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Apr 15, 2012:

Through The Back Roads Of Chile

Distance to Date: 2319 km , 1391 miles

We've been in this part of Chile, known as the Carretera Austral, for about six weeks now: ten days waiting for a boat for Villa O'higgins, two-and-a-half weeks waiting for a bike part in Coihaique, and the rest of the time enjoying the bike ride. We've seen the bluest blues, the greenest greens and everything in between: aqua lakes, rushing waterfalls, goats on the road blocking our way, deeply-colored fuschia flowers, leaves the size of umbrellas - you name it! What we will remember most about this corner of the world is the incredible hospitality of the people. We never cease to be amazed by the goodness of people.

So, through the rain, the bike issues, the stove issues and the ripio, we are glad to have passed through the Carretera Austral.

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We waited in Coihaique for a new derailleur hanger (not possible to find in South America). A friend sent two of them separately to ensure that at least one made it to us. Nice, right? Perfect, right?

Tauru puts the first one received on the bike.

Problem! Cannondale didn't do a good job in specifying the "exact" hanger for a tandem (versus a regular bike). A tandem needs a 6.51mm width, whereas a regular bike uses a 4.3mm width. Tauru makes the decision to break one side and hopes that the other side will hold at least until Santiago where we'll have the "exact" one sent to us.

Having spent almost two weeks already in Coihaique waiting for the part to arrive, we didn't want to wait another two weeks for the exact part to be sent to us. We found an artisan welder...

Here is the original hanger with Tauru's sketch plan to weld it back together.

He takes a look at it and proposes to make a new one. What? He wants to make a replica from the broken pieces?

The following day, the second piece arrives -- it's not the right size, but it will do as a back up (breaking one side like the one in the photo above). Left is the original, middle is the artisan's replica, and the right one is the new one that is not wide enough. Since the first one is already on the bike (though one side is broken), we decide to ride with it until the other side breaks, then we'll replace it with the artisan's version.

So, after two-and-a-half relaxing weeks with Yolanda and her family in Coihaique, it's time to say "good-bye" and start pushing those pedals again.
(Mary, Tauru, Yolanda and Alex)

Watch out! 2B2R is back on the road!

But our first night out of town had some kinks - our stove malfunctioned in a big way. Tauru tests it again at Jorge's Casa de Ciclistas in Villa Manihuales. Though the stove manages to cook a delicious dinner for 3 (with Max, a cyclist from the States), it gives up right as dinner is ready. PS: Yes, we roll with that massive pot!

Tauru performs surgery on the stove, but the wire inside the hose just will not come out. After 8 years of massive usage, the stove is finally coming to its end.

Time to employ some serious force to yank out the wire.

Time to employ Max's assistance. Good old-fashioned brute force frees the wire, which is all mangled up inside and no longer usable. So the stove now fires without it, which makes keeping the gas heated to vaporize more difficult.

The following day, Jorge gives Tauru a lift back to Coihaique to try to find a new stove. But it was Sunday and most of the town was closed. Tauru did manage to buy some white gas, which is better for the stove than premium gasoline.

Finally - back on the road again! The sun is shining, the road is paved and the bike - well, she thinks she's an "automatic." The chain jumps gears all on its own, and sometimes it just falls off. The chain and the middle front chain ring were well used for the ride across America back in 2009 and from Ushuaia to this point, and so now they are worn beyond normal use. (~5,000 miles)

We wake up in Villa Amengual to rain, lots and lots of rain. So we stay. It rained again the following day, all day! We camp by a church and it's Good Friday. Church music fills the air as we munch on fresh, out-of-the-oven pancitos (little breads) from some grandma's (we call her Grandma Pancito) kitchen. And on the third day (or so), the sun rose again. Rejoice! (We don't like to ride in the rain because Tauru can't see well enough to stay on path.)

Christi takes in the view of Puyuhuapi, a seaside town 90 km north of Villa Amengual.

Another wet night camping by a river in the rain. Christi wonders about her friends back in dry, sunny Arizona.

But as we pedal on, we take in the beautiful views and are reminded of why we are here.

Despite the potholes and puddles...

And then we meet an inspiration. She is 63 and from France. She's been on the road for 14 months, pedaling from Venezuela to Ushuaia despite her muscle problems. Equipped with a puffy coat and a big smile, she is a ray of sunshine in this rainy part of the world.

For now, the bike is content. She takes in the view of the farmhouse as the sun wanes. Where will she sleep tonight?

Another day is done. Rain, more rain. Tomorrow is another day.

This sparsely-populated corner of Chile is pristine. Someday, this may be a paved highway full of trucks and traffic going to mines and dams and, well - it's nice to just enjoy the moment.

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