Chaitén to Coyhaique, 8 February 2020
1240 kilometres of dirt track and asphalt stretch through the clouds and crystal-clear waters of the Andes. The Carretera Austral, officially called Ruta CH-7, is the artery of Chilean Patagonia. Commissioned by dictator Antonio Pinochet for military purposes, it was completed in about twenty years. We met it at Chaitén – kilometre 157 -, and followed it to Coyhaique – kilometre 556 -.
Chilean Patagonia contains infinite shades of green, so many that you can’t even name them. Emerald green, sea green, cinnabar green, and Veronese green are just some of the shades that come to mind when looking at this spectacular place at the world’s edge. At first glance, the landscape is reminiscent of our Trentino Alto Adige in Italy, both in terms of the architecture of the houses and the conformation of the mountains. But these are the Andes: sleeping giants, sleepy dinosaurs with ice-covered backs, and long hands that catch the gazes of those who linger on their silhouettes. Majestic, they settle in the mind, like the dust of the street in our clothes and in our breathless throats.
In the dirt sections, the Carretera Austral shows itself in its best form: it climbs untamed up the slopes and forces those who travel it to be slow. You look around and let go of your thoughts and the clock. How far is it to the finish? It does not matter; one does not know. The Km here no longer correspond to a time but to the changing shapes and smells.
Chilean Patagonia tastes of salt and green, sun and dust. Riding a motorbike is a privilege: you can feel all these variations simply by raising the visor of your helmet. And so, at the first break along the way, we take a moment to keep our eyes closed and contemplate this incredible place full of dreams, expectations and promises.