South of Santiago, Ruta 5 is all autopista – excellent surface with a broad hard shoulder .. good for rapid progress, but not always that interesting. I followed parallel roads wherever practical, and at times what remains of the old road.

Another cyclist I encountered briefly introduced me to the fact that the autopista service stations are not averse to campers- excellent as there are usually hot showers and sometimes wifi. (Certainly more of an attraction than dubious looking and expensive hotdogs)

Immediately to the south of Santiago is wine country – huge vineyards stretch out on both sides of the road. The terrain is very flat for a large distance. Further on, the soft rolling hills, forests (still some eucalyptus, but more and more pine), Friesan cows .. the landscape is almost familiar. Every night has been a little chillier than the last, and it clearly rains here quite a lot.

The day I cycled into Rio Bueno it rained persistently all day – and it was cold enough to warrant waterproof trousers. It was only the second time I’ve cycled in the rain in Chile. The lush, green countryside makes it hard to believe there is such a vast and harsh desert only a few hundred miles away. Evidently this is typical for summertime, so I expect there will be some damp and chilly days ahead on the gravel roads of Patagonia.

Puerto Montt is a little more than 100km from here- which marks the start of the Carretera Austral. I’m going to detour on the way, however – my allotted 90 days in Chile will be up before I’ll have time to reach my planned exit. The road due east from Osorno will take me to the Argentino frontier; I’ll cross over and back before heading south again in Chile.

The landscape of southern Chile perhaps couldn’t be more different from the desert of the north- while in some senses I’m more used to that sort of climate, I think my mettle will be more severely tested.

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