1st January 2009 - Coyhiaiqe to Futaleufu


We have now left the hot plains of Argentina for the cooler Chilean Andes. Our room cost 14 pounds a night with TV and bathroom. Until now the TV has been all in Spanish including the news, but suddenly we have BBC news in English. It doesnīt really matter though as there is no good news. Even our short wave radio is now useless as the BBC have discontinued the World Service.
 
Joan bought a new pair of cycling shoes and David bought a spare tyre in the only bike shop in town. A fairly basic camera (100pds) should ensure that we can get some pictures to download. (Samsung S860 for those interested) Prices are generally cheaper in Chile than Argentina.
 
50 miles out of town and we were on familiar territory - the Chilean Carretera Austral.
 
Exactly as eight years ago, it was raining!
 
The southern part of Chile in the Andes always unreliable weather, but rain in the summer is about as common as rain in Scotland.
Our first stop in a small village cost us 19 pounds in total for bed, breakfast and evening meal. The road is about 500km long and is mostly unsurfaced.
 
 The government is slowly surfacing the whole road but does not seem to have made much progress since we were here last. So far after 80 miles, we have only recognised one place from last time.
 
You would not believe that it is summer here. It is like our winter and is cold and wet. It always happens to us - the locals say it is the coldest summer for ages. However, the scenery is spectacular with snow capped mountains and lakes.
 
At the moment of writing, we are sitting in a living room with all our clothes on including our waterproofs in order to keep warm. The weather outside is terrible with cold rain and high winds. Its a good decision to stay two nights until it improves. Two nights for two with full board and tea or coffee is 50 pounds.
 
Moving on at less than 50 miles a day the weather slowly improves. We stay at a campsite we stayed at 8 years ago. It has not changed. In order to get hot water for a shower David had to light a wood fire under the water tank and it was very effective giving one of the best hot showers yet.
 
This keyboard is awful. ( Note: I have retyped this email and removed the copius amounts of mistakes - Mark )
 
At the little fishing village of Puerto Puyuguapi we had luxury. A smart hotel with a comfortable bed and free tea or coffee. The owners were decendents of the original German settlers in the 1930īs and spoke perfect English. They were able to give us good information on the road ahead. David caught a small fish and a crab from the jetty despite the attention of two local drunks. He always seems to attract them.
 
The weather is now so much improved that we stayed two nights over Christmas day at a very pretty lakeside camping area. Sunshine all Christmas day. Davids fishing has now improved to three good sized brown trout - one of them about 4 lbs. There was too much fish for us and we gave half to some German travellers who were travelling around S.America in a large campervan with their two children aged about 7 and 8. The children made us some Christmas biscuits which apparently is the custom in Germany.
 
Cycling the Carettera Austral is very hard and slow going due to the terrible road conditions. A 25km stretch took 4 hours as road works,mud slides, rock slides and a surface equivalent to riding a shingle beach slowed us to walking pace or less. Seven years ago, they told us that the road would be resurfaced in five years. It is now worse that it was then.
 
After another five days of wild camping and the occasional rooms we arrived at Futalufue on the border between Chile and Argentina.
 
This region was recently devastated by the eruption of volcano Corcovado which covered the town of Chaiten in a five foot layer of ash. David has given up hope of recovering his guidebook which he left there seven years ago.
An area of hundreds of square miles was covered in fine ash and dust which still persists. Along the sides of the road is a six inch deep layer of fine ash which we get covered in everytime a vehicle passes.
 
Since we were in Argentina, we have not been able to freewheel downhill without persistent use of the brakes as the gravel and dust surface is treacherous and can lead to an uncontrollable slide.
 Uphill is also very difficult as the loose surface makes the rear wheelslip. We often walk hills we would easily ride on a good surface.
At this moment we are relaxing in Futulufue in a cabana complete with kitchen. Joan has had too much Chilean wine to appreciate the terrific scenery that surrounds us, but with two days here before we cross into Argentina she should have recovered. (Joan blames the keyboard for the typing mistakes!)
 
Regards,
Dave and Joan