After a relatively short, but beautiful ride we arrived in Cochrane, a small, sleepy town lying in amongst the mountains. The air was fresh, cool and clean with not a breath of wind in sight. Whilst parked on the side of the road looking for a hostel, we were approached by a friendly, kind-looking lady who introduced herself as Trudy. She told us that she had just started up a hostel, with ample parking and really wanted us to pop in and have a look. The place was beautiful, warm and homely. She had just recently inherited the house from her estranged husband, and being alone, she had refurbished it and converted it into a hostel for the sake of company. We loved our stay at ‘Hostal Central’ and thoroughly enjoyed Trudy’s company and hospitality, we will be sure to post a review with all the details as soon as possible.
While in Cochrane, we made a day trip out to the tiny, quirky town of Tortel. The road was once again… beautiful… We traveled past snowy mountains, dense forest and jungle, and peaceful, shady meadows. Through one of these roads through dense, remote and unpopulated jungle, I had been riding at an obviously awesome speed along the empty dirt roads, when out of nowhere, what was standing in the road but a small ginger kitten, looking straight at me with no intention of getting out of the way. Now remember there are no people for miles on end at this point, so seeing a cute ginger kitten in the middle of the jungle, staring up at my war-machine, which was rapidly approaching the speed of sound, was confusing to say the least. I think both of us were equally as confused. At this point, the thought goes through your mind: Do I swerve? Do I try and just brake? Maybe I should do what everyone has always taught me to do: Save myself, keep on going and just hope it gets out of the way. I considered all of the above before deciding promptly: “Nope. I can’t kill a kitten” I just didn’t have it in me. I went with the ‘brake hard and hold on tight and try not to shit yourself’ option. Luckily the little kitten woke up and bounced back out of the road and into the jungle, never to be seen again.
Tortel is a lumber town, and what makes it so special is that the whole place is completely devoid of roads. The whole town is made up of a series of wooden walkways, either on stilts over the water, or on the sides of steep hills with stairs to match. Only recently, was a road built into the town, previously it was only accessible by boat, so its authenticity still resounds.
Next stop up was Puerto Tranquilo, the home of the marble cables. Now, you’re going to get pretty tired of the saying this, but the road there… wow… The Carretera Austral was fast becoming the most amazing road I have ever had the pleasure to lay two wheels on, and this stretch was one of the best. The road traveled alongside a turquoise-blue, glacier-melt river, in-between snowy mountains, and on bridges in-between multiple lakes, with amazing views out over the whole glorious mess of it. I don’t think we ever actually wanted to reach our destination for the night the whole time we were on this road, riding it was always just so much better than a any destination could be.
In Puerto Tranquilo it had been suggested that we stay with a local guy by the name of Manuel. Manuel had a house on the shore and was in charge of all the boats heading out to the Marble Caves, so it was said he would also get us a cheap trip. After just arriving in town, Megan told the police at a roadblock, in broken Spanish, that she was drinking white wine from her Camelback whilst riding. Luckily we didn’t land up in jail, but the cops thought it was hilarious and merely waved us through and directed us to Manuel’s house. The stay didn’t promise to be fancy, and we didn’t expect it to be. The plan was to camp in his backyard for a small fee, that we had arranged beforehand. The suggestion turned out to be a bit of a lemon. Manuel, although very welcoming, was a bit lecherous, always trying to get Megan to stay and just being way too ‘friendly’. He also ended up charging us double what we agreed on, we paid the normal rate for a boat tour, and the awkwardness was tangible when we had to share his small bathroom and kitchen in his tiny house. Overall it was actually a pleasant stay, but we were happy to hit the road again.
We had been recommended another place along the Carretera after this, and we wanted to give it a shot. The place was ‘Camping Los Torres Del Simpson’, and although slightly out of the way, seemed worth it from what we had heard, and what an understatement that was. After a long, cold, wet ride we arrived at the campsite. Situated in a beautiful valley, next to the Simpson river, and surrounded by massive, imposing, “Jurassic-Park-old” mountains that shoot straight up into the sky. They end up looking like massive green walls because of just how staggeringly steep they are. It was a very humbling landscape.
Las Torres Del Simpson was definitely one of the best places we have camped on the trip. The campsite is in a beautifully built central area with awesome amenities. It is based on his small, family-run organic farm where Nacho and his wife Sandra showed us how to grow organic vegetables in a greenhouse, and raise sheep amongst other things. We were even welcomed into his home, where he taught us how to properly prepare and drink Mate as well as all the tradition behind it. We had such an amazing, relaxing time we didn’t want to leave. We got to walk and play with his two lambs he keeps as pets, and we spent some time getting drunk on Chilean wine around the fire and playing Pink Floyd together on the two guitars he keeps. We were sent off with a delicious, hot, home made bread from Sandra which I’m proud to say, didn’t even make it off the farm due to it’s scrumptiousness. What a stay. Anybody going through the area needs to stay at this awesome, kind, and welcoming place, definitely a highlight of the trip.
With a pile of suggestions from Nacho, and two new Chilean Maps complete with crib-notes we headed out on the Carretera once more, the ever-changing beauty of the road welcoming us with a boatload more in store
Part 2 of the Carretera Austral to follow shortly!