The Alternative Austral

Futaleufú > Lago Verde > La Tapera > Ñirehuao > Coyhaique

After a few days resting in Futaleufú and playing the weather game (waiting out the rain and hoping for the perfect weather window), I set off on the rolling ripio.  From Futaleufú, most people would head West over to Villa Santa Lucía and join up with the Carretera Austral for several weeks on the famous Ruta 7.  The Carretera Austral had, in fact, been high on my list of highlights when this trip began, such was its reputation.  My experience in the Argentine lakes, however, had confirmed to me that the last place I wanted to be was on a busy road with a million and one other cyclists and backpackers, having a relatively generic experience.  I had the feeling that the development of the road (it has been increasingly paved over the last few years), combined with the large numbers riding it during the high season of January/February, were not going to make me happy!  I had been spoilt by the tranquility and remoteness of many of my routes further North and longed for more.  With that in mind, I plotted a route South that would snake around, crossing the border regularly, leaning heavily on VeloFreedom’s route and adding in a few additional detours along the way.  This would effectively avoid the busier Northern half of the Carretera Austral and rejoin for the purportedly quieter Southern half.  The positive side-effect of choosing a more Easterly route is also that there’s considerably less rain over towards Argentina – the Argentine Patagonian steppe is much drier than the Chilean rainforest!

So, with that in mind, I swung East once again and headed towards the Argentine border on my ‘Alternative Austral’…

Having crossed into Argentina, I refilled with water at the Gendarmería, and then took advantage of my (relatively) light bike by lifting it over a fence and wild camping in some clearly rarely-accessed private property!

The next day took me through Corcovado for a quick pit-stop and then on a steady little ripio climb up to Lago General Vintter.  Despite having technically been in Patagonia since El Bolsón, this was my first taste of the Patagonia that I had imagined – a harsher, windier vista; the barren steppe giving way to big snow-capped mountains.

With a lakeside camp spot, I could sit on the shoreline and just gaze in awe at the scene…


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