Border Crossing

There is that beautiful way to cross a border… A 22 km hike along the no man’s lands. Sure we’ll go that way!

So in El Chalten we take a bus to Lago del Desierto, where a small boat brings us to Punta Norte, the Argentine border at the other side of the lake. A perfect camping spot, so we set up our tent there, with great views over the lake.

Next morning we head onto a 22 km walk – with all our luggage, which is quite a lot. We tried to order some horses, but connection here is quite rare and the answer comes too late. So we play mules for a day. At the Argentine side we walk along a small – sometimes muddy – trail to the border. Once we are there a broad grind road greets us for the second leg on Chilean territory. At 8pm we register into Chile, at Candelaria Mansilla.
That evening we camp at the lakeside in the harbour, since another lake separates us from the next village.

At 12 o’clock we leave the Candelaria on a boat who will first show us the beautiful O’Higgins glacier, before we go to the other side at Villa O’Higgins… The crossing alone takes some 3 hours over the glacier lake. The entire area here is dotted with glaciers, lakes and forests. So quickly advancing is hard.

On the boat the ‘Patagonia Sin Represas’ book greets us. A hot debate in one of the worlds last mostly untouched ecosystems…
Patagonia boasts one of the world’s great water reserves, with deep glacial lakes, two of the planet’s largest non-polar ice fields and powerful, pristine rivers rushing from the Andes to the Pacific. It’s a dream if you’re a salmon, a nature lover or kayaker. Or a hydroelectric company.
Energy is a hot topic in Chile, where natural resources are few. Spurred by fears of a pending national energy crisis Spanish–Italian multinational Endesa and Chile-based conglomerate Hydro Aysén are laying plans for large-scale dams throughout Patagonia. By some estimates, 12 Patagonian rivers, including the Baker, Pascua, Futaleufú, Manso and Puelo, are threatened. A study by the University of Chile found that tourism, the region’s second-largest industry, would take a severe hit if the dams are built. While the dams would provide a short-term energy solution, in the long term they would transform one of the greatest wildernesses on earth into an industrial engine.

A questionable intention, since we’re now crossing this beautiful ecosystem…
That evening we get the key of our own typical wooden house here in Villa O’Higgins… What an indulgence from Estelle and Rafael! Instead of a bed, we receive a house for a night. Simply perfect. Even so perfect that we decide to stay one more day, just to enjoy the house…
Leaving Villa O’Higgins is another story, this village – of some 500 persons – is the official endpoint of the Carretera Austral. It is only since 1996 that there even leads a way into the village, but regular bus services are inexistent. The only way out is by hitchhiking… So we put our thumbs up along the road and hope to get out of town. The first day we have no luck, but we hear that there will return an empty bus the next day. So we enjoy one more night our wooden house…

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