Well it is the Chilean Patagonia. Now it is a turning point in the trip because we leave Autopistas and super highways and sealed roads and now take off onto gravel roads and tough roads and that is going to be the story of our lives for the next few weeks until we get close to Ushuaia. So there is a bit of excitement and a bit of trepidation in the camp and we enter a new phase of our push south.
The first week of this Patagonia sector is the Careterra Austral which is about 1000km of gravel road leading down to the most southern border crossing into Argentina. It is roughly like going down the West Coast of the South Island as it is about the same latitude. The similarities continue as the forest is almost identical to the beech forests of the South Island and there are also stunning mountain vistas and views of lakes and glaciers just like on the West Coast. However I am getting ahead of myself.
No this is not the road!
We start our odyssey South by leaving the flesh pots of Puerto Varas relatively early on the first morning as there are ferries to catch.
So the first day goes something like this -
One hour on the road thru Puerto Montt and to the first ferry
Half an hour on the first ferry
A one hour dash over gravel roads to the next ferry
This ferry goes once a day and takes four hours so is a " must catch".
It leaves at 10.30 in the morning. After screaming over the gravel road we arrive at the wharf at 10.32 a.m.
The ferry is 5 mins late leaving and has two small spaces left to take two motorbikes.
We drive on, the ramp goes up behind us and the 4 hour ferry trip starts.
After 4 enjoyable hours on a lovely scenic ferry ride it is off for another half hour ride on a gravel road.
Then it is another half hour ferry ride.
Then to finish the day it is another 54 km rode of gravel road to our destination for the night. - the town of Chaiten.
And who pays the ferryman!
A tight squeeze
The last section of road to Chaiten was tough. They were fixing parts of it by dumping river stones on the road. Now quarry stones are sharp tough on the tires but easy on the nerves when they are newly on a road. However round river stones are the opposite. They are easy on the tires but rough on the nerves as they roll under the tyres of the bike causing the bike to slip and slide all over the place. Anyway in spite of all this the bike stayed paint side up all the way to Chaiten.
So we overnighted in Chaiten. What a sad town! This town had a huge amount of ash dumped on it during an eruption of a nearby volcano in 2008. All the residents were evacuated. The town is roughly half rebuilt and roughly half the population have come back. Every street has derelict houses damaged by the weight of ash. When is the next eruption going to be one might well ask?
No one home anymore!
Every problem in the world always has a source!
So Day two of Chilean Pategonia section sees us heading down more gravel roads and thru beech forests to the town of Puyuhuapi. This town only had road access put thru with the building of the Carreterra in the 1970s. Before then access was only by boat or plane. Interestingly enough the town was settled by Czech settlers escaping the wars and famines back home.
A more friendly sort of volcano
We stayed in a lovely home stay run by a German " no nonsense" type of lady who ran a warm and friendly place.
Day 3 of the Carraterra and it is off down the gravel roads yet again. But what treats were in store. First off was side trip to see a big hanging Glacier.
One hanging glacier
As we came down from our little walk to the Glacier another touring motorbike pulled in. It was non other than the famous " Radioman" alias Mark Donham. Mark has been travelling the world by motorbike for the last 17 months. He decided to do it after his wife tragically died of premature Alzheimer's disease and this was his way of starting life again. He has an amazing blogsite going which has had nearly a million hits. His theme is " Faith, Hope and Courage"
His blog address is -
It is an inspiring and moving read.
Anyway Mark was also heading to Ushuaia and has now joined us to make a foursome and we are thoroughly enjoying his company.
So after having picked up Mark ( so to speak) we carried on over a highly scenic mountain pass and from there down to Coihaque. This is the biggest town in the area and is a little oasis of civilization. And lo and behold it has sealed roads going in and out of it. It is the southern most significant town in Chile.
Now we are into Day 4 ón the Carraterra Austral and it just gets better and better. Today we started circumnavigating the Lago General Carrera. Actually it straddles the Chile/Argentina border and is called the Lago Buenos Aires in Argentina. Same lake,different names!
So we are off round about two thirds of the lake because it is the second biggest lake in South America and therefore is fairly ginormous and the road is slow.
Not so motorcycle heaven!
Again it was mostly gravel roads and again it was like the West coast of the South Island. Near the bottom of the lake we stopped at a place rather nicely named Rio Tranquilo where we went out on a boat trip to look at some fascinating limestone/ marble caves on the waters edge.
Hundreds of thousands potential bench tops just waiting to be mined!
And the highly satisfactory day was finished by a stay in a delightful lakeside Cabina a little further around the lake.
And thus dawns Day 5 on the Carreterra Austral for today we go into Argentina.
But the day itself was magnificent,superb,stunning and stupendous. It was a sunny day with crystal clear blue sky and the ( again gravel ) road wound around the lakeside with stunning vistas of turquoise lake water backed with a backdrop of snow covered mountains. There were Oohs and Ahas coming from the back seat at every turn.It was just like riding along Lake Wakatipu to Glenorchy except for the gravel road and the fact that it was at least 5 times longer. However let the photos do the talking............
And only one horsepower!
And the odd reality check to avoid complacency!
Then to finish it was across the border into Argentina to a town about 50 kms in from the border called Perito Moreno. In every town in Chile the Main Street is almost always called Avenida Bernardo O 'Higgins. He must have been some Irishman and is known as "El Liberador".
So we can tell we are now in Argentina because the Main Street has a different name. And no it was not Avenida Evita Peron !
One day soon in the next ten years or so the Carraterra Austral will be all paved I think and really opened up to the tourists. It will be a fantastic tourist trip and would really give the West Coast of the South Island a run for its money. However at the moment it still seems like frontier land and I am rather glad we have found it that way. It is at the moment an adventure doing it and once opened up it will become a journey rather than an adventure. Sigh !
And thus ends our meandering down the Carreterra Austral!
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