(November 16 – written by Dave)
Today was a great day – it mostly sunny in the morning. We boarded the Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo ferry at about 8:15 with blue skies and great views to the surrounding mountains. We were early enough to be first in the queue and got to wander the decks and enjoy the morning sun, take photos and watch all the cars and trucks load up. Based on conversations this morning with the hostel owner, I don’t think that they get too many mornings like the one we got – lucky.
The ferry ride overall was perfect. The sound and open water were all pancake flat – Nancy was happy and the bikes didn’t get bounced around one bit on the deck. We met four other cyclists on the ferry, and all of them had a connection to us in a weird way.
The first couple, Michael and Chris currently live Paisley, Oregon – a small town a few hours from where Nancy grew up. They both went to the University of Idaho (as I did), Michael was 7 years behind but also studied architecture (I started in architecture). Even weirder still, Michael and his family were from Reno, near where I grew up, all going to Wooster High. Michael was the youngest of 6 so I’m sure I played sports or something against his siblings. Oh yeah, they lived in Truckee for 20 years, while my sister and brother-in-law also lived there. And (I know, stop it!) Michael currently has a sister and husband who live in Carson City, my home town. All very weird but super fun to meet them. They started in Puerto Varas and are taking 6 months to ride down to Ushuaia and back up to Puerto Varas.
The second cycling pair were Andy and his father John, both from Tasmania, the island state at the bottom of Australia. No more funny coincidences with them other than Nancy and I saw them, noted their clothing brand and guessed they were Aussie. We also guess that John was new to the trip and Andy had been travelling a while, based on the state of their clothing. When we met them, we learned that Andy started in Colombia and John just joined up for the last six weeks of the trip. Too funny really.
All of us had different campground pick for the night so we bid our farewells at the ferry dock and headed off. I’m sure that we’ll see both couples again at some point.
The ferry ride was great, really nice and sunny to start. We took lots of photos. Then it kind of clouded up a bit as the trip went on, which was ok as well otherwise we’d have a zillion photos. It took 4.5 hours with us disembarking right about 2PM. We had 14k of gravel to ride in Parque Pumalin National Park before reaching our planned campsite – Cascades Escondidas. The first 10k were uphill but mostly rideable. It is slow going on gravel, both uphill and downhill but we weren’t in a rush. The clouds stayed light and we didn’t get any rain.
When we reached Cascades Escondidas, we checked out the huts and agreed that we would stop. There were a few sites further down the road and it was tempting to ride on while the rain held off but we decided not to push it with our colds still lingering. The huts are all random sizes but only one was occupied so we picked one out that we could pitch the tent inside. It’s a tight fit but we should be dry even if we get rain. The huts only have one side covered to the element (better than none) so we also put up the tarp on the wind side.
This really is a nice little park, very clean, basic but adequate facilities. Until the 15th of December it is free to stay here. I guess that we are early in the season still. The Pumalín Project began in 1991, when Californian Douglas Tompkins acquired the 42,000-acre Reñihué Farm to protect its primeval native temperate rainforest, at risk for logging. Doug first visited Chile in 1961, and returned regularly to climb, ski, kayak, and hike throughout the southern region. After years in business—as the founder of The North Face and co-founder of Espirit—he sought to contribute toward protecting the Earth’s last remaining wilderness and combatting the global extinction crisis (read more on our conservation ethic here). Vast, remote, but facing numerous ecological threats, south Chile offered major opportunities for large-scale conservation.. Thanks Doug for your contributions, it is great to have such a nice facility in such a remote location.
After dinner we took the short walk up to the Cascades Baja water fall. The falls are gorgeous, thundering, wet and runny fast with all the recent rains. The path to them, complete with rickety ladders and wet stairs, is not for the faint of heart. It clearly has been worked on lately so it is maintained. It just wouldn’t pass muster in the USA or Australia – safety took a back seat to just getting a path through to the falls.
Tomorrow is longer than today, but still relatively short. The forecast wasn’t great yesterday but we can’t see anything from here – no internet. And we are not sure about the road surfaces. At least we should be able to start out dry staying in our nice little private hut. Update – it has just started raining, hopefully we will get some dry patches tomorrow…