SOUTH AMERICA OVERLAND
29-Dec-2008: Puerto Montt, Chile to
arrived in Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world. Ushuaia
same latitude as Macquarie Island in Australia so we are very much at
of the world.
been having a fantastic time in Chile , enjoying the company and
support of our
three amigos, Ruperto, Eamon and Simon. All three have travelled
around the world and all share a love for adventure travelling and
When we are at camp, there is always plenty to talk and joke about.
arrived in Puerto Montt, Chile our mission was to explore options for
ferry to Chaiten and then drive the Carratera Austral Highway south to
We heard conflicting reports about this option. Some people say the
not running while others say the road is not driveable since it was
a volcanic eruption earlier in the year.
Since it was Saturday, the shipping offices were closed which meant
needed to wait till Monday. We set up camp at Los Parades campground
about 6 km
out of Puerto Montt. This was a lovely campground with lots of shady
grass run by a lovely family. Once again, Geoff was able to pick up
internet in one corner of the campground. While waiting, we spent the
exploring the island of Chiloe.
morning, we fronted up to the shipping company offices where we were
there was a ferry to Chaiten but that it was fully booked for the week.
enquired about driving to Quellon on the Island of Chiloe and then
picking up another
ferry to Chaiten but there was a lot of doubt as to whether this ferry
running. We then visited the Navimag ferry
office and found that they had a service leaving that afternoon for
Natales. This would take us about 150 kms south of Torres Del Paine
that we will miss driving the Austral Highway. However, we decided we
this drive on the way back from Ushuaia, Argentina. After a bit of
haggling with the Navimag
sales representative, we were able to get a good last minute deal. They
us a group discount on a four birth cabin as well as a 50% discount on
vehicle. So like eager beavers, we booked and paid for our 4 day cruise
Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales. The ferry company told us that we
needed to check
in immediately, but after explaining that we needed to go back to the
ground and pack our bags they gave us an additional hour. We heard that
an amazing journey weaving in and out of the navigable channels around
Chilean islands, through fjords and glaciers with breathtaking scenery.
back to our campsite to pack and fuel up and within an hour, we found
loading our vehicles on board the MS “Evangelista”. The loading of
trucks of all sorts took over four hours. We were able to find our 4
cabin and acquaint ourselves with the facilities on board. It is not a
cruise ship but is adequately equipped with private two to four berth
with private bathrooms and the dormitory style 4 berth cabins to which
allocated. There were some 150 other passengers who came on board. The
of them were independent backpackers who were hoping to do some serious
in the Torres Del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia.
afternoon, the ferry was fully loaded and ready to sail. We counted
very fortunate to be able to get a place on this ferry as it seemed
conceivable place for vehicles was occupied. Despite the miserable
conditions, our journey was very smooth
as the ferry cruised in channel waters weaving its way from island to
In some places, the channels were very narrow. We felt as if the ship
scrape the sides of the islands! The Patagonian snow capped mountains
and imposing on the mainland, sometimes shrouded by misty fog and rain.
the “Evangelista” we were very well fed and entertained throughout the
days of our journey. We had daily informative briefings about the
culture of the area, flora and fauna and a lecture on Glaciology. We
to pass the time on deck getting to know other travellers and watched
Spanish and English like Spiderman and My Big Fat Greek Wedding and an
interesting movie on how Argentina and Chile almost went to war with
in the 1970s . We were very impressed with the friendly and helpful
crew of the
“Evangelista”. Even the bathrooms were cleaned three or four times a
had to go out to sea on the second afternoon. The going got a bit
rougher as we
approached the Pacific Ocean. The ferry was rocked about by the big
We had taken our sea sickness tablets earlier and by late afternoon,
ferry was fairly quiet as many of the passengers had a siesta, probably
sleepiness from the sea sickness tablets. The rough passage continued
of the night until we turned back into the much calmer channel waters
day was just an incredible experience to see Glacier Pio X11. This
glacier is 5
km wide, 90 metres tall covering an area of 1260 km square. The Pio X11
blue/white glacier and the only advancing glacier in Chile, moving at a
200 metres a year. It is said to be the largest glacier in South
was an air of anticipation as all the passengers crowded at the bow
cameras ready to capture the grandeur and beauty of this glacier. We
disappointed. The misty weather cleared just in time for us to behold
beauty before us. It was a very satisfying finish to our 4 day ferry
late morning in Puerto Natales, the gateway to the Torres Del Paine
Park, with a population of 20,000. This town appeared to cater for
tourists, with shops selling adventure tours in Torres Del Paine and
Patagonia. We bought fresh supplies and headed for Torres Del Paine on
beautiful, smooth concrete road. Once again the scenery was
jagged snow-capped mountain peaks in the background. The valleys were
green, grazed by horses, sheep and cows. We were excited to see the
(Chilean Lama). They looked like a cross between the camel and deer.
Paine is part of the Parque Nacional de Chile. The park entry fee was
at 15,000 pesos (A$35) compared with only 4000 pesos (A$9) for locals.
arrived at Base Torres mid morning. While Eamon set off to do a ten
the rest of us decided to take a leisurely walk as Rupert, Simon and
have bad knees and Geoff had a sore toe. So the walking wounded set off
casually and before we knew it, we had actually gone on a 6 hour 12 km
hike gave us great views of the glacial mountains. We walked uphill,
across wooden and suspension bridges. We crossed streams flowing with
fresh water and walked through a very pretty wooded area.
others went off to stay in the private campground, Geoff and Kienny
night sleeping inside Troopy in the carpark of the fancy Hotel Torres.
weather overnight was cold, wet and windy. We made ourselves quite at
sitting in the hotel lobby accessing internet. To date, we have not had
visit any internet cafes. Along the way we have been able to pick up
free WiFi at
various service stations, hotels and businesses.
Torres del Paine and headed back to Puerto Natales for lunch to
Geoff’s birthday. We tried the “plato el dia” which was set meal for
The entrée dish was sea urchin in a vinegar dressing. It tasted
than fresh oysters with a slimy texture and one definitely had to have
acquired taste for this Chilean delicacy. The main course consisted of
and rice with coconut pudding for dessert. The 3 amigos organised a
candle with strawberry sauce which was a lovely surprise for Geoff.
lunch, we continued south towards Ushuaia. We set off with Malcolm whom
on the “Evangelista”. Malcolm is 70 years old and this was his maiden
motorcycle trip after spending 26 years sailing solo around the world
yacht. We were in awe as he shared his
sailing experiences with us. What an inspiration to us all! We drove
strong winds all afternoon. The landscape was gently undulating sheep
country most of which was quite uninteresting and monotonous. We made
past Villa Tehuelches not far from Rio Verde in a shallow gully to give
shelter from the wind. It was a cold, windy and wet night but I guess
to be expected at this latitude.
morning, our departure was delayed by stockman herding cattle through
campsite. Just when we thought the road was clear, we were startled by
curious eyes staring at us. Another stockman was herding sheep. It was
windy drive as we approached the coast on the Magellan Strait,
South American mainland from Tierra del Fuego. We stopped to inspect a
shipwreck near Estancia San Gregorio. Not far down the road at Punta
took the vehicle ferry across the Magellan Strait to Tierra del Fuego.
journeyed on past Cero Sombrero, Cullen and San Sebastian. This area
have plenty of oil and gas beneath the bleak and seemingly desolate
to Ushuaia, we stopped to lend a helping hand to two American overland
one of whom has broken down. The route we took from Puerto Natales to
was mostly excellent concrete roads with the exception of around 80km
gravel road linking Chile with Argentina. Much of the area is bleak,
dusty. The countryside is like the South Australian scrubby salt plains
only the hardiest of sheep strong enough to brave the harsh conditions.
arrived at the Chilean town of San Sebastian at about 6 pm. This border
reminded us of the Tashanta border post in northwest Mongolia. The
officials were very friendly and courteous and it took no time at all
stamped out of Chile. The customs collected our vehicle import document
were allowed to continue on our way.
Argentine border proceedings were also straightforward. Immigration and
were friendly and courteous. We had been told that our vehicle would be
searched as agricultural products are not allowed to be taken across
Chile-Argentina border. As such we had already eaten all fresh fruit,
vegetables and meat prior to exiting Chile. We were pleasantly
we were waived through by customs without the vehicle being searched.
read and were told about compulsory third party insurance in Argentina.
tried to enquire with the customs officer who prepared our vehicle
document about where we could purchase “seguro” but he merely told us
worry about it. So, we decided not to pursue the matter. We will
the insurance when we next cross back into Argentina.
in Rio Grande at around 8 pm. There was still plenty of daylight and we
able to withdraw Argentine pesos from an ATM and do some grocery
we paid by credit card. We went to a
family run restaurant for dinner at 9.30 pm. Argentines eat very late.
It was not until after midnight that we
finished our meal. This made for a very late night camp below a bridge
outskirts of Rio Grande. Again, a very windy night but we were very
sleeping inside Troopy.
effort for our 3 amigos to get going the next morning after a late
windy night. The noise of their tents flapping in the strong wind kept
awake for half the night. We called into Tolhuin for an early lunch and
the best tasting Empanadas we have had so far on this trip. Fuel was
cheaper here due to being so close to the oil fields and the government
subsidy that is available in the south of Argentina.
Ushuaia was the most scenic and breathtaking stretch we have driven
our short time in South America. The Sierra Lucio Lopez mountains
treacherous and formidable with snow covered dagger pointed peaks. The
windy and steep in places . We passed stunning alpine lakes with
shades of turquoise green and blue. We found ourselves pulling over at
every bend to try to capture as much beauty as we could.
after a long 100 km drive from Tolhuin, we arrived in Ushuaia, “fin del
(the end of the world). Ushuaia is a city on the Beagle Channel,
snow covered mountains. The city is hilly like Murmansk Russia. The
centre and the area around the pier is very developed with tourist
souvenir arcades, high end Goretex and other adventure clothing stores.
weather was windy and cool with light sprinkles of rain.
task in Ushuaia was to see if we could find a last minute deal on a
to Antarctica. We went from travel agent to travel agent and were
the prices. In the end, the agent
for Quark Expeditions gave us a good deal on a Classic Antarctica
expedition cruise for 12 days. The price included one night’s stay at
an up market
hotel and a very nice parka. Wellington boots were supplied for every
so we would not need to hire these. The Clipper Adventurer ship has a
of 122 passengers compared to other ships that took 450 to 800
passengers. There is an agreement
between tour operators and the authorities governing Antarctica that
only 100 people at a time are allowed to
make landings on Antarctica. As such,
on a smaller ship has its advantages.
tour booked, we set up camp at “La
Pista del Andino” campsite, which is popular with overlanders. This
campsite is located on the hillside with a good view of the city and
Channel. The managers are very friendly. There were many German and
overlanders in their very fancy campervans and mobile homes. We also
Brazilian families in their large luxurious motor homes. We became
with a couple from Australia and two young Dutch guys who were
through South America.
days spare, we were able to refill our Australian gas bottles. We also
Troopy to a rapid oil change workshop which was well equipped. Each oil
station had a hydraulic hoist. Mounted on each wall were oil dispensers
different grades of engine oil. The staff were very professional and
Customers were able to watch the oil change process from a counter with
stools. They also provided free WiFi internet! The weather in Ushuaia
very temperamental. It changes from fine to miserable from hour to
hour. In the
past week it had been warm, sunny, cold, gloomy, wet and windy all
same day. Yesterday, it snowed overnight! We woke up to winter
was just magical.
only a day away, the campsite was a hive of activity with people
their campsite and the communal kitchen with tinsel, balloons and
tree. The Germans had a 3 course roast dinner catered for by the camp
while the Brazilians had a group dinner around tables and chairs set
tablecloths, candles and flashing fairy lights. Meanwhile, all the
ladies were busily cooking crepes, sweet and savoury fillings and
entrees for their crepe party. They even had a Santa Claus lugging a
of gifts for all the French children. The rest of us “homeless orphans”
together for a big Argentine barbeque in the open car park with slabs
of meat ,
sausages and salads. It was a different but special Christmas eve
Christmas Day we shared our Harrods Plum Pudding which Geoff had
purchased on a
recent business trip to the UK. Kienny cooked up some custard with the
her Spanish dictionary as all the cooking instructions were in Spanish.
a little unsure if we had purchased custard but was pleasantly
the taste test proved positive. Being only a small plum pudding, all
Aussies lined up with spoon and bowl in hand to sample a small morsel
special Christmas treat. It was delicious!
are about to make our way down to the pier to board our ship to
Antarctica for the
adventure of a lifetime! We wish you all a very Happy New Year.
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.
A map of our trip can be seen
by going to http://kingsmilloverland.com/americas/GoogleMaps/Americas.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://kingsmilloverland.com or by selecting the Contents button at
the bottom of this page.
and Kienny Kingsmill