Carretera Austral - the most beautiful highway of South America
After checking out Chile’s main highway called Ruta 5, a decision was taken to avoid it whenever it is possible as it is a big boring highway with nothing to see. We turned west towards the Pacific Ocean and enjoyed a couple of days riding Ruta Del Mar, the spectacular road along the coast of the ocean. The weather was perfect for riding during the day and a bit chilly at night, but a clear sky with millions of stars over our tent compensated for that. There was only one exception when we had to ride all day in the rain and decided to stay in a guesthouse on the beach which turned out to be a surfing spot, so we spent an evening together with surfers from Brazil and the US.
A little Southeast from Temuco we reached the picture-perfect town Villarrica which is located on a Villarrica lake and has a perfect view of the volcano which has the same name. It was a first impressive volcano that we saw on our way and it was incredible! Later there were many more of them all around and I think we got a bit spoiled with all the magnificent views as we rode through the Region of Lakes.
On December 8th we reached the famous Carretera Austral – Ruta 7 – which connects the small towns of Northern Patagonia region in Chile and is considered to be the most spectacular road of South America. The former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet ordered to build that road about 20 years ago and it is still under construction today. It is partly paved, partly dirt and gravel and partly it even goes on water with a ferry crossing as the only way to continue on that road.
On one of the ferries from Hornopiren to Leptepu we met lots of travelers in 4x4 cars, vans, on motorcycles and on bicycles. We started talking with Adam from the US and Giovanni who is Italian but lives in Germany – they are travelling South for a couple of weeks more and by the end of the month they have to return to Santiago. As our plans and riding taste matched we stuck together for a few days and really had great time riding the famous Carretera Austral. Adam rides a rental Kawasaki KLR and Giovanni has shipped his brand new Honda Africa Twin from Hamburg to Valparaiso just like we did.
We rode together all the way from Hornopiren to Villa Cerro Castillo, spent a couple of nights in campings and had one evening of wild-camping in a huge field of cow pasture with a perfect view to the mountains. Adam is of Polish descent, so he shared his babcia’s trademark palendrica (a very delicious version of pork meat) with us which he had brought to his trip all the way from New York!
In Cerro Castillo we turned east towards Argentina since we had some minor problems with my top box rack caused by very bumpy sections of the road and we hoped to find someone to help us fix it in Argentinean town Perito Moreno.
We rode to our first border crossing with motorcycles and it went more smoothly than we expected. The Chilean border control office was looking more “voluntary”, than obligatory – if you wouldn’t pay attention, you could easily just skip it and ride out without getting the stamp in your passport… But we did stop and go through the procedures. Then we rode about 30 kilometers to the Argentinean border control post on the other side of the mountains. The road was spectacular – with the bright blue Gral.Carrera lake in the horizon, some cows peacefully grazing in the fields, sheep running around scared of motorcycle sound and even some bunnies jumping on the road.
After crossing the border of Argentina, where officials were more interested in the weight, engine capacity, price of our bikes and how long does the GoPro camera’s battery last, than the papers they needed to fill in for us, we got on the Ruta 45 – a huge gravel highway winding through Patagonian steppe with nothing around but some bushes on the very flat landcape and… lamas gracefully galloping around! This was the first time we saw these animals in the wild!
After a couple of hours of riding through this “middle of nowhere” (which I suppose we are soon gonna ride much more), we reached Perito Moreno town and found a welder who did a great job on my rack and now I have the reinforced Givi luggage rack – Patagonia edition :)
We spent the night at Raul's minicamping and had almost all of our clothes brought to the local laundry for washing. I practiced my limited Spanish with Raul, a rather strange but very warm and positive old man.