La Carretera Austral 2.0

On my travels the past summer when I hitchhiked all Patagonia from South to North I also spent five weeks on the remote and rough Carretera Austral in the region of Aysen. Despite the rainy weather and many hours walking along the road because traffic is spare I spotted lots of potential for skiing. The few people actually skiing and who are just getting started in exploring the area also were so enthusiastic that I knew I had to get back here.
Always swarming to Dani about Cerro San Lorenzo (one of the most massive peaks of southern/central Patagonia), Cerro Cerro Castillo (I spent four days hiking around it and the Alpinist in me wanted to get closer to the summit) and a lot more of unnamed and unskied valleys along the road or a bit further in and only accessed via the bushes finally  drew my fellow ski buddy down here.

But getting Coyhaique was a long drive, basically starting in Temuco where we had stayed just after our ascent to Lonquimay. The next stop was Puerto Varas where we went to meet some good folks from the hostel/home we stayed in during our prior time (Vno. Osorno). By midnight we left the port of Puerto Montt for a ten-hour ferry ride and a night’s sleep on our sleeping pads under our assigned seats. The ride was so calm that only the nightmares of ripping sleeping bags could disturb our peace for the night.
Our arrival in Chaiten was as expected (for me) unreal as it’s a totally different groove from fancy Puerto Varas. Still suffering from the effects of the eruption of a nearby volcano three-and-a-half years ago that destroyed much of the city and its infrastructure it’s still in reconstruction and power as well as potable water are missing. The deserted city is not exactly a welcoming place as all of the restaurants were closed and we only found some breakfast by the routing of some helpful trucker….

Just after we left the town behind us we wanted to get some luxury back to our lives and went for some hot-springs special treat to get ready for the bumpy gravel road ahead of us.
Already behind schedule and delayed by three hours, at once we caught up with the other cars from the ferry on the snow-covered road. Unsure if we should pass the line and expose ourself to the winding road and the judgements of the Chileans we put on our chains and had an awesome ride up the snowbanked route. La Junta is not so much a place you want to stay too long so we just bought a pack of pasta and something for the morning next day and made our way to sit out the night in our tent on the shore of a nearby lake.

Not being able to shower for a couple of days was a really hard experience for the two of us so we felt – again – the urge for some hot springs. This one was much fancier than the one from the day before and just located on a fjord of the pacific and with comfortable 37°C, if there hadn’t been the temptation to take a dip into the ocean accompanied of close passing dolphins. Phaa, what a life I have. As the condition of me knee didn’t permit me to drive I even had my private chauffeur. The second pass of the carretera with countless switchbacks was much easier than expected and after the visit of the not so visible hanging glacier ( Ventisquero Colgante in the Queulat Reserve) we went off into the dusk.

The detour to Puerto Cisnes wasn’t really worth the kilometers but it already got dark, we were hungry and last time I passed the junction nobody had given me a ride. So it was kind of a missed thing I wanted to catch up. The hospedaje wasn’t very welcoming, the restaurant smelled like cleaning vinegar but at least the salmon was exquisite.
The last stretch of our 900km drive was the most unspectacular as it was almost all paved and Dani could put the pedal down…

For now that’s all and we finally got the real shower after two more nights of camping in Coyhaique and are getting stoked to try out the new terrain as we’ll leave for Cerro Castillo tomorrow to pitch our tent up high in a remote mountain valley.

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