Chile to Argentina via Mt Baker
We awoke to a fantastic sunrise over lake General Carrera and the alps of the Cerro Castillo national park. The plan yesterday was to travel around the lake and cross the border at Chile Chico, one of the more common and more used border crossings. One of the previous plans was to go as far as we could down “The Carretera Austral” and cross over the more southern and remote Mount Baker crossing. We had heard stories of this high pass rough 4WD type track that is often lashed with high winds that blow you off your bike. So we had chosen the softer option with a mix of sealed and well used gravel road.
Within 10 minutes of leaving one of the group mentioned that it was a great day with little winds and warm temperatures, maybe we should consider a back track down to pick up the Carretera Austral visit the fishing town of Puerto Bertrand then cross over into Argentina via Mr Baker. One valid point to this suggestion was that we would effectively get ourselves a day ahead of schedule with this route option. The price being 233kms of gravel “ no sealed road” and the potential of a mountain goat track as a pass out of Chile and into Argentina. Just when it appeared that we were taking the more sensible and bike safe option someone dropped a “is this an adventure or a holiday?” Well that seemed to get all the juices flowing and a vote was taken and we were all off back to the Carretera Austral.
10 minutes down the road my bike died then came back to life. This trend continued several more times in what appeared to be in sync with the corrugated road. We needed to fix this issue before we headed further into the mountains. The fault was quickly discovered by starting with a check of the obvious, the battery and terminals. Both bolts were loose and I did recall only using a Phillips screwdriver to originally add my Zumo and auxiliary power outlets. A quick tighten and we were off again. Still even a quick fault like this adds an hour to the day’s journey.
We pulled into the town of Puerto Bertrand filled up with mussel bars and headed south toward Cochrane (the last of the real towns on the Carretera Austral) looking for the goat track to Argentina. A roughly painted sign indicated the right hand turn that we needed but as we gathered on the corner one of the members was not present. It appeared that our corner marking failed and this member had gone through to Cochrane for a coffee con-Laiche. As per the rules the missing member soon returned to find us all gathered at the turnoff. Anyway the appropriate fines were administered and we all were looking forward to the Cervesa at the end of the day.
Once we turned off we had around 188kms to run through to Bajo Caracoles where we would need Petrol and a place to sleep. It was now 1pm and we still had a long way to run with two further delays in front of us, the Chilean exit formalities and the Argentinean entry requirements. The countryside was again stunning with magnificent landforms and lots of rivers and canyon’s. It was as if we were switching from famous scenic locations in New Zealand, central Otago, the McKenzie country then the west coast of the south island. One concern for me was the lack of traffic, 3 hrs riding and only 1 vehicle and that was a campervan which was parked, was this really a road to Argentina ?
Finally as the wind picked up we arrived at the remote Chilean border post. This is best described like arriving at a shearer’s hut high up in the planes of North Otago. We completed the requirements and finally the unlocks were unlocked, we rode the next 15 kms to find a similar facility flying an Argentinean flag. While completing the daily register we noted that we were the fourth group to be processed for the whole day and it was now around 4pm, that explained the lack of vehicles on route.
It was now 100kms down the valley and out onto route 40 to Bajo Caracoles. We pulled into Bajo Carracoles around 6pm a day ahead of schedule. All we needed now was gas and a bed. The local and only fuel station in town was run by the Hotel and local publican as we pulled up we found a couple of other bike riders waiting. I knew the look, it was there is no gas look. Oh shit we were a day ahead of schedule but we did not have enough fuel to run the next 330km south to the next fuel point of Tres Lagos. Well it was too late to worry about this so we focussed on a bed and Cervsa. I was sure that the petrol problem would be somehow solved over a Cervsa with the locals in the bar. !!!!!!
Check out the photo’s on what I have classified as my best adventure on the trip.