The last part of the famed Carretera Austral road, isn’t in fact a road. The land breaks up into a series of magnificently carved fjords, so the road takes to the waves.
We loved the stunningly beautiful, privately owned Pumelin park. What an amazing way to spend your millions (if you have them, of course) protecting such a unique and pristine place, then allowing everyone to enjoy it. Two ferries of 45 minutes and then 4 hours with a 10km drive between them gave us lots of opportunities to enjoy the views. We spent the night near the waters edge near the small town of Hornopirén before a couple of hours drive to the next ferry the following morning to near the city of Puerto Montt. It felt very strange to be driving through a big city, we’ve loved driving the Carretera Austral. The most remote, southerly section definitely was our favourite part.
We turned Southwards again to head to Chile’s largest island: Chiloé taking, of course, another ferry. Famed for its rainy weather, mythology and wooden churches. Our first night was spent on a wild, windswept Pacific beach tucked behind the dunes. In the morning we woke to rolling fog and some confused cows staring at us from the beach.
We continued South to the main town of Castro, to be honest the scenery was rather disappointing. We’ve loved wild remote Patagonia so much and hoped for something similar in Chiloé but it was more built up, deforested and mostly agricultural land. Maybe we should have gone to the far south, where there is another private protected park.
The interior of Castro’s UNESCO heritage church was made completely of native wood, beautifully simple. The outside was just bizarre though, painted lemon yellow with a violet roof and trim, quite something! It was also constructed of sheets of iron made to look like stone. Some of the smaller churches we had seen throughout the island were far more attractively made of wooden shingles.
A small shingle church out in the countryside.
We spent a couple of hours that afternoon exploring the tiny back roads of the nearby Rilán Peninsula looking for a spot to boondock. On one tiny wiggly track we came across a beautiful little eco hotel overlooking a bay, charmed we asked to have a look around. We continued on and after executing some impossibly tight u-turns whenever the road ran into the sea and someone’s house, we gave up on the boondocking and returned to town to look for a campsite.
Although Steve seems to have lost years on this trip, I think he looks years younger than when he stopped working 20 months ago, he turned 50 in Chiloé. Unfortunately over the last few days he has been feeling decades older, after causing his hip joint to become inflamed by overexerting himself in Pumelin. The thought of spending his birthday as we’d planned: parked up in a national park in the rain, when he couldn’t hike, didn’t excite him. So it was back to the sweet Hotel Parque Quilquico we found the day before, for his birthday treat. It ticked all the usual boxes: gorgeous views, gourmet food, huge beds, a pool and some things that would have been less important for us in a nice hotel a few years ago: space from each other and a bath! Even better to go with the delicious meal was a surprise bottle of champagne that Steve’s brother-in-law and sister sent for his birthday.
Many of Chiloé’s dishes take advantage of the abundant seafoods found in their waters. Steve had read about curanto, a hearty shellfish stew flavoured with pork cooked either in a clay pot or dug pit, Polynesian style and was keen to try it out. We drove to the fishing village of Quemchi and found a sweet wooden restaurant that served it. The girls and I chickened out and opted for fish instead but Steve said it was tasty enough with some of the biggest shellfish he had seen, and massive dumplings that looked like hamburgers. Interesting but not something he would order twice.
It was time to leave Chiloé, back on the ferry again, for the Chilean Lake District. We got some stunning views of the volcanoes and lakes as we drove nearer. Volcan Osorno, is shaped like a children’s picture of a volcano, a perfect cone topped with snow. We camped up on a black sandy volcanic beach next to the crystal, clear Lagos Todas Los Santos. We lined up the truck perfectly and cleaned the filthy mud-splattered back window, so we would get the perfect morning view of the sunrise over the volcano. One of the things I love about our nomadic lifestyle is the different views we get every morning from bed, it’s a priceless perk. Unfortunately we awoke to low cloud and drizzle, we wouldn’t have believed there was a volcano up there, if we hadn’t seen it the day before. Luckily Steve’s hip was slowly recovering, so he was back on his feet for a few gentle strolls to a nearby waterfall. Optimistically, we decided to spend the night near to the ski lift, just below the snow line on the volcano. We hoped the cloud would lift sometime during the afternoon. It was a cold and very windy night at 3am the truck started to seriously shake as the wind got up and changed directions. We decided to head down to a less exposed spot, although there was a multitude of tight hairpin bends the road was at least tar. I am always impressed with the girls on the few occasions we have had to move in the middle of the night. They woke, crawled into the freezing cold cab, strapped into their car seats and let me bundle their duvets around them without a word complaint. We found a more sheltered spot amongst the trees as the rain started lashing down. There were no views that morning just more rain but at least we didn’t get blown off the volcano during the night.