Why the grass is greener in Chile
We have now arrived in Chile and are doing Route 7, Carretera Austral. This is a favorite destination for many travelers because it has beautiful landscapes with mountains, glaciers and many rivers. In the south of Argentina, we dreamed of getting away from the strong headwinds. In Chile, we discover that the grass is greener on the other side of the Andes. The reason? It rains a lot!
Raindrops... lots of them...
As the rain continued to hammer on our tent, we ate oatmeal with goji berries, coconut and a big chunk of butter to prepare for another wet day. The weather in Patagonia had taken us by surprise. Again! In Argentina, we dreamed of getting away from the grueling headwinds. We knew it was raining on the Chilean side of the Andes but we believed that rain would be better than headwinds. This was true for the first few days when the sun peeked out of the clouds. Then we cycled up a steep mountain pass in the pouring rain and cold. After that, the rest of our days cycling in Chile was dominated by rain.
Soaked from head to toe, we were beaten over and over by the weather gods. We stopped at small hospedajes (B&B), where we were able to dry our clothes and take a hot bath after the toughest cycling days so far. Lesson learned: be careful what you wish for!
"We bought a fishing line and hook, which we wrapped around a used Coke bottle
The hardest thing about the rain wasn't the cold or the soggy clothes. It was the fact that we couldn't find places to camp in nature. On a route that is perfect for wild camping with its many rivers, lakes and beautiful green oases.. Instead, we were forced to look for campsites where we were sheltered from the rain. Or even worse: go over budget and stay in a hostel.
While we were cycling on all kinds of roads, we counted ourselves lucky for having chosed Pinion gears. They didn’t let us down once and we didn’t have to worry about the maintenance of the chains either.
Despite the rain, we sincerely and thoroughly enjoyed the hilly, green mountain landscape that Carretera Austral is known for. We loved the great lakes and rivers, filled with trout and salmon. No wonder the salmon industry in Chile is the second largest in the world.
Martin thought it was time to catch salmon for dinner! We had bought a fishing hook and fishing line, which we wrapped around a used Coke bottle. With the help of an American fishing guide we met by chance and watching some YouTube videos, Martin immersed himself in fishing. It was a time consuming affair. He got insect bites, wet shoes and even had to go into the river to keep the hook from getting entangled in a tree trunk. The fishhook eventually ended its days on another log. So no fish but plan B for dinner: sausages, pasta and vegetables.
We were not the only ones on the Carretera Austral. Every day we met other cyclists. A stark contrast to Argentina's Route 40, where we only saw a few in an entire month. Tourism is overwhelming here. It is the livelihood of many of the people who live here on the Chilean side of Patagonia. Unlike Argentina, there are many small towns along the way. Full of campsites, hostels and hotels.
Suddenly we were one of many. The Chileans were friendly but also a bit reserved. They were used to tourists. Being long-distance cyclists wasn't enough to get their attention. So we had to come up with other methods to win their hearts: we stacked firewood and cooked for one of our hosts.
The heavy rain made us go indoors to dry our tents and clothes and it resulted in good experiences with the Chileans. In the village of La Junta, we stayed with an elderly woman Maria, who is a real boss lady and manages a campsite and guesthouse all by herself. Maria works all day long with everything from cleaning to chopping firewood to the stove. In the evening we made a huge batch of pasta with chorizo and invited Maria to dinner. The following evening, she reciprocated the gesture, and we ate delicious soup with steak and potatoes. We spent the evenings talking about our life in Denmark and Maria told us about her life in Chile.
"Life is unpredictable. And so is nature.
We also encountered the harsh reality of nature when we cycled into Villa Santa Lucia. We immediately felt the change of atmosphere. Here was a gloom that amplified the gray weather. It turned out that in December 2017, a mudslide had killed 22 people here. This could have been more, but a gaucho (cowboy) saw the mudslide and rode into town on horseback to warn them. Luckily it happened in the morning and not at night. So many people were evacuated on time. It set our minds in motion. How does a city recover from this? We were greeted by lovely, friendly people, who had probably lost loved ones only 5 years ago. Life is unpredictable. And so is nature. The ruined part of the city now houses a museum in memory of those who lost their lives.
In Villa Santa Lucia we left the Carretera Austral and continued to Futaleyfú. We took a break from cycling and went rafting on one of the most suitable rivers in the world for that: the Futaleyfú river. After some wonderful resting days, we picked up our bikes again and cycled into Argentina again. To be continued!