Patagonia: Return of the Guanaco

Patagonia: Return of the Guanaco
We started at the southern tip of the continent and have seen many wondrous things. After a day off the bikes, the adventure of a lifetime continues …

As much as I might have enjoyed a second day lounging on the shores of Lago Gral Carrera, it feels good being back on the Guanacos (what we named our DR650s). We leave the lake and, as we always do, stretch out on the road, each of us riding our own ride, lost in our own thoughts. The sun is bright and strong and already warming up the day. One by one we stop at the gas station in Puerto Rio Tranquilo. There’s a line out to the street and down the block but those that arrive later join up with those already in the queue. The line of waiting cars is none too happy about this and let us know with honks, glares, and what I imagine are some choice words in Spanish. Eduardo, not wanting to incite a riot on such a pretty day, shepherds us to the back of the line. Disaster averted.

We’re on the Carretera Austral (CH-7) now, Chile’s route through much of Patagonia. Like Argentina’s Ruta 40, it may be a national highway and a relatively thick line on the map, but not all of it is paved, and we’re facing 62 miles of dirt and gravel through mountains dense with woods. On a fast, straight stretch, Joe’s tire goes flat. He bravely tries to hold onto the bike but before he can bring it to a controlled stop it throws him to the ground. Thankfully, he’s shaken but not stirred. At least he has on-board Go Pro footage of his off. Eduardo and Deidrik fix his flat and we continue on.

Lunch is at two colorfully painted old buses converted into a roadside restaurant for backpackers and other travelers. After lunch, a great twisty road winds its way up over a mountain and then spills down the other side in a delicious series of twists and turns before depositing us in a broad valley. The sun is out, the temperature is rising, and the traffic is building to Coyhaique. We get to town and I tell Dennis, “Follow me. I’ve got GPS!” and proceed to get us lost. We finally make our way to the hotel, shower, and jump into taxis for dinner. Our cab driver is playing Guns N’ Roses. We rock out, then dine at one of the best restaurants in town. We toast to another great day.

Puyuhuapi, Aysén, Chile

The weather is iffy in the morning with gray skies and wet roads. It’s not raining but it could any minute. We ride out of town and up to a ridge that would have a nice view on a clear day, and then descend into a narrow, fertile valley to dance with the Río Maniguales. I don’t know if it’s the weather or a little road weariness, but the vibe is pretty chill. We stop for a lunch of empanadas and hamburguesas. I’m used to flaky, half-moon-shaped empanadas that fit in the palm of your hand. Down here in Patagonia they come in various shapes and sizes, some small and round, others—like the ones we just ordered—are doughy and as big as bear claws. The hamburgers are also peculiar—giant pieces of bread with little patties of ground beef hidden in between. An emphatic “NO Wi-Fi” sign forces us to stare at each other and actually talk.

I leave the lunch spot early to set up a photo op down the road. I snap photos as the riders file by and then quickly hop on the bike and give chase. Ted’s chosen to wait for me up the road, and together we turn up the wick and chase the group through a hilly green landscape. It’s one of the first times that we’re able to really attack a set of twisties with the Guanaco 650s, and they oblige, turning in quickly and torquing their way out of corners. The adrenaline flows. Ted’s fast and smooth and we eventually catch the tail of the group.