Coyhaique and the Cerro Castillo Circuit ~ Patagonia ~ Chile 

After an overnight bus ride from El Chalten to Los Antiguos, we had to take a smaller bus to the Argentine border. Passports stamped and then a mile hike on the road to the Chilean border patrol. Luckily a van picked us up and waited while the Chilean agriculture person sorted through all our backpacking food. Turns out raisins and dried fruit aren’t okay unless in their original package that lists Chile as a possible source! I still don’t know what sun dried tomatoes are going to harm, but I wasn’t going to argue…

We were lucky to meet Adam at the bus station. He is from Oregon, but is working here for a non profit that teaches kids about science and conservation. He was headed to Coyhaique, had a truck, and offered us a ride. He also helped us through customs with all of our food since his Spanish is fluent.

There was no room on the ferry, so we made the 9 hour drive. It isn’t that far, but the Carretera Austral (even though it is the only north-south road through Chile) is a twisty, pot holed, gravel road for most of its length. The views are amazing. It is a beautiful country.

Headed towards the Cerro Castillo on the Carretera Austral.

We organized our gear and headed to the trail the following day. The beginning and end of the circuit travel through private land.

The first of many river crossings. It is always great to have a bridge!

The river valley from Las Orchetas

Estancia along the trail.

Our typical views were cows and streams!

Entering the park after about 14 km

Our first view of the pass that we must cross

Nearing our first night campsite

Tim in camp. We love our new Anjan 3 tent. I can’t say enough good things about Hilleberg tents.

Our first day was overcast with a little drizzle. It was supposed to be the same until the following night… Unfortunately nasty weather hit at 9 am instead of 9 pm. We were already partway up the pass when it turned to sleet and low visibility. Luckily the heavy winds were pushing me up the pass, not sure if I could have managed if they were holding me back. Creek crossings were already dicey when gusts blew at critical balance times. Trekking poles kept me vertical so many times…

The morning started out fairly nice. The dip in the ridge is our pass.

That is basically the last picture I could take. The weather blew in, my good camera was hidden safely in my pack, and my fingers were too wet and cold to unlock the iPhone and take photos!

Luckily Tim brought a waterproof camera so we do have evidence of our wet stressful day. The rivers were running so high that we had a hard time finding places to cross. There were some appallingly scary moments (for me, not sure Tim thought so. He has a higher risk threshold…) 

We made it to camp and quickly set up in the rain. Wet things stay out, dry things into the tent. We did our best to dry ourselves in the vestibule and leave all the wet clothes out…

The next photo I took was of all the wet items scattered to dry

The great drying party in the sun on the rocks

Mushrooms along the trail

I was so excited to see a bridge. There was no way to cross this in the high water

This view made it all worth it. Amazing day.

The trails are treacherous and muddy and steep!

Waterfalls below the glaciers

Laguna Cerro Castillo. Perfect day. The pass we crossed over is the notch on the right.

Laguna Cerro Castillo. A few clouds are just rolling in…

We got a late start after drying out our gear, and had a steep climb to the lake. We hated to leave the Laguna, my eyes never got satiated of the views. But we had a choice to make, either start down the shorter trail or continue over another small pass to the next valley. We had reports that the river bed at the base of the mountains was flooded, closing off the trail on that side. That would mean having to backtrack up to the Laguna the next day and then descend, making for a very long few days. Tim wanted to go further, but the weather report was iffy and I was exhausted. So we hesitantly left the Laguna area to pound our feet and knees on the steep descent to Villa Cerro Cordilla. 

Rio Ibanez valley. The view on our descent was pretty.

A last glimpse of the high peaks and strong rivers

The bottom section of trail was also on private land. This gate was hand hewn as were most of the fences and buildings

Outbuildings at the ranch at the base of the mountains

We camped a last night along the trail, then had a short walk to town in the morning. Unfortunately it was Sunday…. No restaurants open and little traffic. We tried to hitch but ended up waiting 3 hours or so in a cold bus shelter until a bus arrived.

Our first priority back in Coyhiaque was food. Few places were open, but we went to Casino Bomberas which apparently never closes. It was quite busy and lively,  once we found it literally behind the fire truck garage.  

My favorite window view

Local restaurant that is a fundraiser for the fire department. Casino Bomberas.

The main drag of Coyhiaque.

We are sorted and packing to head north tomorrow on another series of buses, destination Futaleufu!

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