Alternative Gains

Coyhaique > Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez > Chile Chico > Paso Roballos > Cochrane > Villa O’Higgins > El Chaltén

Coyhaique would mark a longer section on the Carretera Austral, which I was happy to embrace, given that I’d heard the traffic dies off substantially in the southern sections of the route.

Cruising on asphalt, it was a chance to put some good mileage in, although I was glad to only head about 4km the wrong way down a road before realising (I’d neglected to look at the map and note that I had to turn off the road I was on, nor had I paid proper attention to the road signs)! It was a warm day and the road offered up some sapping climbs but, before long, I was entering the Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo and there were more than a few distractions to keep me entertained – the landscape was stunning…

At the bottom of that picturesque ribbon of road, however, I dived left off the Carretera and headed towards Puerto Ingeniero Ibáñez, from where I would take a ferry the next morning…

It was somewhat novel boarding the boat as this was the first time that I had used another form of transport to head South. I had taken a bus from Chachapoyas to Celendín in Peru and collectivos up the Carretera Central from Lima, but those were both effectively returning me to where I had left off. I didn’t struggle too much with it though, as my ‘Alternative Austral’ route had required many extra kilometres and also meant I’d avoided numerous ferries that I’d otherwise have been obliged to take in the northern section of the Carretera Austral. After a couple of hours crossing the Lake (called Lago General Carrera by the Chileans and Lago Buenos Aires by the Argentines – the border dissects it), the ferry arrived at Chile Chico and it was a relatively short ride to the Chilean Customs and then over to the Argentine border. For pretty much the first time ever, though, I had to deal with queues at both – this wasn’t one of the remote crossings that I was used to! I also had to deal with an officious Argentine Customs agent, who insisted that Argentina had strict rules on what I was allowed to bring in (in terms of food). This was something I was used to with entering Chile, who have fairly strict bio-security policies and tend to confiscate fruit, veg, dairy or meats. However, not once, in my three previous crossings to Argentina had anyone ever had the slightest bit of interest in looking at what was in any of my bags! Trying to confiscate an avocado off me, I insisted that I would eat it there and then (I wasn’t going to let her throw it away) and she relented and just told me to eat it soon! What a nonsense.

Heading south from the Argentine post at Los Antiguos, I was soon rolling along on dusty ripio but with a threatening-looking sky…

As ever, however, the rain storms in the distance made for a dramatic landscape and beautiful light. Following another great tip from iOverlander, I found a sheltered little spot to camp next to a small brook.

As my alarm went off the next morning I became aware of the pitter patter of rain on the fly of the tent and quickly decided that I was going nowhere for the time-being. Turning over, I went back to sleep. An hour or so later and the rain is still coming down – a peek outside suggests that it’s fairly set in, although my weather forecast from the previous day suggests that it should clear later. With over a 1000m of climbing to do (over about 40km), I decide to wait a bit and see what happens. After a couple of hours of watching Netflix on the phone (I know, so 21st Century), I decide that I can’t afford to wait much longer as I’ve got a fair way to go and a limited food supply. What’s more, some strong winds are forecast for a few days time, so I don’t want to hang around. Whilst I know the important things are reasonably well-protected, this would be my first chance to see how my new setup fares in wet weather. [Update: it’s less than perfect!]


  1. Was wondering when we’d get the pleasure of reading the rest of your exploits dude!!
    Those views are just amazing!
    U gonna be at Allans leaving drinks?

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