Chile: Oh, hello Patagonia

Having hauled ourselves across to the coast we settled in for a few days of beachside meandering, Chilean-style.  This tiny stretch of Chile’s 6435 km coastline hides a series of sleepy villages connected by rough dusty roads, the black sand beaches overlooked by little wooden ‘granny’ cottages of the picket fence and lacy curtain variety.

Splashes of colour from the local fishing fleet

And optimistic road signs

It looks deserted but every building seems to offer something for sale

Nothing fancy here – farmers still using the horse & cart approach

No coastal superhighway yet

Taking in the serenity

Unfortunately southerly progress resulted in our eventual arrive in Concepcion.  This was good from the large supermarket point of view (peanut butter!!), but it was less appealing to find ourselves catapulted back into highway and holidaymaker land.  Camping near a busy beach was depressing – an evening walk around the quieter rocky end of the beach revealed rockpools with floating chip packets and sunken beer bottles, trails of loo paper, and dozens of plastic bottles and bags.  

Navigating the urban jungle

High-rise apartments in Concepcion

The coast south of Concepcion looked more like this …

And so we decided to head back inland, making our way along the rollercoaster roads, crisscrossing innumerable pine and eucalyptus plantation forests (which provided excellent bushcamping opportunities), crossing the Panamerican Highway and reaching the Chilean lakes area.

All stocked up and off in search of monkey puzzle trees …

Entering the National Park with the imposing Volcano Llaima (3125m) dominating the landscape

Conguillio National Park was one of favourite parks of the entire trip – hard to beat the combination of humungous volcano, gorgeous lakes, lunar landscapes of volcanic sand, scoria and lava flows …. and of course the very funky Araucaria araucana – the monkey puzzle tree.  Looking very much like something dreamed up by Dr Seuss, the name of these trees kept us wondering as we rode past, examining the bark (looks a bit like a jigsaw puzzle?), looking for clues in the twisted branches, scanning the treetops for confused-looking monkeys …..

No monkeys here

No clues in the leaves

Jigsaw puzzle bark

Eventually we had to resort to Mr Google and found that the trees’ common name originated from the British (of course).  Rarely seen in England in the 1850’s, viewing of a specimen supposedly prompted the comment “it would puzzle a monkey to climb that!”.  And so the name stuck … 

Bushcamp Monkey Puzzled

On the trail in Conguillio NP

Down the monkey puzzle road


Fun riding in the southern section of the NP

Moving on we wandered into the friendly little town of Melipeuco …

Pausing to rest & restock …

Campsite herping on a rest day in Melipeuco

And then we’re off again – rolling up & down past lakes & farms

Passing relics rusting in the forest

And hiding from the wind in a conveniently located bus shelter

Chilean cowboys in the mist

Loving those hats!

Another day, another volcano

A mix of road & dirt takes us south to Osorno …

And right beneath yet another massive volcano

Lakeside bush camping at its best on Lago Llanquihue

Debating our route south, we’d originally planned to cross back into Argentina before picking up the Carretera Austral via a minor pass south of Futaleufu.  But in the end we were enticed by the idea of staying in Chile, skirting the massive Lago Llanquihue and approaching the northern end of the Carretera Austral through the Cochamó Valley.

A beautiful spot to stop …

And watch the sun light up the waves on the lake

Couldn’t resist this bus shelter

Waiting for the dust to settle

Fresh honey along the roadside

Unmistakeable Patagonian architecture with distinctive wooden tiles

Weatherbeaten wooden cottages …

And cosy shingled farmhouses

Admiring creatures large & small

Salmon farms dominate the waters of the Estero Reloncavi

Beach camping alongside the detritus of fishing life

Riding alongside soaring granite cliffs

And reaching the northern end of the Carretera Austral … the road that will take us south for the next 1245 km…

Until next time …


Rubber side down,

Ed & Gaye


  1. Peter Eastman

    I always look forward to your emails. A welcomed distraction at work!

    1. Gaye Bourke (Post author)

      Cheers Peter – glad you are enjoying!

  2. Pheona Anderson

    Love those monkey puzzles

    1. Gaye Bourke (Post author)

      Some wonderful trees this trip – now in the land of Nothofagus …


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