Relative to the distance traveled (3600km in about 3 weeks), this has been the least interesting part of our trip so far, which prompted us to cross the border between Argentina and Chile a few times to at least get some mountain driving and views every now and then.
First we quickly drove southwards a few hundred kilometers on rather boring roads. Further south the roads should become even less interesting, not even worth a picture.
Paso del Agua Negra
A large portion of this road is already paved and really wide. Only some 70 km across the top of this 4780 m high pass are still gravel.
We maybe crossed some 20 vehicles while driving across the mountains. They are effectively counting and monitoring number plates with hand-written papers and they go searching if a vehicle does not make it to the other side for some reason. We were number 3. This is going to change when the tunnel that is planned since 2009 is going to be built. This inter-oceanic project is supposed to connect the ports of Coquimbo in Chile with Porto Alegre in Brazil.
Valle de Elqui
This is the Pisco producing center of Chile. Some wineries can also be visited.
The only bigger city we visited in Chile. It is pretty dirty in parts but some alleys are very beautiful with welcoming cafés and restaurants.
Paso de Uspallata - Paso Los Libertatores
This is one of the main connections between Chile and Argentina. Besides the usual annoying and often thorough check for prohibited items between those two countries, we here also had the pleasure to queue for the border crossing, something we are not accustomed to as we usually cross borders in remoter parts.
Of course we opted to drive across the higher Paso de Uspallata rather than taking the tunnel Paso Los Libertatores. As a consequence we were then lacking another hand-written paper at the border control. Luckily they could just "create" another scrap of paper for that purpose at the policia.
Not much to say. We did not visit the city, had a quick lunch at Bodega Ojo de Agua and off we went.
This is a region with one of the highest densities of volcanoes.
This will be the last border pass we crossed in a while. The scenic road follows the Río Neuquén and as we came closer to the border the green came back to the landscapes.
Laguna de La Laja
Laguna de La Laja is the first lake after the border crossing, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes. A great overnight spot by the water.
Valles Pemehue & Cautín
In many cases when hopping from one valley to the next in Chile, one has to go all the way down to the main highway 5 first. For Valles Pemehue and Cautín there is a back-road connection. Still, we did not see much more than roads winding through the forests. To be fair, we also did not take the time or did not encounter the right weather to hike further up the mountains.
Parque Nacional Conguillío
A nice little national park dominated by volcano Llaima (hidden behind the clouds), lagunas and rivers.