Monday, January 31, 2011

Saturday: rainy Caleta Tortel

Day 3 on the carretera Austral was also the third consecutive day of rain. It started lightly, but by the time we reached the town it was pretty persistent. It turned out that to get to the free (and only) campsite would require several kms of hefting the bike down steps and along slippery boardwalks, and again tomorrow to leave, so having done quite enough of that already for one week we decided to opt for a room in the closest hospedaje instead. The landlady was obviously used to this situation and showed us the bicicaleta parking space before even showing us the room, even though we hadn't even mentioned having a bici parked up around the corner. The ride in had been a fairly gentle 24km mostly downhill, so we'd not really warmed up much.  Coupled with rain, and general skank of 2 nights wild camping, we were very glad to get a shower and warm room out of the rain by midday. We then went to explore the town.

As mentioned above, there are no streets and buildings are connected by an elaborate if occasionally rather adhoc series of boardwalks. For most of its 60 year history it had no road access, only boat, and coupled with being built on sheer rock face around the natural bay, houses and pathways on stilts was obviously the solution that evolved.

Perhaps due to the rain, the town seems nigh on deserted, despite being peek season, and we visited 3 out of 4 of the cafés/restaurants through they day whilst seeking cover from the rain, and were about the only customers in each. All the tourist services seemed to have grown from people opening up their private house to guests, so you get a strange mix of formalities such as no written menus, but staff that jump on you asking in rapid language what sort of fish you want to eat, when really you want to just hide in a corner with a drink for a while!

Passing the junction on the way in we'd noticed a tent in the gravel pit we'd eyed up before choosing our spot the previous night, and recognized it as that of the German girls we'd shared the border crossing experience with. Sure enough, in one restaurant there they were tucking into chicken and rice (after much effort it seemed this was the only item on the menu, and even that seemed to run out shortly after) so we were able to catch up with them and compare notes on the previous two days.

The rain did not let up all day, but only got heavier, so after doing what sight-seeing we could, we retreated for a final drink before an early night. Maybe with an early start tomorrow we can crack through a good chunk of the 128km to Cochrane, where we hope to finally find some wifi coverage to clear our blog backlog! 


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