After Volcan we managed to avoid the highway one more day by taking the Ruta 103 to Potrerillos Abajo and later on a dirt road to Rio Caldera. Several people had told us about a spot at the river where camping was possible, apparently even toilets existed as some celebrations took place here. However, we ended up going across the bridge and not finding any such spot. Dan went to ask at a riverfront accomodation. He had just passed the gate when the gate closed behind him. Not only that he was locked, but there was also no one around to open the gate again. I stopped a car who rang someone who lived in the community and came to open the gate. They told us that the spot we were looking for might actually be at the next river which had proximal hot springs. We asked a few more people on the way and they said camping was free there. Dirt roads, some of them impossible to cycle, followed up to the hot springs which are hidden in a beautiful area next to a river. The owner explained to us that we had been given false information, sure we could camp but it wasn’t free as it was a private nature reserve. He offered us to make a donation of our choosing. Although we had hoped for a free night, we didn’t want to backtrack as it was already past 4pm and we were exhausted, and after all it was a lovely spot. We enjoyed a bath in a hot spring (a bit odd as it was hot outside anyway) and then a refreshing bath the freezing cold river.
Lots of downhill after Volcan
Dirt road to the hot springs
After backtracking around 6k, we made our way down to the main highway, the Carretera Panamericana. Roadworks all the way to Santiago made cycling next to trucks actually a bit more pleasant due to the cheerful road workers. It started bucketing down in the afternoon and we were glad to come by a fire station after cycling more than 100k that day before we would have had to detour to a town to find a church or the like to stay in. They said they often saw cyclists passing by and quite a few spent the night with them.
Beautiful view on the river at the hot springs in the morning
Backtracking from the hot springs
Our plan for the following day was to get off the Panamerican highway again (which we try whenever possible) and cycle to Sona. We had just merged off the highway when Dan had a puncture. Fixing it we realized that the Leatherman tool was missing. Dan recalled using it to pull out the tent pegs, so he must have left it at the fire station. We decided to fix the puncture, go back to the highway, I would take a bus back whilst Dan would switch around our tyres (his tread has been wearing down faster as his bike is heavier so we’d been planning on doing so for a while anyway). Luckily, the tool was indeed there, peacefully lying in the grass. By the time I was back and the tyres were done (Dan also found two punctures in my tyre) it was almost noon so we had lunch before continuing. By then we knew we’d most likely not make it to Sona. However, as if he morning hadn’t been troublesome enough, Dan started to feel very sick, to the point that we only managed another 15k to the first church. I had been feeling nauseous and having stomach ache on and off the past few days but felt better, and what Dan experienced seemed a lot worse. Despite not having much energy he managed another 45k to Sona the next day where we checked into a hotel. Ironically, he started feeling better as I started feeling sick. Although we had different symptoms at different times we must have gotten sick in the same way as we had the same foods and water. Whatever it was we’re both recovering and will hopefully be out of here by tomorrow.