Monday, January 12, 2009

Gravel traps, boulders, dust clouds and washboard - bruising a plenty.

Four days in one small town (Cochrane) was a bit long for us both. We were starting to turn purple and red with our diet of fruit and berries only. In an effort to turn ouselves back to a slowly cooked-human brown colour we took to the road. Within just 2 kms we had been covered in the dust kicked up by a few trucks and so our colour was back. Ahhh.

Cyclists heading the other way had warned us of the road and of a hill just out of Cochrane. We decided to limit ourselves to 50km days. Following the beautifully coloured Rio Baker we arrived in Puerto Bertrand after many more than one hill. This quick stopover place was small but the surrounding area was just perfect. Lots of good camping, loads of good clean, freezing cold water and beautiful mountains all around.

Almost to tempt us into staying longer, Gemma´s chain had a small mishap on the way out of town. A link had broken and was causing problems with the gears. Two hours later the bike was up and running again. We hoped to still make the 50km into Rio Tranquilo that day. Just 20km later we had come across a road sign saying Rio Tranquilo was still 51km away. No problem though, we were very close to a beautiful campsite on the shore of Lago General Carrera where we spent the afternoon munching biscuits, rowing boats, killing flies and having Western style stand-offs with small herds of bulls.

An early start the next day was rewarded with nearly 15km of wonderful compacted road surface. Our bikes were happy and our faces were stretched back with the much-missed speed. This road took us around the shore of the great lake which gave us some amazing views too.

We sill can´t figure out why this particular stretch of road is so good compared to the rest we had encountered on the Careterra Austral. It was over all too soon. The bikes slowed down and our bodies were once again being shaken to bits by the rocks and washboard. X-rays of cyclists round here would probably show powdered vertabrae and mushed up hands and feet.

Gemma´s bike had obviously had enough of all this. While going down a hill the front wheel found a gravel trap and threw Gemma over the handlebars onto the rocks and dust. The truck coming the other way was very luckily still far enough away to give Ian a chance to rush back shift everything off the side of the road in time. Trucks don´t slow down for anything and this one didn´t prove any different.

With bruises on knees, hips, elbows and shoulders, Gemma bravely rode into Rio Tranquilo and headed straight for the empanada shop. Yummy.

Luckily there were no broken limbs but lots of swelling and soreness. An attempt to ride out the next day ended quickly when we discovered the chain we had fixed had broken again. Back in Rio Tranquilo we bought bus tickets to Coihaique to let Gemma rest her beaten body for a few days. The bruises continue to get bigger and darker and the same purpley red colour we were beginning to develop in Cochrane is returning nicely.

It´s not all rest and relaxation here though. We must find a way of getting ourselves and the bikes to the island of Chiloe without being too caught up in the aftermath of Volcano Chaiten. Recent reports of it still smoking and forming new craters are quite exciting. Not the kind of thing to be near if it goes off again though - and with our recent luck it most likely will.


Globalmum said...

Lets hope that is your dose of adventures of the accidental kind - for a good while at least! I love the rowing photo Ian - Steve Redgrave should be afraid - very afraid!
Take care and keep safe(r)
Love Mum(2)

katie said...

Hi guys,

Finally got around to reading the whole blog in my lunch hour and I'm very jealous of you for seeing some of the things you have done, although I'm not jealous about the exertion and problems along the way!
Glad to see you're having the time of your lives and missing you loads - no bowling this year on my birthday so you don't get to laugh at that funny noise my fingers make in the holes! Also - Graham Norton is doing Eurovision this year, no way will be as good as Terry!

Anyway, keep having fun and keeping us all updated and I promise to keep up with the blog this time :)
Loads of love Katie (& Gareth too of course!)