Cochrane (Carretera Austral, Chile) – Bajo Caracoles (Argentina)
We left the wonderful colored lake and continued on the Carretera Austral down south. A mighty river has carved a deep valley into the mountains. Again we are stroke by the colors. This time I was reminded of cooling liquid for my motorbike engine.
Cochrane is the most southern part of the Carretera Austral we reach. From here we go straight east, through the “future National Park Patagonia”as the Tompkins advertise it. Douglas Tompkins (founder of The North Face) built up a couple of National Parks here in Patagonia, not without resistance from locals. The resistance seems to be pretty odd at first, but imagine a Russian oligarch would buy large areas in the US. That certainly would not go unnoticed and strange rumors would spread.
The Tompkins had the conservation of a great landscape and wilderness in mind (see their own vision here http://www.tompkinsconservation.org/about_kris_and_doug_tompkins.htm) but of course there are other people affected as well. People have real issues with them, such as the fishing industry and everybody who wants to use the Carretera Austral since the unfinished (and from the locals wanted-to-be-build) part in the north would go through private property and a national park founded by the Tompkins.
So here, east of Cochrane the Tompkins bought large areas of land again and they are eager to turn this into a National Park as well. They build up a nice building as the entrance of the park. A little plane is standing upfront. Seems they are at home here. In fact James who is passing thorugh here a day after us is meeting both Tompkins and has a great talk to them (see more about that here: http://advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1020523).
We soon understand why this area has caught the attention of the Tompkins. It is beautiful. We see hundreds of Guanacos in large herds.
The scenery contains steep snowy mountains, lakes, swamps, rivers with crystal clear water and lots of grasslands which glows golden in the intense sun.
The sky is in dark blue and the bright white clouds create a hard contrast.
We pass through the road with our truck and are happy to have such a rugged vehicle. The road is quite bumpy and rocky at times.There are large herds of guanacos to be found here. These large llamas are adorable animals, sometimes almost elegant, mostly looking a little bit dazzled into the world. Or with other words: they are cute and pretty stupid animals. You just have to love them. And so we stopped the car many times to take pictures and enjoyed their view.
The bordercrossing is a small building. The 3 officers are very casual. It seems their bosses don’t show up very often. The papers are done very quickly and so we are back on the road.
As soon as we get to Argentina the landscape changes again. The hills get smoother and the landscape is more vast. We make it safely to a small town. It is the only town on the Ruta 40 for 200km. And so it is no wonder the few houses here are worth an entry even on the large scale map of ours.