Updated: Dec 10, 2020
I arrived late in the day to Concepcion, a bustling town that was in rush hour, finding my hostel and a parking area loaded with trekking bicycles. It wasn’t long before I was talking with six or seven guys from England about their trip. They had flown in with the bicycles to Santiago and were heading south. They'd only been on the road a week when one of the bicycles had broken and had subsequently had to wait another week in Concepcion for the part to arrive by DHL. Distant memories. They sat packed and waiting as the part was to arrive any hour.
One of the guys was going to stay in Concepcion, having to end his trip early because of severe back spasms.
Wandering the streets in the fading light, I grabbed a few images before settling into the hostel that night. Looking at the map, it felt good to see that finally I was about half way down the length of Chile. Having spent so much time on repair issues, each time I’d look at a map and how far north I still was, it would seem I’d never get to Ushuaia.
From Concepcion, the town Osorno was now in striking distance - the jumping off point for either east to Bariloche, Argentina or south for the beginning of the lakes region in the more remote area of southern Chile. Either way, the doorstep to Ushuaia.
I chose to head for the smaller town of Valdivia to stay, north of Osorno with less of a busy city feel. The highway south was filled with SUV’s and family vans stuffed with luggage and people, heading for vacations somewhere ahead. On the opposite side of the highway, a continuous stream of clean and new adventure bikes were heading north, with couples and their gear returning from said vacations.
More and more trees appeared, with logging trucks loaded and trailing clouds of sawdust. The temperatures were getting cooler and the scenery reminded me of Canada, replete with grey skies and threatening rains.
Valdivia arrived and though a bit crowded, was a nice little town with German restaurants and beer. People walked the river banks and lounged in the sporadic sun. After a street side coffee, the rains came and I found my hostel for the night.
That night as I tried to remember some things for the report, I noticed I couldn’t remember the previous towns or the places I’d stayed. I had to refresh myself with the map and photos. I realized the road fatigue was now beginning to creep in. I also felt a bit guilty for having had to ride so much and not spend as much time as I’d like shooting images, but I reminded myself one can’t see or do everything, especially on a trip with a schedule.
Ahead lay the vaunted Austral region of Chile and I was excited, yet unsure of the routes as a massive landslide south of Osorno at Villa Santa Lucia had blocked the road and wouldn’t be cleared for months. I’d read snippets of bypasses and ferry options, but could not find real and current information. I’d planned to bypass Osorno originally and stay further south in Puerto Varas a few miles north of Puerto Montt, but I also needed to change oil and final drive fluid before heading further south. I chose to stay in Osorno instead, and deal with the bike as well as mine more information on the situation south.
That afternoon when I reached Osorno, I rode directly to MotoAventura, the second location of the shop who'd helped me Santiago, meeting a South African from Colorado, Richard I think, on a KTM who had ridden the Amazon and down through Brazil. He'd just returned from Ushuaia. He told me after reaching Ushuaia, he’d taken the ferry from Puerto Natales all the way north to Puerto Montt to give himself and the bike a break, highly recommending it for its route through the uninhabited areas of south Chile’s fjords. It went into my mental bank as a possibility. I still wasn't sure whether I'd head for Buenos Aires after Ushuaia, or ride back north through Argentina, or now consider taking the ferry back to Puerto Montt.
I inquired about buying oil and using their parking lot to change it at the shop, but was told they could do it for me the next day. I decided to let them handle it, as after so many months I find myself getting lazier.
At the hostel, I was very happy to see a wood stove in my room after so many cold nights in lodgings! The warmth brought back memories of my wood stove in a previous life. The cozy room was a nice respite from the cold wind outside that evening.
That night I searched the internet for as much information as I could about the landslide that had destroyed the highway and found that ferries were the only way past the blockage. However, the ferries were swamped due to the landslide and the absolute soonest available from Puerto Montt was 5 or 6 days out. The optional longer ferry south all the way to Puerto Natales was booked completely and only a $2000 cabin was available, far out of my price range. I booked a hostel in Puerto Varas just a little north of Puerto Montt and decided I’d be hang out a few days waiting for the ferry.