more bikepacking and packrafting along the interior of chile.Read More
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.
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.
This is what bikepacking and touring is actually like. Hm. its not really all that badRead More
heading out into the heart of the Andes and the land of the volcanoes on a pushbike.Read More
The ride out of Santiago, Chile and the beginning of the Great Patagonian Hike-A-BikeRead More
Overview of traveling with power banks, dynamo and solar to keep your electronics chargedRead More
The paved highway is not the only way from Mendoza to Santiago, there is a horse trail that can take bikepackers and hikers alike between the two big cities.Read More
Its been a while since riding tarmac and main roads. Its really not that bad!Read More
The road to Rodeo through the valley of bones. Some of the most remote parts of the Argentinian Puna.Read More
Riding and “riding” along the high Puna’s highest passes to the highest crater lake in the world and a roadless 5600m pass.Read More
Six miles north, part 2. More of the puna in northern argentinaRead More
Riding the six miles north route from Chile to ArgentinaRead More
After a nice stop at the Train Graveyard I went onto the road for 4km or so. I couldnt help but think that the road is a little crooked and all these people must spend hours tilted 5-10 degrees to the side? My initial plan to ride the train tracks west was changed by the howling wind, if I turn more south, i will get one hell of a tailwind and so I did. I pre-loaded a lot of maps while browsing in town so I had some different options. It’s a miracle I made it out today after I took long to pack, eat, visit immigration (to check visa duration) and all….
As a bonus, I will reach some more varied parts and hills and all that, a bit of climbing but more to see and more wind cover
really makes you wonder what all these animals eat, there really doesnt seem to be much but thorns and sharp, dry grass out here
I found reasonably sheltered spot for the night among some odd rock formations, so glad to be out of the salt and the sand, even if for a night
In the morning it was a nice ride to a little town where I found water and also a very good lunch and fruit. Prices, for where it was were very good and I took the chance to load up again on extra food I may need over the next week or so to Chile
When I talked to the store owner who had a car he looked at my route and suggested something else, it’s only sand he said. I said good, thats what i want.
it wasnt exactly easy going and quite a bit of walking at times but what worried me was a giant dune I could see from far away. Which in turn turned to be somewhat hardened sand and more rideable than the road itself
then I found a salty riverbed which I rode uphill until it joined with another road
there was an excellent cover from the wind and a luxurious dinner with potatoes and tomatoes and onion! I even had a can of condensed milk for coffee in the morning.
In the morning I inspected the lights I saw at night and it must be a mine
then it was my turn to be inspected by the wild burros
The rocks got more odd-looking and there were even condors in the air. Not all of them had the white collar but they were still just as big
for some odd reason there were plenty of donkeys out here…
and the Vicunas would just see me and run up a ridge (like 3-400m vertical) just for the fun of it… me, i’m huffing and puffing to barely keep up walking pace on a road…
The road got quite bad that I followed few moto tracks onto the riverbed, it was a bit of a shortcut and in general I think better riding surface than the road
I already set my goal for today and it was to stay near this nice pointy mountain
This is one of the three moving vehicles I saw during this entire post, all the way to Chile.
The road had very nicely designed signs which made me worry a little, from what I heard for the last section of Bolivia there is a hefty 150BOB ($30CAD) to pass by. After the feeding frenzy in Uyuni, I had 30BOB to my name which was just enough to cover the 1 day visa fine, if for some reason I get delayed.
I stopped at this funny little town, the kids watched me with curiosity but none was brave enough to talk to me, to see how my stove works although when I was at the store buying eggs I came out and they were all touching the bike and the tires, haha
only a few were brave enough to remain when I asked for a photo while filling up water at the school
The prof told me I am leaving on the main way out of town but I wonder if he meant I came on the main road, because this was NOT the main road
While setting up my tent, a wind gust took out 3 stakes and the tent body and I started running after it. I dont think i’ve ran like this ever, if I didnt catch it it will be gone…. it will reach argentina before me for sure and I’ll have to sleep wrapped in my tent fly somehow for the next little while…. I barely got it, i was out of breath, tired but… well…. I will need to make sure I have something heavy inside next time.
The road was bad at best and I really doubted many people drove this way
I had 3 days left including today and with the bottom bracket I was already concerned I would could damage the crank shaft. A detour to the highest road in the world (5800m!) was not really an option, epsecially if the winds continue blowing from where i am heading (west-ish). Water was also a worry, as I only saw one stream yesterday in the afternoon and the lakes were likely sulphury or salty or at best just full of flamingo…. um, excretions.
The good news is I found a nice stream, fresh cold water (better than any town’s water Ive seen so far and no funny foam when boiling!)
somewhere around 1-2pm the wind was just too strong to ride (considering the bottom bracket) and I just walked my bike the rest of the day, even on the downhils. I set up with some okay wind cover for the night.
A check of the crank shaft (which in the absence of a proper tool is done by unscrewing the bolt holding the driveside crank and riding until it falls off) showed barely/minor damage so I continued riding it (although trying to put most force on the non-drive side pedal stroke to avoid more damage. After noon there wasnt much riding, only on the downhills.
I was getting ready to ration my last liter of water when I spotted a little stream, coming out of nowhere and disappearing into the sand in few kilometers.
With the wind increasing it felt really pointless walking in the evening, I found some rock cover and I’d need to leave early in the cold but calm weather tomorrow. That wind is tough, wow.
It was about 4500m elevation but it was extremely cold, water bottles inside the tent were frozen solid (note: i’ll need to take better care of the nalgene because it can break!). I wanted to go and take a photo of the frozen flamingos but they have normally flown away when they see me from afar… these shots from planet earth 2 must have been with some super zoom camera!
The road went up on such a little incline that it was barely noticeable, without wind the sun felt very strong
after the pass, oh boy. full force headwind coming from the pacific ocean. I was running good on time but this will be pushing it, I was able to ride most of the downhill but when the grade got lighter I just walked my bike for the rest of the day (minor riding brakes)
I wondered what kind of an encounter it would have been if this military base was manned, hmmm!
at some point I stumbled upon a bike track, I could see the zig-zag, the lane changes, footprints. Ha, its not easy riding here! A standard bike would certainly involve a lot of walking.
since noon I was counting my hours and approximate distance, I estimated 5km/h with the wind was a good walking pace and was aiming to be there before 5 in case they close. Now the funny thing is that with this wind, after 4 it becomes very cold. I made it at 5:20 to the border post and got stamped out, I wasn’t asked to take off my hood or anything…. hmm… border guy told me chile immigration is in 5km although both journals I read said it was in San Pedro de Atacama.
Chile had pavement but I still walked with the wind, kind of riding slight downhill sections. The immigration building seemed quite fancy but there were no signs, no work hours, nothing. I sat there for 5min drinking my ice cold water and then knocked on both front and back doors. Nothing, it must be in san pedro then.
I put on rain pants but was too cold to undo the top (also high chance of breaking the zipper since it was almost gone) and dig my down jacket in my bag to put it on. I just decided to roll on down as far as I can, preferrably under 4000m. Despite the wind the grade along with the pavement were enough to get me rolling downhill at a pretty reasonable but cold pace.
At San Pedro I met with a friend of a friend and also received a nice package from USA for the next leg, instant mash potatoes and chilli!!!
there was just one little problem…. immigration was not in sand pedro but up at the pass and I will need to go back there to get a stamp. There is no bus going there and its either buy a spot on a tour going to the salars on the chilean side or hitchhike. I walked out of town to try and find a ride but there wasnt much going up or going down for that matter. A man going to buy some goat cheese at the last ranch (around 4000m) gave me a lift
from here it was about 12km to the border so I just decided to walk it, of course flag down a car if i see one (all trucks were going downhill at this time of the day)
I made it to the post, already cold and knocked a bunch of time, eventually somebody saw me and they let me in. Boy its so warm in there! They easily stamped me in and asked me how am I going to get back to San Pedro, I said I’ll hitch a ride. It was about the same time as yesterday when i rode down and I clearly remember few trucks passing down after I set up my tent. They said ok, we’ll find you a ride and everyone from the office came outside with me. haha, if that doesnt make my day i dont know what will!
I was just getting worried about them freezing when a pickup drove up and talked to one of them (people from switzerland were just driving up in a rental car to ask some questions), they took me in on the way down and i feel really bad for them for having to be in an enclosed space with me and about two weeks of no laundry (and 7 days without shower).
and to top it off right as I made it walking to my friend’s place, the brazillian grill was well underway!
along with the happiest dog in the southern hemisphere!
meanwhile I can take few days to fatten up and maybe make a new video. Sadly the tablet/laptop hasnt been doing quite well from charging issues (requiring me to open back and disconnect/reconnect the battery) to screen shut offs and funny colors. Nontheless, with some care and a lot of patience I put the new video together, it was in a way tougher than riding it! oh and the render marathon took 14h total with an error but the file plays fine so i hope it works
meanwhile if you have made it this far, haha! you can check out the early link to the video here
next up is the Six Miles North in Argentina…. i may be away from internet or anything until early january…
route here (2nd part from Uyuni:
taking the backroads toward the Salars of BoliviaRead More
Wandering through the rocky lands of the smiling llama and through some of the toughest trails (if you can call them that) of cordillera realRead More
walking and biking along the rainy Apolobamba range toward Sorata, BoliviaRead More
instead of going south, why not ride north to the border and see more alpacas and mountainsRead More
The last bit of this stretch into La Paz before returning to work in canadaRead More
riding from Macusani through the land of gold to the Bolivian border at TiticacaRead More
part one of the Las Tres Cordilleras bikepacking route starting at the end of Ausangate.Read More