Day 5

I punch out of Villa Santa Lucia and, sweet bliss, brand new asphalt!! Click up through the gears and now we’d see some riding! Wooooot! Mile 1 blazes by, Mile 2 in a flash, and then….

IMG_1819Construction. Followed by…. more construction. End of asphalt.

The 70 km from Villa Santa Lucia to La Junta takes:

Three. F$%&ing. Hours.

No fewer than 12 construction stops, as in, stop, shut off the engine, get off, chat with the construction workers, learn their children’s names, etc. One day, the Carretera Austral will all be paved, and only senile men will fondly remember the challenges this road once presented. For now, the delays are a bit of a downer.

Fortunately, La Junta is a nice outpost. Gas, oil, and good eats. A cute place at the south end of town serves up hot soup, incredible chicken, and smokin’ internet.

South of La Junta and the road begins its incline into the mountains. Passing through a few small towns and the scenery also begins to improve. The road is decent packed gravel, and soon the ascent takes me into increasingly thick canopy, call it rain forest or jungle depending upon your bias.

The higher I go, the narrower the road becomes, and the surface gets worse, lots of washboard and blast craters. Now just a single lane, the corners are tight, blind, and for the first time, I’m nervous. All it will take is one Colin McRae wannabe on this road and I’m hood ornament material. The road is pure switchback, one trundling first gear hairpin after another, up and up.

IMG_1870I reach a small plateau and spot a nice wide turnout, so I pull over for water, a snack, and nerve collection. A huge metallic clatter echoes down the road, I look up to see a big rig in Dakar Support Vehicle mode.

“Not a banana truck that will kill me,” I state, amused. “That’s a gas truck!”

Another dozen miles and I seem to have reached the crest, now slowly headed downhill. More construction, but these guys are my kinda stupid. They just wave me under the arm, barely stopping their work as I cruise beneath.

The descent is much easier, road surface improved, fewer blind corners, and of most relief to me, more like one and a half lanes now. I will take potholes and no visibility, just give me a little room to escape from a Petrobas rig.

IMG_1897Incredibly from nowhere, asphalt again. Open canyon big grin twisties, glacial waters as my wingman.

Down further goes the road now, a thoroughfare built using dynamite and sweat to blast away the stone so that I may pass

And then I reach a broad valley, the elusive sun shining upon me. Clouds create dramatic shadows on the surrounding hills, horses roam free, there have been no other vehicles for over an hour. This stretch of the Carretera Austal, perfect in every way, is mine forever.

(Click to enlarge gallery photos)

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