(November 18 – written by Dave)
What a day – we had a little bit of everything. Well, not everything as we didn’t have any sun, though it would have been nice. We were up at the same time and not sure if we were going to ride today. It rained hard overnight and it was raining when we got up. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be bad but not as bad as the following two days when heavy rain and snow is forecast. So, unless we wanted to hang out in the very exciting Chaiten for a week, we figured moving on made sense. Or at least I thought it was a good idea, I’m not so sure about my senior editor.
By the time we got the bikes loaded and were ready to roll, it was 8AM, and best of all, the rain stopped. We had a nice tailwind and no rain for the first 1.5 hours. It was very cloudy but no rain. I think that there were some gorgeous snow capped mountains surrounding the nice valley that we were riding but we only saw them from just below the snowline and lower. Clouds obscured the rest. I don’t think they get many clear days here – maybe we’ll just have to come back and wait for one.
We stopped at 1.5k to put on rain pants in a fancy little town called El Amarillo. All of the houses were perfect, lawns mowed nicely and I’m sure, the children were all above average. It seemed so out of place with everything else we’ve seen in Chile. This part of Chile has a very large tourism component to its economy. Many people come for the pristine environment and especially the fishing. There was a lodge where I’m sure American and European execs drink scotch and trade yarns of the fish they caught during the day. We didn’t stop for drinks as it was a bit early and I’m sure that the homeless bicycle tourist look would have raised a few eyebrows.
It rained on an off for the next 30k but not hard enough to really soak us. We reached Lago Yelcho and the start of the one big climb of the day around 11AM. There are more lodges on the lake – they were a nice safe stopping point had it been dumping. Even though it was still raining lightly, we decided to take the rain pants off for the 2,500 foot climb. This worked out great for a little over half the climb until we either rode into the clouds, or it started misting – you really couldn’t tell the difference other than to know that the humidity level was at 100% and we were getting wet. We stopped at the top of the climb to put our rain pants back on for the last 8k downhill ride into Villa Santa Lucia.
Riding off the pass towards town we came across the remains of a landslide that just about wiped out Villa Santa Lucia on December 19, 2017 (less than a year ago). We had heard about the slide but seeing it up close – wow, it was massive. The landslide was caused when a glacial moraine on one of the surrounding peaks above town collapsed sending a wall of mud, water and trees racing down the canyon. There was almost no warning for the people living in the village and about half of the town was wiped out. Apparently 20 people died.
If we were feeling a little sorry for ourselves with the rain and our wet clothes, these feelings felt a little insignificant upon reaching town. You can clearly see how the slide cut through town, but only ½ of the town. Why it missed half the town is hard to figure as it almost looks like it made a hard left turn when it reached town.
We were hoping to stop in Villa Santa Lucia for the night but there were lots of rumours about what was left and still open. If we’d found nothing, the next stop would have been camping – not what we wanted to do given our state of wetness and the cold temperature. We lucked out that the town grocery store was on the safe side of the slide, they were still open and they had a cabana for rent – Cabanas el Mano. The price was a bit high but on days like today, we are almost happy to pay a little extra – and not just because we were wet. The owner came in and started a fire in the wood stove for us and it is now roasting warm in the cabana. Our wet stuff is all hanging on a clothes rack so should be dry be morning. We’ve made a couple trips to the grocery store, which is pretty well stocked, for snacks and dinner supplies. So all in all it worked out okay today.
We fully understand that travel is a luxury that many people can’t afford. When we visit a place where there has been so much suffering, we like to think that we are helping with the recovery by visiting, buying stuff and contributing to the local businesses. Villa Santa Lucia needs more tourists coming on a regular basis to help them rebuild their lives and economy. It won’t bring back those that lost their lives but it will help those left recover.
Nancy is currently scouring the net for weather updates. Tomorrow still looks rideable (though wet) and the two days after that still talk of heavy rain and snow. We have a little shorter day planned for tomorrow and there aren’t any big hills – I hope we can reach town in time to pick a spot to build snowman the next day.