Friday, March 7, 2014

The Carretera Austral (Chile's Route 7)

After El Chalten, Jules and I set off to hitch hike the scenic Carretera Austral road on the Chilean side of Patagonia. This adventure was more like a string of disasters, but each wrong turn was beautiful. The first night was spent right on the Argentinian border at Los Antiquos. The next morning, a guy from a local kiosko volunteered to give us a ride to the border in the back of his pick up truck. After getting our passports stamped, we met a local lady looking for a ride to the next town over, Chile Chico. She sweet talked a driver into giving us all a ride. It was a good thing too, because it didn't look like many cars were coming down this road any time soon. 

In Chile Chico, we were approached by a couple, Charlotte and Abel, chefs from France, trying to organize a van rental from a local, and needed two more people.  Apparently the buses out of town weren't leaving for a couple more days, and no one was picking up hitch hikers. They approached us in English, but after learning Jules was also from France, the conversation switched to French. I followed along, and decided to take the rental van with them. However, we needed Chilean pesos. Easier said than done, as none of the ATMs in town were working. Like always, we found a way to make it work, but not without franticly running around town. 

In the van we met a brother and sister from Germany, Annika and Dirk, a couple from Austria, Silvia and Reto, a solo traveler from France, Marie, and Chris, a chef from San Francisco. Jules and I were in the very back of the van, basically on top of the bags, which kept falling on us. In the end, I wound up sleeping on top of them. Who needs seat belts anyway?

We arrived in Puerto Tranqillo, thoroughly covered in dust from the unpaved road. The rest of the group had camping gear, and decided to set up at a local camp site, which was really just someones backyard. Jules and I didn't having any camping gear, but the generosity of the group allowed us to scrounge up an extra tent. We cooked pasta for 12 in small personalized camp cooking pots. It took us around 2 hours to feed everyone, but the boxed wine was a great distraction!

The next morning we ended up hiring another local to drive us to Coyhaquie. Once again, we were all squished for the next 8 hours. None of us had been able to take a real shower the night before, and the dust was coming in through the floor of the car. You could see clouds of dust emerge from below your feet. We were all disgusting, absolutely covered in dirt. The van was hot, but opening windows just increased the dust. When I wiped the sweat off my forehead, my fingers became brown with dirt. All of our hair was stiff, and sticking up in every direction. 

Once in Coyhaquie we found a campsite with a shower and a bbq. We spent two nights here, taking turns with the one shower, doing laundry, and cooking. Every night we had an amazing dinner prepared for us by the three chefs in the group. The campsite was full of dogs, which occasionally would sit on my tent at 4am, causing it to collapse. While I was searching for another bathroom, I walked passed the owner who was literally sawing meat off half a dead cow. It was a straight up wood saw. Of course, he was surrounded by the camp site dogs. 

I ended up leaving the group, after snagging the last bus ticket to the Chaiten, another 9 hour bus ride, but this time on a real bus. I realized I was running out of time to get to Mendoza; however, time is irrelevant while traveling across the Carretera Austral. On the bus to Chaiten I made friends with another guy from France and a girl from Canada. We ended up renting a cabana together in Chaiten for a couple of nights. The cabana was cheap, had its own bathroom, dinning room, wifi, and cable tv! I felt like I was back in the states.





The bus to Puerto Montt was considered full once the aisles were back to back with people standing.I had snagged a seat, but decided to share it with an older lady from Santiago and her friend. They proceeded to tell me all about their children and many grandchildren. There were many more stories, but my limited Spanish didn't pick up on the rest. The bus ride was only half on the road, and the other on ferries. While on the ferry, the lady and her friend would bring me out to the deck, making sure I saw the amazing views. They also took lots of pictures of the three of us. By the time we got to Puerto Montt, it was late, and I was ready to be back in Argentina. I only stayed one night in Puerto Montt before taking the next bus to Bariloche, Argentina.

Chile's Carretera Austral was absolutely beautiful, and I am really glad I got to experience it. Everything seemed to go wrong in one way or another, but since I didn't start with any plans or expectations it was still a lot of fun. I made some great friends, some of whom I may see again. This part of the trip was about the travel and bus rides themselves. There was no final destination, just van after van. Even though I had a great time, I think I am done with cramped bus rides for a while. 

8 comments:

  1. Alana, I think I loved this post the best. The adventure of the road, the dust in the van, the new friends, the local people, the beauty of the outside, the many modes of transportation, the not knowing, the lack of plans. This is a magnificent story. It has put a great smile on my face.

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    1. Gracias! Tal vez podamos tener una aventura imprevista en Espana :)

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  2. This trip looks absolutely amazing! I can't wait to visit Chile one day!
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

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    1. It was quite amazing, and you should strongly considering taking the trip out here. It is very rewarding.

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  3. I felt like I was you in this story. Wonderful energy, good, bad and exhausted. I especially liked the description of all of your dusty hair. Man that shower must have felt good!

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  4. I could really feel the experience in your writing. Felt like I was in the bus, covered with dust. Seems like you got to a whole new zone of traveling as you went through Chile. Loved the part of the old lady on the ferry making sure you saw what you were passing through. I've heard that Chile is an amazing country.

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    1. Thanks! You guys would like it here where I am working. I just bought 2 kilos of apples for about 10 cents (US) from a local guys farm.

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