Carretera Day 4: Coyhaique to Valle Murta

When you’re camped on the street in a residential area you wake up early because you start wondering if people notice you sleeping outside of their house. The challenge is that you want to leave all of the window shades on until you’re ready to leave, and our thick insulated curtains don’t allow any sunlight to tell your body it’s time to wake up.

After waking up to the dreaded alarm we get some breakfast at a cafe and check our emails to see if we have any new information on how, or if, we are ever going home.

We respond to a few shipping companies with more information and hit the road.

The first hour is pastureland with hills and mountains in the distance—pretty but not as interesting as the earlier parts of the drive—and then we start climbing. As we climb up into the mountains there are a few places where there is still snow despite it being well into spring and unseasonably hot at that. We stop at one to evaluate how long we’d have to bushwhack to get to the snowline, what preparations we would need, and how many times we could hike up and ride down on our snowboards, ultimately deciding that 4pm is too late to start out on this kind of mission.

Back in the van a few minutes later we come to the other side of the mountains and quickly descend into a beautiful valley. As we continue down we see the jagged peaks of Cerro Castillo or as Amanda names it, Spike Mountain, which is a fitting name. We stop briefly to look for ice at a small store and as we exit the van we have our first encounter with the infamous Patagonian wind we’ve been warned about. We begin to understand why people use the word devilish to describe it, and most do.

Villa Cerro Castillo also brings us to the end of the pavement and back to the familiar ripio (gravel) road. We continue on, the road once again bumpy and dusty with dramatic drop offs on one side or the other. As evening approaches we stop at a mirador (lookout) for maté, an Argentine afternoon tradition we’ve grown to love, and enjoy the views of a water-filled valley with towering mountains in the distance.

After a few more hours of driving we decide to stop just short of the northern shore of Lago General Carrera when we see a turnout that leads to a huge rock field on the banks of Río Murta. It’s nice to be out in a wild, wide, open space, and we decide to camp for the night with mountains as a backdrop to the cold, fast-moving river.

The light lasts past 10pm by this time of the year and as the twilight starts to fade dark clouds quickly fill the sky above the valley. We try to remember how many days it has been since we learned that we had four days of sun to look forward to but it becomes moot once the raindrops start falling.

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