Tuesday, December 09, 2008

La Caraterra

In January 2002, I packed up my bike and Flew to Santiago Chile. I had done some research about a road called "La Caraterra Austral" Also known as "El Camino Austral" - The Southern Highway. From a few photos on the internet of others biking it, I knew it would be a good adventure.

It is the only road in Southern Chile that spans the great expanse of land known as Patagonia. Starting in the coastal fishing town of Puerto Montt, it meanders 1,100 km south to its end at Villa O'Higgins. 1,100km of washboarded dirt road, traveling through lush temperate rain forest, dry plains, and back into the mountains where the wind and wet weather prevail. Further south you enter fjord country and need to take a handfull of government run ferries across gaps in the road. Further still you have spotty resupply and on average I saw about 5 vehicles a day at the southern most end.

I started further north in Temuco, in the lake district and spent some time cruising on the good roads that skirt the big strato-volcanoes near the Argentine border. It is really nice touring in through there, nice places to stay and good food.
with the warm up done I left Puerto Montt in a pouring rain storm, coastal Patagonia is one place you quickly get used to being wet most of the time.

I could keep writing, I had a good write up once that I read at a slide show, but it has since been lost. It was entitled. "El Camino duro" for good reason. I did this trip at a time in my life when I felt I had allot to prove. I pushed myself hard and covered ground despite the challenges in the weather and what the road threw at me. In short, I was on a self imposed suffer-fest. Which is not to say I didnt have any fun, which I did... I think back to this trip as a major stepping stone in both my confidence and independence. I'd like to say that if I did the trip again that I would have taken more time to explore a bit more and smell the roses. However I know too well that I'd likely get in the same mode that I was in then. Its intangible. Hard roads force hard minds. Easy ones, well not so much...

Note junk-show rack setup, I planned to do allot of hiking and backpacking, so I just used compression sacks as panniers. It worked just fine and I could easily strip the gear off the bike and load it into the pack.

My hands went numb from the washboards, my tent was blown down multiple times, I cracked a rim, I rode back to back 8 hr days in the rain, the list of punches goes on, but as always there were rewards... like hiking 2 days on horse trails with my bike to El Chalten and the Torre - Fitz Roy massif's.

After 2 months I was in Puerto Natales looking for a replacement rim. My rear wheel had cracked from brake pad wear and I had to hitch a ride for a bit. With the new rim I was rolling again. Down to Punta Arenas, then flew back north for a week long ride across the Andes to Baraloche Argentina, from there it was back to Santiago and back to Colorado where I was living at the time. I came back craving some of the same raw wild expanse that traveling through Patagonia gave me. With no job and no ties, it quickly confirmed my decision to move up to Alaska. I've never looked back since.


Neve_r_est said...

Nice to hear the backstory. I can see that path myself.


cornfed said...

thanks for the uplifting post. It speaks volumes to my current mindset. Like a teacher to a student.


Jill said...

Awesome. I want to go.