Until 1999 Puerto Yungay, on Fiordo Mitchell, was the Carretera Austral’s end point, but now it’s the port for a free car and passenger ferry to a ramp at Río Bravo and Villa O’Higgins, the highway’s most southerly outpost.
When the road opened late that year, according to Sergeant Eduardo Martínez of the Cuerpo Militar de Trabajo (CMT, Chile’s Army Corps of Engineers), it was the site of the highway’s biggest traffic jam waiting for the ferry: “There were so many cars backed up that we were working from 7 a.m. until midnight. Some days we couldn’t handle all of them, so they had to camp and wait until the next day.”
The CMT may someday carve a road along the sheer rock wall of the fjord’s north side, but it will never be as fast as the half-hour ferry to Río Bravo, where the road resumes. There, some visionary (or hallucinatory) politicians envision a further southern link to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, a project that could take 20–25 years and still require eight or nine ferry crossings (already, though, a segment of this road is under construction).
In November 2005, the sparkling new car ferry Padre Antonio Ronchi replaced the tiny old CMT ferry on this run; space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Summer departures are at 10 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. daily; return times from Río Bravo are at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 4 p.m. The rest of the year, services may be reduced; for more information, contact Cochrane’s Departamento de Vialidad (Av. O’Higgins and Esmeralda, tel. 067/521242).
There are no other services at Puerto Yungay except for a small kiosk that, in season, prepares hot tea or coffee and has a small selection of groceries and snacks, including tasty raspberry kuchen.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition