Sunday 29 November 2009

CHILE La Carreterra Austral (North) Futalefu-Coyhaique

In Coyhaique, halfway down the Carreterra Austral. We hitched this route in 1993 when it was all gravel roads for 1000kms and there was little traffic and very few tourists. Now it´s a popular route for cyclotourists with 300kms of paved road. We´ve met over 20 cyclists in the last week and caught up with a few for dinner last night. Mostly French.

Now heading south for Cochrane and Villa O´Higgins. The highway hadn´t reached this southern outpost in 1993. Now it´s possible to catch a ferry with the bike and walk/ride on rough tracks to Argentinian customs at Lago de Desierto and onto El Chalten. This has become a favourite summer route for foreign cyclists.

The route from Futalefu to Coyhaique was a mixed bag. Mostly bad weather- held up for a few days with heavy rain. Lots of late spring snow on the peaks, and the rivers were turbulent with snowmelt.

Here are some photos of the trip. I´ll write more at a later date.
The highlights were the spring flowers, wild campsites and spotting a pudu in the rainforest. It is the smallest deer in the world and quite a rare animal to see down here.

It was also the first time on the ride since leaving the Caribbean shore and after 12000kms riding the spine of the Andean chain, to hit the salty smell of the sea. Puyuhuapi village sits on the Ventisquero fjord with access to the Pacific Ocean. We rode along the coast for about 15kms before climbing back into the mist-shrouded mountains of the Quelat National park (this is where I spotted the pudu).

Map of the route

Futalefu river running down to the Pacific.

Notro (Chilean firebush) Embrothium cocaineum
A member of the Protea family and an Andean relative of the waratah in Australia.

Copihue Lapageria rosea Chile´s national flower, similar to the Tasmanian climbing heath.

Fuchsia magellanica

Futalefu river

A house in Chaiten buried in volcanic ash and mud detritus after the eruption of nearby Volcan Chaiten in May 2008.

Lago Yelcho

A small chapel in the Chilote style, with shingled roof and walls.

Riding down the Carreterra Austral on a rare sunny day

View of the peaks from our campsite by Rios Palena and and Frio.

An out-of-focus shot of a pudu deer. I spotted this timid pudu in the forest but managed to get one quick shot before it fled deeper into the damp undergrowth. This is the smallest deer in the world and it was a real surprise to see one so close to the road.

Forest orchid in Quelat national park.


View from our campsite at 600m in Quelat National Park.

Rainforest flora and vegetation

The road south to Villa Manihuales

Wednesday 18 November 2009

ARGENTINA El Bolson-Trevelin (Nov 12-15)

In Futalefu, Chile across the border from Trevelin, Argentina. Waiting for the omnipresent rain to ease before we head south on the Carreterra Austral.

I haven´t posted much text of late. I guess I´m getting tired and after getting hammered by the wind of Argentina and drenched by the rain in Chile, the life has drained out of the old fellow. Suffering the dreaded piles and knee pain, it´s a battle to keep the pedals turning. Judy is still her stoical self and just keeps going without complaint. No wonder her father, Sandy, nicknamed her Tuffy the Egg!

I´ve posted the following photos on this section by mistake. They should be on the previous post and show the lake scenery from La Angostura -Bariloche- El Bolson. I can´t be bothered moving them so here they´ll stay.....

The weather from San Martin de Los Andes to Bariloche was fearsome. A week of blasting winds from the west stranded us for 2 days in San Martin (a pleasant town and nice accommodation in a log cabin) and another 2 days in Bariloche(an awful tourist trap). We finally escaped Bariloche and had 2 pleasant days cycling to El Bolson via some beautful alpine lakes.

El Bolson is the Argentianian Nimbin- a hippy community from the 1970s, now more of a tourist spot but with a counter-culture atmosphere. Beautiful backdrop of mountains close to the town.

Bullock-drawn carts are part of the landscape in northern Patagonia. In Chile we saw carts with hand-cut wooden wheels. I´ll post a photo of one soon.

Butch Cassidy Steakhouse. The celebrity outlaw lived out his last days in Argentina and Bolivia and he spent some nefarious times with the Sundance Kid in this valley by the Rio Blanco and in the shadow of the Andes.

Flamingoes on a lake north of Los Alerces. I was surprised to see Chilean flamingoes this far south.

We had 2 delightful days riding through Los Alerces National Park. This large park has some large stands of ancient alerce trees. Fitzroya cupressioides or Patagonian cypress are some of the oldest trees in the world, some up to 3600 years old. There is also a Tasmanian/Gondwana connection. In the mid-1990s, scientists from Uni of Tasmania found 35 million year old fossilzed leaves of Fitzroya in a lake in NW Tas. This Gondwanan link is very strong here, as the wet temperate rainforests of Nothofagus, ferns and moss evoke the same senses as the western Tasmanian forests with their precious Gondwanan relics.

However much of the ancient giants of Fitzroya have been felled by Patagonian colonists for their shingled houses. There are only three reserves in Chile and Argentina which protect them from the axe. It has suffered the same fate as the Tasmanian Huon pine, another Gondwana relic and old survivor.

I´ll add more text to this post from Coyaique in a week or so as the diner bell is calling me..........
Here are more photos of the park...

Lago Verde

An amazing tree, the arayane, which like the huon pine loves to get its feet wet, growing by lakes and rivers. Smooth, cinnamon-coloured bark exposed to show the milky-white skin beneath, a bit like a Modigliani reclining nude.

Our campsite by Lago Verde in a grove of arayanes.

Jude riding by Lake Futalfquen

Saturday 7 November 2009

ARGENTINA San Martin-Bariloche-El Bolson (Nov 4-15)

Map of our route from Paso Hua Hum to Trevelin

Over the Andes into Argentina met another spell of violent westerly winds, sleet and rain. Held up in San Martin de Los Andes for 2 days and Barliche for another 2 days.
Now in El Bolson and the weather has cleared. Fine sunny spring weather. At last!

We camped just beyond Argentianian customs - soft rain fell overnight. In the morning the wind got up just as we set off and blew sleet and snow at us. Luckily, we were protected in the deep coigue forest of Lanin National Park. But we had to struggle with the bikes on some very steep climbs. Initially we followed the shore of Lake Lacar but after 15kms climbed to 1040m. Then, in the bitter cold wind my trusty Schwalbe tyre blew. Spinning for over 15,000 kms on three continents on this tyre so not too bad. Now we are left without a spare tyre.

Some of the scenery when we emerged from the forest and into th open woodland above San Martin de Los Andes.

Sunday 1 November 2009

CHILE Pino Hachado-Paso Hua Hum (Oct 24-Nov 3)

Map of our route in the Araucaria region of Chile

The main road from Lonquimay to Temuco goes through this old leaky railway tunnel cutting through the Sierra Nevada. 5kms long but only wide enough for one-way traffic. Bicycles aren´t allowed through so the guards at the entrance asked the driver of a pick-up to take us through.

In the back of the pick-up- the light at the end of the tunnel.

Volcan Lonquimay, on the only fine day of our 10-day sojourn in Chile.

Volcan Lonquimay with its halo cloud.

We cycled into Conguillo National Park but the northern road was blocked by snow so we tried to climb over the other access road on the slopes of Volcan Laimay. Heavy rain fell for 2 days so we gave up and returned to the main road to Temuco and onto Villarica.

We found this lovely campsite under this old majestic Nothofagus, or coigue tree and beside this clear stream. We spent 2 nights here just outside the park waiting for the rain to exhaust itself.

After a rest day in Villarica...more rain followed us east through the lake district. We found a great little campsite by Lago Pangupulli. Free camping is hard to find here as fences line the roads and landowners are very territorial.

Rio Fuy in full force just west of Nehume

An interesting structure - moss and stone in a Tolkenesque volcano. It´s actually a hotel designed by a German architect.

Rain continued unabated to Puerto Fuy. Stayed overnight in a hospedaje by Lago Pirehueico and the next afternoon took the ferry up the lake towards Paso Hua Hum and the Argentinian border. It was very cheap - 3000 pesos each ($6) bike + passenger.
Unfortunately, a misty rain fell on the 2 hour voyage and we only caught glimpses of forest, mountains and waterfalls through the thick curtain of mist.