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Here we (Alex and me) are, going away from Santiago again: Flying to Puerto Montt, a city in the South of Chile (but actually the North of the northern Patagonia… still a lot more to be the South!). We arrived there and “visited” the city. Actually there is not much to see, so we bought food and a bit of equipment (gas, tarp…) and decided to hitch-hike south, on the way to Chiloé Island, because we found a couch to stay for a couple of days in Chonchi (via www.couchsurfing.org), starting Wednesday. So we could sleep somewhere in between, wherever because we are fully equipped with food, tent, warm sleeping bags… We were walking up to the main road north of the city, when a couple in a car stopped and turned around to drive us to the “Ruta 5” ! That was really, really nice… and we started hitch-hiking, with a sign, on the bridge leading to a kind of highway. Everybody made signs like we should go down… on the highway?? Crazy Chileans… I did it in Sweden a couple of years ago: first of all it is really dangerous and it doesn´t work! So we had a look at the road, and then we saw some people on bicycles, some pedestrians crossing the highway, and some people waiting just on the emergency lane for… the bus !!! So we decided to try it 🙂 After a long time (maybe not more than one hour), we started to give up and just walk further, to try again later or find a spot in a forest to set up the tent for the night.
We walked 20 meters, still holding the hitch-hiking sign and a car stopped. We threw our bags in the trunk of the pick-up, and hoped in with 3 people. A family living in Dalcahue, and which were really nice to drive us until there! They drove us of after a 3 hours’ drive and a ferry crossing to reach Chiloé until a camping, we arrived around 21:00, set up the tent in a green and soft grass, had dinner and went to bed pretty exhausted.
But the first feeling about Chiloé is great: green, quiet, peaceful, maybe a bit wet but hey, that has to be green somehow!
During the night, the rain started. When we woke up it was not too bad but started raining again just when we finished packing the tent. We were ready after a while to go on the road again. We hitch-hiked until Castro (30 kilometers), one of the main towns on the island, and took a bus to Chonchi (20 more kilometers). We met some nice people who told us a few places to visit around Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas, a bit up north from Puerto Montt. Probably to visit on the way back from Chiloé!
In Chonchi, we met Fabian, our host for a few days, and the really surprising and nice thing is that he just gave us a key of his house, explained everything about water/cooking/shower… and left for a few days for vacation! 🙂 So we had a house for ourselves…
We went walking around the mini-town in the afternoon, found a cybercafé and bought some food for the next 2 days because the plan was to go trekking in the Chiloé national park on the west coast for 2 days. On Thursday, we woke up and the rain was pouring… we were not sure of what we wanted to do… it took us a while to decide to go anyway. So we got ready and left the house around 10:00, and got a bus to the national park. We arrived there one hour later, and found one “ranger” who gave us a really basic – not updated – map of the tracks and explained where to go. We followed his instructions and walked for 5 kilometers on the road… not really nice but, as it was written on the Lonely Planet, we were not really surprised. A sign indicated us to turn right. To go to a lake and cross with a boat… As there was NOBODY around, we doubted a bit. But we walked, and got lost for approximately 45 minutes, and finally found someone who told us to go back on the main road… where we went back and kept walking along this road. We crossed a bridge (which had a shape of a boat) and stopped on the side of the road to have lunch. I the middle of our break, a BUS came through, with CASTRO written on it… meaning that that is our bus going to Chonchi as well, and meaning that we could have taken the bus way further! We were pretty disappointed with this track, so we decided to walk a bit more, and see: if there is a track; or if there is a bus in any of the directions. After half an hour, nothing happened, so we turned around, and decided to go back to Chonchi. A bit further, we met a bus, with CASTRO written on it, and the driver told us to hop in! First trekking experience: FAILED. I was really sad because it could have been really nice (despite the weather) and a good training for Patagonia in Christmas.
So we went back, and we met a Slovenian girl who came to couchsurf at Fabian’s place as well. A friend of Fabian gave her the key and we spent the evening with a bottle of wine, talking!
On Friday, we went to Castro, we hitch-hiked again and it worked pretty well. Actually, on Chiloé, there is basically only one road: “Ruta 5” which is one of the ends of the Panamericana (the road which goes from Alaska to Ushuaia, Patagonia), so hitch-hiking is not too difficult.
And, hitch-hiking is really good to start speaking a bit of Spanish, to answer the basics questions: Where do you come from? What do you do in Chile? Where are you going today? How long do you stay on Chiloé? And it feels like every time I am getting a bit better!
In Castro, we had no idea what to do. It was raining a lot. We had no couch around. We could camp, but yea, what about tomorrow? So, we read the lonely planet and saw that we could do stuff from Ancud, the city up North of the island: we could eat a Curanto (seafood with meat traditionally cooked in a hole in the ground for hours) in one of the restaurants, we could go for a trip and see penguins… The rain stopped, the sun came out, so we walked through the city and out for about 3 kilometers, and hitch-hiked to Ancud. A blue truck stopped, it was nice and fun, first time that I went in a truck!
Arrived in Ancud, we met Fabian (our host from Chonchi) with his sister. They just arrived as well in the city. We decided to find a place to spend the night and to go around a few places in the city (fuerte, harbor, museum, coast). A car stopped and the people in it told us they have a “cabaña” for 2 000 pesos (3€) each for one night. Ok, that is cheaper than the camping, let’s have a look! It was basically only a shelter, with an oven and carpet on the floor. No bed, not real couch (a pile of foamy-couch for one person), and one shelf. The shower, toilet and kitchen were the one from the family in their house. A bit weird, but at least it was cheap!
We dropped our stuff, and went walking around the city, and trying to plan our next day, to a penguin island on the west coast. Well, we bought beers and after dinner in the warm kitchen, we went back to our “cabaña” and got warm with a bit of the fire in the oven, with the beers and inside our sleeping bags and we all fell asleep at some point.
Despite we decided to be ready to leave around 9:00 AM on Saturday to have enough time to go and see penguins, we left the place not before 10:00, and found nothing good to go to see the penguins, except one really expensive tour with a “hop on the bus – hop off and take-pictures-of-rocks,-beaches-and-penguins and hop on again” stupid system… so we didn´t do it. Fabian and his sister decided to hitch-hike back to Chonchi (looks like it is pretty common!) and with Alex we decided to go to Chepu, a lost “village” (4 houses) and an eco-camping, south west of Ancud. We hitch-hiked as well on this “Ruta 5” again, for 20 kilometers, with a couple of tourist from Viña del Mar. They dropped us at the crossing with a dirt road, still 14 kilometers before Chepu We started walking on the road and a car came straight, Alex lifted his thumb while I was writing the sign and the pick-up stopped 🙂 Good job!! They dropped us in front of the camping and we met the owners. We were the only visitors and got a very quiet place to set up the tent and to have an asado (the South American barbecue) with the chorizo and the meat we bought earlier.
The weather forecast wasn´t too good for the next days, so we were not sure about what to do… the Kayak at dawn, or the trekking on the coast to a penguin island… We decided that it would be to cloudy to do the kayak at dawn and that we would get up for the trekking, knowing that it has to be done with the low tide.
So we organized it (kind of) and got up early enough to go to the “harbor” and find a fisherman who would drive us to the other side of the river.
This river was “born” in 1960, after the earthquake. All the ground/forest dropped of 2 meters deep, and the sea water came in, killing the trees with the time. That is also why this place is interesting, there is a dead forest in the valley…
So we found a fisherman and after 20 000 pesos less and 30 minutes on the little boat, we were on a muddy track. The fisherman explained to us the track, saying that we could not get lost, and we agreed on a time to meet for the way back. The track was really muddy. Glad that it didn´t rain in the last 30 hours, otherwise it would have been horrible or even impossible! After half an hour, we arrived on a beach of the Pacific Ocean! The ocean wasn’t pacific at all, it is so noisy! And the funny part on the beach was to see some cows, hanging around on the beach! Normal…
We walk all way along the beach, we went in the bushes, following some seldom signs, and of course at some point we followed some tracks and lost the signs… we were on the top of the riff, it was beautiful, but without a proper track…
…and we eventually found it, when we started being worried about the time left before the low tide. The penguins are on one island, which is reachable half an hour before and half an hour after the low tide… so we started hurrying a bit, met a young French couple who confirmed the track and we kept walking on a muddy track.
We arrived on the beach at the “exact” time of the low tide and rushed a bit to cross the beach. We reach the penguins, and as I was a bit afraid of the tide which could rise, we didn´t stay much longer to watch them.
We went back on the beach, ate our lunch and started our way back to meet with our boat again. We had plenty of time; we walked faster on the way back.
That was a nice day, I was so tired that I fell asleep in the little boat in less than 5 minutes…
Back to the campground, we wanted to do a kayak tour on the river and around the “dead flooded forest” but we were so tired that we kept it for the day after…
The second part of the trip in South of Chile in the Next article ! This one is already too long… 😉