Puerto Natales a Punta Arenas a Puerto natales. Torres Del Paine by foot and then pedalling back to Puerto Natales again.

What has happened since our last post? Some might wonder.

Penguins! They waddle funny.

Cake! Tasty tasty cakes and biscuits of Punta arenas.

Mountains! Majestical views and campsites on a hike with hot showers and beer.

Wind. Water. Earth. Sun (instead of fire) lots of all of it.

We will make the train! For those that understand the reference. Our wild endurance training came in handy a few times.

Blisters on Hilary’s feet so bad she claims to give up walking (at least in those boots)

Our story continued from where we left you last post:

We set off on a bus to Punta Arenas arriving sadly too late for Chris to go to a brewery tour. We settled into our campsite after finding Chris a new mat. This is the second mat broken this trip. This was a sad moment for Chris as he has had 7 years of adventures with this mat. However this was a joyous occasion for Hilary. Chris’s old mat weighs 800gm and is massive in comparison to hers. Finally Chris has a mat smaller than mine weighing 250gm! Lookout. Lightweight camping here we come!

My excitement that night was thwarted by the all night party our host threw keeping us awake. We then got up early to take a bus tour to see penguins. We bused to a ferry to cross from mainland South America to Tierra del Fuego (fireland in Spanish and what our guide would use as the English name for the island all day which I found amusing). We stopped at Pouvenir where the island was first settled and bought a huge pastry twist thing that was chocolate and walnut flavoured. We also visited a museum documenting the towns history. The museum was an assortment of display cases and photographs without much explanation but our tour guide Gabriel was able to provide a lot of insight. He talked a lot about the eradication of the indigenous group, the selkham people, which was still not taught in local schools but recently a bill was passed in government to recognise this part of their history.

We visited an old estancia which at one point was the largest in the area and belonged to one of founding families of Punta arenas.

Finally at 1pm we visited a group of king penguins. It’s not a colony yet as there are not enough penguins. Archeologists has discovered that king penguins inhabited Tierra del Fuego 5000 years ago and were hunted by native tribes. A few hundred years ago they disappeared from the island. 10 years ago they returned and have been slowly growing in numbers. They are very impressive! Many were incubating eggs that will soon hatch in February. They envelop the egg in fur by their feet which makes it look like they are standing on the egg. All in all worth the 13 hour tour to meet these guys.

On our last morning in Punta arenas I visited a museum whilst Chris got a bit of work done. The museum is a mansion owned by one of the founding families of the town. Most of the rooms open contain original decor and furniture. It was very cool. Chris and I had arranged to meet at the bus station for a quick lunch before boarding. Both of us had found amazing bakeries in our separate morning activities. We ended up with 2 vego empanadas, a chocolate shortbread sandwich filled with duche de leche and covered in chocolate, a pastry filled with custard and berries and an assorted bag of fancy shortbread! What great bus snacks.

Returning to Puerto natales we completed our last minute food shopping for our hike and caught up with our friends Iba and Jenny and their friends. We visited for a second time the southernmost distillery in the world! We tasted their gins and drank mighty fine cocktails. We also went to a popular burger joint in town. It was great to trade travel tales with these two.

After consuming a few too many drinks we returned to our camp for a few hours sleep. Chris had last minute work to do on a submission for work so we got up early to work (chris) and pack (hilary) prior to our morning bus to Torres del Paine national park. The bus ride to the park was incredible. Man this place is special. Constantly changing but still amazing scenery.

We were dropped off at the middle of the park where the wind persisted to blow water from the lake in our face as we tried to pack our bikes. We pedaled with the wind to our campsite for the night. The next day we went for a day hike to get a vista of the mountain range and said hello to a few guancos. We then attempted to pedal to the start of our hike. 20 km later Hilary declared cycling was over for the day. Wind gusts were gale force combined with loose gravel roads and busy tourist traffic made for dangerous riding. Chris found a great campsite with a duck/goose pond and a guanco who we named Frank, he liked to lie down and scratch his back in the dirt.

The following morning the wind had disappeared! And the park was not open yet so no tourist buses. We pedaled the final 24 kms to start the hike that day. Luckily we had only 4 hours of walking to get to the campsite for the night otherwise it would have been a long day. On the hike we met a bunch of guys with massive backpacks on. I later realised they are porters. A bunch of nufties were walking the trail with only daypacks, sleeping in permanent tents set up in the camp site, had a dry bag of things carried by porters from camp to camp and were being fed a three course meal. Wowie. Tough life guys. Our first days walk was average. Nice forest and valley views but nothing spectacular, the second day started with rain and clouds but as the day went on the sun came out and the mountains were is view. Glaciers in every direction.

The third day was supposed to be short and the day after really long. So we did the reasonable thing, take 2 hours off the ling day and make the short day longer. It was great. Sleeping at the edge of the tree line with mountain scenery instead of being at the official campsite in the forest with no views.

However in the morning we were greeted with wind and rain so cold Chris described them as ice bullets hitting your face (we had a headwind too). At the top of the mountain pass you had a birds eye view of grey glacier. And we would spend the rest of the day walking beside it. We crossed 3 swinging bridges. 2 labelled with signs 4 person a maximum and one signed only 1 person. I worried about the last bridges structural integrity. finished walking at 3pm where our compatriots finished around 6pm. We took the extra time to go to a lookout and drink some wine we found for free!

The following day the weather was windy but dryish. Beautiful views of lakes and glaciers. We arrived at the turn off to a side trip only to read that the ranger closes the pass at 3pm. It was 3.30! We ran up the hill in hiking boots and thank the stars that the ranger is walking just in front of us as we reach the lookout. We made it! I think it was in the top three of best views yet this trip. This happens to us a second time the following day with the lookout for Las Torres and again we made it ( with 10 minutes to spare). In both cases it was worth the effort. We made the train.

However the final day of 29 kms walking breaks Hilary both physically and mentally. Blisters and foot pain caused me to declare. “I don’t want to walk anymore. I would rather go cycling”

Luckily you can cycle when you can barely walk and are hobbling about with sore feet! So the following day we pack everything back onto our bikes and started pedalling back. The sun was out and it’s friend the wind joined us mid afternoon. At the end of the day we likened the feeling in our face as blasted. Layers of sweat, sunscreen and road dust that had been blown onto your face into a crust that stings a bit.

The following day was rose the remaining 85km in drizzle and rain. The cycle was nice and would have been fantastic in better weather. We returned to town and bumped into our cycling buddy John! We had first met in Villa O’Higgins and shared a meal together. After restocking foods and eating loads of cake and pizza we board a bus to El Chalten in Argentina. Ciao Puerto Natales. We will miss your great good and cocktails. Hello Argentina and cheese balls of choice pastry!


Puerto tranquillo a villa o’higgins

Fleiz Navidad! Merry Christmas! Joyeux Noël!

The road ends here. That’s right, we have travelled the whole of route 7 and now have a cross country border crossing into Argentina tomorrow. After which we will welcome the sealed Argentine roads with open arms. Hopefully the winds are in our favour. 

Currently, we are cozy and warm in the communal kitchen  of hostal el Mosco. We had an excellent Christmas meal last night. Shared with 24 other people from Chile, US, France, Sweden,  Switzerland, Norway and UK. Our host cooked an entire lamb in a wooden fires stove. There was salads, potoatoes, and many other sides. There was a series of terrific desserts all achieved with limited food choices in the local minimarket. Chris made dahl and I made rum balls using my grandmother’s recipe.

Since our last post we have cycled into true Patagonian weather. Cycling into driving rain and wind. I have never had such cold hands and feet! Our cycling kit now includes a merino Long sleeve top and at times a polar fleece under our rain coat. 

Yet again we praise the cycling gods. No major bike troubles despite the corrugations and wet roads. It seems each person I meet has had some sort of  brakedown. Rackmounts falling off the frame, broken spokes, bent derailleur, tyre walls shredded, broken panniers and more.

After Puerto tranquillo we traveled to Cochrane with Marta from Spain and Sam from Wales. A beautiful sunny day with many ups and downs following the a brilliant azure blue river to Cochrane.  There Marta and I went for a day hike at Park Tamango. Beautiful river, lake and flora. The next day we farewelled Marta who was returning north and we continued south for 4 days to our next town. During this time we wild camped by rivers, sneaky camped in ferry shelter and holed up in a cyclists refugio by the side of the road. We have seen a condors up close, cycled through passes with fresh snow only 100m above us and seen some of the best scenery of the whole ride. Since arriving in Villa O’higgins 3 days ago we have baked bread, scones, crepes, lasagne and rum balls. We have turned eating into a sport. 

Tomorrow we head for El Chalten the hiking and climbng centre of Argentina. To travel there we will take two ferries, hike our bikes 6km up a hill, and ride 40km. Depending on weather conditions a s ferry times this will take 1-2 days. 

Hopefully we have no trouble at border control as it is in the middle of all that!

Adios Chile for a week or so until we arrive in Puerto natales.

Apologies for lack of photo uploads. The Wi-Fi here will not cope with anything more than an email.

Villa Amengual a Puerto Tranquillo

We have cycled our last km of sealed road in Chile. Lets all take a collective sigh and then think off what this means.

Bumpy roads lie ahead. The next patch of sealed road is in El Calafate in Argentina. We have over 600km of road between us and el calafate. Furthermore we are the only cyclists we have met using touring width tyres, everyone else is on mountain bike tyres. Quote from 

Chris: ” Hila we brought the wrong wheels!” 

The landscape has been beautiful and the weather not so beautiful. And thus our ratio of km’s cycled to number of photos taken has dropped. We have experienced sunshine, rain and strong winds. Sometimes all at the same time.

We have slept in peoples backyard, beside an abandoned house, in a yard with some llamas and chickens and in a national park. At one point we did not pay for accomodation for 5 nights in a row!

We have had a few bicycle boo boo’s. Chris’s rear rack fell off and Hilary’s bottle cage from all the violent shaking over corrugations. Otherwise our bikes have faired well. We have met many riders without such luck and consider our selves lucky.

We ate tasty cakes, coffee and beer in Coyhaique. As well as sorting out a few logistical things.

We have completed an overnight hike around Cerro Castillo with our pannier converted into a backpack! This was impresssive in that I wore my cycling shoes with cleats on the 45km hike including an alpine pass with snow and many moderate river crosings. These shoes are not waterproof. My cold wet feet were compensated by amazing views!

We also visited the marble cathedral by boat this morning in Puerto Tranquillo. Glacial blue water and amazing rock formations.

Next stop Cochrane and then onto Villa O’Higgins where we will most likely spend Christmas.

Hornoprien a Villa Amengual

Hello friends and family.

Wheels. Two in fact. They roll, coast, zoom, bump over rocks, slide in soft and loose gravel, begrudgingly slog up hill. Travelling by two human powered wheels is a great way to soak up beautiful scenery. I think we have chosen the perfect spot. This vast part of the world we currently inhabit has oodles of it. The sun burns off low cloud to reveal hidden peaks or after a long uphill climb a stunning range is unveiled.

We last posted from Hornoprien where we boarded a ferry to Caleta Gonzalo. There was two ferries to be exact and a short drive in between. Here is where we meet Areno. A lovely Brazillian man who is also on a tour of the carreterra austral. He helped us find a vehicle to ferry us and our bikes overland from one ferry to another. We meet again several days later at a campsite by a lake.

After a day on a ferry we spent two days in Park Pumalin. Created by Tompkins Foundation for the purpose of being lungs for the planet. They win the best campsite award of the century. Manicured lawns, shelters with picnic tables and benches, mini forest separating you from the neighbours, soft green grass for tent site and only 12 spread across the space of more than one football field.

We pedalled on to Villa Sainta Lucia where we camped in a paddock by a river with 2 bulls and an old church. We headed off early for our longest day yet A grand total of 98km to a lake in Park Quelat where we met up again with Areno and new found friends the Family Bru from France. This beautiful family is on a world cycle tour with their three children Sorene, Josephine and Cyprien. Together we played a game of Carcassonne (and I lost!).

The following day after only  20kms or so on gravel we arrived at Puyuhaupi. There we hit jackpot! Fresh vegetables!*&%#! Chris has joked about scurvy. I am sure all saiors from the 18th century would not joke about this. We had eaten Instant mashed potato with a sachet of instant pasta sauce they previous night for lack of fresh foods. However in Puyuhaupi we found capsicums, carrot, zuchinni, cauliflour and brocoli (and it all looked edible!) In previous towns we had come across bananas that were in a perfect state for banana bread and mouldy tomatoes. We have heard it gets worse as we head further south. Watch out!

In other news Hilarys relatively new exped sleeping mat (1/2 the size of chris’s mat) has malfunctioned. The first night after this issue occured the mat encouraged a posture for sleeping 25 degrees rotated to the left. On the second night this issue was exacerbated to 45 degree angle. Since this time it has been more comfortable to sleep on the floor instead. Luckily a rather comicly worded email to exped explaining my discomfort has worked. Hopefully a new mat will be waiting for me further down the road!

We are now in Villa Amengual where we are literally camping in a ladies backyard. We even had a hot shower in her bathroom.  Tomorrow we head towards Coyhaique. The last remaining actual town in southern Chile.

Status update: 

Number of times Hilary has fallen off bike: Many.

Number of bruises on Hilary’s legs: many

Reason why Hilary has not hurt herself: gymnastics training. Forward rolls and grovels are useful transitions off a falling bike.

Amount of cheese chris has bought: kilos. He recently tried to buy a whole wheel! After negotiations we bought 1/2 a wheel. 

More than 500 km complete!

Teaching the But family how to play carcassonne

what do you call an group of bikes?

Ruta 7: Puerto Montt a Hornoprien

The cycle tour begins.

Have we done training? No

Have we done any cycle touring before? Does a 2 day tour count? Should we mention that Hilary ended up getting 6 stiches at Gosford Hospital during this tour?

Experience on gravel roads?Hilary: no. Chris:some but not with this amount of weight.

Ready or not here we go!

Day 1: Road was sealed and riding was lovely. Undulating hills, costal scenery, lots of birds and livestock. We then took a turn off for Parque Nacional Alerce Andino where the road was not sealed. Hilary had a quick 7 km lesson on riding on gravel. Quick? No wrong word. Those 7km were quite slow but an hour or so later we arrived at a beautiful camp ground by a river with mountain views.

Day 2: Got up early for a walk to Lago Triangulos. It was misty and drizzly but lovely. The water crystal clear. Apparantly there are beavers in the park!

Returning to our bikes we pedalled back to the sealed road and pushed on to a village where we literally camped in someones yard with their cats, chickens and sheep. They have a beautiful view of the coast and mountains behind, abiet a little exposed and windy.

Day 3: We woke early to catch a ferry across to Puleche and thought if we were quick we could make a ferry 55km away in the same day. We cycled on sealed road for a little while and then crossed a bridge to find gravel. Gravel does not quite cover it. Its dry and dusty with an assortment of rock sizes and often loose on inclines and declines. Chris describes going downhill as being shaken up emotionally. Concentration is high going up or down focusing on what part on the road is more sable and less rocky. The going was slow uphill on loose gravel and hill starts with our weight were no mean feat. We eventually returned to a sealed road by the end of the day.

Our accomplishment was having completed the first 100km of Ruta 7. 1/12th of the trail.

We arrived in Hornoprien but too late for a ferry.To our delight we found a campsite on the edge of town beside a river with picnic benches and a hot shower!

Here we are staying for a day. And it is here this post is written.

The Chilenos continue to be lovely. We get tooted on the road in a sweet friendly way with a smile or wave. Camping hosts attempt to converse with us and our near non existent spanish. The general vibe is patient and kind.

Tomorrow we are going on yet another ferry because Chris loves the feeling of being on a boat.

Santiago a Puerto Montt

Hello family and friends.

Disclaimer: this entry is written by Hilary and therefore has significant bias. Chris is currently working and thus not available to edit.

We have spent three noches a Santiago y dos noches a Puerto Montt. We also spent a night on a bus from the former to the later.

Lessons learnt along the way:

  • After our arranged hotel transfer did not arrive so we found a random guy who turned out was not a taxi driver at all. He gave us a great rate to our hostel and did a dodgy move to evade airport carpark boomgate but most importantly he was right! He could fit all a shit into his suburban SUV! 2 bike boxes, 3 people, 2 masive bags.
  • Trying to assemble your bike at 6am after a 14 hour bus drive and little sleep is not funny. Having stray dogs bark at you whilst trying to put your mudguards on is a little unnerving. 
  • After putting bike together in arrival hall of bus terminal, cycling with complete cycle touring kit plus hiking/alpine kit in a hiking pack on your back is tiring. (@Liz: chris got his way eventually)
  • People speak spanish REALLY quickly. My 535 XP points on duo lingo are no match. On the other hand Chris’s 15 XP points lead him to buy a chicken empananda by accident…
  • We made several trips to investigate how the chillean postal/courier services run. We had read that you can post your parcels by bus. what the? We were (and to some point still are) dubious about the concept. You dump your bag at a bus companies cargo department and then pick it up from a different depot down the line. We will post later how efficent this process is. (The system is currently in posession of all our hiking/alpine gear) If nothing else its cheap! $50 AUD gets a 25kg bag a distance eqivalent to Melbourne to Sydney return.
  • Chilleans love hot dogs! As far as I can tell this is the nations second most favourite dish after empanadas. And boy do they do a good hot dog. In Santiago we found a chain restaurant that serves soy hot dogs. there is avocado, many kinds of salsa and sauces, corn, lettuce, bits of potato chips and many things I could not identify.

Having recovered mostly from hay fever and jetlag we got through our first day without a Siesta.

Most excitingly we are about to hit the road for real. We have stocked up on food staples and have a map of some kind. 1200 kms later we will be in Argentina…

So far our short pedals around town have tought us some basics about cycling on the wrong side of the road. And Chilenos seem to be polite our lost rambles across Puerto montt.

Will post an update from THE road. The Carretera Austral! If this is the first you have heard of our trip. Look it up, it’s a long road.