Chilean Patagonia by the Carretera Austral – 10 days – 147 metres above sea level

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On the 10th of January 2019, we did our first kilometres on the Carratera 7 also named Carratera Austral. The view was already breathtaking: we crossed between La Caleta La Arena and La Caleta Puelche with a small boat, the road was going alongside the Seno Reloncavi (more well-known as the Golfe de Puerto Montt) with the first summits covered of snow.

There were some roadworks on the way, letting us to ride our first kilometres of unpaved tracks in Patagonia to reach the small village of Hornopiren. In the fishermen village, the houses are nice wooden chalets, it is also the point of departure for the ferries to go to Chaitén. Indeed, the road stops here and it was by boat that we reached the Southern part of the Carratera 7.

Arrived in the village, we booked our tickets at the pier for crossing the next day in the morning. Tickets booked, we crossed a small bridge spanning the river and we followed the track going along to reach a small clearing where we set up our camp.

The next day, once the tents folded, we waited in the queue to boardon the ferry. After boarding, we waited as the boat departure has been delayed of an hour and half.

During the crossing, it was raining but nothing would stop the beauty of the scenery. The ferry crossed the fjord before to berth on a piece of land with a 10-kilometre length. We rode in the rain before to go back on a new ferry to reach the next part of the Carratera Austral. After 50 kilometres of tracks, here named “ripio”, with a heavy rain, we arrived in Chaitén, a small fishermen village. We set up the camp under the rain, before to share the evening in the small kitchen of the campsite with six other backpackers traveling in Patagonia by foot or bicycle.

We kept going for the following days on the Carratera 7. The beautiful scenery does not stop: snowy summits, rivers with nice bridges and lakes. We went alongside the Rio Trio and then Rio Palena during many kilometres. Arrived in Puyuhuapi, we set up the tents in the campsite located at the bottom of the fjord. We allowed us a drink on the pontoon before to dine with four Chilean adventurers who are going to Ushuaïa by hitchhiking.

On the way to the National Park of Queulat, there wereone carstopped on the side of the road. In the fjord, just a few metres away, there were two dolphins hunting fish. Arrived at the entry of the park, we put our hiking shoes for a small hike of 6 kilometres. After a rope bridge and a little hill up to the mirador, the Glacier Queulat was waiting us. Perched on the cliff, the ice melting is making an impressive waterfall flowing into the river we crossed previously.

To reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo, this part of the Carratera is an uneven surface full of holes. Sidecars and riders suffered. We spent the night at La Nutria campsite. We have been warmly welcomed by Ricardo and his family. The Puerto Rio Tranquilo village is a holidays destination and great to go on an adventure on the glacier of the explorers or to go kayaking around the cathedral of marble. The place to rent them is actually just a few kilometres away from the village. To go there, the path offers an amazing view over the General Carrera lake before to go down to the beach through a steep slope. On the water, the surroundings are amazing, as much by the shapes created by the erosion of the rock, as the colour nuances of the marble with blue, grey and green.

On the advice of Ricardo, we left the Carretera Austral around the small vilage of El Manzano, to cross the Rio Baker through a nice little wooden bridge.

We saw again this little river before Cochrane. This time, we crossed through a small boat pulled by a cable. After a wild camping night on the heights of the isolated city, we drank our first maté for the breakfast. The previous day, we bought some at the supermarket plus the specific straw named “bombilla” to enjoy this traditional drink. We followed precisely all the advice given by a campsite manager met previously. His two secrets: the choice of the herb which shouldn’t be cut too small and the temperature of the water which should be hot but not boiling. It is forbidden of mixing the herb with the straw, and if possible it is better to use a clay recipient (but for us our camping tin mug will do the job).

Wind and dust were with us on the track to reach Torter. During the last 10 kilometres, Emilie noticed a crack on the mudguard of our side-car. Same remark on Julien and Marie’ side-car. We reached Tortel with difficulties and tried to find a welder to repair the damages. A grandad, owner of a supermarket in the main square of the village, was intrigued by the side-cars. He gave us the contact details of Fabian, a mecanich who has a old welding machine. Doing his best, he did a few welding points on the cracks. A provisional repair, hoping it will last a few days before to find a better welding machine. After putting back the mudguards on the wheels of our sidecars, we discovered the charming village of Tortel. Usually made of beaten earth in the area, the streets are here made of wooden walkways on stilts. All the vehicles must park at the entry of the village. The firemen truck is replaced by a small boat. The life of the village is organized around these walkways. It was 8:30pm when the sun was going down over the fjord. After a beer in the handcrafted brewery of the village, we went back in our tents set up on a little pontoon in the village.

Early in the morning, we left Tortel to take a little boat crossing the Rio Bravo towards Villa O’Higgins. The repairs done the previous day, didn’t last after the first kilometres. Once landed, we removed the mudguards and attached them on the boot of the sidecar to avoid further damages. At the beginning of the afternoon, we arrived at the pier of Bahia Bombadorez symbolising the end of the Carratera Austral. As an award for this achievement, we enjoyed empanadas with salmon and cheese.

After going back on the same track to Cochrane, we spent a last night on the Carratera Austral. In the morning, we headed to Argentina by crossing the Patagonia park. A nice relief looking like the landscape described by Tolkien in the Lord of the Rings. In the fields, vicunas are drinking in the small stream. In the background, there was the small border post of the Chilean « Carabineros » announcing the end of our adventure on the Pacific Coast…

where to sleep?

Camping La Nutria
Valle exploradores, km 20, Puerto Rio Tranquilo

Indeed, after the village of Puerto Rio Tranquillo you will need to go through 20 kilometres of paths, but the place is worth it. You will be warmly welcomed by Ricardo and his family. The campsite has a nice green field with some shadows, private bathrooms and a shared open space with a table and a fireplace for all the travelers. In the morning, do not miss the coffee-churasco at the breakfast before to start the sport activities suggested in the area (kayaking, hiking on the glacier)

Camping Los Pioneros
50 Camino Cementerio, Villa O’Higgins

Small campsite with nothing fancy, between trees, at the end of the Carratera Austral. To warm up after a day on the tracks, there is nothing better than a matéin the communalroomof the chalet, in front of the small wood-burner.

Where to have a drink?

Cerveceria El Mirador

A warming atmosphere with a beautiful view over the Tortel bay and a very good craft beer served by a passionatestaff. The cradft brewery of the Mirador has all the assets to seduce you!