Chiloe Island and Lake Llanquihue - big trip - diary - chile - march 2003

The town of Castro

Stilt houses in the estuary

Wednesday 26 - Friday 28 March

A night in a hotel with slopey floors and psychedelic wallpaper allowed us to clean ourselves up and we had a look around Castro the following morning. In the parts of Chile we've seen so far, all the houses are made of wood and some of the ones beside the estuary in Castro are on stilts.

A guy in a bakery told us we must visit the national park of Chiloe, a big area beside the west coast. A winding gravel road took us beside lake Cucao until we reached the beach. At the end of the road proper is a wooden bridge with a 2 ton limit and a crowd of locals waiting for the bus which does a u-turn here. They all seemed interested in the impending landy crossing and we asked if the bridge was safe, half of the handrail snapped off didn't inspire much confidence. All was apparently well and we trundled across with hardly a creak from the planks. A few more minutes driving down a sandy track we found ourselves landying along miles of national park sand, past some locals on horseback. After taking short drive up the coast we decided to make a couple of videos doing doughnuts on the beach and cresting into view over the dunes, which was a laugh.

2 ton bridge, 2.5 ton landy and an audience

Huge beach in the national park

Mark de Lesseps recommended us to visit Isla Quinchao, an island just off the east side of Chiloe, so we headed in that direction but missed the turning in some roadworks which are creating a dual carrigeway straight down the middle of the island. Ending up almost at the ferry to the mainland it was late in the afternoon so we couldn't be bothered to turn around and instead headed for the ferry. Instead of seeing seals on the journey this time we saw black and white dolphins leaping about near the shore.

Thinking that there was a fuel station at the other side of the crossing, we hadn't filled up at Ancud. However, on reaching the mainland, we asked where the fuel was to be found and apparently the petrol station here no longer exists. The next one is 35kms away in Maullin. With the low fuel light on all the way, we trundled steadily along and filled up in the nick of time. Hopefully running out like at Torres Del Paine won't become a habit. As we washed off our muddy boots and the winch cable, the guy in the Copec station recommended a nearby restaurant for good fish, the likes of which we'd enjoyed in Chiloe. It turned out to be only so-so and we left in the dark to find a place to camp a bit further north on the road to Puerto Montt.

Returning to the mainland at sundown

Traditional wood shingle tiled house

Wooden church overlooks...

...Lake Llanquihue

Reaching Puerto Montt without finding anywhere to camp we drove straight past on the by pass (called a 'by pass' here too!) and pulled into a quiet looking industrial estate where we camped behind an old container on some waste ground by a concrete telegraph pole factory. Top stuff!

A couple of hours the next morning were spent checking the various oily bits of the landy and drying wet boots off in the sun. We thought it would be possible to cross into Argentina from Puerto Varas to Petrohue and take a ferry across the lake. Varas is a lakeside town just like ones in Switzerland and, as we drove along the shore of Lake Llanquihue and into the national park, the road is lined with hotels with german names and signs for foods such as 'kuchen'.

River tumbles over an old lava flow

Crystal clear water

Bs old mini rediscovered in Chile

We arrived at Salto (waterfall) de Petrohue so thought we may as well check it out. The river flows down wierd looking old lava rivulets which was quite unusual. When we then asked the park warden about the ferry across the lake to Argentina he told us we'd missed it - it goes at 11am and doesn't take cars. Double reason to turn back then.

Retracing our steps along the lake, then on dirt roads to reach the tarmacked pass towards the border we only took one (short) wrong turn on the way. Stopping just shy of the pass to take an early dinner, B spotted a colour-copy of his first car, which used to scare the daylights out of his friends!

Entering Argentina for the fifth time to visit the oft recommended lake district of San Carlos de Bariloche, we climbed through majestic mountains and saw a fish eagle eating his fresh catch beside the road. Both customs posts were crossed smoothly as usual and we made camp in a woodland glade in the argentine national park.

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