Entering the Austral

The past few weeks have marked an entirely different pace for us. My folks came for a lovely visit which provided us some downtime from riding. There comes a point in any tour where one forgets to appreciate the incredible experience they are living, and I think it’s safe to say that Gina and I were very much in that position. However, It’s amazing what a week off the bike can do!

The Carreterra Austral is iconic route for South American cycle-tourists. Usually marking the beginning or end point for some very epic adventures. In our situation, a realization hits us. We’re on the home stretch and that’s pretty scary for two . We’re lined up to hit Ushuaia in early winter, but neither Gina or I are in any great rush to try and make up the time. We’ve decided to use the Austral as a sort of “home base”, branching off whenever something more interesting comes along. Our first deviation took us along the ocean from Contao to Hailaihue, passing through small fishing villages and barren coast. I found myself overwhelmed with nostalgia, being constantly reminded of Nova Scotia and her quaint shanty towns to which I have become well accustomed. It was a pleasant surprise to see a few other cyclists following suit and opting for this beautiful alternative to the well trodden main road.

With the busy summer months behind us, we are no longer fighting the crowds and high prices which have been our Achilles heel. Chile has become a new animal altogether. One that we’re very excited to see more of. Here are some photos of our exciting first few days where we have officially entered “Patagonia”. I apologize if it looks a bit like a boat montage, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Route info:
Puerto Varas (the most we’ve ever paid for camping…) – Puerto Montt (via secondary road) – ferry from La Arena (last reliable shops before Hornopiren) to Puelche (2600 per bike&person) – from Contao merge off Austral onto a dirt road that skirts around the coast – Hualaihué – ferry from Hornopiren to Galeta Gonzalo (5350 per bike&person, First ferry takes 3h, 10k hitch (we asked a truck to take us) or ride (you’ve got about 30mins) to the second ferry which takes 45mins) – in off-season the camping in Caleta Gonzalo is free, only about 200m from the ferry on the left side, down a trail for 100m (in summer it costs about 2500pp) – en route to Chaitén are a number of other camping places – free camp in Chaitén 1k out of town before a roundabout on the right side is an area with picnic places that makes a great free camp spot – Chaitén (descent supermarket and cafés)

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Row row row your boat
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Ferry from La Arena to Puelche
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Fish Farming, very common in theser parts
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Very Nova Scotian
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Greek House
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Algae
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Our evening was spent in a beautiful spot overlooking the water, dolphins feeding in the shallows.
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The fishing villages are full of life. People scavenging the beaches for shellfish, boats beached for repairs. We asked a local couple to explain their work to us. They buy various types of shellfish from the local fisherman and smoke it in a little outdoor shack. Time is of essence though, a truck is coming today to pick up the goods.
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Meanwhile, Gina is offered a piece of fresh seafood to try. She throws a skeptical look my way before tucking in.
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Beaches are littered with Mussel shells from the harvest.
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Seaweed is also sought out in Santiago. Used for natural remidies, it is harvested when the tides allow it.
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Breathing in the salty sea air.
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Looks like we’re coming into windier parts.

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Some of these vessels have had long lives and retire in the shallows.
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Pumalin National Park. Part of the Tompkins reserve.
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quiet dirt.
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Mist. The days usually start out clear and fog rolls in pretty quickly.

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That’s not a leaf…. Now That’s a leaf!
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This little sucker wasn’t scared of us. I managed to take this from about 8 inches away.

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One thought on “Entering the Austral

  1. Hallo Ihr Zwei! Immer wieder muss ich realisieren, dass ich Euch bewundere, beneide und Euch Glück wünsche für Euren irren Trail! Auch für den “Rest” der Fahrt alles Gute! Gautam

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