The “Republica Independente de Magallanes” (look it up - it’s “real”) and the rest of Patagonia were great to visit and provided enough photos and memories to earn an “independent” section in our travelogue - the ultimate symbol of sovereignty.

Patagonia (Chile & Argentina)

Quick Summary

Time in Patagonia: Feb 20 - Mar 26, 2010

Route: through Chiloe Island, on a ferry to Chaiten and down Chile’s Carretera Austral to Chile Chico (taking the long way around Lago General Carerra), into Argentina and down it’s legendary Ruta 40 to Calafate for the Los Glaciers National Park. Back to Chile for a week in Torres del Paine before getting on a 4-day ferry from Puerto Natales back north to Puerto Montt

Food: in addition to the usual Chilean (fresh and tasty veggies) and Argentine (fresh and tasty beef) fare, we sampled the famed local lamb roasta, salmon, king crabs and other seafood (all excellent but unfortunately we didn’t get enough of any of them)

People: pretty sparsely populated and many people on the “gringo trail” are either tourists or seasonal workers from other parts of Chile or Argentina. We did run into some very friendly, hardworking, open and genuine locals, though, who are somewhat provincial and proud of their “wild south,” which has a different cultural beat (the Magallanes flag flies alongside Chile’s in many places down here)

Roads: overwhelmingly narrow gravel (even the major highways), which makes for tough riding on very long distances; luckily there is very little traffic are plenty of amazing sceneries to stop for pictures and hikes, so driving becomes a pleasure; gas is quite expensive on the Chilean side and reasonable in Argentina; both countries are in the middle of ambitious paving projects for the major north-south routes which we have mixed feelings about (will drastically improve ride quality and speed but also likely take away from the remote and unexplored atmosphere that remains in the less touristy places)

Highlights: getting ridiculously lucky with the weather (less than 5 days of wind and/or rain in a 40-day stretch is practically unheard of here), the amazing sceneries that kept wow-ing us, camping in beautiful spots night after night, digging out seafood on the beach in Quellon, Palafito 1326 boutique hotel in Castro.

Low-lights: some of the rough and shaky drives (wears you out after a while), the big Chilean earthquake which dampened the mood around us, the infrastructure in Torres del Paine (not sure where the high entrance fees they charge foreigners end up, but it’s not on maintaining trails or other tourist-friendly things)

Impression: beautiful beautiful beautiful!! - after a while we were getting numb to all we were seeing (you can only say “wow” so many times in one day); nature at its best (rivers, mountains, lakes, glaciers, desert steppes,...); the rumors are all true; we intend to come back one day and slowly drive the entire Careterra Austral; it’s a massive piece of beautiful land with plenty left to explore no matter how touristy certain “all-star” places have gotten (so be sure to get off the “gringo trail” if you go)

Lots more pictures from Patagonia coming soon