Back in the pre Covid times of March, I was getting ready to head north from Santiago after a pleasant 10 days on the coast of central Chile. My hosts had earlier suggested a trip to Easter Island, but the prices were a bit too high to justify. The day before my planned departure, I was told that there were some good deals going. Prices had suddenly dropped to a reasonable level and I decided to head to Rapanui and the famous Moai.
Early one Friday morning, I got a lift to Santiago airport for an early flight west out over the Pacific Ocean. The beginning of a fascinating and memorable trip; one to add to the list of awesome things done and/or seen so far on my South American odyssey.
Easter Island or Rapa Nui, or Isla de Pascua in Spanish is an island and special territory of Chile in the south eastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania. Easter Island is most famous for its nearly 1,000 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapa Nui people. In 1995, UNESCO named Easter Island a World Heritage Site, with much of the island protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
Easter Island is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world. The nearest inhabited land (around 50 residents in 2013) is Pitcairn Island, 2,075 kilometres (1,289 mi) away; the nearest town with a population over 500 is Rikitea, on the island of Mangareva, 2,606 km (1,619 mi) away; the nearest continental point lies in central Chile, 3,512 kilometres (2,182 mi) away.
It is a gem of a place…after 5 ½ hours of flying, a small rock appears from nowhere and after several months of arid, brown landscapes the lush green tropics are a welcome sight.
There isn’t much to Rapanui, a mere 63 square miles and a highest point of 1,663 ft, it is easily traversed by car and can be done in a day in theory.
I spent 4 days/nights there and loved every minute. I managed to do all the sights by bike which I rented for the duration. I climbed an extinct volcano on day 2 (Rano Kau) and cycled round the island on day two (approximately 33 miles).
The journey around the island was easily done in a day and took in the quarry (Rana Raraku) where the Moai were sculpted and Ahu Tongariki, probably the most impressive and most recognizable of the island’s Moai.
I visited the alleged landing site of the first Polynesians to arrive, Anakena, a beautiful beach.
I really enjoyed my time and would recommend a visit to anyone who should find themselves in Chile. I would like to have stayed a bit longer to take in some diving and fishing, but 4 days is enough.
There are plenty of really good restaurants which are expensive for Chile but the food was really top-quality, in fact, it was some of the best I’ve had, and as the resorts are all west facing, some glorious sunsets for no extra price.
I managed to get one of the last flights off the island, a couple of days before the island went into lock down. It will have really devasted the economy, but I suppose no more so than in many places.
Temuco to Santiago.
After meandering from Chile to Argentina and back through the lakes region, I have decided to hit the motorway – the main north south Ruta 5 (2,150 miles or 3,364km in distance) and get some miles (or kilometres) under my belt. Temuco to Santiago is approximately 680km or 425 miles. I followed the motorway along the hard shoulder which was generally ok apart from crossing bridges which tended not to have any shoulder, so it was a case of looking over my shoulder and, on finding a gap in traffic, pedalling like mad. The main enemy was the double length trucks carrying logs…bar stewards most of them. The route hugs the pre cordillera a range before the Andes proper but due to dust and/or pollution, they aren’t very visible.
The motorway was fast travel as I was able to average 20-25kmh, which is a huge uplift from the 6-8kmh on the gravel mountain roads.
I passed through Temuco, Victoria, Los Angeles, Cabrero, Chillan, Parral, Linares, Talca, Curico, Rengo and Rancagua before reaching central Santiago. Most of these places are uninspiring, some pleasant some less so. As I travelled through the region, I passed through huge agricultural areas of fruit production, refrigeration storage facilities and vineyards.
Here are some photos…
How close to the motorway would you like your table, sir?
The only thing to happen to me of note was being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Rancagua. On the way back to my B&B after dinner one night I got caught up in an anti-government protest and got tear gassed by the police! Worth avoiding…
Well, what can I say? A major milestone for me. I have arrived in Santiago and it feels great. Nearly 4,000km completed now! Oddly, 3,700 km passed without any bike problems and suddenly in the space of 75km, I’ve had 3 punctures!
I had planned to stay a few days only but, unfortunately, my infected toe got worse and I have ended up spending nearly 3 weeks in Santiago after the full treatment: anti-biotics, X-rays and an MRI scan. No bone infection, just a chunky bill! Still, better to check out the problem.
Santiago is not as interesting as Buenos Aires but still has a few attractions which are easily done in 4/5 days. Chilean food is ok but bland unlike its neighbour Peru, for example. Wine is good and it is interesting to see the choice locally compared to the Chilean wine that is imported to the UK.
It is a bit polluted as it lies in a valley surrounded by the Andes to the east and the coastal mountains to the west and air gets trapped. It is also very hot as a result, with temperatures usually between 33-36c every day.
Once you’ve been to the top of Cerro San Cristobal, Sky Costanera and a few museums, there isn’t much happening. I should point out that January and February are peak summer holiday months and the city is much quieter.
The district that I was quite well developed but not too claustrophobic…every now and then you come across the old and the new.
I cycled up Cerro San Cristobal 4 times. It is a hill in the centre approximately 500m high. A 5km climb which took me about 35-40 minutes was very enjoyable as there is limited traffic and slightly cleaner air!
I managed to meet up with the Santiago Hash House Harriers on my final Sunday. It was a fun day out and a BBQ and a few beers went down extremely well.
Here are two of my favourite baristas from the café on the block – it has been great to get proper coffee after a long time without it.
A clean bill of health has been confirmed and I am heading west towards Valparaiso and the coast (120km away).
Summer has definitely arrived in Patagonia, with temperatures in the 25-35c range. After a great time in Buenos Aires eating good food and drinking good wine, coupled with some touristy bits, I am back on the road.
I left Bariloche and followed Lake Nahuel Huapi to Villa La Angostura, another lovely alpine town on the lake and where I had a great afternoon with Brazilian law people and Paraguayan bikers, and then north to San Martin de los Andes situated on Lake Lacar, and my first problem with the Gladosaurus (albeit a minor one). Sorted the issue and the followed the north western side of lake Lacar to the Chilean border and then another ferry from Pirihueico to Puerto Fuy. I cracked the invite to the bridge of the ferry and passed the trip with the Captain and so had a comfortable journey with a great view! Puerto Fuy to Panguipulli to Villarrica and that is 3,000km done. I am now in Temuco and have decided to head to the coast and travel north along it towards Santiago.
More to come soon…oh, the Just Giving fund has almost hit £2,500. Thank you so much to all who have donated.
I have arrived in Puerto Montt on the 7th December. PM is the end of my Carretera Austral journey. I have mixed feelings as I will miss the CA. So much space, amazing scenery and so few people. It has been an unforgettable experience which pushed me to my limits in places and left me wondering what on earth I am doing! Yet each tough section has been more than compensated for by the fantastic views, sights and people that I have met.
I travelled with two English girls from Puyuhuapi (a beautiful fishing village on a fjord). For a couple of hundred km and we passed through a place called Villa Santa Lucia which was more or less wiped out by a landslide in December 2017, caused by the land below the glaciers slipping…after leaving VSL we faced a 10 km climb which seemed never ending. The descent was just fantastic, no pedalling for 8km. We stopped and spent the night by a river fed by yet another glacier.
We parted ways at Chaiten. I continued to Puerto Montt after a couple of days in Chaiten which was also battered by the forces of mother nature when a nearby volcano erupted in 2008 and caused a bit of damage to the town. The Carretera Austral must be one of the world’s great driving/biking/cycling experiences and I came across many people doing the trip North to South. I can highly recommend a trip. After Puerto Montt came a short trip to Puerto Varas, only 20km. a town by Lake Llanquihue which was founded by German settlers in 1850s. The architecture and orderliness are much in view as well as stunning scenery. From PV I crossed into Argentina by way of three ferries across Lago Todos los Santos (All saints’ lake), Lago Blest and then Lago Nahuel Huapi to San Carlos de Bariloche, arriving 20th December.
Bariloche is another German influenced town(it even has a free walk round town showing where some high ranking Nazis are alleged to have settled). It is a land of lakes, mountains and volcanoes. Truly beautiful. I headed to Buenos Aires by plane for a couple of weeks for Christmas and New Year before returning to Bariloche and the continuation of the Gladders on a bike odyssey.
Next update very soon
It has been a while since I have been in touch. But here is my last few weeks’ news
After a week in Puerto Natales with trips to the Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina and to the Torres del Paine National Park, I took a ferry to Puerto Yungay which is on the Carretera Austral before heading north towards its start at Puerto Montt.
The ferry trip is also breath taking. A slow plod for 48 hours (and a chance to get out of the wind) through the fjords and canals of the western isles of Chile with a stop to provide provisions to the isolated community at Puerto Eden.
The arrival at Yungay meant an early start to the journey northwards with an immediate climb of about 3 miles before a glorious descent to the valley and on towards Cochrane 75 miles away. The road is gravel for about 217 miles which can be hard work but is usually offset by the wonderful views. I have been through Rio Tranquilo, Cerro Castillo,Coyhaique and am currently in Puyuhuapi, a little fishing village at the head of a Fjord. The water has changed to salt and it is great to see tides for a change.
I reckon that I have done about 2,000 km so far, let’s call it 20% of the trip !!
Staying in towns is great for a chance to talk to fellow travellers, most of whom are heading south, so it is a great source of information about things to do and places to stay. I am about 350 km from Puerto Montt which will be the end of the first section…
Our friend Gladders has sent us information and pictures about his adventure starting from the end of the world:
Greetings from a windy and slightly wet Puerto Natales, in Chile! After a few days in Buenos Aires and Ushuaia getting acclimatised, I set off from Ushuaia on the Gladosaurus on the 20th October.
The first day took me through the Paso Garibaldi and down into Tolhuin and the second day to Rio Grande. This was extremely tough as I had not fully appreciated the strength of the wind and how it saps the energy. I now know! After a couple of days rest, I took on the border crossing and the 110 mile trek to Porvenir and the ferry to the mainland.
This part was quite desolate but it followed Useless Bay with amazing views south to the water and snow capped mountains. It also involved my first night away from the comfort of a hostel room. Definitely different but also eye opening!
Porvenir is pretty dull so a quick pit stop and the ferry to Punta Arenas. 500km in a week has given me a benchmark for the rest of the odyssey. Punta Arenas is ok but not really that much to do. It is popular as a starting place for trips to Antarctica. Like much else in Tierra del Fuego it is windy.
I am currently in Puerto Natales, a coastal town with a trekking and outdoors base. A few cruise ships and loads of hikers/campers heading off to Torres del Paine National Park. I did a day trip to El Calafet in Argentina and on to the Perito Moreno Glacier in the Glacier National Park.
Who is Gladders?
Gladders, Simon Chatterton, is a big Rugby fan and a friend to ExPD.
How does Gladders describe his adventure?
I am about to set off on an adventure which will take me from the end of the world to the Caribbean – Ushuaia in Argentina to Cartagena in Colombia. After a lifetime in the International Insurance business I have decided to get on a bike and cycle the length of the Andes.
Apart from being a personal challenge I intend to raise money for my name’5 doddie; a Motor Neurone Disease charity set up by Doddie Weir, a former Scots Rugby international suffering from this awful disease. This is one close to the late Deany’s heart.
I have been considering doing something out of the ordinary for a while and the recent passing of a great individual has persuaded me that the time is right and so, on the 14th October, 2019 I will start my odyssey by flying to Buenos Aires and, after a couple of days there, onto Ushuaia. The start of my Km 10, 000+ adventure.
How long will the adventure take ?
The journey has no particular timescale as I am as yet not sure of how much distance is feasible each day. The rough estimate is a minimum of 6 months.
Many thanks to those who have given their support in different ways.
To my brother and his family; wife Louise and nephews Joe and Mikey as well as my mother Philippa.
To the Rugby Refugees- Mike (Slamma) and Adrian (Agga) in particular.
To Colin at onlinebikes.com in Buckhurst Hill. The source of much valuable information and if anyone needs a bike then I cannot recommend him highly enough.
Why ExPD is involved?
Our Managing Director, Adrian Harris, says: “it’s with great pride that I am able to offer our support to ‘Gladders’, Simon Chatterton, for his epic journey. Whilst a personal challenge, Simon is also using this adventure to raise awareness of two great charities.
“I have a further personal reason for supporting Gladders, we shared a great friend who lost his life to MND last year, at the age of 54 – our friend (my ‘go to’ best mate) left a massive hole in many people’s lives, not least his dear wife and their two beautiful children. Deany (on the left picture), our friend, was a great outdoorsman and would have heartily approved of Gladders’ Andean odyssey. MND is such a cruel disease and those who are affected by it need support.”