Water Sports

During the past couple of weeks, we traveled the northern Carretera Austral under a near constant cloud dumping rain on us. But we did complete it and we had fun. Then, we tried to flee to some better weather which landed us in the recreation town of Pucon. We plan to stay a few days soaking up some sun and enjoying the area.

Overall, the CA was really beautiful and its quiet wildness is addictive and rather rare. Now that we’re moving northward and getting to more civilization, we feel nervous about not finding that solitude for a while. Because the road didn’t arrive to a lot of the little towns until the 1980’s & 90’s, when only small planes and ferries serviced the citizens, we felt like we were moving back in time.

We really enjoyed traveling this dirt road EXCEPT for the weather. It rained almost every day and for days nonstop and sometimes really hard for hours on end. We had foul weather gear sets lined up in the shower hoping to dry but nothing ever would. Whole vistas were missed because there was so much fog and everything got a rotten smell. I remember reading about how this area gets some of the most rain in the world but it didn’t sink in until we started living in a rainforest. I don’t know how these people do it actually. Nonetheless, we kept hiking, visiting the sights and driving down washboard & potholed roads filled with water. When we would get little stretches of pavement we would relish in the smoothness of them.

One thing about Chile is some of its parks can be a bit intense for admission fees because sometimes you have to pay for every trail you do. The dayhike to the laguna was the better part of $40 for us to do and it was only about 8 miles. But others have no charge so I guess it all washes out. After that hike, we moved to the other side of town to visit an old school turned museum and some hand paintings the next morning. The school was progressive for its time in that the rural community (remember, they didn’t have a road then) decided it wanted to educate it’s kids locally rather than ship them off to larger cities so they built their own beautiful school. It was preserved and is now a museum with a great view. The handpaintings near to it are supposed to be 3,000 yrs old.

We moved to the town of Coyhaique to do some maintenance on the truck for a morning. We’ve found that unlike when we were on the boat and would haul it out of the water and be in the boatyard doing intensive boat projects, we don’t often budget the time for the truck. The town wasn’t too impressive to us but we changed the truck oil together and Jon also fixed our shower sump pump. Then we drove till late through driving rain to Queulat National Park. This area is full of fjords and very beautiful but we couldn’t see anything for all the fog. We hiked to the mirador of the Ventisquero Queulat Glacier the next morning and had some clearing for the view. It really is a deep blue and it calves regularly. The weird part is that when it would calve, you could watch it happening but it took so long for the sound to cross the canyon and reach your ears. There were other trails that could have been hiked in that park but they were all closed for some reason so we left and headed onward.

The little tourist & fishing town of Puyahuapi sits at the north end of a fjord and was settled by 4 German immigrants in 1935. They brought with them expertise in making textiles & carpets. There was a successful factory here making carpets until 2017 when they closed the doors forever. The road arrived to Puyahuapi in 1977. We walked the town and you could see the old abandoned ferry dock because they don’t need it anymore with the road there. Then we hopped back in truck and kept moving.

We drove to the little town of La Junta and camped on the town square while it continued to pour. It isn’t very often that you see horses running through the square and later, 2 massive bulls with their junk walking through. And about 15 dogs. But it was a tidy town. After a rainy hike up to the town’s mirador, we hit the road again. The truck has a great heater in the cab and it felt good to be really warm in there and dry out a bit.

For months now, I’ve had the town of Futaleufu on my list as the river by the same name is famous for it’s class V rapids. It is a beautiful blue green river with a fast flow and gorgeous scenery. It was a detour off of the CA but well worth it. We also got to do a hike to a laguna in the area and it didn’t rain much that day.

The rafting was great, our favorite of the ones we’ve done. We were on the rafts for more than 2 hours and it was one rapid after another. Jon & I were in the front for the first half which made it really fun and we stayed well hydrated swallowing gulps of water as we got blasted by the waves. They had a kayak and a catamaran for each raft so it felt like we were in good hands but nobody fell out. The water was really cold and we had a bit of every kind of weather but overall, great views and we stayed warmish by paddling. That evening, we were all quite tired and my back was killing me from holding it so stiff but we all agreed it was a great thing to do and we want more of that!!

We moved on the next day after picking a bunch of blackberries that were growing by the lake so that I could make a blackberry crisp. To break up the drive, we stopped and did a walk to another hanging glacier. The best part was we saw a really cool beetle.

The town of Chaiten was nearly buried in ash & debris when the Chaiten Volcano blew in 2008. The citizens rebuilt the town, but now they have a very large flat of sandy mud that sticks way out such that the waterfront walkway isn’t on the waterfront anymore. We bought our tickets for the ferrry that we’d need to take a couple of days later to complete the CA and then moved on to Pumalin Park.

I had been really looking forward to visiting Pumalin Park. This park is what you would say was Doug Tomkins’ baby. He worked really hard at making it special with beautifully carved informational signs, trails, campgrounds and buildings and the sheer size of it is impressive. One thing is, it IS a rainforest and so….. I almost felt claustrophobic having been under thick clouds for so many days and the morale of our group of 3 was getting low. Then we found out that they’d closed all of the campgrounds for the season because of whatever reason. Sometimes we feel like the parks are difficult to use in a way because of trail and campground closures. They said the roads were muddy. We hiked up the steep trail to the Chaiten Volcano which is now quiet but it was you guessed it- raining.

This park preserves very old growth forest and there’s a pretty mossy path that you can walk to greet these old giants. It was beautiful. In the end, what was most important was the conservation of these trees and this land. Everything else is secondary.

We awoke to continued rain and after driving up and down the bumpy road trying to charge our batteries for the 5 hour ferry ride, we got on and parked. Once we got going, it changed to driving rain as waves were washing up onto the deck and the spray was covering the truck and the whole thing was shaking. We have very lively leaf springs and so we were literally bouncing along through the waves. What the heck?! We arrived to the town of Hornopiren in the evening which completed the CA.

The following day, we drove north past more fjords and the major salmon farming area of Chile. All morning, we passed large semi trucks moving fish in big tanks along the worst potholed road we’ve seen. I really don’t like the idea of farmed salmon and what it is does to the environment not to mention the way the fish are treated however, I know it is an important part of their economy. But covering this road showed off some of the beautiful scenery that Chile has and I still can’t get over how we’re now moving through this thin slice of a country alongside the Andes mountains or down by the coast- for real, not just looking at a map!

The bumby road led to the Termas Del Sol, one of several hot springs along this path toward more and more volcanoes. Ivan was really hot to try these out because they loked so nice and we’d all been dreaming of soaking in warm water rather than rain water for a change! They had 10 pools of varying temps in a natural setting and it was luxurious to spend some time immersed in them.

It was just us and the volcano in this campspot!

We continued driving that day to the town of Ensenada. The sun was going to be coming out the following day and we wanted to hike a volcano and then do some white water rafting in the afternoon. These were class III, very splashy and fun but not the caliber of what we did on the Futa. They charged for pictures so we didn’t get any. But we did these rapids in a 6 person small raft and a woman who squealed like a guinea pig every time we got to a new section. We couldn’t help but crack up! The scenery was really pretty too.

It seems hard to believe, but the next day was back to pouring. We moved to the town of Puerto Varas to go to a big grocery store and load up. It had been so long since we’d seen any large grocery stores with appetizing food. As we were putting the bags of groceries in the truck, the manager of the Termas Del Sol hotsprings came up to us and said he liked our truck and handed us 2 free passes to the springs. Dam! You couldn’t pay us enough to redo that dirt road to get back there! We also met up with Euan and Vanessa again who me met on the Huemul Circuit. We spent the afternoon together and got a nice seafood bouillabaise while it continued to rain.

And then lastly, we drove a little further up to the town of Pucon where the Villarrica Volcano NP is and we camped up at the ski area for a couple of nights to do some hiking. This volcano is active and at night you can see the orange glow coming up from the crater and all day long it puffs smoke. We did a 16 mile hike along its flanks to a glacier viewpoint (it is wierd to see a glacier on the side of a puffing volcano!). There were also stands of monkey puzzle tree forest. An unusual tree to say the least.

The stargazing was really good up there and it was dead quiet too.

We came down to Pucon yesterday to camp with Vanessa & Euan and it felt great to sit outside all evening, BBQ and just relax.

While we’re moving toward more populated areas now, we have also moved away from the rainforest and it feels great to wear shorts again and actually be hot. A good compromise and so far we’re still finding beautiful places. It’s time to turn our attention to taking care of the truck a little and planning a visit back to the US.

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