Monday, January 5, 2009

An unusual border crossing.

We had heard about this border crossing from other crazy cyclist nutters back in Newcastle (Richard and Sarah). The route makes its way through 27km of nowhere to a lake (Lago del Desierto). This is crossed by ferry.
Nutters are then subjected to 7km of mud, up a big steep hill where the track isn´t wide enough for the bikes and the panniers. It´s worth a try though isn´t it?
After this you are faced with 15km of downhill rubble track cut into a mountain side with some other obstacles like fallen trees, broken bridges and sand.
After you´ve had your passport stamped in the middle of nowhere you have to cross a second huge lake (Lago O´Higgins) by ferry to reach Chile and the windless paradise of the Carettera Austral. This ferry only goes twice a week, if the driver feels up to it.

We had just two days to make it to the second ferry, otherwise we may be stuck in the middle of nowhere for another 4 days. Our boxing day start didn´t go too well...
We woke up to horrendous wind and rain. Just getting out of Chalten was a struggle involving a quick stop-off in the bread shop for cakes. Mmmm.
The road was terrible too - gravel and loose rocks or boulders. After just 10km, Gemmas rear tyre had gone flat. A friendly Dutch couple were cycling by as we were fixing this in the cold, wind and rain. They were very keen to find out where we were going, where we were from, how far we had cycled etc... Not one for small talk at the best of times, Ian was beginning to fume under his raincoat hood.
Luckily Gemma managed to deal with the guys and a few minutes later we were back under way.
Progress was slowed by the wind which refused to die down completely and when just 5km from the ferry port, Gemmas rear tyre was flat again! With no time to repair the flat, we cycled on, risking damage to the wheel but limped to the ferry just in time to board it safely.

That night we camped by the side of Lago del Desierto and following a tyre change, a tube change and an all round check, Gem´s bike was back to being roadworthy. It´s just a shame that we won´t be riding on good roads for the forseeable future.

The next day we were to tackle the mud and rubble to the next ferry. It was fantastic luck that we arrived the evening before to be met by Ricardo. Ricardo lives in a hut between the two lakes during the summer and helps nutter cyclists by carrying their panniers over the pass with his horses. Obviously we couldn´t refuse such an offer.

Even without the panniers the mud tracks, the fallen trees, the lack of bridges, the swamps, the random dis-used air strips and the scary sheer drops down the mountain side were tough going. Despite all this we did make it to the next ferry without any problems. The ferry however, well, that didn´t show up. We camped by Lago O´Higgins following promises from the border guards that the ferry will arrive the next day.

The ferry did turn up in the morning and our 2.5 hour crossing to Villa O´Higgins began. Two hours later we were parked up next to an island watching several guys abandon the ferry on a dinghy. The boat captain told us we had to wait 4 hours for them to round up sheep. At least we were assured that this was the scenic boat.

Four hours later the shephards returned to the ferry with a couple of dinghy´s full off sheep. We then headed off to Villa O´Higgins and arrived 10 hours after leaving in the morning. Very scenic.

Once in Villa O´Higgins we treat ourselves to a hostel with showers and beds.

1 comment:

Globalmum said...

What a great boat trip - I think that Michael Palin would be pretty jealous of you both...