Patagonia day 6: Chaiten to Villa Santa Lucia

January 3, 2020. 76 km.

I left the hostel early to get as much biking time as possible before the expected rain. I wasn’t sure whether I would do a short day to an expensive campground right before a big hill, or a somewhat longer day to the town right after the big hill. Since I got to the first option at about noon, I decided to press on and ended up at Villa Santa Lucia.

Leaving Chalten, I took a few pictures of the different faces of the town. Lots of dirt streets lined with small houses, a really nice central square, and what looks to be a large new development on the edge of town.

The road out of town was paved and smooth, and it was quite relaxing biking. It’s amazing how quickly being surrounded by mountains and rivers becomes totally mundane. The cows I passed on the road didn’t seem too excited about the scenery either.

Before I left, my parents predicted that I would see lots of wildflowers, and that prediction was quite accurate. Today, the roads were lined with a couple different kinds of yellow flowers - follow the yellow brick road?

The first camping option was on the shore of Lago Yelcho, but instead of stopping, I just took pictures of the the Yelcho river and Yelcho lake and the surrounding really not very flat pastures.

Just past the lake and at the beginning of the long ~400m climb, another touring cyclist caught up to me. He turned out to be John from Sweden, and to speak English well (and Spanish as badly as me). We chatted for a couple minutes, and then headed up the hill. He was generally a bit faster than me, but due to breaks and such we passed each other a few times and ended up at the top together. The hill itself wasn’t too bad. Just slow. The traffic on the Carretera Austral is quite low, which makes going very slowly up hills and around curves less stressful. It’s almast always possible to stop for a minute to take a break. Still, it’s always really nice to see these signs after multi-km climbs.

The town we were both haeding for is right on the edge of a relatively recent (last couple years at least) landslide. There seemed to be two sections of slide with a ridge (with a very nice view) between them. It must have been pretty crazy when it happened, and it looks like half the town was destroyed.

View between landslides.
View between landslides.

The camping area in town was small and rocky, but it had a warmish shower and enough grass for a couple tents. John and I arrived around 3, and spent the rest of the evening talking, setting up camp, and cooking dinner. Turns out pasta with tomato sauce and tuna is pretty standard as it was what we both had.

One of the topics of discussion was the upcoming several days of rain. It rained a little bit right after we got to camp, and tomorrow is supposed to be nice, but after that it looks pretty bad for the next week or so. My plan is to to to La Junta tomorrow, take one of the worst days as a rest day there, and then play it by ear. I might try to do fewer longer days to get to Coyhaique than my original plan if that helps avoid too much camping in the rain.

Bronwyn Woods