I arrived late in the day to Concepcion, a bustling town that was in rush hour, finding my hostal and a parking area loaded with trekking bicycles. It wasn’t long before I was talking with six or seven from England about their trip. They had flown in with the bicycles to Santiago and were heading south. They had 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 to stay, 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, Osorno was now in striking distance - the jumping off point for either Bariloche, Argentina or 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 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, 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 hostal 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 the massive landslide south of Osorno at Villa Santa Lucia had blocked the road and wouldn’t be clear 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 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 decided to stay in Osorno instead, and deal with the bike as well as mine some information on the situation south.
That afternoon when I reached Osorno, I rode directly to MotoAventura, 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. We discussed a few things and he told me he’d taken the ferry from Puerto Natales near Ushuaia all the way north to Puerto Montt to give himself and the bike a break, highly recommending it for it’s route through the uninhabited areas of south Chile’s fjords. It went into my mental bank as a possibility.
I inquired about oil and a place to change it at the shop and 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 quite happy to see a wood stove in the room after so many cold nights in lodgings! The warmth brought back memories of my wood stove in another life. The cozy room was a nice respite from the cold wind outside that night.
That night I searched the internet for as much information as I could and found that ferries were the only way past the blockage, but the soonest available from Puerto Montt was 5 days out. The longer ferry to Puerto Natales was unfortunately booked up and only a $2000 cabin was available, far out of my price range. I booked a hostal in Puerto Varas just a little north of Puerto Montt and decided I’d be hanging out a few days waiting for the ferry.