Originally I wanted to drive all the way from El Calafate to Puerto Rio Tranquilo in one day but after learning that a 70km stretch of the Ruta 40 is still a bad quality gravel road I decided to drive up until Gobernador Gregores, stay overnight and leave from there the next morning. This is why we had to cut our stay in El Calafate short.
We left very early around 6am, the YPF petrol station was already open, we filled up and headed towards Perito Moreno City. There is not much to see on this section of Ruta 40, the road conditions are good and you can drive 110km/hr happily. For the record, there are paved roads all the way to the Chilean border from Gobernador Gregores however you have to watch out for potholes…
At Perito Moreno we filled up, grabbed something to eat then headed to the Chilean border. Lago Gral Carrera runs parallel by the road which is a local recreational area as people have cabins here along with beaches. I am just wondering if the water is ever warm enough for a good swim. The Gral Carrera lake stretches across to Chile and ultimately Puerto Rio Tranquilo is located by the same lake a few hundred kilometers away.
We finally arrived to Los Antiguos which is the Argentinian border town. Crossing across the border was very easy by car. There is one crossing station on the Argentinian side of the border and then there is one on the Chilean side. There is about 3km in between the two so if you plan to cross on foot, be prepared to walk that yourself as nobody will pick you up and take you across by car when it comes to border crossing.
Procedure-wise, you have to park your car, walk into the office at the crossing station, step one checking your passports, step two checking the papers of your car, get the stamps and you are ready to go. Same procedure both sides of the border. Your bags will be pushed through the X-ray when you enter Chile, be prepared for that and you are not allowed to bring in any fruits or fruit products.
Right after crossing the border we entered Chile Chico town. We drove around a little bit looking for a restaurant but since it was early nothing was open yet, so we decided to drive further. We met a bunch of guys doing the Easter Island dance thing by the lake.
Now, here comes the shite part of the trip. Right after leaving Chile Chico the pavement ends. Road conditions are pretty bad all the way to Puerto Rio Tranquilo from here. The scenery also changes dramatically. Plains turn into mountains and the road goes high up by the lake, with very little safety and continuous serpentines. This combined with the crap road quality made me drive between 50 and 70km/hr only.
There is a little stretch of pavement just before Puerto Guadal and another stretch on Ruta 7 right after turning onto Carretera Austral. I was extremely happy to see Puerto Rio Tranqilo from the distance as this was one of the toughest drive of this Patagonian road trip.
The whole trip took around 11 hours including pit stops, if you plan to drive the same distance make sure you take a day rest after this section. If you have a sim card with Entel the good news is that you will have coverage 80% of the time once you enter into Chile. This was quite surprising as there was absolutely no coverage in Argentina outside of towns.