Our main objective for coming to Chile was to cycle the Carretera Austral. I hitched this road 21 years ago and vowed to return one day.
The Carretera Austral is 1240km long and goes north south through Patagonia from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins.
98% of the road goes through fantastic wild countryside, passing fiords, glaciers, volcanos, virgin forests, and pristine lakes and rivers. The remaining 2% winds through small towns and villages.
The region is sparsely populated with only about 100,000 people. The largest town Coyhaique has about 50000.
Wild and beautiful, as it is savage and tough, Patagonia is one of the few places in the world where there are millions of hectares of virgin forest.
Patagonia is a new land. Just over 150 years ago the first pioneers mainly from Yugoslavia, the UK and Spain started to colonise the land. The chilean government awarded land to those brave enough to survive the tough weather and isolation.
Most of our journey has been on the Carretera with side trips to explore the valleys, natures wonders and villages that most people miss. Unlike my last visit 40% of the road is now paved and 60% is of varying degrees of bad gravel. Here this gravel is called Ripio and most cyclists learn to despise its existence. We had a love/hate relationship. As the Ripio certainly makes the area more isolated, with less traffic and not so developed.
Having finished the route i would not say its the adventure route that it was before but it is still tough. Especially the bottom half which is stunning.