Hiking into Argentina

So, after our unsuccessfull attempt to tackle the winds on the Ruta 40, we decided to take the more rainy variant by continuing the Carretera Austral all the way down to where the road ends, at Villa O´Higgins. Except for having a day of heavy rain, on which we only got saved from freezing to death by some friendly roadworkers who offered us a roof, a fire to heat up and some food, we arrived at this little town from where the actual adventure started.

To hike into Argentina, it all starts with a boat to cross Lago O´Higgins. That doesn’t sound like a lot of adventure, except when you take into account that there was a wind so strong, that the boat was just a playball of the high waves. When, on top of that, one of the coworkers of the boat kindly asked us to all go and sit on the same side of the boat to prevent it from capsizing (?!?!?!) we seriously asked ourselves why we were on this boat, on this lake and in Patagonia in a general manner…

But the boat was strong enough and we safely (if not for our upset stomach) got to the other side, from where we started our hike into Argentina. “Hike? I thought you guys were cycling?” Well, let’s say that for those 20 kms into Argentina, you can’t really speak of “cycling” as it is actually a combination of cycling, walking, pushing the bike and carrying it. We rented a horse to carry our bags for a day as the road is really bad, especially for the last 8 km, where it basically turns into a very small hiking path, impossible to pass with bags on the bike. Add to this about a week of Patagonian rain and you are just about imagining correctly the mudbaths, rivers that are so high that the actual bridges (read: pieces of a tree, probably ment to be a bridge) are about half a meter under water, and bushes we had to cross.

If we had fun? Yeah, actually we had fun! Even despite the snowstorm that we got into in the middle of the day and a broken spoke which really couldn’t have come at a worse moment, we had fun and felt very proud actually walking into Argentina and seeing the beautiful Lago Desierto marking the end of this trip.

And then, a day like this is still better than cycling the Ruta 40 or working! :-)

Vera & Jean-Christophe

PS: You can check some of the photos from this adventure.


  1. Dennis
    Posted November 16, 2008 at 22:26 | Permalink

    Hi guys,
    I think I am brave till I read stories like yours or other people I meet along the way when backpacking :-) I saw your pictures in flickr, I am planning on crossing from Chaltén into Villa OŽHiggings, I read you can easily get to the end of Laguna del Desierto, then comes the rough part you are talking about, in my case since I am heading north it will be the first 8 kilometers and then about 12 more walking, and then hopefully if not frozen :-) catch the boat to Villa OŽHiggings on Dec 31, a few questions:
    Can you do the horses when there or reserve somehow, I am willing to walk but 20 km with the backpack no way, so IŽll send the backpack in a horse. I guess you can do the whole thing in one day? well, in your case was different cuz you had bikes… thanks in advance, good luck in your journey!!!

  2. Posted November 23, 2008 at 21:45 | Permalink

    Hallo luitjes,

    Ik begrijp dat het bij jullie nog geen feest is met het weer. Wij hebben echter wel goed weer in Cusco, alhoewel hier het regenseizoen gestart zou moeten zijn.

    Groetjes uit Peru,

    Carla en Fon.

  3. Posted November 24, 2008 at 0:16 | Permalink

    Hi hi!
    Really beautifull website!!
    A shame we didnŽt see you guys any more before we left El Chalten.
    Enjoy the rest of your big adventure and it was really nice meeting you guys and have the trip to the glacier together!
    Greetings, big hug and be carefull not to blown away :)

    Laura en Pieter
    ps: Parque national Perito Moreno was beautiful! Perfect to relaxe for a few days and totally allone on this beautiful campsite. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Magical World
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 16:23 | Permalink

    @Carla & Fon: Veel plezier in Cuzco! Geniet maar van Macchu Picchu, want het is echt heel mooi! Ondanks de vele touristen. :-)

  5. Magical World
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 16:29 | Permalink

    @Laura & Pieter: We’re so happy that you guys went to Perito Moreno National Park! And even a bit jealous really, because for us it was too far by bike and we had to go over the Ruta 40 which wasn’t our favorite road, as you probably know. ;-)

    And guys, what about this “secret anniversary present shopping”? I got the present today and it was very nice. :-) Thanks for helping JC on that one! :-)

  6. Magical World
    Posted November 24, 2008 at 16:50 | Permalink

    @Dennis: We are not as brave as we seem really. It was actually good fun to do the hike into Argentina and we strongly recommend it. :-)

    For your questions: as you will be coming from Argentina, you will effectively have the uphill part at the beginning and then it will be fairly easy for more or less 12-15 km.
    To get a horse, you need to go on the following website: http://www.villaohiggins.com under the section “Cruce O’Higgins – El Chalten” where you can find all the information on when exactly the boat crosses and at what time. And it is here also that you need to make a reservation for a horse, as the horse will be coming to Argentina, from Chile (Candelario Mansilla). There are no horses directly for rent at the Argentinian side. There is a reservation form that you can use on the side and if not you can contact the guy at the agency directly.
    It will all be fine! :-)

2 Trackbacks

  1. By ARGENTINA GUIDE | Still smiling! on August 18, 2011 at 17:59

    […] From the story: Villa O’Higgins (Chile, via Candelario Mancilla) to El Chaltén (Argentina), border crossing. Read the full story on our blog at Magical World. […]

  2. By ARGENTINA GUIDE | Nice Argentina Travel Info photos on September 2, 2011 at 3:59

    […] From the story: Villa O’Higgins (Chile, via Candelario Mancilla) to El Chaltén (Argentina), border crossing. Read the full story on our blog at Magical World. […]