Thursday, March 3, 2011

Getting to the Carratera Austral

Lago del Desierto

After El Chalten, we planned to cycle through the Carratera Austral, which is the southern road of Chile, from Villa O´Higgins to Chaiten. We would probably not go all the way to Chaiten, but cross to Argentina in Futaleufú.
After the goodbye party, we got up late and started our way out of El Chalten. We left too late to catch the evening ferry that crosses Lago del Desierto (90 AR$), located 40 km from El Chalten, and planned on taking the morning ferry of the day after.


We met Naoki right outside the camping site near the lake, and we camped with him.


We understood from him that Japanese people have a hard time cooking rice when traveling, because at home they use a special pan to do that.
We got up early to make it to the morning ferry, and were very disappointed to understand that the ferry was broken and that it might take two days to fix it. A local guy called Ivor offered to take us half way across the lake, where he is building his new hotel, free of charge. Thinking it was a good idea we jumped on the offer, and Naoki joined us.


Ivor is a South African that came in a very young age to Argentina and now he is fulfilling his dream of owning a luxury hotel on the lake. Following his instructions, we started climbing up to the main trail around the lake, which was about 300 m above it. After 10 minutes we discovered what a huge mistake we made.


We had to walk with our bicycles and then go back for our bags, meaning we had to walk the 8 km trail 3 times! Naoki left us when we got to the top as he is much faster than us. If he wasn´t such a great guy he would have probably still been cursing us in Japanese.


Then we decided to stop for lunch, and while eating, we met a Norwegian guy who was eating red berries without knowing whether they were poisonous. Since then, we started eating them as well.
We camped on the trail, and reached the other side around noon, after some two hours of walking with our bicycles. In the afternoon we were back there with our heavy bags. A local horse rider offered to take our bags up the 7 km trail to the border between Argentina and Chile for only 100 AR$ (we heard a horse usually costs about twice that price, and we had two horses carrying our stuff). As we were tired from the walk, and the price was good, we agreed. Kindly, he filled our fuel bottle and we started the walk, with only our bicycles and some food. After the previous walk, this seemed like a nice walk in the forest.


Lago O´Higgins
After reaching the border, it took us more than an hour to pack our bicycles again, and we started cycling at about sunset. There is a camping site 3 km from the border, but thinking we might be able to make it to the next lake that day, we moved on. After an hour of cycling, Amit broke his carrier, and we had to stop for the night in the forest. We knew that the next ferry, crossing Lago O´Higgins, would leave at 17:30 (the ferry runs on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, and is sometimes canceled due to bad weather), so we took our time in the morning and woke up late. At noon Amit started fixing his carrier, and than discovered he had a broken spoke as well. He also changed his tire for a new one we carried from El Chalten. We reached the ferry just on time to eat lunch before taking off.
Although the ferry is very expensive (40,000 CH$), it was quite full.


We met again Naoki and the Norwegian guy, as well as a Dutch cycling couple. We watched a movie showing places we would see on our way through the Carratera Austral. We enjoyed the movie as well as the comfortable chairs on the boat.


Villa O´Higgins
After going off the boat, there is an easy ride of 7 km to Villa O´Higgins. There are two camping sites there (El Mosco, 5000 CH$ and Los Nires, 3500 CH$), and obviously, we chose the cheaper one. This is a great camping, they have a well equipped kitchen, a big dining room where people can sleep, a ping-pong table and rackets, and they sell bread, eggs and very good Empanadas. We took time to hike a little and we got up to the mirrador observing Glaciar El Mosco.


                     Shoham & Amit

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