There is no doubt that the Chilean Lake District is stunning, and the pictures show this. Why then did we turn up at Puerto Montt feeling relieved that this ride was over and wondering if we should have discovered the Argentinian Lake District instead? We had a few disapointments on this route – we were not allowed to enter a national park by bicycle, and a road we had then hoped to take had been distroyed, which forced us on to some dull tarmac and dusty and frustrating ripio. The lakes themselves are barely accessable to the passing public as lake side holiday homes block access in the more salubrious areas, and even in smaller places most of the land around the lakes has barbed wire around the edge, making camping and swimming harder than expected. More recently I have been feeling tired a lot of the time, a tiredness hard to shake even with rest, and I wonder if I am coming close to burn out and if therefore my tolerance for things not working out is less than it once was. Still, we enjoyed the delighful fields for camping, the sunshine and we made the most of seasonal produce and local baked goods, so can´t complain about everything.
6th January – Pucon to Calfutue School
Waking up that morning I still had some important jobs to do- repair a cracked tent pole and post a blog entry. We had already extended our stay in Pucon by a day due to having a lot to do. At this latitude it is now not dark until just gone 10pm so for better or worse this gives a more relaxed feel to the mornings. We finally made it out of Pucon at gone 3pm, put our heads down to endure the busy road out of town before heading off onto a quiet ripio detour, and then back onto the busy main road that goes from Villarrica to Coñaripe and beyond. Finding a place to camp in Chile has not been as easy as it was in the countries it shares borders with, most land is fenced off, I am sure you could find some good stealth camping with a little patience but instead we prefer to ask local people to stay on their land.
Such a sweet docile dog, I imagine he is ideal as a primary school hound.
We saw a primary school with an appealing looking field, and we knew it was the summer holidays. The teachers live on site, the mother and her adult children. They gave us an ideal covered space between the classrooms and access to the bathrooms.
7th January – Calfutue School to camp near Coñaripe thermal springs
Lovely shelter for the night.
Lots of local produce being sold on the edge of the road. Cheese, honey, bread and empanadas.
I opt for a Berliner doughnut. German settlers have influenced the baked goods here, Kuchen is another road side favourite.
Lago Calafquen. In English a beach is always next to the sea, in Spanish a beach can be the lake shore too. I think the Pacific ocean is quite wild so most Chileans opt for lake beaches on their summer holidays.
We pass through Coñaripe and hit the winding ripio, it is quite dusty with traffic but we are treated to some great views.
We ask some people with a small holding if we can camp on their land. We tell them we are afraid of their bulls (after being rammed by a small bull a few days before, which was quite scary and painful), a kind lady called Carmen offers us the floor of her little cafe hut.
8th January – camp to Rio Fuy camp
Carmen offers us her home made Sopaipillas, basically a fried bread / doughnut hybrid, they remind me of Colombian arepas de trigo.
After the thermal springs there is less traffic and more idyllic rural scenes…
…and plenty of bridge crossings….
…. wooden buildings…
…and views of Volcan Quetrupillan. We really enjoyed the section of road up to Lago Neltune….
… it was very quiet.
We emerge at Lago Neltune.
The haziness in this picture is not the sun, but the dust in the air due to the high volume of traffic on the ripio.
We arrive at the village of Neltune, stock up on food for 2-3 days and head off to the entrance of the Huilo Huilo National Park. We were hoping to be able to ride through the park and do some fun off-roading, as we had seen in here, these guys had entered from the south side of the park which is unmanned. The National Park is private and they would not let us enter. People are only allowed in with guides. We were quite intimidated by the burly security guy so we did not want to try another possible gated entrance further along the road, I think feeling anxious about essentially trespassing would have taken the fun out of the ride, so feeling dejected we got back on the road.
We stop at a quiet campspot next to the Rio Fuy.
9th January -Rio Fuy camp to camp just past Panguipulli
Limbering up, we were hoping for a more successful day of riding, we even set our alarm as we had been getting up later and later.
The previous days disappointment behind us we revert to plan b, to go round the edge of Lago Riñahue, towards the village of Riñahue. My map showed a road, google maps showed a cut in the road, and satalite images look as though there is a track. A mountain bike guide at Huilo Huilo the day before had told us that he he knew it was possible to pass, so along we went.
Colourful bee hives. Although annoying we were followed a lot on this route by giant flies that hover around and bite, really annoying when you are going up hill.
Hedgerows like home.
We make it to the end of the road and a construction worker in his digger says that the road has been distroyed and we can not pass. We ask if we can go and check it out, and he welcomes us. The road turns into a track which then stops and has become totally overgrown with bushes, it was unpassable even on foot.
With this second rejection we now find ourselves having to retrace our steps and take a tarmac road a long way round the edge of Lago Panguipulli. Panguipulli is only 80km from Pucon, yet it has taken us 3.5days, we had wasted 2 full days of riding, and as a result ended up on a route that we did not want to ride.
Views of Lago Panguipulli are a small consolation.
This would be considered a tasty snack in some parts of Mexico.
We head out of Panguipulli and find a suitable field we are allowed to camp in.
10th January – Panguipulli camp to camp near Playa Coique
That morning it was a case of just putting our heads down and creating some distance, it became more pleasant in the afternoon when we turned off onto this quieter road.
We find beauty in rural scenes like this…
… and a good bakery stop does a lot for moral.
That evening we camp in another field.
11th January – Playa Coique to Lago Ranco
First views of the giant Lago Ranco.
I am loving the southern hemisphere summer for all of the fruits.
A bridge is under constuction so we take this pulley boat across the swelling river.
We cycle around the edge of Lago Ranco, and stop with plans to take a rest day in the town of the same name.
12th January – Lago Ranco
I can not stop raiding the campsites raspberries bushes for their bounty. Lago Ranco is quite down at heel compared with some of the other lake side tourist towns we have stayed in. To speak in terms of British seasides, Lago Ranco is Skegness and Pucon is Brighton.
13th January – Lago Ranco to Entre Lagos
We ride between lakes for the whole day, through flat fenlands used for dairy farming. The dairy trucks make the ripio roads dusty.
We arrive that evening in Entre Lagos.
I have a puncture when we arrive in the town, and not wanting to go any futher I ask the local church if we can camp outside. Instead they offer us a disued dorm room.
14th January – Entre Lagos to Las Cascades
Another church in a similar style.
The previous days puncture had been due to the valve coming away from the tube. We get about 10km down the road when the same thing happens again. Something similar happened to me back in Peru when I had 2 tubes broken in the same way, at the time I changed the tyre as we could not find another reason for the problem, it had worked at the time, so again, we got out the spare tyre and put that on. So far it has stopped any other problems. The tyre had a few 1000km more left on the tred but the sides were frayed, which may have caused the valve issue.
The bike lane was actually just a hard shoulder.
Lago Rupanco with our first views of the iconic Volcano Osorno.
Cow crossing, it was great to watch the cowboys at work.
There she is, Volcan Osorno, and someone else´s bike.
We spend the night at a campsite just outside the village of Las Cascades, on the shore of Lago Llanquihue. This is the largest of all of the lakes in the area and only 20km from the ocean, I test the water to find out if it is salty, which it is not. Here is Charms having a scenic teethbrushing.
Great campsite location, although it was expensive (we had to negociate the 4000peso, 4pounds price as the owner told us he usually charges 5000 per night).
15th January – Las Cascades to Puerto Montt
We capture Osorno from every angle.
This was our lunch spot, pretty sweet.
It´s an unenjoyable ride between Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt. First impressions of Puerto Montt are that it is quite run down, smells of fish and with lots of interesting characters wandering around. There is a bit of a frontier feeling here, it is where the Pan American highway that begins in Alaska finally ends, there is a frontier feel here.
Rest days mean that is it time to stock up on fruit and vegetables. We have consumed quite a few watermelons during our stay.
- Amongst The Pines And The Monkey Puzzles
- Carretera Austral, part 1