Patagonia day 3: Contao to Hornopiren
December 31, 2019. 46 km.
I got a slow start this morning - it was the first time packing up from camping - and wasn't on the road until about 10am. I figured that was ok since I only had about 45km to go today. Hornopiren is a fairly mandatory stop, since from there you have to take a ferry in the morning to cross over to Caleta Gonzalo.
The road turned away from the ocean and started going up quite a lot. Nothing too crazy, and paved, but enough that I was taking fairly frequeny breaks. During on of them, a large group of touring cyclists caught up to me. We leapfrogged for a little while, and chatted a little with a couple of them. I ended up camping with them in the evening, and eventually learned that 5 of them were from Argentina and were traveling together. The 6th was from Chile and had joined up with them for a little while.
The hills weren't bothering me until the pavement disappeared. I'm learning that the large construction signs they put up in front of roadwork zones are bad news. At least there wasn't any active work today (maybe because it is New Years Eve).
The Carretera Austral was a rather major project to build, and it's easy to see why. The area around here is pretty rugged, and having roads be vaguely reasonably graded is non trivial. Lots of cutouts, lots of bridges, lots of roadwork.
Other common views include Chilean Giant Rhubarb (not actually related to the garden kind, I gather), some kind of foxglove like flower, and (once the road got back there) lots of ocean vistas.
The pavement came and went a bit, but wasn't too bad until the last unpaved section which had a giant downhill through fairly loose gravel. Not fun. Don't have to pedal, but can't go very fast and I stopped for any cars in either direction (the cars were mostly using the same track in both directions because the other side of the road was too rocky).
At the bottom of the hill was pavement and a bus shelter, and I decided it was definitely time for a late lunch in the shade.
It wasn't much longer before I got a long paved descent (so much better!) into Hornopiren.
I was aiming for a campground from iOverlander, but decided to wait at the edge of town and see where the large group of cyclists were going (they were not far behind me at this point - a couple were ahead I think). They ended up going to the same campground that I had been aiming for, so I tagged along. They did the Spanish speaking, so I didn't even have to stumble around communicating with the owner. A couple people in the group spoke a little English - at least two much better than my Spanish. So I figured out that they were buying groceries for a New Years Eve dinner, and planning on taking the ferry in the morning as well.
The campground was really pleasant, and I set up my tent right next to the river. The river was amazingly blue, and there was a pretty impressive rapids right at one end of the campground. Since we got here in mid afternoon, we had plenty of time for sitting around by the river, washing out clothes, taking a shower (extremely basic, but there was warmish water, which is what counts), relaxing, and catching up on blog and photo stuff.
The other cyclists got dinner prep going around 8pm or so. I tried to help out, but there wasn't much to do so I mostly just contributed money. We ended up eating around 10pm - chorizo, some sort of beef, chicken, and tomatoes filled with rice mixed with tuna. And bread. It was quite a feast. We sat around the fire post-meat-cooking for a couple more hours until midnight. The moon and stars were gorgeous, and I mostly just listened to Spanish conversation and tried to see how much I could parse. I could often figure out what the topic of conversation was, but I certainly didn't get the nuance. Also, unlike in Australia, around here my name is basically impossible for people to pronounce. So to this group at least, I am “B”.
At midnight, folks in town set off a bunch of flares, blew the horn on the ferry, set off sirens, and otherwise made a racket. I guess New Years is a big deal.