QuickPeek: Hike a Bike. Hot shower. Beautiful campsite.
We slept in to start the day and by the time we did the immigration at the Argentinian side and got on the trail, it was 11:30. I think it might have been ok to have started early, but we planned to stay at the other end and decided to wait out the early morning chill. We were told the way out was thro a rough hiking trail thro the forest and would last for about 6 km. We braced for some brutal workout for 3-4 hours, but nothing could prepare me for the tough workout for the next 10 or so hours.
The trail started pretty ok, but in the next 200 m or so, turned into a rooted and rocky incline of 15-20 Deg. It looked like singletracks at points, but at times would turn into a ditch about 3 feet deep. This was still the beginning. We tried to work together one up front and the other pushing and it was soon looking like we might at most do less than 1 km in an hour. The forest was pretty, but I felt like I couldn’t pay much attention apart from focusing all my attention and energy on pushing the bike up.
The exposed rocks and roots banged up on the panniers and I was pretty much sure I was going to puncture one or more panniers if I don’t do more serious damage to my body. It was slow and steady work, meter after meter. Descents were no less difficult as the loaded bike was impossible to control if it got on a big sized rock and decided to go on its own way. By the time I got up the first hill, I felt spent, but with many more K’s to go, tried to feel positive and enjoyed the views on offer as we took a coffee break with the Lago Desierto and Fits Roy in the background.
A few hikers went past us, either direction, and I thought it was such a pleasant hiking trail and an absolute nonsense to try to push a loaded touring bike up and over. There were numerous river crossings, 6 as I counted and some of them had 2 feet deep water. The water was icy and I was smart enough to switch into my Chacos and keep my boot dry. After a few river crossings though, my toes froze up and I couldn’t get much blood getting into them. I just hoped they’d thaw out soon enough. Some of the rivers were followed by intense muddy parts and we took our time to find decent paths to get across. We couldn’t avoid getting the bike really muddy though and my rim brakes started to make horrible noises as we kept hiking along. The path turned “flatter” after a while, but still we were confronted by frequent 3-10m climbs which was really hard. We kept working together to get one bike up and the other.
By the time we got out of the forest, it was nearly 6 pm. We had taken nearly 7 hours to push our bikes thro the 7 km trail. Gosh. The trail ended just at the frontier and we met a Chilean Border control officer who had come up on his ATV and told us about the route to Lago O’Higgins. Once on the chilean side, we had a road, though it was loose gravel, it was a road. I was happy to be riding the bike, but my body was aching every inch. The brakes were shot and it was a precarious ride along on the gravel. As we got close to the lake there was a crazy descent with loose gravel and gorge on one side and steep to boot. I cannot imagine how people would ride up this route, the descent was made with me holding on to brakes for dear life and my fingers were sore from the work and we eventually got to the Chile Border control.
I got the passport stamped and it was further km or so to the only camping spot in this side. Of course we had to have a bitch of a climb again just before getting to the camp site and we walked in at 9 pm or so. Totally tired and unable to function. The campsite was 4000 CL, but was really pretty spot and even had hot showers. I took the opportunity to take a good shower and clean up, make a dinner and knock off. We had an option to take an early morning boat (8:30), but wasn’t sure we’d be able to get up on time to make it. But it was nice to know we had options and may be if we don’t make it, there was the evening boat operated by Robinson Crusoe. So we had an option to relax for the day ahead after the crazy workout.
If I had known about the costs of crossing the lakes and the brutality of the crossing, I’d have definitely planned to take a boat from Puerto Natales to Puerto Yungay which would put us in the south end of Carratera Austral for nearly the same cost (200 USD), but with an exceptional boat journey thro Fjords. Ah well Next time.
Route: Lago Desierto to Lago O'Higgins
Distance: 22 Km
Road: Tough 7 km of trekking trail and 15 km of loose gravel.
Expenses: SG$ 8.75
Comments: Probably the most work I have done on a touring day till now! Hopefully no more of this to come.