Fully loaded rigs, packrafting and avoiding border posts

While I travel kind of light, when it comes to organizing gear it is a complete disaster but with the help of many people it somehow works out. Be it importing drones and cameras to sending stuff ahead and behind and it is a complete miracle it all works out. Alejandro looked after the box of my boat and another box i sent since i was expecting a tough trail (and it was worth it).


In addition to the boat I had to deal with some food anxiety, where I just wanted to eat better food and not run out like the last time, going to bed hungry is not fun! From google satellite it looked like i will have 3-5 days on a road, followed by two days on a lake so the extra weight should not be a big problem. There was a 40-60km resupply detour if I wanted but for some reason I would much rather carry more and stay out more.

so I began clinking and clanking my way out of Chillan. Alejandro was nice to forward me the photo here and it was great visiting his family in the city.


I rolled out of the low valley and began climbing, really unsure about the current weight of the machine. It was just too much and I definitely took too much food. The ride was nice and with the fog/clouds quite fresh


these dogs started barking at me and the one hiding behind the pole came out chasing me. When I turned around and started talking to him he ran back to his dog family and they all looked at me as if nobody has ever talked to them in english.


it was drizzling and slow enough that i did not feel like putting on rain gear just to sweat in it. The grade up was just perfect for me 4th gear (1-3 skip too much) and I arrived near my turnoff quite wet. I decided to ask the Carabineros and see if they have contact with their forward post at the far end of Laguna Laja because I had heard that they will not let you pass without stamping out of the country (and i was not going to argentina but taking a trail near the border).

That didnt go over quite well, as the guys werent really sure what is happening and told me that even for my current plan, i will need to go to the next town and ask the police station there for a permit. They are nice people but it feels like they are covered in rules and regulations that nobody really knows. I said I’d go to the other office (20km detour) and just went on.


Being wet and all I went to look and see if i can find a reasonable cabin, it was a fairly touristy place and it would be my second accomodation in chile. Going through various “cabanas” they were all quite big and did not have a reasonable price for 1 person. Few suggested Cabanas la Piedra and I ended up there.

i really needed to re-pack everything properly.


I ended up staying an extra day and Waldo and Jaqueline were great to talk to. Waldo is a Chilean who worked on a merchant ship for over 20-30 years and has been all over the world and to holland and Jaqueline was from Holland as well. They ended up moving back here to Chile and creating this little cabin resort. Surprisingly they are not on booking or any other websites and have mostly returning local visitors who spend their vacations here. Unlike the other “resorts” they are not clearcutting and expanding and preserving as much trees and also are able to welcome solo travelers.
Waldo took me out on a drive and showed me where I will be going. He suggested few songs including Arriba en la Cordillera by Patricio Mans, who sings about this exact valley here and where i will be going!


I somehow managed to drag even more food with me… the bike was a complete disaster and on par with a fully loaded touring rig.


I was very happy when the ranch on the way saw my bike and didnt charge me (they normally charge cars) and even the rangers at the entrance of the reserve gave me the Chilean rate and not the gringo/foreginer rate.

that hapiness quickly faded away when the road I was looking at was pipeline service road and not really a road. The grade was something ridiculous and with the soft/sandy base with loose rocks on top made progress even slower.


oh but there were nice views to stop and look at some smoking volcano


I made it up less than half way of the pass of Atacalco when I decided to stop. it was a good sunset looking back west


in the morning I put on the backpack to make moving the bike easier and the road continued at a reasonable grade with the exception of few sections that were just ridiculous. Waldo had told me that the technicians who monitor the pipeline and stay with him when they do it, drive a quad up here but I had a hard time imagining a quad (unless not loaded at all) making it up this stuff.


the descend was equally steep and loose and I walked over half of it, deciding it is not worth it putting the bike through such forces and grinding down my brakepads. But it looked like the valley really flattened after this Atacalco pass


the Rangers told me there is a hut behind the ranger station to camp but camping under the roof at the entrance was the way to go. Wind and rain protection, great views and a great place to stop early and try to eat-off some of that food i was carrying. There was a garbage can there also.


It poured all night and I went onto the perfectly rideable road further into the mountains, it’s been a long time since I saw rain and it was actually kind of nice.


I even got to grab some apples on the way


the road was in a good condition and even showed 4x4 tracks, I dont know from where they came because the way I went, you cant drive a jeep through. It even had bridges!!!


I made it to a forward police station and was kind of glad there was nobody here. I dont think the Chilean Carabineros would have been as excited for my plan to packraft across laguna laja with a bike on top and no life vest or dry suit.


Surprisingly the road went on at a reasonable grade and good quality all the way across a little pass and down to Laguna Laja. Few smaller tracks went off to Argentina


Volcan Antuco and some nice looking mountain really stood out as more significant landmarks


I set up on shore, drank coffee and lunch sandwitch and shook my head. The packraft looked and handled very sketchy.


My plan B was a red dry bag and my front tire (which is easy to remove) then if something happens, i trow the red bag on top of the tire and swim to shore. at worst it looked like 1km swim.


It takes some time to get comfortable on the boat and to pack things properly but I was glad to stop early again, swim and watch the sunset.

boat seems to let air out over 5-6 hours but it is slow enough that its not a problem while paddling during the day

boat seems to let air out over 5-6 hours but it is slow enough that its not a problem while paddling during the day

In the morning the lake is a mirror and i sleep in until the sun warms everything up. Pausing paddling ocassionally to just look around and listen to Gregory Alan Isakov - That Sea, The Gambler


I see some pickups drive onto the shore and with the red and white they make a perfect reference point and I head right to them. In like 2 hours.


At the end, I go a little to the side, not to kind of crash their asado but they immediately go to me and invite me for a beer, juice, show me how they fish and of course - try my bike and the boat!


It really escaped my mind that packrafting is not easy. One of them goes for a paddle and in barely 20minutes is almost on the other side of the lake.

the wind keeps roaring and he is not making progress. not moving toward us at all. We think to drive down the shore and signal that he paddle perpendicular to the wind (and he will reach the shore but just further away) and I start thinking of plan B, there is border station about 45min away by car but there is no guarantee they will have any boats to help him.


an hour and a half later and the wind eases and he makes it back

his words: “at one moment I thought I was gonna die”


But it all worked out and Chileans are awesome to be out here for weekend picnics and being so friendly to travelers. They also seem to line up the perfect selfies! and what a story to tell - we had an asado on the lake, then some gringo on a boat with a bike rolled in - almost killed me with his boat but hey, just another weekend in chile!


But things dont always work out so well. I make my way to a tall monument along the shore of the lake and the base of Volcan Antuco


and as beautiful as these mountains are, one should always respect the weather and the conditions out here


and so it was, that on a stormy winter day at a nearby military base, the order was given for the soldiers to march on an excersise. Despite the weather and few of the sergeants objecting the commanding officer.

and the weather turned from bad to worse and the soldiers got lost and separated in the whiteout

and on this day, there is a tall monument, casting a dark shadow.

45 holes shine inside the dark


and I ride further up along this disturbing scene, the officer who ordered them out did not go out himself and from what I heard only got 5 years of jailtime.


I leave the main road in order to sneak by the border post (as from the info i have they wont let me pass without stamping out of the country). Some cows follow me and I wonder if they give out my location and after I see some buggies driving toward me and it gives me a bit of a rush, but they seem too well equipped to be police, army maybe? but more likely weekend warriors and they just dont bother to go nearme


took about 2 hours for the walk abound but i made it to the road, a police car passed but it didnt bother stopping. good.


I sneak off to another quiet valley


and I’ll pick up this on the next post as when they get longer there is a good chance my browser will crash.