About 30 years ago, Chile sensed that, if it wouldn’t do any effort to get the part south of Puerto Montt more Chilean, it would soon be a part of Argentina (especially because Argentina would be very happy to have access to the Pacific Ocean). Therefore, Pinochet decided to start one of the biggest construction projects in Chilean history: to build a road from Puerto Montt all the way south to Punta Arenas. They didn’t get all the way, because there were some glaciers in the way, and even today some parts can only be travelled by boat. Furthermore, when talking about “a road” don’t think about a modern highway like we know them in Europe, but think more in the direction of “dust, gravel and potholes”. But it’s possible to travel on this road by bike and we decided to cycle a part of it.
From Puerto Montt, we took a ferry to Chaitén (yes, the village that recently got more or less wiped off the map because of an erupting volcano) from where we started cycling south over a thick layer of ashes in the beginning and with acid rain in our eyes (we couldn’t see the volcano due to a thick layer of clouds, but locals told us that it is still spitting ashes into the sky). Luckily about 40 km south of Chaitén, clouds of ashes got less and we were left alone with the “normal clouds” producing fairly ordinary rain.
The most remarkable thing of this road is probably the absence of people in any form: no tourists, but also no inhabitants. First because we are travelling outside the high-season, most of the hostels, hospedajes, campsites and hotels are closed. Add to this the events in Chaitén and they will probably stay closed this summer as tourism is low. But when there are people (we came through a village where one person lived with 3 cats and another village with 5 houses of which 2 were occupied with each one person…) they are always very happy to see some cyclists come by to keep them company for an evening to chase their solitude. For us this meant cozy evenings around the fire-place, eating fried bread, drinking mate and enjoying a nice and warm bed while listening to the wind and rain outside.
And when the sun finally comes out (in our case it did after two days of rain and clouds) the landscapes are just spectacular! One glacier after another, uninterrupted mountain chains, snowy hilltops, jungle, clear blue lakes, rivers everywhere… and the best thing of all: nobody around! Absolute silence, (almost) no cars and empty national parks. A thing hard to imagine in our overcrowded Europe.
After 7 days we reached Coyhaique, where we entered “civilized world” again. And as all needs to be seen in perspective, we have to admit, that it was quite nice to enjoy the sun on a terrace with a good coffee and a piece of cake.
Vera & Jean-Christophe