Days 48 to 52: Cerro Castillo to Puerto Aysen, and the great San Rafael Glacier
Day 48 consisted of the 100km cycle up to Coyahique, and it began with a 900+ metre climb over about 10km to 12km. By way of comparison, Ditchling Hill just outside of Brighton (UK) is 137 metres, and Alpe d'Huez (one of the biggest mountain climbs in the Tour de France) is 1100 - so you get the picture as to which end of the scale it was leaning towards! It was the 2nd biggest climb I'd ever done on any sort of bike (having done Alpe d'Huez on my road bike a few years back), and the largest climb I'd done while touring on a steelframe with 15-20 kilos of luggage in tow. Just like big mountain climbs elsewhere, it consisted of a series of switchbacks edging up the side of the mountain.
The next day was a designated lazy day, consisting of a trip to the finest restaurant in town for lunch since I hadn't had a meal like that in a while, followed by an afternoon nap and then an evening visit to the Taproom of one of the several microbreweries in town. I enjoyed my day off so much I decided immediately to have another one the next day....
After a month of camp meals or cheap eats, it felt lush to hit a larger town with fancy restaurants. Octopus tentacle for a starter and martinated lamb rib rack for a main.
My second rest day also coincided with the opening day of the Festival de Cine Patagon - or the Patagonian Film Festival. It was all in Spanish of course, so anything fiction/drama related was a bit beyond me, but the opening day did have a couple of documentaries which were a bit easier for me to follow (or at least just enjoy the pictures!). One was on an indigenous group who live in the very southern reaches of Chile, and the other was about musical traditions in rural Patagonia. Both were pretty good & all screenings were free too.
Feeling rested after a couple of days off, I rode the 63km out to Puerto Aysen following a fairly impressive river valley for most of it.
I'd come to Aysen for one main reason - from there I could get on a daytour by boat to not only see the kingpin of Chilean glaciers, San Rafael, but as the glacier is in the middle of nowhere it meant a long comfy boat ride in a posh catamaran launch that would go via the sounds down the Chilean coast (the coast round here is made up of a myriad of smaller & mainly uninhabited islands). The tour was run by one of the 5-star resorts in town, and it wasn't cheap but it certainly wasn't dull either!
The boatride down through the sounds was stunning, & when we arrived at the glacier lagoon we were piled off into small Zodiacs, and from there we went on an excursion via all the icebergs floating around and as close to the glacier wall as we could get while avoiding the risk of having any fall on us! After that we were all piled back onto the catamaran for the 4-hour trip back, which included a "Bar Abierto" (free bar) and karaoke set up at one end of the catamaran with the rest turned into a dancefloor....! Quite an unusual mix of activities really, but with a free bar I did my bit to help and the latter parts of the excursion are a little blurry.
The closing phases of the trip consisted of whiskey mixed with glacier ice - having enjoyed this in Argentina a few weeks earlier, it was was good to round out my experience of Patagonia glacier ice whiskey with a Chilean contribution as well.