For the last night at the Torres del Simpson we were re-united with Anja and Michael, the German couple on their KTMs, who we first met in Junin de los Andes in Argentina. They really are a lot of fun, especially Michael (an ex-Punk, who is a mechanic and worked in mining, but now is officially part of Anja’s midwifery business as janitor!!) Since we all wanted to travel in the same direction, we decided to go together. It is to be said though, that both Michael and Anja have a lot more off road experience, than Heinz and me and therefore travel with higher speed than us.
We agreed to meet at the end of the day at a campground near the big lake General Carrera. We all had to stop at the largest town in this area Coihaique and pick up food supplies and fill up the bikes. Ignacio our previous camp host had told us that part of the gravel road towards Puerto Tranquilo was to be closed from 2-6pm for construction. That meant we needed to hurry to get through before that time.
So Heinz and I left first and the road to Coihaique was easy asphalt. It remained beautiful riding through the mountains along lakes and pastures. Past Coihaique it was indeed quite a construction site with various spots were we had to wait for almost 20 Min. before we were allowed to move on. We came through higher altitude again for a short time and the weather changed. It turned colder and started to rain. We couldn’t see most of the mountains because of the fog, when we finally came to Lago General Carrera the rain had stopped but it remained cold.
Michael and Anja were already in Puerto Tranquilo waiting for us at a restaurant and had checked out the campground already. We were all wet and cold and only too happy when we found out that the campground also had a cabana (Cottage) for 5 people for rent. Not really in the mood for camping we jumped at that opportunity and together booked the cottage for 1 night. It was very luxurious with lake view, with a full kitchen and…real duvets!! After a delicious supper (standard camp food: pasta with tomato sauce and ground meat) good beer and wine we had a wonderful night, but needless to say for another night it exceeded both our budgets. At least our clothes were dry!
Next day we moved a couple of kms down the road to the campground with same owner and also right at lake. We all wanted to stay an extra day so we could visit the capilla de marmol (marble caves), which are part of this very lake. These caves were carved into parts of the mountains over years and years We were hoping to be able to rent kayaks to reach them, but unfortunately it was way too windy so we had to pay for a small boat the next day.
The Lago General Carrera is the second largest lake in South America, is exceptionally beautiful with the turquoise almost Caribbean-like coloured water and snow-capped mountain ranges. We were lucky with the weather and took lots of pictures.
We all left the next day to go further south. From now on it was all gravel road. There was another campground on the way to the Argentinean border, where we wanted to meet up. First Heinz and I wanted to ride further around the lake to enjoy the beautiful vistas, but there was more road construction ahead so we decided not to go there. By then Michael and Anja had caught up with us so we went together. This time they had to continue more south to the next bigger town called Cochrane to find some oil for Michael’s bike. Heinz and I continued to the next campground Park Patagonia.
After we left the lake area the landscape changed into Grassland with less high mountains and only small outposts with a lot less population. All of a sudden the Guanacos became present again.
Then we came around the corner and there it was…a big mansion with a small plane in front of it in the middle of nowhere. Without internet to research I will try to recall: This big mansion is supposed to be the future park administration building of the national Park Patagonia, which will be created by fusing different Parks and landscapes together. This was the idea of Mr. Thompkins, an American and founder of “The North Face” Company, who was able to buy some land in Chile years ago. He was fascinated by this part of Chile, wanted to preserve the land and sell it back to Chile for a dollar or so. Unfortunately he died, not sure if it was last year, but very recently in a kayak accident.
Anyway this property is gorgeous and there is a campground a couple of kilometers behind this mansion, where we stayed and were joined by Michael and Anja again. After breakfast next morning we left for another border crossing into Argentina at Paso Roballos. For a nice change this is a very small border crossing, with just a little office staffed by 2 very friendly customs officers on the Argentinian side and they were very happy to see us, because it gave them something to do. No privilege of a computer, everything is done manually with coal paper between 2 sheets to create a copy… like in the good old days!!! They even had to crank up the gate manually for us.
Then a bit more than 100 km of washboard gravel for us. I personally am not a fan of it and my bike is not either, because I have already lost my front and rear mudguard as well as a bolt of my frame and most recently the plastic cover of my front light. Oh well other than the bolt the rest is not important! I said a prayer when we finally reached paved road again! In Bajo Caracoles we met up with our 2 friends again, who were definitely faster on this fr…gravel road. This small village is merely a gas station only, which has everything including a Hotel, where we stayed overnight, because there was really nothing else. This gas station is a main stop on the Ruta 40 for everybody going north or going south including 3 young Aussies coming up from the South, who stopped there for gas on their KLRs with surf boards hooked up on the side of their bikes. They told us they were going to Alaska and just took their licenses 6 weeks before their trip. What a riot! Aah… to be young and adventurous again!!!