Our last part of the Carretera Austral did not finish until we had stopped in Coihaique for 5 days. We stopped there over Christmas and it was a bittersweet experience for us. We both missed family and in particular our son Alan.
As usual, Clair had found a great place, we had a cabana with two bedrooms and we were right in the middle of town and spent the five days wandering about. I went on a fruitless search for new shoes, my trainers had worn so badly there was no tread on them.
We ate out a couple of times but mostly spent Christmas together. It was a difficult time for both of us and although we had each other, at times it wasn’t enough. Clair cooked us a christmas dinner but we both felt the space nornally taken by our son. The one really good moment was when he called us.
Its been a tradition, since he was very small to come and bounce on our bed at 5 am on Christmas day. Being thousands of miles away he made a point of calling at 5 am instead. We both really, really appreciated the gesture.
Time passes though and after 5 nights, it was time to move along. It was the 26th December. Leaving the cabana we stopped straight away. I had a puncture. We pulled out last years christmas present from Carl and Siobahn and plugged yet another puncture and pumped the tyre up. It only took twenty minutes. I must be getting good at it.
A quick stop for fuel and we were off again. We have been dreading the ripio, which in hindsight makes no sense. We have tackled the worst of ruta 7 in rain. Our first 90 km were tarmac and flew by.
We had a quick stop at a lookout point and the only other people there were British and American.
The road turned to gravel a few km later and we made pretty good progress. Then there were miles and miles of roadworks. All inactive over Christmas but it slowed us down a lot.
After a full day of slow going, we finally got to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. A small tourist town that was very quiet. Its along this road we have really been able to see the effects of the reporting of the demonstrations. A local tour guide told us that they would expect a thousand tourists stopping overnight at this time of year. They had about 50.
The next day we pressed on, our ultimate goal of Chile Chico, the last town before crossing to Argentina was out of our reach so we opted for a shorter day of 60 km which still took us about 4 hours. Its the photo stops that do it.
We entered Puerto Guadal, a small town and the last reasonable sized place before Chile Chico. Its a very nice place and we found the best campsite we had seen in all of Chile. It was almost European in standard. A good kitchen / dining area, modern facilities, the campsite was a mown orchard. It is not the standard fayre for Chile.
We were determined to move on for several days and so, in the morning we were off towards Chile Chico. 106 km to go before we found more sweet tarmac. Looking at the map, the road appears to mostly follow the lake General Carrera. We were not prepared for the completely awesome mountain passes and appalling road surfaces. It was great! I really enjoyed it and Clair really put up with it. The scenery was amazing!
Like all good things, the road came to an end, finally dropping down to the level of the lake at the last minute and entering the town. We had planned to avoid that last three days of road by taking one 2 hour ferry but I have to say, I am so glad we did go around. We finished at Chile Chico, tired and dirty but there was a sense of satisfaction for having made the journey.
After setting up camp we had no signal. I had hoped to be able to get connected to my family who were celebrating my eldest brothers 60th birthday. Yet again, being thousands of miles away, it was a bit of a sad moment. Clair found a cat though.
After camping overnight we were on the road again, just a few short km’s up the road we got to the border and finally left Chile.