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carretera austral
Written by sophie et jeremy   
Monday, 12 February 2018

The Carretera austral or road 7, is a motorable track of about 1200km which construction started in the 70s under Pinochet's rule. It gives access to Chile's south third, a wild and remote area gathering mountains, fjords, islands, glaciers and lush vegetation. The small harbors along the road used to be the only access points.

Carretera austral Carretera austral

Our first feeling coming from Argentina is that it's much more busy than what we thought : lots of tourists in cars, bikes, motorbikes and throngs of hitchhikers, gathering at each crossroad like war refugees as the local public transport service is scarce. The second : locals drive recklessly, fast and keeping the middle of the road as much as possible even when passing other cars.

Fortunately, there are good sides too. First, the road is gorgeous, we drive along canyons, deep blue rivers and transparent lakes, overlooked by snow-capped mountains. That’s why we came here for, so we’re happy. Then, the food is much better than in Argentina, and especially the cheese which got its taste back! Stores are better stocked, even in this end of the world. There are still some oddities like the “completo italiano” which appears to be a guacamole hotdog...

Carretera austral 2 Carretera austral 2 rio baker rio baker

puerto bertrand puerto bertrand lago General Carrera lago General Carrera

After our first driving day, we arrive at Caleta Tortel, a small fishermen village hidden at the end of a fjord and built entirely on piles. there’s no street, but plenty of wooden walkways overlooking the sea. The sea itself has this milky white color due to the glacier melting into it. We are in fact located between the 2 huge ice fields of Patagonia.

Caleta Tortel 1 Caleta Tortel 1 Caleta Tortel 2 Caleta Tortel 2

In Puerto Tranquillo, we visit the famous marble cathedral, sailing across the (surprisingly big) waves of lake General Carrera (which is called Buenos aires in the Argentinian side). It’s real marble, dissolved by water, cutting strange shapes and caves into it.

marble caves 1 marble caves 1 marble caves 2 marble caves 2

marble cathedral marble cathedral

We then drive into the explorers valley, finding ourselves in a very lush vegetation, reminding tropical forests, even though we still have glaciers on sight. Further, we camp of the foot of Cerro Castillo, a mountain shaped like a castle. We plan to hike there, but a snow fall in the night closes the trails. Instead, we have a look at the nearby cave paintings.

valle dos exploratores 1 valle dos exploratores 1 valle dos exploratores 2 valle dos exploratores 2

cerro castillo cerro castillo villa cerro castillo mirador villa cerro castillo mirador

^rock art ^rock art Carretera austral 3 Carretera austral 3

As a big landslide had cut the Carretera austral, we have to go for a plan B : the ferry.

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