Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Coyhaique, Chile and Hielo Sur (the Southern Ice)

Coyhaique was our last stop on the Carretera Austral. The road continues almost as far south again, but at the last stop, the only alternative to backtracking is to take a ferry across a lake, then hike for two days to get to Argentina, in the region of the Fitz Roy Massif, passing through a remote customs and immigration checkpoint on the way. Word is that Chile has plans to extend the road all the way to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan -- no mean feat, as this would involve skirting the Patagonia´s southern icefield (the Hielo Sur, which gives rise to a host of glaciers) and crossing the related fjordland with as many as a dozen ferries.

Coyhaique as a town was uninspiring, but the surrounding countryside was fabulous, as were the views on the bus ride down. We took a few photos on a walk out of town, and on the 50 km ride to the airport a few days later.

Then, from the plane south, we spotted the icefield peeking through a heavy layer a cloud. Unfortunately, there´s no way to do justice its size with a photo taken from the window of an airplane. It is the world´s 3rd largest icefield, after the Antarctic and Greenland ice caps. This photo shows the famed Perito Moreno Glacier, which we were due to visit on our way back to Buenos Aires much later.

Landing in Punta Arenas, we reached a the barren, windswept geography somewhat similar to tundra. It had its own beauty, but again, difficult to capture with just a photo from a bus window.

After a day´s preparation, our real wilderness adventure was to begin...

No comments: