Villa O’Higgins, Chile – END of the dictator’s highway

If you head south to the end of the Carretera Austral … then take a ferry … you’ll eventually get to Villa O’Higgins.

This last bit of gravel road was completed in 2000.

We arrived at last light in perfect weather.

Not easy to reach, every tourist here is happy. I had a big grin on my face as I enjoyed dinner and wine at famed El Mosco campground and hostel.

Wind was quite light for Patagonia, but I tied down my tent quite securely anyway.

Next day I did two of three hikes out of town.

Like everywhere else on the CA this village is gearing up for MORE tourism in future.

Before tourists started arriving it was an agricultural community. One shopkeep told me it got VERY cold during winter. It’s surrounded by glaciers.

One thing I appreciate about Patagonia. The frequent lenticular cloud formations.


VERY cool Caleta Tortel, Chile

So weird and wonderful, it could be coastal Norway.

Caleta Tortel is a coastal village (founded 1955) in Chile. …

The surrounding geography is rugged, formed by a number of islands, fjords, channels and estuaries.

… the road was constructed only in 2003, and connects Caleta Tortel with the Carretera Austral.

Caleta Tortel consists mainly of stilt houses, typical of Chilotan architecture, built along the coast for several kilometers. There are no conventional streets – instead there are wooden walkways …

Since I hate motor vehicles, I loved Tortel.

I got there by bus from Cochrane.

Since my driver was a smoker, we had plenty of photo stops.

In Tortel, even the tent platforms are on stilts.

At the mouth of Chile’s largest river, we expected this to be a fishing village. Not so. It’s historically been a lumber town.

There two days, I spent plenty of time walking the boardwalk.

Cyclists all make the detour here.

A lovely place to visit.

NEW – Patagonia National Park, Chile

Patagonia National Parkannounced January 2018 — combined the Jeinimeni National Reserve (400,000 acres), the Tamango National Re􏰁serve (20,660 acres), and the privately􏰄-owned Patagonia Park (200,000 acres).

The part donated by Americans had been a sheep ranch.

Conservacion Patagonica, the organization founded by Kristine and the late Doug Tompkins of The North Face bought the the huge property in 2004 and had been returning it to natural state.

The sheep were sold but Gauchos offered work in the new Park.

Fences and invasive species were removed. Cows are long gone.

They donated it to the Chilean government.

I visited as part of a 6 hour tour out of Cochrane. Watching large numbers of guanacos running free was the highlight.

The Park Headquarters built by the Tompkins is first class, even better than Pumalin.

It includes a wonderful museum and library of essential conservation information.

I learned a lot.

Patagonia National Park should evolve to be the second best hiking destination on the Carretera Austral after Cerro Castillo.

Right now you still need private transportation to get to trailheads. No convenient hiker shuttle yet exists. IF only I still had a bike. 🙄

related – NY Times – With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia, a National Park System Is Born

Walking Patagonia by Caspian Ray

As I was headed for Patagonia I downloaded this eBook simply because of the title.

My review: A stupid traveler, bad writer.

Deeply flawed human being.

But for some reason his inane decisions and non-stop misadventures kept me going.

On the upside, he did meet his future wife on this trip.

kayaking the Marble Caves in Patagonia

On every list of the BEST tourist destinations in Chile are the Capilla de Marmol out of Puerto Río Tranquilo.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

I loved it.

This was my first stop after sending back my bike.

I got here by taking a the bus though increasingly open spaces heading south.

It’s all gravel past of Cerro Castillo. The best vehicles protect themselves.

Puerto Río Tranquilo is a tiny town (pop. 500) swamped by tourists in high season.

Río Tranquilo

All accommodation was booked by the time I got there so I walked out of town to lovely Pudu Campground. (Each campsite has a windbreak wall. This IS Patagonia.)

Locals are ready for serious rain.

This van is a rental from Wicked Campers. It looks to be the most popular way to drive the Carretera Austral.

It’s an incredible part of the world. Stunning views on to General Carrera Lake and beyond.

Almost everyone jumps into small boats to visit this weird and wonderful geology.

I’d been advised to go by kayak. And on the first tour in the morning. Therefore I was up before 6am getting coffee ready.

Surprisingly few sign up for kayaking. My group had 7 clients and 2 guides. It was very professional. (C$100)

I recommend it.

Following the trip I’d planned to hop a bus continuing south. But the road was closed for 4 hours due to forest fire.

We sat in the sun and watched helicopters trying to douse the flames.

Hurry up and wait happens in Patagonia.

Have you heard of John Grisham?

I reflexively avoid the MOST popular authors assuming they are milk toast.

I’m only now finding out that Grisham is excellent!

The only one of his books I’d read in the past was The Racketeer. And I found it only OK.

But Rogue Lawyer (2015) is a fantastic book. Almost perfect, I thought.

It is a legal thriller about unconventional street lawyer Sebastian Rudd. …

His office is a black customized bulletproof van, complete with Wi-Fi, a bar, a small fridge, and fine leather chairs. He has no firm, no partners, and only one employee: his heavily armed driver, who used to be his client …

It sounds a bit like The Lincoln Lawyer (2005). Indeed, Grisham mentions Lincoln Lawyer author Michael Connelly in his book. It’s a bit of a hat tip for the idea, I assume.

But Rudd is no Matthew McConaughey. Rudd is a low life individual constantly messing up and running from the bad guys. He represents the worst criminals in town.

Rudd is more complex and interesting than the Lincoln Lawyer. He’s brilliant … but always pushing the edge.

The ending was superb, I thought. That’s rare for any book.