Leaving our home from home and the beginning of the Caraterra Austral

Route: Valparaiso – Puerto Montt (bus) – Hornopiren

Leaving the beautiful coastline of Con Con, Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso was made all the more difficult having to bid farewell to Eduardo, Cecelia and their family – hopefully not a farewell, but a see you later! Having spent three nights there we really were starting to feel like an extended part of the family and were blown away by their warmth and hospitality. Their parting gift was some words of wisdom on Christianity and marriage, as well as a New Testament Bible in Spanish and English. It is probably the first time in a very long time that I have wanted to start reading it again and we both felt very blessed at having met them.

We caught a 14 hour night bus from the artsy city of Valparaiso to Puerto Montt, the beginning of one of the top ten cycling routes in the world – The Caraterra Austral. As always with bus journeys on this trip the most stressful part was getting our bikes on and off the bus!

In Puerto Montt we spent two days bingeing on movies and grocery shopping, knowing it would be the last big town we’d be in for awhile. We stayed in a hostel owned by a friendly American man who could talk your ear off and a not-so-friendly Chilean lady who always seemed to be agitated by us. I have to hand it to the American though, he really did make superb pancakes and waffles for breakfast.

We could not have asked for better weather and smoother pavement for our first day of the 1200 km Caraterra Austral. It’s only a 50 km cycle to the first of four ferries, which we just missed due to a huge craving for empanadas. Luckily, they came every half hour and it didn’t really matter in the end.

The next three days we were not so lucky with the weather or road conditions. It rained constantly which made the gravel road slippery. We had to push our bikes up the steep hills, which dampened our spirits and led Liv to demand that we spend extra time cooking macaroni and cheese for lunch to warm us up. I didn’t complain mind you, it was great mac’n’cheese, but I did have to give her a pep talk about making the best of a bad situation. (Olivia: I believe he actually told me to “man up” – Ha!)

Getting to the next ferry point on our journey looked straight forward on the map. There were two places to catch the ferry – Hornopiren and another point further down the road. When we arrived at the smaller ferry point having passed through Hornopiren, we were told it was closed. That’s definitely not what we wanted to hear after a 35km cycle in the cold rain. (Olivia: not to mention my gear cable snapping so I was stuck in first!) The only plus side was a zero dollar day and finding shelter out of the rain in an abandoned house. The next morning we cycled back to Hornopiren, but the experience was very different. The small roadside waterfalls had swelled over night, threatening to wash you away as you cycled past. Hot showers that night lifted our spirits, not to mention cuddling into a warm bed and eating cereal for dinner. We vowed to catch the ferry the next morning after fixing Liv’s bike, but we missed it yet again due to a misunderstanding about when the ferry left  – admittedly it was due to my poor Spanish.

Missing the ferry three times had the unexpected benefit of making us take a rest day on Saint Patricks day. The sun came out again and we were able to dry our damp clothes before having a few drinks to celebrate. It also gave us an opportunity to feed the stray dog that we adopted while we were there. The next day we finally caught the ferry further South (!) and the weather for the next week is looking bright and sunny 🙂

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