Patagonia day 18-19: Predio Santa Eva to Cochrane

January 15, 2020. 45km. (Plus a rest day on the 16th)

The campsite by the river was nice, but the night got really cold. Cold enough to wake me up and make it hard to go back to sleep. I was really happy when the sun rose, and ended up sleeping much later than usual in the relative warmth. I didn’t get on the road until after 10 again, but there wasn’t too far to go.

The first thing of note during the day was a pull-over with a trail by the Rio Baker Confluence (with the Rio Nef). I remembered seeing something about good views, so I left my bike at the parking lot and wandered down the trail. I’m starting to get used to the idea of just leaving my bike with nearly all my posessions without any sort of lock, but it still feels a little wrong. I guess it would be a really long way to go for a bike theif, hard to get away, and also really mean.

The short trail wound its way through shrubby trees, some of which were photo worthy, and then came out on some rocks above the confluence. It was a pretty neat view, and definitely worth the stop. On the way back I passed a few people carrying kayaks. I imagine the idea was to start below the waterfall, but who knows.

The color contrast between the two rivers was notable.
The color contrast between the two rivers was notable.

When I got back to my (un-stolen) bike, there was a group of three cyclists on mountain bikes with no gear. Turned out to be a supported tour. The guide chatted for a few minutes and said he biked this part of the world every year, and really liked the road to Villa O’Higgins. He also recommended El Mosco. Guess it’s the place to be. One of the people on the tour asked if I was carying all my own camping gear (yes) and whether there were any shocks on my bike (no). He seemed impressed. Unsurprisingly, they went faster than me and I haven’t seen them again. Another pair of loaded cyclists showed up while I was walking - I haven’t seen them again either.

After leaving the hike, the road climbed a bit and gave a birds eye view of the same confluence. Definitely more impressive up close.

Today was a lot of climbing, often quite steep. There were several sections that I walked up because of the grade or the quality of the ripio. But those sections were all quite short.

Long climbs often lead to changes in the roadside flora. Today, there were lots of some sort of thistle, along with a light yellow-green flower that made the hills look like they were covered in pincushions.

I’m really glad I wasn’t trying to do this section in a rush at the end of a long day, because it was hard but beautiful. The afternoon was spent with the road mostly winding its way along the side of a valley with quite a lot of up and down and bad road conditions.

I was alerted to the fact that I was nearing Cochrane because my phone made a notification sound (the usual indication that I’m back near civilization and cell reception). As I got closer to town, there was a remarkably calm river and a moderately elaborate roadside shrine, along with one more climb before rolling into Cochrane.

Cochrane isn’t actually very large, but it’s a lot larger than anything else around here. Enough that I had to look at a map to find my way through. I was aiming for a campground just outside of town to the south (Camping Cecilia), which turned out to be a great idea. Much more peaceful than the center of town but still close enough to walk to the grocery store.

I showered and set up my tent, went grocery shopping, and ate a whole lot of food for dinner (the usual pasta plus bread and cheese and salami). I had considered a rest day here, but didn’t decide for sure until the morning. When I hadn’t really moved from my sleeping bag by 9, I decided I wouldn’t move much at all today.

I’ve spent the day catching up on blog posts, researching the rest of the route, making a few reservations (the Villa O’Higgins ferry and a hotel for Puerto Natales), eating, and generally being lazy. The camping area here is quite large and clearly set up to handle a lot more than just me, but I haven’t seen anyone else yet. Maybe it’s the reduced tourism this year, or maybe there will be more people tonight. Who knows. I don’t mind the peace and quiet though.

I do have a couple very friendly sheep for company though. They really wanted to come hang out in the cooking shelter.

Bronwyn Woods