Options were available today. The “Official” route, the one supported by Jeff in the van, was an “exploratory route..quieter parts of the Chilean Lake District…lesser known National Parks.” That sounded lovely…but…exploratory can be scary. Some of our travels have been on challenging enough surfaces. Knowing that unknown roads can even be worse, I was skeptical. Even the driveway from the cabins had inspired me to rest my bike horizontally and perpendicular to the grade as I unsuccessfully sought to improve traction.
The Cathy Davies seeking adventure still decided to ride with the gang and try the road less traveled. A few miles after beautiful Lake Villarrica, we turned off the pavement. Immediately, we were climbing a narrow, twisty, unstable gravel road headed up a hill. Within ½ mile, my left shoulder was letting me know that it was not happy. The Cathy Davies seeking to ride safely another day said “NO.” I stopped in my tracks and let next bike know that I planned to return to pavement and stay on paved roads.
Without the pressure of riding roads that wound up being so bad (narrow, exposed rocks, abundant volcanic sand) that Kevin had called Jeff to warn those late in the pack to avoid crossing the National Parks, I enjoyed a fabulous solo ride.
Not wanting to miss the area’s scenery yet stay on paved roads meant that I rode a lot more miles. I headed to Chile Route 5, part of the Pan American Highway, and went north. My map showed a paved option to return farther inland to Cunco. There I figured I’d intercept the guys at their coffee stop. No guys so I ventured down a beautiful section of the Ruta Interlagos, the Inter Lake Route. Six miles later, gravel loomed. Time for a U-turn. Riding alone gives one the opportunity for U-turns, photo stops and anything else that catches the eye. Earlier, I had wanted to photograph one of the many wooden bridges that we have crossed. Being with others or due to extremely dangerous locations, I had not before gotten a photo. This example is a very mild version. Many of the bridges offered much narrower riding surfaces and had repeated and huge voids in the wood.
I gambled that the eastern route from Cunco to Curacuatin had been paved. Not yet. Another U-turn this time stopping in Cunco for gas and lunch.
Local grocery stores are one of my favorite ways to learn the culture and find a cheap lunch. Appetizing sausages hung from the wall above the case full of empenadas, dumplings filled with meat and/or vegetables, which became my lunch. Another new road back to Route 5 and I resumed my northward trek. The map showed a more northerly, paved, route to Curacuatin so I again headed east. Seeing no fellow travelers all day, at Curacuatin, I headed northwest to Route 5 and to Salto de Laja, location of a beautiful waterfall.
My 400 mile ride had gotten me to the Salto de Laja hotel at 6pm. Hot, tired, yet feeling satisfied, I felt refreshed after jumping into the river fed, crystal clear, swimming hole. Each room had a view of the falls. Their sound was a natural lullaby after a great day of riding.
29-Jan Pucon – Villarrica – Cunco – Curacautin – Salto de Laja 263 miles
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