Turn, Turn, Turn! (Carretera Austral Part 2)

Damp and Cold

The days before the New Year were not fun. A storm had moved in, and given that my accomodations were already booked, I needed to get up each day and make it to the next town on the schedule.

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When it’s this green everywhere, that means it rains a lot.
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Crete and Margaret, the wonderful Dutch couple I met in Villa Mañihaules, outside my hotel in Coyhaique, where I spent New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day..
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The hostel where the Dutch stayed. It was not very nice, according to them despite it’s posh external appearance.
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One of the sunniest moments of the week before New Year’s. And good pavement. And a tailwind.

Hiking not biking

The next day, along with two Dutch women I’d met in Villa Mañihaules, I went for a 26k hike up around the mountains just below Cerro Castillo. The trail was gorgeous in places, the views spectacular, and the going quite difficult a times.

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Cerro Castillo (Castle Mountain), from which the pueblo ‘Villa Cerro Castillo’ gets its name. The glacier is really impressive up close.
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My favourite part of the trail. Wooded, shaded, wonderful. All we need is elves.
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The rock road. At times you had to guess where the trail was, despite a lot of great work by park rangers to place markers and cairns (“Stone men”, according to the Dutch) all throughout the 26k trail.
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It wasn’t that cold, except when there was wind at the top. One of my guidelines for hiking is, “Don’t worry about how you look, just wear the right stuff.” Mission accomplished.
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It’s hard to focus on the trail when there’s always a crazy mountain peak somewhere in the distance.

A new plan

As I’d arrived in Villa Cerro Castillo, I had talked to a bunch of backpackers, cyclists, and hikers, who told me about the conditions I’d face in the next week. Frost on tents. Freezing temps at night. Stronger winds. My tent is a Summer / Spring tent and not made for Winter. My sleeping bag is an ultra-lightweight bag, rated for 10 C, but certainly not freezing. I didn’t have the room on the bike to bring big puffy Winter gear, and the research I had done said it shouldn’t get much colder than 10C in the South. Well, my research was clearly wrong.

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Indian Stone Vegano is the only vegan restaurant I could find in Coyhaique. The falafel were delicious, and disappeared quickly.
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A portrait of a local priest, painted on an old satellite dish. An art installation, for sure. From a distance I had hoped it would be Johnny Cash.
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One of the bluffs along the route from Coyhaique to Cerro Castillo.
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A future tour guide outside a cave in the region around Puyuhuapi.
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Yep, it’s a damp, wet climate. Moss, tundra, etc.
  • Would I be able to cover the longer distances on this trip each day? (Yes!)
  • Would I have enough space in the frame packs to bring the gear that I needed for the weather? (No!)
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While I would not consider myself an animal rights activist, I passoinately fight for the rights of dog statues. The person who broke the dogs nose must be brought to justice. After all, this is one of the few dogs in South America who does not bark all through the night or run after cyclists.

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