Cyclist Central: Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique

Monday 27 November

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On Monday I didn’t feel like spending a full day in Puyuhuapi, there’s not that much to see and do in town. So I got on my bike for the short ride to Parque Nacional Queulat. The road was good and easy, but some 10 km in it was blocked completely because of construction work. Luckily the road is next to the fjord here, so ferries were operating as a replacement service. On the ferry were also a few riders of the South American Epic, as well as a group of motorcyclists.

View over the fjord.
The ferry was already waiting and left soon after.

Past the ferry ride the road works continued, but now one lane was open as usual. Us cyclists were again allowed to use the closed lane, which was of good quality even where it wasn’t paved. After another 10 km I reached the park entrance and went to the campsite in the park, where I arrived by noon. The ground is very hard, but I did manage to get my tent pegs in. I have a nice shelter with a table and water.

Riding a private lane again. The others are riding light, since their luggage is on the support bus.
My camp site in the woods of Parque Nacional Queulat.

I walked to the main draw of the park, which is Ventisquero Colgante, the hanging glacier. It ends at the top of a vertical wall hundreds of meters in height, so there are a few large waterfalls taking the meltwater down and occasionally a large block of ice breaks off and falls down, causing a very loud rumbling heard kilometers away. The hike to the best viewpoint is 3.3 km one way and “moderately difficult”. To spare my foot I didn’t do that one, instead going to the other viewpoints a bit further away, but closer to the entrance. They were still impressive. And this is the first glacier on this trip, but certainly not the last, so I’ll get to see some up close later.

The campground was almost full with cyclists, but since the spots are very private there wasn’t much interaction. After my walk I spent the rest of the day just resting and relaxing.

The hanging glacier. Boat in the foreground for scale (yes really, it’s there).
When the glacier was larger in the past it deposited some big boulders in this valley.

Tuesday 28 November

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I got up at 8, just when the sun was peeking over the mountains a full 2 hours past the official sunrise. After packing up camp I got moving again. Initially I had my own lane, but I thought it better not to use that just past the machine laying down hot asphalt. Soon enough I was on gravel, but most of it was good quality. The Chileans really know how to build hard and relatively smooth gravel roads. Only the temporary sections where construction is ongoing are much worse.

At 20 km the climb I had been dreading for a while started and it was indeed one of the hardest I’ve had so far. But after all the horror stories I heard before I was mainly thinking “it could be much worse”. No pushing was performed by me on this hill and the surface was perfectly ridable almost everywhere. It was just a longer than average climb that was a bit steeper than most others. I overtook several others on the climb, including the three amigos from Santiago I met a few days ago.

Approaching the next fjord and the pavement workers.
On the climb. This is where I first met Rosanna and we took some photos of each other riding our bikes.
Rosanna following me on one of the switchbacks of the climb.

The descent was fine and at the bottom the pavement started again. I should now be able to stay on pavement until well past Coyhaique. I was following a river upstream and thus there were only small climbs, until a few kilometers outside Villa Amengual. The road leaves the river valley here and thus has a steep climb over a few switchbacks before it descends to the village. Just what I needed at the end of a big day. The good news is that I got a few good views of the valley.

Descending in some big landscapes.
Looking back at the river valley.

In Villa Amengual is a refugio para ciclistas. There are a number of these in South America and it’s usually a family opening up their home to offer cyclists a cheap place to stay. This one is pretty much a room for indoor camping and you can use the kitchen. I was the first one there, but people kept showing up and eventually there were six of us.

My foot was doing much better yesterday evening and this morning, but now it hurts a bit more again. It obviously needs rest, but that’s hard to get here. Still, it appears to be slowly improving. The following days should be easier riding, so maybe that helps.

Wednesday 29 November

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In the morning freshly baked bread was waiting for us, so we had a great breakfast. This was especially good for me, since a dog stole the bread from my bags in the room yesterday evening. Outside it was somewhat cloudy, but the lady said it would get warm today. Exceptionally many chickens are loose in this village and the roosters were having a crowing contest all the time.

Ready to leave at the refugio.
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!”

Everyone left at the same time, but the group fell apart immediately. William and I were ahead of the others and rode together most of the day. It was an easy ride with some small climbs, but mostly downhill riding on smooth pavement. Even with a break in the middle we arrived in Villa Mañihuales by 13:00.

The sun was hiding today, but we still had some good views.
William, my companion for today’s ride.
Blooming lupines and trees.

After raiding a local supermarket we set up at a campsite close to the center of the village and made ourselves a warm lunch. The others joined us again later, including some new faces, so we’re now up to twelve cyclists. It stayed cloudy most of the day and the 27 degrees the lady from the refugio predicted this morning never materialised.

In the evening a bus load of geology students arrived who also stayed at the camp site, so all of a sudden it was full. I spent most of the evening sitting by the river with Tim and Timo. Some of the new people didn’t want to wait for the only shower on the camp site and took a bath in the cold river, which also served as a beer cooler.

At the campground. For now there are just two of us.
… and the next morning the field was full, with most cyclists already gone.

Thursday 30 November

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Thursday I was among the last to leave the campground. Yesterday’s descent continued for a while until the road split. The Carretera Austral continues straight and is unpaved while it crosses a small pass. The paved road bends right to Puerto Aysén and shortly before it gets there you can turn left to Coyhaique again. The first part also descends as you’re going closer to the sea and later it climbs back up again. This road is about 10 kilometers longer than the dirt road and most cyclists make this small detour, including me.

Several others called me crazy for riding to Coyhaique in a single day, but I think they are focussing too much on the numbers, which make it look harder than it really is. And it’s not like it’s my first day with 1000+ meters of elevation gain anyway, nor will it be the last on the Carretera Austral. I soon overtook the people who left earlier, so I was ahead of the pack again. But then most of them don’t plan to go all the way to Coyhaique today.

At first I followed the Río Mañihuales downstream.
Decisions, decisions… Going right was the right decision in my view.

The first part was still similar to yesterday, so very easy. The climb in the second half started very gradually. The ride can only be summarised as “glorious”. Despite the slight uphill I was flying up, helped by a westerly wind. The valleys I rode through were very scenic and the sun was shining. It was easy until the last 15 kilometers, where a steeper climb began. This ended with a spectacular view over Coyhaique. The last bit into the city after the descent was also a little hard, but as a whole today was much easier than expected.

Damn, if only I had someone with me who can sing. We could have recorded a remake of The Sound of Music and made big bucks.
The climb started through a short tunnel.
There it is: Coyhaique!

I’ve been very lucky with the weather in Chile so far. According to the locals it’s unusual to have this much sun at this time of year. I’ve had very little wind too, and when it got a little windy today it was mostly helping me along. Here’s to hoping the weather stays this way for a while. In addition flowers are blooming in all kinds of colours to make things better, as if it wasn’t impressive enough already.

Coyhaique is a bit of a culture shock. This is a proper city with traffic lights and stuff! Not just one, but many. I don’t recall seeing any of these since leaving Bariloche and they took some getting used to. I checked into Aire Patagon, probably the cheapest hostel in town, and will take a rest day here. The hostel has by far the fastest WiFi I’ve seen in South America, so I was able to catch up on my photo backups, which were far behind.

After three straight days of cooking my tried and true pasta and tuna recipe I was up for a change, so I splurged on a large steak and wine. Just as I was about to enter the restaurant I met two of the guys from Santiago, so I’m not the only one who made it today.

Friday 1 December

As I was having breakfast in the hostel I saw Rosanna, who also rode to Coyhaique yesterday despite planning to stop somewhere before. She’s continuing today, but I’ll likely catch up with her soon. I just walked town for a bit, taking a real rest day for a change.

A city street.
Many shops selling handicrafts, but not what I was looking for.

Distance covered: 235.4 km. Total so far: 3906 km.

2 Replies to “Cyclist Central: Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique”

  1. Sjoean te hueëre desse steeds mieër kómpenie trufs ,ge zultj waal zat te buurte höbbe äöver fietse en routes en zoea. Väöl plezeer naog en toet weer.

  2. Wat een prachtige reis ben je aan het maken! En wat leuk, dat je dat op je Gaucho doet! Dit hadden wij niet verwacht toen je ongeveer een jaar geleden (als ik mij goed herinner) de fiets eventjes terloops kwam passen. Heel veel fietsplezier gewenst, we blijven je volgen!
    Hartelijke groet, Henk en Monique, Nazca Ligfietsen

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