After spending the night in Chile Chico, we began the drive North on the Carretera Austral. The Carretera Austral ranks amongst the world`s ultimate road trips and runs 1240 kilometres alongside national parks, forests, glaciers, farms, turquoise lakes and the Pacific ocean. Big portions of it are unpaved and part of the fun is trying to negotiate the large potholes and corrugations! We drove on rough road to Puerto Rio Tranquillo where we camped with tens of Chilean students, before catching a small boat trip to the marble caves (Capilla De Marmol). The boat took us on the beautiful clear waters of Lago General Carrera to the caves which are sculpted geological rock formations and we went inside some of them, marvelling at how smooth and colourful they were.
We drove to the National Park San Rafael and hiked to a viewpoint for the San Valentin glacier. The glacier dates back 30,000 years and was interesting to see. The drive there and back, however, was spectacular-with waterfalls, mountains and lakes along a rough dirt track.
Next we headed to Cerro Castillo, where we did a long day hike and climbed 1000 metres in the national park to a turquoise mountain lake and glacier. It was a tough but rewarding walk with great views of this part of Chile. And then the rain started. And went on and on and on for 7 days! We have experienced the Lake District in the rain, in England, but this rain beat that hands down!
We continued along the Carrera Austral, and could still appreciate the stunning scenery through the rain. We stayed in Coyhaique for two days on a campsite which had covered shelters with a table and bench in, similar to a garden shed! We put on our waterproofs and walked into town to get our laundry done and stock up on supplies from the supermarket. We then spent the rest of the 2 days in our shed, reading, playing yangtzee and watching films!
Continuing North, we headed into National Park Queulat. a beautiful green forested national park on the shores of the Pacific. We found another campsite with a shed on the shore of the Pacific and spent a day or so there! And still it rained! We moved on to La Junta, where we visited a lovely mechanics to have the bush on the front shock absorber replaced (these dirt roads are tough on Ruby!) and we wild camped at Lago Rosselot in a beautiful spot next to the lake. We moved on to Chaiten, close to the volcano which erupted in 2008 for a month with a 20km high column of ash. We wild camped for 2 nights on the shores of the Pacific and black volcanic sand, living underneath Ruby`s awning, as still it rained!
We reached a tiny place called Caleto Gonzalo, where we wild camped before catching the 7am ferry to Hornopiren, a beautiful journey that took us across lakes and between mountains. We then drove to a stunning small village on the shore of the Pacific ocean called Cochamo where we were due to meet with a small group of landy owners from Argentina and Chile for the weekend. This had been arranged by Jorge, the mechanic we had met in Puerto Madryn in Argentina. We had such a good weekend with everyone. Alongside us, there were 3 other landys from Holland, Austria and Switzerland and we all camped at the back of the house where the weekend was being hosted. All the other landys were from Argentina and Chile and we received such a warm and lovely welcome from them. The weekend was spent eating, drinking, chatting and laughing! The food was fantastic and they barbecued a whole sheep and goat one evening on the open fire. On another day we had a traditional dish called curanto from an island called Chiloe. It was a mixture of shellfish, pork sausages, potatoes and dumplings which were all buried in a hole in the ground with stones heated in a bonfire, covered in leaves and left to cook for a few hours! It was great to watch them prepare it and then to eat it! The people were simply great and we had such a giggle with them. One man from Argentina learnt English many years ago when he was child and kept saying in perfect Queen`s English " the cat is under the table", a phrase he had been taught a school. For some reason after a few drinks this became the funniest thing ever and we would yell at him across the garden, "Where is the cat?" and he would shout back "under the table" and we would all laugh our heads off! (You had to be there!). Jorge had decorated the garden with flags from all of the countries present and he also lined us all up in our landys to have a group photo. We spent 3 nights there and left with a lot of new friends and a few pounds heavier!