We are thru the most remote part of our trip and back in Argentina. We are in the town of El Chaiten – quite a new tourist town under the impressive towers of Mt Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre – famous granite spires on the edge of the southern Patagonian ice shelf. I was hoping to upload some more photos but it does not seem possible in El Chaiten so I might just have to go trekking instead and will do in a bigger town.. here are the words side of it for starters tho´
In our last rest over town of Cochrane I enjoyed some domestic bliss of raspberry jam making, relish making (doesn´t seem to exist in Chile or Argentina),bike pogie making (over gloves to wear on the bike which allow me to be wearing bike gloves underneath and cut the wind) and we managed to fill the bad weather day. Under clearing skies we followed the Rio Baker to it´s meeting place with the sea. Was a fantastic journey through the massive valley and made me think of an oversize Milford Track by bicycle. The Rio Baker is very large by the time it meets the sea at Carletta Tortel a most unusual seaside town completely constructed on stilts with boardwalks joining every building and the 3 ´suburbs´. Vehicles are left at the top of the town and access around town is just by foot or boat around the shores of town. There was no electricity as the wee town hydro scheme had dried up in the dry summer they are having.
My carrier decided to snap but luckily it had a rod of aluminium inside the tube that broke so with more string I could stabilise it.
It was then a steep climb up and a stunning ride down and into Puerto Yungay where we jumped on the free boat across the sound to where Route 7 started again. We followed another large valley up and had a camp with a grand mountain view and an afternoon of washing clothes, and us, and enjoying the view. Then our last day on Chile´s Caraterra Austral (Route 7) and into Villa O´Higgens. This town has only had a road into it in the last 8 or so years and is on Lago O´Higgens which the large O’Higgens glacier emerges into from the ice cap.
It was time for another ferry crossing (far from free this time) over to our check out of Chile. Because the weather was so good we did the add on ferry ride to the glacier snout amidst small ice bergs. We had the best day for it and we spent an hour at the 3km long glacier snout waiting for some glacier calving action to happen. The glacier suprised us by not collapsing from the visible face but breaking a tower off from the ice shelf under the water and (quietly but suddenly) the tower emerged vertically up out of the water before crashing back down and creating some good wave action. I was poised with video so managed to capture it. The crew fished some ice out of the water and we were served a generous shot of whisky and glacier ice. Fun to be tourists for the day!
Next morning we woke the border staff up to officially leave Chile as we wanted to start riding early. It is 22km of 4wd track and single track which was a lot more rideable than we had been led to believe to the Argentina border post and we had the spectacular tower of Fitz Roy in our forward view. No vehicles can make this section, only walkers and cyclists, and it is a pretty cool way to traverse an international border.
We arrived at Lago Desierto (border post) by midday and had the afternoon relaxing. Next day we had a long day´s hiking up to a spectacular view point over the large Chico glacier which drains the Patagonian ice cap. Our NZ bush skills helped us to follow the indistinct track and to take a quarter of the time that a couple we met took to go half the distance there (they took 9hrs for a section that took us 2hrs). We had a decent rain storm that night (our first one) but woke early to clear skies and we could watch dawn strike Fitz Roy (perfectly positioned at the southern end of the lake). Our third boat trip and 40km of riding brought us to El Chaiten and pretty well the end of the ripio, which is lucky as I had a third break with regards my carrier when the bolt holding the carrier to the bike frame sheared off. Again nothing string and a cable tie can´t fix.
Riding into El Chaiten reminded us both of Pakistan – hot, dry with spectacular granite towers, glaciers to the west and shades of brown to the east. But very,very touristy. Everyone comes here to trek the trails under the granite spires and we are going to join them. The forecast is for a week more of good weather so it will be busy in the campsites.