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.
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.
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.
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 …..
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 …
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.
Until next time …
Rubber side down,
Ed & Gaye