Carretera Austral Part 2

Amber and Pablo got us up early to go to the bus terminal to hopefully get a bus back to Hornopirén (where they left their car) and were lucky enough to pick up tickets (as some people didn’t show up). We went to Natour for breakfast (again) before we went our separate ways. We had a LONG drive ahead to Coyhaique. Having left at 10.45am, we stopped in Puyuhuapi for a quick lunch, but then were halted by a road closure until 5.20pm soon after Puyuhuapi (roads can be closed from 1-5pm to ‘pave’ the highway). We made it to Coyhaique by 9pm, where we stayed at an Airbnb a few KM from town for $66 NZD. This was absolutely beautiful with a comfortable bed, lovely people and a nice hot shower!The next morning we prepared some leftover chicken and coleslaw sandwiches and set off to Villa Cerro Castillo. We arrived at 12.30pm and found a campground for $3,000 CLP per person (approx. $6.50 NZD) and then set off to do the 14km return walk, up a 1,000m ascent. The National Park entrance fee was $5,000 CLP each (approx. $11 NZD) and you needed to be there by 1pm to start the walk. It took 2 hours up and 1.5 hours down. I think this was my highlight of the whole trip! It was absolutely gorgeous. A real must if you’re down this way and can’t make it to Torres del Paine (this is considered Torres sister). We had leftover chicken and coleslaw with microwaved rice for dinner, and had the worst ice cold shower I’ve had for a while (as it required a fire to be lit in order to produce hot water. We got the fire going but the water remained cold).

Bright and early we set off to Puerto Rio Tranquilo. We had a look around the small town and found a tour leaving in 15 minutes for the marble rocks/caves. It was pretty choppy so wasn’t quite the weather for kayaking, so we opted for a boat trip. The boat trip cost $10,000 CLP each (approx. $22 NZD), and for the kayak, an additional $40,000 CLP each (approx. $86 NZD). We found a hospedaje type place to stay called Silvana, which was $20,000 CLP for both per night (approx. $43 NZD), where we had a private room, double bed and toilet and a separate hot water shower! We went to Mate y Truco for dinner, which was a little spendy n Chilean terms ($8,000 CLP for the meal-approx. $17 NZD), but the pollo milanesa was divine. We found a company to do the Exploradores glacier with, as the San Rafael was a little out of our budget ($110,000-$140,000 CLP each-approx. $237-302 NZD). We chose Turismo Valle Leones, but all the companies are very similar, and cost $60,000 CLP each (approx. $129 NZD) for a full day ($55,000 CLP if you pay in cash-approx. $119 NZD). Note: if you pay in cash, usually you can get a discount.

We were up and ready by 8.15am, and for once, the tour left on time at 8.30am! We were provided with transportation, a helmet, crampons and garters, as well as a packed lunch. We drove to the end of the road and clambered over some big rocks before we finally made it to the glacier. Although we didn’t go all the way to the glacier (as it was too dangerous for some members of our group), the view was beautiful and we had a lot of fun going into the many little ice caves! We got back at 5pm, and had a cheap and make-shift dinner of tuna, avocado and corn chips. 

Returning north, with took a French girl with us to Villa Cerro Castillo, on our way to Coyhaique. We stayed at the same Airbnb, paying cash this time of $20,000 CLP (approx. $43 NZD). We waited in town to get the keys to the place, and stopped at Ko Sushi for lunch which was a Mexican/Japanese fusion restaurant. A bit more than we would normally spend ($19,250 CLP for a shared Mexican platter and 2 natural juices, which were amazing!-approx. $41 NZD) but delicious and worth it. We also got to use the washing machine for our dirty underwear and thermals at the Airbnb, which was much needed after 2 weeks of traveling! We made a yummy spaghetti bolognese for dinner, with enough leftovers for another day.

Up and ready by 7.30am, we were off to the enchanted forest for a brisk walk, so we could bypass the road closure from 1-5pm near Puyuhuapi. We made it just in time. The walk itself was really nice and a bit harder than we expected. It took us 90min return (although I thought it was only going to be 45min return.. Oops!). It cost $3,000 CLP each (approx. $6.50 NZD) for the park entrance fee. We stopped for lunch in La Junta, and had massive sandwiches for $6,000 CLP each (approx. $13 NZD). We continued on to El Amarillo, and found the beautiful campground Ventisquero, which is where the start of the glacier walk is. As it is currently off season, we got to stay here for free! Lucky us. We weren’t that hungry so had corn chips and wine for dinner!

We got a bit confused where the track began (starting up towards the mirador), so began our 20km walk at 9.30am. The walk looked short, as the glacier was so huge! We arrived at the foot of the glacier at 12.30pm after a short snack break. We made sure not to stay too long in front of the glacier just in case there was an avalanche! We arrived back at the campground at 3pm to have tuna and crackers for lunch before we drove back to Chaiten. As we soon found out, this road was only for 4×4 vehicles (we didn’t read the sign at the start), so we almost got stuck up a massive hill and had to drive the wrong way back out of the park… Luckily we came out in one piece, and so did Momo.

We booked the ferry to Chiloe which cost $67,000 CLP for the car and $12,500 CLP each; $92,000 CLP in total (approx. $198 NZD). We walked around various hostels and found one for $30,000 CLP per night (approx. $64 NZD) including breakfast (El Quijote). We stayed here for two nights, which was ok but a bit noisy. We had our leftover bolognese for dinner and had an early night, with the idea to sleep-in in the morning, we managed until 9am, before we gave up due to the noise! We spent the day relaxing, putting photos up on Facebook and figuring out where the ferry departed from. We had dinner at the hostel, which was salmon or Cangrio (eel-fish which Max didn’t realise). The ferry departed at 10am the next day and we arrived in Quellon by 2.30pm. We drove around to find a place for the night (Tierra del Fuego Hotel was $20,000 CLP including breakfast-approx. $43 NZD) and realising there was not much on offer in this small town. We got some snacks from the supermarket and had dinner at the hotel which cost $15,000 CLP for 2 meals (approx. $32 NZD).

The next morning we drove to our fancy dancy 5* hotel in Castro. We arrived at 11am so parked the car and walked into town. We saw some churches, the markets and the houses on stilts. We stopped at Cafe Montt for coffee and sandwiches before heading back to the hotel. We got an amazing deal on; we paid $97 USD instead of $330 USD for our room, plus as we were right by reception we had a great wifi connection (which was only meant for public areas). We had a bath before dinner at the hotel and watched some shows at night. The next morning we took advantage of the use of the gym and spa before a delicious buffet breakfast (with bacon!).

We set off toward Puerto Montt, taking the ferry across from Chiloe, which cost $12,200 CLP (approx. $26 NZD). We carried on to Lago Ranco to take in the view, and continued around the lake to Futrono. We found a “hostel” which was beautiful, but a bit expensive, costing $35,000 CLP including breakfast (approx. $75 NZD). We walked around the whole town to find somewhere for dinner and finally found a place, La Guarida. They cooked everything so perfectly (especially Max’s steak), it made a simple meal amazing. This cost $20,000 CLP including a bottle of wine (approx. $43 NZD).

The next morning we returned to Valdivia to spend our last week and a half with friends before our next chapter… Stay tuned!


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