Caretera Austral : from Villa O’Higgins to Cochrane

We arrived with a small bus from Lake O’Higgins on a long and winding road, but still very pretty with views on the creamy blue waters of the lake. It was 9pm. Our small group (Sebastien, the two Swiss-Germans and three Argentine guys) headed straight across the bus terminal of Robinson Crusoe to a backpacker hostel called El Mosco. El Mosco offers dorm beds for 6 people at 8000 CLP. Three of the six rooms were available on the ground floor, as well as a women bathroom and a men one. On the floor, a large kitchen/living room is also present. Some  double rooms are located on the first floor, but none were available.
It’s late, all our friends stopped here, 8000 CLP was not cheap for a dorm but we were only to stay one one night. We took a shower, ate a dish of polenta with some leftovers to give it some flavor and go to sleep at 0:30am. Happy Birthday Leeloo!

We woke up at 9am for a deserved resting day after a 4-day journey to get there. Leeloo was taking care of the blog updates, while I went on a mission downtown to find some food, change some Chilean pesos and find a bus ticket to get out of here. I bumped into Sebastien several times, he was also taking a walk in this small but charming town. There is a small plane that goes from Vila O’Higgins to Coyhaique three days a week, in an hour and fifteen minutes. It would have been amazing to take it, but you have to book your seat at least a week in advance, it is a very small plane, with maybe 6 seats. But the fare is very cheap, 32 000 CLP, a little less than 50€.

Anyway, it was too late for us, and we had to buy bus tickets for the day after at the small shop Résidencia Cordillera. The shop keeper was more than unpleasant, she served all the Chileans before us (though they arrived after us) and she wanted to change our Argentine pesos for 90 Chilean pesos each. With a change rate of 114, she took a fee of 25%…
So we decided not to give her the money and dealt with the manager of El Mosco, who is far more pleasant. He changed us 80 euros with a 25 Chilean pesos fee, and allowed us to pay our stay with our Argentine pesos.

El Mosco is a nice hostel, its location is ideal, in front of the Robinson Crusoe bus terminal. El Mosco offers double rooms, dorms, a small garden to camp, a washing machine for 3000 CLP, WiFi (not broadband but very useful). Our small community had a pleasant day, and we decided to take a walk once the weather gets fresher at the end of the afternoon. Two french guys worked there as volunteers for 3 months, they wanted to take a small break from their travel across South America on bike. They told us a bit about their adventure, and presented us the important aspects of a long journey on bike. They covered 70 kms per day and carried 30 kg with their stuff, water and food. It really seemed amazing!

We bought some food to prepare Leeloo’s birthday diner : spaghetti, burgers, tomatoes and bell peppers. We found some king of Christmas cake as a desert. We ate at 4pm, you have to let yourself live a little sometimes!
Quiet night and a nice sleep before leaving by bus the day after for Cochrane, the first real  town on the Carretera Austral with 4000 inhabitants.

The bus is very uncomfortable on the gravel road, it bounced a lot, and as the windows didi not closed properly, we swallowed large amounts of dust. But he view is superb despite the bumps in the road. It was a 6 hour drive to get to Cochrane on that hot afternoon. Our first stop in town was at the tourist office, the very conscientious young clerk strived to make us a complete list of all restaurants, all hotels, in short, everything he knows about his place. But we didn’t really care, we just recalled about the existence of a hotel, 20 000 pesos for two person in one corner of Cochrane.

We arrived there and the price had changed for 25 000 in a small cabin-like room. It looked pretty renovated but the hot water came and went and the toilets were kind of clogged. It was ok for a night, but we remembered the nice hotel we had in El Calafate for the same price…

We went our for errands and chose to go on a walk to the Cochrane reserve under the heat of the late afternoon. We walked 5kms in the dust, and there were not a lot to see. There are only 70 huemuls left in the reserve, and they hide quite well. We only saw half a dozen birds and fat tourists. Still, talking with the reserve ranger, we learned about an algae that is a real threat to the Chilean ecosystem. Back at the hotel, we took benefit from the microwave to heaten our deserved empanadas.

In the evening, 5 guys decided to sit in front of our room and tell (apparently very) funny and loud jokes for most part of the night. We succeeded in sleeping anyway, and the very copious breakfast makes us forget about our short night of sleep…

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