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.


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