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

5 comments on “Chile: Oh, hello Patagonia

  1. Hi Ed and Gaye, we were just driving back from some high country riding in NE Victoria over Easter and wondered what adventures you are up to these days. Great to see you are still hard at it! Love your stories, very inspirational! Janelle and Jamie (Fairhaven)

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