Carretera Austral Part 1

We embarked on a road trip from Valdivia to Puerto Rio Tranquilo along the Pan-American Highway (Ruta 5 Sur) and the Carretera Austral (Ruta 7). We spent the first part of our journey with Amber and Pablo, which was fun to be traveling with friends for a change!We started in Puerto Varas, which was beautiful, very German (in terms of architecture) and had some delicious food on offer. We stayed at an Airbnb for 2 nights which cost $213 NZD for the 4 of us for both nights. On our first night we went to Costumbrista for dinner which was delicious for a good price ($8,000 CLP each for a meal and glass of wine-approx $17 NZD), and the second night we went to the Trifulca food truck for Chilean/Turkish kebabs and churros (the stuffed manjar churros are to die for), which cost around $5,000 CLP (approx $11 NZD), each for a kebab and churros. On our second day we went to Petrohue via the Petrohue waterfalls. There was an entrance fee for the waterfalls of $4,000 CLP (approx $8.50 NZD) for non residents and $2,000 CLP (approx $4 NZD) for residents. The water was crystal blue, and the black rocks made it stand out even more. We did a 3 hour walk in Petrohue, around the base of Volcan Osorno, while Amber and Pablo did their daily running ritual.

Petrohue falls

Petrohue falls

Being artistic-Petrohue falls

View from our hike


We then made our way to Cochamó. We found a cute little campground for $4,000 CLP each approx $8.50 NZD), with compostable toilets and solar/gas showers called La Frontera, where we stayed prior to our trek to La Junta. That night we went to La Ollita for a simple meal, costing around $10,000 CLP each for a meal and a beer/juice (approx $22 NZD). We got up relatively early the next day to start our 13km walk to La Junta. We found somewhere to park for $2,000 CLP per day (approx $4 NZD), and had completos and churrascos for breakfast (a great start to the day). The track wasn’t too difficult, but there sure was a lot of mud, so it took us 4 hours to reach the campground. The campground La Junta cost $5,000 CLP per person per night (approx $11 NZD), and required a reservation at least the day before (note: all campgrounds in the area cost the same and there is no freedom camping). We set up camp overlooking the mountains and the river (the water was freezing cold-as were the showers). The campground next door (Trewen) offered hot food, so we had tuna and corn chips for a late lunch, which we brought up with us, and a quiche for dinner (costing $20,000 CLP for the whole quiche to feed 4-approx $44 NZD). The next day, Amber and Pablo went trail running while Max and I clambered up Arco Iris, which was a mission; tree roots, rocks to scale and ropes to climb. Needless to say I didn’t really feel safe on the difficult trek. The view was amazing and worth the near misses of falling down the mountain! We arrived back at camp for another late lunch of tuna and crackers with campfire roasted marshmallows, and empanadas for dinner ($2,500 CLP each-approx $6 NZD). We also had a quick visit to the Los Toboganes waterfalls which were beautiful! The next day we made our descent, which took us 3.5 hours. We picked up our cars and enjoyed some churrascos before we set off for Puelo. 

Climbing Arco Iris

View from Arco Iris

Los Toboganes waterfalls

Action shot of Pablo!

Group photo before our descent


In Puelo, we found a cabaña for $40,000 CLP for the 4 of us (approx $86 NZD), which had everything we needed (primarily a hot shower and comfortable beds). We made our own dinner of coal barbecued drumsticks and fried rice, and ice cream for dessert. With a slight detour to Lago Tagua Tagua, we were off along the bumpy road to Hornopirén. The lake was magnificent emerald green, but a bit murky due to the petrol pollution from the ferries. Once in Hornopirén, we found a cabaña (Carola) for $30,000 CLP for the 4 of us (approx $62 NZD). During the early evening, we ventured to some private waterfalls, costing $2,000 CLP each (approx $4 NZD), and found “ninja cat” who followed us around the waterfalls. We also went to a small ice cream shop which had the most delicious Calafate flavoured ice cream. We found a small supermarket and made pizzas for dinner.

Lago Tagua Tagua

Waterfall 1

Waterfall 2

The boys and Ninja cat!

Ninja cat wasn’t afraid of water


We were up early the next morning to catch the ferry from Hornopirén to Caleta Gonzalo, which left at 10.30am and cost $33,000 CLP for the car and $5,500 CLP per person (except the driver)-$49,500 CLP in total (approx $107 NZD). We arrived in Chaiten around 3.30pm to find a cabaña for the night. We found one (Cabaña Centro) for $50,000 CLP per night for the 4 of us (approx $108 NZD), the cheapest one we could find with wifi. Hostels were only slightly cheaper at $40,000 CLP for 4 (approx $86 NZD). We found a little restaurant for dinner which had no menu just whatever they had on hand. It was one of the biggest, perfectly cooked steaks we’ve had for a while! It came with a side of rice, roasted potatoes or salad. It costed $33,000 CLP for 4 meals and 4 drinks (approx $71 NZD). We then went to Natour (the big bus) for coffee/hot chocolate and kuchen. This place was a great find and was recommended on TripAdvisor. The next morning we got up early and went to Natour for breakfast (fried egg, ham and cheese toasted, fruit and yogurt with kuchen and coffee for $4,500 CLP each-approx $10 NZD). We then went to Ventisquero Yelcho to see a glacier in the background. It was beautiful, but the rain meant we couldn’t adventure further or stare in awe for too long. We came home for a hot homemade lunch and showers. Max and I then planned the rest of our trip while Amber and Pablo went for a run. We went back to Natour for Churrascos/completos and yummy raspberry cheesecake ($16,600 CLP for the 4 of us-approx $36 NZD).

Max with the glacier in the background


Stay tuned for part 2!

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