End of Carretera Austral

11 02 2008

With some disapointment we’ve completed the Carretera Austral. The scenery is truely amazing on almost the entire route, and is best viewed by bicycle (the point was demonstrated when talking to a German who we’ve seen a few times driving a tank – ok, it’s just a truck with a house on the back – who hadn’t noticed a few points of scenery we tried to discuss, you just move too quickly in any other vehicle). Perhaps a horse would also be pretty good.

Unfortunately I can’t find a few words to sum it up, and rather than resort to a blow by blow description of the last three weeks (which would likely send all of us too sleep, despite it being quite good at the time), perhaps refer to the last post until I can come up with something better.

We met more and more cyclists until we arrived at Villa O’Higgins. Suddenly there were hordes of them/us. And lots were dissapointed – the ferry from Villa O’Higgins (at the end of the road) across Lago O’Higgins was fully booked for several days (tip to anyone following, use www.villaohiggins.com to book your seat – they stick to the capacity of the vessel, 60 seats). So only 6 cyclists made it on this trip, although I know of another 6 who missed out.

We crossed, and decided to spend some more time sitting in the nice comfortable boat visit the O’Higgins glacier. And what a good decision that was. I’ll post a photo when the computer is slightly faster than the glacier. 60-80m high. 3km long. That’s pretty big. We hung around for a few minutes, and watched a few huge chunks fall off (or calve if you insist). Much much bigger than a house. Pretty spectacular.

The crossing to Argentina I’ve been looking forward to for weeks – it’s supposed to be devilishly difficult. We exited Chile on the lake shore, and headed uphill rather steeply for 15 or so km. We met two Dutch coming down who tried to freak us out about how difficult it was going to be, but really, they over-exagerated. We camped a few km into the climb (part riding, mostly walking). The land owner almost threw us out, but we charmed him into letting us stay. He was actually a nice guy, but he’s probably sick of cyclists (since you can only cross this way by bicycle, horse or foot).

At the top, as we entered Argentina, the dirt track disappeared completely (after we’d crossed a river without a bridge) and turned into a walking / horse track. Which started out reasonable, but degenerated and took us a few hours to do the 6km. Mostly walking, with considerable sections needing the bikes to be carried. Over many logs and obstructions. The final was a steep descent that really needed the front panniers of most bikes taken off. But impossible? Hardly. I managed without removing any panniers or bags, but then I don’t have front panniers. Still a challenge and something a bit different (but I think the crossing around the volcano in Ecuador was more fun, and far, far more scary).

Another lake crossing by boat, and a camp by the river (and some freshly caught trout in addition to the normal pasta for dinner – gracious Michel and Virginie!), and today we’re in El Chaltén, only a short distance from Fitz Roy. A more impressive massif than I expected.

The wind and weather until here has been exceptional. The rain still hasn’t dampened us significantly (a bit in Villa O’Higgins and some yesterday, but for Patagonia it’s been exceptional). Today the wind started. I expect it to get stronger, but as an indication we had a tail wind for a few kilometers today. On a rough, horizontal dirt road, no peddaling, the wind gusted to push me from 8km/h to 28km/h at one point (and often above 20km/h). A few times we’ve almost been blown over. Steve and Kev, remember the wind that blew Steve over in Tassie? The same, but all day. She’s strong.

I’d upload some photos, but we’re on a satellite connection (sloooow), and really I’d still prefer to be outside. Sorry. Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine are around the corner and my camera card is almost full! Ahh, the stress of a traveling life 🙂


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2 responses

18 02 2008
Steve

Hey Stevo…
I looked on the map and can’t believe you’re so close to the end… of stage 1 at least : ) Any ideas of where to next?? I’d highly recommend keeping on going cause this “work” stuff is highly overrated…
The photos are looking awesome and its great to read that you’re still having a fantastic time.
Steve

18 02 2008
Steve

Yep, getting there. Only a bit over a thousand k’s to go 🙂
Stage 1. Yes… Where to next? Well, I’m thinking of Cuba, then Canada for next few months. Perhaps work a bit in Canada (probably not a full year based on what I currently feel about work) – top up the bank account – then who knows?

Enjoy your ´work´stuff. I suggest going back to the city at least. But hey, I can’t talk 😉

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