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Published: January 30th 2018
Today I was invited into someone’s kitchen for lunch. I arrived at Villa Amengual (some 90 km South of Puyuhuapi) around lunch time and drove round the plaza asking for gas. The tanks at the station had run dry in Puyuhuapi last night before I could refill, and I was running low. I walked up to a little grocery store and a woman called out from inside asking what I wanted. “Nope, no gas to be had. Are you hungry?” “Yes!” “Come in and have some lunch. We have some soup on the stove, and the ñoquis are ready.” “Sounds good to me, where do I go?” “Hey, come into the kitchen. We are all in there and we can talk.” So I did. The road had been awful – a wet slippery gravel climb through the rain forest, over a range and down into this valley – and I was ready for something. I sat in the kitchen while the owner of the store, her daughter and another woman cooked the meal. Turns out they also fed lunch to a 5 man construction crew, so adding me in was no problem. I ate like a child compared to them. They
talked about how in winter the road freezes over. There is little traffic on the Carretera Austral at that time of year, so no one clears it. They just have to hunker down and keep the fires burning.
The road itself is constantly changing. Chile’s Carretera Austral (the Southern Highway) was built years ago to connect the little villages in this remote part of the mainland. It rains so much the highway has to be constantly maintained, and even so it is hard to drive. So there is a program underway to pave it. The work has proceeded quickly in the valleys. Yesterday and today I had sections of fast winding pavement with little traffic. But when it comes time to cross a ridge or get in close to a cliff, the sections are under construction – which means the traffic is shunted off on a gravel road paralleling construction. Recently made, these gravel roads have deep layers of loose gravel which has not yet been plastered down into a hard base. This kind of gravel, akin to riding on loose marbles, is the toughest for two wheelers like mine. The rules of riding in loose gravel are: don’t
Entrance to German Hostel
where I spent the night at Puyuhuapi
use the brakes, don’t make a sudden move, and don’t lean (i.e. turn). These conditions are very constraining. The safest way to ride is standing up, using very gentle acceleration and braking (ABS turned off!) and keeping the bike as vertical as possible, even when turning. Tricky, tiring, but feasible. You’ve got to be comfortable standing in the pegs for a long time. I am used to it now. If you forget to turn off the ABS, you find you can’t stop. The ABS thinks the rolling gravel is slick pavement, and allows the wheel to continue to turn, as it is designed to do… and you end up in the ditch, or on your side as I did once years ago.
There was even a ferry ride today, where I met a couple of Canadians from Calgary on big bikes doing the tour. One of them had driven all the way from Canada, so we swapped stories. So many motorcycle tourists. This is clearly a standard route for the biker set. Met more of us at the "Hanging Glacier" stop -- a man from Nottingham and a couple from Australia who had been traveling for a year round
Africa and Europe. They confessed their bike was their home and they couldn't bear to part with it. Made me feel bad about renting...
Tot: 1.745s; Tpl: 0.024s; cc: 10; qc: 61; dbt: 0.0176s; 1; m:saturn w:www (220.127.116.11); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb