A Travellerspoint blog

Pucon to Santiago

The end of our journey

sunny 30 °C

January 17th
Once again we were on the road heading for Santa Cruz. We left Villarrica Volcano behind us and headed north. Today we were promised a stop at the Copec Pronto. It was a petrol stop with nice coffee and hot dogs. We headed along the Pan American Highway and were quite surprised when we hit a four lane highway heading towards Santiago. This is not what we were used to as down south it was a single dirt road.
We arrived around lunch time at the Salta del Laja waterfall. Unfortunately due to the hot weather there was not too much water coming over. I am sure it would be more spectacular when there is more water around.
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We sat and had a relaxing lunch not far from the falls. We then continued our journey to Santa Cruz. This is only about 2 hours drive from Santiago and is in the Colchagua Valley whch is a famous wine region of Chile.

January 18th
We had a relaxing start to the day so we enjoyed a sleep in. This morning we visited Colchagua Museum which stands a few metres away from the main square or Plaza de Armas. There are still buildings in disarray from the big 2010 earthquake.
We entered the museum where we were given a gadget that interpreted the museum in to English. This proved to be a big help.
We slowly walked our way through the museum immersed in artefacts to do with palaeontology, archaeology the history of the native South Americans including their conquest, colonization and independence. There were also rooms reflecting beautiful old carriages and cars along with an old train including the complete railway station. The final surprise was the newest exhibit to do with the Chilean mining disaster. This was very interesting and even had the capsule that bought the miners to the surface.
This museum is a private museum owned by a Chilean business man called Carlos Cardoen Cornejo. Santa Cruz is his home town.
We had a picnic lunch beside the river near the wine barrel cross.
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After lunch we went wine tasting at the Viu Manent Winery. We also had a look around the winery.
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We then headed to Santiago, our final destination for this trip. We had our final night farewell dinner at an Incan restaurant. The food was absolutely terrific. I had Chifa which is the Peruvian version of fried rice.

January 19th
This was our relaxation day. We needed to change hotels today. So we headed off from the Hotel Galerias to the Hotel Diego de Velasquez. we both had the start of upset stomachs.

January 20th
Today we were meant to go to Valparaiso but we didn't end up going anywhere, we stayed in bed.

January 21st
Our last day in Santiago, so feeling much better we headed out to see some of the sights of Santiago.
We went up the lookout but it was not a very good view. We were informed that it was foggy but it looked more like smoggy to me.
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They are currently building the tallest building in South America, which I find interesting as Santiago has quite a few earthquakes.
We then headed into the city and had a walk around the Plaza de Armas. There are lots of interesting buildings around this square.
The catholic cathedral has been rebuilt 5 times due to all of the earthquakes.
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The post office used to be the presidents residence.
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Other attractions around the square.
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We then headed to the presidential palace to see the changing of the guards. As per usual it was a bit different from all the others we had seen, but it was still nice to see all of the pomp and ceremony.
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Shane posed with a couple of the guards, they were so much taller than him but looked very smart.
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We are now about to head to the airport for our flight home, so this is Shane and Nicola signing off for this trip. See you all soon.

Posted by shaneandnicola 14:11 Archived in Chile

Bariloche to Pucon

semi-overcast 27 °C

14th January
This morning we headed off from lovely Bariloche. It was a long drive of almost 12 hours to arrive at Pucon. This would be our last day in Argentina for this trip as we head back to Chile for the last time. Our journey this morning took us through Villa la Angostura to the Nahuel Huapi National Park along the Seven Lakes Drive. The drive was very picturesque and once again no ash came our way. There was also no wind so the lakes were like glass. There were reflections of the mountains in each lake.
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The surprise to us was the amount of ash lying around in the park. It was everywhere from roof tops to thick layers on the ground between the plants. The national park workers have started to attempt cleaning up certain areas but it is very difficult. It is surprising that things continue to grow and flower but they do.
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The lakes drive took most of the morning. We stopped just before the border at a remote little town where you sat under a hut and they cooked empanadas fresh, so we had some carne (meat) and jamon (ham) and queso (cheese) ones, followed by cherries. (At least we haven’t missed the cherry season being over here).
After lunch we entered the Lanin National Park and on our left was the extinct Lanin Volcano, it looked stunning with its snow covered peak.
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Driving through the park we also noticed an usual tree which is called a “Monkey Puzzle Tree”. It was in flower and had big orange type flowers all over them. It is actually related to the Norfolk Pine.
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We proceeded to the Argentinian border thinking it would be quick and easy. Wrong. We could not work out what the guard was telling us but something was happening in Pucon tomorrow and there were hundreds of people coming to Pucon. So the border crossing took a couple of hours to leave Argentina. Then we had the Chile border to deal with. Fortunately they were much more organised and it did not take anywhere near as long. They did ask us to unload our luggage and put it through the x-ray machine though.
We arrived in Pucon at 7.30pm. Pucon's location is by a lake and a volcano. It’s quite stable weather in the summer makes it a popular destination for tourists. It offers variety activities for tourists, including trekking, hot springs and guided ascents of Villarrica Volcano.
On the drive in we could see this magnificent volcano that looks like it is on the edge of the town, it is still active and apparently you can see it glowing at night. Driving through town we saw the evacuation sign which shows the evacuation route should the volcano erupt and the town needs to evacuate. The next challenge was getting to the hotel as several roads had been blocked off as tomorrow there is a big Ironman competition in town. Our hotel is right next to the change point for the triathlon. We eventually found our way around and before getting our bags off the bus we headed to a travel company as Shane had decided to climb the Villarrica Volcano. (not me).
Once this was all sorted out for tomorrow we headed off to a pasta place for tea. They made their pasta behind a window and you could go and watch. I had the house specialty which was 3 different pastas. It was very nice.
The town was abuzz with so many people walking the streets. There were also lots of men in their tight bike shorts. There were bands playing on the streets. We headed back to the hotel so Shane could have a good night’s sleep for the big climb tomorrow.

15th January
This morning we got up at 6am so Shane could get ready, have breakfast and head off for his climb. So I walked him to the corner and watched him walk off quite excitedly for his adventure.
As the Ironman was on today there was not much else happening so I could not do any optional activities. I went back to bed for a few more hours and then had a walk around town to watch some of the competition. I found out that the competition is the historic Agrosuper Ironman 70.3. Apparently it is one of the most scenic courses in the Ironman 70.3 series. There is a 1.9 kilometre swim in the Villarica Lake, then a 90 km bike ride with a majestic view of the Villarica Volcano followed by a 3 lap run through the city. There are competitors from all over the world and I did hear Australia called too.
Shane had not returned by 11am so the climb was obviously going ahead. (sometimes when they get to the volcano if the conditions are not right they will cancel the trip).
We have a great view of the volcano from our hotel. You can see it steaming away.
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Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes (except the the one causing all of the destruction and is only one of five volcanoes in the world to have an active lava lake within its crater. I bet Shane is thinking about the volcano in Banos Ecuador that errupted last year while we were there and had to be evacuated. I reckon he will be praying right now for it not to errupt while he is on top of it.
Shane returned safe and sound later in the day and has put together a summary of his day on the volcano.
It was a quick walk to meet my guide to conduct final preparations for my volcano ascent. It was a nice cool morning but cloud obscured our view of the volcano from Pucon. Our guides handed out backpacks, waterproof pants and jackets and gloves; I was ready to go and tame this active volcano.
It was a 45 minute drive to the refuge where we would start our assent, on the way I had a chat with an Australian couple from Sydney that were part of this 5 person volcano attack group. They had been back packing around South America since May 2011 and are due to head home in 3 months.
Arriving at the refuge I got really excited noting that there was no cloud on the volcano and the chairlift was working which will take at least an hour off our assent well worth the 6000 chilean pesos (12 dollars).
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Jumping off the chairlift, after a 15 minute ride, I threw my helmet on in case rocks started falling from the sky.
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I also opened my sunscreen which turned into a mini volcano spurting everywhere. After cleaning up we started our 3 hour trek over ice and rock. The assent to the top, from the chairlift was about another 1200 metres but would be more like 3500 metres as we zig zagged our way up through the snow and ice.
I found out quickly not to get lazy as I missed my footing and nearly slid back down the volcano, I really wanted to get to the top and then slide back down. At times I got quite apprehensive and unsure of my footing especially with my muscles burning and feet getting wet and cold, it seems my waterproof boots are no longer waterproof, I was thinking ‘why am I doing this’ and ‘how the hell am I going to slide safely down these near vertical slopes’.
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Finally, I got the top where the warm rocks started drying and warming my feet. Wow, I am standing right next to the spout at the top of an active volcano. I could hear the volcano hissing and growling and see steam puffing out. With adrenalin pumping and the realisation of how close to death I could be, I edged as close as I dared for a look into the monster’s mouth and a photo opportunity, I did not hang around the edge for long.
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Walking around the top I could see in the distance another of Chile’s active volcanos that has been spewing out ash and creating problems for Bariloche in Argentina, and taking in the magnificent Vista of the Andes, I felt re-invigorated and privileged.
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Another group of trekkers soon arrived and we decided to start our descent. Putting on our waterproof pants, jackets, gloves and what can only be described as a nappy and a small piece of plastic we prepared for a quick ride down on our backsides. Once our guide had showed us how to control our speed and stop using our ice picks, I set off. Slowly at first then with confidence and bravado my speed increased. It was a good thing each of the slides was short as nothing stopped me from getting a wet and very cold bum on the ice and snow. It was terrific fun though.
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Arriving at the chairlift I was dismayed to see that it had stopped, turns out it was a one way trip and we had to walk down to the refuge and catch our ride back to Pucon. Overall it was a tiring, exhilarating day for me, but well worth the effort.

January 16th
We had a later start this morning, so after breakfast we went for a short walk and took a picture of one of the cities volcano evacuation route signs. I suppose there has to be plans to get out if you live at the bottom of an active volcano. We stopped for a quick carne (meat) empanada; this was a traditional one as it contained meat, egg, sultanas and an olive, very nice.
Next we headed off in Esperanza to the Huerquehue National Park for a short trek (I’m sure our excellent driver Tony got slightly geographically embarrassed).
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This short trek was about 3 hours including a fairly hefty uphill section; this was just what Shane needed after going up the volcano yesterday (not). Our route took us around a peaceful lake and up to a beautiful waterfall.
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We were also lucky enough to see our first woodpecker. It was much smaller than we had thought.
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There also these little skinks that were green and blue, they just sat and posed on the trees.
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We finished off the day with a drive to the Los Pozones hot springs which included a short stint of four wheel driving in Esperanza. The hot springs had lots of different pools which all varied in temperature. So we got our tog’s out and settled in for a couple of hours moving between the pools, from hot to warm to cool pools (not necessarily in that order).
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Once we had soaked our worn bodies and Shane’s tired muscles we headed back up to Esperanza and got out some chairs, vino (wine), cheese, meats, olives and desserts and sat around for another hour or so eating, drinking and having good old chat until dark.
These hot springs are a popular spot and stay open until 3am each morning, cars were still arriving when we left around 9.30pm. This was another great day including adventure and relaxation.

Posted by shaneandnicola 17:34 Archived in Chile

Futaleufu to Bariloche

sunny 25 °C

11th January
When we awoke this morning it was absolutely freezing. It had continued to rain all night and the mountains behind us had a fresh dusting of snow on them. After breakfast the rain stopped in time for us to pack the truck. We had a stroll around the farm and there was a little chick resting on mum’s back.
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It was time to head off for our next destination of Bariloche. We had yet another border crossing in to Argentina. The stamps are certainly piling up in the passport for both Chile and Argentina. The border crossing was nice and easy. We then continued on Route 40 to Bariloche.
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Along the way we saw some flamingo's in with a paddock of cows.
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It was a fairly uneventful day just travelling in the truck to get to our next destination; however the scenery once again changed from lush green forest to open dry plains with mountains topped in snow.
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As soon as we crossed the border into Argentina the sun appeared and remained out for the whole day. We were more than happy with that as we well and truly over the rain. As we drove closer to Bariloche the lakes came in to view. The scenery was so picturesque that photos just don’t do it justice. We were not sure what to expect as we had heard the ash from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile is causing a lot of breathing problems in Bariloche. Flights have been cancelled to and from Bariloche which has affected 5 of the group who are leaving tomorrow. They are now going by bus to Buenos Aires.
Once settled in to our hotel we had a group dinner. You will never guess what we had,big chunks of steak. What a surprise. Well we are back in Argentina.
Now some educational information - Bariloche’s real name is San Carlos de Bariloche, but is usually known as Bariloche. It is situated in the foothills of the Andes on the southern shores of Nahuel Huapi Lake and is surrounded by the Nahuel Huapi National Park.
The modern settlement of Bariloche developed from a shop established by a German immigrant that had settled in Chile and then crossed the Andes and established a little shop called "La Alemana" near the present city center.
It has a very german and swiss influence with lots of chalets, chocolate shops and even places that specialise in fondue - yum!!

12th January
This morning we were hoping that we would awake to another clear day that would be ash free. We were in luck it was a lovely sunny, clear day and the wind was obviously blowing in the right direction for us to not have any ash come our way. So today we spent the day in the truck travelling around the small circuit taking in the scenery of the lakes around Bariloche. We went up the Campanario Hill viewpoint by chairlift to get a stunning view of the area.
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I couldn't resist this photo of these cats that were up at the look out.
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We then headed off to the beach to have lunch.
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After lunch we continued our journey around the circuit. We stopped to visit the cemetery for climbers.
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From there we took a walk along the lake then it was on the the Llao Llao resort for high tea. It was very similar to what we have in Australia, but the cakes were different. The resort was very posh and we just rocked up in our daggy clothes and hiking boots. Shane went to find a toilet and security followed him so they must have thought he was a bit dodgy. It was a lovely relaxing tea looking out over the lake.
It really was a “wow” day today for scenery.

13th January
Today was a free day to do what we wanted. So first thing we did was have a sleep in as there have not been too many of them this trip. Today we decided to have a look around this lovely little town. We headed down to the main square and civic centre. The civic centre was opened in 1940 and in 1987 became a national monument.
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Right next to the square is the main shopping street so we went and shopped till we dropped. There were lots of lovely litte shops that support local artisans. We helped contribute to the economy. Now we have to transport is all home. Oh well.
This evening we went and had a fondue dinner. This was a first for Shane. We decided on the cheese fondue with sausage, ham and potato. It was really nice and Shane thoroughly enjoyed it. He may very well be a fondue fan now.

Posted by shaneandnicola 17:56 Archived in Argentina

Coyhaique to Futaleufu

rain 16 °C

8th January
Today we journeyed along the Carretera Austral. The change in scenery was very dramatic. The other side of the Andes where we had just been only has an average rainfall of 300 mm a year. This side has an average of 4000 mm. I think we got most of it within a few days. It rained most of the day as we shook along yet another dirt road to then Queulat National Park. We parked the truck and ate lunch in the truck before heading off for a hike through the “Enchanted Forest”. Due to the rainfall the forest was very wet and had “old man’s beard” hanging from all of the trees. It was a lovely hike despite the rain.
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Some of the plants are massive; it was like being in the “land of the lost”.
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Later that afternoon we continued on to our home for the night. It was the Queulat Fjord Lodge. This is a fishing lodge. It was lovely and quiet and our room had a fire burning for us upon arrival. It was a great opportunity to dry off all our clothes. This lodge was in the middle of nowhere.
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9th January
Today we continued on our bouncy track through the national park to the hike to the lake to see the Queulat Hanging Glacier. It hadn’t stopped raining since yesterday. To get to the lake we needed to cross a swing bridge.
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The amount of water flowing under the bridge was extraordinary. The sound was deafening.
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From the lake you could see the hanging glacier. It had 4 waterfalls around it and at one stage it made a really loud thundering sound and we thougth that part may fall off, but it didn't do it while we were watching it unfortunately.
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Once we completed the hike we were pretty wet and still had quite a way to go to get to our home for the night. Luckily the truck has a heater so it didn’t take too long to warm up. The whole day was on dirt road today. Due to the wet conditions the truck was sliding around a bit. We completed our journey along then Carretera Austral and by late afternoon we arrived at the estancia Cara del Indio just outside Futaleufu. It is a working farm. There is a rock face behind the estancia and there is an Indians face naturally carved in the rock, thus the name of the estancia.
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We settled in to our cozy cabin.
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In the evening we sat around whilst a lamb was cooking on the open file in their traditional way of cooking. It was lovely to eat. As there was not much to do here in the evening we had arranged a wine tasting competition. At our last stop we were all asked to buy a bottle of wine between each couple. The bottle was then put into a plastic bag and we each had a taste and needed to guess what type of grape it was, which country it was from, the year it was made and 3 characteristics that described the wine that would be on the label when you read it. Shane and I knew we didn’t have a chance as we just drink the stuff we are not wine connoisseurs. However we didn’t come last so we were pretty pleased. Of course the remnants of the bottles then had to be drunk.

10th January
Today was a rest day at the estancia. Shane decided to go white water rafting. It was a grade 4 rafting trip. I went along with the vehicle to take some photos. Five of the group went and I am pleased to say that they all came home safely thanks to rescue kayaker Santiago and the guide in the raft Julio. At one stage of the rafting trip they asked who wanted to jump off a big rock into the water. Shane volunteered. When they got to the last rapid they could also ride the rapid out of the raft on their backs. Once again Shane wanted to have a go at that. He had a great time and really enjoyed it.
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For the rest of the day we stayed in our cabin as it was still pouring with rain for the third day in a row.

Posted by shaneandnicola 15:16 Archived in Chile

El Chalten to Coyhaique

semi-overcast 20 °C

6th January
Today we headed off from El Chalten. It was a very uneventful day but a long drive today along Route 40 which is part of the Pan American Highway. This was to be our longest day of driving yet as it was an 11 hour drive. Most of the road was dirt and pretty rough. It felt very remote travelling along this road but we certainly saw a lot of animals. Lots of guanacos, rheas with chicks, a grey fox and sheep, horses and cattle, all roam over the road and alongside the road. The guanacos and rheas go running when we come along which is funny to watch. The guanacos can jump really high so they were able to jump fences to get away from the road. We also spent the day armadillo hunting but had no luck seeing any. We had hoped to stop the truck tackle the armadillo and take some photos.
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We stopped for lunch at a quiet spot alongside a river. The sun was shining and we set up the table and chairs and enjoyed a picnic lunch. It was also Karmani’s birthday today so we had a chocolate birthday cake.
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Once on the road again we continued on being thrown around the truck with the dirt roads. We finally arrived at our home for the night which was an estancia named Cueva de las Manos. This estancia is 60 km outside of Perito Merino. It is out in the middle of nowhere but it is a good stopping off point for visitors to stay overnight as there is not much else around.
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At this stage, I thought that I would also point out the type of tea that Shane has been drinking. I didn’t think that anyone would believe me so I took a picture of the teabag.
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7th January
We had another early start today as we had another 10 hours’ drive ahead of us to our next destination of Coyhaique. We first drove through Perito Merino to pick up some food for lunch. The supermarket was closed but we did manage to get some fruit and salad vegetables and then found a panaderia (bakery) open so we could buy some sandwiches. The empanadas had just come out of the oven so we bought some of them and had them for morning tea. We then headed off to Puerto Ibanez which was a remote border crossing as Coyhaique is in Chile. This was one of the most scenic border crossings we had ever done. We could Lake General Carrera (Chilean side) or Lake Buenos Aires (Argentine side). This lake is shared by Chile and Argentina and both names are internationally accepted.
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The exit from Argentina did not take long at all. The border for Chile was then about half an hour’s drive away. We stopped for lunch in “no man’s land” and enjoyed our salad and sandwiches. We had to finish it all off as the Chilean border was coming up and we could not take any fresh produce across the border. The Chilean border crossing was also very straight forward, they had a quick look over the truck but we did not have to unpack anything.
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Our lovely scenery continued through Chile on our way to Coyhaique. The scenery certainly changed from being very dry and desert like to snow-capped mountains and greenery.
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We then arrived in Coyhaique (Spanish pronunciation is koi’aike). It is the capital city of both the Coyhaique Province and the Aysen Region of Chile. It was founded by settlers in 1929, and it is still considered a young city. Until the twentieth century, Chile showed little interest in exploiting the remote Aysen region, however the Carretera Austral road opened in the 1980s and this town is now very popular as a starting point for the Carretera Austral. The Carretera Austral is the name given to Route 7 and was the brain child of General Pinochet. The highway runs about 1240 kms through rural Patagonia. The areas along this route are sparsely populated and despite its length it only provides access to only about 100,000 people. Most of this road is still unpaved.

Posted by shaneandnicola 17:43 Archived in Argentina

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