The End of the World. Part 1, The north of Patagonia.

Three years after

Looking back, a strange aspect of this trip is that it got into my head despite not having a clear idea where I was going. I had casually found a website of adventure trips and from that day I felt like I wanted to organize something like that on my own. Sometimes, it’s difficult to explain why we are so passionate about something we have no knowledge of. Such a thing happened years before with Iceland. But the idea of that trip has been housing in my head for much more time and at least it started from a meeting and a photograph.

At some point in my life I felt like I wanted my trips to be just “mine”. Organized tours or places like Ibiza, the Red Sea, Cancun and similar were not exactly suitable for a personal experience. I didn’t want to enroll into something precooked and prepackaged for you, I wanted to invent the way to discover exotic and remote regions myself.
In short, I left at the end of November 2017. It was a fantastic and very lucky journey.

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The amazing view from Llao Llao over Nahuel Huapi lake.


Sometimes adventures start at the airport

Over the years I developed a certain survival instinct towards long air travel which I am quite proud of. Let’s say that the airplane’s muffled atmosphere, the idea that during the flight you can rest in your armchair watching a movie and you are served with free food and drinks have often made the experience almost pleasant. At least when compared to the everyday situation in which the chair is that of your office and the monitor is covered with code that does not work.

However, I also developed some distrust towards certain journeys, something that has a certain dose of superstition. Especially when you are on the eve of an apparently easy one. The more relaxed you feel about it, the greater the risk of something going wrong. An insurance and a garlic necklace might help.

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Almost every journey starts with an airport.

Layover adventures. In my case, fate awaited me at the Lima airport. My flight to Temuco was leaving at 7 and I had about 5 hours of waiting before boarding. Time that I initially spent wandering around the boarding area looking for an armchair to rest before checking in. Mission that miserably failed, since the terminal was crowded and the armchairs invaded by a number of people who were sleeping in the most atrocious positions. At that point I decided to lay down behind an empty check-in counter using the jacket as a mattress and the backpack as a pillow. As often happens to me when I have those few hours of time before an important appointment, I suddenly woken up checking my phone. The clock said it was 10 minutes before boarding! I jumped up completely stunned and rushed to check-in. I kindly asked those present to let me by but while the hostess was reassuring I had time to board I noticed that the backpack had opened and I had dropped toothbrush, soap and towels around while I was running towards the desk. A few minutes later, the gate was deserted. I asked two hostesses who told me the flight was not departing from that gate at that time. Surprisingly, the hostesses asked me why I worried: there were still three hours to go. The phone showed 7:45 but it changed the time to that of my Country. It was actually 3:45 and it was actually three hours before boarding. The journey actually started with the adrenaline rush of a real adventure and in the next three hours I tried to make it flow away by collapsing on an armchair in front of the gate.

Luggage adventures. The flight to Temuco went smoothly and I had time to capture the splendid Andes that could be seen from the airport windows in the dawn light. I felt much better compared to a few hours earlier. Unfortunately the treadmill at Temuco airport continued to eject bags of all shapes and colors except mine. Until it was clear that mine would never come out. Stunned, I went to the lost luggage counter, annoyed at the idea of the series of troubles that this could have generated. The lady reassured me that the baggage had been located and would have been sent as soon as possible.

Obviously that didn’t happened.
And this fact blocked me for two days without me being able to leave, busy with phone calls and emails. In the end I rented the motorbike and traveled the 200km to return to Temuco airport where I hoped that the baggage arrived. In fact, it was there. The airport was deserted, there were a couple of open cafes and the only two hostesses present at the terminal were intent on chatting and drinking coffee. After my question they opened a small door behind them and simply extracted my luggage from the closet. One should normally be pissed. But I was on vacation, the sky was blue and I had a long journey ahead.

In the end I had a coffee with them, I put some music on and I finally left.

Pucòn and Villarrica

My little misadventure with luggage had turned into a pleasant stay in the valley of Villarrica’s lake and it was the first surprise. The taxi woman drove me through the green valley coasting the lake and asked everything about my trip. It was sunny, the place was amazing and I was so surprised everything and everybody was so nice.

During my stay I paid a visit to the the owner of the motorcycle rental in Villarrica. His “shop” was nothing but his house in hills between Pucòn and Villarrica. The one below is the view of the volcano from his yard – he became a sort of idol for me: he does a beautiful thing, he lives in such a beautiful place.

Il giardinetto di casa Ulli. Mecojoni.
The backyard of the rental place with a view over the Villarrica volcano. Not bad.

Of course it’s not always like that, in winter it’s rainy and cold in summer the area is crowded but let’s say I’ve been dreaming about it many times while in my office on rainy days.

Pucòn. While Villarrica was a large village with no particular point of interest, Pucòn and its surroundings looked like a paradise. The valley was green and dotted with lakes and Pucòn lied on the banks of the largest one. It was a village of wooden houses, hostels and small restaurants that at the very least seemed not to belong to what was my gross idea of Chile.

During those three sunny days, the pebble beach was my favorite destination. Few people were sunbathing here and there and the beach bar facing west looked like a perfect place for a beer waiting for sunset. The local one was precisely called “Patagonia”, it was surprisingly excellent even for people like me who are not exactly in love with beer.

 

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Spending the evening on the walkway around the lake in Pucòn.

The rental. When it was no longer possible to postpone my departure any further, I headed to Ulli’s rental in Villarrica. As I told, instead of a garage it was a villa with a huge park and a breathtaking view of the Villarrica volcano that made its activity look like a secondary thing.

The motobike was in the garage for the last tuning while I was signing papers. Though in line with the prices of other rentals in the region, it was expensive. The spare parts price list was scary so I had to settle for a safe insurance. The motorbike was a brand new Honda CB500X with a new off-road rear wheel, it had saddlebags, tank bag, maps, full tank and all the documents necessary for crossing the border. Ulli and his wife were kind people and they helped me a lot during the days when I had to argue with Latam about my luggage.

I was so happy when my journey started but I have to say I was already regretting not having half a day to explore the valley.

Destination Argentina

Parque Nacional Villarrica. I was already thinking how to hurry up things a little in order to cope witht the days spent in Pucòn. The road towards Argentina, that in my mind was the beginning of my “real” journey was heading through a mysterious park that stretched to the state border at the foot of the previously mentioned volcano and another beautiful and basically identical one, the Lanin.

Actually I had no idea how the whole journey would have developed as I had no idea it was just the first in a series of parks that looked similar: stretching to the state border, crossed by a dirt road and surrounded by incredible landscapes.

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Brooms are everywherein springtime.

Although many roads in southern Patagonia were unpaved, all roads going through through the parks were inevitably like that: covered with a thick layer of gravel and often full of potholes.

The first day of off-road driving was pretty much like a baptism of fire. I lost the phone holder, gloriously fallen as I was trying to figure out the best way of dealing with road grooves – they seemed quite common – and the overlying layer of grit. I was quite tired after that ride and the words of Ulli asking me how comfortable I was on dirt all of a sudden made sense.

The entrance to the Lanin park in Argentina.

Fortunately I would have become more familiar with all that soon. Anyway, the first day was nicely spent going through wooded hills trying to get comfortable with the bike, the roads and the navigator I was largely depending on.

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I took a step into the woods to find this beautiful stream with the Lanin in the background.

Border. Mindful of the Iceland experience, I was keeping my camera at hand in anticipation of a long series of stops to immortalize the landscape. I wasn’t that comfortable on gravel and the bike was constantly drifting. In addition, I wasn’t sure what was waiting for me at the border. How could a border between Chile and Argentina possibly be? I had no idea but something in the Narcos-style was constantly coming to my mind. Something with soldiers, machine guns and barbed wire.

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Many country borders are inside national parks.

With great relief, in the middle of the woods there appeared a very quiet station that looked like a small gas station. No signs, no barbed wire, no guns.

Inside each station there was a certain number of counters you had to visit in a specific order. Each of them was doing things with your documents that usually consisted in writing and stamping papers.

Generally everything was done quickly and the procedure usually involved a couple of questions about the bike and your destination. More often they were just smiling at you and asking something about your holiday before wishing you a good trip. Compared to the grumpy border guards back home it seemed to be on another planet.

The Routa 40 de los 7 lagos

A few minutes after the border the road became paved again short before joining the more famous Routa del los 7 lagos, or Routa 40. A road that runs all the way through Argentina from somewhere north to the very south.

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The Lacar lake from the roadside on a wonderful sunny day.

That stretch entered a mountainous area dotted with amazing blue lakes and covered by endless forests. I also marked the entrance of the Argentinian Lake Distrinct.

After a first trait past Junin de Los Andes that was all but suggestive, I got to a place called San Martin de los Andes. A cute village on the edge of a beautiful lake that looked like some kind of quiet summer resort  somehow ignored by tourism at that time. Everything was quiet as I was driving down the main street except for a group of motorcycle drivers with a strange yellow roadster resting at one of the cafes. I thought it was a great place for taking a break. A group of kids was practicing some hip hop song in the shadow under a tree in the park, I went to get some money at the ATM and sat at a table outside of a nice bar on the street. Exchanging a few words with the waitress I learned there was a lookout point somewhere outside the village on the left side. Not so easy to get up there (the road was dirt) but the view of the Lacar lake under the heavenly spring sun was an exceptional reward. And so was the road that coasted it after leaving San Martin.

Having forcefully spent two extra days in Pucòn I decided it’d be a good idea starting to keep a good pace. So my next planned stop had become Villa la Angostura: a nice place just a little more ordinary than the previous one. The local youth hostel was fine and right behind the central crossing on the main road where a restaurant that looked very local was located. Local food, something I really loved. Specialty of the region was the trucha. Despite my Spanish I had no idea of what it was, so I steered on a wonderfully rewarding deer stew. Well, trucha is trout. Obviously. Back at the hostel and going after the hostel’s cat I got to meet a very nice German kite-surfer. And a motorcycle driver, who was on her journey to discover the southern part of the world by herself.

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A white beach on the Nahuel Huapi lake hidden beyond the brooms.

Caribbeans? The next destination was the popular area of San Carlos de Bariloche, a well-known summer resort. Villa la Angostura was a neat village just at the beginning of a fantastic road coasting the large, magnificient Nahuel Huapi lake and its surrounding national park.

The road was streaming around this big, blue lake surrounded by yellow flowers and snow-capped mountains. Definitely one of the most eye-rewarding parts of the entire trip. 

During a stop, I gave in to my curiosity: the lake shore should have been somewhere beyond a belt of bushes in flower. I ventured through them and when I got out I was so touched at the view in front of my eyes: and incredibly deserted beach, indeed one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It seemed like somebody transplanted a Caribbean beach into an alpine scenario.

The Gilera fun club. I reluctantly had to depart from that paradise: I suddenly realized I had no gear and no time for sunbathing on a beach while my schedule pressed on. Later, along the same road I was coming across motorcycle drivers riding some vintage kind of bikes. So a little later, on a lay-by that was basically a terrace and another good chance to take yet another couple of pictures I met the whole group: a dozen of elderly gentlemen riding who were nothing less than the Argentine Garelli and Gilera Fan Club! Two extinct Italian brands that survive only in my child memories. Simply immense. We spent some time talking about each others’ trips and shared most of the wonderful remaining road to Bariloche. Among other things, they told me we were crossing the shortest river in America: the Correntoso, that measures just 200m!


San Carlos de Bariloche

At the end of the fantastic journey around Lake Nahuel Huapi I finally got to San Carlos one of the largest towns in the areas that locals simply call Bariloche. A very good looking place which indeed seems to have some good credentials as a touristic resort. According to the boys of the Garelli Fan Club it was also a place that was going through all the joys and sorrows that come with mass tourism: namely speculation and small crime, to the point that leaving bags and helmets unattended on the bike would have been a poor idea. In truth, apart seeing two policemen in white helmets riding an offroad motorbike with shotguns on their lap (talk about Narcos series!), sitting at the edge of the lake the town looked fantastic. I asked directions to a gentleman who was walking on the lake walk with his dog and we spent some minutes asking about my trip and telling me things about the town and its history.

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Entering the Llao Llao peninsula you find a few nice, tiny beaches and bars to relax.

The main course looked quite elegant and full of shops, the city quite tidy and quiet despite of all the rumors. In one of the galleries I changed euros for pesos at an honest rate from a guy who was there at the corner offering some kind of “unofficial” money change service, under the eyes of local police. In fact it was a policeman that directed me to him. Once again we talked a little about my trip, this time in Italian because he apparently had been engaged to an Italian woman some time ago. Many things until that moment felt a little like being in an REM dream.

Llao Llao. Is not a place in Chinatown but one of the most recommended around Bariloche. Unfortunately, being short of time I wasn’t planning any stay in town. Nonetheless my German friend made clear it was absolutely a good idea to visit the small peninsua just to the left of the town, Llao Llao. So, before heading south I decided to extend my visit to what’s called the Chile Chico ring, the road going around the hill.

It's amazing the amount of flowers spring offers to visitors.

Some of the region’s best breweries are located on the hill side in Llao Llao. We are not talking about pubs or factories, these cervecerias looked more like classy resorts. The road winded around the hill through some nice beaches, surrounded by orange, yellow and purple flowers. As it went up it offered the most amazing look over the lake and its park you can imagine. Check out the picture on top of this post. At the end my tour I stopped by one the breweries that had been especially recommended: the Cerveceria Patagonia. The name was probably not very original, but it was one of the most heavenly places I found during the whole trip. On the hill side overlooking the lake, there was a garden with a cottage and a terrace with a breathtaking view. I sat by the restaurant, enjoyed an amazing amber beer with a steak and potatoes under the sun and with an incredible view in front. Patagonia had already conquered me.


South of Bariloche, El Bolsòn

Heading south from Bariloche the landscape gradually changed. Mountains were becoming more distant, roads more straight, forests and lakes more sparse giving way to a more soft and open landscape. Apparently less frequented but no less beautiful. They were the last green offshoots of the region before vegetation succumbed to the windy and arid lands of the Argentinian Pampa.

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The lands south of Bariloche starts changing look, but valleys are still magnificient.

I must say I enjoyed that stretch of road a lot: a long sunny and easy road, broad valleys, streams and few people around. An ideal afternoon for a bike ride. Also, for some reason that day I was keeping on crossing colorful rally cars coming up north at regular intervals. Dozens of them. God knows why but that was it, they were so cool and  another positive note for the day.

Once they were hippies. My destination was El Bolson, a village whose name sounded bizarre as much as its fame. It was known for hosting a large hippie community, at least during the hippies golden age: reportedly only a few members were surviving nowadays and somebody told me they were still living on the products of the land and roamed about half naked bartering goods with their neighbors.

A road blockade. Something else I came to know was the fact that a few days earlier there had been a murder: a boy died during some riots involving the local native community protesting against the sale of their lands. So there was a lot of police around the area and when I came to the village the main road was blocked by a protest, that despite some burning tires looked quite pacific. I carefully drove around the place through some side street and stopped at a grocery store for a sandwich. I knew nothing of the protests at that time but the lady had been rather vague when I asked. It sounded quite strange, like somebody who didn’t want foreigners to receive a bad impression of the place.

A questionable overtake. To make the day more interesting, I also had the opportunity to perform something quite Italian on the road. There was a rather long queue in front from some unknown reason, so I decided to dodge some road cones and overtake a few trucks. The problem was the reason for the cones and the column was a police patrol checking people in and out of the village (after the protests I suppose). Well, I fortunately avoided serious consequences like a big fine and having my motorcycle seized, like I probably deserved, when they stopped me. But boy that was a strange afternoon.

A memorable hostel. At the end of the day I finally arrived at the hostel in El Bolson, a place called Frontera Hostería y Cabañas located in Las Golondrinas, in the outskirts of the village. Of all the hostels I have stayed, this one of the two I would absolutely recommend. A beautiful farm made of wood, with a beautiful garden, two dogs and numerous cats. Plus, the family that runs hostel is super nice, the place is cute and cozy inside. The owner has Italian origins (from Massa Carrara) and his wife prepared me a fantastic breakfast with homemade cakes I enjoyed on the veranda of their wooden house.


Parque de los Alerces

My next destination was the village of Futaleufù and the river of the same name, across the border with Chile. The place, according to the man at the rental shop was a must-go. Maybe more than other times I had no idea what to expect from a unknown place with such a strange name. Initially I considered keeping going straight south completely skipping the aforementioned village and the entire western part of the Chilean Patagonia. But I had the feeling that region would be fascinating to visit. It was a lucky choice: the river was amazing and the whole Aysen was definitely a must-go place.

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Cutting through the park. At a certain point, along the Routa 40 a road heads west venturing through the hills straight towards the state border: I noticed that in between these two there was a large park. The road going was cutting diagonally through its green body to reconnect with that road short before the border. Though long it looked like a nice detour. So why not?

I must say that before the park the landscape continued its change towards the Pampas: forests were disappearing, mountains were moving farther away and the whole place was slowly turning into a flat and arid land. So visiting the park could have been an interesting idea compared to an otherwise monotonous trip on a straight road with no interesting insights.

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Farms in the valley below the entrance to the park.

Parque del los Alerces. A splendid valley was lying right at the entrance. The view was even better as the road climbed the hillside to a narrow valley that marked the beginning. It was a very bright day, but I have to say that all those green fields, farms, horses and flowers made the place look like a paradise.

I remember thinking how unbelievable it was that very few people seemed to live in the area. As I learned previously, every road going through parks was gravel. The park itself was nice and the road was winding down for more than 80 km through woods and a number of lakes. I took it easy and stopped a number of times for pictures. However, by the middle of the day the road was beginning to demand its tribute to my body that also had to go through a good deal of dust, stones and potholes.

The seemingly endless road suddenly got out of the woods in a green and flat valley with very distant snow-capped mountains that seemed to have run away from me while I was in the park. The road reconnected to the one going to the border. I remember a small sunny village with roads and houses so far apart it made me smile, thinking how different it looked compared to the city I’m from.

The magnificient Futaleufù river.

The few kilometres that separated me from the border with Chile unfortunately consisted of an unbelievably narrow, curvy and miserable unpaved road. Being tired made everything worse and I remember thinking how on earth it was possible for two countries to share such bad connection road.

The Futaleufù river. In the late afternoon, the road finally reached a bridge over the mysterious and beautiful Futaleufù river.

It was quite a surprise that suddenly made clear the reason why many were recommending this route.

As I would later learn, the river itself was one of the five most popular in the world for rafting lovers. Rafting or not, it was a place of incredible beauty that looked even more special considering there was no living soul around apart from a few cars heading to the customs that were raising giant clouds of dust.

A different border. The bridge crossing the river itself was the virtual border between the two countries and it looked nothing like what I thought the border would be. The small house that hosted the customs and the border guards was barely visible in the woods a few hundred meters ahead, on the other side.

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The bridge over the Futaleufù that's also the border between the two countries.

The village of Futaleufù. As a matter of fact, many villages in Patagonia resemble each other by roughly repeating the same pattern: a square layout, grid-shaped streets and a central square hosting a garden, equally squared. A few kilometres of dirt away from the border I finally entered the village. Futaleufù was quite small and tidy but no exception to the scheme. Being a popular destination for rafting-lovers, it was surprisingly quiet but indeed well supplied with hostels, bars and agencies for rafting, kayaking, fishing, cruising, despite looking like a village with less than a couple of thousand inhabitants.

The central square offered a choice of a few bars, one of them was extremely cute: it was serving food and probably the most expensive craft beer in the whole country. When I got there, the only customers were a cat and a couple of Americans. I remember them asking if they internet was available and the waitress replying “it’s not, talk to each other”.

The half-brasilian girl performed an unintentional epic fail at making a joke resulting in an unwanted rude answer. I couldn’t help laughing and afterwards I joined the couple at their table.

The girl was from some northern European country, while the guy from Oregon was a pilot who owned a small touristic plane back in the States. They both were very nice but to be honest he sounded a bit weird: not for the fact he was spending every winter in Patagonia looking for a piece of land to invest his money. Not even for the fact he was convinced that a nuclear war between his country and North Korea was imminent – event that I considered quite unlikely – but for the fact he was giggling at the idea he would be living in Patagonia while nuclear warheads would be flying across the ocean towards his country.

As far as his attitude seemed bizarre, it really made me want to do the same. I mean, buying a land, not giggling.
The hostel on the edge of the town was the typical youth hostel for people of a category that I insisted on believing I was still a part of: a lot of nice youngsters, most of them were rafting or trekking enthusiasts.
Sadly, the next day I had to leave without a chance to indulge in river activities. The road continued dirt and dusty along the beautiful crystal waters of the river.


The region of Aysen and the wild Patagonia

After Futaleufù the dusty winding road continued along the valley to the west without too many points of interest.

There was nothing special about it except the entrance to a park where signboards were warning you against meeting with pumas and other wild animals and how to behave in case of close encounter with the large feline – like running away would not be a great idea.

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Again, after a few hours on that road I was so covered with dust looking almost unrecognizable. Many of those roads have a convex profile, they tend to lean to the road margin. So on left bends you have to turn on a couterslope on an unstable surface.

Therefore, the risk is loosing the grip and going straight, into the ditch. That’s exactly what happened. The bike stumbled and jumped from a rock to another. When I was almost sure I would have fallen in the worst possible way filling myself and the bike with bumps and scratches I was simply able to slow down and stop. 

The greatest swim. Being in need of some rest I stopped on the road side. Guess what, a few steps below there was one of the most beautiful ponds ever: the water was so crystal blue it looked like one of those pictures travel agencies use for tropic holidays ads. I couldn’t resist. Having nobody around I completely undressed and took the greatest 30 seconds bath of my life!

Some of my friends from Norway would think the water was perfect. Being Italian, I can’t say water was exactly warm – it was more like “my heart can stop from one moment to another” – but the feeling was incredible, one of the best and most intense moments of my journey.

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The road crossed the river for the last time by a small dock used for rafting boats. The water color changed yet another time and once again nobody was around: no boats no tourists. This made it look even more special as I crossed the bridge and the river once again and for the last time.

The Carretera Austral. All of a sudden, a paved road appeared to my rescue leading down into a green plain. Shortly after, I got to an anonymous T-crossing: I had arrived to the famous Routa 7, a north-south road equivalent to the Argentine Routa 40 on the Chilean side. The road ran from somewhere in the north, down to a small village called O’Higgins at the very end of the land on this side of the continent. It was not my destination but I was thinking how nice it would have been to go down to this O’Higgins place, a name that sounded all but Spanish and probably belonging to some famous character since it wasn’t the only spot on the map named that way.

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The road was small but fabulous, the day was blessed by a beautiful sun and I was crossing very few cars, wondering how it was possible that almost no one lived in such a beautiful region. According to a hostel owner it was mainly due to distance and poor connections. That didn’t sound convincing enough, though actually many traits of the main road were literally under construction. 

La Junta was a village basically similar to the others: surrounded by forests, with the usual rectangular square in its center and no building having more than two floors. At the hostel I spent one hour chatting with a meat trader who invited me to a barbecue organized by some local farmers down south, close to Cochrane. An invitation I reluctantly had to decline, it would have been epic. Lovely and hospitable people, as usual.

To make the most of the beautiful sunny day took a trip to an inland a place called Lago Verde. Yet another dirt road that felt annoying at the end of the day, but another fantastic glimpse of the region.

Down to Coyhaique and the General Carrera lake

After my brief stay at the village of La Junta, the next day I was heading towards the region’s capital: Coyhaique. In between those places the road went through a strange and wild area made of mountains, fjords and forests. After the first day even weather started changing to what’s most likely something typical for the region. As opposed to Argentina and its Pampa, Chilean Patagonia tends to be much more cold, humid and rainy. As a consequence, it was a grey and rainy day, the only one of the whole trip.

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Some parts of the Carretera Austral were incredibly undeveloped paths through the mountains.

For some reason the road I was following was apparently the only thing that connected that part of the country and was still largely unfinished. In a minute you were going from a good asphalted road to a dirt path full of potholes winding up a mountain or running on a fjord side.

Something that felt great and incredible to me was the fact that every time I was going through a yard or a construction site workers were often stopping, raising their hands and greeting me as I was passing by. Such a lovely and heart warming thing! I was happily cheering them back and somewhere on a fjord side everyone started waving their hands and shouting as if I was in a race running towards the goal!

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The view on one of the fjords along the Routa 7.

In the region of Aysen weather seems to be often very forgiving. In fact it had immediately darkened and by mid-morning it started drizzling. Nothing annoying. On the contrary, the region looked equally beautiful as if the weather was matching the land. Something similar to what I felt in Scotland. The road was coasting fjords that pushed their branches well inside the land and the show capped mountains around made the day trip fascinating.

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Gloomy weather is not uncommon in Aysen.

By mid-day I came to a place where the road was completely interrupted by road works. In order to continue it was necessary to get on a ferry that shuttled all vehicles to the other side of the bay. Something that sounded quite unusual for a main road but was probably unavoidable as excavators were carving the mountain side to restore the only road of the region.

A small group of bikers were already getting on the ferry just in front of me: some Argentines and one Italian. This Italian guy was on a trip with almost the same itinerary and as I later found out he had almost the same name as me!

We went down south to Coyhaique together, stopping for a quick tour at the Queulat park. A nice natural reserve whose main attraction was a gumboat tour across a lake and to the base of a glacier that was slowly moving and dropping fragments of its ice down into the lake. There were some spectacular waterfalls diving from its base up in the mountain for hundreds of meters. If you waited long enough some blocks of ice were falling down in an avalanche that seemed to be falling in slow motion from that distance. The sound was heard after several seconds making it look like something happening in another dimension.

The following part of the road to Coyhaique went through some fairly modest but welcoming villages and the usual series of road works in progress that made the whole ride feel more adventurous as the bike was often forced to jump over holes and cracks in the road.

After Villa Maniguales you could continue along on the Routa 7 or make a detour on a mysterious X-50 road towards Puerto Aysen, then back to Coyhaique. The latter was a paved but longer option. So I chose to continue along the Routa 7 without knowing it was a shorter but quite neglected dirt road. Anyway, it turned out to be a good idea as the valley offered the opportunity for taking many great pictures. The road streamed through a green and wild valley full of purple flowers, some rare farms and horses grazing freely in the fields.

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Lupine was brought from Europe but it looks so beautiful here.

Finally, a few kilometers away I had the chance to admire the Aysen region’s main town from a lookout point on promontory. Not a large town in a fairly uninhabited part of the country but the frame of its green valley and the mountain were absolutely fascinating.

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A look over Coyhaique from a mirador on the road.

This time the town seemed a bit more lively. I heard there was also a small ski resort on that mountain behind. Around the central pentagonal square – something distinctive – I met the Argentinian motorcyclists again. They invited me to join them for dinner without hesitation. We ate a Chilean pizza, had an honest round of great beers and had a conversation over our trips, our countries. Nice people no doubt, as I was starting to believe it was usual down there.

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If you stay on the Routa 7 you'll go through a wonderful green valley just before Coyhaique.

To be continued… part 2.

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