A new way to travel

As for today, just a little bit under one month of travelling, and we have mostly moved from one location to another by buses. Public buses. The system worked very well at first, the connections were easy, it is pricier in Argentina than in Chile, but still alright. Because the roads are long and straight the rides were not too bumpy and the buses were comfortable.

This was until we re-enter Chilean Patagonia. The road here is called the Carretera Austral. It is one of these mythical roads, along with the USA road 66 that crosses from East to West, or la Ruta 40 in Argentina that goes from Ushuaia all the way to the North. Well, in Chile there is La Carretera Austral. It is the only road here in Chilean Patagonia, it is for most of it, not paved, just gravel road and it was completed only in 1986, when the government wanted the whole country to be linked by a road. Before that, only boat or plane access was possible in these very remote fjords. It is a little marvel of engineering, as the area is very mountainous. The bits of the Carretera Austral we have done were absolutely fantastic, and the views really sensational. The landscapes alternated between high cliffs, to very deep valleys with dense vegetation, to fjords-like areas, and small villages protected in the bays of lakes or close to the seaside of the Pacific Ocean.

Today, the road is completed, but the region is still very remote.

Since we re-entered Chile, the late Easter week-end had passed, and with it the end of the touristic season, and the weather is definitely going towards winter here in the South. All of that means it is a more dangerous time to be on the road, and there are much less solutions to reach the different places we intend to see at first. Some of the national parks we wanted to see are closing, and the others do not have easy access or shuttles anymore. We could do some hitchhiking, but after spending two days in the buses on the road, we could only witness that the number of cars we met every day is very little and you need to be very lucky to get a ride.

So, we decided to change a bit our plans, and take a small shortcut. Well, not really a shortcut, but another way to reach another place we wanted to see, the island of Chiloe further up North. We took a boat!

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IMG_9581And instead of being on the small road between mountains for more than 10 hours, we were on a small ferry boat navigating between the fjords and hundreds of small islands that shape the West coast of the extreme South Chile. The views from the boat had nothing to envy to the ones on the road, as from there too we could only see luxurious vegetation, and high summits everywhere. The mountains feet were literally falling down into the sea.

To endure the length of the journey (estimated time diverse from 20 up to 40 hours, but most people said around 30 hours), we made some provisions, prepared some sandwiches and dinner. We reached the small harbour with local buses. The boat is a small ferry and can take some cars and trucks in. Above the vehicles parts, there is a room with about 250 seats, semi-inclinable, similar to a bus. There are also some big TVs, and loud speakers. And there is a small cafeteria that sells coffee, empanadas, and noodles.

We left bang on time at 20:00 Monday night. We realised that the 250 seats where very far from being occupied, so it gave us the possibility to try to sleep lying down on several seats, instead of sitting in one. But we had to fight the ambient cold of the cabin. To prevent that, Fred let his driving licence to the intendant in the cafeteria as a caution to borrow two blankets. They don’t joke around with their blankets in Chile! And, not that cosily installed, but still better than nothing we tried to fall asleep despite the TV being on. Programs of the night were Tranquilo Papa (looked like some local tv novella), and some kind of Big Brother Chile. Very noisy and annoying, if you ask us. But after some time, the TV finally stopped and everybody could try to sleep.

At regular intervals, the boat would stop in places in the middle of nowhere to drop down or pick up some cargo or people.

As we were navigating between fjords, in very narrow channels the sea was smooth, despite the bad weather so we could get plenty of rest. In the morning a warm coffee, and then to keep busy the solutions were not that numerous: read a book, listen to the music, watch the morning program talking about diabetes for two hours and then the news talk exclusively about the big earthquake that shook Valparaiso (6,9 on Richter, without creating too much damage apparently) the night before, or go out on the bridge for a walk around the boat. And keep witnessing the boat bringing supplies to places that looked more like pirate’s refuges than villages.

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One of them was made of small huts, built above water, where every inhabitant came with his own small boat to receive a load of supply. Felt like a scene from Waterworld or Hook.

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In the end of the afternoon, we started to venture more out in the open sea, and it got a bit shakier. But nothing that prevented us to eat empanadas or continue to read, take a walk or try to understand Tranquilo Papa.

By evening time, after dinner, we went back into sleeping mode, occupying without any shame five seats instead of one, earplugs and night mask on. We got woken up around 03:30 by the captain telling us that we were approaching our destination harbour on the island of Chiloe. The 28 hours became 31,5 hours for us. And actually, a longer delay might have been better, as arriving at 03:30am is not an optimum solution to start to look for an accommodation or take a bus to travel further. So instead we went for a “power nap” in the boat company waiting room. On plastic benches. So not that comfy.

But two hours later we could hop on the first morning bus, and arrive after a short ride into the city of Castro.

 

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