Luxury rides again

We enjoyed a warm lazy morning at the Puyuhuapi Lodge before catching the 12:30 boat back to the parked motorcycles. The prescribed route had us going only 140 miles for the day to Coyhaique. It was an easy day of riding on mostly paved roads south through the southern reaches of the Andes mountain range.

Beautiful roads and nice weather. We stopped at this overlook with a look back at Ruta 7 hanging on the side of the mountain as it snaked along the rio Maniguales.

We made a short stop at the Cascadia Virgen, one of many waterfalls along the way.

All too soon we were at the Dreams Hotel & Casino in Coyhaique, Chile. The hotel seemed rather new and was in the style of any casino hotel in the US. Nice, but… I don’t know, it wouldn’t be my first choice of a hotel. The four of us went into the casino to get a beer and snack since we didn’t have lunch. Security was really tight, we needed special passes from the front desk that needed to be scanned, it didn’t work. We waited and the hotel manager had to come over but he couldn’t get it to work either. The armed guards weren’t going to let us in but eventually the scanner beeped green and then we could go through the airport style metal detector. Even with everything out of my pockets it kept beeping. Finally they wanded me down and let me in. We repeated this for all four of us and eventually we found a seat away from the clanging machines and managed to order beers and some snacks.

Lucky for us we had entertainment – sort of. The evening’s headliner was a group of three girls that sing along with music tracks. They came in to do their sound check. I checked… yes, it was really loud. (oh my – I’m turning into that guy… ) One of the girls was recording herself selfie style the whole time, I thought it was funny so I took this picture.

We finished our beers and decided to walk into town, we should have done that first. Across the street from the hotel was a cool outdoor restaurant with a small jazz band playing some standards. We listened as we walked by mentally contrasting the two styles of music. I vote for the live music.

The town was really nice, as is typical there was a lively el centro with a closed off street turned into a pedestrian mall with lots of shops and restaurants. There was what appeared to be a local high school dance team performing on the street with proud parents all around taking pictures with cell phones. On a regular basis little kids would run and join in for a few of the moves. Probably little brothers and sisters. We sat on a bench and just watched the activity for about a half hour before going back to browsing shops and eventually making our way back to the uninspiring hotel for the night.

Well rested and getting a little restless from the short days riding on the guided route we left Coihaique plenty early. Again, the weather was beautiful which is highly unusual for this part of Chile. The construction Deby and I had endured two years prior was mostly finished and we had fun riding the perfectly paved new road surface. With clear sky we could enjoy the surrounding mountain views.

Nice, nice riding. I knew how rare it was for us to have clear weather and was enjoying every minute of it. I just had to pull over to take this next picture. Pretty much sums up the morning ride.

We didn’t see any of this last time with the low clouds and rain.

One thing Deby and I have learned is that when the road is too nice or too new or you come to a place where it’s so new the lines haven’t even been painted….beware… that means the good is about to end.

Sure enough that was the end of the nice road and into construction. Come-on through, just go around the loader coming towards you.

The rest of the day was loose gravel requiring full concentration and lots of dust with the dry weather. Despite the tricky riding I managed to ride with one hand so I could take some pictures with my left hand.

Deby is still right behind me.

Beautiful scenery, clear blue lakes, wow.

The carretera austral must be one of those bucket list things for bicycle riders, we saw a lot of them along the way. I tried to get a few photos as I rode by.

Seems kind of crazy to me.

We stopped for lunch in Puerto Rio Tranquilo home of the famous marble cave boat tours. Deby and I stayed there two years ago, it was cold and wet and seemed almost deserted. This time the city was packed full of people and it was sunny and HOT. We chatted up the young lady pumping gas and she said they expect the road to be paved all the way to their city by the end of the year. Wow, I’m sure that will be a huge change for their town. I could just imagine the lines of tour buses that would then have access to the natural marvel of the marble caves. We didn’t take the time to visit the caves but here is a picture from the last trip.

It was another 45 miles to our destination for the night, Hacienda Tres Lagos. The gravel seemed even deeper and dustier while the afternoon temperatures kept climbing, I’m sure we were into the 90 degree range. Still, the scenery was stunning and we were enjoying the day. I took this picture as we dropped into the last valley before our stop for the night.

Overall it was a relatively short day at 166 miles but it seemed longer because of the construction stops and long gravel stretches. For some reason Deby likes to follow me which has it’s pros and cons. On the positive side I can call out road conditions in our helmet radios, potholes, loose sand, tight turns and oncoming traffic around corners. The downside is that during dusty conditions she ends up with a cake of dust on her and the bike. I took this picture when we arrived at the hacienda.

What does Deby say? “The one with the dirtiest face had the most fun?” Ok, no question here.

Hacienda Tres Lagos more than made up for the uninspired lodging the previous night. Since the cost was included in our tour package I don’t know how expensive it would be to stay there but it was nice. And, this was one of two pre-planned layover days on the trip. Even better, we would be there for two nights. Cool. The only downside is the long and dusty ride back to Rio Tranquilo if we wanted to tour the caves. Deby and I had already been there and Michael and Chris didn’t want to tackle the tricky road so we stayed put. No complaints from me. Deby and I had a whole cabin to ourselves. These are buildings with four units but we were the only ones in our building.

Here is the view from our deck.

Michael concluded the cost of beer was too expensive at the resort so he jumped on his bike to the next small town for a beer run. After some adventure and maybe a wrong turn or two (even though he doesn’t like to admit it), he came back with cervezas and we were glad he was willing to share. Here is his makeshift cooler in the bathroom sink.

I was glad for two nights in the same place for the first time in our trip. I realized that the tour company includes these as catch-up days in case anyone is delayed for mechanical or weather reasons. Seems to make sense. Luckily we didn’t need it for that reason and used the time to rest, wash some clothes and read books. Nice.

After the day of rest we were glad to get back on the bikes and tackle the route ahead of us. The ride-book showed us the next night was in Los Antiguos, Argentina which meant another border crossing. Total mileage for the day…. 85. Really? Geesh, Ok, there was a border crossing that would take some time but that was short. The route took us along the southern shore of General Carrera Lake as it is called on the Chilean side or Lake Buenos Aires on the Argentine side. It’s the biggest lake in Chile and the fourth largest in Argentina. We would be spending the whole day riding the gravel road along this lake.

Deby and I had ridden this section on our previous trip and despite the short day we knew it was a fantastic road with stunning views. The weather held with no rain and not as hot as we headed east towards Argentina.

No complaints from anyone on this beautiful day.

Managed this mirror shot while riding with one hand – fun!

The road ahead….

The road behind…

We stopped at a scenic overlook spot and a van full of teenage girls on a road trip took our picture, one of the only ones with all four of us.

All too soon we were in the town of Los Antiguos, Argentina where we had to take a taxi from the hotel into town and find something cool to drink.

Los Antiguos is a small town and out hotel was a nondescript place just far enough out of town to require a cab ride. We had a nice meal in town and walked around watching as the city was getting ready for a celebration of some sort. I asked the cab driver who didn’t speak English and I thought it sounded like the anniversary of the city. I presume because of the heat they were waiting until night fall to get the party started which in this part of the country was after 10:00, too late for us old people. The city had a stairway to a viewpoint that we hiked up for something to do. I took this picture of what is probably most of the city.

Back at the hotel I was looking at the map questioning why the tour had such a short day and stopped in Los Antiguos. After some thought it made sense. The next few days would be tough. We were entering the part of Argentina where Ruta 40 has long stretches between gas stops and famously the gas stations don’t always have gas. In addition, the route would be subject to dangerously high cross winds and a gravel stretch that is well known for sending people to the hospital. Deby and I had rode that route in 2017 and experienced it all, closed gas stations, dangerous high winds and the famous gravel section where Deby lost her bag and we had to go back looking for it. (Read about it by clicking HERE, I thought it was an amazing story)

How would we fare this time? We meet some riders on the ferry in Chile that were so spooked they were not even going to attempt this route and he was an ER doctor from California. Other riders warned us to be careful and regaled us with antidotes of friends who were seriously injured in this stretch. Huh? I’m thinking how hard can it be? Did something change since the last time we rode it.. three times? I didn’t want to get cocky about it so I felt it my duty to warn Michael and Chris about the potential danger ahead. They are two of the most competent motorcycle riders I know so I wasn’t too worried but still. What does the Bible say in Proverbs? – “Pride cometh before the fall.” It seems appropriate to remember that on a motorcycle trip.

More to come!

Donn and Deby

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