Coyhaique, Chile

Time is flying! February is almost done. So what happened the last 2 weeks? I rode from Bariloche to El Bolson and met Greg there. We took a day off to get our bikes tuned up, and I packed a box with 5 kilos of junk I didn’t need and sent it on to Buenos Aires. From El Bolson we headed into Alerces National Park, the first time I’ve paid for a national park since Peru maybe (what I mean by that is there just haven’t been a lot of national parks along the way). But it was worth it, the park was a lot less busy than the Siete Lagos area, and not so commercialized (I’m looking at you, Villa Angostura).

I lost Greg for a day while he tried his luck at fishing, but met an Argentine cyclist Santiago enjoying his vacation days by bike. I was on the road in the morning before him (not before sharing some coffee that Greg’s sister brought down), I don’t often find cyclists that can take longer to get going in the morning than me. At the end of the day, Santiago, Greg, and I all ran into each other again in Trevelin, where we found a campsite that 3 more cyclists ended up at, Evan from Washington, Peter from Utah and Robin from Scotland (with moustache handlebars and handlebar moustache).

Having not really partaken in an asado, the Argentine meat grill, despite being in the country for 2 months already, it was a good time to do this, considering we were in the company of a skilled grillmaster, Santiago. And aside from the meat (which I can take or leave, maybe I should just become a vegetarian for once and for all), we also cooked up veggies right in the coals.  But surely you must wrap everything in wasteful aluminum foil, right?  This isn’t the case, the potatoes, onion and garlic all came out just fine.

Chile was just down the road!  After enjoying another dozen pastries, we set off under a cloudless sky and up to the border.  This marked the last country to cross into by bike, bringing the total to 15.  (However, I will be crossing the Chile/Argentina border 3 more times.)  We got to Futaleufu, just over the border and found a campsite.  After a really slow start the next day, it was now the afternoon when Greg and I were about set to pedal out of town when Robin and Evan ran into us.  They had just convinced each other to go rafting, and hoped we’d be in as well to maybe get a discount.  I flat out told Greg I had no interest, but he should do it if he wanted, and that I’d keep on cycling, but part of me said I should go for it.  Through persuasive arguments, Rob and Evan convinced us that an afternoon of rafting was in store.  After all, when else would we be in one of the top rafting rivers in the world?  So I used my birthday money from Grandma Kelly (thanks Grams!) for an early birthday treat.

It was indeed worth it, and am glad to have done it.  I had been rafting in Tennessee a decade ago, but I think this was much wilder of a ride.  We had a great guide from Peru (and another kayaker and catamaran ahead of us for safety), and the river was crystal clear (as they all seem to be around here).  Probably not something I’ll go try again soon, but it was quite a thrill and an incredible location.

Greg had to head back to Argentina for bike parts, so I kept going on my own.  A day’s ride west gets you to the junction with the Careterra Austral, the highway that runs 1,200 km from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, and only in the past decade has the road been connected the whole way.  What followed was an amazing week, I’d like to think my birthday week, only a couple cloudy days with a little drizzle.  Everynight I camped, and not once in a pay campsite.  So no hot showers but plenty of rivers and lakes to bathe in.  I spent my birthday morning reading the cards that were sent down with Hawk back in November. I’d really love to show you some pictures highlighting the week, but the internet connection is too miserably slow, you’ll have to take my word for it that it is beautiful around here.

Many thanks for all the birthday wishes and contributions via my ‘Fly Matt Home’ page (I’m still working through my list of thank you notes).  Some exciting news is that I’ve bought my Buenos Aires – Mexico City leg of my journey, I’ll be flying the 31st of March.  So that gives me around four weeks to get to Ushuaia, despite being glad to have that ticket and have found a good deal, I am running into the fact that I have to face that this trip is quickly coming to an end.  I’m trying not to get stressed thinking about my return back to the US, and things like finding a job (hopefully one with health insurance!).

The route I plan takes me all the way to the end of the Careterra Austral, where there is a ferry that takes you across a lake and close to the Argentine border.  From here there is a trail that is about 20km to the nearest road, and involves carrying your bike in parts at times.  The problem is that since it is the end of the season, the ferry only leaves every Saturday, and is 350 miles of mostly dirt road away.  To do this in a week would be tough, and I can’t really slow down to do it in two weeks, as I won’t have much time on the other end to get to Ushuaia.

So my plan for the next week is to just keep biking at an enjoyable pace, and at some point hitch to make enough time to get to Villa O’Higgins by Friday evening.  Now, up until this point I’ve only hitched twice, but I think I’m at the point in my trip, especially after a great time last week, where I really am realizing the journey isn’t about the destination, or being a purist and not taking a ride when weather or logistics necessitate it.  Sometimes I wonder why I should try and get to Ushuaia at all, maybe I’d be quite content sitting by a lake for the next month.  But part of me does recognize completing the task I set out to achieve 20 months ago.

Keep tuned with my twitter posts on the right hand side of my page for the most up to date information and locations!  The countdown starts!  I have about 10 degrees of latitude further south to go, and around 1,000 miles left.  ¡Si se puede!

2 comments to Coyhaique, Chile

  • Lauri Moser

    yes to being a vegetarian! and chicago is a great place to be one.

    p.s. i went rafting in tennessee a decade ago too :)

  • “Sometimes I wonder why I should try and get to Ushuaia at all, maybe I’d be quite content sitting by a lake for the next month.”

    Wow, how true. The closer I get to Ushuaia, the more appealing all the places seem and I have absolutely no problem taking it easy. I think I’ve ridden one day out of the last ten and I’m loving it. :D

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