An overlander's account of South and Central America by motorbike - the trusty Suzuki DR650. Within are great travel tips and hints (2011).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Carretera Austral - Puerto Montt to Cochrane (20-23 Feb)

Arrrr me harties!

So another update...the amazing Carretera Austral (Chile Ruta 7). 

20th Feb 2011 (155 km) - Hornopiren (camp).  I left Puerto Montt this morning and hit the lovely dirt Carretera Austral.  It skirted the bays for 50 km or so before I headed for an alternate hilly route!  Sensational riding at the least!  Had to catch a ferry before reaching Hornopiren (cost 6650 Chile pesos with moto) and arrived right as it was about to leave...perfecto!  On the way to Hornopiren I met 3 poms/scotts on bicycles and had a yarn.  They were riding the Carretera were hundreds of other cyclists!  I ended up catching them up in Hornopiren again.  From Hornopìren you have to catch a ferry to Caleta Gonzalo (costs 10000 pesos for you and 12000 for moto).  I hadn´t booked a ticket due to internet problems so was hoping there would be space for a measly little moto!  I grabed some chorizos and bread and headed off in search of a camp.  And then I realised I had dropped my wallet somewhere!  Shivers me timbers! I ended up finding it a block away from the supermarker...minus 10000 pesos (20 AUD) but with coins still!  Lucky it was just a secondary wallet!  After riding out of town for about 10km I found an absolutely beautiful stream under the mountains and set the moto and camp up on a small hill next to the creek (message me for GPS location).  I managed to bog the bike trying to get it onto the hill!  So I offloaded the luggage and after a few goes a local bloke helped me get her up top!  A few locals were fishing, so I had a dig...again to no avail!  A shower was needed badly so I decided to test the water...and my Australian balls.  It seemed great to the touch of me I dove in and instantly went numb...must have been fed by the snow on that beautiful mountain above eh!  I hopped out after about 10 secs of vigorous scrubbing.  Funny thing...about half an hour later when I was nice and warm...several local Chileans came down for a swim.  They knew it was cold but braved it for a few minutes!  NUTS I tell ya!  I slept out under the mountain and stars with the sound of the trickling creek running by me...tranquilo!

21st Feb 2011 (135 km) - Near Lake Yelcho (camp).  Today was one of those thrilling days where you either make it onto the ferry...or you wait around killing time for days til the next one.  I rocked up to the ferry in Hornopiren and after waiting for all the cars to load they started the waiting list.  I was about 5th down.  Turns out they couldnt take any more vehicles, even though there was a few cars space, its a law on vehicle number.  So after a bit of begging, asking nicely, throw in a few por favors and sprinkle it with a look of desparation...they let me on!  WOOOHOOO! 

(Note:  Bikers, book your ticket earlier (Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo) with Naviera Austral online)

So the trip was to take a few hours so some minor maintenance and chopping down my electrics dashboard was done, with a few yarns with the locals, a cup of mate here and there and some viewtaking!    One Chilean bloke actually helped me use my hacksaw blade (no handle) to saw the dashboard to size!  Amazing!  Made some k´s after departing C.  Gonzalo and made it to Chaiten.  I had to find a guy around town to drill a couple of holes in my dashboard for the GPS mount.  After plenty of asking I finally found a gentleman who kicked over his Jenny and booted up the drill!  Fantastic!  I pushed on a bit further and camped nearby a lake on an old logging track.  Fantastic spot with some good tucker to boot!

22nd Feb 2011 (353) - Coihaique - A locals woodshed (camp). 
Another amazing day of riding on the Carretera Austral with great views, roadside waterfalls, lakes, cyclists, creeks, cyclists, locals and some cyclists.  We had to catch another ferry near Puyuhuapi as the road was being dynamited (which affected the salmon farms below - apparently the compression waves from the TNT could burst the swim bladders of the salmon, causing a slight problem for the farms!).  This ferry was free though and met 4 cars worth of Germans headed towards Ushuaia!  Towards the end of the day I pulled up at a local ranch and asked to camp.  An old bloke asked an old lady and said I could crash in one of their sheds.  So I pulled over underneath it and a couple of minutes later the ol fella came lookin for me.  He didnt see me so I called out and he came over.  He was old and possibly a little demented in his old age and just stared and said "siiiiiiii" everytime I said anything.  And then 5 blokes rocked up in a truck as gut feelings were pretty wrong here, so following my instincts I jumped on the bike and headed to town 10k away where I asked a lad in his front yard in town if I could camp.  He took me about the back and as it was raining let me camp in his woodshed...which he swept out and cleaned for me!  I´ve been giving Aussie 10c coins to people as a gift and occasionally a postcard of my bike and I with a thanks I gave him these.  Great people are definitely out there!

23rd Feb 2011 (442 km) - Land Before Time Valley (Argentina Border) (camp). 
Today I took off and made it south to Cochrane and then back north a bit and East for my first border crossing.  Was an absolute breeze at the Roballos crossing.  10 mins each side.  By this stage it was about 2000h and I was ready to camp.  After taking some photos of a lad who´d just caught a stray armadillo I headed on into Argentina a few k´s and found some hills to hide behind near some cliffs which over looked a valley...which looked exactly like the valley out of land before time!!!  Absolutely amazing!!!!!!  Rock wallabies were a hoppin, llamas were a roamin and bunnies were a boundin...but not close enough to my tyre. These beautiful things made it a sensational first night in Argentina...despite just catching the sniffles!

Bikers Notes
- book the Hornopiren - Caleto Gonzalo ferry (Naviera Austral)
- this place is about 10-20k East of the Argentina border on the L Posadas road to Bajo Caracoles.  Message me for GPS location. 
- ALSO, there is no fuel between Coihaique and Cochrane...about 350k.
- I believe there is a crossing East of Villa O´Higgins but only doable by mountain bike or foot.  A guy did it on a DRZ-400 but said it was really difficult.



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