Our second episode of escaping the Austral begins from Villa Santa Lucia. The kind of town which makes you wonder if anyone actually lives there. Unfortunately for us riders hunting out dirt roads, the Austral is being paved piece by piece. A huge step in the right direction for an interconnected Chile, but not much fun if a fatbike is the only arrow you’ve got in your quiver. Most people seem to duck out of Chile and head into Argentina to seek refuge from the rain, but oddly enough we’d enjoyed seemingly endless hot and sunny days while following the Austral. We directed ourselves towards Chile’s relaxed neighbor for other reasons. A dirt section through pampa setting us up perfectly to ride a small part of the Sendero de Chile from Lago Verde to La Tapera.
The quiet ride through Argentina, devoid of traffic almost altogether, was nice in itself. And although the bumpy surface may have made my ass bleed, it was refreshing to be back in the familiar and unchanging pampa which runs all the way down the Argentine side of the Andes. At our time of entering however, the pampa was so dry that forest fires seemed to be cropping up all the way along our route. It was a nerve-racking end to the day when we had to strategically pitch our tent in a location upwind from a fire and hope that the wind wouldn’t change direction overnight. We slept like shit.
We awoke the next day, ecstatic not to have been enveloped in flame. A light rain had begun overnight and had slowed the spread of the fires. The rain began to pick up as we pedaled our way to Atilo Viglione, but if anything the drama of the clouds above made the ride even more stunning. By the time we arrived in town, the rain had worked itself well past our rain jackets and into the depths of our bones. As we arrived at the Carabineros we were ushered in by a friendly officer who led us to an electric heater. We hung our stuff to dry, plugged in our electronics and chatted about the border crossing. By mid day the rain had eased off and we decided to hit the trail. From Atilo Viglione the dirt road becomes a four-wheel drive access road. A network branching off in every direction imaginable it became a game of opening and closing gates every few hundred meters. After a few kilometers of maze we found ourselves at the Argentinian border crossing. Sometimes these small crossings make you feel like royalty as you pass through, they are seemingly more interested in your story than stamping your passport. It’s quite a feat that Argentina has made us genuinely excited to interact with their border officials, especially when I think about what a gloomy experience it is trying to cross the border from Canada into the US.
Even upon our arrival in Chile, the Carabineros in Lago Verde were no less welcoming. They playfully made jokes and engaged us with witty banter. Most of it incomprehensible to us, but a smile and laugh seemed to do the job. Gina set out finding us a Cabana so that we could enjoy a day off for my Birthday. I won’t bore you with the details, but we ate pizza, cake, drank wine, and fell asleep…
From Lago Verde, our route would follow the old “Sendero de Chile” to La Tapera. Having spoken to Skyler (offroute.ca) about it a few months ago, we had it on good authority that it was probably well cleared due to ranching in the area. Turns out, Danny and Tam beat us to it, and by the time we rocked up we already knew it was a fully connected 4×4 route. The track itself was still very much in infancy stages. There were excavators clearing areas we passed through and we met a Gaucho (cowboy) who told us there was still a lot of work to be done. The whole experience was a brilliant mishmash of trails which had been built piece by piece by using different techniques. Lacking infrastructure is one of the many things that makes a route like this so much fun. River crossings and a good bit of pushing all add to the experience and remind you of your choice to try something a little bit different. For anyone seeking an adventure and travelling light, this is a goodie.
Big thanks to the Tammy unit for the route information and GPX. We love you. Thanks to Skyler for putting this on our radar, beer o’clock in BC. Jan Dudeck as usual credited for his mapping on this area as well. GPX for Lago Verde – La Tapera incl waypoints here. Our route notes can be found below images
Kilometres were measured with a cycle computer and may not be 100% accurate. This is to help you figure out where to get water/camp.
For gpx files for either section just email us.
Palena to Lago Verde via Argentina (3 days)
0 Palena (WiFi at the plaza)one small camp ground, shops, bank with atm, places to change to Argentinian pesos)
10 Chilean immigration, followed by the border and the Argentinian immigration and the town Carrenleufú (shop)
35 before going down into Corcovado (shops) hang a right at a sign (110k to Rio Pico, if I remember right)
36 before crossing the bridge there’s a nice camp spot on the left side by the river
54 stream and camp spot next to it (at around 500m elevation)
57 stream after which you start climbing
64 stream and camp spot (at around 800m elevation) followed by various camp spots all the way to lago Vintter
86 lago Vintter and river, nice camp spots by the bridge
109 lirrigation ditch on the right of the road, may dry out but there may be other water access as firemen came up there to get lots of water… Camp spots around
120 intersection, turn right to climb
132 the road merges onto a river and follows it for a bit
142 Atilio Viglione, ask locals how to get to the bridge to cross the first river
151 Argentinian immigration
151.5 river crossing (shallow for us)
152 river crossing (deeper but still pretty shallow, knee high at the max)
155.5 river crossing (the shallowest, I hopped from rock to rock)
164.5 Lago Verde/Chilean immigration
Lago Verde – Villa la Tapera (2 days, possibly 3 if the weather is bad)
GPX track can be obtained here.
We were lucky to do this trail at a time when the weather had been pretty good for the past week or so. Our friends Tam and Danny warn of doing this trail in bad weather due to long muddy sections, see their blog for details (Bikesandbackpacks.blogspot.com).
This trail has recently been developed into a 4×4 track. apart from steep sections it’s very rideable.
Email us for a gpx file including waypoints of good water sources and nice camp spots.
0 Lago Verde (WiFi at the library), head towards Argentina/backtrack
3.5k trail starts to your right
11 w and nice camp spot
17.7 last camp spot (no shade but nice views) before climb, w at k18
18 w, steep climb follows, mostly no shade
21 right into forest
21.1 w, hard to access though
22 top of climb
25.1 w followed by camp spot
26.3 w out of pipe
27 w and nice camp spots (before crossing stream second time go along the right shore, to the left you’ll see good spots, also access from the road after second steam crossing)
W access points for the next 2k
29.9w last time before climb (mostly in forest) starts
32.7 top of climb
32.8 w and camp spots for the next couple of k
36.8 w and nice camp on left
46.4 w and camp spot
51 w then 1.2k climb
53.6 lake and camp spots
56.8 river crossing/camp immediately after on left
60.7 w and camp
77.1 river crossing. At the fork go left, here you might be able to camp. Take the next right, then right again.
78 Villa la Tapera (WiFi at the plaza, shops, bakery owned by a super nice lady that makes lovely bread)