Southern Patagonia 2008
February 27 - April 10
My trip began at Villa O'Higgins at the end of Chile's Carretera
Austral, or southern road, 1,200 kilometers of mostly gravel single
track. The box at the tip of the continent outlines the general area
of my interest this year. Villa O'Higgins is at the upper left area
in the box. The southern road cannot continue because an ice field
and glaciers block any further road building to the south. To
continue south, one must cross over to Argentina first. That will
take me to El Chaltén and Calafate. I enter Chile again at the
Torres del Paine national park.
Situated on the Mayer River, Villa O'Higgins (population
477) is one of the few
level places in this country of mountains, glaciers and
O'Higgins Glacier, on the very large lake of the same
name. Bernardo O'Higgins was the liberator of Chile from the Spanish.
The lake straddles Chile and Argentina, so on the Argentine side it
is called San Martín Lake, named for the liberator of
Candelario Mancilla, a farm on the O'Higgins Lake.
Overnight accomodations and campsites are available.
The Southern Ice Field is on the left. O'Higgins Lake is
a series of interconnected lakes with a total surface of 1,049 square
kilometers. It is the deepest in South America at 830 meters
(Map by Hans Silva)
The road is 22 kms to Argentina, by horse, foot or
bicycle. I chose horse.
Soon the Fitzroy mountain comes into view. It was the
focus of attention for the next three days.
This is Lago del Desierto, Argentina
I arrived at the Argentine village, El Chaltén,
which means "smoking mountain" in the indigenous Mapundungun
language. Europeans named the mountain Fitzroy, who was the captain
of the Beagle, the ship which carried naturalist Charles
Darwin in 1835.
Lago Argentino, near Calafate, looking west
First view of Perito Moreno Glacier near Calafate, north
Perito Moreno glacier in Los Glaciares national park,