Hello, bit of a long one this I’m afraid. My diary of the last few days… hope you’re sitting comfortably….
Friday 15th: One of the advantages of carrying a little laptop with me is that, aside from advancing my knowledge (sounds better than merely ‘learning’ don’t you think…) of Spanish and listening to music I can also write stuff for my blog while chilling of an evening by my tent… as I write I’m sat in the shade of a tree by my tent at the top of a black sand beach on Lago Llanguihue while looking at the most perfect snowcapped volcanic cone you can imagine… and if that weren’t enough being the Austral summer the sun is still high in a cobalt sky at 7pm :-) However if it makes you feel better there are one or two biting mozzies around so I’m foregoing the style points by wearing my lycra ‘legs’ under my shorts to keep the little buggers away.
People often ask me if I get lonely sometimes travelling alone like this… and yeah the truth of it is I do… I tend to think about it sometimes when I’m in cool places like this that would be even better with friends however it’s not at all bad, being alone also means I have the most heartwarming encounters with regular folk I meet along the way, small kindnesses and a smile can truly make a day and I find people are nearly always very open towards to a single traveller on a bicycle… much more so than to the regular backpacker. It’s a fab way to appreciate what’s important in life and I have met my closest friends in life this way :-) I’m also pretty lucky to be in a position to have these kind of adventures on a regular basis, and to be fair it’s not everyone’s cup of tea…. if I waited until I had someone able to come along I’d probably never get away.. Bugger, getting a bit philosophical there, hehe, I could do with a beer right now.
Anyway, left Puerto Montt this morning still feeling fatigued from the flight over here so decided to take it easy. Cleverly managed to get lost on my way out of Puerto Montt but a local chap soon set me right on the road to Puerto Varas, just 30km or so away on the shores of lake Llanquihue.. which is breathtaking, it’s blue waters stretch away to the horizon, and the town had a nice vibe to it as well… Finding the way to Ensenada was easy as riding to the lake shore and turning right.. and then riding for a further 45km. It was at some point along this road that the clouds to the north suddenly vanished… I looked up and my eyeballs near dropped out on the road…
Quite a view eh!
So decided to stay here for the night having a found a terrific camping spot on the lake shore. Wild camping is illegal around the lake so it’s a privately owned plot for 2000 pesos/night.. about £2.70 I think. Dinner was a couple of empanadas from a stall down the road where I was served one handed by a girl of about 17 whose other hand was holding half a lemon she was sucking… she said she liked it with salt on… and people tell me I’m odd for eating Marmite straight from the jar. Hmm.
Here’s the slightly improbable view from my campsite
Ensenada is little more than a a kilometer strip of road with a sign at each end and a couple of basic shops and restaurants in between. Friendly bunch here, plenty of people on holiday from other parts of Chile and Argentina, varying accents though make it hard to understand some people… I thought my Spanish was coming along quite nicely having enjoyed an easy conversation earlier in the day but then I met a guy from Buenos Aires backpacking around and really struggled to understand a word…..
Enjoying being back on my Nomad for another journey. I hardly used it since coming home from S America last time. We’ve shared some terrific adventures since I built it in 2003 so I do feel kind of attached to it, silly I know… it’s just a bike…. I bought new panniers for this trip, my old ones being rather well battered, they are still looking embarrassingly new… it won’t be long however before they are suitably scabby looking :-)
Ok, that’s it for Friday. Looking forward to a swim in the lake in the morning before I hit the road. Also looking forward to a solid 10 or 11hrs in my sleeping bag… well, it’s not like I have a party to go to.. ;-)
Saturday: ….didn’t swim. Rain.
I was adopted in the night by a random dog…. about midnight I crawled out of my tent and he magically materialized at my heel as I made my way to the bushes…. As I crawled back into my tent he lay down outside… and was still there at dawn this morning being mellow and friendly… so on that basis he can’t have been too bright a dog as he’d clearly failed to make the correlation between me and the bicycle shaped object leaning against a nearby tree….
It was only 65km to Puerto Octay this morning but it felt a lot longer… mostly due to the strong headwind… I was riding on ripio (local name for dirt road) for much of the way around to the north end of the lake, with a lot of climbing along the way. It was slow but fun as it wound it’s way around the lakeshore, had to concentrate on my line for the very rough bits and avoid the sandtraps… The rain stayed light for the first couple of hours, and I couldn’t help wondering which type of rain it was having recently re-read The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (book 4…)…. By the time I arrived in Puerto Octay however it was pouring steadily so instead of looking for a campsite by the lake I asked around for a room and found myself a place with a family so I can get my kit dry … it’s still raining as I type.
There ain’t much to Puerto Octay, it’s got Swiss/German immigrant origins so has the look of a chocolate box that’s been out in the rain for a while…. maybe left behind by the council recycling folk. It is a pretty place albeit a bit dilapidated. Like just about all S American towns in front of the church (corrugated steel in this case) there’s a plaza with a painted concrete band-stand. The rain today adds to the atmosphere… the trees that would provide shade for families on a sunny Sunday afternoon are dripping darkly into a blue concrete pond thick with algae and there are just a couple of folk sheltering from the rain while waiting for a bus. I like finding myself in places like this, they’re interesting and so long as I can get food I’m happy… On arrival at 2pm I was sorted out with great chunks of fried chicken, rice, chips, bread & butter and salad by the landlady at a bar just across the road, and I’ve just now been out in search of dinner…. empanadas,,, lacking imagination I know but it’s all there is by way of quick and cheap eats, they taste good and fill a big hole – usually there’s an egg inside along with chunks of spicy meat. The few shops are brilliantly old fashioned… dark with all the goods on shelves behind uneven counters… At first when asking the old lady behind the counter if she had any empanadas left I thought it was my fault that the message didn’t seem to be getting through… eventually we both decided that yes there were empanadas al horno (baked) but not frito (fried) but that was quite OK because I didn’t want fried ones and oh by the way my name was Mike, I’m from England, I have a brother and a sister, and the Euro coin that fell out of my pocket was worth about 600 pesos and she was quite welcome to have it… so not entirely all down to my Spanish, she was also quite batty. The price quoted was 1600 pesos for two… the 5000 peso note I had was not a popular choice so I pulled out my pocket of change that came to 1320 – we counted it twice, or rather I counted and she counted as I counted but completely out of step and somehow in her head it came to the right number… so I left her mumbling to herself behind the counter and went off to eat my dinner in the shelter of a dripping bandstand :-)
Sunday: Ok I take back everything I said about Puerto Octay, lol, it looked really pretty in the sun this morning :-)
Very heavy rain through the night meant I was quite happy not to be in my tent – it’s a very small tent you see… Today though was hard, more ripio… almost 80km of it in total (out of 95km for the day) but it wasn’t fun ripio, big chunks of loose pebbles and gravel, corrugations and potholes… and for the first 30km or so of it not a single bend to relieve the monotony… I let my tyres down as low as I dared to ease the ride and still could only really average 16-18km/hr… my eventual arrival at a curve in the road was a huge event but I couldn’t fully appreciate it’s swoopiness due to having to concentrate on the loose surface :-) The monotony almost caught me a couple of times as my attention wandered and so did my front wheel… sliding sideways in the loose gravel. As luck would have it on these roads the smoothest part for riding in is usually a strip about 3 or 4 inches wide right at the edge right where the loose, sandy shoulder slides away into a ditch… in such circumstances, as most cyclists will know, the ditch often acquires a certain magnetic quality as one tries to stay on the road… It’s not all bad, the countryside is quite lovely and the bird life is magnificent, I must look up some of the birds I saw today.
To arrive at the small town of Entre Lagos in time for lunch with it’s smooth asphalt felt like a much bigger event than it really was… the town is a small, scruffy affair on the shores of Lago Puyehue… that’s not scruffy in a bad way though, I like it – it’s got character and of course for some 4000 odd people it’s home. The locals seem quite reserved but then I guess I would be too if approached by a smelly, dust caked cyclist… but they do open up if you make the effort, a smile goes a long way.
Found the going mentally tough today too, my eczema is giving me a hard time at the mo so I’m pretty sore all over… hence have decided to stop here two nights and rest up and get it back under some sort of control. Having filled up on empanadas and cake I then rode about 8km out of town east along highway 215 in the company of a bunch of friendly local road cyclists (one of whom had Campag C Record Delta brakes on his bike… I couldn’t believe it, was ace!) out for a spin from Osorno which was cool, they pointed me to a wooded lakeside campsite which is where I am now. Annoyingly when I’m very tired my Spanish goes to pieces (my english does too…) so I wasn’t able to have much of a conversation with them beyond “where are you from and bloody hell I’m tired”…
I’ve since ridden back into town in search of more food but not entirely successfully… I’d love a big fat steak but being the kind of off-the-beaten track place it is all I could manage on a Sunday was more cake and icecream plus some fruit, bread and tuna :-) Saw the funniest thing… riding past a long plot of land the resident dog went absolutely berserk… but he was tied to a pulley running along a length of wire strung between two poles so all he could was run parallel to me about 10 feet away, oh he must have been so frustrated… it was fab :-) It also gave me a suitable title for this post…
I also found a wifi connection so I’ll go back in the morning and upload this lot. It was terrific to see the donations to Shelterbox creeping up, gave me a big lift that did so thanks if you’ve donated already and if not then I need you to so I can keep going :-)
As for what’s next, have revised my plans re Argentina, this side of the border all the the roads seem to run east/west which makes any kind progress northwards difficult without resorting to cruising up the Carretera Austral… but doing that would be like touring Cornwall by riding up the A30… instead I can keep going east from here on hwy 215 and cross into Argentina that way, the next settlement from here is about 100km away by my reckoning, in theory an easy few hours ride – it’s a good road but while the border is some 70km away the Chilean customs is 44km away… experience says a situation like that means the actual border is on top of a bloody great big mountain such that it wouldn’t be nice making officers sit up there… so I’m going to provision up for a day and half ride before I set off. Once in Argentina the roads run in a much more useful north/south direction so progress will get easier. In theory…
Monday: cor it’s cold this morning, I didn’t get out of my sleeping bag till 9.30am, felt even colder after a cold shower but it had to be done…. now got coffee by the fireplace with the owner of this site. Forced myself to eat some sort of a breakfast, haven’t got much appetite today.
Good fishing in the lake it seems.. twice now a Chilean chap staying here with his family has come over to show me a huge trout with an equally huge grin on his face :-)