Day 35 – Thursday March 31: Torturous road to Caleta Tortel
Complicated day today. We left the Camping/refugio site in the rain and started making our way to Caleta Tortel, which we thought was about 60 to 70km away. Tikka and Dario and Steve Jahn, who wasn't feeling all that well, headed back to Cochrane where they hoped to find a mechanic. And it trned out to be even more complicated than that, ...they found out in Cochrane that the rear end of the truck was trashed, as well as the brakes. They worked with an amazing mechanic who fashioned the part they needed for the rear end, and they were able to get things fixed by the end of the day and to come back over the pass to find us.
Meanwhile a lot of time passed, and in the very late afternoon we began to dribble into Caleta Tortel, which marked the end of the Carretera Austral for us. The distance, though, had turned out to be tricky, and as we were riding without support – that is, with most of our gear in the truck or the trailer. – ii was a bit unnerving. We had pressed on, and the ride turned epic. Long -- 97km on really nasty roads -- up and down and finally up and up to arrive around 5:00 in Caleta Tortel. It was still raining, hard, and we were freezing.
It is an amazing town, unimaginable. It's built on steep stone cliffs and until 2003 was only accessible by water. The town came into being in the thirties by building walkways on stilts between houses and shops, so you have to climb up and down stairs and along these walkways. Which were very slippery for people walking in bicycle shoes. The town is unbelievably situated looking out at a fjord. But the rain was really coming down and it would be dark soon After an hour we finally found our place to stay, which was warm and welcoming. Our guide David had ridden this ride to make sure we made it, and he arrived with Tom around 7:00. No sign of Tikka and Dario and Steve Jahn though, and then darkness dropped down. No streetlights in this town because no streets. And you had to park at one end, high up, where the road arrived and dead-ended. The owners fixed us dinner and we went to bed exhausted.
We feared the worst for the truck, but In the morning we came down to breakfast to find that everyone had made it, though not until midnight, in a water taxi. The truck was fixed and we were all together.
We had some new directions to ride though, starting out that very day.