Section 8, part 2: The Lake District

Day 99: Concepcion to Renaico, 131k

It was a grey and humid morning. Leaving a major city is always stressful, luckily today was not too bad. There was a network of bike lanes on the major roads, which made navigating much easier. We crossed over the Bio Bio River and then road along side it for 50k. IMG_3304The road was not in great shape and difficult to maneuver around potholes. Traffic was very busy and not very respectful so the lovely views of the tree shaded road was wasted on concentrating on not dying. And of course there was a headwind.

The road turned to head more south around 55k and the traffic seemed to let up a little, however logging trucks and busses still buzzed by. The land turned back to farming land and I actually was able to enjoy the sprawling green vistas as the day progressed. The sun burned through the clouds and I was surprised how much this lightened my mood.

As we approached the last largish city for the day, traffic picked up significantly. Plus there were a few factories in the town creating even more traffic. And more headwind.

IMG_3306I tried to focus on the hundred of different wildflowers along the road, or the beautiful horses in the pastures, but the traffic was just frustrating. At a few points in the day I decided that if the traffic and/or road conditions continue, I’m just going to rent a car and drive to Puerto Montt, our next rest day.

I finally made it to our camp, a riverside camp ground in a small town. I hope tomorrow is better…

Day 100: Renaico to Cholchol, 135k

Slept great but still could have used a few more hours of sleep. We had more traffic to battle on the road so I wanted to get going early. The sun was out which was a nice start the day. We had to ride on the same busy highway for 18k, it wasn’t too bad since there was a wide shoulder for the duration. IMG_3308At 4k we rode past a windmill farm, it has been interesting to see renewable energy used so much in all of South America. I have seen solar panels on the roofs of the most remote homes and a few random windmills.

At 18k we passed through a very questionable intersection, 4 lanes of divided traffic and 2 lanes trying to cross. I basically held my breath and went for it after waiting a few minutes in the non stop cross traffic. The road narrowed but was still busy with logging trucks. Everyone was under the impression that traffic would let up. We passed along rolling hills of green pastures, trees, and wild flowers. I can’t get over the hundreds of different flowers along the road and today was the creme de la creme!

Around 45k, a few of us stopped in a small town for coffee. Nescafe has been very popular in South America, but Chile has proudly advertised it in all the small shops. Ugh. Unfortunately the town only served Nescafe, I was chilly still and needed a warm up. As soon as we left this town, the traffic died down significantly and the scenery was absolutely stunning with more rolling pastures and wild flowers. The fields were actually sprawling wild flowers, a dream like vision. fullsizeoutput_9ebOur lunch was positioned at the top of a hill and the wildflowers were so stunning, it was like the farmer had planted them that way.

After lunch, we rode through periodic rain showers and the rolling hills became bigger. I would warm up during the climb up but then freeze on the descent. I never really warmed up today, which is not normal, and the rain only made me more cold.

By time I reached camp, basically someones backyard, I was so cold and soaked I put on all my cold camp layers; fleece pants, wool socks, wool t-shirt, fleece jacket, down jacket, knit hat. After our tent was set, I called into my sleeping bag for a nap. I was warmer after, but still not completely warm until I sat in the sun for an hour. I hope this is not a precursor for the remaining days, but these beautiful flowers need to grow somehow!

Day 101: Cholchol to Villarica, 145k

A chilly and cloudy morning with a long day ahead. Rain was in the forecast later in the day. IMG_3317The ride started out peaceful and quiet. Traffic was almost nonexistent and the sun peaking over the distant mountains. I enjoyed the solace until the other riders started whizzing by, starting out way too fast for the day.

The terrain was very similar to what we have been riding, rural rolling hills and small villages. IMG_3318After riding for 30 minutes the traffic started picking up and more locals were on the side of the road waiting for their ride into town for work or school. The rain started around then and continued showers for most of the day. After 20k, traffic slowed significantly and we started on intermittent dirt rollers for 20k. I enjoyed the dirt because it was quiet and the views were pretty. Although, I have to concentrate more on dirt to stay upright. At some points, I was going too fast downhill, my entire body was gyrating and I could not see straight. A little scary, but I remained unscathed. I passed several of the speedsters from the morning on the gravel.

The landscapes were lacking in wildflowers today and not that interesting. It reminded me a lot of riding in Ohio. Since the weather was miserable, all I could think about was being home and wanting to take a hot shower and curl up on the couch under a blanket with a hot drink. At this point in the trip, homesickness and resignation are a daily battle.

At 72k, I arrived at the lunch bus. I was so cold and exhausted I could barely think straight. I internally debated whether or not to continue riding, the next town had a lot of turns and you need to have your wits to focus and navigate safely. Luckily, the dinner bus had arrived late from picking up riders who had missed turns earlier, and I was able to catch a ride to camp, with several others.

Camp was in a bustling tourist town on a lake. However our camp was at a pathetic excuse of a camp ground, a tiny gravel area not even large enough for everyone to set up tents. Luckily, there were cabanas across the street to rent. I booked one with 2 bedrooms that slept 6. IMG_3325Bruce and I had 4 wet and dreary fellow riders join us in the bunk room. The owner of the cabanas started the fire place for us and gave extra wood for the evening, what a saint! The living area was draped with wet clothes and soggy shoes, at least our clothes will be dry in the morning.

Several of us explored the town before dinner. We found a bakery for pastries and coffee. Then a bar for a few beers. Dinner was at a local pizza restaurant and it was delicious. I am glad the tour chef had a break for the evening since he spent more than half the day picking up riders along the road.

I am also very thankful to have a warm and dry bed to sleep in tonight after a freezing day.

Day 102: Villarica to Los Lagos, 120k

The morning started out cold and damp, but no rain. I put on more layers to prevent getting too cold again. There was not any rain in the forecast but it was still going to be cold and partly sunny. Leaving Villarica, we started on a busy highway that was a consistent climb for 10k gaining 300m. Trucks were buzzing by and it was cold, I could only hope the day would get better. Eventually the traffic slowed and we turned onto a smaller highway, this was the Red Interlagos scenic highway. It’s a series of roads that take you to the different lakes in the region. The scenery was tree lined and rolling pastures, more like riding in rural Ohio. One of the other women on the tour joined me for the day, It was nice having someone to chat with throughout the ride.

IMG_3326We entered a small town on a lake around 25k, and turned onto a small country road that continued around the lake. It was serene and light traffic, we were ablate ride side by side for most of this road. We had views of the lake from the beautiful lake homes along the road.

We turned onto another road that was more narrow  but took us past beautifully tree lined roads and manicured fundos, or ranches. The livestock in Chile have been beautifully cared for, a major difference form other countries we have ridden through.

Lunch was in another lakeside town. This was quaint with wooden Alpine style buildings with ample shops and cafes. IMG_3328The lunch bus was parked along the lake and we had a small view of a volcano peaking through the clouds. I was freezing once again but continued on, several of us stopped for a cappuccino at a cafe before leaving the town. It was a nice treat, although the smallest cappuccino I have ever had.

We continued through more small roads with rolling pastures and trees for the majority of the afternoon. It was a lovely ride and absolutely redeemed the traffic and weather from the previous day.

IMG_3331At 95k we passes the Rio San Pedro, it was the most beautiful river have ever seen. The water was a brilliant turquoise color, it looked like ocean water not river water. We stooped on the bridge for several minutes  relishing in the beauty.

There were several climbs after the river, and I was starting to get tired. The wind picked up to and of course we were riding into it. The last 25k were really just pushing through to camp.

The last 5k to camp was on a dirt road that I knew we would have to back track on in the morning, I love dirt, but when I’m tired and its really not necessary, I get annoyed. I told Bruce that there better be hot showers and freshly washed puppies ready to snuggle at camp. Where we arrived, it was a nice camp with lots of flowering bushes and trees. IMG_3333Also a stunning overlook of the river and mountains in the distance, it reminded me of the Smokey Mountains. Also, the camp proprietor was playing American country music which made me think we were in Tennessee even more. fullsizeoutput_9e3There were 2 dachshund dogs, but they did not want snuggles, I tried…



Day 103: Los Lagos to Lago Ranco, 90k

A cold and damp morning to start, however the sun was rising over the mountains. We did have to backtrack 5k on the gravel, I hammered through which is easier when your legs have had some rest. We rode on a narrow country road for 40k, it was treelined and pretty, but lots of disrespectful drivers. The road turned into a 1% grade of increased elevation, which is just enough to make you work harder and be frustrated why your going so slow!IMG_3338 After a long and winding descent the road opened up and you could see slight views of the Andes beyond the pastures. It was mostly cloudy, but a few peaks were visible.

Soon we tuned onto another road that wound around a lake. This was absolutely beautiful, I would love to come back here during summer. Beautiful farms that had to have been over 100 years old were placed along the coast of the lake. IMG_3340There were also small villages with shops and beautiful vacation homes. We stopped at a closed beach to get a view of the lake close up. It was very clean and clear. The mountains on the other side the lake must be astonishing when its a clear day.

We continued along this quiet rolling road for most of the day. IMG_3346Lunch was set up at a mirador over a river pulling form the lake. The water was the stunning turquoise color that I had seen previously.

It was only 15k to our camp from lunch, so we hammered it and was finished 12:30.

Camp was at a lake side camping ground on the side of the hill.There were cabanas available so Bruce and I snagged one, especially since it was going rain. The cabanas very nice, the best part was the wood burning stove next to a couch and massive picture windows viewing the lake. IMG_3349After walking through town looking for bakeries and snacks I was happy to relax next to the fire. I found an extra blanket and made hot cocoa. My dream for the last few days had come true!



Day 104: Lago Ranco to Puerto Octay, 138k

After some R&R and a fantastic night’s sleep, I was ready to tackle another long day. It wasn’t as cold this morning and the sun was shining so I started feeling great! We climbed up and out of town and through rural areas. Nothing spectacular, more rural areas similar to Ohio. IMG_3357 We passed through some lovely tree lined areas with lush green pastures on either side. And traffic was nonexistent!

We did get to enjoy 20k of rolling gravel roads that wound through small villages. Ironically, there was more traffic on the small gravel road than there was on the quiet paved highway with a bike lane that was the road before. Although I don’t go as fast on the gravel, I still really enjoy it.

We turned back on to a busy highway that barely had a shoulder so for 15k it was stressful.  I was getting tired and my bum was hurting, I was not sure if I was going to make int through the day, all I wanted was an espresso but no cafes around!!! IMG_3360When we descend down to another lake there was a mirador with a pictograph pointing out where 4 volcanos where located along the lake, unfortunately, there were too many clouds to see them today. Continuing on, once we moved away from the lake again the clouds opened and all of a sudden you could see a brilliant white triangle in the sky!!! fullsizeoutput_9c0It was Osorno Volcano, the further we rode the more you could see. I stopped to take several photos along the way and of course the beauty is not captured on my iPhone.

Although I only had 10k left by time I reached the last major turn for the day, I was absolutely exhausted. The wind picked up, and we have had headwind in every direction all day!!!! I stopped to take another picture of the volcano and a local roadie passed me without saying anything. Jerk. I continued on and was ganging on the rider. He looked back and sped up. Game on! I chased him down all the way to town, 5k of steep climbs and descent. I do not know where this energy came from! He kept looking over his shoulder and I kept getting closer. At the top of a hill was a beautiful view of the town and the lake. One part of me wanted to stop for a picture, the other part was being super competitive. I continued hammering. Once in  the town plaza I almost passed him, then realized I needed to slow down and figure out where I need to go for camp. I was toast at that point! I walked into a shop to buy a Coke, chips and candy, I was ready to pass out!! Luckily, camp was about 1 kilometer away.

Our camp was a municipal camp along the lake. No great views but it had the necessary ammenities. I devoured my snacks and ate more that Bruce had picked up. All the riders discussed the abnormal amounts of food they had consumed today. We agreed that is was because of the cold weather and long stretch of riding without a break.

Day 105: Puerto Octay to Puerto Montt, 85k

A short day into a rest day, which means late wake up! Breakfast was served an hour later to keep people from getting to the hotel before rooms were ready. IMG_3367I was grateful for the extra sleep. After packing my gear, I went to unlock bikes and was greeted by a giant pile of bird shit on my bike saddle. Awesome way to start the morning. It was still wet so it was easy, although disgusting, to clean off and the birds were singing/mocking me the whole time. I told myself this meant it was good luck…

We had an initial climb away from the lake back into the hills. A good way to get the heart pumping and warmup early. Bruce and I actually rode together today. We entered into the rolling farm country again. IMG_3372The beautiful tree lined roads, rolling pastures and happy animals. The homes and farms have been reflecting German architecture lately the more further south we ride. This region is very populated with German expats.

The majority off the ride was along the Llanquihue Circuit highway, circulating the Llanquihue Lake. Probably my favorite highway in the Lake district, the roads were challenging and beautiful and the towns were quaint. The best was the signs along the road to welcome cyclist. Again, another place I would like to visit in peak season.

The first town wintered was Frutillar. The initial part of the town was very similar to other South American cities, however there was bakery. Several bikes from fellow riders were already parked there so we joined them. IMG_3370The bakery case was filled with beautiful cakes and they had espresso! I enjoyed an apple pie struddel and Bruce had chocolate cake. After finishing our treats we continued through the town which was much larger than I assumed. We descended down to the lake where there was a lively water front district with even more cafes, restaurants, and hotels. I wish we had held out for one of these cafes.

IMG_3373One section of road had very steep climbs. We encountered an 18% grade for at least 200m. I ground up the almost vertical climb, cursing the whole way.

We continued to the city of Llanquihue, which was a little more industrial than Frutillar. We navigated around the one way streets and over the major highways before hitting a gravel road for 5k of up hill and into a headwind. This gravel road was also the most traffic we had encountered so far in the day. Eventually we made our way back to the paved road and entered another quaint lakeside town of  Puerto Varas, a popular tourist town. This place was fantastic. IMG_3378The volcanos were breaking through the clouds across the lake so we stopped for pictures and noticed the beautiful hotels, restaurants, and shops. We only had 20k left for the day and wondered why we weren’t staying in this town.

As we got closer to Puerto Montt, the roads become very busy and the wind picked up significantly. After 7 days and over 800 kilometers I was ready for a rest day.

When we reached the hotel, we were immediately disappointed with the rooms. They were small and lacking any comfort. The bathroom had broken floor tiles that predicted cut feet and the shower walls were covered in mold. And the wifi was slow or not working. It would be fine for one night but for 3 nights this is horrible. Bruce and I decided to just go back to Puerto Varas and stay at a nicer hotel.

IMG_3383We made the right choice because our hotel overlooked the lake and we did not have a bad meal at any of the many restaurants in town.The best was the discovery of a local microbrewery that made an delicious IPA.


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