A Travellerspoint blog

The Grand Isle of Chiloe

rain 16 °C
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We took the bus down to Castro in the centre of the island of Chiloe to catch a glimpse of this changing and unique culture. Because of it´s relative isolation, Chiloe is somewhat backwards from the rest of Chile. There are brightly painted stilt houses overhanging the bays, pastures that resemble patchwork quilts, and interresting sights like fish and clams being sold on the street from wheelbarrows.

Chiloten folklore is rich, including stories about ghost ships and over a dozen trolls and monsters. The strangest has to be the Trauco, a disfigured troll who gets young girls pregnant if they wander into the forest. It wasn´t the boy down the street, it was Trauco, I swear!

We also decided to visit the national park to do a 3-day beach trek. However, it didn´t seem like the trek was going to enter the forest and we decided to cut it short to 2 days after walking 18-km on the beach the first day. We then turned around when we reached the organized campground and found a somewhat hidden site in the dunes overlooking the mighty Pacific. It was quite a sight to see lone cowboys or whole families on horses travelling along the beach. Not your usual life.

Posted by edenjosh 13:33 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Chaiten and Parque Pumalin

rain 14 °C
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Bus service in the off-season is extremely limited in rural Patagonia so we ended up staying in Coyhaique for three nights. This wasn´t too bad since it was the first place in a month or so which had tons of fresh fruit and vegetables so we ate tons of greens. We also decided not to stop in any small towns along the way to Chaiten out of fear of getting stuck. This turned out to be a good decision, since when we stopped in Puyuhuapi (a small town settled by 4 German pioneers in 1920) there were 3 guys hoping to get onto our full bus. Lucky for them a Swiss couple got off the bus here and one other person. Talking to the two British guys they told me they would´ve been happy spending 15 minutes in town, but got stuck for 4 days, had no luck hitchhiking out and very nearly ran out of money.

Chaiten is a town set in Wonderland. Cloud-covered, fiord-like moutains rise up out of the land amid waterfalls, rivers, bamboo, ferns, moss, trees, everything green, rain, more green, wet, mist and more rain. We had originally hoped to camp in Parque Pumalin (a 3,000 sq km reserve owned by Northface CEO Douglas Thompkins) for three days but being the offseason transportation was an issue. Luckily we were able to arrange day transportation through an eccentric Chilean, Nicolas, who had lived in the townships near Montreal for some years. Between different short hikes Nicolas would play this tiny guitar/ukelele type instrument for us from traditional folk songs, to personal creations and even Nirvanna... who is this guy?!

The main reason for coming to Pumalin is to see the giant alerce tree which are often compared to the California redwood. Most of these trees were logged until recently, and only the most remote stands still remain. Several of the trees that we saw on a short walk were over 1500 years old with a couple 2500 and 3000 years old (and 3-4m wide!).

The following day we went to a hot springs outside of town to relax in the rain and warm water before catching the night ferry to Puerto Montt. This ferry was supposed to depart at 12AM but didn´t arrive until 2AM, then left at 3AM. Due to rough seas the 10-hr crossing was extended to 15...

Posted by edenjosh 13:05 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cochrane to Coyhaique

overcast 16 °C
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So we stayed two nights in Cochrane before catching a bus to Villa Cerro Castillo where we did another long 4-day trek. The trek was quite incredible, camping under tall basalt towers and we only saw two other trekkers. Getting into the off season :) It was also so cold one night that our condensation froze on the tent fly. Just had to take it off and shake the ice off.

Yesterday we planned on taking the bus out of town but a guy in the roadside diner offered to drive us to Coyhaique, so we gladly accepted. Upon arriving in town we headed straight to the campsite, hoping to get our 50th night in a tent under our belts, but they were closed for the season. So we walked around for around 2hrs trying to find a place to stay... our second choice was either bulldozed or had burnt to the ground (or Lonely Planet got their map wrong).

Now in town it looks like it might be two days before we can leave again.

Basic plan from now is to head up to Chaiten to visit Parque Pumalin http://www.parquepumalin.cl/ the brainchild of Northface founder Douglas Tompkins. After that we will go to Chiloe to do a beach trek similar to the West Coast Trail.

Miss you all,
Josh and Eden


Posted by edenjosh 09:19 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Adventurous crossing over the Andes

El Chalten to Villa O´Higgins

semi-overcast 14 °C
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While camping in Chalten we met some Swiss cyclists who told us about a rather labourious crossing from Chile to Argentina that involved two ferries and a day of trekking. It sounded pretty cool to me, and I was able to talk Eden into it. To make things more challenging, we decided to skip one of the ferries and use the money we saved on pizza and beer in town. What a great idea!

Late in the season the ferry only leaves once a week, so we were forced to stay in Chalten a few extra days before catching a bus to Lago Desierto 37km away. That day we hiked 25km with EVERYTHING up and down the side of the lake to reach a remote Argentine border post where we camped for the night. The following day we packed everything up and trekked a further 30 odd km to the Chilean border post and camped at a very isolated estancia (farm). The following day we caught the ferry to the small town (500 peeps) of Villa O´Higgins. This town was founded in the late 60s by the Chilean government by rounding up all the people in the area and creating a town on the frontier to strengthen their territorial claim to the area. Because of border disputes, the crossing has only recently become popular. Last year 1500 took it and this year just over 3000.

Villa O´Higgins was pleasant enough and we did another short trek up the Rio Mosco and stayed at a free refugio with some Swiss friends we had met earlier.

Back in town we were unlucky and the bus out of town was full. This was not good, and in a place at the end of the Carretera Austral (southern highway), there isn´t much traffic. Nevertheless, we tried hitching out of town for two days before a guy offered to drive us 80 of the 90km to the ferry. Not wanting to wait two more days we took the ride but then using GPS and a road map, were disappointed to find out he had only dropped us about 45km from town. Oops! So we spent the next 6hrs walking along the road, followed by circling Andean Condors... not very optimistic for us, perhaps? Before just before the final 20km a friendly couple picked us up and we hopped in the back of their truck with a load of firewood to ride to the ferry to catch the last sailing of the day.

Talking to them on the ferry they offered to drive us all the way to Cochrane about 200km away. Awesome.

Posted by edenjosh 09:02 Archived in Chile Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

El Chalten and the Fitz Roy

when mice attack

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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It´s been a while since the last update so I´ll try to keep this short and up to where we are now. Also, I used up all of the photo storage for the month here so more photos are on Flickr.

In the tiny town of El Chalten we did a 4.5 day trek around the jagged mountain peaks of Cerro Torre and the Fitz Roy massiff. These two peaks are highly prized mountaineering peaks and until somewhat recently the Cerro Torre was believed to be unclimbable. The Fitz Roy was named after the French captain of the Beagle and the first European to see it was Charles Darwin.

We decided to save our ice trek/climb for Chalten since it was the better (and cheaper) location to do it in compared to Torres del Paine and Calafate. I should get some photos of this up on Flickr.

Camping at the first camp near Cerro Torre was horrible. We were warned the first night that there were mice but nothing would have prepared us for it. They were climbing all over our tent chewing ANYTHING plastic. Basically we stayed up all night hitting the tent to knock them off. Not very enjoyable.

The trek itself was excellent and not nearly as long as our Torres itinerary.

Posted by edenjosh 08:53 Archived in Argentina Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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