6. Carretera Austral.

 The El Mosco hostel / campsite. Although arriving when dark, our tents were soon erected in the huge camping area. Awaking the following morning was great, seeing Villa O'Higgins in the day light! The hostel was abundant with of other touring bicycles, along with various bicycle parts fixed to the side of the building this was most obviously the place for cyclists!
One sad cyclist! I expect with what his little eyes see coming-and-going he'll one day start his own big tour.

This tandem + trailer had been ridden from Alaska, apparently the owner may one day return for it! 

The town really did feel like 'the end of the world'! The road went no further so had no passing traffic, a small central plaza surrounded by a few sleepy house-lined streets with a couple of stores and a [new] library. It made me wonder what people actually did here fro their income, that's partly what made it an interesting place, I felt that every day would feel like a Sunday, quiet, with nothing happening.

By early afternoon several of the other cyclists departed for the ferry, continuing their south-bound journey, and later, by mid-evening the ferry had returned with a few north-bound cyclists, two of them being Nicky + Jules. Taking a room at the hostel they planned to ride out the following day, so again we join forces.

Leaving slightly later than expected we rode past the town's entrance gates along the gravel route, passing the turning for the X-905 Pass route, (my initially planned entrance from the Argentine border to reach O'Higgins, but later changing plans for the ferry after discovering I'd need to ride a 120 kilometre muddy section that motor bikes had apparently got stuck in!), crossing a bridge with an old cable-car pulley hanging next to it, winding around a big lake with picturesque meadows and gentle lake-side climbs, the sun shining gently proved a great start on the Carretera Austral.

The day continued much the same, rocky waterfalls, streams, rivers, lakes - running low on water was of no worry, the water was so clear and fresh that my water-filter stayed buried in my pannier. My host in El Calafate had warned about the traffic, especially with the route being quite narrow - who was he kidding?? The heaviest 'traffic' seen all day was fellow south-bound cyclists, always stopping for a brief 'what's ahead' chat.

Toward the end of the afternoon, due to the dense bushes and trees, suitable space to camp didn't look promising, but after a short climb and descent we noticed a small farm set back from the road, snooping around for space to pitch three tents a man appeared, cashing in on passing cyclists he had a small field a bit further down, free to pitch but also offering use of a small barn, as the weather had turned overcast and damp, sleeping inside sounded better, so for 10,000 peso (£1o) we slept within on a lyno floor, along with tables and chairs to cook/eat upon. At the back of the field was a toilet - bucket-flushed with river water.  A great end to the first day.
The previous lady that lived here had forgot to take one of her photos down from the wall.

The next main town was Cochrain, about 230 kilometres from Villa O'Higgins I'd estimated a three day ride at tops, but having left quite late, and with the slower gravel (rippio) pace we'd only rode 59 kilometres.
The following day the route continued offering awesome scenery,  unsure of what views the following ascent would offer, but many times the rippio becoming so bad from holes and rocks to circumnavigate that our eyes became 'glued' in place one metre ahead of the front wheel and appreciating the scenery was only possible by actually stopping,

 Forty kilometres ahead at Porto Yungay the route literally runs into a lake and continues with a free - 1 hour ferry crossing.

From the opposite side of the lake is another free ferry ride that goes to Caleta Tortel, a fishing village that's literally built upon stilts that many-a travellers rave about.
Riding there would be possible as it's 35 kilometres from a T-junction 25 kilometres further down the Carretera, but we'd then to ride back along the 35 kilometres to the T-junction, hence the appealing ferry option. Informed the next ferry arrives at 2pm we patiently wait....and wait... With something 'lost in translation' the hours start ticking by and eventually find out the ferry will arrive the next day!! Now late afternoon, with a rain-cloud smothered sky we decide our best option is to camp at the sleepy ferry port.

 The next morning, with no time to warm up we're faced with an immediate 10% gradient climb, crawling up through the drizzle, nearing the top I'm soaked with sweat and soon cold, descending I pass a couple of south-bounders, but too cold to stop I give a passing hola! Soon we arrive at the T-junction where a couple of back-packers were just boarding a passing pick-up en-route to Caleta Tortel, we stick to the Carretera.

Riding along at my own pace soon I'm distanced from Nicky + Jules with them up ahead, preferring to ride at my own pace I break for lunch. 
Toward the end of the day I consider where to camp, passing a sign for a campsite, 9 kilometres off track! Not wanting to return back along there in the morning I press on. After an hour of so of continual climbing several switchback sections the road starts to level out and I manage to find a nice grass spot, next to the route but with a great view of a lake.

In the morning I'm hi-lighted to another pot of gold, with the town of Cochrane now only only 3o kilometres away maybe I'd find it there?  
Another one of the many lakes I'd passed by.

Alas! Considering the terrain, late starts and early finishes, reaching within 3 1/2 days was good going!

Another befriended feline soon appreciates some full-on attention! 
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Next time on the Carretera Austral, "Cochrane to Coyaique"