We were anxious to leave Valpo. We’d been travelling for 2 weeks already, without our van, living out of an overstuffed duffel bag and sleeping in assorted beds every second night. We longed for our own space, even if it was significantly smaller than any hotel room we’d already been sharing. We especially missed our favourite pillows, which we shipped with the van 6 weeks prior. Unfortunately, getting El Cóndor out of the container yard was significantly more difficult than it should have been. Thanks to two separate errors made by the freight forwarders we could not get it on the Friday as we planned and thus had to wait out the weekend until we could try again. The good news was that Valparaiso is an interesting city to spend a weekend in.
We enjoyed Valparaiso. Probably because we were staying with such generous and friendly hosts. Martina and Enzo made us feel extremely comfortable, and their +100 year old home, affectionately known as Villa Kunderbunt, was full of friendly pets (2 dogs, 4 cats, 9 new-born kittens!) to keep the kids occupied and everyone in good spirits.
In between some school time and grocery shopping, we explored the extremely steep streets of Valpo (including a mandatory ride in one of the antique funiculars), marvelling at the famous street art around every corner. We were also impressed by the Naval Museum only a few blocks down the street from Villa Kunderbunt.
To see more of Valparaiso check out our Photo Journal at the link below.
Finally, on Monday afternoon the van was uncanned and driven to a secure parking lot near our hosts home. Unfortunately, it did not make it there completely unscathed. If you would like to hear the story about an encounter with the side mirror of a delivery van, you’ll have to buy Rob a beer first!
We actually had high hopes of leaving Valpo the day after getting the van out of the container yard, despite the gentle discouragement of our hosts. We were still thinking like we were in North America and that we would be able to fill the van with water, gas, propane, and food in one morning and be ready to leave by lunch. It actually took ALL of the next day just to find places that could fill our two American style propane tanks. The silver lining was that we had one more stress-free night to enjoy asado and wine with our hosts before we left the next morning.
Wednesday October 18th we hit the open road with smiles and high-fives. We cruised south through the orchard region along the “ruta de fruta”. Music blaring and windows down. We were living our dream of 2 years in the making! We were overlanding in South America! Perfect… until our daughter got carsick and vomited all over herself! So much for the idilic start to our adventure.
Our first destination was the tiny coastal town of Llico a few hundred Kms south of Valpo. MJ had made a connection on Instagram months before we left with another Alberta family (wayfaringfamily) who graciously invited us to visit them at their olive farm. It turned out to be a very special place, with amazing flowers and fresh fruit at every turn. We had a great time and everyone made some new friends. We hope to be able to return the favour some day soon.
We now had to start making some real progress heading south. The extra 4 days spent in Valpo had put a serious dent in our schedule and we would be forced to make it up with some long days of driving. We set our sights on Antuco, the first mountain park to the south and put the pedal down. We were both happy and worried about travelling in the shoulder season. It was nice to have everything so quiet, but we also encountered plenty of campgrounds, restaurants, and stores that were still not open for the summer season.
The next morning we were back on the Ruta 5 heading into Chile’s Lake District to visit Pucón. It reminded us of a Chilean version of Nelson, BC. It is a highly developed adventure tourist town, nestled in the mountains next to a picturesque lake under a huge white volcano. Luckily we had some decent weather to enjoy some black-sand beach time.
Another stint on Ruta 5 brought us to the quaint little German town of Frutillar. It was a striking sight to suddenly come across the Bavarian style buildings and clock tower. We immediately took advantage of the local bakeries selling yummy strudel and cakes!
The next day we travelled to the coast to catch a ferry to the island of Chiloé. This picturesque island is home to a few hardy fishing villages and few colonies of penguinos. There are also several colourful wooden churches that have been named Unesco world heritage sites.
The town of Ancud included a surprisingly good (and free!) museum which had exhibits describing the lives of the first settlers, some local art, and the entire skeleton of a real blue whale! Very cool.
We then headed directly to the nearby penguin colony and arranged a boat tour out to the islands to get a close up. The kids loved the bumpy boat ride. We also secured free camping in the beach-side parking lot. It was amazing to explore the tidal pools alone after the tour operators had packed up for the day.
Our final day on the island of Chiloé was spent travelling through the town of Castro, with its famous stilt houses, to the terminus of Ruta 5 in the dumpy little port town of Quellón. Mom was feeling very ill, so we quickly visited the Naviere Austral offices to check in on our scheduled ferry for early the next morning and then retired to a campground on the far side of town.
Unfortunately, the ferry to Chaitén was scheduled for loading at the unholy hour of 02:00 for a 03:00 departure. This ferry only runs twice a week, so there was no room for error. Due to the ridiculously early timeframe, Dad set his alarm for midnight and moved the kids down onto the lower bed with Mom so the family could sleep while Dad drove to the ferry. In fact, the entire family (except Dad) slept through the entire process and the 4 hour ride to Chaitén. Luckily Dad was so excited to finally reach Patagonia that a quick cup of Nescafé was all he needed to revive himself to begin the drive south down the famous Carretera Austral.
To see more of our travel through Central Chile check out the links below.