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Carretera Austral in Chile

ChilePosted by Espen Sat, November 05, 2011 14:46:41


It was a bit grey and wet when we again crossed the border from Argentina into Chile. This time we our goal was to drive the Carretera Austral, formerly known as Carretera General Augusto Pinochet, which was built in 1976. It is a beautiful drive through a really wild country in Chilean Patagonia. The whole route is about 1200 kilometers if you take the ferry across from the island of Chiloé or Puerto Montt to Chalten and drive all the way down south to Villa O’Higgins. We, however, hit the Carretera Austral a few kilometers south of Chalten, from the border crossing Futaleufu.

We found a place to camp by Rio Frio the first night. It was almost dark when we saw a sign saying camping, and “gap” in the fence along the road. In Chile and Argentina we have been able and comfortable doing quite a bit of bush camping, but in some areas, especially as we’re getting further south into Patagonia, we are actually struggling to get off the road because of fences. These are running along all the main roads, about 10 meters from the road. You can of course pull off and park for the night, but we like to get a little bit away from the traffic. Not that it would bother you much as there aren’t many cars driving by at night (we counted 3 one night along Routa 40 in Argentina, and this is one of the main roads going south!), but better safe than sorry, right? Anyway, we drove in on the camping at Rio Frio, but the place was deserted. It said 1500 pesos (3 USD) per person per night, but we couldn’t find anyone to pay. Still very early in the season, I guess.

Carretera Austral also takes you past some of Patagonias fjords, and the Salmon you find in the supermarket back home could come from here.

We took it nice and slow, and this picture is about a day and half down the road. We camped in “the far end” of this valley.


Patagonia is famous for its rain, low temperatures, and strong winds. We have been a little nervous about how much beating our roof top tent can take, but so far we have had no issues. Not even with the weather itself. The next morning we woke up to a clear blue sky, and no winds. Here we are enjoying our morning coffee and tea at Rio Ibanez about 50 meters away from our camp.


Around the city of Coyhaique the road is excellent. The part of the road we drove had tarmac about 1/3rd of the way, but the road was never in bad condition. Good for any kind of vehicle.

We drove around Lago General Carretera to get to Chilechico (you can take a ferry across the lake to save about 200 kilometers, but it is an AWSOME drive – highly recommended (at least in nice weather….)), and view just got better and better.


Half way around the lake you have to decide if you want to keep driving south to get to O’Higgins and “the end” of Carretera Austral (at least for the moment). We went east for Chilechico and the Argentinean border in order to put in a couple of long driving days to get down to Ushuaia in time for Malin to get to work in Punta Arenas.

E&M

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Lake District i Chile

ChilePosted by Malin Sat, October 29, 2011 04:13:08

Fra bølgene og vindsurferne på stillehavskysten satte vi kursen innover i landet, og tenkte å krysse grensen tilbake til Argentina ved Paso Pehuenche. På veien stoppet vi i Talca hos en lokal Nissan-forhandler for å få oss et ekstra dieselfilter. Vi hadde prøvd å få tak i et slikt filter i Mendoza i Argentina, men fikk der høre at de to eneste filterne som passet vår motor i hele Argentina befant seg i Buenos Aires. De kunne bestilles, men det ville ta en uke. I Chile skulle det være mye enklere. Mulig det. Men ikke billig! Nissan i Talca kunne bestille filter for oss, og det ble levert dagen etter. Det kostet oss ca 350 kroner, noe som er ca tre ganger prisen i landene rundt. Chile er nesten som å være hjemme i Norge igjen. Det svir litt hver gang vi åpner lommeboken.

Campet en natt ved Lago Colbun en times kjøretur ut av Talca mens vi ventet på at filteret skulle bli levert til Nissan. Nissan kunne dessuten også informere oss om at passet vi hadde planlagt å krysse fremdeles var stengt for sesongen. Vi hadde da valget om å kjøre nordover igjen til Santiago og krysse til Mendoza, eller fortsette sørover i Chile. Så ettersom vi unngå i det lengste å kjøre i retning nord i disse dager ble det til at vi satte kurs mot Chiles berømte Lake District. Hovedveien i Chile er utmerket, og vi gjorde unna ca 600 kilometer den ettermiddagen til Lago Villarico. Nyter en kaffe på stranden ved campen vår med Vulkan Villarico i bakgrunnen.

I en eldre utgave av Lonely Planet reiseguidebok står det omtalt en vei gjennom en nasjonalpark i området. De sier at veien generelt er dårlig og gjørmete, og at det er absolutt nødvendig med firehjulstrekk. Glimrende! Vi satte avgårde mot parkinngangen, men optimismen og utforsker-stemningen falt brått da vi så hvor mye snø som lå igjen oppe i fjellet.

Vi fortsatte et stykke oppover og brøytet oss vei gjennom snøfonnene, men ett par kilometer inn innså vi at vi var her noen uker for tidlig. Vi snudde og kjørte ut samme vei. Der var også et skilt som sa noe i retning av “veien er veldig dårlig, ikke kjør videre”, men dette tolkes selvfølgelig aldri dit hen at det ikke er LOV til å kjøre her.

Tilbake på veien kjørte vi mot Lago Calafquen og Conaripe, og videre sørøst mot Neltume og Puerto Fuy. Det hadde også vært mulig å krysse grensen til Argentina ved Paso Mamuil Malal like øst for Pucon, men vi bestemte oss for at Paso Hua Hum litt lengre sør ville en finere tur. Og det var virkelig flott!

I Neltume kom vi over dette hotellet, og vi skulle gjerne ha blitt noen netter, hadde det ikke vært for den lille detaljen om 2000 kr pr natt... Uansett, dette må være et av de stiligste hotellene jeg noensinne har sett.

De to bygningene er forbundet med en hengebro, og det er bygningen med “vulkanform” som ble satt opp først. Ta en kikk på http://www.huilohuilo.com og se mer om dette utrolige prosjektet.

Organisasjonen som driver disse hotellene har kjøpt opp et enormt område, noe som kan være både bra og ikke så bra. Et par av veiene som vi hadde vurdert å kjøre viste seg å være stengt da disse gikk igjennom oppkjøpte områder. Litt kjedelig, men på den annen side er dette et av de reneste og mest bevarte naturområdene vi har sett.

Gjerrige nordmenn camper helst billig. Sikkert fint på hotell, men det var ikke så værst ved bredden av Lago Neltume heller. Noen kilometer unna, og helt gratis.

Og så tok vi fergen til Argentina....

Mer snart!

E&M

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Portillo to Matanzas in Chile

ChilePosted by Espen Tue, October 18, 2011 16:57:45

Also thought I should put in some pics from the road after crossing into Chile from Mendoza in Argentina (as Malin only posted pics from what she would WANT to do...) :-) After Portillo you have to go down these switchbacks. Engineering made pretty..

We had talked about taking the old road over Paso Cristo Redentor. There is a huge statue up there, and Malin was up there several years ago when she was waiting in Puente del Inca for me to get back down from Aconcagua. Unfortunately, the road was still closed for the season, but when we had crossed the border we saw that the road going up from the Chilean side had been cleared for snow.

We started driving up, but realized pretty soon that thay had given up on the attempt. We drove up to where thay had turned around (a meter and a half of snow blocking the road), and had to go back down. And the face of that "gravel mountain" didn't really look too safe....

After driving past Santiago, we arrived at the coast quite late, and in the dark. Found a campsite in the forrest south of Valparaiso, and we kept driving south the next day. This is a view point over a town called La Boca.

We also drove down to the beach not far from here. Lots of people down there fishing. Could have been a nice, free camp site for us, but a little too windy for the roof top tent...

There was a camp ground in La Boca, but we didn't stay. We kept going south another half an hour, and then found Matanzas where we settled for a few days.

Olas de Matanzas has some incredible cabanas/bungalows, but they also have a few camp sites, and we went for the cheaper option. :-) VERY tempting, though...

In the next post we go to check out the lakes!

E&M

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If I had a million dollars...

ChilePosted by Malin Sat, October 15, 2011 16:41:37

….I would NOT have bought an exotic pet like a lama or an emu. I would have stayed at the hotel in Portillo, rented Telemark skis and skied most of the day and then spent the afternoon by the swimming pool.

From the Andes mountains and skiing next stop would have been Olas de Matanzas at the Pacific coast where I would have rented one of these cabañas.

Espen could spend the days windsurfing and I could have walked on the beach or read a book.

Lunch, dinners and drinks would have been consumed in this restaurant before the late evening would have been spent in the wood fired hot tub.

I do not have a million dollars, but I am still better off than most people in the world since I can travel overland from Alaska to Ushuaia in my own vehicle. And because I do not have a million dollars, I just looked at the skiers in Portillo and hope that one day I will be able to come back with my own Telemark skis. I have a friend working in the Portillo ski resort, so we had a BBQ and spent the evening in front of the fire place. Not bad at all.

Since we are UN-urban we had decided to drive around the city of Santiago with its 7,2 million inhabitants. But when I checked Facebook in the morning, I saw that another friend and colleague had posted that he was flying from Oslo to Punta Arenas that same day. When we drove towards Santiago I wrote him an SMS asking if he by coincidence was sitting in the airport in Santiago waiting for the connecting flight, and he was. It is a small world. So we ended up having dinner together in the Airport in Santiago.

When we got to Olas de Matanzas on the Pacific Coast they did not only rent out those great looking cabins, but they also had a campground… We had internet, hot showers, a fantastic view, good lunches with cheese, salami and wine, and dinners outside in the sunset.

Life is pretty good even if we do not have a million dollars. But we will continue to drive towards the pot full of gold at the end of the rainbow. You never now….

M&E

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Atacama in Chile

ChilePosted by Espen Sun, October 02, 2011 04:36:00

So! We were again on our way south, and now on the northern coast of Chile. Our first stop for the day was at an overland landmark, used by so many “overland companies” as a symbol of being far away from home: Mano del Desierto.

This is another of the mandatory overland pictures, so we lined up and took our photo. What most people don’t know is, and hereby starting the unURBAN myth buster section (startedmaybe already in the post with the death road…), that the hand is about 200 meters from the Pan-American highway, and that it is a common lunch stop for many locals!

Here in northern Chile, the PanAm goes through the Atacama desert, and it is a beautiful drive. We followed it for a few kilometers and took off towards Tal Tal on the coast. We found a dirt road hitting the coast a bit further north, and followed this south along the coast.

There is not much out here at all, but we did come across a couple of fish camps, on the map referred to as villages. Don’t count on supplies out here, bring what you need. We thought that many of the areas we drove through in northern Chile was even more remote than Ruta de Lagunas in Bolivia, mostly because there are no tourist 4x4 tours here, and we hardly met any other vehicles for days. However, I guess the PanAm should be well travelled and safe.

One of the villages / fish camps along the coast.

The roads are slow and at places rough, but it is nothing technical, so any high-clearance vehicle will do just fine. It is nice with 4x4 though when you want to get off the road for some nice camp sites. We drove down some sand dunes one afternoon and relaxed a couple of hours in the sun. A local told us we were quite lucky with the weather for the season, and even if we only had about 12-13 degrees Celsius in the day, it was still sun for some hours in the afternoon. In the morning, and normally all day we were told, it was dense, cold Pacific fog.

Great driving on the roads south along the coast.

But, as it turned out that the weather was a little colder than we had hoped for, we soon headed for the mountains again, and for, hopefully, a warmer climate on the east side of the Andes. The route we had planned was up and over Paso San Francisco at 4727 meters / 15500 ft. We filled up at a gas station in Tal Tal, and a local told us that the pass had been closed the day before because of a snow fall. He called in to a nation traffic service central for us, and the pass had just opened. We did most of the climb the same day, and camped at almost 4000 meters.

It is really easy to find good spots for wild camping in northern Chile as there are hardly any people or settlements here. We packed up early the next morning and continued up into the Andes Mountains.

Why the pass had been closed the day before we got there. Still, the road was good, and the scenery nothing less than stunning!

We came across a lake even more colorful than those on Ruta de Lagunas. And guess what? There was a hot spring!!!

The wind was freezing cold, but we still managed to get in for a short dip. And if we hadn’t had a roof top tent it would have been a nice place to camp as well (a lot of wind = noisy tent). At this stage we had already checked out of Chile, so we kept on driving to the Argentinean border post a few kilometers ahead. How that went, you’ll find out in our border crossing update very soon!

E&M

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