We have reached the last leg of our Patagonia Road Trip!
We arrived in the large city of Puerto Montt from the ferry, and were a bit overwhelmed to be back in a large city. We needed ice and groceries, and so we went in search of a store with both. Like most large cities, most streets are one-way traffic, causing a lot of confusion as our navigation didn’t take that into account. Also, left way turns are not allowed on the majority of the streets. What was meant to take an hour to drive to, took close to 2 hours, as well as some added frustration, and hurt feelings. But it was a successful shop, as we were able to attain ice!
We hit the road, on Ruta 5, heading North. We stopped to make camp at the town of Frutillar, and were able to get a camp spot right on the shore of Lago Llanquihue. From the lake you can see several volcanos, including the big one – Osorno. We told my nephew Xander, who told us if we were lucky we would see it erupt. On this overnight stay, we didn’t see it erupt.
We went in the lake and sunbathed on the beach. We originally found a spot that had a nice view, but also tons of trash. So when we saw some picnickers leaving for the day, we eagerly got back in the car and took their spot. We noticed immediately that the spot was in much softer dirt than the previous spot. We ate our dinner and Steve decided it might be best to turn the van around so we can have a quick escape the next morning. What was meant to be a quick turnaround, ended up being disastrous. Our van got stuck, numerous times. We had to push, dig in dirt and rock the van to finally get out of soft dirt. It took us about 45 minutes, and we decided that our previous spot wasn’t that bad (and much easier to get in and out of). In fact, at 2AM, we had neighbors show up and set up their tent.
Days 30 – 33
Over the course of the next few days, I wish I could say we did some exciting stuff, but driving on Ruta 5 in Chile is similar to driving Interstate 5 in California. We spent the night at a Copec gas station (more like a truck stop than just a gas station), and showered there – and honestly, wasn’t that bad. We did find a “campsite” off the highway where we also were able to finally star gaze! The only really interesting thing about the drive was the affect the fires had. During this time, Chile was experiencing widespread wildfires. As Californians, we are well acquainted with wildfires. This was unique for us as there were so many burning that there were many small ones that were close enough to the highway to see, with no one intervening. The air was thick with smoke and particulate.
On our last full day with the van, we had planned to go to a national reserve near Santiago. We were highly disappointed that the reserve was closed because the fires started entering the park. With no real plans, we consulted our “bible” (iOverlander app) and found a nearby campsite with amazing reviews. “Mateo’s Camping” is a family run ranch that has opened its doors for people to camp on their property. We spent the day playing with their four family dogs: Bella, Niña, Bob and Otto, and lounging on hammocks. Ideally we would’ve loved to spend one more day hiking, but this was a nice replacement. Bella and Niña both loved to play with rocks, and basically chased anything we threw. Bob was a sucker for belly rubs and enjoyed laying under our van. Otto was a baby, and enjoyed being held. It was a relaxing way to end our trip.
We drove to Santiago to return our van. Our rental agreement said that we needed to return the van clean and recommended a car wash. We were fortunate that our AirBnB host was able to get his apartment cleaned and turned around quickly so we could check in early and drop all of our stuff off there before returning the van. We headed out to the car wash. After 34 days that van was NASTY. There was a layer of dirt everywhere. We had lunch and waited for the van to get cleaned, and then reluctantly turned it back in. I think Steve was pretty bummed to return the van and end our Patagonia road trip. Although we weren’t particularly fond of the crazy graphics when we first picked it up, it did grown on us. It served us well and never broke down on us, despite all the crazy places we took it. I think even I will miss the van.
We spent the evening washing clothes (because that layer of dirt was on everything). We also took advantage of Wifi and planned the next leg of our trip and caught up with e-mails, family texts and facetime.
Overall Review of our Patagonia Road Trip
Patagonia was a driving force in our deciding to attempt this crazy honeymoon trip. Both of us really wanted to visit there and came up with the idea of camping in a van. The trip then progressed from there and became what it is today. We really owe it all to the mystery of Patagonia. Looking back, our biggest regret is not spending a little more time in the van. We were in it for 35 days, and that really wasn’t enough to go from Santiago to Ushuaia and back. We feel like another 10 days would have made the trip just a little better. This road trip truly gave us more confidence in traveling independently in South America. We learned how to drive, shop and survive in extreme rural areas which was a big difference from the larger cites we had visited before. We spent many hours in the van in between locations and found that audiobooks were a great way to pass the time while learning something in the process. Overall, this part of our trip was the amazing experience we expected it to be and will be cherished for a lifetime.