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Weather delay in Villa O’Higgins

(December 10 – written by “Just Dave”)

Today we are supposed to be on a boat crossing Lago O’Higgins, followed by a 23k bike/hike/push/pull over the mountains to Lago Desierto.  But good old Mother Nature decided that strong winds would be more fun and none of the ferries departed Villa O’Higgins.  Rain and wind were the themes of the day.

There are three ferries that make the Lago O’Higgins crossing.  Two boats are operated by Robinson Crusoe, the other by a company called Ruedas.  The two companies have divided the week so that each one sails a boat three days per week.  There are no ferries running on Sundays.  If weather delays occur, especially in high season, people start to back up on both ends of the ferry so both companies may run boats on the first sailable day after the weather clears.  Right now it looks like Tuesday will be the next sailing day and we currently have tickets on Robinson Crusoe’s larger boat – better in rough seas.  We’ll move the bookings to Wednesday if the weather doesn’t clear.  Weather wins in Patagonia – you just have to deal with it.  We have some slop in our schedule so in Villa O’Higgins we sit.

Deep Patagonia

Our ferry company – we are no longer just in Patagonia, but rather “Deep” Patagonia – woohoo

Nice

On the whiteboard at the ferry office

Yesterday we thought that we would sail today so we got all of our chores done – cleaned the bikes, laundry, shopping and a little planning ahead.  We didn’t find out about the “no go” on Monday until late in the afternoon (on Sunday).  So today, Monday, we had an almost free day.

Other than visit ferry offices, we did manage to get outside today between rain showers.  We walked to a lookout over town and snapped a few photos of things that we found interesting or funny.  Villa O’Higgins is remarkably well equipped for so few people.  They have a library, a fire station (with 20 volunteer firemen), a police station, a bus station, a small church, a bike shop, at least 5 grocery stores (small), a medical clinic, federal department branch offices from fisheries, farms, logging and roads and last but not least, its own radio station.

two churches

Villa O’Higgins church – building on right is the old church, now a museum

Recycling

For such a small town, they recycle – metal, glass and wood – not sure how much they get used but there are a lot of these around town – nice

Our hostal

Our hostel – named after a glacier Mosco

No shooting

On the way to the lookout – things you can do and not do.  Shooting and smoking are not allowed but falling on the stairs to the lookout, go for it as it is “A-OK”

Muni

The muni office -somewhere along the line the town bought a fancy wooden sign carving tool set

From above

View of town from look out

Airport

The airport – Air traffic control, lost and found, luggage claim, check-in, passenger waiting, car rental drop off and pick-up – yup, it’s all here in this one fine building

Bike shop - rental

The bike shop – technically they only rent bikes but I assume they’d help a traveler in need if asked

From above - park

Close up of the town plaza – big green building is K-12 school – not sure how many students there are

 

Villa O’Higgins is young and small – it was founded in 1966 and it only has 550 permanent inhabitants.  Naturally, during the summer visiting tourists greatly increase the number of people you’ll find in town.  Summer is December to February.  Outside those months, it is pretty sleepy – it would be a cold, dreary place in the dead of winter.  There is an airport but no regularly scheduled flights.  The next town is either a 2 hour drive to a ferry, followed by 2 more hours driving; or the way we are going with two ferries and a bike or hike.  The two ferries heading our way don’t run in the winter.  In other words, Villa O’Higgins is remote – you have to work hard to get to or from here, and you really have to want to live here.

Monument to settlers

Monument to the settlers of town – they would have had cars back in 1966 but a statue of someone in a car is not as interesting

A brief note about the Carretera Austral is in order as well.  It officially started back in Puerto Montt.  In our last post, I proclaimed that we’d ridden the full length.  This is not strictly true however, as the official end of the highway is at the ferry dock at Lago O’Higgins.  We won’t ride the last 8k from Villa O’Higgins to the dock until we head out to get on the ferry.  Rumour has it that there is a sign out there marking the CA’s official end – we’ll get a photo to prove that we made it.  It is also worth noting that the last 100k of the highway were only completed in year 2000 – until then, the only access to Villa O’Higgins was on foot or by plane.

Motorbike heading south

The Carretera Austral is also a bucket list item for may motorbike riders.  Though it is a bit of an out and back for them and to get to Ushuaia like this chap apparently hopes, is a long out and back.  The hike-and-bike is not passable for motorcycles.

So tomorrow we head out (hopefully) and start what may be the most difficult leg of the entire journey.  We plan to leave our lovely cabana at 6:40 in the morning.  We’ll be heading out with Andy and Sarah – our ferry leaves at 8:30AM.  We’ve agreed to ride/hike the hike-a-bike section with Andy and Sarah as well – you know, “Teamwork makes the dream work”.

The last two days it’s been stormy looking up back the way we came into town on Saturday.  Joe and Sarah have been out there in the muck for the last two days.  We hope to see them this afternoon and hear that all of their wheels held up, and that they didn’t get too cold and wet.  Did I mention that we love our little cabana?  Oh well, tomorrow night might be a different story so we’ll enjoy everything that our woodstove this afternoon.

 

10 responses to “Weather delay in Villa O’Higgins

  1. Cute little town! Glad you are still there with the bad weather. Hope tomorrow brings sunshine!

  2. Glad that “Safety” wins out over ‘hurry up’. Enjoy your day off & hope the wind settles & the sun comes out! Recycling in Patagonia!?! Great!

  3. I don’t know what I am going to do once you finish this ride!!I have followed you since Alaska!!!

  4. so Dave… how long do you think it will take to ride back? 🙂

  5. I presume that Jason B wants to know how long to ride back to Alaska. Grin.

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