Patagonia day 2: Cochamo to Contao
December 30, 2019. 76 km.
I couldn't have a very nuanced conversation with the hostel owners over breakfast (which was tasty), but they seemed a little doubtful that I would go farther than Puelo today. I did make it to Contao, but it was a long and tiring day.
There was a bit of pavement on the way out of town, some very nice views, and a bunch of tall narrow trees that reminded me of Tasmania.
The road quickly turned unpaved (as expected) but there was only a small amount of construction right at the beginning. The bumpy roads did make me loose a bolt out of one of my front panniers, but I had a replacement and learned by lesson about making sure everything is tightened down in the mornings.
Waterfalls, streams, and rivers are pretty much par for the course around here. Makes running out of water unlikely.
I made it to Puelo in about 3 hours as the hostel owners had predicted, and there was actually a fairly long stretch of pavement. I got optimistic that it would last (unfounded, as it turned out). However, there was a fairly strong headwind through most of the paved section. At least it was one hardship at a time.
With about 25km to go before hitting the Carretera Austral, the pavement disappeared. The gravel (ripio) roads are of varying quality. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's quite bumpy. Definitely better where there isn't construction, since construction seems to cover the road in large rocks which are horrible to bike through until enough vehicles have flattened things out.
The worst part about the unpaved roads is that going downhill becomes slow and painstaking. Trusting your brakes is important around here! They are also very slow in general, and there were a number of hills (though nothing too crazy). It took me about 4 hours to go the 25km, and it was pretty tedious. Luckily I had my audiobook to provide a bit of distraction (bone conduction headphones are pretty cool). There were some cars, but not too many, and they were fairly polite. Lots of people give thumbs up or shout encouragement.
As I went, the fjord/inlet got wider, and I started getting glimpses of things that looked more like ocean, which was encouraging.
Still, I was pretty happy to see the instersection with the Carretera Austral. Pavement!
I had about 10km more to go to get to Contao. I had scoped out a couple campsites om iOverlander, but at the first one a man wandered around looking for people for a few minutes and then told me (I think) that camping was not available and I should go farther toward Contao. The second had lots of signs, but the gate was closed and locked. However, while I was standing there looking for somewhere elso to try, a woman came up and asked me (after some language difficulty) if I wanted to camp at her place. I said yes, and it turned out to be a great little spot with a table, privacy, water, and access to a shower. I think people around here are pretty used to making money off tourists.
I was really glad to have made it, extremely dusty, and too tired to remember to take photos until the next morning. I did make myself a bunch of pasta though, which was delicious. I think bringing the stove was the right idea on this trip (though I only bought one fuel canister in Puerto Varas, and don't really know how long it will last).