Down the careterra austral

Trip Start Sep 2005
Trip End Sep 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Thursday, January 5, 2006

The drive through Chile has been ...... interesting. The road was bad but I've been on worse (in my first week driving in Argentina). Maybe I'm finally getting the hang of driving on these roads with my little Corsa. When I crossed the border the first big smoke I came to was Futulafu, which didn't have a cash machine. This I wasn't expecting. The nearest cash machine was in Coihaque, some 500km away, and the banco wouldn't be open till the next morning. So I camped there for the first night. Luckily the campsite accepted Argentinian pesos, and at a decent exchange rate. The campsite was perfect, except for the chickens that pestered you non-stop for bread. The cheeky f&%kers even got into the car looking for some when I left the door open. They really pushed their luck. Me a hungry traveller, with a hearty fire, a pot, some onions, and some chicken stock!

Tuesday morning I legged it to the bank. They wouldn't even let me withdraw money, so it was time to cash in a few US travellers checks. When I was waiting a very long hour, I noticed that the cashier had a revolver, and a belt full of bullets. He looked like he was going to hold me up. It seemed a bit extreme.

As soon as I got my cash I bumped and bounced my way along a very picturesque road through the Andes. On average I was able to drive at about 60km/hr. The road hugs the Futulafu river which is very good for rafting. Full of canyons and rapids, sand ice blue pools. Eventually, after passing the most beautiful lake I've seen yet, Lago Yelcho, you come down from the mountains to Ruta 7, the Carretera Austral. Here you have to slow down a little. The weather was getting progressively worse, so I decided to just stick the flip flops down and try to make it to Coihaique, the regional capital, where I should be able to get a fishing licence, and civilizaiton. The road got worse at times, but all in all it wasn't that bad. Shame about the weather as it looked like the scenery was fantastic the whole way, even with the rain. The scenery turned a bit more jungly, then you hit fjords. You climb to a snow-capped mountain pass, and then follow rivers all the way to Coihaique. Oh and you have to dodge turkeys, cows, bulls, sheep and wild horses too.

Coihaique is a strange place. Initially I wasn't impressed, but as towns go in this neck of the woods it's as good as it gets. You still get the feeling that the military regime still has a tight grip. The entrance to the town takes you past a roadside display of all the armies heavy artillary. Tanks, armoured cars and saracens. I hadn't seen one of them in a while. Maybe there was a closing down sale after the Good Friday agreement. When you're walking about you see an awful lot of army guys in uniform, more than in Belfast at the hieght of the troubles. You see generals driving around in limousines, crunching the stones with their brand new extra thick wheels. At midday the church bell rings and they start up a 2nd world war air raid siren! Nice touch.

It rains alot here, especially along the coast. Unfortunately that's not good for the camping, so I've been staying in hostels. Definitely not as nice as a tent on a good site. Today I'm leaving Coihaique and heading to Puerto Aisen to start my salmon fishing, where it rains even more. Here goes......
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