DAY 778 - WHITE DAYS
Day 778 - Coyhaique, Carreterra Austral, Chile - 18195 km
After some extremely wet days it got colder and the rain turned to snow. Sophie and Jeremy cross me again, first in Ecuador, later again in Peru and we cycled together from Mendoza to Santiago de Chile. They stayed on route in Chile while I did a small loop through Argentina. In Coyhaique, the last town of reasonable size we stock up with a lot of food. Restaurants and stores are becoming thinly spread on the Carretera Austral as we venture further south.
The temperature has dropped quite a bit and we leave our shared cabaña entering a light pack of snow. We're happy to say goodbye to the miserable days of rain of the past weeks. This is the winter we hoped to sea. White fields under blue skies. I enjoy sharing the road together. It’s not so much the riding together – one of us is often ahead or behind. I'm usually behind because I stop more often for photos. But it's being in touch with other riders on the road, taking lunch and coffee breaks together and sharing camp or a cabin was gives me energy. So many times I had a silent wish this journey was over. There seemed to be nothing new to it and I was fed up and bored with daily grind end the endless cycling. Now I'm enjoying it again.
Ahead of us lies the highest climb of the Carreterra Austral at 1200m. I make a stop in a guesthouse, because I need to charge my drone batteries. Sophie and Jeremy move on to set up camp somewhere. I will meet them tomorrow again. The next day I reach the pass on my own. It's a beautiful sunny day with a thick pack of snow. It’s fairly easy rideable because cars have flattened it. Only on the downhills I have to be precocious to not slide off the road.
I'm not sure how cold it is. It must be well under zero because the rear brake cable is stuck in its housing. If I squeeze the brake it stays in place and slowly releases. On the last down hill a perfect curly road rolls out in the valley. The sun has already set and I need to be quick to fly up the drone. The temperature drops rapidly, batteries can fail anytime now. My hands are freezing as I hold the remote controle. I fly up quickly to do some clicks and return the drone before my hands go numb. I put the pogies on my handle bar and swing wildly with my arms to let warm blood flow back to my finger tips. It works and I'm ready for the downhill. Painstaking slow I make my way down. It's completely dark now and it's difficult to judge how slippery the road actually is. I might be able to go faster but I don't want to risk a fall right now.
An hour later I arrive in Villa Cerro Castillo. Sophie and Jeremy should be here somewhere, but I don't know where and there s no wifi anywhere. Most of the hostels appear to be closed for winter. After a few blocks circling around and asking I end up at the last hostel which has cabañas. Surprisingly they are here, Sophie is making pancakes while Jeremy is firing up the wood burner. It couldn’t be better timing.