A Travellerspoint blog

Puerto Guadal – Caleta Tortel

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February 6

One road, one town, one intersection, one wrong turn. Twice: in Puerto Bertrand and Cochrane. We’re fast becoming experts at losing our way where there is really only one way to go.

Other than that, this was a relatively easy day of a little over 200 kilometres of mostly bearable bumping through and past some wonderful scenery, including the Rio Baker, at the mouth of which Caleta Tortel is situated. This protected village is a wood-based culture without roads or stone buildings. You park outside on top of a cliff (the 23-kilometre track from the Carretera Austral to the parking lot was completed as late as 2003) and then walk: first down a stairway, at sea level over boardwalks, and to reach hotels and restaurant you climb up stairs again. We counted 171 steps up to our hotel.

In the 1950s, this started as a military outpost, and it leisurely developed over the decades, with everything being constructed from cypress wood. The government condemned it to death in 1982, stating that the village was both “unnatural” and without future, but that never materialized. There are no banks or ATMs. Until 1975, no money changed hands the inhabitants used a type of vouchers that they received in return for the wood that they shipped to other towns.

En route

En route

Posted by FierceOrc 02:02 Archived in Chile Tagged carretera_austral 4wd Comments (0)

Puerto Guadal

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February 5

The people here get their news from local radio stations (and the internet, no doubt). There are no newspapers. For one thing, the country here is so sparsely populated that there is a clear shortage of readership, and the roads do not make for a speedy delivery. More importantly, until the carretera was started in the nineteen seventies (under Pinochet), this region could only reached by boat and plane (I will look into trains when I get back home).

It was, in other words, pretty much cut off from the rest of the country and the news reflected that. People felt isolated and the news was always from and about the North, which, as I understand it, was also called “the continent” and started around Puerto Montt, which is where we landed a week ago. The people here still feel more connected with Argentina, including their vocabulary, despite the Andes mountain range separating them.

I get this from Marco. Marco has friends in the town of Heerenveen in The Netherlands and speaks very good English. He has a degree in environmental engineering, did four years of educational consultancy work and then decided to move to the mountains. He is 34, looks 23, and think of tourism as a much better future than an office.

No driving today. Well, no self-driving today, but still an almost full day moving in sync with the van while Marco took the wheel to drive us to the marble caves and the Ventisquero Exploradores glacier and talked local sentiments with us.

The view from our deck at the hotel in Puerto Guadal

The view from our deck at the hotel in Puerto Guadal

February 10

And we're back here for the night. Much more wind today.

Posted by FierceOrc 14:28 Archived in Chile Tagged carretera_austral 4wd Comments (0)

Coyhaigue – Puerto Guadal

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February 4

Today was a memorable day of extended offroad travel (missing the first of two turnoffs while I was navigating, but I recovered by finding a shortcut), being hurled from one marvelous panorama unto the next glorious vista, while being tossed back and forth on a track that is more like slipping and sliding.

No pictures today, I am afraid. The Wi-Fi here is too choked to get them posted

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La Junta – Coyhaigue

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Most hotels so far have been pretty basic to downright spartan. The one in La Junta (all hotels are included in my travel map that you should be able to access from this blog) was easily the best. The restaurant not so much, but it came with a girl explaining the menu to us in English (turned out she was German and emigrated with her parents four years ago to run a farm in the area). We settled on salmon-stuffed ravioli but it tasted like it came out of a package and had been in the microwave for too long. The wine, an excellent Chilean camenère, covered up much of that. In general, I have started taking my chances on whatever is the day or house special, and let me tell ya: they cook up a storm in Chile. The dishes are full of flavor without being spicy. This ravioli was the first disappointment.

Today was mostly clouds and potholes. This was by far the toughest stretch we’ve been on so far. But we pretty much have the road to ourselves so we have plenty of space to manoeuver around the worst spots. Every once in a while we share the road with two or three cyclists (you have to admire their stamina), a campervan with a German or French license plate, an Italian motorbike, and hitchhikers. We haven shaken off the babyboomers. Now we're looking at the millennials and the young.

And we’re driving through magnificent landscapes. Majestic, snow-capped mountains, awe-inspiring volcanoes, thundering rivers, sprawling forests (no fires here right now, but plenty of traces of them, and caution signs), and shiny glaciers like this one:

The Ventisquero Colgante in the Parque Nacional Queulat

The Ventisquero Colgante in the Parque Nacional Queulat

And let’s not forget the beers brewed locally by descendants from Belgian and German pioneers, like d’Olbeck and Hopperdietzel.

Posted by FierceOrc 15:47 Archived in Chile Tagged carretera_austral 4wd Comments (0)

Chaitén -La Junta

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In Chaitén, we stayed at a place run by two lumberjacks. One of them speaks really good German, the other gets by on English, so they’ve got their bases covered. They basically built this place on their own, I think, and it could obviously do with a woman’s touch, but it’s endearing to see them enjoy what they do. They’re looking to expand. They serve a mean dinner, and when we get caught up in endless conversations with British dudes, they go to bed and give us the run of the refrigerator.

Yeah, had a long talk, and plenty of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, with two Englishmen on Brexit, Trump, driving the Carretera Austral, the Empire, and what have you. One was a 56-year-old emergency doctor. Retired. The other was a 58-year-old railway manager. Retired. I’m travelling with an accountant who is slightly younger than me. Retired. I’m 61. Enough said.

Today was a short drive, mostly asphalt, with some road construction work holding us up:

Chaitén - La Junta - road construction

Chaitén - La Junta - road construction

This is why we had to embark on this trip now: more and more stretches of the Carretera Austral are being paved in rapid succession. In a couple of years, it’ll be just another road.

We’re in La Junta now, yet another tiny little town with absolutely nothing to do to kill the afternoon. This is outdoor land. You go hiking, kayaking, rafting, trekking, but it’s chilly and windy right now and we’re moving on early tomorrow for a much longer drive, so that’s not going to happen.

Posted by FierceOrc 12:34 Archived in Chile Tagged carretera_austral 4wd Comments (0)

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