24th January 2009

From Los Lagos in Chile

Overnight at a camp-site near the ferry, we met a Brazilian cyclist with a bamboo framed recumbent bicycle he had made himself. It was made with bamboo about 3 inches diameter and pegged, glued and lashed together. There were many jubilee clips to strengthen it where the bamboo was splitting, but it all appeared to work well, although we were very doubtful about its ability to withstand some of the roads we had been on. He said he was heading for the Carettera Austral!

The first ferry crossing of 1 hour 30mins was across a lake 1500ft deep and surrounded by snowy mountains. After the second 30min trip we were at the Argentine border before our 15 mile overland cycle to the Chilean border post. After 2 miles of very steep up on rough roads including some pushing, the road finally descended 2000ft through dense forest to the last ferry and the Chilean border post.

As usual, we filled in forms at the border declaring that we had no fruit or vegetables etc. But, this time we were searched and found to have one tomato, two avocados and half an onion. The customs official was not too happy and gave David a good talking to while he made him complete more forms declaring the illegal imports. He then let us eat the produce before continuing on our way. We could have been heavily fined.

The last ferry trip, the most scenic of nearly 2 hours, took us to the base of the classically shaped Osorno volcano, where after a 10 mile ride we camped on the shores of an enormous lake at Ensenada. We managed to find a cash machine in a small supermarket and withdrew some Chilean money which enabled us to plan a less busy route around the lake to Puerto Octay.

One of the hazards of using foreign maps, apart from the many inaccuracies, is that very few have contour lines, or show the elevation except at mountain tops. This means that we have no idea if a road is to go up or down. Sometimes, we make intelligent guesses. For instance, a road that runs next to a river or lake is usually flat and one that crosses a river usually goes down to the bridge then up again. We very often get it very wrong.

The road that runs alongside the lake or river on the map can be halfway up a steep ravine or cliff side and can descent to the water and rise again very steeply. Sometimes we find that a small town marked on our side of the river is actually on the other side and completely inaccessible. Don´t ever complain about Ordnance Survey maps again.

On to Osorno, Puillaco and Valdivia via 30 miles of the route 5, the main road going the whole length of Chile. This road looks in parts just like a motorway with a wide hard shoulder to cycle on and is not busy at all.

With a strong wind at our backs the cycling was easy. On all roads, we find that motorists are generally courteous to cyclists and nearly all give us a warning toot before overtaking on smaller roads.

Weeks ago in Argentina, someone had said to us that Niebla a small seaside town near Valdivia was a wonderful place to visit and it was very quiet and the loveliest place they had been to. You must go there.

The road from Valdivia to Niebla was spectacularly scenic as it followed a large river to the coastal estuary town of Niebla. It turned out to be quiet as it seemed to be a venue for afternoon coach trips from nearby cities. We can describe it as a small rather tacky seaside resort with a small packed beach and the usual tourist stalls, cafés and amusement arcade. We had cycled across Chile for this and it will not get any recommendations from us.

Thankfully, we were prepared to be disappointed as we now find that it has to be really special to impress us. Maybe we have travelled too much. Still, it is the travelling in between that we get most of our enjoyment from.

Next. To the lake district and back to Argentina.


Dave and Joan Wooldridge