Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 7

Wednesday 16 November, 2016: Los Altares – Trelew

We left Los Altares after a basic breakfast in the ACA cafe and drove east towards the Atlantic. Today was not supposed to be a wildlife day, but after a couple of hours driving we came across a herd of guanaco in the distance and then two splendid animals quite close to the road. A lovely sight, and a first for Caroline.

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Our first big wild animal – a guanaco, one of several by the side of the road

We stopped for a second breakfast in Las Plumas, where we were yet again served undrinkable coffee and made a note to carry coffee and filters with us in future. Perhaps expresso machines are expensive for smaller establishments like this.

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Coffee stop in Las Plumas

On our way to Trelew we made a short diversion to see the huge Dique Ameghino dam. We drove over the top of it, not without a sense of vertigo, and looked cautiously down into the valley below.

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Driving over the Dique Ameghino

The water in the reservoir and also in the stream below was a beautiful clear greeny-blue, although to save time (we seem to be always on a tight schedule!) we didn’t drive down to the small settlement at ground level but turned round and back to the main road east.

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View of the valley from the top of the dam

Soon we were in the Welsh town of Dolavon, where we had a huge lunch at the El Rayo restaurant, perhaps (?) the only restaurant in town and at least the only one we could find. Welcome beer and good wholesome food put us in a good mood.

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Lunch stop in Dolavon

We drove around Dolavon, which was an attractive if sleepy town, with (apparently) a Welsh butcher …

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Welsh butcher (?) in Dolavon

… and more than one pretty bird (though Martin is rationed in his bird shots on this trip). This little beauty is a red-crested cardinal (Paroaria coronata), his gorgeous headgear a perfect match for the painted kerbs of Dolavon.

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Colourful Cardenal on kerb at Dolavon

Irrigation streams ran through the town in Dolavon, some with quite ingenious mechanisms for raising water (see here for video clip).

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Another Welsh chapel in Dolavon

The Welsh belt, especially in farmland alongside the river Chubut around Dolavon, Gaiman and Trelew, is known for its Welsh chapels. Above is one we saw on leaving Dolavon for Gaiman.

In Gaiman we asked a student the way to the railway museum; she is wearing a teeshirt that comes from a school where Welsh is taught. In Gaiman the teaching of Welsh is on the increase, but funding is precarious and the future seems uncertain.

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Schoolgirl in Gaiman with Welsh school teeshirt

The young lady directed us to what had in another life been a railway station, but now was the local museum and housed many photographs, documents and artefacts  of settlers who had come to the region. Here we met Fabio González, who has curated the collection for the last six years; his aunt Tegai Roberts had done this previously and was there when Martin visited in the 1980s. Fabio was a wealth of information and a pleasure to chat with.

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The old Gaiman Railway Station, now a museum

Obviously there was a Welsh dresser in the collection, along with harps, harmoniums, cooking utensils and a wealth of other items, together with scores of fascinating photos and documents.

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Welsh dresser in the Gaiman Welsh Museum

On one wall in the museum was a map of Wales; the extract below shows the area Caroline and Martin know so well – Martin through childhood and university days and Caroline also through some thirty years living there as an adult.

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Map in Welsh museum of our part of Wales

Gaiman is perhaps the most Welsh of the towns in the Welsh belt, and there is a real Welsh feel; many of the people simply look Welsh and would not be out of place in the streets of Machynlleth. Yes, we were definitely in Welsh Patagonia now, and enjoying every minute of it.

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 6

Tuesday 15 November, 2016 : Esquel – Los Altares

Again we are behind with the blog, due to lack of Internet access. We left our super hotel in Esquel and set off for a long journey half-way across the continent, aiming for Los Altares. It was still raining as we left, but we did get some better weather as we drove westwards towards the Atlantic.

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Our hotel in Esquel – very comfortable!

As we drove west, we saw kaleidoscopic changes in the landscape around us, ranging from lush meadowland to arid desert, and from flat plateau to rocky outcrop, with some spectacular mountain formations.

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Another change in landscape

We spent long stretches with no sight of man or vehicle; traffic is sparse in this part of Patagonia. We passed at least two petrol stations that had been abandoned – perhaps modern cars have larger tanks (or better consumption)?

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Abandoned service station on route

The first town on our route was Tecka, where we stoped for a second breakfast. The sign at the entrance to the town allowed for little chance of confusion as to where we were.

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Approaching the small town of Tecka

Driving on, we reached Paso de Indios. The road here came closer to the Chubut river, Camwy to the Welsh who –on information provided by the Tehuelche people– made their way from the Atlantic coast to Trevelin in search of wetter and more fertile lands.

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Paso de Indios

Paso de Indios was a small but well laid out community, and a suitable place for a cheap and filling lunch at the Comedor Ruta 40.

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Lunch stop at Comedor Ruta 40, Paso de Indios

Driving on we passed a friendly gaucho herding his sheep …

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Farmer riding with his sheep

…. and shrines, some to friends and family and others of the Gauchito Gil and the Difunta Correa cults. Bottles from one of the last of these had been blown all over the surrounding area.

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Bottle strewn shrine of Difunta Correa

Some of the countryside we passed through, such as the layered levels in the photo below,  showed evidence of the geological formation of this parts of the world.

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Spectacular rock formations lined our route

We passed many signs along the highway in both Spanish and Welsh, remnants of the recent festivities to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Welsh in Patagonia.

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One of many bilingual signs we saw

The road opened up and flattened down as we approached our day’s destination, Los Altares.

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More and more rock formations

The motel we stayed at, run by the Argentine Automobile Club, was basic but clean, although we had to sweep the sand away from the door to enter.The wind was very strong and sand was everywhere. We were the only people staying there, but there was an emergency contact at the nearby Petrol Station should we run into difficulty. We didn’t.

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Automovil Club Argentina accommodation at Los Altares

Los Altares was a small community, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, but we did find somewhere to eat: the Comedor Emanuel. Another satisfying meal and we were ready for bed.

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Time for an evening meal in Comedor Emanuel, Los Altares

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 5

Monday 14 November, 2016; El Bolsón – El Maitén – Cholila – Esquel

We left El Bolsón intending to sleep the night in Esquel. It rained almost without interruption, again making it difficult to take many photographs, although we did have a couple of brief patches of sunshine.

We set off for El Maitén, one of the stations on the Old Patagonian Express, a narrow gauge train made famous by another English language writer on Patagonia, Paul Theroux.

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Crossing the lines of the trochita as we approached El Maitén

Locally the train is known as La Trochita and the service between Ingeniero Jacobacci and Esquel was opened in the 1940s with German and North American locomotives.

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One of the original trains that hauled the trochita

In El Maitén there is a small museum of the railway line and also the chance to visit the railway sheds where a number of workers are still turning out parts and servicing vehicles. The long (402 km) original line has long been closed but it is still run as a heritage railway with short excursions from both El Maiten and Esquel, but no longer between them.

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Monument to former workers on the Trochita

It is not just narrow gauge, which is defined as up to 1,067 mm (3 ft 6 in) but very narrow gauge, at only 750 mm (2 ft 5 1⁄2 in).

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Locomotive in the engine sheds, being overhauled

The engine sheds were fascinating, and we couldn’t help thinking of the many UK fanatics who would have been ecstatic to see this relic of the steam age.

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Caroline on the platform at El Maitén, waiting for a train

We were interested to see the building techniques around the area, with flat planks or perhaps slabs of stone piled on top of each other, and wondered whether this was a Welsh import. We shall find out soon as we enter the Welsh belt.

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Typical building style with horizontal slabs of wood or stone

After exploring the station and engine sheds it was time for a coffee. As we partook, we were mesmerised by a dark-eyed gaucho figure who divided his time between staring at us, smiling to himself and supping his beer (Quilmes Crystal, a beer best avoided).

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A happy man …

Our next stop was Butch Cassidy’s cabin, some 12 km north of Cholilla on Route 17. Fortunately Martin had been there before, so we had no trouble finding it but there are no signs until you get to the entrance and it is hidden from the main road. Fellow travellers are warned.

Caroline at the ‘entrance’ to Butch Cassidy’s ranch

The hand written signs go back, not sure how long, and I’m not sure of the purpose of the kiosk. We assumed that in the tourist season some enterprising local makes a few bucks charging admission to the property. The land ownership is currently under dispute and it is not at all clear who would have the authority to do this.

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View as we approached the farm houses

As we approached the farm houses we felt how peaceful the area was, and imagined it as it would have been in 1901 when they built or bought it (versions differ), ‘they’ in this case being Butch (aka Robert Leroy Parker), Sundance (Harry Alonzo Longabaugh) and Etta Place (apparently her real name).  Good place for birding too.

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Could this have been a stable?

Although the function of the main farm house was clear, we could only guess at the purpose of the other two buildings. One of them (above) might perhaps have been a stable, and the other a general storage barn.

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Caroline sitting in the sparsely furnished main house

Inside the farm house were three rooms (records refer to four but the property has been substantially restored), two with wooden floors and the third with a dirt surface – presumably for cooking and keeping a few animals when the winter got rough. In the picture below the extensive renovation work can be easily seen – until recently the building was almost completely collapsed.

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Here we can see the three rooms, the nearest having a dirt floor

This is not the place to rehearse the story of Butch Cassidy and his exploits, but a starting point might be the section on him in Bruce Chatwin’s  In Patagonia, “the narrative of an actual journey and a symbolic one”. It is certainly a story worth pursuing, but perhaps you should put aside most of the events portrayed in the film version with Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

We then set off once again for Esquel, along yet another long, straight Patagonian highway. It was still overcast, with heavy rain for much of the journey. We had seen very little traffic all day, the way we like it.

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The open highway that took us to Esquel

We finally arrived in Esquel, where we checked into a rather swish hotel and went out for dinner with an old friend, Clare. In fact we drove over to Trevelin where Clare lives, and as we entered the restaurant we saw the Welsh and Argentine flags entwined around the restaurant sign. We have arrived in Welsh Patagonia.

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Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 4

Sunday 13 November,  2016: Puerto Varas – El Bolsón

Today’s blog is a little delayed; it has been very hard to find a working Internet connection.

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Yet another beautiful Chilean church

Sadly it was time to leave Chile,with its beautiful wooden churches, and we made our way back to Argentina through the Puyehue Pass to Angostura. The weather made its way too through sun, rain, mist and fog, and photographic opportunities were limited.

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Petrol stop – is this the smallest branch of Banco Santander ever?

One final stop in Entre Lagos to get petrol in case the border was closed (with the current work to rule this was a possibility) and after one final church –one of the most beautiful we saw– we were at the border.

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Our last (and possibly most beautiful) wooden church

As we drove back across the Andes evidence of the last eruption of the Pueyhue volcano was everywhere, with slowly rejuvenating trees and volcanic ash covering the sides of the twisting mountain road.

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The Chilean frontier post was a long way before the actual political border and we passed through immediately with the minimum of bureaucracy, an immense relief.

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Chilean immigration and customs post at Puyehue

After a long, mountainous (and misty) drive through no man’s land we found ourselves back on Argentina soil.

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… and entering Argentina

Entry into Argentina was equally smooth although we got drenched walking from where we had to leave the car to the immigration and customs offices. And again on the way back. Still, one advantage of the driving rain was that no one was interested in standing in the rail to inspect the contents of our car.

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Broom lining the highways

The sun came out briefly as we drove back into Argentina, reflecting the bright yellow of the broom lining the roads.  Occasional patches of lupins were beginning to show.

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The worst coffee in the world?

We stopped for lunch in Villa La Angostura. We shared an unusual pizza (pink pizza base with venison and wild boar topping) which was ok, but the coffee was absolutely undrinkable. I’d better not give the name of the eatery.

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Arriving in El Bolsón

On and on we drove along twisting mountain roads through driving rain. We had arranged to sleep in El Bolsón, a sleepy town where 1960s hippies decamped in large numbers. Here we had our evening meal in a beer house that served delicious draft raspberry beer for Martin and a passable Chardonnay for Caroline.

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Caroline paying our supper bill in El Bolsón

After supper we retired to a bungalow just outside the town. We had booked this on line, and although basic it was warm and dry, unlike the weather aside.

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To the left, our resting place for the night

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 3

Saturday 11 November, 2016 : Puerto Varas – Castro (Chiloe) – Puerto Varas

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One of Chiloe’s many famous wooden churches

We left Puerto Varas after a healthy breakfast, bound for Castro on the island of Chiloe. Our aims were vague but we hoped to see some of the UNESCO world heritage churches (see here) and perhaps if we were lucky a Pelican or two. Humble ambitions, but as it happened both adequately fulfilled.

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We took the ferry from mainland Chile to the island of Chiloe

The ferry was drive on-drive off, and one of the five in service took us immediately across to Chiloe island. The currents were strong and the boat took an elliptical route to combat them but it was a smooth ride. We saw several dolphins sporting in the water, but they disappeared as soon as Martin went to get his camera.

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We saw houses on stilts as we approached the town of Castro

Leaving the ferry we hit the Route 5 once again and drove down to the central town of Castro. This has been victim to earthquakes and tsunamis in the past, and the houses are mostly one story buildings, some near the water built on stilts.

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Cathedral in Castro’s main Plaza

We parked up in the main plaza for lunch, and wandered around the town a little, enjoying the cathedral (tiled externally with yellow painted pieces of corrugated iron) and the countless delightful wooden buildings.

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Wooden houses were to be seen everywhere

Most of the houses we saw were made of wood, an easily available local resource, and decorated with shingles cut into a variety of shapes. Many of them had beautiful gardens, with brightly coloured vegetation set against the equally colourful painted wood.

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Painted wooden shingles of every shape covered external surfaces

We made our way to the market, which sold both local artesania and food, not only more kinds of fish and shellfish that one might reasonably expect to exist but also a huge range of locally grown fruit and vegetables.

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Woman peeling veg for sale in Castro market

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Shellfish were to be found, of every shape and size

Behind the market was a channel of water connecting to an inlet. Here we saw gulls of several species, pelicans and seals. We also saw one quarrelsome young Turkey Vulture who held his own defiantly against the gulls in the fight for scraps.

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Juvenile Turkey Vulture, looking for scraps

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Pelican in channel at back of Castro’s market

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Four seals (and a gull) hoping for a tidbit

Chiloe had the feeling of being a long way from the rest of the world, but not cut off. We had lunch to the accompaniment of Eric Clapton, and saw evidence of modern fashion aongside the older island traditional feel. We didn’t meet any of the famous witches, but everyone was very warm and friendly.

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Hippies sharing a drink at the back of the market in Castro

From Castro we drove back to the ferry by way of Dalcahue. Translating from Huillche, the name  means place (hue) of boats (dalcas). It is in the centre of the circuit of wooden churches, and the unique style of these churches comes from the boatbuilding techniques their owners applied.

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Wooden church, Dalcahue

Like Castro, Dalcahue was full of lovely wooden buildings, some looking a little makeshift but all very attractive.

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Shop in Dalcahue

There were also constant street signs reminding us that we were in a Tsunami zone, and indicating escape routes in the event of storms brewing up.

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A reminder that we were in a Tsunami zone

After a great day on Chiloe it was finally time to get back to Chacao at the north of the island and get the ferry back to Pargua (on the mainland) and thence to Puerto Varas, where we finished the day with wine and pisco sours, a ceviche for Martin and a tortilla española for Caroline. To bed, exhausted but content

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Last church on the way back to the ferry

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 2

Friday 11 November, 2016 : Valdivia – Puerto Varas

After a comfortable night in Valdivia we set off on Day 2, on schedule, and completed an itinerary according to plan, our aim being to drive slowly south, ending up in either Puerto Montt or Puerto Varas. We passed through beautiful Chilean countryside, lush green in the most part but with large stretches also in various stages of cultivation (see photo below).

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Curiously formed ridges and furrows at the roadside

Parts of the road were under repair and caused minor delays, but we were in no hurry. On the whole the roads were in good repair, better than many in Argentina, and the repair work is presumably the why.

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Roadworks encountered around Osorno in a vain attempt to find a way through to the Pacific coast.

We flirted with the idea of taking a peek at the Pacific Ocean, and came off the motorway (Route 5) at Osorno trying to find the U-40. In the end we completed a big circle and ended up where we started, so that was a bit of a failure, but we did see some lovely countryside and buildings so all was not lost. We also spent a fair bit of time tailgating timber trucks that were travelling at a snail’s pace, but again we were in no hurry.

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Wood is big business in southern Chile, and we saw many trucks carrying heavy loads.

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Fields of grain and clear blue skies …

Caroline was fascinated by the wooden buildings and took countless photos of them – an example below, …

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Wood is almost universally used for construction, and there is no shortage of it

… and she was also fascinated by the huge variety of sturdily constructed bus shelters.

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Just one of the huge number of bus shelters that lined every road we took

We finally ended up in a town that was marked as a largish community on the map but didn’t actually exist when we got there. Most perplexing, but fortunately we stumbled on a carabinero who was able to set us back on our way. By this time we had to abandon our attempts at reaching the Pacific if we wanted to get to our day’s destination by nightfall so we made our way back to the motorway and continued south.

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Martin having words with a kindly Chilean carabinero.

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The ubiquitous shield of the Carabineros.

The shield of the carabineros had particular resonance for Martin, for whom it had meant something very different back in 1975. See here for the story.

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The rolling Chilean road

We resumed our journey south, leaving the motorway again at Frutillar where we were mesmerised by the gorgeous Osorno volcano.

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Osorno volcano seen across lake Llanquique

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Another view of Osorno volcano, showing how it dominates the town of Frutillar

We drove along the side of lake Llanquique for a while and then had to rejoin the motorway to get to Puerto Varas. Martin had wanted to drop by to see a friend, Rafaelle, who lives there and runs BirdsChile, organisers of next year’s South American Bird Fair. Sadly Rafaelle was in Buenos Aires but Tere kindly received us and gave us some useful pointers.

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Teresa Montes of BirdsChile

We ended up in a small hotel just round the corner from BirdsChile, a little exhausted but happy with a good day’s travelling. Just time for a great evening meal of fish and shellfish, service a little slow, followed by a good night’s sleep

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Puerto Varas, street scene, taken from our hotel as we settled in.

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 1

Thursday 10 November, 2016 : San Martín de los Andes – Valdivia

This was the itinerary as we left San Martín de los Andes on Day 1.

This was the itinerary as we left San Martín de los Andes early in the morning of Day 1

Day 1 of our trip saw us leaving San Martín de los Andes at about 08.00. Our plan was to follow the itinerary we had worked on (above). It will be interesting to see how well we stick to it. Silver the Jeep was cleaner than he has been for a long time, recently serviced and champing at the bit to be on the road again. We were off.

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Leaving San Martín at 07.50

Our first stop was Junín de los Andes, where we filled the tank and set off on the road to Lake Tromen and the Mamuil Malal mountain pass. Junín calls itself the trout fishing capital of the world, and certainly fly fisherman from all parts of the world do come here to fish on the legendary Chimehuin river. (Martin actually prefers the nearby Malleo, but that’s another story).

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Junin de los Andes – self-styled trout fishing capital of the world

We passed several roadside shrines while still in Argentina – the one in the picture below is one of many dedicated to the Gaucho Gil who, together with the Difunta Correa, are two semilegendary figures in Argentine folklore (see links for more info) with countless shrines dotted around the country.

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Shrine to the Gauchito Gil, a legendary character in Argentine popular culture

As we neared the Chilean border the massive Lanín Volcano was ever present to our south, surrounded only by occasional wisps of cloud. We were lucky to get such a clear view as the peak is often obscured by clouds.

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The Lanín Volcano kept us company all the way to the Chilean border

As we entered the Lanín National Park we saw hundreds of Auracaria trees, some mere saplings and some very old indeed. The road surface was rougher here, and although mettled was a bit bouncy. Not that we were in any great hurry.

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Entering the Lanín National Park

Finally we crossed into Chilean territory, and hit a decent road surface again. Everything was suddenly much greener; it rains much more on this side of the Andes.

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Crossing into Chilean territory

The officers at the Chilean customs post were working to rule and kept us waiting for about an hour and a half but we were soon through (the actual process was quick and very efficient on both sides).

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Queue at the Chilean border

Although technically a ‘low pass’, we found that we still had a long and twisting descent as we entered Chile, but the roads were in excellent condition. As in many mountain passes between Argentina and Chile some Araucaria trees had been left in the middle of the roads when they were constructed.

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Through the Chilean border

The Araucaria tree is a local species known as Pehuén by people in the region and internationally in English as the Monkey Puzzle Tree or Chilean Pine. Throughout our journey in both Argentina and Chile the sides of the road and the hillsides were also covered with gorgeous yellow broom bushes (Genisteae).

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The yellow broom filled the landscape throughout the day

Before too long we found ourselves in the touristy town of Pucón, where we found a money exchange house and a welcome cup of coffee before continuing on through the town of Villarrica (a large lake and another huge volcano) to hit Route 5, the wonderful spinal motorway that is the Chilean contribution to the Pan-American Highway. Note the red petrol can on the roof of Silver the Jeep slap bang in the middle of the picture.

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Quiet street in Pucón, where we stopped for morning coffee

After about an hour on Route 5 we branched west to Valdivia, and after another fifty miles or so found our Apart-Hotel. Cunningly concealed, and with an initially baffling set of keys, the ‘hotel’ was very spacious, with cooking facilities that we completely ignored as we went round the corner to stuff our faces at a glorious fixed price buffet, with free wine and coffee. We got back to the hotel at about 10.00 pm, tired but happy, and early to bed to prepare for day 2. Watch this space.

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View from balcony in our Valdivia Apart Hotel.

 

Trip through Chile and [Welsh] Patagonia – Day 0

San Martín de los Andes, Wednesday 09 November 2016

Well, we’ll soon be on the move again, the ‘we’ including my sister Caroline –out on a trip from Wales– with whom I’ll be sharing the blog for this trip. The idea is to see something of Patagonia – taking in part of Chile, and following the Welsh belt across to the Atlantic seaboard, with a wild life visit to the Peninsula Valdes thrown in. Lots of yummy shellfish on the Pacific coast and sea lions and elephants, penguins and [hopefully calving] whales on the Atlantic. We’ll be blogging together, and uploading observations, reflections and photos as the whim takes us. Fingers crossed for a good Internet signal as we travel south.

Planned itinerary - subject to ongoing revision

Planned itinerary – subject to ongoing revision

Above is the route we intend to cover, starting and finishing in San Martín de los Andes. We start by driving into Chile through the Tromen pass at Mamuil Mamal, driving through the lovely tourist town of Pucón and then across to Chile’s Ruta 5, and down as far as Valdivia where we’ll spend the first night. After exploring Puerto Montt and the island of Chiloe we drive back into Argentina across the Pueyehue pass and then westwards to Welsh Patagonia. More as we go.

Preparing Silver with spare wheels and petrol cans.

Preparing Silver with spare wheels and petrol cans.

So today is a day of last minute preparations. We intend to leave early tomorrow, Thursday 10 November 2016, and still have a few things to sort but we’ll leave on time. Watch this space.

RN40 south – some stats

I spent 31 days on the road and travelled a total distance of 9,964 kilometres (6,192 miles)

My average km per litre was 7.46 (17.55 mpg) – but this varied enormously day on day according to road surface and need for 4WD.

I slept in 15 hostels, 10 hosterias, 2 campsites, 1 hotel, 1 motel, 1 Bed & Breakfast and 1 night in the car

I registered at least 114 bird species (+ quite a few unknowns) and photographed 40 species that were ‘new’ to me, quite a few endemic to the areas I visited.

Miraculously, I kept my total costs within budget.

RN40 – end of the world

Day: 11-14
Trajectory: In and around Ushuaia

Distance covered:   unknown but unimportant

 

Our journey south is pretty much finished now bar the last hop of the RN40 from Rio Gallegos to Cabo Virgenes, which Martín will do alone. This blog post will describe some of the things we did in Ushuaia before Tiso took the plane back home to San Martín.

Hostería - comfy but not much character

Hostería – comfy but not much character

Tiso and I stayed for four nights in Ushuaia and I stayed alone for one more. It is not on the RN40, but it was as far as Tiso was going and a great place to visit, with  a lot for the tourists of all ages to see and do.

Hostel - full of backpackers, very friendly.

Hostel (lit) – full of backpackers, very friendly.

Because of previous bookings we alternated between a hostel and a hosteria, practically next door to each other. Both comfortable, and the hostel (as one would probably expect) remarkably friendly.

Martin in total photographic bliss on an excursion to Isla Martillo

Martin in total photographic bliss on an excursion to Isla Martillo

On our first day we went on a sea trip and saw lots of wild life: here are a few examples:

Magellanic penguins

Magellanic penguins

One King penguin in the company of several Gentoo penguins

One King penguin in the company of several Gentoo penguins

Fur seals

Fur seals

Sleeping sea lion

Sleeping sea lion

Imperial shags - note the piercing blue eyes

Imperial shags – note the piercing blue eyes

Our first priority was to get the the spare wheel fixed – here’s a reminder of what it looked like after the volcanic rock had attacked it:

The remains of a tyre that we had to replace.

The remains of a tyre that we had to replace.

That done, we continued with our tourism in Ushuaia. On our second day we visited the Tierra del Fuego National Park, where we had our obligatory photograph taken at the end of terrestial Argentina.

Obligatory photo for tourists who reach the end of the world

Obligatory photo for tourists who reach the end of the world

The national park is spectacular and the weather surprisingly mild – with quite a few people camping there.

National Park of Tierra del Fuego - View 1

National Park of Tierra del Fuego – View 1

National Park of Tierra del Fuego - View 2

National Park of Tierra del Fuego – View 2

We also visited a fascinating museum in the old Prison, very well worth a visit.

Prison museum - one of the main corridors

Prison museum – one of the main corridors

The museum told a lot of the history of Ushuaia itself, as well as the lives of the prisoners and their guards who had lived there.

Many of the cells had been used as exhibits of different kinds: this one to show how a typical prisoner lived

Many of the cells had been used as exhibits of different kinds: this one to show how a typical prisoner lived

Tiso left by plane and I went back to the National Park to do some birding. There was evidence of beavers and the damage they have caused since their introduction almost everywhere.

Evidence of beaver damage was everywhere in Tierra del Fuego

Evidence of beaver damage was everywhere in Tierra del Fuego

Beavers would make good pencil sharpeners

Beavers would make good pencil sharpeners

And here is one of the culprits:

The culprit, swimming innocently in a channel

The culprit, swimming innocently in a channel

And I was left alone in Ushuaia, with the long journey up the Atlantic coast of Patagonia ahead of me. But that belongs to another blog.