Feb. 14th- 15th
Ah, the romantic time of Valentine’s day. The flowers, chocolate, and romantic candle lit dinner… Then I wake up and realize, we’re in Puerto Montt, Chile and need to leave TODAY.
We finish loading the car, said our goodbyes, and hit the road. Wait, we still need a cooler, so we make the last stop to the local “Home Depot” where we were told had the cheapest available option. Let’s try this again… We loaded the cooler and hit the road, really this time.
After not driving for almost two months, Uriah had to get his “manual transmission” legs back (that didn’t take long). Now for the test for how not to get into an accident before the trip really starts, thanks but no thanks to offline Google Maps. It ended up getting a little bit confusing leaving town with all the unlabeled one way streets, so when Google told us to turn, sometimes it wasn’t the best idea. We ditched the directions and knew we wanted to head East out of town so just decided to wing it. After we got out of town, we wanted to take scenic routes so if it was on the map and eventually led to our destination, we took it.
Our first pick was a small, coastline gravel road dotted with old fishing boats and even more pot holes. Making it back onto the main road, we soon come across an interesting alien-looking house.
We pulled over to take a look and the owner was just sitting outside waiting for someone to talk to. My still developing Spanish skills made the conversation very short lived. From what I gathered, the man built the house for him and his numerous children who were all grown up and moved on. Continuing on, with a wrong turn shortly after, we took our first “oops” scenic route. By the time we looked at the map, having already traveled halfway down this dead end road , we decided to see the lake at the end. When we arrived to the lake a police was directing traffic for a local festival into a parking lot. We weren’t feeling confident enough yet to dive into the local culture so we took some pictures by the water and continued on our journey (plus it cost money to get in).
Making the correct turn this time, it took us on a steep, curvy, gravel road. Our first incline we arrived to had us questioning our route. As we advanced, the sound of rocks being flung from our tires to the undercarriage made us cringe the whole way up, thinking to ourselves, how do people drive this. Down the road, not more then a mile, a little 1980’s corolla came flying past us. Well… if a local can do it in that, we should be able to make it. Continuing on our way, we saw a family picking fruits off of bushes. Me being the semi-gardener/ plant enthusiast I am, wanted to take a look. Come to find out this road was LOADED with wild blueberries and blackberries. I spent the rest of the time down this road with my head hanging out the window and screaming at Uriah to stop when I saw some.
With our newly bought Tupperware containers full of fresh berries (yes, Tupperware containers. If you know Uriah he cannot physically survive without leftovers) we continued on our journey.
As dusk neared we found our way back onto the paved road. Not wanting to drive at night, we soon found a campground in Ensenada on lake Llanquihue. We pulled in and chatted with a man about the usual; availability, price, amenities, etc. then decided to stay. We set up camp, walked out to the beach, and watched the sunset.
Going back to the campsite, I was slightly disappointed that our first camping experience was without a fire (wood here is a lot more scarce than in the Ocala National Forest). I attempted to do some laundry that I forgot about before we left Puerto Montt and Uriah made a delicious, steamy pot of chicken noodle soup to take the chill off the night. After dinner we strung a line around camp to hang the clothes and went to bed.
We awoke in the morning, to a beautiful day and cold wet clothes hanging up. Wanting to quickly get packed up, I rigged a semi-clothes line on the “oh snap” handles in the back seat. This of which, became a staple for us, being that it was almost always a conversation starter with other travelers. The ice breaker went something along the lines of, “Hey! I need one of those for my socks!”, I guess a lot of people here have wet socks and don’t take my ingenuity seriously…Anyways, we went back out to the beach to snap a few quick pics. A spectacular view with the huge volcano Osorno looming in the background. We packed up and headed out towards the Argentinean border, with a destination of Bariloche in our sights (round 2).
Arriving to our first border crossing in the car, we were extremely nervous, but ended up breezing through the Chilean side even with jokes about me being from Miami. This made the drive to the Argentinean office a little less nerve racking. The border pass takes you through the Andean Mountain range with drive time between offices being an hour or so.
Once we neared the Argentine side, we were quickly holted by a long line of cars that was so long you couldn’t even see the border crossing office. Many locals were out and about conversing and hanging around in chairs. We followed suit and pulled out our chairs on the side of the road and hung out until the line started moving again. We finally arrived to the office and realized the traffic hold up was because they processed everything in batches. Being in the middle of our batch but seeing others letting passengers out before they even parked, we did the awkward fast walk to try and avoid the swarm of people. I felt like I was trying to get into a fast pass line at Disney. Nothing was very organized, per usual, and there were two lines formed at the building. We followed everyone else and waited in one line. Then, a security guard decided he was feeling nice that day and informed the BACK of the line that we all needed to wait in the other line first, then went and told the FRONT of the line. Well, since we were in the middle, we got the memo when everyone else moved and ended up unhappily at the end of a 100 person “south american” line (aka. Extremely inefficient, slow moving line). After all was said and done 2 ½ hours had passed and we were happy to be on the road again.
Officially starting our Patagonia road trip, we turned on the Ruta 40. As mentioned in the Patagonia Preface post, this is the Argentine equivalent to the USA’s Route 66. A beautiful but uneventful drive to Bariloche,
we had our first gas stop, complete with the standard waiting in line and someone else pumping our gas. Arriving into town, we also had our first police checkpoint. Most cars seemed to be rolling through easily, but when Uriah tried, the officer started waving at us…uh oh…Uriah rolled down his window and the officer informed us we needed to drive with our lights on (this was interpreted through our continuously improving Charade and Spanish skills…hmm “Charanish”…maybe?…ok no), then waved us through. We did a quick stop into the hostel we stayed in previously to say hello and then picked up some groceries. Heading out of town towards the most popular thing to do, the Circuit Chico (a decent sized road loop loaded with hikes, hilltop viewpoints, and shimmering lakes), we stopped at a few campgrounds to inquire. They all seemed a little expensive so we kept searching. As it was getting dark, we passed a place with no sign, but I saw a tent outside as we were driving by. We decided to stop in and it actually ended up being a campground I read about in a guidebook. They like to stay low key so they don’t advertise. It ended up being perfect for our wallets while also having some peace and quiet. We set up camp right by the lake. Uriah made some steak and teriyaki eggplant (learned by his dad), and hit the hay early to have a jam packed following day exploring the circuit. Happy travels from U and B!
Don’t forget to check out the interactive map! Just click on the dots to see pictures from that area.