Cochrane to Puerto Tranquillo (Chile)

Day 1 Cochrane to Puerto Bertrand

We started with a spring in our step, as we knew the weather for the day ahead would be good. We jumped on our bikes and headed off (although we walked through most of town as Vanessa was a little worried about some of the stray dogs). Once on the dirt track Carretera we passed a small mongrel with a collar. As we were moving uphill at little more than walking pace it took a liking to us and decided to follow, which it managed to do for almost 10km! We tried cycling faster to shake it off but it was a swift little thing. Luckily for us, a large downhill section came up and we sped off, hoping to loose ‘Loco’ (Vanessa had already named him), we had almost done so, with the galloping ‘Loco’ disappearing from our rear view mirrors, when we passed a lone cyclist heading in the opposite direction. We had time only to shout ‘Bon dia’ as we zoomed past but we knew that plucky ‘Loco’ would now have a new friend who would take him back towards home.

Vanessa and co
The views on this section were incredible, every corner was more breathtaking than the next. Hills/mountains were in abundance and we felt every one. They were challenging in many ways, with the rough, loose rocks and steep sections but so rewarding (especially with litttle snacks at the top of each large climb…food is always a good incentive).

Overlooking Rio Baker

We cycled 48km on undulating terrain but the scenery really made up for the constent climbs. Another cyclist going in the opposite direction (Brazilian dude) raved about a tranqil wild camping spot next to the ultra blue Rio Baker, 1km before Puerto Bertrand. We decided this would be our aim for the day and, with only 8km left, we pushed on. We also checked on the iOverlander app and this confirmed the spot. Once there, we were pleased with the location and the impressive fast flowing river. Vanessa wondered around the site, whilst Jon put the tent up. Vanessa came back, and said ‘I’m sure the tent and bikes up there are Marie and Miguels’. Jon promptly went to investigate and agreed that it was indeed their stuff. So we left a note for our reunited friends.

The sun was still shinning and as we were only 1km away from the village of Rio Bertrand, we jumped on our bikes (now without panniers) and headed there hoping to find somewhere to buy an ice cream. The quaint pocket of houses along the lake was just what we were looking for.

Puerto Bertrand
Vanessa cycled down to the water front, whilst Jon popped into the local shop, and found our friends (Miguel and Marie) lying down reading. We hugged and chatted about the past few days adventures whilst eating a cornetto. They also introduced us to an Australian solo cyclist ‘Mike’ (hailing from South Melbourne) whose reputation had preceded him on the road as other cyclists had mentioned him and the fact that, all up, he had spent the last 5 years on the move. Lucky we did, as after speaking to him and to Miguel and Marie, we decided to alter our travel plans for the following day and, instead of cycling the 20km shorter route 265 to Chille Chico (which apparently has some of the worst roads and steepest climbs imaginable) and the boat north towards Coyhaique, we would stay on the longer Carretera Austral route via Puerto Tranquillo and Villa Cerro Castillo, where the road was ‘relatively’ kinder.

On the return to camp, we met another fellow camper called Sammy who had lived in this spot for 3 months and was planning on staying for the winter (very brave). We lit a fire, cooked and had a few drinks before bed.

With the campsite’s longest standing resident
Day 2 Puerto Bertrand to Puerto Tranquillo

Waking up and venturing outside was a little more challenging than usual. The temperature was unusually frosty and all four of us found packing up, eating breakfast and generally getting ready a little difficult. However we had a magnificent view of the early morning mist rising over the thunderous Rio Baker to warm us up.

Early morning mist over Rio Baker

Once fed and packed we cycled off, stopping in Puerto Bertrand briefly to drop off our accumulated garbage from the previous day’s meal.

The sun was trying to make an appearance and the hills were in abundance, so before long we all stopped to take a few layers off.

Lago Buenos Aires/ General Carrera
The usual dirt roads lay ahead but thankfully in good condition which meant that we could get some speed up when going down hills. We cycled past the impressive Lago Bertrand and even more impressive Lago General Carrera/Buenos Aires (2nd largest lake in South America after Titicaka, and jointly shared between Chile and Argentina), some huge snow capped mountain ranges and we were able to take a replacement cover photo for our blog as we had borrowed one from the Internet until we were able to take one ourselves, (coincidently it transpired that Marie and Miguel had ‘borrowed’ the exact same photo for their blog cover!) of us cycling holding hands with the mountain range as a back drop.

Official cover photo

We made good progress and decided to have lunch near one of the lakes before heading up a rather large climb. This was a good choice, as the sun was shining and we had already cycled 35km.

The next section was really flat for a few kilometres before heading up a 420 metre climb.

Unfortunately at one stage we reached what we thought was the top of a hill and high fived each other, only to realise that the bigger climb was actually still to come.

Hill climbing
Once these climbs were conquered,we had only 8km downhill left before teaching the small town of Puerto Tranquillo, however the roads were shocking, corregated, rocky and just generally really poor, meaning the downhill ride was far from relaxing and certainly not ‘tranquil’.

Once in town we were relieved with the the concrete roads but initially unimpressed with the line of huts along the lakeside selling tours and blocking the incredible views. We bumped into another two Australian cyclists Brendan and Gina who recommended a campground not too far away. We cycled to the campground, pitched our tent, then headed for the nearest town pub. Vanessa was particularly hungry and went for the biggest veggie option possible.

Guess who’s hungry?