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  • Writer's pictureLisa

The Carretera Austral

The famous Carretera Austral goes from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins. Ever since I started researching for this trip, I have been reading about this road, that goes through Chile's Patagonia. 1.300 km, mostly unpaved, untouched nature, little civilization, lots of cyclists.

Every day I see so many cyclists, couples, solocyclists and entire bike-gangs. A few months ago it would have given me goosebumps, seeing other cyclists, now it's just a tired wave hello, without stopping and an instant passing on.

We are all here, to see the famous nature and feel the patagonian magic. Every kilometer the surroundings are becoming more and more specatcular. Snowcapped mountains, bright blue rivers, huge lakes, glaciers, wildlife and me.

It is hard to explain the beauty of this place, so here are some pictures: (keep on reading below ;-) )

In Patagonia there can be all four seasons in one day. While putting away my super wet tent in Cerro Castillo, I have had several discussions with myself – leave or stay? After 20 kilometers I decide to turn around and to search shelter at the last campground I had passed. I am putting up my tent, when suddenly one of the poles breaks in two spots. Unfortunately I only have one metal-tube to fix one spot for now. In the poring rain I walk to the campground's owner's house, devastated. Leute is around 60 years old and has a really kind face.

The fireplace is warming up the entire house and instantly gives me this feeling of home. „Today is not your day, mhm?“, Leute asks, whle putting on his poncho. We walk to the shed and the luck is on our side, in the middle of several tool boxes, old tires and hey bales we find a broken tentpole, with a little tube. A few moments later my tent is fixed. I spend the rainy day watching netflix downloads, nice talks with Leute and without wifi or any signal.

The journey continues without wifi or signal. A few days later I am leaving the town Cochrane, only 200 more kilometers and one ferry ride left. My goal for the day is to catch the last ferry at 6 pm. 130Km, 1.700 meters total of elevation, a challenge, but doable, if only there wasn't the steep climbs on shitty gravel. I haven't had any food besides breakfast this morning, because there is a weird petroleum smell coming from my „kitchen“ pannier. My fuel bottle had broken and ruined my food. Bread, fruit and veg– inedible. I look at the time – 5:45, I cycle faster, hoping that the final descent to the port is about to start, but no – another steep, long climb ahead of me. I give up, pull over and inhale some trail mix(the only thing that doesn't taste like petroleum), then I cycle the last 8 km to the port.

The next morning I take the first ferry at 10 a.m. To the start of the last 100km of Carretera Austral, which turn out to be the hardest. I ignore my growling stomach. By now I am surround by a constant cloud of petroleum-smell and the stain on the outside of my pannier is growing and growing. After 10km of washboard gravel a sizzle – of course, a puncture. I get off, change the tube and off I go. Steep climbs, breathtaking views, sunshine and constantly being annoyed by those horse fly-like flies, that keep circling me, as soon as a climb slows me down. As if it wasn't hard enough, to keep the bike in a straight line, doing 4km/h, to not get into the loose gravel part, those flies fly around me in gangs. They just sit on my sunglasses, try to crawl into my nose or ears and what they love doing most, is to sit on my sleeves or my back and bite into my skin. A deep sting, without thinking my hand leaves the handlebars and hits the spot, to kill the beast. The handlebar swirrs to the right, the wheels get into the loose gravel, I almost crash. I am the worst vegan on this planet, by the end of the day I have killed at least 20 flies.

I run out of energy, only 40km north of O'Higgins. I set up camp in a small bay, next to the road. It's been days since I last showered and on my skin is a thick layer of sweat and dirt. There is a river next to me, but I am too tired, to wash myself, and just get into my freshly washed sleepingbag. The next morning I get back on the bike. „Villa O'Higgins 7 km“, I look at the sign, thinking, that in a few minutes I will be in a hostel, with a shower, food that doesn't smell and taste like petroleum, but then reality hits me hard. The gravel turns into a sea of pebbles, that makes it hard to keep the bike straight. In a curve my rear tire slides away, I loose control for a second, before trying to save myself from crashing, by putting one foot down. While doing so, I hit the bike frame, let's put it this way, if I were a man, I would be infertile now.

In the end I manage to reach the Hostel, where are a few cyclists are celebrating the finish line of their Carretera-trip, but I just want two things: a shower and food! The shower has to wait for a few hours, since the entire village doesn't have any water. But damn, does it feel good!

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