EL CHALTEN TO COYHAIQUE

Well everyone did say we should get horses! The overland crossing from El Chalten (Argentina) to Villa O’Higgins (Chile) won’t be forgotten easily. The memory – of dragging our bikes up hill, across countless fallen logs, through rivers that threatened to wash us away, all the while being eaten alive by mozzies – has been burned into our brains forever. While a great achievement and an adventure that even Indiana Jones himself would have been proud of – in hindsight, next time we’d pay the US$40 and get a horse!

We’ve left the empty spaces of Patagonia behind for the ultra-rural Carretera Austral (the jaggedy bit at the bottom of Chile!). Life is slow paced here, with cows and horses just as popular as cars on the roads.

It’s also amazing how stark the contrast in scenery is this side of the mountains.

There is literally water everywhere – in rivers and lakes, so blue you think they’ve been photo shopped, cascading down waterfalls, so numerous they have become ho hum (at one point we counted sixteen from one spot!) and locked up in immense glaciers that sit atop the jagged mountains. I’m thinking one big pipe all the way to drought stricken Australia is all that’s needed!

The relentless wind has gone, but we now have new challenges to deal with – poor roads, lots of hills and rain! But we’ll be ok, especially if the American couple we bumped into with a 5 ½ month old baby can do it! Better still, they have been riding for 3mths!!

But we like a whinge and have come up with several ways to describe our new found love for the gravel roads; 1) Tyre track – probably the best you can hope for, but watch the soft edges and slippery middle; 2) Washboard – rattles your bones and grinds you to a halt, often found on flat sections just when you think you’ll do ok; 3) Riverbed marbles – very hard in the loose stones to keep traction, especially when combined with almost vertical climbs; 4) Quick sand – impossible to cycle on with bikes that weigh 40-50kgs and lastly; 5) Babies bum – road graded less than a week ago, we’ve heard it’s out there somewhere? Let us know if you find it??

Now the hills are a little different, they are tough but enjoyable. The sense of achievement and downhill run more than makes up for the pain on the way up. I think Jess might be getting the bug too – she seems rightly impressed with her first 1,100m climb! Bring on the 3,800m monster Mendoza!

So our riding is improving, we are getting fitter and stronger and finding places to stay and fending for ourselves on the road is now a piece of cake. Do we miss our old lives? Well we don’t really have a lot of time to think about it honestly, but we love each day as it comes to us right now.

From here, we continue up the Carretera Austral for another 400km but then its decision time – do we cross back into Argentina and head for Bariloche, or cross over to the island of Chiloe? Ah, the hard decisions in life…

All the best and thanks again for your supportive comments. They’re great and the news from home is awesome too. Keep them coming.

Jules & Jess

Heading for the border

Heading for the border

Bikes weren´t made for pushing

Bikes weren´t made for pushing

We made it!

We made it!

Life on the Carretera

Life on the Carretera

Some holiday this is

Some holiday this is

Now that´s more like it

Now that´s more like it

Hills and lakes everywhere

Hills and lakes everywhere

We just love gravel like this

We just love gravel like this

Another perfect roadside campsite

Another perfect roadside campsite

Time out

Time out

A hamburger restaurant out here?

A hamburger restaurant out here?

Our first real uphill

Our first real uphill

We´re getting stronger

We´re getting stronger