Sunday 29 April 2018

Santiago Bound

We have truly fell in love with Chile and its people. Everyone we have met has been really friendly and helpful. However, when we were in the south we must have been told 20 times or more that when you get to the capital Santiago the people aren't so friendly. In fact we were led to believe that everyone in Santiago is either a Robber or a Murderer. The ironic thing is that most of the people who told us this were in fact from Santiago. 

Well were here in Santiago and so far so good.

The latest leg of of our journey to get here has been pretty relaxed and the weather has been kind to us. 

Our last entry saw us leaving the Conguillio National park which will be recorded as one of our highlights and a place that all Overlanders and Travellers here should try to put on their itinerary.

When you enter most of the countries in South America you are given a tourist Visa that last 90 days . If you want to extend this and stay longer you can either do so at a government office or by simply exiting into one of the neighbouring countries and re entering , thus re starting the clock. We knew that our time in Chile was ticking by and that we wanted to stay much longer than the 90 days as we needed to do some repairs in Santiago which could take a few weeks. 

Realising that we were really quite close to the border at Icalma we thought we would try and book out and then book straight back in. We chose what looked like a quiet crossing but when we arrived it was super modern and had a staff of about 10 on duty. 

For some reason here they tend to put some distance between the exit of one country and the entry into the next, sometimes up to 15 km. We are not sure which country you are in when entering this "airlock "

Our cheeky plans was to actually book out of Chile , wave good by to the border staff as we left the building then re appear a few minutes later at the entry desk shouting "Surprise " and never actually go into Argentina .

Great plan but failed at the early stages. It was a case of " computer says no" It appeared that you couldn't have the country you have just left the same as the one you are entering . ie from Chile to Chile.

We were forced to head for Argentina. This was hampered by the fact that the truck broke down 20 metres into the airlock.  With the help of several of the friendly border guards we got it fixed and set off to Argentina . However, before leaving I foolishly made  the guards aware of this blog. Once in Argentina we started to hope that they wouldn't actually read it as in an earlier entry I did make mention to the fact that I had managed to smuggle two pineapples int Chile up my backside. 

We spent one quick but pleasant night  on a small peninsular at Villa Pehuenia then back to the border the next morning. My only thought was that if they get the long rubber gloves out then they have definitely read the blog . 

My fears were unfounded. Even though one of them had clearly spent all night reading the blog, they were all very kind to us and the 90 day clock started ticking again.

At this point it would be appropriate to point out that I can actually take no credit at all for the selection of our destinations. I am ashamed to say that I do very little research in advance into the waypoints of our journey. It sounds lazy and probably is , but I have Pat, who reads everything available several times and researches endlessly. I cant compete so I don't even try. It must be said that all of her work always pays off and we always end up in amazing places.

The next stop was no exception

Still drifting North we came to the small town of Malalcahuello ( usual spelling ) which sits in the shadow of a reasonably recently active Volcano called Lonquimay

However, on the 25th of December 1988 Lonquimay woke up and it is now known as Crater Navidad. 

Unlike other historic eruptions  we have visted were you witness the remains of huge lava flows like molten rivers of rock , this was different Lonquimay threw billions of tons of ash into the sky and when  it settled it left a landscape that looked like the set of "The water Margin". ( Google it ) The whole area had many meters of ash deposited on it which has made it very difficult for nature to regain a foot hold . 

As luck would have it , right on the top in high winds we bumped into another overlanding couple called Sigrid and Peter in their Landcruiser. Well after a very british quick cuppa we met up with them again later that day in the town and had a very pleasant evening. We will keep track of these two as we are looking forward to catching up with them soon.  

Apparently Mendoza in Argentina  is a great place to taste wine so being the great wine connoisseurs that we are ( we know nothing about wine ) we thought it was time to get educated so we again set off for Argentina. After 2 days of travelling we came came to the border and it was shut as the weather was too bad to go over the pass in the Andes. Two days later we were back were we started.  As luck would have it my head researcher had identified a great looking Winery near Santa Cruz called Viu Manent.  

We took the tour on a horse and cart around the vinyards and were shown the various stages and processes between grape and bottle. 
At the end of it my knowledge of wine had vastly improved . I now know that they can make wine that is red and wine that isn't . 

We were shown a laboratory that was obviously just for show. It had lots of brightly coloured liquids bubbling  away, Bunsen burners and smoke coming out of various flasks and test tubes. This lab was exactly like all the ones I remember from the Hammer House of Horror days.

Like most tours it ended with a tasting session were Pat got a little too enthusiastic . Her favourite was a Malbec , but she had to try several to be sure .

They let  us park in their car park. This was a mistake. We were instantly swamped by the locals who knew exactly how to prey on the vulnerable. I was lucky to get out of there without extra passengers, but it did take 3 days to effect our escape.

We did however meet a young Dutch couple on the coast a few days later. Pat persuaded them that they should visit the Winery and when they said they were going to she loaded them up with dog food to dish out.

The beach resort at Pichilemu was a great place to stop for one night. Three days later we decided to move on. It was nice to just chill out at the beach and watch the surf.

Now remember in the last post we visited the Conguillo National Park. Well a chance meeting in a car park changed all our plans. 

Its quite common for people to take an interest in the truck and we were approached by a family from Santiago.

We instantly hit it of with Raul Marcella and their daughter Augustina and within minutes we had arranged to get together that evening for a drink.

Raul foolishly made mention to the fact that he owned a company that made fibreglass repairs to the blades and towers on wind turbines. Knowing that we were heading to Santiago to try and get the remaining damage from the accident repaired, my eyes lit up.

Raul invited us to go to his turbine repair training centre Escuela Vertical were he kindly offered to fix the truck. I was a bit concerned that at 3.5 meters it might be a bit high for him.

Now I cannot sing this guys praises high enough. His hospitality was unbelievable and the repairs carried out were incredible and perfect. I would like to publicly thank Raul, Marcella and their staff who we will will never forget and we are honoured to add Raul and Marcella to our growing list of great friends.

Have a look at what they do and you will see what a muppet I felt for suggesting that the roof of our truck might be a bit high. Awesome guys. 

Santiago is the capital city of Chile . It is home to more than 6.5 million Chileans which is more than one third of the countries population. It sits in the valley of the Mapocho river and to the east is the huge Andean mountain range.

Sadly most of the population aren't aware of the mountains as the city has a permanent foggy haze that makes it almost impossible to see them. Raul told me that we should see it the day after a heavy rain storm. He described it as seeing Santiago in High Definition as the air pollution is temporarily removed.

Santiago does however boast a very large number of people who think that being able to juggle oranges at traffic lights is a life skill .

On Raul's suggestion we went in search of a small Natural thermal pool the exists about 100km east of the city, very close the Argentinian border in the mid levels of the Andes at 3000 metres along the "Embalse El Yeso" called the  "Termas Del Plomo"

Both of us did feel slight effects from the altitude, I think our ascent was a bit quick .

The pool was fantastic and the scenery was stunning.

However, the drive up there was the main event. 

As I am writing this we are still in the Santiago region and will probably stay in this area for a few more weeks

Dont forget you can see our exact route and plenty more photos on our "Places and Photos " page by clocking on the drop pins 

Hasta luego

Wednesday 4 April 2018

Life Back on the Road

As you can imagine from the last two posts , life for us has been a bit up and down. However, I am glad to report that Cloud 9 is nearly fixed. 

Sadly some damage was caused by getting the vehicle upright but with the help of our friends Perry and Ellen all the parts that needed replacing have now been replaced. 

That enough of the negative crap.Its time to get back to the journey.

To continue from the the last place we kept heading north up Ruta 7 in Chile, the Carraterra Austral . It was a slow journey as at this stage we hadn't completed all the repairs and if were brutally honest we have changed the way we drive in these "Ripio " roads and now treat them with a lot more caution

Puerto Tranquillo was always on our list of places to visit and it was really nice to get there and do some normal touristy stuff, as this marked the first stage back to everyday life . Lago Tranquillo boasts a rather strange phenomena being a large collection of caves that are situated on islands in the lake. They have been eroded over millions of years into strange features and shapes. The boat ride out to caves was a bit of a stomach churner and I wasn't really looking forward to the trip back to port.

We  limped on to Coyhaique were we had the chance to catch up with the vet Manuel and his wife Florencia and have a junk food overdose . 

Our aim was fixed on Puerto Montt which was the first really big town on our route . We believed that we could buy all the vehicle parts there but it was still over 650 km away and involved some pretty bad roads and several ferries. After loads of discussion and googling we could see that we could in fact get one overnight ferry onto the island of Chiloe and then drive on paved roads all the way to Puerto Montt. 
The ferry left from Puerto Cisness and we embarked at after midnight and just hunkered down in the truck until morning. 

Although beautiful Chiloe Island looked bleak and drab as the weather here was now definitely changing and it felt like winter was catching us up. 
One of the famous landmarks on the island is the supposed end of the "Pan American Highway" 
I say supposed as we have seen another two other locations that also claim to be the end of this road.

However , If I had just ridden a bicycle from Alaska to this location I would be pretty gutted as the the monument  was pretty crap.

We headed in tandem through the island stopping at several pretty towns . The island has obviously been quite a poor area and the Churches are made from timber and looked like they had been built by local boat builders. They were absolutely stunning.

Houses on stilts in the estuary in the islands capital "Castro"

We arrived in Puerto Montt. Now maybe we have been spoiled by beautiful countryside and open spaces but we didn't really like it . It was  big and busy and we couldn't find any of the things we came for. We did however have a great evening catching up with two cyclists, Grant and Leslie, who we had met on the day of the accident.

The weather had started getting better so the resort of Puerto Varas gave us a few pleasant day in the shadow of Volcano Osorno  and we managed to get a few more jobs done on the truck . Call me a softy but I even managed to give Pat a window back. 

 I know what your thinking.     Cake decorating isn't for me.

I have mentioned before that there is a lot of German influence here and the Kunstmann ( Try saying that right after a few of their beers )  Brewery in Valdivia is a great example of this.

We stayed in their car park and drank loads of Bavarian style bear in a Bavarian style Pub , served by Bavarians. Slightly weird in the middle of Chile, but non the less very nice. 

The drive to the town of Pucon via Villarica was the first real introduction to real wealth. The fantastic Lake front properties were in a different league to the other parts of Chile we had visited .

Pucon is a very touristy town full of back packers, soap dodgers and people with flowery trousers who are "Trying to find themselves "  despite all this it was really nice and the town sits at the foot of Mount Villarica which is an active Volcano which last erupted in march 2015. Despite the risk of another eruption the property development in the area is immense.

Another great highlight of Pucon was meeting up with one of Pats Internet friends " Roberta " from Brazil who is also travelling a similar route to us . We tried to meet up in Ushuaia but just missed each other. Having met in the town she kindly invited us to stay with her at a house she had rented in the hills just outside town. A real star.

Just an hours drive down the coast near the town of Conaripe is a tropical Spa called Termas Geometrica.

Its nestled in the hills in a small valley above the town. The drive up there was a challenge as the roads were steep, twisty and narrow. But as usual you think you have done really well and deserve a big yourself a pat for getting there in one piece. Then you enter the car park and park up between all the coaches and buses and family hatchbacks.

What a well needed afternoon. It has over 20 pools varying between 9 degrees and 44 degrees . We just headed to the hot ones and turned ourselves into boil in the bag humans . Happy birthday Pat xxx 

The Congiullio National park is a little piece of heaven nestled between loads of semi active Volcanoes and Lava field. The lunar landscape at the entrance is strangely beautiful and the forest areas are the healthiest I have ever seen .

The drive through the park was incredible, with narrow twisty turns with overhanging trees and views of the lakes and Volcanoes .

The weather has now turned a bit colder so North it is. 

i don't know if it was the fact that it was a bank Holiday weekend here, but the traffic on the way out was awful

Lots of horns and no manners

Don't Forget our Places and Photos page shows our route and more pictures

Hasta Luego