The Southern Cone of infinite possibilities – Part III
Thursday, 13 de July de 2017
In the third part of our series, the engineer-cyclist Eduardo Lages departs from Chile on his way back to Argentina
We´ve reached the second to last part of our adventure. With Eduardo Lages we´ve rolled over 7 thousand kilometers, a little over half of the trip. Our adventurer now leaves Argentina on his way to a (wonderful) part of the Chilean Patagonia, before returning to Argentina on his way back to Brazil. Shall we follow him? Fasten your seatbelts, for the Toro is bravo!
7. Los Antiguos / Puerto Guadal
Los Antiguos is the last Argentine city of several borders between the two countries. The entrance to the neighboring country is in Chile Chico. A funny name, right?
From the border to Puerto Guadal it´s 110 km of dirt road and gravel (“ripio”, as they say here). And it’s actually a really beautiful road! There is a lake on one side and the Andes on the other. It looks like a painting. There are mines along the way, but it does not spoil the view. It´s incredible!
It´s worth noting that at this point there is a reversal of the monetary values we are accustomed to. Those who have a gasoline-powered vehicle will feel it in their wallets. In Chile fuel is more expensive. The reverse is true for those driving a diesel car. I lucked out! In the state run fuel stations (Copec) there are maps showing the next stations along the way. Make sure you pay attention!
From here on, you have to consider the type of accommodation needed. There are cabins, which are small houses without the traditional service (such as breakfast), they also have sophisticated hotels and inns, similar to the best ones found in Brazil. But in Chile there is also a curious option: you can rent a van, with the possibility of sleeping in it. I saw several ones on the way. Check out this link.
After Puerto Guadal there are a little more than 8 km to the intersection that takes us to the famous Carretera Austral (Highway Austral), which is our next topic.
8. Carretera Austral
Much of the famous Carretera Austral isn´t paved. The ground is more rustic than the dirt roads we see in Argentina. The road is ribbed and the car tends to shake and slide. And there is quite a bit of dust! If you search for the most beautiful cycling paths or roads in the world, on the internet, the Carretera Austral is always in the Top 5. Makes sense.
It is the true destination for those who travel on a big trail motorcycle in South America. I saw a lot of people with interesting motorcycles with trunks attached in the back. But don´t be jealous of them! Everything has its B-side. The logistics for clothing must make people crazy, because they end up covered in white dust from the road. And it is precisely in these conditions that the Fiat Toro seems to be more at ease. The car is very comfortable and safe. Its suspension does not even notice the bumpy ride! It´s sheer pleasure to drive with a 4×4 traction on some of these roads.
The complete route is 1,240 km, connecting Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins, but I drove “only” 700 km, with the following highlights:
Puerto Tranquilo: with such a name I had no doubts: If it’s quiet, it’s the right place for me to sleep in my Toro the first night- it´s almost like a tent on wheels. The town has a few streets, simple accommodations, a gas station and a place to eat. But the most important part is the small harbor. Take a 1h30 minute boat ride to reach the cathedral and the marble chapel. It´s very interesting and different.
Cerro Castillo National Reserve: An easily accessible Park along the road and well worth the visit.
Coyhaique: it´s a city with good infrastructure and perfect for a stop. The center is always crowded and with good restaurants. On the way there, you see signs to the “Huemul Protection Area”, where they preserve and protect the endangered Huemul, a typical mammal of the Andes.
Puyuhuapi: it´s a small town created in 1930 from a state policy, with the intention of populating that cold area by handing out land, free of charge, to European immigrants. It is a simple town, with little infrastructure. Nearby is Queulat National Park with lots of trails leading to the wonderful waterfalls. Within this same park you´ll see the Ventisquero Colgante, a 19 Km glacier suspended at 1,200 meters above sea level.
Leaving Puyuhuapi, towards the north, we arrive at La Junta and Villa Santa Lucia. Since I was returning to the Argentinean side at that time, I left the Carretera Austral towards Futaleufú. What a nice surprise! The stretch is only 60 km, not very well known (at least in Brazil), but achieves the great feat of being even more beautiful than the famous main road. As we border the Futaleufú river with its bustling blue-green waters, we see many options for lodging and leisure. Rafting is the most common sport, and it´s worth trying this modality. The place is certainly very popular, especially for those with good taste!
9. Villa La Angostura
Back on the Argentinean side of Patagonia, Angostura is strategically located, with a lot of interesting places in its surroundings. Bariloche is 85 km to the south. If you go 110 km to the north, through Route 40 (known as the Route of the Seven Lakes, Los Siete Lagos) you´ll see the beautiful and lively tourist town of San Martin de los Andes. To the west, in Chilean territory, is Osorno at 160 km from the Samoré pass, another beautiful road. At this point you can visit the volcanoes and the region of the lakes, in addition to the great city of Pucón.
Near Lake Villarica there are beaches with volcanic waters in addition to the volcano with the same name. The ride to the top of the volcano is awesome, with enough snow to “butt-ski” your way down. For those of you who like hot springs, there are many. Pucón is the type of city that, although small, offers dozens of options for tourists, especially for those who like sports.
But Angostura is not just a center with nice places. In itself, Angostura is special: lots of beer, wine and restaurants. The trick is to go to the quiet and paradisiacal beach of Bahía Mansa, 3 km from the center. They offer boat trips and there is even access to the beautiful Los Arrayanes National Park. There you´ll find the last Arrayán trees, 18 to 25 meters high, with trunk and the leaves used for making an infusion that calms the muscles and relieves intestinal pain (at least that’s what they claim). The trees are estimated to be about 300 years old.
10. Back to Brazil
The trip is fantastic, but our third segment ends here. In the fourth and last post of our series, Eduardo continues his adventure in Argentina on his way back to Brazil. Don´t miss the conclusion of this story, which – for a change – will also leave you speechless. Until next Friday!
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