El Chaltén to Villa O’Higgins

On January 30, 2013

Thrills and spills (the alternate title). I made this on a real computer so the pictures relate more to the text! Yay!

The first 40 km of ripio out of El Chaltén to Lago Desierto was not too bad retrospectively. The first part had a killer headwind due to being in a wide river basin. We saw the Belgians along this stretch of road and they were just starting breakfast. It then turns hilly as it follows a river. We got to the lake for the 11:30 ferry. It cost AR$130. There are three ferries a day on this lake and it is pretty regular.

On the other side we went through Argentina’s passport control and reorganized gear. I put most of the weight in my backpack to keep the trailer as light as possible. This turned out to be the BEST option. I could easily pick up the rear wheel of my bike by the empty rack to give the trailer more clearance. I was able to go over all the logs and large rocks in the middle of the trail this way. I had to take the trailer off for one deep and narrow rut as well as one river crossing. Otherwise I just pushed the bike and trailer through the water. There are many stream and mud crossings that were small and dry since it hadn’t rained recently. This trip would’ve been incredibly difficult if it was raining. Argentina’s side is just a hiking trail for 6 or 7 km but then at the physical border with Chile it turns into a rough 4×4 track. There’s a tiny airstrip just on the Chilean side which is probably why there’s “road” access. It’s basically just loose stones or sand or chunks of shale. The road is mostly downhill which made it easier, but not easy. The small wheelbase of the Cross Check combined with the weird weight distribution of the trailer made it hard to ride and led to my first big wipeout. Nothing serious, just cuts, scrapes, and bruises. It scared me enough to take it pretty slow the rest of the way (but I still fell a few more times).

We decided to keep pushing for the ferry in Chile. We heard there was one at 5:00 and that the one the next day was canceled due to weather. That would mean if we missed today we’d have to wait until Saturday. When we got to the Chilean passport control just after 5:00 they told us it was actually at 7:00. Score. The ferry didn’t actually arrive until 8:00 pm. It cost a burly CH$40,000 but it was a gorgeous ride. The wind made huge waves in the lake making the ride very rocky. This is not the boat ride for those who get seasick. We arrived at 11:30 pm and had to ride 6 km into town in the dark. That was pretty scary at times. We camped after midnight and now are starting the famous Carratera Austral in Chile.

2 Responses to “El Chaltén to Villa O’Higgins”

  • A mutual acquaintance tells me you will be heading to Washington for a new job when you get back. I find it curious that your map program will not work on your future employer’s products? Just an observation.
    Another observation…WOW! WHAT A TRIP!

  • You ate dirt so many times. It builds character.. stand up and go.

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