Chile’s Magnificent Carretera Austral

I hope that last night was the low point for me personally on this expedition. Exhausted and hurt, I cried for only the 2nd time during the trip. The first was when the diagnosis showed that Larry’s leg was broken and he had to return home to heal. My left upper arm had taken a bad hit during yesterday’s 1st crash and left me with no strength to lift my arm using its own muscles. My right shoulder took the brunt of my pronounced arrival at last night’s lodge. I thought I was going to have to ask Barbel, our only female traveling companion, to help me get undressed. Deciding that I needed to do it myself, I wiggled out of my clothes while horizontal on the bed.

Getting out of bed was another story. It hurt too much to roll onto either shoulder, so I slithered like a snake onto the floor and reversed the dressing process. Had Kevin suggested I quit, I was in such a bad place last night that I might have said “yes.” He didn’t. With no medical care available for 100s of miles, I decided to give it another try.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “misery loves company.” Well, I was feeling pretty miserable, both physically and about my riding ability. When 3 extremely skilled riders, including 2 who had previously done motocross racing, crashed while going up the stone covered hill that had sucked me down last night, I was relieved. All of a sudden, I realized that I was not a totally incompetent motorcycle rider and was fit, at least ability wise, to continue. I’m sure glad I did.
Built by Chile’s General Pinochet, the Carretera Austral, Southern Highway, was opened to travel in 1988. Previously, the villages of southern Chile were accessible only by water, air, or by road travel through Argentina. At times, tension between Chile and Argentina has been such that relying on regular boarder crossings was not a good idea. Thus the road was built. It reminds me of what I think the Alaska Highway must have been like in the 60s: all unpaved, twisty switchbacks through mountain passes, small streams crossing the narrow road.
David, our other Globebusters guide on this section of the expedition, rode with me all day. With compromised muscles to steer in the gravel, dirt, and curves, I appreciated a slow pace. Fortunately, this was a shorter day. Road conditions, although mostly unpaved, were significantly better that on Ruta 40, and there was sunshine yet no wind. One paved section featured a fabulous set of switchback turns leading to a stunning vista of the mountains in the distance and the valley below.

Coihaique, with 40K residents, is the largest city along the 1240 Southern Highway. Just outside the city, a narrow suspension bridge with open boards below took us to our destination for the evening: a lovely series of cabins along a glacial stream with good food and great friends.

23-Jan C Puerto Guadal-Cerro Castillo-Coihaique 170 miles

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One Response to “Chile’s Magnificent Carretera Austral”

  1. We are so sorry to hear of your mishaps. We admire your gumption to get up and go again. Our prayers for a safe trip the rest of the way. Love your pictures.

    Veloy and Bob
    Veloy Reynders recently posted..Leaving Puyuhuapi

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