There is something exciting still about crossing an international land border. I still get excited when I approach a new country and have to hand over my ragged passport to collect another stamp. Each border is different and of all the international borders in which you can choose to cross between Argentina and Chile one of these has become infamous. This is the border between El Chalten in Argentina and Villa O Higgins in Chile. This border is known for its remoteness and the fact that it links the famous trekking town of El Chalten to the start (or end depending on how you look at it) of the famous Carraterra Austral Road in Southern Chile.
I first read about this border crossing when planning my South American adventure and essentially this little known border goes like this. A 40km gravel road to Lago Del Deserto ferry terminal where you must purchase a ticket to get across the lake. This takes about 40 minutes. At the other end of the lake you then get stamped out of Argentina before you need to push your bike across 6km of mud, glacial streams, rocks and boulders before you reach another 15km of gravel track which leads to the Chilean entry border. From the Chilean border you must take another ferry this time taking 2 hours to cross Lago O´Higgins where you reach the township and the Carraterra Austral.
My orginal plan was to go around this border due to the cost of the two ferries working out to about $80US which would take a huge dent out of my small budget. Thankfully after speaking to my sister and telling her about the 250km detour back into the wind she kindly donated me the money for ferries and I was off into the border in the bush. I was super excited to be able to go this way and to follow in the bicyle footprints of those who have tackled this route before me. I was joined by a Belgian cyclist called Alan, who I first met in Purto Arenas and together we set about tackling the mud and steams. The first kilometer is the hardest as the trail goes straight uphill and with my bike and gear weighing close of 50kg I was slipping and sliding all over the place, I was super glad to be joined by Alan as it took two of us to push my bike up the first hill.
The route then becomes a bit of a dug out with my bike fitting snugly in the track with me pushing from above. After the first kilometer the track went across the first of the streams and with care we unpacked our bikes and walked everything across over the little bridge. This was slow going so after this we decided to just get stuck off, socks and shoes off and through the steams and mud we went. It was great fun really, almost like a obsticle course but you have your bike along with you.
This route is well trodden and is in fact not as remote as we were led to belive with and we passed many other cyclists and trekkers going in the opposite direction. I remember reading that people needing to have GPS units to cross this border but this is now not the case anymore as there are signs pointing the way and even kilometer markers to let you know how far there is to go. It is a fun border crossing and whilst much more exciting than the standard entry-exit process it is not difficult to do and I think anyone can manage it even if they were on their own.
By going this way it means I was able to cycle the Carraterra Austral from the begining as it was from Villa O´Higgins I was able to begin the next 1000km of rough gravel road, but more on this next time!
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.