The campsite in the Queulat National park has the option of bedding down in an old bus- it has seen better days, but offers some protection from the cool night air. Better still, the luggage rack proves equal to the task of supporting my hammock. References to ‘Into the Wild’ are scrawled on the walls in a variety of languages.
‘Piedra del Gato’ turns out not to be a town at all, so it is in darkness that we roll into Villa Amengual, and camp in the churchyard.

Somewhere close to Mañihuales, we pass 45º South – the climate is still relatively mild, but there is ice on mountaintops not very high above. Mañihuales is small, but sports a small bicicleteria and a casa de ciclistas- both run by Jorge, whose generous hospitality and washing machine are extremely welcome.

The main road runs south west to Puerto Aysén, but we leave the tarmac and take the shorter ripio road to Coyhaique, climbing gently to 750m along the way. Coyhaique is the regional capital- so the biggest town on the carretera austral. We are put up by Boris – I don’t think he intended to set up a casa de ciclistas as such, but I it seems that his house and garden are never empty of cyclists during the summer months. As ever, I am indebted to those offering refuge so willingly to passing travellers.

Francisco and Gonzalo turn for home, so heading south again we are three- Felipe and Mauricio are still game. Relatively good roads take us up to the highest point on the the carretera austral at 1100m, before descending fairly steeply to Puerto Ingeniero Ibañez, on the shore of Lago General Carrera (South America’s second largest lake). From above, the town is all but obscured by the tall shelter-belts of trees that seem to surround even the most modest property. Evidently the wind is strong here..

Faced with having to wait more than a day for the boat across to Chile Chico on the other side, Felipe and Mauricio opt to hitch north.

I boarded the ferry southward- Chile Chico is a modest town, and sits all but on the frontier with Argentina..

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