SOUTH AMERICA OVERLAND
13-Dec-2008: Santiago, Chile to Puerto
saving up our holidays for another four years we have started our next
adventure. Our plans are to drive from Ushuaia, Argentina at the very
South America to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska at the very top of North America.
September we shipped our vehicle from Sydney, Australia to Valparaiso,
Our daughter’s wedding had been set for the 29-November. It was a
wedding at Dreamers in Mount
Victoria. Right after the wedding
we flew from Sydney to Santiago, Chile.
mutual overland contacts we were fortunate to find Rupert Kaye, another
who wanted to ship to South America
around the same time. By sharing a 40 foot shipping container we were
significantly reduce our shipping costs. Since our vehicles arrived
before we were due to arrive in Chile, Rupert who had arrived a month
and had already completed most of the shipping formalities. Within a
arriving we collected Troopy from the customs warehouse at Valparaiso
back to the La Casa Roja
hostel in down town Santiago. At the
hostel, Rupert met Simon Bartlett who
had just purchased a Honda Motorbike. Simon, a draftsman from England,
travelled around India on a Royal Enfield 350 cc motorcycle and has
backpacked in Venezuela, Ecuador, Columbia and Brazil. Rupert also has
mate Eamon, an environmental scientist from Perth Australia,
who is also travelling with him in
the LandRover for 6 weeks. Since we were all heading to Ushuaia for
we decided to travel in convoy.
planned to leave late morning the following day but were shocked when
wake up until midday. Obviously the busy time we had preparing for the
and jetlag had taken their toll. Fortunately our other travelling
were also running late. We hastily bought supplies from the nearby
(Supermarket), filled our water and fuel tanks and headed south out of
on Ruta 5, the Pan American highway.
American highway stretches for 48,000km from Prudhoe Bay in northern
Puerto Montt in southern Chile. This highway is complete except for an
impassable swamp between Panama and Columbia, known as the Darien Gap.
highway is considered the world’s longest “motorable” road.
been surprised by the excellent infrastructure in Chile. The roads have
very good. The main roads are all bitumen with the minor roads being of
gravel surface. The roads have been well sign posted and the traffic is
orderly most probably due to the strong police presence. We did get
once for speeding through a small village but were let off with a
warning to go
lento (slow). Many of the major roads are toll ways and we have paid up
a day. Fortunately we prefer travelling on the smaller roads so we have
able to avoid the majority of the tollways.
we have bush camped, hidden away from
the main road, usually in forests, by lakes and rivers, and our
gravel pits. Chile appears quite prosperous. There is farming
soil is very fertile with unlimited water either from the high rain
the irrigation from huge rivers that are fed from the Andes mountains.
there are no fruit, vegetable, grain crops or cattle, there is the ever
pine and eucalyptus plantations.
first took us east to Constitucion and Concepcion on the Pacific Coast
heading inland to the Lakes district. The Lakes district in southern
home to old growth forests, ice capped volcanoes, water falls and
blue fresh water lakes, all protected by national parks. We spent a
week driving from one lake to another. Each night we were able to find
camp sites hidden away beside a lake or river. We saw some fantastic
amber sunsets and moon rises.
campsite was at a rubbish dump, true to the Kingsmill Overland travel
tradition. However, we had a panoramic view overlooking a sweeping bend
river and panning out across to the snow capped mountains in the
area is rich in farming. No land is wasted.
day, we arrived at La Trinchera on the Pacific coast. The coastline is
different with ash grey sandy soil and
gravel most likely due to the volcanic activity in the area in times
present. From here, we tracked south to Chanco passing huge pine forest
eucalyptus timber plantations. Logging seems to be big business in
Chile as we
saw many plantations everywhere, logging trucks busily trucking loads
freshly felled timber from plantation to timber mills. Kienny was very
to be camping without mosquitoes.
Trinchera, we arrived at Santos Del Mar, again on the Pacific Coast. We
few local fisherman fishing along the shoreline. They were very
showing us their modest catch for the day. One fisherman very kindly
gave us a
seafood empanada to sample. It was a combination of shellfish cooked in
Napoletana sauce in pie pastry. It was
piping hot and the sauce just dribbled down our chins …oh so delicious!
than Empanadas, we have not quite figured out what is typical Chilean
So far, we have had fried chicken with rice and salad or with chips and
amazing Empanada experience, we continued our way south to Concepcion.
Our second campsite was
Colemu. We stopped by a river under a stand of very tall gum trees and
forest. The boys, Rupert, Eamon, Simon and Geoff had a swim/wash in the
as the water temperature was just comfortable.
day, we visited Saltos Del Laja, known as the mini Iguazu. It was very
picturesque and very refreshing as we were able to walk right up close
waterfall. Being a Sunday, there were lots of other local Chilean
enjoying the day out as well. There were enterprising local hawkers
their hand carved arts and crafts, showing off their beautiful beadwork
other jewellery made from silver and turquoise. One can’t get away from
ever popular hot empanadas and charqui caballo (horse meat jerky).
a fuel station just outside of Los Angeles (Chile) when Geoff
could pick up WiFi internet. This was great for us as we were able to
family to tell them we had arrived safely. We have been able to pick up
WiFi internet in
most towns and at many of the local fuel
the afternoon, we arrived at Collipulli to see a very tall viaduct.
This was a
very impressive piece of engineering across the Rio Malleco. It would
a bit scary for the train passengers to look out of their windows to
deep gorge down below.
camp 1.5 km down a small logging track, near Victoria. The track
brought us to
an open area surrounded by gum trees. Once again, we had the place to
ourselves. Even the insects did not bother us at all.
we continued on the dusty gravel track to Lake Malleco. The track was
with thick bushes of what looked like yellow wattle. We are constantly
of Australia with all the gum trees and wattle along the way.
Malleco is very beautiful. From the road, the setting was absolutely
and pristine with a small farmhouse perched on higher ground and
the crystal clear lake. There were two fisherman in their tin boats
patiently for the fish to bite. Continuing along, we came to Lake
where we took a 2 km hike up to the fresh water lake and back. We were
to be able to see through the clear blue waters down to the bottom of
After cooling off, we headed back to our vehicles and continued on to
Termas de Tolhuaca (hotsprings) along the way. This was a small resort
small pool fed by the hot springs. We saw some locals plastering mud
their bodies and washing themselves in the springs. We later called
Curacutin to pick up some food supplies and made our way towards
National Park is spectacular country with old growth alpine forests and
grassland against a backdrop of the imposing Volcano Llaima,
the formation of three alpine lakes. Much of the surrounding area is of
volcanic rock and ash coloured sandy soil. Our guide book tells us that
volcano last erupted in 1994. We camped by a rushing stream, sheltered
canopy of old growth alpine trees in the Conguillio National Park. It
falling asleep to the sound of the rushing waters nearby.
morning, our track took us around the Volcano which is covered with
down to its base. Our route took us past the lava flows. One gets an
feeling standing in the pathway of the lava flow. In full flood, this
would have destroyed everything in its path. Only the alpine forests
not in the
path of the lava flow have been spared.
next took us through Mallipeuco, Villa Garcia and Cunco. This road
of the Ovens and Kiewa Valley Highways in Victoria, Australia.
Mallipeuco is like a small
village with snow capped mountains in the distance and the ever
never far away. Here, we bought more supplies for dinner. There are
towns and villages along the way where we are able to buy bread, fruit,
and vegetables. Most fuel stations accept payment by credit cards. We
in Lake Vallarica later that afternoon where we enjoyed lunch by the
After lunch, we continued on to Pucon, a mere 15 minutes drive away.
around the lake took us through some amazing Lakeshore properties.
private homes with nice driveways and have million dollar views of the
the impressive volcano.
definitely a tourist friendly alpine village. The main street is tree
very tidy with an abundance of upmarket apartments. There are many
sell adventure tours for hiking up the smouldering volcano,
kayaking, fishing and white water rafting. This town is buzzing with
from all over the world. Goretex seems to be the garment of choice here
Pucon. There are stores that sell North Face, Berghaus, Nike, Merrills
it should be very easy for one to pick up a last minute kit to go
mountaineering or hiking.
travelling companions all jumped at the opportunity to do some hiking
hydrospeeding. Geoff and I were delighted to have a couple of days to
catch up on some much needed rest.. We stayed at the Campground La
conveniently located within walking distance to town. We were parked
could pick up WiFi internet and we all took turns emailing and
few other independent overlanders who all have amazing tales to tell.
were two groups riding their pushbikes from Alaska to Ushuaia. There
German couple who have travelled in their Mercedes campervan all round
world. They gave us good tips for driving through Central and South
also met people from the big Overland Trucks, some of whom have been
with the same truck for 9 months. It seems everyone is heading to
Christmas, a “tradition” well-known to all overlanders.
Pucon via Vallarica where we came upon a procession of school children
with balloons and chanting slogans. One of their banners was in
seems they were marching against drugs in their school community.
been very impressed with Chile. It is a great country in which to start
overland travels. The Chilean people have been very friendly and
Everyone is very proud to declare that there is no corruption in Chile.
we have found that to be true. There is a very strong sense of safety
consciousness everywhere in Chile. There is a big police presence in
streets, speed radars on highways and through towns and one policeman
to our campsite just out of town to check us out. Even in the small
boats, all the fisherman wear life vests. At the ports, everyone is
wear safety helmets and covered shoes.
continued driving through the Lakes Region, we were able to stop
roadside stalls to buy strawberries, cherries, cheese and honey. They
cheaper and tastier than buying from the supermarkets. One can also buy
crafted wooden furniture from the many artisans. Our route took us
Lican Ray, Lago Calofquen, Pucura, Traitriaco, Conaripe and
again, we traversed through hectares of lush green alpine forests
with small farms with the happiest of cows grazing blissfully.
afternoon, not far from Frutono, Troopy decided to break down on us.
to this, we had switched from the rear auxillary tank to the main tank
auxiallary tank had run dry. We didn’t get very far when Troopy lost
stalled. Geoff started the engine again and we would get going for 50
when the engine would stall. Thinking we could have air in the fuel
Geoff tried to prime the diesel fuel line but this worked for only a
distance. Fortunately, the others found a good camping spot beside Lake
which was little more that 1km away so we were able to limp into camp.
fellas worked on the problem and found a micro-switch had failed
allowing us to switch from the auxillary tank to the main fuel tank.
a little while to find as the fuel tank indicator light showed that the
was coming from the main tank when in fact it was still coming from the
auxillary tank. A temporary switch was installed until a genuine switch
found. In all our travels, this is the first time that Troopy has ever
down. Fortunately the problem was minor.
continued on our way towards Peurto Montt via Vivanco and Crucero. We
for lunch at a spectacular bridge just before the town of Chirre. This
straddled a very steep river canyon and was very impressive. We walked
up to a
small grassy ridge to get a better view of this impressive bridge from
distance. The river canyon is a very sheer and steep drop of about 400
down to the rocky river. As we were walking off this grassy ridge,
slipped and began to slide uncontrollably down the steep side of the
Fortunately, the fall was broken by two small bamboo bushes. Kienny
grip on to the vegetation but that gave way as it was only grass with
roots. Simon quickly grabbed hold of Kienny’s foot to stop her from
further in case the bamboo gave way. Simon and Geoff were able to pull
up off the canyon wall by her feet. It didn’t take long for reality to
and we were horrified to think that Kienny could have plunged down the
canyon to the rocky river 400 meters below.
having found her legs again, we proceeded towards Entre Lagos along
Avenue with great views of Volcano Casablanca and Volcano Osorno. Both
are snow capped, Casablanca has the sharp ragged peak while Osorno was
more rounded at its peak. We decided to stop early atop a small mound
overlooking Lake Rupanco. This area is frequented by locals who come to
for trout in the late afternoon. We all enjoyed a wash in the fresh
were delighted to witness a beautiful moon rise.
morning, we continued on through Peurto Octay and Fruitillar before
Peurto Montt which is the fourth largest seaport in Chile with a
about 200,000. Our plans are to take the Carreterra Austral Highway
this involves one or two trips by ferry. As it was the weekend, the
shipping and ferry offices were
decided to fill in the weekend by visiting the island of Chiloe, a half
ferry ride from Puerto Montt. Chiloe is well known for it’s unique
with wooden shingle tiles on the roof and even on the sides of the
house. It is
largely inhabited by an indigenous group. We visited the fishing
Quemchi, Dalcahue and Castro. It’s interesting that in Southern Chiloe,
current latitude is the same as the most southerly point of Tasmania.
we stopped for lunch at El Chejo restaurant. This is a cosy little
restaurant decked out with wooden carved furniture and ornaments. Our
Spanish was not a hindrance to ordering food as the owner invited us to
kitchen to sample every pot of food on the stove. There was a big pot
seafood soup, stewed lamb in spices and panfried salmon all served with
potatoes and salad. We could also have empanadas. We loved what we
we ordered all three dishes. The Chilean music added to our culinary
experience. We were so full we could roll out the door! Eamon the
all three dishes by himself! He was very satisfied.
two weeks, we have really enjoyed travelling with Rupert, Eamon and
got along very well and have had many laughs together. Each one has a
interesting life experiences to share and we have been fascinated by
visiting the island of Chiloe, we will head back to the ferry terminal
Puerto Montt to make enquiries to see if we can take a ferry across to
We have heard conflicting stories about Chaiten, which apparently has
decimated by the recent eruption of Volcano Chaiten. We would like to
Austral Highway and some Chileans tell us that it is no longer possible
others say it still is.
keep you posted of the next stage of our overland adventure. Wishing
Happy and Safe Christmas.
The pictures for this
section of our trip can be found by clicking here or by selecting
the Next arrow button at the bottom of this page.
map of our trip can be seen by going to http://dreamers1.com/americas/GoogleMaps/SouthAmerica.html or by selecting the Map button at the
bottom of this page.
The WEB site containing
our travels in Africa, Russia and South America is http://overland.dreamers1.com or by selecting the Contents button at
the bottom of this page.
and Kienny Kingsmill