The Carretera Austral or Route 7 [formerly Carretera General Augusto Pinochet], is the road/highway running north/south through Chilean Patagonia. It is part dirt and part sealed but all beauty. Being the well-traveled and weller-experienced adventure cyclist that I am, of course, I have always considered the Karakorum Highway running from far western China south into northern Pakistan to be the ultimate bicycle touring road. After a few more days on the Austral I may have to reassess this.
I made the left turn onto the Carratera Austral at Villa St Lucia having crossed from Argentina near Esquela/Trevelin. Still holding tight to the notion of pedaling every kilometre southwards from the top of Alaska to bottom of Argentina had declined the opportunity to cross to Chile further north and endure a ferry ride for part of the way where Route 7 is cut for a while.
As it turned out, staying in Argentina and cycling through the southern Lakes District was a bonus as just north of Travelin, the National Park was a very pretty couple of days of winding dirt road surrounded by a lovely collection of lakes and snow-peaks. The road across the border laid on the alpine vistas as well. Getting difficult to find an ugly spot in this part of the world.
Today finds your correspondent in Coihaique a mostly unpronounceable and unspellable provincial town full of gauchos. There were echoes of Australia this morning as I was awakened to the dulcet groans of a lawn mower churning through a ‘nature-strip’ outside the tired but comfy Hotel Austral (the owner of which turned out to be a prize-prick!). The women are intent on sporting the latest butt-lift jeans which cause all manner of odd contortions to the buttocks and abdomen.
The ride just north of here turned into a bit of a chore in that the derailleur decided to fall off and had to be wired into place and therefore I had one gear with which to ride the last 75km. Quite hard-core I have to say.