Often called the most beautiful road in the world!
Settling comfortably onto our new sheepskin bum comforters we crossed back into Chile and what a difference a day makes. The winds dropped, we could hear each other over the intercom and Bertie is riding upright. Perfecto. Immediately the town boundary of Chile Chico came into view, the ripio began and we settled in for a long, slow and bumpy couple of days riding. We were heading for the Carretera Austral which had been on our must do list ever since reading that it was the most beautiful road in the world. Well others may claim to be beautiful but we can vouch for this one. Spectacular riding. The Carretera is 1,240km in total but we will be joining it at Puerto Guadal. Before we reached the Carretera it was a 124 km ride along the shore of Lago General Carrera. The lake spans Chile and Argentina and on the Argentinian side it is called Lago Buenos Aires and is stunning. As we reached the top of a rise the view opened up in front of us and we were grinning from ear to ear. This was going to be good. Our destination for the first night was Puerto Rio Tranquillo and before we reached the town a sign caught our eye. Camping Natural. We were hoping that it was the campsite that was natural and it didn’t mean the campers had to go au natural. A very steep winding gravel track took us to the shore of the lake and a cabin inhabited by Pedro. Yes, we could camp anywhere we liked, no, there was no charge. Result, and the location was fantastic. Any drawbacks… no ablution facilities but a whole lake full of water. Picking a spot overlooking the lake and with no one else there our tent was soon pitched and wood collected for a fire. Our reward for a long day in the saddle, a beautiful sunset lighting up the mountains opposite.
Pedro runs boat trips to the marble caves. The boat was rather small but the advantages of that were that unlike the bigger boats we were able to get further into the caves to marvel at the rock formations caused by the water erosion and visible due to the falling level of the lake, the chapel, the cathedral and the cavern, all natural wonders and the cameras were working overtime. We were reluctant to move on but the road beckoned and the need for a hot shower, but nature had one more treat for us in the form of an amazing sunset that lit the lake a blood red colour.
While we had a cobbled together breakfast of the supplies leftover, the ever present local dog wandered over to Bertie and had a good look. Jim was most impressed that even the dogs want to admire the bike. Then as if to give his verdict he lifted his leg and christened the back tyre. That rendered Jim speechless for a moment!!
A second day of ripio riding saw us up to Villa Cerro Castillo with more amazing views which if it hadn’t been for the road surface you would be forgiven for thinking you were in Austria or Switzerland. Yellow lupins grow wild all along the verges and the aroma is wonderful, an advantage of riding slowly, visor up. Along the river banks, the lupins are a deep blue. The carretera is the main road route in the area and we were surprised how many other vehicles we saw. Mostly 4×4 they leave long dust clouds in their wake totally obliterating the view ahead. Luckily you can see them coming from some distance so it’s visor down till the dust clears. Our sympathies went out to the cyclists we saw who don’t have that luxury. The temperature rose during the day hitting 30C, such a contrast from a week ago on ruta 40.
It was with a measure of relief that the third leg to Coyhaique was a tarmac road and a real treat at the beginning in the form of a winding road with some great bends to give Bertie’s tyres a work out. The scenery changed from lake to forest to snow capped mountains. We agreed that it was just the best riding we have experienced ever and we have many more kilometres to go.