The completion of the Carretera Austral in Puerto Montt, a large city, is a stark contrast to its remote conclusion at Villa O’Higgins. We arrived in Puerto Montt on Good Friday. We were unaware of what day it actually was which is a regular occurrence for us when travelling.
The rain continued that we had been experiencing in the Northern Carretera. We opted for a hostel to take a break from the rain. We completed our grocery shopping, a task we all don’t like, and that part doesn’t change when travelling.
The next day we headed southwest to the island of Chiloe, hoping to catch a break in the weather. Chiloe is the second largest island in South America, Tierra del Fuego being the largest. It is connected to mainland Chile by a ferry service.
The people of Chiloe are described as being a strong group of people, wanting to be distinct from people of mainland Chile.
Chiloe is known for its unique and many churches, many of which are UNESCO listed.
We headed for Parque National de Chiloe, as we were excited to see the Pacific Ocean. We found the perfect camping spot on the beach amongst the sand dunes. The sun shone for us. We felt very lucky as the sun apparently only shines for 60 days a year in Chiloe. Keira loved the beach. It was too cold to swim but it didn’t stop us from taking a dip, up to our knees anyway. We did an Easter egg hunt in the dunes, and completed beach craft projects. It was perfect.
Mike wanting to create the perfect birthday for me, organized for us to stay at a hostel for 2 nights in Castro, one of the main towns. We were very lucky again to be the only ones in the hostel so we had the whole place to ourselves. I had a wonderful birthday surrounded by friends with many presents and special treats. We even found a sushi restaurant for a special birthday meal.
Castro is the capitol of Chiloe and a very interesting town. It has many palafito houses and restaurants on stilts over the water. At high tide their patios serve as piers for the boats tethered to the stilts. The town has gourmet shops, boutique hotels, nice restaurants, and modern shops, and in contrast a very traditional food and artisan market.
I found really nice hand warmer gloves, and woolen hats made by local people and at a very cheap price. I also bought legwarmers. Ahh!! Yes, here they are making a come back and with the cold weather they are a necessity.
We purchased US dollars with Chilean pesos, in preparation for our return to Argentina, to once again play the money game.
From Chiloe we headed north again, crossing by ferry once again to return to the mainland. We were now entering the Lakes District of Chile.
Puerto Varas was the next town. It is situated on Lake Llanquihue, which is a very large lake. It is a very nice town, but having already spent 2 days in Castro, we were ready for wild camping again. We continued on to Pehulue on Lago Todos Los Santos (the lake of all the saints)
Being at the end of the summer season, we are finding a lot of the campgrounds are closed. We opted to free camp in a parking area close to the Lake. We were pleasantly surprised to find an amazing view over the lake, and ever-changing views of Osorno Volcano. One of the clearest views we had was at 2am in the morning with a full moon.
We spent a day there hiking, fishing (Mike caught 2 trout for dinner) and generally relaxing.
The following day we headed towards the Chile border. But being hot spring junkies we stopped at Aguas Calientes in Parque Nacional Puyehue, first for a soak. Nothing like a hot soak after nights of wild camping in cold weather.
We had our coldest night yet, camping just below a ski resort. We woke to icicles hanging off our tents, and frozen clothing that we had hung out to dry. It was hard to get moving. We definitely worshipped the sun as it rose.
The border crossing at Cardenal Samore, took us across a 1308-meter pass. The landscape looked more like a moonscape, barren and so desolate, a result of Volcan Puyehue blowing its top in 1960.
The border crossing itself was straightforward. We have crossed back and forth between Chile and Argentina so many times now that we know the process well.
The boys were all very excited to return to Argentina for “sticky buns”. Their term for the amazing Danishes and custard filled pastries that can be found in every panaderia (bakery) in every town in Argentina. Kaj has a knack for sniffing out the best “sticky buns” everywhere we go.
In Bariloche we again faced closed campgrounds but were able to find a place 14 kms outside of town. It was nice to have a place to get out of the weather and to have proper showers and toilets.
Unfortunately the town of Bariloche itself did not hold much appeal. As Keira commented, Barioloche just “isn’t our groove”. We did take advantage of visiting one of the many chocolate shops in town, and sampling some fine quality chocolates.
The area around Bariloche did provide some interest. We took a chairlift to Cerro Campanario to get a beautiful view of the lakes and mountains. We visited Colonia Suiza, a small woodsy Swiss community for an artisan and food market, which was pretty cool. The papas fritas (French fries) and apple crumble were muy delicioso.
Keira and I spent a day at the lakeside making fairy castles, and doing sand paintings. Mike did manage to get some graphic design work done. Jeff fixed our winch and our car security system. Having an electrical engineer travelling with us is definitely a perk.
We were pleasantly surprised to catch up with Tonya, Martin and their 20-month-old little boy, Moritz. They are from Austria. We had originally, met them in The Petrified forest in early Feb, and again in Ushuaia, but had not managed to cross paths since. We celebrated with a morning pancake breakfast and an asado (BBQ) in the evening. Lots of good food and sharing of travel stories.
We parted with Kaj and Carina in Bariloche after another few weeks of travelling together. They headed north, and we headed south accompanied by Jeff to El Bolson for a side trip. We will undoubtedly catch up again along the way.
HIGHLIGHTS/CHALLENGES OF THIS AREA:
MOST VALUED POSSESION: our little Jeffy – fixed our winch and alarm system, and is a great travelling companion
BEST EXPERIENCE: Mike- playing on the beach-; Keira- playing on the beach; Riss- seeing Osorno Volcan in the moonlight/my birthday
MOST CHALLENGING EXPERIENCE: Mike-trying to work with so many distractions; Keira- not getting frustrated when Mum tells me "no more chocolate" ; Riss- showering both Keira and I in campsite showers in the cold weather is always a challenge
BEST FOOD DISCOVERY: Mike- sticky buns in Argentina: Keira- my chocolate dog (it didn't last long); Riss- mint filled chocolate
BEST CAMPING SPOT: the beach at Chiloe
Just a place to keep our mates informed on where we are at, and what we are up to.