Where the Careterra Austral (CA) ends at Villa O’Higgins there is no more road.
To get to Argentina one must take a ferry across Lago O’Higgins then traverse a road that turns into a trail for 12 or so more km’s crossing the Chilean-Argentinian broader to arrive at Lago Desierto where you can take another ferry. (Alternatively there is a trekking trail alongside that we had been forewarned that would be difficult by bike but not impossible as we saw 5 cyclists emerge from it two days after they had started right before we were about to cross the lake via ferry).
Of the entire CA, this was a highlight for me, we had been warned that the trail was difficult and seriously rutted but as one of our cyclist friends alluded to, many of those warning us of these ‘hazards’ had likely never been off the pavement for the CA. Although there were sections that we did need to dismount and push but we didn’t have to remove one bag.
As there are fewer roads, we’ve reached an area of the world where we are experiencing a ‘cyclists bottleneck’ (everyone headed south eventually meets in this area) so we had plenty of company to complete this section with, making it more enjoyable.
A ferry crammed with cyclists, I think we out numbered backpackers 4:1.
Not long after starting the road up towards the Argentinian boarder we come across Kurt who had a flat which gave us a perfect excuse to chill, chat, snack and enjoy each others’ company.
The ‘official’ cross over to Argentina for us this would be our first peddle strokes into this country. In my opinion, was one of the best country entrances.
After the official paperwork on the Argentinian side, where the border official also sang me his rendition of U2’s “Beautiful Day” after I commented how lovely it was outside, we shared a picnic lunch with friends and a stellar view.
After pushing, pulling and a few creek crossings we get a glimpse of Lago Desierto, our entrance point where we meet to road to El Chaltén, the view is amazing…
and the mark of a great decent.
The boat that afternoon to cross over Lago Desierto was canceled due to inclement weather as Mike, I and a few other cyclists snickered after the first crossing watching the mad race of cyclists venture off from the Lago O’Higgins to make the 6 pm boat first while we hung out behind and went searching for famed homemade jam and enjoyed the last of the batch.
The next morning the ferry departed across Lago Desierto, it was the smaller ferry and I counted 15 some bikes crammed and tied onto the deck and roof before I lost count. Mike, I and Anna (who we had met in Villa O’Higgins) opted to stay behind and help out our French tandem friends (Adeline and Marc) negotiate the trail.
To our fortune, we had met a few guys who had just disembarked the boat headed north, we offered to take a few of their bags up the trail as we were headed there anyways. The night before they had caught 3 trout which they happily gave us one as a thanks for carrying a few of their bags. Safely placed in the lake to keep fresh until we returned we headed up the trail to find the Frenchies.
We ran into Marc and Adeline right before the trail got really challenging and were greeted with hugs and appreciation as the five of us split the load and headed back down the trail.
Photo by Anna Kortschak
With a fish fry and picnic lunch as we waited for the afternoon ferry.
Reluctant to return to civilized society so soon and a little too late arriving from the boat, we pitch our tents behind the “no camping” sign just before darkness fell with few other options for a camp site.
We awoke to a chilly morning with a few flurries on our way into Chaltén. The ride itself was magical and reminded me of riding in Jasper (Alberta) in the fall.
On arrival into the Chaltén, after a mandatory stop at the bakery at the entrance, we headed straight for the house of Flor, who runs a Casa de Ciclista (free accommodation for traveling cyclists). We didn’t have prior arrangements to stay but were welcomed in with open arms, shared her house, her spirit and her amazing home made gnocchi with us. Words can not express how amazing and giving this exceptional person is. Gratitude for Flor!
The scene of Flor’s backyard shared with many other cyclists, there are 12 tents in the backyard in this photo meaning upwards of 20 people!
A true sign you are in Argentina, maté and wine from Mendoza.