(November 14 – written by Dave)
Today we started the Carretera Austral, but we almost didn’t. The forecast was pretty ordinary, rain most of the day and both of us could have used another rest day to kill off our pesky colds. But we rode anyway… The trouble with the forecast was that wet is forecast for a solid week and while waiting one day would have been fine, we’ll have to ride at some point. Good news however, other than a few drops early on, proper rain only came down in the last 2k of the day. For the most part we were dry all day.
We are currently snuggled up in a tiny room, in a small guesthouse in Contao. And it is bucketing down outside. I love that feeling that we “stole” a ride today – perhaps not a day that favoured riding but we still managed to get a short ride in.
With dinner last night with Philipp and Tine, and last minute chores, we didn’t get to bed very early. Still, we were up this morning at 7AM – off to destroy the brekkie buffet one last time. We did the cycling community proud regarding the brekkie both days. Today we “accidently” took too many cold cuts and buns – but not too worry, we made sandwiches out the extras for later in the day. I know, how thoughtful of us not to let food go to waste.
We lingered in the room watching CNN, while the pavement dried outside our window. Eventually with no rain falling and dry roads, we had to do something so we wheeled the bikes to the lift and down to reception. Even with all of our foot dragging, we managed to be on the road before 9AM – I had to check my watch twice as it seemed like it was later.
We had a nice 5k long bike path from the hotel. There was no traffic and two lanes going our way but never the less, we used the path. When cities build paths, we like to say thank you and use them – unless they are overgrown or poorly designed. Today’s path was great. As noted above, we got a few sprinkles early, right about the end of the bike path. We stopped at a coved bus stop to put on booties, Nancy even put on her rain pants.
From this point until the 45k mark and the town of Caleta La Arena, we had mostly rolling hills and tailwinds. As we’ve been warned, some of hills are pretty steep but we grunted over them and had some really fast, breezy downhills. At Caleta La Arena we had to catch the first ferry of the CA. We could see the ferry coming into port as we were getting close to town so we rode fast the last couple Ks to catch it. We made it, but for some reason that ferry didn’t take anyone onboard before it departed. Another ferry came about 20 minutes later, then that one took another 20 minutes “rest” while a fuel truck drove on and refilled it. All of this was just long enough for us to get good and chilled from the sweat under our rain gear.
The ferry ride was about 30 minutes and cost $4.50 USD per bike. It started to rain a little while we were on the ferry and there is no inside area. So we stood outside in the elements with the bikes. The rains abated as we left the ferry but managed to come back just about as we rolled into Contao.
We stopped at a bus shelter to check the maps, then headed straight to the Alerce Hostal and Restaurant hoping to find a room. The woman running the place was eating her lunch but very sweet to put down her fork and take care of two cold/wet cyclists. We have the matrimonial room that is really so small that it is mostly just room for a large bed. Our bags fit in the room, lining the walls but the bikes have to go outside locked to the railing. But it is nice and clean, and the hot water really hot. Before showers however, we took up the owner’s offer to cook us some lunch.
The lunch room had a heater going inside and seemed to be about 100 degrees when we first entered. Lunch was delicious home cooked chicken and fish – sorry no photos as we were too hungry to think about the camera. Back in the room we cranked up the portable heater, took showers and soon were both sound asleep in our cosy small space.
Tomorrow we have another short day, with two possible routes. The shorter route goes over the peninsula and is hilly but shorter. The longer route goes around the peninsula and it flatter but longer. Neither route is sealed the full length. Philipp and Tine took the shorter route. We are leaning that way ourselves. There is some construction on the shorter route and some areas of one lane. Sounds like whatever we choose, we’ll end up with dirty bikes. But at least right now, the forecast is for no rain so fingers crossed.