The Carretera Austral

Or Chile’s Ruta 7 as this 1200 km road from Puerto Monte to Villa O’Higgins is otherwise known took 10 years and cost 11 lives to build. It only serves 100,000 people and the country it runs through must have been hell to build a road through. But the General Pinochet regime – and the road was once called the Carretera General Augusto Pinochet Highway – used the project to project its own inviolate authority and power. It was a demonstration of macho, certainly with little basis in financial viability. The road is largely unsealed, is very narrow in parts and what local traffic there is comes hurtling around the bends being quite intimidating of the motorcycling tourist. But for all that it makes for one of the greatest roadtrips on earth – and with Argentina’s Ruta 40 so close – and we haven’t finished with that yet – we are indeed fortunate to have two such iconic strips to traverse. The countryside is like West Coast and southern West Coast New Zealand – rains here 400 days a year, although we’ve been here 4 days and it’s been beautiful. Tomorrow it’s about to change though. But we ride through beech forests, past toi toi and silver fern and the road we’ve found no different to the backroads of the Coast – so we feel right at home. Our photos are here.

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