Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On to adventure

As I said in the previous post, we have to create the trip we want to have. We no longer have to make it to a place by a certain time. True, we need to be in Valparaiso on May 10 to ship our bikes home, but that is north of here and we can always just turn around and head there anytime.

However, we do want to ride the Carretera Austral (Highway Austral) through Patagonia. The Autral is a famous road as it winds through the fjords and mountains of the Patagonia region of southern South America. It is mostly dirt and one can go for 100 miles without seeing any sign of civilization. It sounds fantastic… in the summer.

With winter fast approaching, riding the Austral may or may not be a fun/ miserable experience. How much rain will we get? Will we have to ride through snow? Will we see incredible mountains and penguins? Can our bikes take it? These are all things to figure out on the way.

There are two main ways to get to the Austral since it is not connected by roads to the rest of Chile. Most people cross over to Argentina, head south through Bariloche and then jump back over to Chile and the Austral. The option we chose was to take a boat from the main part of Chile 100 miles south to the town of Chaiten. From here you can ride south with little ferry crossings here and there where they just can't build a road.
We had planned to visit an island called Chiloe, but when we arrived at the ferry office we found out that the boat was either leaving that night (monday night) or Saturday. We could also catch a boat on Friday night from the southern part of Chiloe, but we decided that it was best to just get South sooner than later. So we paid the 200 dollars for ourselves and our bikes (we got a cabin which cost an extra 80 dollars but after our experience in Greece in 2006 we have thus vowed to never take an overnight boat without a cabin).
The ferry left at midnight so we killed the day in Puerto Montt by eating some seafood, and buying groceries for the next few days. Somehow that ate up the entire day and by 7 we were ready to board our ferry. But we couldn't board until 10:30 and it was now pouring rain. There is something incredibly disorienting about waiting for a boat in the dark in the pouring rain and not being exactly sure where to catch said boat. Usually by 7 we have a place to stay and are all ready for whatever the night may bring, but not now. We managed to make some sandwiches in a little waiting room and then milked a beer at a local bar.

The boat ride was great. We received very mixed instructions about where to park the bikes on board but after a little confusion we finally just left the bikes unlocked on the side of the boat and ferry dudes said they would take care of them. A year ago, I would have never done this, but after many months of traveling around on the ladies, we have become a lot more lax about the bikes. I snapped this photo just in case we never saw the bikes again. In the background you can see the backhoe which I figured would help to date the photos if we got into it with the ferry company.

The morning came, and after waiting for a big truck and backhoe (there were three backhoes and the boat) to get off, we took off and onto the Carretera Austral.
The weather was pretty darn good and the views were top notch. At times, I could have easily convinced myself I was in British Colombia, but then we'd see a flock of parrots and be reminded we were in Patagonia.

We found a place to camp next to some hot springs and weathered the very rainy night by soaking in the springs and using the more than adequate facility at Las Termas de El Sauce.
So here we are in La Junta waiting out a little more rain and hoping for improved weather. The forecast calls for decent weather for the next three days (depending on which forecast I read) so we should be able to get some great views as we continue south.

[letting air out our tires since we will be on dirt for the next 500 miles] Motorcycle maintenance note: Megan seems to have blown a seal in the suspension of one of her front forks. It is leaking fork oil, and quite a bit. This means that her front suspension will get a little springier over the next few days. It should be ok, but we should also fix it before she bounces all over the road. The problem is that we don't have the rubber seal that we need and it isn't exactly a standard part. We hope to find it in Coyhaigue (the biggest town in these parts) but if we can't then we will have to decide to continue south on the Austral with half of a front suspension, or bail over to Argentina where the roads are paved and then head back up to Bariloche where we might have a better chance of finding the part. We'll just have to see.

Starting the Austral in Chaiten- A village destroyed by a volcano in 2008

Look closely at this photo to see why it is not in Squamish, BC

Megan's front fender broke yet again. I put together a quick fix that I hope will last the rest of the trip.

Gigi turns 20000

World's second cutest dog. He just jumped right up into my lap.

I had to visit a thrift store down here to get an extra fleece. I chose a fun one.
Here I am at the "cabin" at the hotsprings.

Our dinner- before cooking. We call this Pasta Pan Americana.
It is pasta with and vegies we can find, olives are a must and you can either add red sauce or cream.
We alternate day to day.

Cooking on the panniers with a Chilean beer nearby.

For our friend Aurelia. Apparently she has a bridge down here.

This was a wall of waterfalls. 

Snow just above us. Brrrrrrr.

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