Carretera Austral

March 3rd, 2013

Carretera Austral

I am sitting here looking out across Lago Tranquilo (which is called Lago General Carrera on the Argentina side of the border) sipping a nice glass of Malbec watching the light fade toward sunset.  It is very peaceful.

Lake General Carrera
Lake General Carrera

As noted yesterday, I was supposed to have a 70 km dirt road drive today. Piece-o-cake. It ended up being about 230 kms of really rough, but amazingly beautiful roads.

View from camp
View from camp
ok you geonerds, what's cool about this pic?
ok you geonerds, what’s cool about this pic?

Information is a funny thing. We all want it, but sometimes there are things that we are better off not knowing. We all claim to be open minded, but the reality is, and science backs this up, we filter information to fit our own preconceived notions. We all prefer good news. It is always a big decision and responsibility of the holder of unique or proprietary information as to whether to share it or not

Yesterday at our campsite, I decided to walk up the hill to get a picture of the surrounding countryside that we had driven through. As I approached a large rock, I noticed a large number of bones lying about. There was a bush in front of it and underneath was a fairly expansive space that made a nice little cave. Inside of it were several guanaco skeletons; this was clearly a puma lair. I had a slight moment of panic, but peeked in and saw that it was empty. I headed back down to the car, but was sorry I didn’t take a picture. After dinner, I headed back up to get a shot, carefully not telling Susanne about it. It was getting dusky, so I was a bit cautious in my approach and started heaving rocks at it just in case el puma had returned since my last visit. Unfortunately for me, Susanne observed me throwing rocks at something and looked up at me in wonder. I snapped a few shots of the setting sun and the guanaco skeletons and headed back to camp. She asked me what I was doing and I said “just being a boy, throwing rocks, testing my shoulder”.  Sleeping next to a puma lair was information I decided not to share…….until the morning.

Puma lair with some guanaco skeletons
Puma lair with some guanaco skeletons

After our rainy days in Torres Del Paine, the weather has been unbelievable. We woke up in the morning to another fantastic cloudless sky. It has been quite warm as well. We did the usual routine and got on the road about 9:15. We headed up Paso Roballos to the border about 6 km away. The drive was stunningly beautiful and reminded me of the San Juans in Colorado. Senor Avila very accurately checked us out of Argentina and his perro took a pee on our wheel and we headed down the pass to the Chilean customs office. This crossing must get a max of 10 cars a day. High-stress job. I always wonder if these dudes party together?

Beautiful morning on the road to Paso Roballes
Beautiful morning on the road to Paso Roballos
Gas stations are few and far between. Good to carry an extra can.
Gas stations are few and far between. Good to carry an extra can.
Senor Avila's busy border crossing
Senor Avila’s busy border crossing

We were a bit stressed about the Chilean cash situation since it was Sunday and there were very limited options for us to get cash for many klicks of dirt road. The Chilean customs dude offered to change some Argentinian coin for some pesos, so we took him up on it…even though he made a nice profit. Everybody was happy.

We headed down the very rough one’ish lane road to the main highway in Chile, Carretera Austral, which is also a very rough one’ish lane road, but with a bit more traffic. It was 18 km south to Cochrane, which had a bank and a gas station, so we decided to go low risk and head that way. If we couldn’t get cash at the ATM machine, which the Argentinian folks in the Chilean customs office had said was the case, then we would have to spend the night there and wait until Monday for the bank to open.

Main highway to Cochrane
Main highway to Cochrane

We filled up with gas, but didn’t fill the extra can. It was a quaint, but small little town with one café. We stopped in and had some lunch. We were still nervous about cash, so we split a salmon and salad. It was really good. We were sorry we didn’t get our own. I posted a few outstandingly funny blogs and we headed to the bank to test the ATM machine to see if it would spit out some pesos for us.

I parked in front of the bank. After a bit, a lady pulled up on the other side of the road and yelled at me in Spanish. Being an astute Spanish student, I realized I was heading down the wrong way on a one-way street. The traffic was intense as she was the only car I could see. I pulled up and turned around. All was well in Cochrane again. Susanne came out with a wad of pesos. Whew.

We decided to drive out north to the lake. It was slow going, but the views were outstanding. We made a few view stops along the way. We got to the lake and I was feeling tired and a bit crabby. We pulled into this fancy resort called Tres Lagos that was supposed to have a good restaurant and Susanne asked them if we could eat dinner there and sleep in the parking lot. They said yes. Whoa! I was happy because over 200km of dirt gets pretty grinding. A bit later, he chased us down and said the woman who owned the place had said no. Bummer. We headed out north looking for a place to camp. That is how I got to this great camping spot next to the lake in which I am now peacefully sitting.

Taking in the view after a day of washboards
Taking in the view after a day of washboards

Tomorrow, we head north and do a boat tour to some cool marble cave formations.

Hopefully we’ll only do 60 km of mind-rattling washboards……..and why does Susanne keep asking me about the canned tomatoes?

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