Days 43 to 47: Rio Tranquilo to Cerro Castillo, and a 3-day Hike in the Mountains
I left Rio Tranquilo after a night of heavy downpours, although luckily it stopped while I was fixing breakfast. My ride took me further around the shores of Lago Carrera, before I hit a 3km section where in preparation for road improvement trucks had dumped soil all over the road - mix that with heavy downpour and you get mudbath road.... I had to get off and walk until I got back to gravel - it was the first time on this trip I'd been delighted to see a gravel road. One truck driver was less fortunate getting properly stuck in the mud - as I went past he jokingly asked if I could give him a tow!
This photo was once the banner photo of the 50k+ membership "Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking" facebook group, after the moderators ran a membership vote on photos with the subject of MUD.
After about 80km mainly through a forested valley following a river, the gravel, mud & endless ups & downs had me feeling finished for the day and I spotted a nice place to wild camp on some unused farmland, an access way got me well away from the main road (not that it's busy!) in a nice grassy spot surrounded by trees and just a few metres from a cute river, and I listened to its bubbling noises as I drifted off to sleep after the standard pasta & sauce dinner.
The 2-day ride up from one town to the next was mint - lakes, woods, twisting gravel roads etc
Cerro Castillo is named after the mountain of the same name which sits behind it - which roughly translates as Castle Peak - called so because of the way it looks, like some fantasy era fortress sitting mountaintop overlooking the town. Due to a tip from friends I found a sweet little campsite/backpackers, which more importantly had some gear to rent - as I'm cycling I have pannier bags, and a small daypack, but no large backpack, although I need one for multi-day hikes. Renting one was easy in Torres del Paine and the Fitzroy ranges, but I had my doubts about Cerro Castillo since it's so small, but luckily one came through.
Luck continued with 3 days of amazing clear blue skies & minimal wind (this set of mountains is a bit notorious for bad weather, an Israeli backpacker died of hypothermia 2 years earlier) as I made my way through the jagged snowy peaks, verdant green forest and endless streams and rivers criss-crossing their way across the reserve... really stunning and so so quiet - in the campsite I stayed on my first night I was the only person there.
The 2nd campsite only had an Austrian couple who were doing the same trek as me but in the opposite direction - it was this campsite which really stole the show, camping at the foot of Cerro Castillo itself not far from its lagoon, checking out the peaks in the early morning sun from my tent door while still in my sleeping bag and getting porridge and coffee on the go within arms reach of the tent door - it was a pretty mint breakfast-in-bed.
Three days of good weather is apparently incredibly good luck in this part of Patagonia.
From the saddle of the mountaintop my views were immense, stretching all the way back to Lake General Carrera which I hadn't seen for 5 days.