Patagonia, Chile – Carretera Austral

Welcome (back) to Chile!

Border (Futalafu) to Puerto Puyuhuapi 001

I’m back in Chile again to ride the famous Carretera Austral. Here the road turns to gravel and the scenery comes to life. It’s cloudy the whole way and the rain holds out until the last 30 minutes of my ride.

Border (Futalafu) to Puerto Puyuhuapi 002

I spend my first night in Puerto Puyuhuapi – a tiny little village with a beautiful bed & breakfast (Casa Ludwig – ya, the Germans settled this port). Here’s the house as seen from the dock.

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi) 005

The village is at the end of a gorgeous fjord.

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi) 001

Before turning in for the night I was reading in bed and felt the house sway. The rain had just started and I figured it was the wind. It only lasted a few seconds and then it was gone. I thought nothing of it. However, at 4 in the morning I woke up to my bed shaking back and forth. I could hear everything in the house moving and creaking. It lasted for about 20 seconds. There was no mistaking it, this was an earthquake! I checked online the next morning and sure enough there was a 5.2 magnitude quake not more than a few hundred kilometers away. Fortunately, that fine German engineered house withstood the quake with ease.

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi) 006

The next morning I packed up and headed out in the rain. I passed through beautiful scenery (that unfortunately was covered in clouds). Here’s a look at a waterfall in the Bosque Encantado (enchanted forest).

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi to Villa Cerro Castillo) 001

My camera just can’t do this place justice (and the clouds aren’t helping either). I haven’t seen land this spectacular since New Zealand.

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi to Villa Cerro Castillo) 003

Stunning valley.

Carretera Austral (Puerto Puyuhuapi to Villa Cerro Castillo) 006

I get some pavement and a break in the rain and decide to push on to the small village (600 habitants) of Villa Cerro Castillo. I’m enjoying this tranquillo lifestyle. I pull into town and park the bike to look for a hospedaje to spend the night. I think I’m OK behind this truck – he’s going anywhere soon.

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo) 001

It’s a quiet little village surrounded by enormous mountains and glaciers.

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo) 003

Packing up the next morning I had a break in the rain. Wonderful! Then just as I hopped on the bike it started to rain. Go figure… I battled light rain all morning. The gravel road was a little slippery and the views were tainted by thick clouds. I could see mountains going up the they were under cloud cover. It wasn’t until I looked up even higher that I saw some mountain tops poking above the clouds. All of a sudden I realize just how massive these glaciated peaks are and it’s a magical experience to be surrounded by such powerful land. Here’s a few shots from early in the day. Unfortunately, the camera can’t capture the dynamic range very well so I won’t be able to share that experience with you all. I’ll always carry with me the memories.

Stunning turquoise rivers and lakes.

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico) 001

Earth at its finest.

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico) 011

The attendant and I chit chat for a bit. I take off my riding gear. I ask if there is gas. It’s all good until he tells me that there is no electricity to run the pump. The next station is 70k down the road. 

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico) 012

The rain breaks in the afternoon and the sun tries to peek through the clouds. Stunning mirror lake views surround me.

Carretera Austral (Villa Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico) 013

Mountain berries.

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Yes, please.

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I want to live here.

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There’s some road construction going on and cars have been backed up for hours. Again, it pays to be on a moto because I find a small path through a muddy stream. BRRRAAAAPPP and I’m on my way with locals cheering for me.

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The magnificent country continues.

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Here’s 2 video clips from riding on the Carretera Austral. (If you can’t see the video in the email, just click the link).

Video 1:


Video 2: 


I eventually arrive in the small colorful town of Chile Chico just a few kilometers from the Argentina border.

Here’s some route details for the Adventure Riders out there. After leaving Trevelin, Argentina the pavement ends. It picks back up about 100k south of Puerto Puyuhuapi around the town of Manihuales. There’s another 20k stretch of dirt road after that and then pavement again to Coyhaique and all the way to Villa Cerro Castillo. The unpaved section is far better than the ripio on Ruta 40 in Argentina. Just watch out for those deep gravel patches and trucks coming around the tight bends on the single lane width sections. I never went more than 300k without finding a gas station. Be sure to fill up at every station you see though because you never know if the next one will be out of gas…

Cerro Castillo to Chile Chico (around Laguna General Carr) is all dirt but for the most part it’s in great condition. About 8 hours to get here (with lots of photo stops). I almost skipped this part by taking a ferry across the lake. I’m glad I took the long way around, this was the most beautiful part.

More fun to come. Stay tuned!

Categories: Chile | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Patagonia, Chile – Carretera Austral

  1. Jamie

    Been following your blog for some time now and just had to comment. What a great trip! I’ve traveled central and south america, but never on a bike. Six more years until the youngest is gone and I’m gonna fire it up! Really enjoy your writing style and supplemental pictures. Great work!

  2. Haley

    I love watching the videos, though they do make me a little seasick. Such an amazing landscape. Do you suppose there’s a market for a pancake house down there?

  3. Aaron

    So Ben, are you planning on going all the way to Punta Arenas, perhaps Tierra del Fuego? I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the trip. I’m green with envy!

  4. Damn that is stunning scenery! Ok I knew it was a mistake to continue reading your blog…I really have got to get down there now. Ride safe looking forward to your next update.

  5. waldo

    well your trip has been a inspiration now onthe sumer 2012im going to patagonia all the way ,wilbe also klr 650 09 i have the go pro hero ,then i will be posting my recording ,we will be on touch see you there

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