Good days in the sun

Bandwidth, bandwidth, bandwidth….. Ok, that’s my excuse for not posting more often. Yes, it’s easy to upload the text of my posts but who really wants to spend time reading my blah, blah, blah?? The bandwidth intensive part of the post is uploading the pictures which just wasn’t happening in the last few stops. In a way it’s nice not having much connection with the outside world and we can enjoy the ride.

So far the trip has been amazing and all good. Yes, I know that travel trials and tribulations make for interesting and exciting reading in a motorcycle travel blog but so far it’s just been all good. I’ll try to recap a little here and add a bunch of pictures. The map below shows our days, each day in a different color.

GPS Route – Each color change is a day

From Valdivia we rode easy twisting roads into the foothills of the Andes where we took a circuitous route around Lago Ranco. We made a stop at a small waterfall and immediately were approached by a young family, could their children sit on our bikes? Sure!

I have to admit, cute kids and really nice people.

Stop for a quick lunch in the small city of Lago Rancho.

Healthy helping of Salmon for Dee Dee

After rounding the lake we rode south into Puerto Varas where we booked an Airbnb in a apartment building right on Lago Llanaquihue, the second largest lake in Chile. Our hosts Gerta and Gustavo owned a few units in the building and lived above the unit we rented. They were extremely helpful and had people waiting for us outside to show us to the underground parking garage. Once in the apartment we had a thorough tour of the amenities and when Gerta saw there wasn’t any coffee she ran to the store to get us a fresh bag of the local brew. After settling in we walked a few blocks down the beach to a brew pub for a few beers and some typical pub burgers. Before returning to the apartment we decided to Uber to the supermercado for some breakfast bananas, water and snacks for the next day. The Uber was super easy, as always, and cost $2.40 for a one way trip. We thought about making the half hour walk back but we came out of the store and it was dumping rain. I was about to call the Uber back when we spotted a cab parked at the street. A small tiny compact car with the driver’s daughter and her dog in the front seat. No problem, the driver insisted we could all fit in the back seat. Ha, with the women on our laps with bags of groceries we somehow fit and with suspension bottoming we made it back to the Airbnb.

Monday January 21

We woke to morning clouds but the overnight rain stopped before we loaded up and were on our way south. Up to this point we had reservations for the nights but the next section of the trip was full of uncertainty, we knew the pavement would end somewhere and to expect a lot of construction. It would be impossible to know when we would arrive at the next city or where we would stay.

It wasn’t long and the clouds parted and exposed some of the stunning mountain views of the Andes.

We were advised to take a little detour off the route to check out a local waterfalls.

It was nice but not the most spectacular thing we’ve ever seen. I would say we were all just a little underwhelmed. Maybe because the falls were on road that is the main tour bus route east over the Andes to the tourist town of Bariloche de los Andes. We had to pay for parking and an entrance fee and after going through the gift shop could make the short walk to the falls. Us and everyone else.

Try to pick out the gringos in this picture

South of the falls we took a smaller two lane road to the east that would save us an extra ferry crossing on the Carreterra Austral highway 7. It was a great road but soon turned into gravel with off and on construction work. Our first gravel roads of the trip. We were a little concerned how Michael’s Honda Africa Twin would do on the dirt with a passenger. We managed without issue in no small part due to Michael’s riding ability and his lightweight passenger (…. inside joke).

Nice roads to start and beautiful small towns.

Here is one of many construction stops, you can just see the “flagger” sitting in the little booth. When it is clear he would come out and turn the sign to green.

Motorcycles always go to the front of the line at construction backups which is really nice and makes sense. Since we travel much faster than the cars and trucks on the gravel roads we are well ahead of traffic and not slowing anybody down. In addition, we are not stuck behind smokey trucks eating dust and gravel and attempting dangerous passing maneuvers. This should be a standard procedure in the US like it is in Europe and almost everywhere else in the world.

Here is Deby at one of the stops, the Honda 500X is a good fit and seems to be an excellent motorcycle for her so far.

We reached the port city of Hornopiren about 3:00 in the afternoon after riding for 229 miles for the day. Hornopiren is the port city where we would catch the ferry for points south. I knew we were too late for that day’s afternoon ferry but stopped at the ferry office to purchase our tickets for the 9:00 AM ferry the next day. We parked in lot of the empty ferry office and went to procure our tickets. Michael went first and managed to buy two passenger tickets and one for the bike, easy. I was next and was told the ferry was full. What?? How could that be? They didn’t speak any English and so I plead my case in my best Spanish. It must have worked because they told me to return at 7:45 in the morning and there would be no problem getting us on the ferry. Umm, I’m pretty sure that’s what he said.

We went in search of a hotel and the first place we stopped was full. He recommended some cabanas down the road and we successfully negotiated a cabana for the night.

They let us park on the grass right in front which was nice for unloading our gear and watching the bikes. There were two bedrooms which we found out was the normal arrangement. One with a double bed and a second floor apartment with no fewer than three bunk beds. Michael and Dee Dee managed to get the double bed and Deby and I went upstairs to our bunks.

We took some time to walk around the small town and take a few pictures. It is a beautiful place.

Downtown Hornopiren

Classic Patagonia scenery.

You can see the morning ferry better in this picture.

For dinner we were directed to a part of town where they have all of these little food booths lined up in a row. Each booth has a separate meal. You go to each booth to see what they have and order what you want.

Not everything on the signs on the wall were actually available but you could get the general idea.

We walked one particular booth and saw a cooler with beer in it. When Michael went to ask if he could buy a beer, the kind Chilean woman politely told him no with a smile. This kind of thing seems to happen to Michael from time to time. We still laugh about an incident 6 years ago in Chile where a grocery story wouldn’t sell Michael beer but would for Deby! We never exactly figured that one out but here we were again. I was standing next to Michael and tried to help with my improved but limited Spanish. We learned that even though there was beer in the cooler she didn’t have a license to sell beer…. however…. if we wanted a “cup of coffee” she could pour the beer in a big coffee mug and serve him that. Ha, problem solved – una cafe por favor!

Michael and Dee Dee met some travelers who spoke English and were familiar with the local dishes. They recommended Michael and Dee Dee try a meal of various meats placed in a net and boiled in water.

Michael doesn’t seem too sure in this picture but assured us it was pretty good.

Inside the Cabana

Tuesday January 22

I actually had to set my alarm for 6:30 Am so I could be sure to have enough time for coffee, breakfast (oatmeal we brought) and get the bikes ready to be at the ferry terminal at 7:45. It started raining in the night so we had a short but wet ride to the ticket office where I waited in a short line. When it was my turn I was told they only had room for ONE bike. What? Ok, my Spanish really kicked in (actually Spanglish) and somehow or another they typed into their computer some more and produced two tickets. In ten minutes we were loading the bikes onto the big ferry for a 4 hour ride to the minuscule town of Caleta Gonzalo.

Here are the bikes safely tucked in out of the rain.

It was interesting to me that many, but not all, of the cars and trucks were secured to the deck but none of the motorcycles.

We settled into the seating area in a spot with 4 chairs facing 4 chairs. Deby and I sat side by side with Michael and Dee Dee across from us. After a while a couple from Santiago sat across from each other and next to us. Eventually we learned their names were Pia and Christobal (hope I spelled that right) they spoke English and had studied in the US. We spent much of the trip learning about each other and great conversation.

I took some time to wander around the ship and met a US couple that were travelling on motorcycles from Arizona to Ushuaia. They were on a pair of DR650s and were getting ready for the last leg of their trip. We traded stories and encouragement (Yikes, if you’re reading this I forgot your names… leave a message below, I want to know how you did). On deck was another American from Oakland, CA. Rob. Rob was an experienced motorcycle traveler and had been many of the same places as us and more. This time he was on a bicycle riding the Carretera Austral. Wow, good luck Rob.

The rain eventually ended and the views were stunning.

Here is a picture looking back at the ferry after unloading.

No more pavement for us, the road would be mostly gravel for the rest of the way to Chaiten.

Because of our ticket mixup Deby and I ended up getting on at the front of the ferry. Michael and Dee Dee came later and ended up at the back so when we unloaded Deby and I waited for our friends. Once on the road it was a narrow winding gravel road. It wasn’t raining but the road surface was wet. There was a long and very slow line of cars in trucks from the ferry inching down the road. When Michael and Dee Dee came off the ferry we fell in behind them and immediately Michael cut into the oncoming traffic lane and hit the afterburners. We fell in behind and soon we were passing dozens of cars and trucks at a time only tucking in when there was an especially blind curve, hill or the road was too narrow for us to pass. After about an hour we made it to the front of the line, whew!!!

We rolled into Chiaten before any of the ferry traffic and went directly to a hotel Deby and I had stayed at two years ago. Good timing, they had two rooms left… you guessed it… one with a double bed and another with two single beds. Cash only. No problem. This time it was out turn for the double bed and Dee Dee and Michael checked into the room with the two singles.

Chiaten is a very interesting city. A nearby volcano erupted in 2008 and buried much of the city. Locals told us that they didn’t even know there was a volcano much less an active one so close to them until it blew. Read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chait%C3%A9n_(volcano)

We went for a short walk about and went to a section of town that the preserved with buried houses.

I took a picture nearby with Deby and the huge gunnera plants that are everywhere here. Many are much bigger than this.

One of the staff at the hotel rode this motorcycle. Wow, you could carry a family in the trunk!

Ok, I’m going to break here but hope to have another post soon. Remember you can follow our progress HERE.

And if you want to look through more pictures click HERE.

Thanks for following!

Donn and Deby

3 thoughts on “Good days in the sun

  1. I’m glad that your adventure is going so smooth. Wonderful write-up and wonderful photos thanks for sharing be safe.

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