The campsite at Cochrane proved a busy little stop with many backpackers and cyclists, as expected most of them heading south. One of them being an English fella Andrew Fairweather whom due to unforeseen circumstances had sent his passport to London's U.S. embassy for an extended visa and now awaiting the DHL return of it, unfortunately with Chile yet to receive any trophies for speedy international deliveries he got to know the town quite well!
By mid-day another couple of cyclists pulls up, Nicky + Jules! Their plan was to continue the next day whereas I had planned a day off.
The following day was back to the bump-n-grind of the Carratera passing some really scenic areas.
The following day the weather had turned damp and by mid-day was a hazy drizzle, although still passing through great scenery.
By ear;y evening the drizzle had turned into rain so I decided to try my luck camping at a farm. At the second one a lady answered and pointed me around the back to a horse shelter in the middle of a field, with quite a bit of horse and cattle muck around it still felt good to be out the rain, one of those moments I ask "what am I actually doing this for?". After half an hour or so the farmer walks over and directs me to a large barn, a barn where he was shearing [manually] some of his his sheep, twenty or so of them in a pen awaiting their turn;
I guess my pot-of-gold here was the shelter!
With a reasonable area to lay my sleeping bag it was an improvement on the initial shelter - no muck! - but a few bleating sheep. Unfortunately not offered a lamb stew I cook up my pasta norm then hit the bed, falling asleep quite contently next to my [for now] woollen friends.
The next day was rain from the start and after just twenty kilometres I'm wet and cold, seeing smoke rising from a small cabin building's chimney I'm soon knocking on the door explaining (as best I can) that I just needed to warm up, I'm gladly welcomed in and soon hovering around the log burning stove. After half an hour of the day's clock ticking I reluctantly, and as grouchy as I could be press on - day-dreaming of clear skies and smooth roads.
Later in the day a couple of Swiss lads catch me up, travelling light they inform me of an English couple they'd passed a few kilometres back 'Nicky and Jules', "they're behind me?" wondering how as they'd left Cochrane a day before me. Riding a long day the lads power ahead leaving me to it, riding slowly I'm soon talking to a couple of French south-bounders and here Nicky + Jules pull up. Due to the previous day's bad weather they'd only rode 25 kilometre before stopping at village and taking a cabana (like s chalet).
Their day's plan (as with the Swiss lads) was to reach Cerro Castillo ~ forty kilometres away, whereas I planned to try my luck at another farm other south-bounders had mentioned that was about fifteen kilometres away.
On arrival at the farm the initial chap I ask says no and wheeling my bike back out another chap just riding up on horse welcomes me, he was the boss so no problem. He shows me a barn with ample space, along with a horse for some company! Inviting me into his house I hang my damp clothes by his stove and they're soon drying out.
Sleeping under a corrugated-tin roof, during the night I was awoke several times by occasional increased hammering of the rain, not a pleasing sound for the following mornings departure.
Riding away in the morning I could almost sense that the clouds were very local, and sure enough as I left the particular valley I'd been in the clouds started to break revealing patches of blue sky.
Toward Cerro Castillo road improvements (?!) were underway - with some big cut-through's of mountain sides to lower the road's angle. The final 8km to Cerro was horrendous, fist-sized rocks that made cycling almost impossible and soon I decide that walking was best for the safety of myself and the integrity of the bike. Even walking took two hours, that's four kilometres per hour! Eventually Cerro came into view, along with a smooth concrete section that would no-doubt only be the length of the town!
Although only riding (and walking) forty kilometres I decided on a short day, more-so reluctant at rounding the town's corner and re-joining the wonderful rock-road, sorry, I mean, improved road. Luckily the town had a campsite, perched upon the hill near the road (rocks) that I'd walked down earlier. By lunchtime the weather had made an awesome change, permitting me to wash a few clothes and hang them out to dry!
This furry-fella was great! He loved climbing on to my shoulders and head, then biting at my hair and ears, a real fuss-pot....in the end he got too much and was barred from my tent!
Stocked-up on a few groceries, the next day I'm packed up and heading out, fearful of rounding the concrete corner to the awaiting rocks I'm pleasantly surprised (bloody shocked!!!) the concrete continued, and continued, I pinched myself a few times to be sure I wan't still in my tent dreaming!
Five kilometres later and it's still concrete,!! Soon a hairpin climb comes into view - from former research I'd been aware of this and imagined myself whizzing down it, around the nice wide curves.....but this went up? But I didn't careless, providing it remained a sealed it could climb to the moon and I wouldn't care. A dry day, a clear sky and a smooth road!!
Cerro Castillo receives a fair share of visitors due to its surrounding walking / hiking routes through this national park area, at the end of the hairpin section was a car-park viewing area with quite a few people congregated taking photographs.
The road itself still climbed higher up into the mountain, as did the concrete, but soon it did end...and became tarmac!! Eventually the altitude maxed-out at about 1400 metres (the highest of the tour so far) and an awesome free-wheeling descent began. Seeing some south-bounders come into view I stopped for a chat, they were from Germany and informed me of the sealed road that awaited me to big town of Coyhaique. As gingerly as I could I informed them of what awaited them, feeling no remorse whatsoever and as happy-as-Larry I bode farewell continuing my descent.
The landscape had now opened out into a wide expanse and later were several road junctions merging off in different directions, big fields with cattle and wooded areas, visually a welcomed change.
Planning to reach Coyaique on this day, later the wind started gusting quite hard so I contently stopped at the small village of El Blanco - 36 kilometres short. With the wind blowing so strongly camping by the river was too open and with a little snooping aroud I find a big chopped-log storage barn next to a school, even with a tap at the school's rear it looked perfect, informing a neighbouring lady of my plans she had no problem so I set up camp. With the wind the temperature was a tad fresh so I gather pieces of wood laying around - the floor was smothered in them - and make a small fire.
Later I see another touring cyclist checking-out the river, obviously looking for a camp spot, whistling to him I beckon him over, introducing ourselves he joins me, although setting his tent on the far side of the enclosure by some trees. He was from Ireland and been touring for several months and also heading to Coyaique so decide to ride it together the following morning.
Some of the morning's scenery;
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Next time, two wheels becomes four!