Only having a short first day after a break is always a great idea and definately something I would advise. Unfortunately (as my former colleagues know) I am awful at heeding my own advice. On January 2nd we left our cosy cabaña in Ancud and began our ride south down the island of Chiloe. Chiloe has a fascinating history with myths and legends that match and we had made a decision to head south down the island to learn more about it not to retrace our steps to Puerto Montt.
As I dismounted to push the bike up yet another gravel hill (this one about 15% according to my GPS) I began to regret that decision. I knew Charly felt this way too given the interesting vocabulary I was hearing behind me (she is great at expressing her dismay without actually swearing). It is a feature of coastal geography I suppose but the endless steep ups and downs were begining to tell on our legs and we wished for a campsite to appear. It didn’t. By the end of the day we had covered 60kms with 900 metres of climbing as we rolled into the tiny town of Quimchi.
Charly pushing up another gravel hill….
There was no supermarket and no campsite…. Luckily we had food with us and a minimarket provided some very processed ham and a bag of crisps to supplement it. Camping was not such an easily solved dilemma but a km or so out of town we found a tiny, not cheap campsite, however it was our only choice and an hour later we were eating pasta and looking forward to a hot shower. As hard as we found the day the attitude of the kids made me smile throughout. Will chatted constantly about the hiking trips we were going to take and the bikes he wanted to have. Izzy pedalled hard up the hills and helped to push when we had to dismount. I sometimes find it difficult to reconcile the hardships the kids face on this trip but it always boils down to a simple fact – they smile everyday.
All of us have also found that the hardship suffered in a day can be immediately wiped out with a beautiful view, a cascading waterfall or a friendly gesture and we experiance these nearly everyday.
Which is faster Charly or an ox cart?
The day of the 3rd of January dawned and we struck camp. The moment I sat back on my saddle told me that my bottom had done the posterior equivilent of 10 rounds with Mike Tyson and that today would be a shorter one. There were however still steep climbs and all 4 of us ended up pushing up some of the hills (now thankfully tarmac). Our legs burned as we tried to ride up successively steeper gradients and the kids made their way up them more slowly with each passing metre. We had earmarked a waterfall to visit on our journey and a second examination of the map seemed to indicate that there may be a campsite there too.
An hour later we were sat shovelling down pasta before strolling to a fantastic cascading waterfall. The bonus was that we had it to ourselves as all the day trippers had gone home, hardship wiped away (almost).
Things come in threes so they say and we needed to find out if it was true so the next morning we set off up the gravel track that led away from the waterfall. Izzy did a great job of riding up the rough surface on her own and this made it possible for Charly and I to ride back to the main road and towards Dalcahue. As predicted the going continued to be tough but only tarmac lay between us, Dalcahue and a day off.
We made it into Dalcahue with tired legs. The sunshine was bright and with Charly having lost her sunglasses we retreated inside for a coffee by the church. Dalcahue church, dedicated to our lady of sorrows, is one of Chiloe’s 16 UNESCO world heritage site churches, is built of wood and uses traditional building techiniques and wooden joints. We have managed to visit several of the churches and were impressed by each one of them. It also brought to mind ‘Trigger’s broom’ each church has been rebuilt or restored many times with as much as 80% of the wood being replaced each time. They are still beautiful, colourfully painted and showing a high degree of skill and craftmanship.
En route to Achao church
The knave of Achao church.
Adze marks in the floor boards.
Camping was easily found by asking at the nearest ‘hospadaje’ (bead and breakfast of sorts) and being allowed to camp behind the house. There were hot showers, the luxury of a fridge, and soon we were on our way to the supermarket for provisions. On our way back we met two French cycle tourists and after chatting for a time they followed us back to the campsite. We chatted a little more about planned routes, ate our meal of soupy rice beany thing, had a hot shower and crawled into our sleeping bags.
The next morning came all too soon though the chance for a bus ride and a day off the bike to recover was welcome, as was a lack of stairs climb and no hills to work our way up.
Next time we start a tour, or restart after a break, we will ease ourselves back in gently; I promise…..
The headline stats for Chiloe are:
Distance ridden – 250 km
Height gain – 3805 m
Beers of 2019 – 0
Days ridden – 6
Rest days – 2
Mean daily distance – 41.7 km
Mean daily height gain – 634.7 m
Number of times Charly has said ‘next time you are doing this on your own’ – too many to count….
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