Things have been going much better the last few days – I’m in Cochrane, the last major (2,000+) people town on the Carretera Austral, less than 250km from the end. This part of the Carretera Austral has a different climate, much drier than a little bit north, but with manageable amounts of wind. There’s still been some rain, but there’s been mostly sunshine for the last 3 days. Such a change to ride in just shirt and shorts.
Not all plain sailing of course – the first leg to Villa Cerro Castillo was paved, but it’s been rough roads since, with a lot of corrugations. Sometimes you don’t see them coming, hit them too fast, and just about get shaken apart. With all the shaking going on, I’ve been surprised that more things have not broken. Two things I’ve noticed – one was a rack bolt in the same place as before, but this time I could extract it myself. Lucky. Not sure why that side keeps breaking though.
The second thing was something I never expected to fail – my pot. I was cooking my dinner, and couldn’t understand why my stove kept going out. Multifuel stoves can be temperamental, so at first I didn’t think much of it. Then I realised the water was slowly draining out a small hole in the side of my pot. I had to tilt it at 45° and not put too much into it, to cook my dinner. I just managed.
Around Puerto Bertrand, there are plenty of flash lodges, aimed at well-heeled fly fisherman. Oddly though, some are closed up, empty, in the middle of what should be the high season. I don’t know if this is because they would never have been economic, or if it’s recent events. I have heard tourist numbers are down 30-40 percent, and I’ve never had a problem finding a place to stay. This even though guidebooks tell you to book ahead at this time of year. Could be that people are put off by the high costs. I paid $50USD for a room the other night, which was OK, but didn’t even provide a towel. So it’s back to camping, which I’m doing in someone’s backyard in Cochrane, for the more reasonable amount of $6USD. Hot showers too, or at least there should be when they finish painting and unlock it again.
In Coyhaique, there were camping stores where I could get perfect replacement pots, made by MSR. I didn’t want to get a bus back there though, so thought I would look around here. This town used to be the end of the line, so there is a true general store – Casa Melero. This sells everything, from toothpaste to toilets, from chainsaws to chickens, nails to nail polish. A true old style general store. They have camping gear too, so I thought I would be in luck – but no joy. The only pots I could find were too large. I’m not going to carry a 20L soup tureen on my bike, to cook my noodles. However, I bashed over the hole, and testing last night indicated that it will now hold water. So I’ll keep using it until I can find a replacement.
I’ll need it the next few nights too, as I’m heading to Villa O’Higgins, and I’m not going to make the detour to Caleta Tortel. This means 4 days of riding until the next town. I’ve stocked up on food, so I should be OK, but it’s going to be some long empty stretches. Perhaps a little more rain too, as I head west a bit, before going east again. Because of the topography here, a few kilometres each way can make a big difference in rainfall. With luck, I’ll get the Saturday ferry from O’Higgins, to make the trek across to Argentina. If I don’t have time to do web stuff in O’Higgins, it may be 7-10 days before I’m online again.