Final Stop on the Carretera Austral: Chile Chico
From Cochrane we back tracked north on the Carretera to get to Chile Chico for a night, a border town only 8km from Argentina. It was our farewell to the Carretera, as we planned to cross the border into Argentina the next morning. The town itself had the same feel as other towns we had stopped at along the Carretera, especially Cochrane. The principle difference was the crazy wind we experienced, which we understood is not uncommon. Even the trees in town lean in the direction of the constant wind coming from the direction of the lake. Chicago may deserve the title of Windy City for its politicians, but Chile Chico deserves the title of Windy City for its actual wind.
The biggest highlight was the last two hours of the drive into Chile Chico, which were absolutely spectacular, but very unfortunately seen from the bus, i.e. we don’t really have any pictures. The drive took us back onto the edge of the same lake you saw in the Puerto Rio Tranquilo photos. And using the word “edge” is an understatement as the bus climbed and climbed up roughly paved, dirt covered roads, along vertical cliffs similar to steeper drives on Highway 1 in California, except twice as high. While teetering on the road above the turquoise colored lake, the best rainbow we’ve seen to date arced from the lake into the mountains. A surreal goodbye provided by the Carretera.
- Almost getting knocked over by the wind in La Plaza de los Vientos (the Wind Plaza)
- We had made a few phone calls from Cochrane to find someone in Chile Chico to drive us over the border into Argentina. We were excited when the guy we made arrangements with actually came through, both for the border crossing and letting us stay in his “hostel” for the night.
- The night in his “hostel” (clearly just a spare room in his house with two twin beds) is something we can laugh about now, but it wasn’t all that pleasant. We got very little sleep due to the intense wind outside making it sound like the house could fall over at any second. In addition, an air raid siren went off at 2 AM for a few minutes, which we learned the next day was due to a truck catching on fire somewhere in town, but we didn’t know that, getting startled out of half sleep, wondering whether we had to jump out of bed and run somewhere for safety.
- We headed to the border in a shared van with hip hop artists and their posse from Coyhaique, the Patagonian Soldiers, who were headed to Los Antiguos, Argentina to headline a rap off, beat box and street dancing competition. Sadly we weren’t staying the night there to see it.