CYCLING
AT THE END OF THE WORLD

PHOTOGRAPHY

The original version of this story has been published in Eldorado Volume One, a limited edition travel bookzine curated by Folch StudioWith an aesthetic approach and a poetic yet informative writing, the publication gathers eleven stories from travellers that leave their safe homes and set off to explore. 

Eldorado Volume One
Seeking individuality, finding the universal
Limited edition of 1000 copies
Published by Eldorado
Designed by Folch
2016, English
24.5 × 17 × 1.4 cm

Thick forests, fjords, glaciers, lakes, high mountains, volcanoes, wild rivers, ever-changing weather conditions are the settings that surround the Carretera Austral, the name given to Chile's Route 7. This gravel road runs for 1240 kilometers from Puerto Montt to Villa O'Higgins, offering the only road access to the most remote part of Patagonia occupied by a scarce population of only 100 thousand people.

It was December, I cycled the Carretera Austral from North to South, during a solo trip through South America.

PHOTOGRAPHY & WORDS : JEAN-MARC JOSEPH

Every story starts with a beginning

I arrived in Puerto Montt, by bus crossing the border from Argentina to Chile. Puerto Montt is a port city in southern Chile. It is both the southern end point of the mythic Panamerican road and the northern starting point of the Carretera Austral.

Border crossing

AT THE BORDER BETWEEN ARGENTINA AND CHILE, WAITING CAN TAKE HOURS AS ALL LUGGAGES MUST BE SEARCHED FOR BOTH DRUGS, AND FOOD PRODUCTS.

After many hours of travel I was a bit disoriented and had no idea where to sleep. But then, I met Rosa.

When her husband died she decided to rent rooms in her house for travelers. Some days, after going to the market, she eventually pass by the bus station and waits there for potential guests, holding a little sign with the word "Hospedaje" (rooms) written on it.

Rosa

Rosa

Rosa’s house

Rosa enters her wooden house, where she rents a few rooms. I spent two nights in Rosa's house while I was looking for a bicycle for my journey.

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At Rosa's Bed and Breakfast, Puerto Montt, Chile

The plan is that there is no plan.

The orginal idea for my trip through South America was to land in Buenos Aires, Argentina, go South to cycle the Chilean Patagonia, come back up North, cross Uruguay along the coast, reach Brazil and end up in Rio de Janeiro where I would take my return flight home. I didn’t want to plan much more than this. To be more free to improvise, I did not take my own bicycle from home. So I had to find one...

After two days of wandering considering second hand options, I finally got the 'safe' way and bought a new mountain bike from José and Cecilia, the owners of the only bikeshop in Puerto Montt.

José

José is a bicycle mechanic and despite a career of more than 30 years, he has never cycled the famous Carretera Austral.

Cecilia

Cecilia runs the only bicycle shop of Puerto Montt with her husband José.

The moment I got out of the José and Celilia's workshop, I remember that indescriptible sensation of freedom and simple joy when riding that new bicycle back to the hostal. Like a true Proust "Madeleine moment', it brought back burried childhood memories and feelings. 

When you’re a kid, a bicycle represents your first tiny taste of independence, it opens opportunities to go on adventures. Now, as an adult in its early 40s pedaling through the streets of Puerto Montt, I feel like I'm flying.

I managed to fit all my luggage without carrying paniers, using my flattened backpack as an extension of my luggage rack. The two drybags I brought from home would do the rest. 

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MY FIRST BICYCLE HAD NO BRAKES. BRUSSELS, 1979

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ROSA TOOK THAT PICTURE MOMENTS BEFORE I EMBARKED ON MY JOURNEY

During the journey I met several bikepackers that were surprised but also admirative about my minimal set-up. Fabian, a Swiss cyclist, told me:

"You know, I spent a fortune and months compulsively reading reviews of the most inimaginable specialised gear, and now I meet you and realize you can do this with barely nothing. Thanks man!"

Puerto Montt

A couple walks in the center of Puerto Montt, Chile, the starting point of the Carretera Austral.

Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt

Fruit Store

Fruit Store in Puerto Montt, Chile.

Supermarket

The peso is the currency of Chile. One peso equals to only 0.0014 euro, wich result in ridiculously big figures when it comes to prices. 3.699 pesos for a kilo of meet. Since the 50's there is a 50.000 pesos bank note.

As I finally embarked on my journey and started pedaling, my head filled up with irrational negative thoughts like "the lack of phone signal", "hypothetical unsolvable mechanical problems" or "what if I can't find a place to sleep?". But very soon anxiety turned into euphoria and strength that made me surprisingly very much in control of the situation. Banana smile on my face.

"The main takeaway from all this is that too many times we are afraid of the unknown, invaded by negative thoughts, imagining everything that can turn out wrong, while, generally, things happen to turn out quiet well."

The adventure begins

EXIT OF PUERTO MONTT, CHILE, FIRST KILOMETERS OF THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL. I REMEMBER PERFECTLY THE FEELING OF FREEDOM AND EXCITEMENT, MIXED WITH FEAR AND JOY I FELT WHEN I STARTED TO PEDAL.

The sensation of isolation and solitude on the Carretera Austral is enhanced by the fact that it is interrupted in three locations by waterways constraining travellers to take ferries that only operate twice a day. 

"Once I disembarked the ferry and the few cars that were on board disappeared into the horizon, I remember feeling very lonely and isolated. Somehow, I loved it."

Caleta La Arena

A man carries a trunk, in Caleta La Arena, where the first ferry of the Carretera Austral has to be taken.

Hornopiren – Caleta Gonzalo

A couple sits on the deck of the ferry that brings them from Hornopiren to Caleta Gonzalo, the second ferry crossing of the Carretera Austral.

Hornopiren – Caleta Gonzalo

Traveling the entire Carretera Austral requires the use of three ferries.

Ferry

The captain of the Ferry that connects Caleta La Arena to Caleta Puelche in 30 min.

Rio Bravo

On the ferry crossing the Rio Bravo, at 130km from the final objective of Villa O'Higgins. The weather is cold, and only the bicycles, safely attached, are staying on the deck.

In the oldest hotel of Hornopirén, a wooden building next to the bay, I met Gonzalo, a former engineer that told me about the numerous workers that died during the construction of the road.

"The construction of the Carretera Austral started in 1976 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and it took no less than 20 years, 10.000 soldiers and 300 million $US to achieve this titanic work of engineering."

You can read the story in books and guides, but once you are on the Carretera, the history is a living being, right there, something that becomes part of your trip. During the first few years, the work conditions were inhumane as soldiers had three month shifts with only ten days of rest, a minimum salary, living in complete geographical isolation and sleeping in precarious campsites without basic services. Some of those campsites eventually remained and turned into villages, like Villa Santa Lucia, where I stopped for one night. Around 300 people live there today.

Gonzalo

Gonzalo is engineer. He worked on the construction of Ruta 7 (Carretera Austral) in the '70s He knows that the recent project to asphalt the road will change forever the environment and lifestyle of the region, but still believes it's necessary.

Villa Santa Lucia

Villa Santa Lucia, a former campsite for workers, turned into a village. Around 300 people live there today.

"Like the Sagrada Familia, works on the Carretera Austral have never ended."

Scattered over its 1240 kilometers, heavy machines, trucks and working men are constantly maintaining the road, fighting against the forces of Nature. But not only is the road being maintained, it is also slowly being paved. And that, is not without consequences. 

It’s not the asphalt in itself but everything that comes with it that has the biggest impact. The road signs, the safety equipment, the gas stations and other  infrastructures, the increased and fastest traffic, the littering and air pollution provoke intense collateral damage.

The sudden accessibility of the region to anyone at anytime, is also transforming what was an adventure into a casual touristic experience. That can be perceived as a selfish statement as many locals impatiently await for the road surface to boost local economy and quality of life. Should the beauties of nature exclusively be available for a few healthy privileged ‘adventurous’ people?

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A bulldozer along the Carretera Austral

Worker

Resting time

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Like little ants, hunderds of men continue the work initiated during the 70's.

Traffic regulator

Danixa is a student. She works as traffic regulator during summer time to pay the university.

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Fighting against the forces of Nature

After the pavement, the life-style of the population living along the Carretera Austral will never be the same again, for better and for worse.

Asphalting
Rocks

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More than 10.000 Chilean soldiers have been involved in the construction of the 'Ruta 7', the most ambicious and expensive engineering work realized in Chile, due to the presence of glaciars, wild rivers, fjords and high mountains.

Enrique

Enrique studies tourism in Santiago de Chile. Puerto Aysen, his home town is still isolated from the North by long sections of gravel road. The pavement could help him to find work in his sector after he graduates. Nevertheless, as a nature lover, he’s also concerned about the impact on the environment. I met him as he was bikepacking with his friends Christobal and Felipe. We shared a part of road together.   

Christobal

Christobal studies agronomy in Santiago. After the academic year, he and it's two friends, Enrique and Felipe decided to go back for the holidays to their home town, Puerto Aysen by bike. It's their first cycling trip but they love it so much that they already planned another journey to Bolivia.

Felipe

Felipe studies economy in Santiago. Together with it's two friends, Enrique and christobal, they cycle to their home town, Puerto Aysen situated more or less half way from Villa O'higgins, the end of the Carretera Austral.

Carretera Austral

The carretera austral Near Puyuhuapi, Chile

Swamp

Swamp near Puyuhuapi, Chile

Veronica

Veronica is veterinary working in the salmon industry all around the coast.

In the little village of Puyuhuapi, I met Veronica, a local veterinary that does health control in the salmon farms all along the coast. She drives thousands of kilometers a year to reach remote locations and for her, the paved road would cut the time spent in her car by half. Nevertheless, she also confessed to enjoying those moments driving her 4X4 across the wild landscapes. Veronica accepted to give me a ride n her pick-up van during 30 kilometers in order to get me out of a section that was going to be closed due to the use of explosives. Without her, I wouldn’t have made it.

Lahar

The damages caused by the eruption of the Chalten volcano.

 


In 2008, the Chalten volcano erupted for the first time in over 9,000 years and the damages caused by 'lahars' are still visible in the 'Parque Pumalín' nature reserve.

"Lahar is an Indonesian term that describes a hot or cold mixture of water and rock fragments flowing down the slopes of an erupting volcano, typically along a river valley."

The nearby town of Chalten was destroyed. Volcanic ash spewed upwards landed throughout Patagonia and across the Atlantic.
Residents were evacuated and the town was abandoned by the government, declaring Futaleufú the new capital of the Palena Province. In 2014, 6 years after the disaster, many inhabitants came back an try to illegaly reconstruct the city by their own means.

Chaltén

In May, 2008 when the Chaltén volcano erupted part of the town of Chalten was burried under the ashes.

Chaltén

Old fire truck in the town of Chaltén

Chaltén

Abandonned city market after the 2008 volcano eruption. Chaltén, Chile.

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people have come back to live in this house destroyed by the Chalten volcano.

The best way to see the world is on a bicycle.

When you travel by car bus or even train (not to mention plane),  you tend to forget the journey in itself and focus on the destination. The time spent actually travelling is something you will try to reduce at maximum. The landscapes that unfold behind the window are like a movie on TV, something external to yourself. 

On a bicycle, it's about being here, not getting there. Sure it sounds cheesy, but there is no other way to put it. 

Then, there is another benefit that is really hard to describe if you haven't experiencied it yourself. Tom Allen from Tom's Bike Trip wrote about this in such an accurate way that I simply can't find better words. Here it goes: 

"There is the immediacy of your engagements with those you meet on the roadside. Your strongest memories will be of time spent with friendly strangers who became friends in a the space of a smile and a handshake. You will feel guilty that you ever viewed people through other eyes." – Tom Allen

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Why on Earth would you not choose to see the world by bicycle?

Regroup

Cyclist regroup near Lago General Carrera, before arriving to Puerto Tranquilo.

Danilo and Juan

Everything Danilo and Juan own, is visible is this picture. The two Chilean friends sold all their belongings, quit their job and decided to travel on their bikes. When they run out of money, they find little jobs and then go back on the road. The duration of they journey is undetermined.

Travel solo, not lonely

When you arrive in a village riding your bicycle packed with luggage, generally people notice you, smile, and eventually interact. Enter that same village driving a car and nobody would ever realize you're there. Paradoxically, because you are travelling alone, the probability to meet someone is much higher.

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AS IT HAPPENS MANY TIMES ON THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL, I MET THESE GUYS A FEW DAYS EARLIER IN A VILLAGE, THEN WE BUMPED AGAIN INTO EACHOTHER ON A RAINY MORNING WHERE I FOUND THEM HAVING BREAKFAST IN THEIR TENT

You are cycling on your own for hours, lost in your thoughts… and suddenly, someone appears. A dot in the horizon that slowly gets bigger and bigger.

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A DOT IN THE HORIZON.

Most of the bikepackers that travel Ruta 7 carry a tent and a stove, in order to maintain full autonomy. I chose not to do that.

The benefit of not carrying a tent, apart from the weight gain, is again social; you're forced to talk with locals in order to find a bed to sleep. By doing so, you meet people who you never would have spoken to if you would have pitched your tent in the woods. No stove to cook is another opportunity to meet people, during your quest for food.

Food Bus

Fast food restaurant in Cerro Castillo, a typical Patagonian village situated at the foot of the enormous mountain of the same name. Cerro Castillo is also when the asphalt ends for good till the end of the Carretera Austral (Dec 2014).

In this remote part of Patagonia, food trucks or buses are popular. Most of them are old buses that have been reformed into small restaurants, but in Cochrane, Rachel’s food bus is still working. Most of the time she is parked in between the houses of Cochrane but sometimes, they bring it to special events, to the football field or other villages along the Carretera Austral.

Rachel

Rachel owns a "food bus" in Cochrane since 4 years. Together with her husband they bought an old school bus and took 3 months to transform it into a fast food restaurant. "There is no tourist that pass in front of my bus and doesn't take a picture" she proudly told me.

Food Bus

Rachel's food bus is still working. Most of the time he is parked inbetween the houses of Cochrane but sometimes, they bring it to special events, to the football field or other villages on the Carretera Austral.

Rachel’s Food Bus

Rachel "food bus" interior.

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RIO BRAVO

A key encounter

I was determined to reach the town of Cerro Castillo before dusk in order to find a roof to sleep under. En route, I met British cyclist Janie and Fabian from Switzerland who had been travelling for months. We had a quick chat, then I moved on as they were slower and, unlike me,  with no need to reach a town as they carried a tent. I ultimately reached Cero Castillo, exhausted.

Waterfall

Unlike the Road 40, on the Argentinian side, water on the Carretera Austral is extremely abundant.

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Puerto Rio Tranquilo CEMETERY

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THE REAL MEANING OF LUXURY, DRINK FROM THE RIVER

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Car Wreck
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The next morning I woke up in a fantastic hostal I was surprised to find in such a small place like Cerro Castillo. 120km were separating me from the next inhabited place, I had already travelled more than a week non-stop and I felt tired and lazy. Somehow I was postponing my departure, watching the road workers leave, taking one coffee after another and re-reading the map all over again until it was definitely too late to reach my destination on time. I had no other option now than take a rest day to start fresh the next morning. I still felt a bit torn apart by my decision… and didn’t really know what to do. Maybe I should go on a hike? Or just stay at the hostel?

Our Western mentality is not dealing well with the concept of "doing nothing". And let's be honest, I felt a bit lonely in that empty place now. That's when the door slammed open and two frozen cyclists entered the room. Fabian and Janie!

Janie

Janie started her trip from Colombia and met Fabian in Cuzco, Peru. Originally from the Lake District in the UK, she is an experienced biketraveler. She works with ONG's in various South and Central American countries.

Fabian

I met Fabian again, 24h after my first encounter with him and his friend Janie. They both entered the hostal where I had spend the night, frozen and desperately looking for a hot drink. Fabian studies mathematics and musicology in Zurich.

Janie and Fabian had spent the night in the forest and after the long downhill that leads to Cerro Castillo they got caught by the morning frost and only had one thing in mind: a warm bowl of soup.

Although we barely talked 10 minutes the day before, meeting them again was like seeing an old friend you were missing. We hugged each other with joy and their smile and energic talking instantly swept away my gloomy mood.

I shared my concerns about the route that was ahead of me, meanwhile they regained some colour eating their bowl of soup. It wasn’t long before Fabian said:

Why don’t you join us now? We buy some extra food here, we cycle 60km together today and tonight you camp with us, we have a three person tent. That cuts your journey of tomorrow to Puerto Tranquilo in half.”

Everything had radically shifted now. Never could I have imagined this opportunity just a few hours before.

Bus Stop

Bus Stop in Cerro Castillo, Chile.

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CERRO CASTILLO, CHILE

The end of the road

I arrived in Cerro Castillo alone, and left with two friends. Cerro Castillo, about 700 km south of Puerto Montt, is also the end of asphalt. Every kilometer below this point is "ripio", the chilean word for gravel road.

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JANIE AND FABIAN AT OUR CAMPSITE, THE EVENING AFTER WE MET

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IT WAS GREAT TO SHARE PART OF THE ROAD WITH GREAT HUMANS

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JANIE MADE BREAD, COOKED ON A FLAT STONE

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THAT NIGHT, I WAS FEELING GREAT TO GET TO CAMP IN THE WILD AGAIN

 

Travelling by bicycle offers a rare and precious opportunity to strip-back life to its absolute essentials – mentally, physically and spiritually. 

The greatest freedom one can have is to be self-directed, able-bodied, responsible, and fully aware of what matters most in life for each and every waking second.

– Tom Allen, bikepacker 

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VIEWS ALONG THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL, CHILE

The detour

On the morning of Christmas eve, I left the little town of Cochrane: ahead of me was the 140km needed to reach Caleta Tortel, the Patagonian Venice, an isolated coastal village founded in 1955 by timbers and had only air and boat access until 2003.

The road was deserted and I felt like I was in a lonely race against time. I was so focused on the effort that I don’t remember much from the first 100km until I reached the crossroad with the sign pointing to Caleta Tortel.

I was doubting, make an extra 40km detour to follow my plan and see this unique village or continue on the Carretera Austral for another 25 km until the Rio Bravo where I could probably find a shelter at the military base and take the ferry at midday the next morning. The weather had changed and a misty continuous rain was falling. I am cold.

House

On the road to Caleta Tortel

The landscape changes rapidly and I find myself surrounded by incredibly dense vegetation, similar to a tropical rain forest. Water is omnipresent, waterfalls, rivers, mist, rain. Humidity is reaching my bones. More than ever, I feel alive. Again.

Rain Forest

Rain Forest on the way to Caleta Tortel

Sanctuary

Nature seems to have formed a sanctuary for this dead cow.

:andscape

On the way to Caleta Tortel, Chile

:andscape

On the way to Caleta Tortel, Chile

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Special xmas tuning for my bicycle.

Self-Portrait

I took this picture on December 24th at the end of almost 130km cycling through rain and without seeing a human soul. Yet, these virgin landscapes were among the most spectaculars I've seen, and the sense of loneliness and desolation participated to the uniqueness and intensity of the moment. I knew that after a few days, I would only remember the good side of all this.

The Patagonian Venice

In the evening of December 24th, I finally reached Caleta Tortel without having crossed anyone on my way.

The village founded by timbers to exploit the cypress trees is built along the coast for several kilometres with no conventional streets - instead there are wooden walkways build with Cypress trees. 

I left my bag in a perfectly empty hostel and wandered the boardwalks just before dusk, climbing up and down the stairs. The atmosphere was gloomy and completely surreal. 

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Caleta Tortel

THE STREETS OF Caleta Tortel

Caleta Tortel

Wooden walkways build with Cypress.

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i was the only guest at the hostal on x-mas eve

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HOSTAL HIELO SUR, CALETA TORTEL

No Jingle Bells on that Christmas eve. All I could hear was the sound of reggaeton.

People were buying massive quantities of alcohol in the local grocery store. The night promised to be long, but not for me. I had to be at Rio Bravo before midday the next day to catch the ferry. Despite my exhaustion it took me awhile to get to sleep. My mind was still processing all the emotions and images from the day.

Caleta Tortel

Caleta Tortel, Chile

Iceberg

ICEBERG ON LAKE O'HIGGINS, TERMINUS OF THE CARRETERA AUSTRAL

The last stage

On December 25th, I managed to reach Puerto Yungay, the ferry Terminal of Rio Bravo, where I met again with my new friends. That day, the weather was rainy and cold, we didn’t really feel like getting off the boat.

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PUERTO YUNGAY

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Waiting for the the ferry to cross Rio Bravo, at 130km from the end of the Carretera Austral, Villa O'Higgings.

Ferry

On the last ferry of the Carretera Austral, crossing the Rio Bravo, I met again with my new friends Fabian, Janie, Gian and Kayla. That day, the weather was rainy and cold, we didnt really feel like getting out of the boat.

Rio Bravo

On the ferry crossing the Rio Bravo, at 130km from the final objective of Villa O'Higgings. The weather is cold, and only the bicycles, safely attached, are staying outside on the deck.

On the road

After crossing Rio Bravo, the last strech to Villa O´Higgins, the end of the road

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the ever changing landscapes of Patagonia

The end of the road

Villa O’Higgins, the official end of the Carretera Austral, is actually a dead end. The only way you can continue is by taking a boat to Candelario Mansilla where a 22km path leads to the Argentinian border. The boat crosses the O’Higgins lake, the deepest in the Americas, and passes in front of the majestuous O’Higgins glacier, more than 80 meters high. 

Wood Fire

Villa o'Higgins. In the Chilean south Patagonia, people use wood for heating. The chimneys spread a strong but lovely smell in the air which gives a special character to these little settlements. The presence of smoke is also conveniently used by locals to know if a neighbor or familiar is at home.

Villa O’Higgins

Villa O'Higgins, end of the Carretera Austral, has this weird atmosphere of 'end of the world', that might actually be still more authentic than what travellers experience when arriving to Ushuaïa.

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THE O'HIGGINS GLACIER IS ABOUT 80 METERS HIGH

 

"When the boat stopped the engine a few hundred meters from the glacier we could only hear the the lapping of the waves and the cracking of the ice. The experience became almost mystic.."

O’Higgins Glacier

O'Higgins Glacier is located in Bernardo O'Higgins National Park, Chile at 2hours by boat from Villa O'higgins, end of the Carretera Austral. It is one of the principal glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The summit of the active Lautaro volcano is the top of the accumulation zone of the glacier. It flows eastward into O'Higgins Lake and is about 2 km wide and 80m high at the terminus.

Iceberg

Iceberg on the O'Higgins lake. It has a surface area of 1,013 km² and its the deepest The lake is the deepest in the Americas with a maximum depth of 836 meters.

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Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier, is compressed and the pressure causes the air bubbles to be squeezed out, increasing the density of the ice.

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Sepulveda at the wheel of the ship that brings me to the Ohiggins glacier

Manzilla

In Candelario Mansilla, at 3h by boat from Villa O'higgins, endpoint of the Carretera Austral, Manzilla lives with her son, in the only house you will find, apart from the migration office. The house was build by her parents and she never lived anywhere else. To get food and supplies she relies on the boat that makes the connection to Villa O'higgins only once a week in low season.

With no mobile phone signal, she uses a radio to communicate with town and order what she need. Manzilla offers a few beds to passing bikers and hikers that wants to make the border crossing.

Manzilla’s House

Manzilla rents a few rooms in the only house of Candelario Mancilla on the Southern shore of the O'Higgings lake.

Manzilla House

With no mobile phone signal, Manzilla uses a radio to communicate with town located at 3h by boat.

Manzilla

Manzilla use a wooden stove to cook

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A herd of cows on the way to Lago del DEsierto

I was slowly pedaling in on that steep, muddy and rocky part of the path leading to the Lago del Desierto, when suddenly, a herd of running cows appeared right in front me.

Instinctively, I grabbed the camera that was hanging from my neck and pressed the shutter button.
As this surreal scene unfolded through the viewfinder, I could only hope the animals would be able to avoid me. They did.

The border crossing

The 22 kilometers path to the Argentinian Border located on the shore of Lake Desierto is is infamous among cyclists. The trail is a narrow muddy single track with many streams to cross and dense vegetation to slalom around, not suited for heavy loaded bikes which obliges you to unmount your bicycle for the last 5 kilometers. Despite the bad weather and harsh conditions, the landscapes and luxurious forests are magnificent.

Once in Lago del desierto  you must jump on another ferry which will take you across the lake in about 50 minutes and finally cycle another 40km to the final destination in Argentina, El Chalten.

Border Crossing

On the Southern shore of lake O'Higgins at 5h by boat from Villa O' Higgins, you'll find the most isolated immigration office I've seen.

Border Crossing

The path that unites Chile to Argentina, after the end of the Carretera Austral is infamous among cyclist, due to its difficult terrain for bikes with paniers and heavy luggage. I was lucky to be able to join Gian and Kayla so I wasn't alone during this part of the trip.

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THE BORDER CROSSING IS CHALLENGING, LUCKILLY I WAS IN GOOD COMPANY WITH A COUPLE OF AMERICAN CYCLISTS.

Nature

THE LUXURIOUS forest on the border between Argentina and Chile.

Hangar

Abandonned military hangar on the border crossing path between Chile and Argentina.

Border Crossing

The path that unites Chile to Argentina, after the end of the Carretera Austral is infamous among cyclist, due to its difficult terrain for bikes with paniers and heavy luggage. In the background, the Lago del Desierto is visible.

Lago del Desierto

At the end of the 22km track that starts at Candelario Mansilla on the Chilean side of Lago O'Higgins, you will find the Argentinian migration post on the shore of Lago del Desierto.

I managed to reach the Argentinian immigration office to get the boat that crosses the lago del Desierto after an epic race against time. On the boat, where, me and a couple of American cyclists, are the only passengers, I talk to Melissa, the ticket girl.

I wonder if she knows about a bicycle store in El Chalten, our end destination, where I want to try to sell my bike. “I might be interested” she replied. The next day, on New year’s eve, we met in town and she bought my bicycle.

We often worry for nothing and our brains tend to think of the worst possible scenario’s. My motto for the trip, “The plan is that there is no plan”, definitely worked out very well.

Sepulveda

Sepulveda works on the boat that crosses once a week the O'Higgins lake and eventually make the detour to the glacier.
On the zodiac he used to get us closer to the ice blocs, he would make sure to fill a big bottle of water directly from the lake to make a warm 'mate' (traditional infusion) on the way back to Villa O'higgins.

Paula

Paula is an English teacher and lives 500km north, in Coyaique, the biggest city (50.000) of the Carretera Austral. Although she is the daughter the mayor of Villa O'Higgins, she had never seen the glacier so she took advantage of her visit to her parents for the summer holidays, to finaly see this natural wonder that she has in her back garden.

Melisa

Melisa studies to become a teacher. During the summer holiday, she controls and sells the tickets on the boat that crosses the Lago del Desierto.

I casualy asked her if there were any bike rental shops in El Chalten, the first town we had ahead of us, as I had the necessity to sell my bicycle in order to continue the journey to the North.
She was casualy looking for a second hand bike to make her first big trip across Uruguay and Brazil in April. She is the first person I talked to (after the immigration officer) in Argentina and she is the person that bought my bicycle.

TO BE CONTINUED

Don't be shy

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Don't believe everything you think

Phone: +34 679 75 56 40
Email: jm@superjeanmarc.com