Carretera Austral - Futalaefu to Villa O'Higgins


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South America » Chile » Aisén » Carretera Austral
November 18th 2014
Published: November 18th 2014
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We finished the road that almost (apart from the small matter of some ice fields) unites the Chileanos.

The Carretera Austral, from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins skirts the majestic southern Andes range and the northern ice fields to penetrate deeply into Chilean Patagonia. Along the way it crosses some seriously impressive terrain with soaring mountains, rushing rivers, calving glaciars, volcanoes, vast lakes and mighty forrests.

We left Futaleafu in great spirits having enjoyed the sunshine and snowy mountains, a walk through the snow to Eagle Rock and the charming company of our young guide at the rapids on the mighty Futa river.

Our journey south took us through farming country and so many snowy peaks and lovely little rivers, we got a little tired of the words "wow" and "beautiful, "que lindo" in Spanish. But the road was deteriorating as we went, so we took the chance to camp at Queulat National Park, near the town of Puyuhuapi. Gotta love the indigenous names; say all the vowels.....

Queulat is a wet place, 2500 to 4000 mm of rain annually, so we were pleased to have some clear weather to see the Ventisquero Colgante, a massive hanging glaciar which calves thunderously into a pretty lake, which then becomes a milky river. It was all so impressive with orchids, these prehistoric plants called Nalcas, and the ground covered in moss and lichen. And a real treat was to have humming birds visit our campsite. I'd never seen one before, and they are quite amazing. In flight, the body is still, suspended, you don't see the wings..... they're too quick for my camera...

Out of Queulat the weather resumed its normal rainy pattern, so we continued south through the regional capital Coyhaique, where we picked up supplies, to camp beside a delightful river near Cerro Castillo. The water is so clear, clean and plentiful, we were filling our water bottles from streams coming from the mountains beside the road.... it is icy and sweet.

In Puerto Tranquilo we took the chance to get dry, wash some clothes and stayed in a little cabana beside Lago (Lake) Carrera. I had to remind myself that this is a lake.... it's huge and surrounded by towering snowy peaks, and the westerly wind off the ice fields was freezing....

Ice! Is there anything more impressive than 200 x 50km of ice? and that is just the northern ice field..... I admit, I got a bit (ie. very) obsessed by the stuff - ice fields, ventisqueros, glaciars, icebergs... I couldn't stop looking at the icefields. And I will never look at my neglected fridge in quite the same way.... from Puerto Tranquilo we visited the Exploradores Glaciar...... enough said, check the pics.....

And while youre at it, check the pictures of the marble caves and islands in Lago Carrera. We visited them by boat on a cold and windy afternoon. They are so, so beautiful, I'll post the pics seperately....

Into the most stunning warm and sunny morning we head south, around the western edge of Lago Carrera, Cochrane town for supplies and into the heart of Patagonia.

The tiny town of Tortel was isolated except by boat until 2003, and is build almost entirely on boardwalks. They make a living from cutting cyprus pine and building more boardwalks....

Overnight in the forrest, and it's on to Villa OHiggins. Try saying this pronouncing all the vowels.... Spanish speakers can do it, while dancing, juggling and eating empanadas....

Villa OHiggins, mythical village in the mist, Chilean stake in the south, gateway to the OHiggins lake system, end of the Carretera Austral. The town was settled by the English in 1914 when it must have felt as far away as Mars..... We spent a few days here, climbed the Santiago Hill and ventured up toward the boarder crossing. But unfortunately the wind and rain returned, so we headed north again.

What an amazing journey on an amazing road. The Careterra Austral is 1247 kms from start to finish, across the most precipitous terrain imaginable. It was largely built by the Chilean military, who paid a price in lives lost, marked by the inevitable shrines along the way. The road has 4 ferry crossings and a gazillion bridges, is almost always washboard gravel, is often 1 lane wide, is steep, winding, windy and wet, and delivers you nowhere in particular..... but I'll do it all again 'cause it's the wildest road trip ever.


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18th November 2014

So Like home
I have loved this blog - wonderful scenery, fascinating narrative- but good grief it makes me homesick - all those tress, rivers lakes and ice. Keep it up and make it into a travel book -it is wonderful stuff Cheers Wendy
18th November 2014

So Like home
I have loved this blog - wonderful scenery, fascinating narrative- but good grief it makes me homesick - all those tress, rivers lakes and ice. Keep it up and make it into a travel book -it is wonderful stuff Cheers Wendy
19th November 2014

Just like home
Thanks Wendy, I do appreciate your feedback, not sure who reads this twaddle, but it is fun going through the memories.... how is everthing with you? Hope you are going well., cheers Alan

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