We hobbled on to the famous Carretera Austral. This is a long road (RN7) running from Puerto Montt at S 41.5 deg. to Villa O’Higgins at 48.5 deg. It was built to open up Patagonia in the hope that more people would settle down here. As a result of Salmon farming some towns have developed. For the rest there are small tourist centers for trekking into the mountains and farm settlements. The road goes up and down through the forests and across grassy valley. In sections it is a very rough road. Long stretches of it are not surfaced. We were however presently surprised that a surface road already started at Villa Cerro Castillo after we had hobbled for some 180 km. From there it was a smooth drive (no noise, so the driver can also enjoy the landscape) to the large town of Coyhaique. This is the centre of the Aysen province. There are lots of hostels and garages in town. We opted for a campsite with WIFI.
During the night Rudy worked out what was wrong with the car. Most likely the shock absorber was damaged and that was the cause of the oil stains. We visited a garage in the morning and the mechanic confirmed that the front left shock absorber is broken. Fortunately we had a replacement which he installed. At the same time he saw that the rubber protecting the axel and gearbox connection was torn so dust could easily come in. As a result we planned a route through the mountains, in and out of Argentina to get to Puerto Montt (1250 km) where there should be a VW dealer.
The first 160 km of the RN7 going north was beautiful. It was surfaced and winded through lovely valleys and forested hills with waterfalls left and right and snowcapped mountains, and some glaciers became visible through the trees.
The last 40 km to our goal (NP Queulat) was rough and under construction. We had not gone far when we started to hear a terrible rattling in the back when going over some corrugated sections. Later on we also started to hear banging in the front. A loud metal on metal sound. This however was infrequent. Several times Rudy crawled underneath the camper but could not find the cause. At the park entrance the noise become so severe that we decided to turn around and stop at a nice camping spot on the fjord we had just passed. We needed more time to find out what was going on. Together with a Swiss Overlander, who was also camping there in a James Cook (Rudy’s favorite), it was determined that the front right connection of the stabilization bar to the wheel suspension has sheared off. The metal parts were banging against the axel periodically when driving. We bent it a bit out of the way so it would not damage the axel further.
The next morning we drove very slowly over the gravel road till the tarmac started again.
From there we could speed up a bit and arrived at a camper rental and repair company (Rolling Patagonia) in Coyhaique. Back to where we started a day before. This garage was chosen because the owner spoke English and we desperately needed advise: “Put the camper on the boat to Puerto Montt or try and repair it locally”. Marcos, the mechanic, was convinced he could fix it. The broken stabilization bar appeared to have a screw in ball joint (which was sheared) so we did not need a new bar, just that section. However after searching in town, they could not find a ball joint of the same length and with the same thread. It was decided to cut the ball joint off the new one and weld it on to the remaining section of the old one. At 21:15 that was fixed. In the meantime the left axel was pulled out of the gearbox. Because the mechanic was not familiar with the system it took a long time but eventually it came out. A new rubber cap was easily installed over the axel and all put back together again. There was still the noise at the back. Because it was late, the mechanic went home and we stayed at the garage and slept in the camper.
The next morning it quickly became apparent that the problem was with the left rear shock absorber. The bottom bolt by which the absorber was fixed to the wheel suspension was broken off. Therefore when it hits a bump, it just jumped up and down without doing anything. The absorber, which still was ok, was removed and the search was on for a solution. The rear absorbers for the T4 are different than the front absorbers. They have a pin and nut at the bottom while the others have a pin and nut at the top. This seems to be a VW T4 special so no replacement absorber was found. It was decided to weld a pin with thread to the old absorber.
Al was done and we said our farewells and thanks for the fantastic job done. However the road out of the garage was very bumpy. Before we reached the main road the left rear suspension had already failed and we went back to the garage.