At the end of one of the most remote highways in the world, in a no-man’s-land between Chile and Argentina, lies one of the world’s last great wildernesses. The only way to cross it is on foot or by bike. That was perhaps why, like a growing number of travellers, I found myself on Chile’s Carretera Austral — a mostly gravel road that stretches over 1,200km between the southern port town of Puerto Montt and the isolated hamlet of Villa O’Higgins, where it dead-ends at the foot of the Southern Patagonian ice field. From there the only way to keep going south is by boat on Lago O’Higgins and from there to hike or bike into Argentina. Having come halfway down the highway from the city of Coyhaique I made the decision on a whim to head on to Argentina. After a night’s stay at a local hostel (now one of several in Villa O’Higgins since the road linking the small town opened just under 20 years ago), a van transported me and my fellow passengers to the port on Lago O’Higgins, a few kilomet...

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