Villa O'Higgins

What a strange town, 220km from Cochrane, 120km from the nearest Chilean village of Tortel on the coast, and with a road that was only built in 1999. The town was founded by English settlers in the 1914-1916, and got its name from the prominent Chilean hero Bernardo O'Higgins, the illegitimate son of a Spanish viceroy of Peru who fought in the war of independence for Chile.

The town is next to the amazing Lago O'Higgins with a glacier at one end with ice bergs falling off it, and a new route towards El Chaltén in Argentina across a pass only accessible at both ends by boat.

It's a puzzling, friendly place where each family seems to own a supermarket, a cabaña, a hospedaje and a restaurant, and nothing opens unless you find someone to open it for you. It took us ages to find a room because we couldn't find anyone, but eventually we settled in and went and bought tickets for the twice weekly tourist boat that would take us across the lake to the border route the following day.

We would have liked to chill for a few days but good weather was forecast for the next day and the boat, the aptly named Robinson Crusoe, was the first to leave for a week because of strong winds and there was a backlog of cyclists and trekkers who had been waiting for a while to get across to Argentina.

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