Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | Cochrane Index Day 35 Day 37
Day 36: Camp Carretera #1 -> Cochrane Brian: 60KM, Yan: 78KM Blowout (Part II)

We finally started cycling again. It looked like the sun was here to stay for the day. 15 kilometers later, we were at another small downhill. I rode in front and heard Brian stopped me from behind. "Catastrophic equipment failure." He said, amazingly calm that I thought he was joking.

The rack was dangling. One of the bolts was gone.

We set the bike down and found a new problem: The rack sheared the bolt-head off. The rest of the bolt was buried in the frame. The bolt hole was completely blocked. We tried to tap the broken bolt with a multi-tool but it didn't move a bit; we tried to use the hole on the brake mount but the hole was too small. When all failed, there were still straps. With several webbings went from his seat to the rack, several straps tied around the frame, and tie-n-wraps to secure the pannier from sliding, Brian was back on the saddle again.

More than 4 hours after we left camp in the morning, we had only gone 20 kilometers in a sunny, windless day on good ripio. Cochrane was another 40 plus kilometers away. With close to 3 hours of daylight left, we thought we could still make it.

5PM, a mountain pass started. We watched the same bus that we saw in the morning laboring up the windy switchbacks and wasted no time starting our climb. Roughly an hour later, we found ourselves at the top of the mountain with wild berries everywhere. Like two hungry bears getting ready for winter, we sloppily combed the bushes putting handful after handful of the pinkish no-name berries in our mouth with gustoes. They tasted really good.

6PM, the sun was going down and we were still 25 kilometers away from Cochrane. By the road there was a beautiful spot overlooking a lake. I thought about camping but Brian convinced me to push on. Understandably he wanted to make it to Cochrane. It had been weeks since we contacted anyone of our families and his bike was quite a wounded duck at that point. Moreover, if we had been cycling uphill, downhill should be coming.

And so we did, cycling as sunset turned into moonrise. Around 6:30PM, the good ripio we had been enjoying the entire day turned bad, really bad. Apparently it had been freshly grated. 3 inches of the surface was soft, sandy, and grainy like a sugar bowl. And to make things worse, the darkness had made route picking impossible. I would blindly move to another side of the road if this side became hard to cycle. But nothing was good.

We finally met some downhill. I was going down at almost 20kph when I felt my front tire got sucked in to the deep soft sand, slid to the side, and before I could release my shoes out of the pedal, I was thrown onto the ground with both pedals still attached.

I started screaming so Brian could hear me and stop. He turned back and could only make out that I was down and pinned under the bike. But all he could pay attention to was the headlights of a truck coming down the same hill. "Get up, get out of the way!" He yelled as he was rushing back towards me. Just I got out of the pedal, the truck slowly passed me. Brian helped me getting up. I was hurt, but nothing seemed broken.

We put on our headlamps and tail light, took a moment for me to recover and carried on. Brian took away my backpack. Our headlamps were pathetically dim as Brian had been borrowing the batteries for his music all day. I really regretted that I didn't insist on camping back where we could still see. Now, there was no where we could camp and Cochrane was another 15 kilometers away.

My shoulder and knee hurt. There was nothing we could do but keep on pushing. For the next two hours, we crawled through the darkness on sandy, muddy roads with deep puddles after cattle guards and bridges with huge gaps that could easily swallow a tire. I was not happy.

15 kilometers down the road. Cochrane was no where in sight, not a single light or even a blink in the distance. Where is this place?

Another 2 kilometers more, we came to a sign after passing a house with dogs barking and howling at us. Cochrane 5km. 5km?! I couldn't believe my eyes and certainly did not want to believe the fact. There was an intersection with an open area that was possible to camp, but after all that we had been through, stopping 5 kilometers short was just not an option anymore.

It was big downhill going to Cochrane. The temperature must have dropped 20 degrees. My hands were numb. I had trouble pushing the shifter. But being able to see the lights in the distance, we knew this was going to be over soon.

Frozen and exhausted, we rolled in to Cochrane after another small uphill. The streets were empty. We found a hostel with the help of a local and started to unload in the front yard. In a hurry and distracted by trying to cut the tie-n-wrap to release his pannier, Brian set our tent on the lawn then we each made two trips to bring our luggage into our room. We took everything except the tent.

Inside, we could not get the heater to work at first and when it finally did, pain and fatigue started to sink in and neither of us realized our tent was still outside.

The next morning, it was not there anymore.

I put only one line on my diary: Nothing works today.

Index Day 35 Day 37