A little update on what we have been doing since the last blog post! After the wonderful days in Cochamo we drove to the island Chiloe. Since the weather was really bad on that day we decided to drive for the day and see how far we got. The next days we explored some of the towns on the island (including some of their wooden churches, something the island is famous for), hiked to Muelle de las Almas, and viewed some penguins and sea lions. One sunny afternoon was spent on a private beach fixing some things on the car, something that needs to be done once in a while! We also had a quick meet up again with Gavin and Jen who gave us the tip of a Land Rover mechanic in Puerto Montt. We decided Miles was up for another check and oil change so we made an appointment to come by after the weekend. This meant we needed to stick around the area of Puerto Montt a bit longer.
After Chiloe we drove in the direction of Petrohue, famous for its waterfalls. Unfortunately we were not the only ones with this idea, it was really busy! So we decided to move on and drive onto Osorno volcano where we planned to spend the night. On top we had a beautiful sunset and view over the lake. The night was really windy and cold though! The next morning it was foggy as well so we drove down and towards Puerto Varas. We got the tip earlier to go to Hostal Compass del Sur in Puerto Varas where you could camp in the garden but enjoy the facilities of the hostal. We parked next to Gavin and Jen (hello again!) and enjoyed warm showers and Wifi and the hospitality of the ladies running the hostal. The next day we drove to Puerto Montt to meet up with Jaime the mechanic. A very nice guy who also speaks perfect English because he lived most of his life in Canada, and also worked as a mechanic at the Falkland Islands. He did the check up and oil change, and agreed that the A-frame bushings in the back needed replacement. Unfortunately something that required spare parts that we didn’t have. But it would only take 1 to 2 days to get those shipped from Santiago, so not too bad! We decided to drive to the lake and found a nice empty beach where we spend two relaxing nights. Back at Jaime he fixed the bushings. But the bearing at one side needed fixing as well. That is something we have the spare parts for, but Jaime’s work day is only until 1pm ;).
After one more morning at Jaime’s workshop we made our way to Argentina. We planned to do the famous Ruta de 7 Lagos. Unfortunately cold weather and rain was predicted… The first night we spent close to Villa la Angostura at a very pretty beach at the lake. Queen Maxima’s brother Martin has a restaurant in this town and the Royals have a house somewhere in this area as well, but we haven’t seen them around these days ;-). Rainy and cold, but pretty dramatic skies. We drove the Ruta de los 7 Lagos the next day towards San Martin de Los Andes. On iOverlander (we couldn’t
do without this app!) we read an entry about a hike to a free natural hotspring close to a free campsite. This sounds good! So we decided to make a detour into Parque Nacional Lanin to look for the free hotspring. The last 5km to the free campsite close to the hotsprings went over a nice little forest track, including some very steep bits and two real river crossings. Very nice to make use of the capabilities of our Defender Miles :). When we arrived at the campsite we immediately left for the 4km hike to Termas Quini. A beautiful place! A small stream filled with nice warm to hot water, including two small waterfalls. And for free, and no one else around! 🙂 Back to the campsite we had to walk 4km in heavy rain though, so we were pretty cold again when we got into our tent. We decided to go another time to the hotsprings the next morning. The night was cold, it even froze one degree! We spent the morning relaxing in our private hotsprings, and again walked back in heavy rain! It turned pretty cold as well (including some snow!!) so all we could do was crawl back into the tent and our sleeping bags to get warm.
Luckily the sun was back later in the afternoon and the next morning as well! We drove back to Chile, over the very scenic route passing volcano Lanin and ended up in the town Pucon. On the way here we decided we wanted to climb the Villarrica volcano. It’s not every day you are so close to an active volcano! So when we arrived in Pucon we visited some of the tour companies to find one with places for the next day, because the weather would be excellent. Luckily high season is over so we found a tour operator with two open spaces. The next day at 06:15 we gathered, together with 8 other people and 4 guides, at the office of Summit Chile, got hiking boots and backpacks full of gear and left for the ski station at the volcano where we would start the hike. We could choose to do the first 400 height meters by foot or by (a very expensive) ski lift. We choose the latter, walking on shoes you never walked on before could result in nasty blisters and that would spoil the rest of the day. The first bit of the climb went through a combination of rocks and snow. The tempo was pretty easy, compared to this we normally run up mountains! Then it was time to put on the crampons and traverse the glacier and more snow. Claudio, the lead guide of the tour recognised that Ralph and I and a French girl were a bit faster that the rest so he offered us a faster pace up for the next bit, which meant more time for us to enjoy the views and lunch! 🙂 The climb over the glacier was magical. It was really crowded on the volcano, with lots of different tour groups, but we managed to traverse the glacier somewhere where no one else was. After lunch we got rid of the crampons and backpacks and did the last 20 minutes to the top. Because of the sulphur fumes we had to wear gas masks. When we reached the top we were allowed to enjoy the view into the crater for about 15 minutes. As it is a very active volcano authorities want to have the least people as possible exposed at the very top. But this was still enough
time to be totally amazed by the bubbling magma below. Really amazing to see this with your own eyes! (yes, geology is really cool!). We were lucky it snowed a couple of days before, so the way down was really quick. We put on the waterproof clothes provided by the tour company, including a little plastic sledge and most parts we could simply sleigh down! Really good fun! The last part to the parking we hiked down, but the loose volcanic sand made it an easy descent. All in all an experience we did not want to miss, definitely one of the highlights!
In the evening we parked the car on the flank of the volcano because we heard about a special effect that can be seen during the night… And special it was! As soon as it got dark the smoke coming out of the crater turned red, coloured by the magma underneath. What a sight from our camp spot! 🙂
The next day we drove to the little town Melipeuco for a campsite with warm showers. No one else was there, except for three little cats and a couple of dogs. Especially the cats were very interested in our food. One of them managed to get into the car and raided our food box. He ate some bread, banana, avocado and tomato! The next day we drove through Parque Nacional Conguillo. A beautiful park surrounding the volcano Llaima. We did the hike to Sierra Nevada, which gave a beautiful look over the lake with all its Monkey Puzzle Trees and the volcano in the background. One of the miradors on the way to the top was called Mirador los Condors. A mirador that honours its name. Literally a couple of seconds after we arrived a condor came flying by really close!
We also visited the nearby Reserva Nacional Malalcahuello. It was supposed to be a short stop before heading more North. But it went a bit different than planned. Manon saw a nice opportunity for a picture with the car so got out and Ralph drove further to position the car for a picture. But he didn’t realise the sandy road was way softer than expected and suddenly one side of the car sunk into the sand. The tricky thing was that the car was leaning precariously downhill… A smaller car came a bit later and we asked them to warn the guardaparque (park ranger) to see if he could help to pull us out. When he arrived we had a first try driving backwards out of the sand while the guardaparque pulled with his pickup, but this only seemed to make it worse. So we decided to deflate the tires and put all flat material like floor mats and wooden boards, under the wheels to prevent them to sink deeper. Another car showed up, and we decided to put them in front of the pickup to have two cars pulling. Unfortunately the central diff lock would not engage, so try 2 was not successful either. But the 3rd try the central difflock would engage and we got out! Afterwards we did the short hike to
Crater Navidad, and then found a scenic camp spot at the nearby mirador to spend the night. Enough action for this day!
A long drive the next day, as we don’t have that much time anymore to reach Montevideo by the beginning of April so need to be a bit quicker. We drove to Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay to do the hike to Enladrillado. A long and tough hike of 24km and 1200 meters climbing, but worth it because of the beautiful views! The top is a a flat basalt plateau at 2300m that is also believed to be a UFO landing space… We didn’t spot any aliens though! That night in the campsite we found out that the warmer weather here closer to Santiago also means other creatures: big spiders!
Because we were up for a bit of relaxing we decided to make the drive to the coast, towards the little town of Pichilemu. This part of Chile had and is experiencing drought and very big forest fires. This was very evident in the area we drove through. There is almost no piece of forest left that is not effected by fires. Really sad to see.
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We are in Pichilemu now enjoying the very nice weather and empty beaches. The high season in Chile is really only the months of January and February. As soon as its the 1st of March the crowds disappear. Also here. The campsite is deserted and there is almost no-one on the beach. Even though this is one of Chiles best surf spots. Not sure yet if we will try to surf though, the water is freezing here! The next 2 weeks we will make our way to Montevideo though the North of Argentina. We will at least try some reds in Mendoza!