Kilometers since Montevideo: 11080
We did it! We drove into Chile the 1st of February, so in exactly one month we finished the famous Carretera Austral! The route is ‘onlyʼ 1240km, but including all the sideroads you can easily spend this amount of time :).
(For pictures take a look in the Chile Flickr album, the wifi is not good enough to post all of them directly here : Album Chile)
Since the last update we first had a couple of relaxing days in Coyhaique. We stayed at a very particular place. It was basically a house with a very large backyard that got flooded by small tents and backpackers, and only had two toilets and showers… Very cosy;) But the Wifi was really good, and thatʼs what we came for! We also caught up with Arjen and Anja who got stuck there waiting for parts for their Land Cruiser. In addition Harald and Kristin who we met on the Galapagos cruise paid us a visit. They rented a car to drive the Carretera and came by for a beer in the sun.
After two days we had enough of this hectic place and moved on North. We drove the very scenic route through the valley to Queulet Parque Nacional. This park is famous for its rainforest and glaciers, and we did two very nice hikes. One in the Bosque Encantado up to a glacier and glacier lake, and one to have a view at glacier Ventiquero Colgante and its impressive waterfall. Continuing from here we had to be a bit patient because there is a part of the road they completely close of between 13[00 and 17[00 because of roadworks… We found a very nice camping spot at Lago Risopatron. The still weather and colourful sunset made the view over the lake surreal!
The weather was changing though. We left the campsite early and had breakfast at Lago Rosselot. Another beautiful place, so we decided we would return there for our overnight stay. We went for lunch in La Junta while it was raining like ‘pijpenstelenʼ! So we went for some relaxing afterwards and drove to Las Termas El Sauce, and enjoyed the warm waters of the thermal bath, what else to do when it rains! 🙂 We Met up again with Harald and Kristin in the evening and went to the spot at the lake we found that morning. Unfortunately more rain, and it still continued the next day so we opted for another termas- day. Unfortunately when we arrived at Termas Amarillo we were not the only ones with that idea, so the bath was full. Luckily we were not far away from some civilisation so we continued to the little town Chaiten for some hot chocolate and dulce de leche cake. Then back to Parque Nacional Pumalin to find a camp spot for the night. Luckily this National Park has one of the nicest campings we have had so far in Chile: Large terrain with only about 10 places, each with a nice little shelter against the rain. Even big enough for Harald and Kristin to pitch their tent inside. The showers are cold though. We had a very cosy night in the rain playing Regenwormen 🙂
The next day did not look any better, but it was at least dry in the morning. We
decided we wanted to do something anyway, so we went for the 25km hike to the glacier. A hike that is more or less flat, so not too difficult. But long enough to get completely soaked when it rains all day! But Ralph managed to get all the way to the glacier and get some ice for our fridge! We were pretty cold after that so had the plan to look for a hostel or ‘cabanaʼ to spend the night. But again more people had the same idea and the whole of Chaiten was fully booked. So we drove on to try another campsite in Pumalin Park, Camping Volcan. Again a very pretty campsite with pretty shelters where we could stay more or less dry despite of the relentless rain. The following day we decided to just stay put and sit it out because it would rain the full day, non stop. And it did… Pumalin Park has an average rainfall of 6000mm (in comparison, The Netherlands has an average of 700mm) so it is pretty normal to have days like this! Then next day we said goodbye to Harald and Kristin who had to catch their ferry. We were lucky to have a dry day so we hiked up Volcan Chaiten. This volcano erupted in 2008, surprising everyone. It is still steaming, a pretty cool sight. More rain in the evening, so another campsite with a shelter. This time at Cascadas Escondidas, were we wanted to do the hike the day after. The rain did not stop in the morning though, but Manon still went out and did the hike to the first waterfall. One positive thing with all the rain, the waterfalls are even more impressive! Then we had to move on to catch the ferry to Hornopiren. Unfortunaltey we had some very rainy days in Pumalin park, but we still find it one of the most beautiful places we have seen in Chile. Nice hikes through the rainforest, and very well organised campsites!
Unfortunately the 6 hour ferry trip to Hornopiren was all foggy so not much to see. We had some delays so arrived very late in the evening. The following day we drover further to Cochamo. This is the place were we would go to the Land Rover meeting. But we stayed at a campsite in town first, because it was finally sunny and we needed to do some laundry.
The next day we drove off to the campo of the family Contreras in Cochamo. In Puerto Madryn in Argentina we visited Land Rover mechanic Jorge. He appeared to be a very important person in the Land Rover community in South America and invited us for this Land Rover meeting. It became soon clear that the most important thing of this meeting is actually the food. We asked Jorge about the program, and the only thing he told was the menu for the coming days :P. We had four really nice days. We were not the only non- spanish speaking people. We met Christian Weinberger from Austria who is travelling in his Defender for 3,5 years now in South America (weindis.worldtour.at) and Gavin and Jen from the UK, travelling since 9 months, on a 2 year trip (www.rubythelandy.com). But with the majority from Chile and Argentina it was definitely a very good practise for our Spanish!
The first evening we had dinner in a small restaurant in town. The following day we had a fried fish for lunch in the garden of the house, and a lamb asado for dinner. The food on Saturday was really special. We had the dish ‘Curantoʼ, which is typical for the nearby island of Chiloe. A hole in the ground is filled with fire wood with lots of stones on top and then lighted. Then the hole is cleared apart from the hot stones and filled with shellfish, mussels, chicken, sausages, spareribs and crabs that were
caught fresh in the sea that morning. These are covered by bread and potatoes, and then special leaves and finally a blanket and a plastic cover. After two hours it was ready and plates were filled. Very interesting to experience, and nice as well! The Sunday was another asado day: goat and sheep. The two animals were from the farm were we were staying, which meant they were walking around freely the day before… Still something Iʼm not really used to it but at least those animals had a life (and death..) way better than most of the animals in Europe.
Besides all the food, and even more wine, we had really cosy days in the summer heat. People were very interested in our travel, we practised a lot of Spanish, we also talked a lot about cars, and Ralph learned some magic tricks from Don Jorge himself. A couple of very nice encounters like this make travelling this way really special.
We did not want to leave Cochamo before going into the valley. The Valle de Cochamo is not yet very well known, but it definitely has the potential to become a very popular place. The valley is really stunning and reminds a bit of Yosemite National Park in the US. The only way you can enter the valley though is by a hike of 13km one way. We did this in one day (which makes 26km), which we can still feel! Even though the hike is not going up that much it is quite a tough one. The path was originally created about 150 years ago by gauchos who transported cows from Argentina to the slaughterhouse in Cochamo. These days the path is carved deep into the forest soil, sometimes with walls of more than 2 meters. But the humidity and lots of rain make it a very muddy path as well, so itʼs always looking for the best part to walk on. But the hike is definitely worth it!
After Cochamo we drove towards the island Chiloe, with a short stop in Puerto Montt for some shopping. This also marks the end of the Carretera Austral, since the official start is in Puerto Montt. A beautiful route with lots to see, we really enjoyed it! Now we have about a month to get back to Montevideo where we will park the car for a while from the beginning of April. More later!