Sunday 29 November 2009

CHILE La Carreterra Austral (North) Futalefu-Coyhaique

In Coyhaique, halfway down the Carreterra Austral. We hitched this route in 1993 when it was all gravel roads for 1000kms and there was little traffic and very few tourists. Now it´s a popular route for cyclotourists with 300kms of paved road. We´ve met over 20 cyclists in the last week and caught up with a few for dinner last night. Mostly French.

Now heading south for Cochrane and Villa O´Higgins. The highway hadn´t reached this southern outpost in 1993. Now it´s possible to catch a ferry with the bike and walk/ride on rough tracks to Argentinian customs at Lago de Desierto and onto El Chalten. This has become a favourite summer route for foreign cyclists.

The route from Futalefu to Coyhaique was a mixed bag. Mostly bad weather- held up for a few days with heavy rain. Lots of late spring snow on the peaks, and the rivers were turbulent with snowmelt.

Here are some photos of the trip. I´ll write more at a later date.
The highlights were the spring flowers, wild campsites and spotting a pudu in the rainforest. It is the smallest deer in the world and quite a rare animal to see down here.

It was also the first time on the ride since leaving the Caribbean shore and after 12000kms riding the spine of the Andean chain, to hit the salty smell of the sea. Puyuhuapi village sits on the Ventisquero fjord with access to the Pacific Ocean. We rode along the coast for about 15kms before climbing back into the mist-shrouded mountains of the Quelat National park (this is where I spotted the pudu).

Map of the route

Futalefu river running down to the Pacific.

Notro (Chilean firebush) Embrothium cocaineum
A member of the Protea family and an Andean relative of the waratah in Australia.

Copihue Lapageria rosea Chile´s national flower, similar to the Tasmanian climbing heath.

Fuchsia magellanica

Futalefu river

A house in Chaiten buried in volcanic ash and mud detritus after the eruption of nearby Volcan Chaiten in May 2008.

Lago Yelcho

A small chapel in the Chilote style, with shingled roof and walls.

Riding down the Carreterra Austral on a rare sunny day

View of the peaks from our campsite by Rios Palena and and Frio.

An out-of-focus shot of a pudu deer. I spotted this timid pudu in the forest but managed to get one quick shot before it fled deeper into the damp undergrowth. This is the smallest deer in the world and it was a real surprise to see one so close to the road.

Forest orchid in Quelat national park.


View from our campsite at 600m in Quelat National Park.

Rainforest flora and vegetation

The road south to Villa Manihuales


Nick Parrott - Metanoia Design said...

Quelle bellissimo vistas y fotos y flores y montagnes!! Me gusta mucho el Chile...

muchas gracias Pedro.. :o)

Unknown said...

Hey Pete and Jude,

Nice photos you made. I arrived in Villa O'Higgins yesterday and net the French guy with the muscle problem. I'll get the boat on Wednesday. The road from Chile Chico to cruce El Mayten was very beautiful, but hard.

From Cochrane to here, the road was sometimes bad, but it was mostely ok. Good Hospedaje in Villa O'Higgings: La Cascada, with kithcen and very friendly (6000 without breakfast).

the boat at Puerto Yungay: 10h, 12h, 18h. You can buy some food there at the kiosk, but it's very limited.
there are a lot of good camping options after the long descent between
Cochrane and Puerto Yungay
after the two climbs on the way to Villa o'higgins there are some nice
camping options, but before its hard to find a nice spot

hope to see you again some time,