One month of growing beards as well as the longest continuous period the both of us have ever been travelling. We’re writing this update out of the tiny village of Chile Chico, on the banks of Lago General Carrerra. We’ve arrived here last Friday by foot and are waiting for the ferry that will bring us to Puerto Ibanez tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon. Yours truly is writing this blog on the kitchen table of Senora Betty, who is be our host for these two nights, while grandmother Modesta is trying to tell us the story of her life in crackly Spanish out of which we can only make up some words. Outside it’s a beautiful fall day where the sun warms you from the barring cold winds crossing the lake, inside the grandmother’s only break of telling her story comes when she goes looking for more wood to heat up the kitchen stove that keeps all of us warm. In the meanwhile friends and family drop by to share the latest town gossip and in only a couple of hours we seem to have become part of the household. We get presented to the granddaughter, of whom we say that she is very “guapa”, after which we both get labelled as “coqueto”. In the end we get to show off our dancing skills with Senora Betty.
Let’s bring you up to date with the evolution of our adventures since the last update. Hitchiking out of El Chalten wasn’t as easy as we were hoping for. After having lunch on Monday, we gathered our belongings and put ourselves asides of the main road out of the town. The setting seemed to be perfect, the sun was generously shining upon us and we made our sign that would get us soon out of town: “2 gringos Belgas van al NORTE / RN40”. The next hours felt oddly relaxing, since we were completely dependent of whoever was passing us by and willing to take us along. It inspired us to finally start upon reading the books Jeroen had given us at the start of our trip and perfect our two Belgians pictures.
Nevertheless, any car leaving the city seemed to be heading towards another destination or was already filled up completely or just wasn’t interested in taking us along. At 6pm we decided to call it a day and headed back to Condor de los Andes, which unfortunately was already fully booked thus we had to settle for the less than welcoming environment of Rancho Grande Hostel. Next day we decided to head back to our hitch-hiking spot early in the morning, however the weather wasn’t as good as the day before and our luck didn’t seem to improve. Shortly after lunch, we decided to give up on this option and go to the bus station to buy our tickets for the overnight bus that was leaving at 11pm. It seemed like our luck was running on a dry spell, the bus for that night was already fully booked and although later that evening one seat became available due to cancellation, a second one never did. This meant we gave up on the hitch-hiking option and were stuck in El Chalten for two more days before the next overnight bus left towards Perito Moreno.
We went back to the Condor de los Andes and were happy to find out they still had two spare beds for us. On Wednesday we set out for a small day hike, afterwards we informed ourselves about the option of renting mountainbikes in the town for the next day. We believed that a strong physical challenge would allow us to sleep tightly on the busride afterwards. The kind lady of the office informed us that we could take a shuttle towards Lago Desierto and from there on bike the 37 kilometres back to town on some dirtroads. Bearing in mind our goal of being completely knackered upon arrival and trying to live as cost effective as possible, we enquired about the option to bike back and forth to the lake. Upon hearing the words “ida y vuelta”, the kind lady looked a bit dumbfound towards us and then said with a slight tone of disbelief in her voice “Si, es possible”.
Long story short, the ride was knackering. We danced over the rocky underground during 74 kilometers and discovered pain in places we hadn’t the faintest idea of they existed. Not to mention the grave damage inflicted on Tom’s perineum. But we made it back safely in the end and were quite proud of our achievement.
The busride towards Perito Moreno took us over the infamous RN40, which gets its heroic status from two aspects. One is the amazing scenery through which the road crosses, the other is the horrible state of the road. Mountainbiking during the day however had prepared us for this, we rapidly got used to the bumpy road and our tired bodies soon fell asleep. I figure we slept most of the 15 hour busride, while the rest was spent admiring the scenery and finishing our literature. In the busstation of Perito Moreno we quickly changed on the bus towards Los Antiguos that was awaiting us. This is the last stop before crossing the border in to Chile, from where we could take a bus to Chile Chico.
The road works on the RN40 had caused us so much delay that we missed the day’s last connection. After short deliberation we decided to walk the final part to Chile, depending on the source the walk would take us 2 to 4 hours. Trying to shortcut a bit of the road, forced us into wading through a knee-deep river, but we safely made it to the Chilean border crossing. After waiting to get our passports stamped by “Administraciones”, our bags were further checked by “Aduanes” who made us throw away our garlic (due to some legislation it’s forbidden to transport fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat from Argentina to Chile and vice versa). And then, finally, we had our first successful attempt at hitch-hiking. A local engineer took us along for the final part from the border crossing to the town.
Upon arrival he little town seemed to be a bit void of life and the tourist information office was closed (and has been ever since). We found hospedaje Eben Ezer of Sra Betty, quickly dropped of our bags, did grocery shopping and some cooking, after which we went to bed for some well deserved sleep. Today we spent discovering the borders of the magnificent lake General Carrera, bought our tickets for the next ferry and spent the late afternoon browsing through our travel guides looking up information for the rest of our trip (Where will we get into Colombia? Should we skip Ecuador? How long should trying out wines around Mendoza?).When the ladies treated us on a portion of picarones, our luck was complete and we can look back on this stop-over in Chile Chico as very relaxing and rewarding.
Short final update: Right now we’re in Coyhaique, a lively city in the middle of the Carretera Austral. From here on we’re moving up North following this infamous road and by Saturday we should be in the town of Futaluefu, close to the Argentinian border. Along the road we’ll have passed some amazing national parks and hope to relax in some of the luxurious thermal springs. Once we cross back in to Argentina we’re heading towards Esquel, El Bolson and Bariloche, somewhere along the way we hope to update this blog once more.
Wishing you all the best,
David y Tom