So no, this post is not about getting tied up with bungee cords and blind folded with mosquito netting in the back of the XP =). It is about the shades of blue that the Patagonia rivers come in. It is said that the Inuit in Alaska have over fifty words for snow, I wish there were as many adjectives for the color blue. As we drove along the final stretch of the Carretera Austral to the end of the road at Villa O’Higgins we searched for the adjective that would describe the color of the different rivers and lakes, and we often came up short.
After leaving Rio Tranquilo we started driving towards Villa O’Higgins over the next few days where the Carretera Austral ends due to the huge lake and the start of the southern ice fields. The drive like all others on this trip was so stunning I kept making Sam stop the car so I could jump out and take pictures. It was also fun because the farther south we got, the smaller the road became, and there was more dirt than pavement and the road became narrower until it almost became a single lane road.
As we drove farther south we got our first views of the bluest of all the rivers we saw. It was the Rio Baker and the color was neon aqua blue. The pictures don’t really capture how stunning the blue was, but we were so entranced we found a wild camp spot on the river and stayed for four days. When you see our views you will understand why we could not leave.
After camping and relaxing for a few days we headed farther south to where the Rio Baker merged with the Rio Nef.
We decided to take the side trip to Caleta Tortel on the way to Villa O’Higgens. The town is built on the Baker Channel, and because it is surrounded by water all the “streets” are cypress walkways that go along the hills and over the channel. Many tour companies come here we noticed, and I think the only real reason why is it is really the only town with anything to see this far down the Carretera Austral. But, after walking around for about an hour we could not figure out what else to do so we drove back to the main road and headed south again.
The end of the road, and the final stretch after a free two hour ferry is the tiny town of Villa O’Higgins. Not much to see in the town other than the glacier filled mountains around it. We drove the final stretch to the end of the road and thanked the weather Gods for letting us have so much sun. We spent an amazing three weeks on this beautiful and remote stretch of Chile and had to force ourselves to leave while the weather window was still good in southern Patagonia.
While we were driving the final stretch to Villa O’Higgins in the morning we had the closest call to a serious accident of our entire trip. As we were driving high up on a cliff side with a two thousand foot drop off on a road as narrow as the one above, a Toyota Hilux truck came ripping around the corner, apparently thinking that he was alone on the road. We almost had a head on collision, we were going really slow, but he must have been going around 50 miles an hour on this tiny dirt road driving as if he was alone. When he saw us as he rounded the corner he slammed on his brakes (as did we and our ABS were AMAZING!!). The Hilux driver over adjusted the wheel as he slammed on his brakes and almost went over the cliff. I think part of his front tires were hanging off.
I screamed bloody murder. It was seriously so close. We would have been fine, our bumper would have protected us and taken most of the hit and we were driving on the inside of the road because we were heading south, but the other driver was driving with a woman with a child on her lap in the front seat. They would not have survived the plunge over the edge. It really freaked me out. Both of us just stayed there for a few minutes, trying to get our wits together. I was so thankful that everyone was ok, but angry that this man was driving so reckless with his family in the car! I can still picture it all in slow motion, thinking the truck was going to skid off the cliff.
We talked to some locals later about our close call. They explained the driver was driving reckless because he was a local and thought that since the morning ferry had not yet arrived that the road must be empty of cars, no expecting us since we had camped up the road the night before after taking the last evening ferry. He was used to zero traffic and that made him careless and almost cost his family’s life. That same day we saw another accident, the one below where a family skidded out after going too fast on the loose grave roads.