Starting new post after 3 weeks.
I rode Ruta 5 south from Talca through Los Angeles to Victoria where I took a small road to Caracautin. Ruta 5 is a great road to cover distances in short time with a speed limit of 120 km/h. At some stretches the limit is reduced to 100 km/h but no one seems to lower their speed. It’s a toll road and at regular, but large, intervals you need to get off the highway and go through the “Manual” payment gates and for a motorcycle the charges are not very expensive, for the 350 km I paid roughly the equivalent of 5 usd. Ruta 181 from Victoria is a scenic road going through a very hilly landscape and as I get closer to Curacautin I see several volcanoes towering over the landscape in the distance. Amazing! And the first scenic moments I’ve had on the trip!
My progress so far:
As I walk around this and other towns I can’t help but notice streets and areas with the name “O’Higgins”. This doesn’t sound very Chilean or even Spanish so who was this man? It turns out that he is considered the father of independent Chile. He had Irish and Spanish ancestry and he was instrumental in freeing Chile from Spain in the early 1800s.
I walked to the central plaza of the town and found the tourist bureau and had a chat with one of the guys. He told me there are 4 volcanoes in the vicinity of the town and that there are ski lifts at two of them. They have little snow in the town but 12 meters (!) at the volcanoes in the winter. The Llaima is the 2nd biggest volcano in Chile and it last had an eruption in 2009.
I first had thoughts of riding to the Laima volcano which is about 30 kms away from the town but after thinking of the hassle of gearing up I decided to take a taxi to a nearer waterfall, “Salto del indio”. I got an “uncle”, as they say in Singapore, to drive me there and wait for me to walk to the waterfall and back and return me to the town. It’s a really nice waterfall and well worth the trip.
Day 24: Pucon
Rode on a beautiful local road that led to Ruta 5, along here for a while and then off towards Villarica and Pucon. The two towns are located on the south side of lago Villarica and to the north of Chile’s most active volcano, Villarica. It’s holiday season in Chile and this is a big tourist area with queues of cars and very slow going. I was behind a police car with flashing green lights between Villarica and Pucon, very irritating, Not sure why they had the flashing lights on the whole time – but I guess to calm the traffic with noone doing any overtakes for the whole stretch. I found my hostal, a big house with many bedrooms sharing two bathrooms. Not ideal. But with a comfortable bed and that’s the most important. An American guy from San Fransisco was staying there and we had a long chat about the state of US politics…. He worked as a bartender for a year to save up money for a year’s trip in South America after finishing his degree.
For dinner I walked up the road to a modern restaurant playing loud music and showing various sports on large videoscreens. What is the Chilean typical type of food? Empanadas, of Churasco style beef? No, it’s italian! Every other restaurant is Italian and they’re all serving pizza. And the pizza I had was really nice and huge.
After a good night’s sleep it’s time to evaluate the day’s options. Should I stay in Pucon another day and wait for the volcano to be vivisible? Unfortunately, it’s cloudy and I can’t see anything of it and the weather prognosis is not good for a clear sky, so I decide to ride eastwards and cross into Argentina. After the usual ineffective and annoying packing of my stuff I set off. As I get closer to the border the road goes steeply uphill and suddenly the volcano on the border becomes visible. The sight is absolutely amazing.
The border crossing is fairly staight forward with return of Chilean temporary import permit and issuance of new for Argentina. Still takes about an hour. The road on the Chilean side was fantastic but as soon as I get into Argentina the road condition is awful, very bumpy gravel road where it definitively feels like the fillings are going to fall out of the teeth. This lasts for 10km or so and then glorious asphalt all the way to Ruta 40 and then onto to San Martin de los Andes where I’m staying for the night.
I passed a petrol station on Ruta 40 with queues not too long. I have seen youtube videos with km long petrol queues in this area so I thought I’d better fill up while I can. So I joined the que and had some left over pizza while I was waiting, it took 20 mins to get to the front of the queu and get my fuel. Didn’t mind much having a break with some food while waiting. I met a couple on a bike where the guy had spent 5 years going around the world on a Yamaha Tenere 660, he would park his bike for 6 months somewhere and do someting else and return and continue his travels. That’s one way of traveling but I don’t think I could do it that way, especially if the travel to and fro is 35 hours and time difference of 11 hours. That’s a killer and a recipe for contracting Covid 🙁