Today we are bringing a Story about South African traveler Moira Smart who shared with us her Trip to Chile.
Thanks Moira for sharing your trip to Chile experience in our Blog!!
Wedged between the depths of the Pacific Ocean and the heights of the Andes Mountains, Chile stretches 4270km north to south. Santiago is the capital and central hub from which we had to choose….. north or south? This time it was to be south.
Maria at Across Argentina left it in the capable hands of Claudia to listen to our requests and coordinate a trip to Chile itinerary to fit into our time frame and budget. Cutting and clipping and adding until we were set for take-off from South Africa.
Trip to Chile – Santiago, first landing.
A day spent exploring the capital city revealed delectable restaurants that cater for every palate. A day trip to fascinating Valparaiso was part of our itinerary – have your walking shoes on as you wander through the hilly streets decorated with colourful street art. Vin del Mar is the neat neighbouring sea side resort. For a 12 hour day excursion to Aconcagua National Park on the Argentina side of the Andes, www.andeswind.cl is highly recommended by my son.
Trip to Chile – crystal clear Petrohué waterfalls
We flew on to Puerto Montt to stay in Puerto Varas on the shores of Lago Llanquihue. Across the lake the iconic conical Volcan Osorno with its permanent snow cap was shrouded in mist. On our scenic drive to join the navigation on Lago Todos los Santos we passed a lodge named “Yan Kee Way”- that is how they teach English speakers to pronounce Llanquihue! The crystal clear Petrohué waterfalls which flow over volcanic lava rocks, was a worthwhile stop on our way to boarding the catamaran. Surrounded by turquoise waters and forested shores we sailed to the picturesque village Peulla, with a population of 120. Our return journey began here, while some passengers crossed over to the lakes in Argentina.
Trip to Chile – Carretera Austral
Puerto Montt is where our journey on the Carretera Austral was to begin. Due to rain, wind and rough seas all ferries were cancelled – the weather cannot be “booked” on your itinerary so be prepared and flexible. Unknowingly, the weather set the tone for entering the mystical zone of the next 1134 km of our journey.
Our guide Marcelo opted for Plan B: long way round by muddy ripio road, crossing gushing streams, to Hornopirén. He expertly organized accommodation and adjusted our bookings, as we would miss one day. This town was where we saw the first of many tsunami warning and evacuation route signs.
Skies had cleared and ferries were able to navigate the next day. After about 4 hours of comfortable travel and scanning the waters to observe the sea and birdlife we arrived at Caleta Gonzalo, which falls within the conservation genius of Pumalín Park. This is a hiker’s paradise! The wild temperate rainforest holds many treasures that are now protected, including ancient alerce trees.
As we approached the town of Chaitén the aftermath of the violent volcanic eruption in 2008 is still evident. Flooded and buried in ash, 4000 devastated residents were forced to evacuate. It was deemed to be dormant as radiocarbon dating of the last lava flow suggests the last eruption was 9400 years ago. The volcano and its dome still emit smoke and gases.
The road weaves its magic through pristine southern beech forests, silver streams winding down vertical cliffs, turquoise lakes with names like Rio Negro and Blanco, glaciers between snowy peaks and hamlets with a handful of residents. Vehicles were minimal and exhausted cyclists scattered along the way. No one else around to spoil our view and no selfie-sticks!
The tragedy of nature’s force was seen again in the village of Villa Santa Lucia. In December 2017 after torrential rain part of a mountainside collapsed and a landslide of mud, water and trees found its way down a valley and engulfed part of the town. In this same region of abundant nature visitors enjoy the pleasures of river rafting, fishing and other outdoor activities.
Our overnight stay in La Junta was at Espacio y Tiempo, a cosy wooden lodge tucked in the forest. Early next morning, with mists rising from the valley, we travelled on to tranquil Puyuhuapi and its harbour at the head of a fjord. Set aside an hour or two to lounge in the 30 to 40 degree rejuvenating thermal waters that flow from a nearby volcano system at Termas del Ventisquero.
Trip to Chile – Quelat National Park
Soon you will enter Quelat National Park with its trails through thick vegetation of unique flora alive with bird song. The main attraction is the Ventisquero Colgante hanging glacier. This is a jaw-dropping spectacle – the blue glacier balances between two cliffs as a waterfall plummets from beneath it to the lake below.
From here the Carretera Austral climbs out of the valley through hairpin bends surrounded by giant nalcas to a viewpoint of Rio Cisnes. The countryside was calmer now with space for farmer’s fields and peaceful grazing horses.
We were now headed for Puerto Chacabuco, a port on the Aysen Fjord that suffered a shattering earthquake and mini-tsunami in 2007. Once again the tenacity and resilience of the Chilean people to rebuild their lives was evident. Here we said our farewells to Marcelo who had enriched our Carretera Austral journey in many ways.
Trip to Chile – San Rafael Glacier
Loberias del Sur is a comfortable, efficiently run hotel and the hub for various expeditions and excursions. Our trip the next day was on the Chaiten catamaran to navigate the fjords with steep cliffs, waterfalls, islands and snow peaks to San Rafael Lagoon and its glacier. Kitted with life jackets we boarded our dinghy to float among the ice floes, but not too close to the 70m high face which might calve huge chunks at any moment. Don’t waste time before visiting this rapidly retreating wonder – in the last 100 years it has shrunk 12km and estimated to disappear by 2030.
Our reliable transfer driver was ready the next morning to transport us to Balmaceda airport for the next leg of our journey – the world renowned Torres del Paine National Park, which is a story for another day.
Thanks again to Maria, Claudia, Lilia and their agents in Chile for keeping the wheels turning on each lap of this once-in-a-lifetime journey.
Are you planning a trip to Chile? Chile outdoor and adventure destinations deserves to be on every curious traveler’s must-see list. Read our Chile outdoor and adventure destinations suggestions!
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