Chile Cycling Patagonia


Yes, people were talking a lot about the O’Higgins crossing: the transfer by boat was not guaranteed if the weather was bad and we might get stuck in the town, the trail is a real challenge and it would be better to do it in flip flops as we need to cross so many streams and we need to push the bikes most time anyway. Of course we met only people who did the crossing from the other side and our way was definitely the cyclist friendlier direction.

First of all, it had been freezing cold during the night. To get the 8:30am ferry we were told to leave at around 7am. We stayed in El Mosco hostel and the landlady was absolutely lovely. She insisted that we would sleep inside instead of staying in the tent outside so that we did not have to deassemble the tent at freezing temperatures very early in the morning. What a big help.

When we set up our bikes in the morning, it was cold indeed but there was hardly a could in the sky, too. The sun felt warm and we were motivated to cross over to Argentina. We met the usual suspects: Michel and Robert. Of course we were far too fast for the short distance and of course the fisher boat was ready perfectly on time (well, whatever that means in South America of course). At least we had enough time to excessively take pictures from the sign ” Fin de Carretera Austral”.

Also we met 3 Argentinians waiting for the crossing on 2 wheels, which made a total of 7 cyclists. I felt a bit relieved. We’re certainly not the only one.

The crossing of the Lago O’Higgins was cold, windy but so beautiful. Sunshine, some clouds, turquoise water, glaciers to the right and left and a captain, who smoked non-stop. I had difficulties to estimate his age but I guess he was far younger than 80. The fisher boat had a capacity of 16 people (the actual boat was broken) and went only once per week, yet started to serve twice per week. It was exciting to know that potentially there won’t be anybody else on trail apart from us and 14 other people.


The excitement of all passengers was visible when we landed in Candelario Mancillla. We got our bikes ready. After 10 meters I had to give up already: wrong gear and a very, very steep hill made me getting off the bike in order to push it. A promising start.

The first kilometres to the Chilean boarder was a mix of cycling and pushing. The Chilean Carabineros certified our exit of Chile and now we had another 20 or so kilometres ahead of us to get the Argentinian boarder control to give us our entry stamp. It was 1pm already when we started.

The climb was challenging and of course we had to push the bikes from time to time but I guess that we still cycled 70% of the trail on the Chilean side. And finally it was not more than 400 meters positive altitude. At some point the peaks of Fitz-Roy jutted majestically in the far distance.

Keen enough we decided to push for the whole distance to the camping on the Argentinian side. With all the stories in my head I was a bit concerned if we could actually manage the track in only half a day. And with reaching the Argentinian boarder sign the adventure had started. We repacked our luggage: All the heavy stuff went into our backpacks and the rear panniers went into each other and on the bike rack. Sure, I did not feel super duper safe to follow David on full speed downhill the mountain with 18kg on my back and rest on my rack. And true, I was far away from feeling the happiness David felt when cruising down the tracks but it’s also true that the bike felt so easy to handle and that even pushing the bike was a pleasure. I think that’s what I will do when I am back home: I will push my bike from time to time and I will enjoy the easiness of it. Back to the downhill topic in Argentina: we pushed the bikes sometimes through mud and little rivers, David carried the bikes over rivers and we raced through gullets made from the heavy rain the days and months before.


After around 4 hours from the start in Candelario Mancillla we arrived at the camp site in Argentina where our boat would leave the next day to set over to Fitz-Roy National Park. Our exhaustion was kept in reasonable limits and we built up our tent and started to cook some dinner when Robert joined. A little later Michel and 2 hikers arrived and increased the number of successful half-day finishers of the O’Higgins crossing.

Final statement: lovely day with great downhill parts and simply a change to our daily cycling routine.

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