Overlanders touring in South America know that, when crossing the border into Chile, the unexpected can happen. Some vehicles pass easily, others are subjected to a search – mainly for fresh produce. Taking the small border post Bella Vista after a public holiday should have been quick and easy. It was not. Makoti Down Products – a manufacturer from Uitenhage we can recommend, their products proved robust and warm and they can manufacture to size. Before we departed to the Torres del Paine we restocked provisions, as in the park no shops are available and we shall proceed from there back into Argentina. Since gas cycliders from our portable gas stove cost approx. 1/3 of what they cost in Argentina, we stocked up and then drove to the little town of Villa Serano just before the entrance to the park, drove through town past the last house with its red roof and carried on a track toward the mountains until we found a lonely wild camping spot on the bank of the clear Rio Serano that runs from within the Torres del Paine park.
By now we had two goals: visiting the only colony of King Penguins and reaching Ushuaia for New Year. As we drove southward the wind increased and it grew colder by the minute, light rain set in that sounded like hail hitting the vehicle. Around us nothing……really nothing. Flat country-side for miles on end, no trees, no hills, no estancias. We started wondering whether tonight would be the night where we had to sleep inside the vehicle without opening the rooftop tent.
We woke up early – weather clear and calm, an ideal day to reach Base de Torres. Los Torres Hotel where parking was available. From the parking it is approx. 1-1/2km to the start of the actual trail, as yet we did not knew what was lying ahead. The trail led upwards along a river with scenic views and passed the Chileno Lodge and camping site – pretty full this time of year as this is a popular overnighting spot to do the W-trail. fauna and flora.
We started early, keen to get better photos of Cerro Castillo –but the mist and rain foiled our attempt.
The morning at Parque Pumalin was cool and misty and we took our time to get ready.
Travel with us along the Carretera Austral, Parque Pumalin and marvel at the old wooden churches of Chiloé Island.
After a cold and early morning we left the camping site in Uspallata, traced back in the direction of where we came from and tried to take some shots from the site of some ruins. Then we continued along Ruta 7 into the Andes mountains towards the border. here.
For our first trip to South America, we were reaching the final stage in Chile. Our aim was to travel down into the lakes region before crossing the Andes into Argentina. Exploring the southern tip had to wait until we return later in 2017. Die Jahreszeiten fingen an, unsere Route zu bestimmen. Es wurde langsam aber sicher zu spät im Jahr, noch an den südlichen Zipfel Südamerikas zu denken. So wollten wir in dieser Runde noch bis an die Seen Region in Chile vorstossen, um dann die Anden nochmals zu überqueren und durch Argentinien dann in Uruguay zu enden, wo der Wagen für ein paar Monate abgestellt werden könnte. After returning to Molina we travelled down Ruta 5 again, passed Talca and turned off eastwards at Chillán to stay at Camp Extremo 19km away from the town. Caution: Do not jump head first into their pool –it is only 1m deep everywhere. Nevertheless it was pleasant to cool down on this 34°C day. We found a quiet camping spot under large trees and had a pleasant night,albeit windy. Next day we continued further down the Pan Americana, turned to Nacimiento, close to Los Angeles along the Rio Bio Bio, then up to Coronel and past Curanilahue, Tres Pinos, on to Cañete, where we turned off towards P.N. Nahuelbua 47km away. As we came closer, the planted Eukalyptus forests gave way to the old Araucaria forests and other indigenous trees like the Coigües, Robles and Lengas. The park had various hiking trails and we hiked up to the Mirador Piedra del Aguila, a round trip of approx. 9km. On this trail we saw the ancient Araucaria Milenia, a 2000 year old specimen – wow!
We slowly made our way down Chile - a country some 4300km long and 756 000sq km in size and were looking forward to visit Valparaiso, whose Historic Quarter on Cerro Concepçion is a World Heritage Site. Since 1844 Chile is independent. Wir freuten uns auf Valparaiso - eine Stadt, welche durch ihre geschützte Altstadt und auch auf Grund seiner bemalten Wände und Graffiti bekannt ist. Allerdings gibt es dort keinen Campingplatz. Next stop on our southbound route was P.N. La Campana, a park with the high Chilean palms (Jubaea chilensi or the Chilean wine palm) and quiet, shadowy camping spots and walking trails. The park is 60km east of the city of Valparaiso which was next on our agenda to visit to see their prolific street art and murals. Valparaiso did not have any camping site and we ended up camping in the one-way street outside Villa Kunterbunt, known for hosting many bikers that pass through Valparaiso (they also offer a service of receiving and shipping motorcycles from here). most devastating fire in a hundred years and it would rage on for the next 14 days and would make it difficult at times for us to skirt around. Pichelemu on the coast –a town known for its excellent surfing wave ( at Punta de Lobos). The town was busy and abuzz with surfers and other holiday makers. Parque Naćional Radal Siete Tazas – a stretch of rough dirt road ending in a beautiful wooded park area with many camping spots and the scenic seven pools ( 7 cups) where the Rio Claro drops down. We camped at Siete Tazas amidst holiday activities, but had no problem finding a spot to camp, then moved on for two nights to the quieter private San José de Frutillar camping y cabanas where we camped on the forest edge and enjoyed watching the parrots.
Every day a new surprise. Who would have thought a national reserve existed for rodents? The Chilean Parque Naçional Las Chinchillas takes care of a species close to extinction. Manch einer mag sich an die Modewelle der Chinchilla Pelze erinnern. Auch hier hat der Mensch eine Tierart an die Grenzen der Ausrottung gebracht. Ein einzigartiger Park in Chile überraschte uns mit seinen Anstrengungen, die wenigen Chinchillas zu retten, die es noch gibt. Our route took us back via Huasco, then via Valleñar on Ruta 5 to Serena and on to Coquimbo, which afforded a shopping opportunity at the Lider Supermercado. For the night we drove towards Guanaqueros, where we camped at the well organized and clean camping site Mar Azul, run by Hernan. We parked less than 100m from the sea and spent a quiet night. Puclaro dam and took a stroll along the dam wall, strong winds prevailed. Although no kite surfers were active, it apparently is a very suitable expanse of water for this sport. Pisco Elqui, a town wit its own pisco distillery and an abundance of little eating places. At our camping site Camping Refugio del Angel adjacent to the clear cold Rio Claro, we met our friends from Iquique New Years Eve party again – Laima and Mindaugas. This was a good opportunity to enjoy a pisco for sundowner and a joint supper among the shady weeping willow trees. Parque Naçional Las Chinchillas - the friendly staff gave us special permission to stay for the night in the parking area. We were not aware of this reserve beforehand and it highlighted the plight of the Chinchilla to us: There used to be 20 million animals before it became fashionable to wear pelts made of the fur of this little, nocturnal rodent. Today, they are almost extinct save for the small 20 000 population cared for in this reserve. Boris, the guide, took us into the nocturama – a underground cavern which houses a number of different rodents from the reserve and that can only be seen during the dark of night. However, the little Degú can be seen at dusk and dawn and it gave us the opportunity for a few closeup photos.