the time to ride - we will be trying to be off the road by noon until we get out of this wind. I've read in trip reports people saying they could not hold their motorcycle up at a stand still - we are starting to get an appreciation for that. Carol almost got blown over waiting for the ferry to Chile Chico, and we've made sure we park our bikes with the wind after I watched mine almost come off the kickstand the other day when parked sideways to the wind.
The picture below is current conditions, and the pin showing 26mph - that's where we are holed up right now. Our entire little cabaña shakes when the gusts hit. You can drag a slider along (at bottom of display) to see how the wind strength and pattern is predicted to change going out several days in advance.
Gorgeous country! Have you been pre booking any of the hostels or just showing up and finding vacancies?
A bit of both (just showing up and pre booking). We currently have the next three nights booked -but that counts as "advanced planning" for us! We usually at least book something the night before or even in the morning before we leave, for that coming night. We rarely just ride into town and see what we can find, but we did just that a couple of times recently on the Carretera Austral. So far we have not had any issues finding a place to stay. It is approaching peak tourist season, but in Chile there was talk about the civil unrest leading to a reduction in foreign tourist (but the Chileans are still vacationing, from what we saw), and I don't know if it was that or we are just at the early side of the season, but many of the places we stayed seemed empty. I expect to have more issues as we get toward El Chaltén, El Calafate and Torres del Paine - that is ground zero for the summer tourist crowd, and our lax planning may give us some problems there, we'll see!
Enjoying your report. A gear question. It looks like you are both wearing mesh jackets. It seems that most long distance riders wear textile and I was wondering how your method was working out vs. textile. I assume you are using liners for warmth and rain? Or are you using a rain jacket? Thinkin' and plannin' for my "one day" trip. Tks.
Thanks for sharing windy.com, very cool site. Keep up the great report! Thanks...AB