Days 53 to 59: Puerto Aysen to Futaleufu... & Pure, Undiluted Carretera Austral, with Both Barrels
Updated: Jul 8, 2020
Days 53 to 57 were pretty much focused on the sheer stunning nature of cycling in these parts. I didn't have a lot planned in terms of stops or activities, but in this stretch of the Carratera Austral that actually didn't seem to matter. It was almost like some sort of Patagonian slideshow - there seemed to be a mountain at the end of every road, or cliffs rising up vertically out of the ground, or waterfalls cascading beside me, or lakes shimmer-reflecting the green forests above back at me - and even where the ground had been cleared for farming, the ageing rustic buildings and wooden fences normally looked like they'd been there for yonks and only added to the ambience rather than taking away from it. On top of that, I had 4 days of really nice weather which added to the ambience.
Day 53 was about my 25th day of cycling (other days subsumed by hiking, craft beer and other notable human endeavours) & I passed the 2000km mark, and on day 54 I passed the 2081km mark - the significance of that number is not known to many, but if I'd started this ride at Bluff at the very bottom of New Zealand, & then taken the most direct route north I would have run out of New Zealand to cycle at Cape Reinga, and would have to turn around and go back the other way. Luckily for me I'm in Patagonia so we'll have none of that kind of Forrest Gump business and I can just keep on going, even if with the beard and the hair I'm starting to notice some worrying parallels.
Night 53 was spent camped beside a beautiful lagoon, 2 Dutch cyclists were also camped there and they were preparing dinner as I cycled in & started sorting my tent out - then they told me they'd upped the portions to 3 people and my dinner was ready! So nice.
The next night was spent at a campsite at the turnoff for the Quelat National Park, an old house-bus which had broken down had been abandoned there and had become a communal space, and as no-one else was staying at the campsite the woman running it told me to feel free to sleep in the bus. It was decked out with a couple of mattresses, a sofa, a table & chairs and even a wood-burning stove with a chimney that went out a window. Talk about a sight for sore eyes for a weary cycle-tourist.
The next day I headed into the national park for a 3-hour walk to see a glacier that's distinctive as it also has a huge waterfall coming off it.
Later that afternoon I hit the Hot Springs of Puyuhuapi, which were an absolute god-send. Naturally heated 35 degrees pools right next to a 12 degrees sea, I went back and forth between the two like a hot tub and a plunge pool at a Spa and Wellness centre.
The next day I arrived at the junction that would have me leave the Carratera Austral and head to Futaleufu - seems kinda crazy to think that all the photos & stories for 3.5 weeks could come almost entirely from just one road , and it makes navigation pretty easy when the directions are always "straight ahead"! Whether you bike it, hitch it, bus it or drive it, the Carratera Austral really is one of the worlds great road trips.
After enjoying mainly good weather for most of my time on the Carretera, as I got to Futaleufu a huge storm blew in from the Pacific and hung around for 2 days. No bother though, as after an enjoyable but tough few weeks I didn't need to be asked twice to find a nice cheap BnB and have a couple of days downtime.