Monday, 22 March 2010

Carretera Australian

With Belarus and the swiss we hopped on down to Villa O´Higgins, 7km away.  I scouted out the town and found very little of interest, so I booked into El Mosco, where the Swiss were setting up camp.  Used the free, slow internet, dried some things, then Danny showed up.  Don´t get me wrong, I like the guy, but that creep Danny, daft old boy, proceeded to dry out all of his kit on the lawn of El Mosco, used the facilities, jumped on the net, then told me he wasn't going to stay there at all anyway, he was jetting off that night.  Owner of El Mosco overheard him, blasted him, and rightly so.  Danny left and hung around Belarus at some other campground.  I think he went fishing with Ben.  That was the last time I saw Belarus and Dan.  Meanwhile, I was fast making plans in El Mosco.  Put on my chunky bike tyre for the rough road ahead.  Had hotdogs for dinner and met a Canadian ocean surveyor.

Said goodbye to O'Higgins early in the morn, and left my companions of the previous week.  The ride started well.  Read a journal previously of a gentleman that had cycled to Rio Bravo in one day.  Thought I'd do the same.  Had a rough time of it, two big hills, visible in the distance, wrecked my thighs and nerves.  Rain.  Misery.  Utter exhaustion, but I made it to Rio Bravo by 5:00pm, the ferry was at eight.  Cooked a delicious tomato pasta dinner and dried off in a nice, clean ferry terminal building that was deserted.  The ferry arrived, and I asked the driver if there was any place to camp on the other side of the Fjord, at Puerto Yungay.  he said, "Yes, in my front yard!"  I said "Great!" He said "You pay in Chilean pesos, yes?"  I said, "No, I'm staying here, in this cozy terminal, for free, and catching the morning ferry!"  He shrugged, couldn't care less either way.  Another swiss man exited the ferry going the direction I came, and he also decided to use the handy terminal for a night's kip.  Had a good gab all night and the nice chap gave me a brand new Marathon XR, as he didn't need it.  Neither did I, but I never look a gift horse in the mouth.

The following morning, he was off early.  Just as the ferry showed up at 10:00am, Swissdeux rolled in.  Nick of time.  We slept on the 3/4 of an hour free ferry, then hit a 24% grade hill out of Puerto Yungay.  Pushing and swearing.  Well, I was cursing, the swiss were too polite, just a little furrow of the brow for them.  Met a bunch of other bikers coming the opposite way, having a grand old time, including a cool American coming up the pass.  Gave me some lentil soup and oats, he'd heard of me before.  Reputation precedes me.  Must be the kitsch hat and knife.  The swiss caught me up at the turnoff to Caleta Tortel.  As a democratic group we voted 3-0 in favor of not going there, the boardwalk village, as it was an extra 44km of dirt road not in the direction we were headed.  Maybe will regret not going, everyone since has shouted it's blessings.  Apparently Danny even went there, some Israelis said.

The Swiss, being slowpokes accustomed to short days in the saddle, convinced me to stop after a mere 40km.  We did choose a cracking spot, however, opened an interesting horizontal log-gate, were assaulted by mosquitos, and cooked a hearty dinner of pasta con sausage.  We left in the morning as a group and startled a gaucho, whose cattle scarpered into the bush.  With a whip-crack and an "¡aiii!" he chased them, probably thinking "fucking gringos!"  Sorry pal.  Some really rotten ripio for the next 38km was our companion, following a river toward the town of Cochrane.  At km 38 there was a left turn to an Estancia 9km on a side road.  Swiss wanted to buy pan, fruit and camp there. I couldn't swallow another short 40km day, and I had enough pan to swallow anyway, so I said "Goodbye, I'm off to Cochrane!".  I was rewarded for my solidarity with a big bastard hill, but I stuck it out and made another 40 or so kilometres.  Asked a guy: "¿Donde kilometres por de Cochrane?"  Got confused glare back, and a reply in english, "28km that way".  Realised I had asked the chap "Where kilometres for of Cochrane?"  Slapped myself across the face, as my spanish teacher would have done, had she heard me.  Had a hard time finding a sneaky place to camp, but eventually came across a broken farm fence and crept in.  Was windy, so I put up the tent, had 3 coffees and whipped up some "curried" rice as dinner.  Cheap and cheerful, tearful too.  Much Aji.

Day 5 of the Carretera Austral was a lovely short one.  Got to Cochrane about 10:30 am.

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