From the Central Chile, I now enters the south. Well, the most southern I go. The fare south is extremely hard to access, and those cold islands, only reachable by ferries, are of no interest to me.
Still 18/12. The Chiloe island is dominated by shrub, of which the most seems to be made up by broom. It is in full flower, and look awesome in the sun. Swamps, green grazing hills and tiny huts. I passes the first bigger city; Ancud, which was destroyed by the 1960 earth shake. It have now been rebuild in square concrete. Their wooden churches are famous, but the next city; Castro have its share, and I drive right pass Ancud.
It seems like I can't shake the rain. Shower after shower hits the dry road, as I come, although the sun appears quite often. I passes several small wooden churches, guess they stand earth shakes better then rock and concrete does. Swamps and shrubs continues to dominate, until I reach Castro. The first I see is piles-houses in some inland swamps.
I head right into centre of Castro, and what I thrill! 95% of the houses are old, wooden sheds, and I actually pick-up the atmosphere! I'm once again reaching the city in rush-hour, and parking space is for the lucky ones. I do a U around the central square with the bright yellow church, and find a place to park in the fare end of the main street.
The sun is here, and I grab the camera and try to capture some of the cosy shops. The side door of the church is open, and I sneak in. It is completely made up of wood inside, and real gem! It might not be a cathedral (or is it?), but it sure have the magnificence.
I find the ferry office, but unfortunately, the harsh weather have delayed the ferry, and it left yesterday (Monday), and the next scheduled tour Thursday MIGHT occur Monday - no promises. I can't wait for that, and find an alternative route. Back up north to Puerto Montt on the mainland, and down to Hornopiren. Here, a daily ferry should connect with the southern road system. The ferry can't be booked: It is first appearance get the ride of the day. It is a five hour drive, and I'm supposed to be there in the morning. Well, this de-tour of two times 300 Km is made up by this cosy, atmospheric city, and its church.
Find a cosy hostal: Latorre, on my way down to the harbour, and then I do the city tour. It is a bit hard to capture the small, wooden houses in their bright colours, due to the parked cars. All the roads seems to end in a steep hill, down to the water. I find a Jerrycan and a replace wire, I was missing. When a new shower hits town, I find a restaurant, and get some pollo y frittas.
Back by the distance parked car to pick-up a few forgotten things - and lock it this time. Sit out a shower in the car, and head back towards the hostal. A shower and a cake passes under a baldachin, and then I'm home in my room, with a great view over the water. The rain picks up, and now it is persistence.
A financial status reveals: I have used the first 300,000 pesos/3650 DKK I withdraw. 1/10 of the tour - that sounds like it could be a rather expensive tour!
19/12. The rain continues through the night, but silences as I leave the hostal, and the ibises call dominates the sounds in the early morning. I head down south on the island. It is only 90 Km to the end of Ruta 5, and I would like to see the rest of the island. The farmland turns into hill, grassed by red-spotted milking cows and cheeps. The brooms disappears, or they haven't sprung yet. The grass is real lush, and it is early summer here.
Sudden showers blackens the sky, but the temperature remains between 20C and 25C. I only stop a few times to investigate some plants and make a few photos. Tiny wooden churches along the road look rather deserted, and religion does not seem to be important around here - anymore. The private houses have a bit of decorations related to Christmas, but not that much. I woke up to a decorated plastic pine tree this morning.
I reach the southern town; Quellon, which should have been my ferry town. Now, I only do a few circles and gas the car once again. I guess the car I originally ordered; the small Chewy Corsa would have been more fuel efficient, but the Chewy Sail are comfortable! Upgraded two classes without charge: Can't really complain.
Quellon's houses are like Castro's, just a bit more scruffy, and not quiet there. It is a fishing town, and many small fisher boats are anchored in the bay. I take a small stroll in the city, but it is time to return to the mail land. It is around 400 Km to Hornopiren, where I will wait for the ferry, tomorrow morning.
I'm familiar with Castro, and get right through. I get clean through Ancud as well, just not out of the right road. I en up at the perfect beach, west of town. Through Ancud again, and it is a significantly more batted version of Castro. I reach the loading ferry, and once again, I'm the last on-boat. Only fault is; I'm behind all the rest, as we hit the highway.
The 20-car-ferry have not only a tiny cafeteria with room for four - literally, but also free Wi-Fi. I get a hot-dog with everything - and that is a lot around here, and check my emails.
As I reach Puerto Montt, I have an idea of where to go. It just don't work for me. I end up driving around for an hour, before I find the right road. But finding it is not enough: I need to get the car on it. It is rush-hour, and all the roads are one-way, right or left turns illegal and so on. I do the same circles three times. Once I forced backwards by a bus, who holds on his rights.
At a light, two carabineros on motorcycles park next to me, and I ask for help. The guides me quite a distance the wrong way - on the right road, and then block the intense traffic to let me do an illegal U-turn. Useful guys to have around.
I hit the central Chile with its high, snow coned mountains, although I stick to the foothills so far. I'm now on Ruta 7, which - supported by ferries - go as fare south as possible. It twist it way through green mountains, which get more and more dense, as I get south. There are wooden churches along the rood here as well.
Pretty soon, it turns into a gravel road, and the pot-holes has to be taken serious. Some real heavy showers are interrupting the sun and drizzle. When I reach the Arena-Puelche ferry, I'm first asked to wait, but they manages to squeeze me on - the last as usual. I use the tour on hooking up my computer to the car's audio - I have had brass band and Spanish talk-shows enough for quite some time!
It is, without any doubts, a rich sea. The sky is covered with seagulls, fishing in the stirred waters behind the ferry. We pass granite islands, covered in small trees and shrub. On the other side, more gravel road lies ahead. Huge ferns flanks the road, and the vegetation is in-penetrable.
It is more or less one large road-work, just like around Puerto Montt, and if every one took their hands up their pockets, things would go 20 times as fast. There are numerous "flag-zones", where the traffic is one-way at a time. At one point; I think the lorry in front of me stops because of that, but a mud-slide blocks the road, and busses, trucks and many cars just looks at it.
A local farmer in a tiny lorry with sheep on, head straight for it, and gets through. None else seems to have the guts, and as I have no intentions of spending the night in the side of a mountain road, I'll give it a go. It is 30 centimetre of thick, heavy mud, but the bottom is firm. I get through, but just. People applauses on the other side, and I pad my car. All the bridges on the road are narrow, wooden ones, some missing part of the deck.
I reach Hornopiren at eight, and find Hotel Hornopiren. It is a rather huge wooden building with a Grandstore, a restaurant and the hotel it self. A young girl welcomes me, but she can't understand a single word of English. Never the less, I get a cosy room with a view over the harbour. I can't stand upright, but I get a dish of soup and a brilliant pot-stew of ox, made on the wood-stow. All the others are workers from around, and we sit at a large table. A cup of coffee, and I retire to work. Two other tourists find their way to the hotel, but I haven't seen ten in total. If this is high season, they must must rely on fish and timber for their income!
A look out the window lours me out, and I spot some black-necked swans in the bay. The rain pick-up, and I head back. Once again, I get way too close to midnight, before I'm done with diary and photos.
20/12. The day starts with a light rain, but I have two ferry-rides and some driving ahead of me, before I reach Pinochet's famous/feared Carretera Austral road and Parque Nacional Pumalin. It could clear up. I'm not sure breakfast is included in the room, and despite the table is set, there is none to ask. Well, for 20,000 pesos, I'm sure it is. Homemade bread with homemade jam and some sausages, and a cup of my own de-cap.
I find the Supermacando next to the tiny square, and buy 10 litres of water for the upcoming stretch, some bananas and chocolate bisques for the ferry. I get a ticket for the Hornopiren-Lepepu ferry at noon, a five hour tour, through a narrow stretch between the mainland and some islands. It is only 10C, and the rain continues - why is it I'm driving south? I dress up for the occasion, and back-trail for a couple of hours, while I wait for the boat.
The rain is rather intense, and the light not for photographing. I do a few, short walks, but can't really talk my selves into it. I'm at the corner of Parque Hornopiren, but the weather considered, I stick to my car. Back in good time for the Hornopiren-Lepepu ferry, which leaves on the dot. I use the voyage to sort out photos, and make a slideshow of The Central Chile. The I go through the earlier diary to correct a small part of the languish errors.
The cars has begun boarding, when I get back to the rather large ferry. A kingfisher visits fishermen and the ferry, but we have none to offer. We sail for four hours, through a narrow straight, flanked by high mountains, covered in a lush, dense forest with massive waterfalls. Some are several hundred metres high, and quite impressive. We reach a large peninsular, but are held back on the ferry, until the cars from the other side reach the waiting area. A quarters driving through a narrow, one lane gravel road, and we reach the next ferry.
In the fjords, salmon are farmed. It is big business, and we meet several big trucks with tanks on. The road goes through the Pumalin Park which's dense forest have made attempts to make trails, more or less fail, due to the rapid growth of the vegetation. Luckily, the park lies beside the road for 70 kilometres on both side of the next ferry, and I get a feeling of the vegetation on my few stops. It should offer some absolutely astonishing views on a sunny day - I guess, but this in defiantly not a clear day! The area receives four meters of rain yearly, most of it today, it seems.
We reach the other side of the peninsular at a little pass five, and the winding gravelroad and the traffic in front of me, in the beginning, slows me down. I would have loved to make it to Coihaique, but have to find a hostal in La Junta. The rest stopped at Chaiten, but I like the feeling of a sealed road after 100 Km rumble, and heads on. Good music on, and I enjoy the ride.
Intense, green vegetation on both sides of the track, cut through by numerous waterfalls. I pass several huge rivers and endless tiny creeks. In some places, all the huge trees are dead, but underneath, the lush green seems fine. It might have suffered a eruption? Unfortunately, the sealing end at a large, suspension bridge.
I catch up with some locals, but they drive too slow for my liking. The road is wide, but covered with fist-large rocks, and the pot holes have to be taken serious! I would have liked to make it to La Junta, but at eight, I learn the road can't be driven at night, and I pull over. I guess it is the village; Villa Santa Lucia.
It is not really a town, just a collection of miserable huts and shelters. I ask a man, if actually is Villa Santa Lucia, and it is. I ask for a place to sleep, and he know a woman, who have a daughter, who drives along with me to a woman, who have a cabina, to which she get a ride.
Cosy little cabin with a stow, a fireplace and some beds. It even has hot water - she claims. I pay 30,000 pesos, and there better be hot water! Lit up the fire, cook some pasta and water for coffee. The fire having a hard time heating up the room, mainly because of the upper-floor.
21/12. I find my long-johns and prepare for a long drive. It is around 350 to my next stop; Reserva Nacional Simpson near Puerto Aisen. I thought it was a sealed road, but it is apparently not. Check the oil and water, and head out, into the light rain and 8C. Now I'm here, I might as well check out the narrow gorge, leading up to Puerto Ramirez, way into the Andes.
It is a beautiful road, squeezed in-between high, forest covered mountains with white peaks. If it was a clear day, I would have had some awesome photos! I reach a huge lake and an area with grassing cows. Waterfalls does not even make me consider, turning around - I have seen so many. An old bridge, made of raw timber works fine, but eventually, I have to go back. A single, small weasel crosses the road with a large rodent in its mouth.
Passes Villa Santa Lucia, and head further down Ruta 7. In Villa Vanguarcia, I pick up two out of four desperate hitch-hikers. No chance I could have four and their enormous backpacks! It is a real nice pair of Israelis, heading south. They tell me, half of Israel is in Chile. Looks like locals to me, I'm afraid. We start overtaking overloaded bikes with rain-suited covered tourists on, and it is steep hills all the way. I don't get it!!!
We do a short stop at Reserva Nacional Rio Simpson, but besides from a steep mountainside, and a short path along the river, it have little to offer. A bit further on, we meet a huge valley, covered in mainly blue Lupines. It stretches for several kilometres, and the girl get the flowers she asked for. Buttercups are plentiful, along with marguerites. Some other stops for views to huge waterfalls or the icy peaks of the mountains, flanking the road.
While we make several stops, the rain continues. Around noon, we reach the most southern of my Chilean maps. Pass the road to Puerto Aisen and through Coihaique. I have talked them into going to Monumento Natural Dos Lagunas near the border. Here, orchids should be abound.
We are at the border to the highland semiarid steppe, and we take a trail, leading from the forest to an almost barren peak. From here, there is a great - although misty - view over the lagunas. I even find several members of two species of orchids, flowering. Here are also a lot pale, yellow Ranunculaceaes and some more succulent herbs and several Fabaceaes.
We continues out of Route 240, through pine plantations and then pure, endless steppes. All are fenced in, but we only see a few cows and a few sheep. We reach the tiny Argentine border crossing at seven, and it is time to turn back. I spot some geese on a wet field, and further out, around 30 flamencos can be seen. Along the road, we spot several hares.
We drive back to Coihaique, and here, it is actually hard to find a place to sleep. They are either closed, occupied or overpriced. I end up in a quite nice one; Hostal Patagonia with breakfast included, but for 30,000 pesos! The kids are a block down, and I offer them a lift in the morning - if they are awake.
Down town to get a bit of dinner, and back to work. I have driven well over 500 Km today, a better part on gravel roads, but I not worn out. Guess I'm ready for Argentina, with its endless gravel roads.
22/12. Wake up at six, and soon after, the sun emerges: A nice change! Do a bit of banking and other work on the PC, before I leave the room. Breakfast is served - last night, and I have had better. Chat with a couple of young Americans on a half year survival course. Then I pick-up the kids from their hostal, and we head out towards south on Ruta 7.
It is a clear day, and until noon, we are blessed with the most amassing views of the high, snow-covered mountains on both sides of the road. We make countless stops. We reach a giant valley which is all used for grassing. Mainly blue lupines make a colourful addition the the surroundings. The valley end in a narrow and deep canyon, just to lead out to the next.
A large predator bird, either a large buzzard or a small eagle it having its breakfast on a road kill. We cross large, white rivers time after time, all leading to the giant one in the bottom of the valley. Every bridge offers new panoramic views, and it is hard to get anywhere, without stopping.
A large dear stands near the river, and we get pretty close, before it slowly flies. After the next bend of the road, there are two more, next to the road. The valley we now are entering is dominated by a blanket of yellow dandelion. The passes have more Alpine flora, but nothing new yet. The roses are quite common, and I finally get a picture.
We are quite near the snow, and numerous waterfalls are leading melting water to the river. We cross a high pass, and the next part of the road is real serpentined. In front of us, a massive, almost endless wall of ice topped mountain make up the horizon. We pass some swamps with ducks and gees, but the fields are dominated by cows and a few sheep.
We enjoy the sealed road for almost 100 Km, but everything have an end. We reach the amassing Laguna Verde, which is bright turquoise. After that, the large river forms a delta. A drizzle passes, and we head for a shed to make some coffee, and have a bite.
Next astonishing sight it the well over 100 Km long Laguns General Carrera, which also is turquoise. It is flanked by a light yellow Fabaceae. We reach Puerto Tranquillo along its shore. Here, some caves are formed by the lake water. We have to take a boat out to them, and we lack three persons. Somehow, three more Israelis emerge, and then I note the Hebrew on the office.
We head out right away, in a large dingy. It is a smooth ride to the marble caves. They are not deep, and we stay in the boat. Never the less, it is worth the tour. On top of that, there are some great views to the shore and the mountains. The tour back is another story: The waves is now against us, and it is a bumpy and wet tour.
Bach for a sandwich, and we continues along the shore. More ice tippet mountains, waterfalls, lakes, valleys, flowers and not least: Sun. We even find some sand dunes with orchids on. On the railing for a bridge, a large kingfisher ignores us.
We reach River Chacabuco, which runs under a surprisingly large suspension bridge and through a deep and narrow gorge. Then we get to a highland with cushion of a plant of unknown family. We are searching for Valle Chacabuco or Parque National Patagonia, but our directions just leads us to the border crossing. Next to the road, some alpacas stands, grassing.
Considering this is the only road leading south, it is real narrow: Only one and a half gravel trail. We reach the biggest town in 100s of kilometres, and it have a race on. It looks like drag-race for horses, and it seems like it will be going on for days. We see a single race, gas the car, and head out to another park: Reserva Nacional Tamango.
It have a campsite near a beautiful lake, and we decides to stay for the night. The temperature at eight is near 20C, and there are toilets and shelters. We put up the tents in each our shelter, and I take a stroll in the nearby overgrown rocks: "Elephant buds".
Within 50 meters, I have found four different, flowering terrestrial orchids! It have not been raining here for a long time, and I hope for the full trail in the morning, with full sun.
Back to write a bit, while the temperature drops real fast to 10C. In combination with the light wind, my fingers freezes of, if I write any more! Cooking and a fire in the fireplace. Glass in the panoramic windows would have been appreciated!
The light remains to half pass ten, and as the wind calms down, and the fire picks up, our shelter becomes real cosy. We have driven close to 400 Km today, and it have offered some absolutely astonishing views. The anticipation of the sun might have added quite some!
23/12. I get up after an almost warm night, but now, it is only 5C, and I pull on most of my warm cloths. A fast breakfast while los chicos still sleep, and I head out of the interesting trail I started yesterday. I find the same four orchids, and a lot of other interesting plants. It is semi-Alpine habitat, and some low tress are found in the lower areas.
As the sun appears above the mountain range, the temperature raises to 30C within few minutes. Suddenly, I wished I haven't brought so much warm cloths! I find numerous orchids of all four species, along with two new. One is almost ripen, and the inflorescence is 60 centimetres high. Another is still its inflorescence, and it is already 70 centimetres. That will be some orchid!
Here are flowering parasitic plants, crippled trees with tiny, crested leaves, flowers I don't know, and an awesome view over the lake and the surrounding mountains. The trail was supposed to be a round tour, but well over a hour, I figure I better return. I meet the slightly impatience kids on the track near the camp. They continues, while I pack my gear.
I have talked the kids into a tour further south of Ruta 7, as fare as it goes on the mainland. From here, it is island-hopping. It is 130 Km on a gravel road - each way, but with the sun and yesterdays tour in mind, I think it might be worth it.
We drive over passes, along blue lakes, and to my surprise: Through a rather high forest. There are tiny farms scatted along the road, and sometimes cows on it. The road are flanked by a wall of roses, hemlock, lupines or the yellow Fabaceaes. At several stops, I spot new or known orchids. Waterfalls and rivers are abandon, so are the white tips on the mountains on both sides of the road.
A swamp offers peat moss and other nutrition-low plants, just not carnivorous ones. Well, I get my shoos washed... Some areas have been logged for grassing, years ago. The giant logs lies here and root away slowly. The road is single lane in many stretches, but we only meet a few cars, except a ferry group.
We turn around at "lands end", and head back towards Cochrane. A short stop at a shelter around noon, while a bit of rain passes. Coffee and biscuits, and we are ready for some more rumble. We stop at a few waterfalls and bridges over deep gorges with white water underneath.
Right through Cochrane and an hour after, we turn into Ruta 265, heading towards Chile Chico and the Argentinean border. A bright, light blue river, the massive mountains, the huge lake General Carrera, orchids, Laguna Verde and then the almost barren landscape in the heights.
Suddenly, I hear a "flab-flab" from the back. It is our right back wheel that have given up. It is totally shredded, but due to the roads challenging surface, I didn't noticed it at all! A few minutes later, we have changed wheel, and push on. Table mountains, steppe and more great views, and then we reach the rather large and surprisingly fashionable Chile Chico.
The vulcanist have closed, but he might be open tomorrow, despite it is 24/12. We find a cheep camp within the city. We put up the tents, and I write a bit before dinner. My dinner is surprisingly tasteful, and not too unhealthy. Birdsong above our heads, coffee in the mug - life is good. Yet another day with the company of two real pleasant people and 400 Km.
At nine, it is still 23C, then half a hour later, it is 12C, and my fingers go cold. I'm camped for 3,000 outside a cabina to 20.000 pesos - hard choice. Well, I got two fleece jackets, long-johns and two sleeping bags. It is well over midnight before I give in the work, and climb into the bags. I did sit in the toilet, which offered power and shelter.
The photos from the present southern part, can be found on: