The Real Line: Villa O’Higgins – El Chaltén

The Carretera Austral is sometimes called the road at the end of the road, because it starts more or less at the end of the Pan-American Highway (depending how exactly you define that one) and continues south from there. But now we’ve reached its end too and there’s no more road to continue on. So what happens next?

You take the boat at the end of the road at the end of the road of course! For cyclists and pedestrians it is possible to cross the border to El Chaltén in Argentina. Many borders are just an imaginary line on a map, but there is no imaginary component to this one, so it must be real then. Bad maths puns aside, it involves cycling, two boats and biking/pushing your bike through difficult terrain for 22 kilometers between the two lakes. Like the Carretera Austral, crossing this border is is an essential part of almost every bike tour heading this far south.

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The End: Cochrane – Villa O’Higgins

In Cochrane I started by going to a car mechanic I had already seen when I entered town. He couldn’t weld my rack and according to him there’s no aluminium welder here. He had another bike rack out of steel, but there’s no way that will fit my bike because of the rear suspension and generally non-standard setup. Then he suggested using strong hose clamps to hold the rack in place and sent me to a hardware store.

I got a few clamps there, but I already didn’t like them much when I bought them. Indeed I found out they won’t work for me. As I was trying this at the hostel a motorbike rider arrived who also took a look. He suggested to just use strong zip ties or otherwise use small steel L-brackets. But that will have to wait for tomorrow. Looking at my bungee cord fix I think zip ties, applied correctly, are indeed likely to hold and it’s easy to carry spares in case they break. Update: I had contact with the bike’s manufacturer and they also suggest a fix using hose clamps in combination with a piece of wood, so I’ll try that soon.

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Into the Wild: Coyhaique – Cochrane

The meetings continued in Coyhaique. When I was walking back from picking up my laundry I saw Tim and Timo entering town, who will stay here tomorrow.

The fuel bottle for my camp stove was almost empty, so I’d been looking for white gas for a while, but unable to find it. Thus I went to a fuel station before leaving the city and had it filled with regular petrol. The lady operating the pump filled the bottle all the way to the brim, so now I have too much fuel to cook safely.

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Cyclist Central: Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique

Monday 27 November

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:36:05 01:32:28 21.35 13.85 37.44 237.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

On Monday I didn’t feel like spending a full day in Puyuhuapi, there’s not that much to see and do in town. So I got on my bike for the short ride to Parque Nacional Queulat. The road was good and easy, but some 10 km in it was blocked completely because of construction work. Luckily the road is next to the fjord here, so ferries were operating as a replacement service. On the ferry were also a few riders of the South American Epic, as well as a group of motorcyclists.

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Pinochet’s Prestige Project: Futaleufú – Puyuhuapi

I’m currently heading from one legendary road to the next. Just a few days ago I left Ruta 40 in Argentina behind, only to soon join the Chilean Carretera Austral, the southern highway that Pinochet started building in the 1970s with the goal of connecting remote settlements in the south to the rest of Chile by road. Previously they were only accessible by infrequent and slow boats, by air or through Argentina. The reasoning was that the road would make the region feel more united with the rest of the country and also makes military troop movements easier if Argentina decided to attack.

This road is a must-do for every bike tourist in southern South America, so that’s where I’m going. 45 years later the road is still under construction, so some sections are quite bad, and there are a few ferries where no reasonable road could be built. In summer the road is said to be full of bike tourists (maybe a bit too full), but it’s not summer yet.

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