Day 108 to 110 – Chile – The Carretera Austral

2017-01-25 – Day 108 – Puerto Varas, CL to Pucon, CL (323 km – 17 hrs)
2017-01-26 – Day 109 – Pucon, CL to Coyhaique, CL (453 km – 8,25 hrs)
2017-01-27 – Day 110 – Coyhaique, CL to Cochrane (323 km – 8 hrs)

The Carretera Austal is one the most mystical route of the planet. I suffered driving it, but it proved to be some of the nicest moments of my adventure!

In the morning of February 24th, I left my hostal at 6:00 AM to finally undertake the famous Carretera Austral. The first part takes place between Puerto Montt and Chaiten, and features 3 ferries.

I did my duties and searched for the information but sources sometimes contradict themselves, therefore I validated the info with the tourist office of Puerto Varas, which gave me a brochure and confirmed that with a moto, no reservation was necessary.

The first crossing was not problematic because it is very short. it links Arenas and Puelche and is available every 30 minutes.

The next passage is much longer and there is, according to the brochure, a departure at 10:30 and another one at 14:30. The link is between Hornopirén and Caleta Gonzalo.

The last ferry is about 45 minutes and located only 15 minutes down the road from the arrival port from the previous crossing. it is part of the previous trip, therefore included in the ticket price bought for the previous passage.

I board the first ferry without any worries and head for the next point.

As you can see, not much room for La Gorda!

My 2 GPS’s send me to the same place for the departure of the next ferry but when I get there, around 10:00 AM, it is completely dead and I have a feeling that something was wrong. I ask a person who was standing by the water when was the next crossing and he responds that there is not boat here, that the the ferry is located in a city that I went by 30 minutes ago!

I therefore go back full throttle to try to make it before the 10:30 departure!

My efforts were not in vain because I arrived at 10:25, except that there was no boat at the port! I entered the office where they sell tickets to get told that the boat was et 9:30, that there is another one at 12:30 but that it is full and as I do not have a reservation, I can get on the 16:30 one… With the consequence that I am going to arrive at a destination around 23:00 and that I have almost 6 hours to wait!

Having no other choice, I buy the ticket, hoping that they could let me take the next ship, considering that my motorbike does not take a lot of space. Indeed, I was always cable to board on all ferries that I took in North America without reserving.

Unfortunately, this is not going to be the case today. 2 days ago, the ship got fined for having had too many passengers on board and so, starting a couple of days ago, they do not let any one on board above 257 passengers. I tried hard, by every possible means (please read between the lines!) but unsuccessfully. The boat left with space for several additional vehicles… But without me.

For those who would want to reserve in the future:

The only thing to do was to get changed and go for a walk in the small village. I ended up in a small feria and I ate like a pig! A great piece of lamb cooked on coal (parrilla), great home fries, all of it accompanied with almost a litre of Crema de Aji Chilena. Wow!

I also chatted a bit with other motorcyclists who were waiting just like I was. Most of them were from Chile and Argentina, and on smaller motorbikes (125cc to 650cc). Most will not go to Ushuaia.

Guess who boarded first! We finally left the harbour around 17:00.

Landscapes are superb and I am extremely lucky to get good weather.

We arrived around 20:00 and as planned, the drive towards the other ship took 15 minutes on a small dirt road, full of dust. Thank god I could leave before all the cars!

The last ferry was waiting for us we arrived at the destination around 22:00. I had another hour of driving which I did relatively slowly because the sun had set and visibility was reduced.

To my surprise, the hotel I had reserved is clean and welcoming, in spite of the fact what I am in a small isolated village!

I have a cold beer a good bag of healthy chips (!) before getting to bed. It didn’t take much effort to fall asleep that night!

The following day, my objective is to get to Coyhaique. But what was waiting for me was one of the most difficult motorcycle days of the trip.

And it started with this!

On a bike, riding on a gravel road can be very difficult. By car, it is unpleasant because there is a lot of vibration and it is necessary to reduce speed, but on a motorcycle, it is sometimes almost impossible to stay up, and this, especially when the road has just been graded.

In that particular case, I was driving in several centimetres of gravel and it was simply impossible for me to go on.

I was going slowly, therefore no damage, if only for a bruised ego. Except that to find myself in such a situation after only a few kilometres of the Carretera Austal is rather discouraging, considering that there are more than 1500 km left!

Some sections were paved but the most part was in gravel, under construction and in very bad state. The day was very very long and I worked extremely to deserve my arrival in Coyhaique.

My super 5 start hotel!

Seeing this city appear was nevertheless surprising. To find a community of more than 40000 inhabitants, having gone through such an isolated road was like a mirage in the desert!

I left early the following day in spite of the rain. It was not an option staying one more night in this place! The first 100 km is made on a perfect road and I drive relatively fast in spite of the rain and cold. The true challenge was the first 50 kilometres of the gravel road I had to drive in. Phew… Really not easy. Big round stones which make me go from one side to the other. Not fun!

At least, the scenery is great!

Later, the state of the road improves and the show becomes sublime! I am going to let the pictures talk.

A rather proud warrior, having survived the Carretera Austral!

Next stop, Argentina!

Next Article (Recent) ⇨

Day 111 to 115 - Argentina - Routa 40 and my First Steps into Patagonia

2017-01-28 - Day 111 - Cochrane, CL to Gobernador Gregores, AR (439 km - 8,5 hrs) 2017-01-29 - Day 112 - Gobernador Gregores, AR to El Chalten, AR (296 km - 5,5 hrs) 2017-01-30 - Day 113 - El Chalten, AR 2017-01-31 - Day 114 - El Chalten, AR to ... Read more

⇦ Previous Article (Older)

Day 101 to 107 - Chile - The Gateway to Patagonia

2017-01-18 - Day 101 - Santiago, CL to Colbùn, CL (350 km - 4,5 hrs) 2017-01-19 - Day 102 - Colbùn, CL to Concepcion, CL(274 km - 4,5 hrs) 2017-01-20 - Day 103 - Concepcion, CL to Pucon (463 km - 6,5 hrs) 2017-01-21 - Day 104 - Around Pucon, ... Read more

Marc Ouellet

Adventurer at heart. Travelling on 2 wheels to South America soon!

  • Peter Parsons

    Marc, you have to start using your side stand. And, don’t park in the middle of the road. Starting to remind me of your Alaska trip. Stunning scenery though. I didn’t realize Rte 7 is a gravel road. I think you deserve a week in Ushuala after that run. BTW, I notice you are going north out of Cochrane. Salut!

    1. Marc Ouellet

      That makes 2 of us, didn’t no it was so much of it! Unfortunately, I won’t spend a full week in Ushuaia, just too cold down here. I’ll celebrate in a few days in Buenos Aires where I’ll spend the last month!

      BTW, it wasn’t Alaska. I’m Canadien remember? It was Inuvik in the NWT. 🙂

  • Jean-François Dubois

    Bon, je vais aller ouvrir la cour pis sortir mes poubelles moi…c’est excitant! Lol, sans farce, vraiment envoûtant de te lire et j’apprécie beaucoup tous les petits détails que tu rajoute dans ton récit, c’est un plus que l’on ne retrouve pas dans la plupart de ce genre de blogue. Avec l’expérience, trouve tu que la cadence est bonne? Bonne continuation et au plaisir de lire la suite!

    Jean-François (BWOM sur Ridaventure)

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Merci monsieur!

      Pour la cadence, ce n’est pas évident. Parfois que crois que je vais trop vite, mais à la fin, c’est le rythme qui va avec ma personnalité et mes expériences de voyages. Par exemple, si je n’avais pas été 10 fois à Mendoza dans le passé, je serais certainement resté plus longtemps! Il y a aussi le désire de toujours voir ce qu’il y a plus loins.

      Je regrette certains endroits et j’ai passé un peu trop de temps à d’autre mais dans l’ensemble, ça me va. J’aime me lever le matin, enfourcher la moto et faire de longues journées, sans même m’arrêter, à part pour quelque chose de vraiment spécial. Ce n’est pas pour tout le monde mais c’est moi!


  • Robert Meyer

    Hello Marc!
    Greetings from India. I’ve finally had the chance to read through your blog from the beginning and I gotta say it is, by far, the best travel/adventure blog I’ve ever read. Great job, and best of luck on your fantastic adventures. The only question is…when is La Gorda coming to this part of the world? I’ve got some cows, pilgrims, and auto-rickshaws that would love to meet her.

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Robert! Of course you had to write form the other side of the world. Thanks for the compliment. Coming from you, it really means something. I really appreciate. I wish I could take it that far, but I might take a big risk doing so… Sort of I want to keep my girlfriend and my home! 6 months was pushing it a bit! But I would take on all of them at once, La Gorda is quite fierce now!

      Hope to see you this summer!

      1. Robert Meyer

        If you’re in Montreal this summer you will definitely see me – given the US political situation I’ve already started looking for a summer sublet in your fair city. South America may be a great place to spend a Montreal winter, but Montreal is a fantastic place to spend a Montreal summer!

        1. Marc Ouellet

          Indeed! I’m actually starting to be happy the clown was elected. It gives a good reason for all the great people who moved to the US like you a unprecedented reason to head back north!

  • Arvind K. Yadav

    Finally, I made myself on current page; started reading from page 1. All I can say I felt I was there after reading and viewing beautiful pictures shot by you – a perfect depiction. This travelogue is no less than a treasure for a juvenile motorcycle-adventurer like me. Doing such voyage is beyond my capacity, but yes it will definitely help me to do some short trip/adventure in vicinity of country (India). A truly inspirational! Eagerly waiting for your next page!

    Cheers! Happy voyage!

    Arvind K. Yadav

    1. Marc Ouellet

      Great to have you with us! Hope you got a few trick from my site, as I did from others before getting on this journey!

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