06.01.2012 - 07.01.2012 20 °C
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.