A trip along Chile’s National Route 7, the Carretera Austral, takes us into the stunning wilderness of Patagonia – a place that many German emigrants chose as their new home almost a century ago.
The Carretera Austral is straddled by mountain ranges, primeval forests, fjords, volcanoes and a huge ice field. It has taken decades to carve its way through the almost impassable terrain – even now a lot of traffic is forced to take a detour across the border into Argentina. The military dictator Augusto Pinochet made the construction of the road a national priority in the 1970s, sending thousands of soldiers to the region to work under the most adverse conditions. One of the last surviving members of Pinochet’s junta, former military police chief Rodolfo Stange, talks about the road’s strategic importance for the regime.
German marine biologist Vreni Häussermann tells us about a catastrophe in one of the Patagonian fjords – an event that underlines how economic expansion along the route has adversely affected the natural environment in southern Chile. On our journey we meet descendants of German emigrants who found a new home in Patagonia’s remote vastness after the First World War. An insight into the past and present of this unique region.