Patagonia day 1: Puerto Varas to Cochamo
December 29, 2019. 95 km.
Today was my first day of biking, and as I expected, I'm feeling much better about this trip. Once you're doing instead of planning things are far less stressfull and you just handle things as they come up. That immediacy is one of the things I like about bike touring. Also, I really like that, for the most part, you move past problems. Once you are past bad sections of road, you won't ever need to return to them. If you have awkward interactions, you probably won't ever see those people again. It's a nice sense of constant progress.
This morning I loaded everything onto the bike, and took the expected few minutes to adjust to the crazy handling of a loaded touring bike. Just as I was getting the hang of it, my back rack came detached at the top and by back panniers were dragging on the ground. Not a great start to the trip, but easily fixable (I hadn't adequately tightened some bolts). I think my more careful bolt tightening and reassembly did the trick, as I didn't have any trouble the rest of the day.
The official Carretera Austral starts in Puerto Montt and goes south, but I decided to take the long way around and start out by going east along the shore of Lago Llanquihue to Ensenada, and then south to Cochimo. Seemed nicer than a busy highway to and large city to get to and through Puerto Montt. A nice surprise was that there was a really nice bike lane all the way from Puerto Varas to Ensenada.
The first bit wasn't too interesting scenery-wise, but soon the road came back down to the lake edge, with pretty dramatic views of the volaco across the lake (Volcan Osorno, I think).
I stopped for lunch at a viewpoint with some shelters that provided shade. The trusty peanut butter, nutella, and banana combo that gets me through quite a few bike tours.
In addition to views of volanoes, there were also quite a few of the streams and rivers that people talk about being common around here.
The bike lane ended at the turnoff toward Cochimo, but the road was pretty low traffic and not bad to bike on. It went up and down a bunch more, but nothing too hard to deal with.
Eventually I got across the hills and to the next bodies of water. The first was a small but pretty lake, the second my first sighting of the Pacific ocean (Estero Reloncavi).
There are signs all over the place advertising honey for sale, though I only saw hives once.
I had expected the pavement to end right about when I hit the ocean, but it didn't. This was a nice surprise, until I realized that paving the road to Cochimo is an active project. The last 15 km or so were through an active construction zone with really bad gravel and rocks. It wasn't toooo hilly, but there were definitely some small hills and there weren't really any good places to rest. By the end of the contruction zone I was pretty out of it. I was so happy to see this sign.
Unfortunately, I'm sure there will be more. At least all the construction workers were friendly and didn't give me any trouble going through.
I got to the hostel I had scoped out (iOverlander is really useful down here where Google doesn't really know much about anything). It's a really cute hostal with friendly owners (though, again, not so much with the detailed communication in Spanish - at least I can get through the basics and I'm starting to remember a bit more here and there). I have a bed in a dorm room, but it's after 10 and nobody else is here so I imagine I have it to myself.
Tomorrow I continue around through Sotomo to join the official Carretera Austral. I imagin the road from here to there will mostly not be paved, but perhaps there won't be construction. One can hope.