10.08.2014 - 12.09.2014
The road to Coyhaique gave us our first glimpse of the epic scenery we had all been waiting for. As we crested a hill we saw majestic mountains in the distance, with beautiful lakes below. The scale of these panoramas is hard to describe but it blows you away. There are border huts dotted all along the Chilean and Argentina border as the road north winds its way in and out of each country. We had been assured they were all manned and more than capable of dealing with the paperwork of getting the car in and out of each country. A cute little station saw us checked out of Argentina. I was driving the mountainous pass and began to worry after about 15km when there was no sight of the Chilean border. We passed farms and homes and after 45 km I was really worried. I assume it is not nice to be caught in country with no papers and a rental car. The boys were very blasé. They assured me that if somehow we had missed the boarder we would get it all sorted with the police. As previously mentioned collectively our Spanish just about stretches to asking for beer and saying cheers. I didn't like the idea of trying to explain an unlawful entry. However it turned out the boys were right and I needn't have worried. Possibly to the longest border gap I have ever come across but eventually we found the hut for stamps, paperwork and the useless poke inside the car for contraband and I could relax.
We arrived late into Coyhaique and spent more than a few minutes dealing with the way the roads are set up in this part of the world. One way roads forming square grids are the norm here, which sounds easy but with the right of way not made clear and certain roads not following the pattern you can quickly become disorientated and tired of circling round and round to get to where you want to go. Turns out this touristy town closes many of its hostels over the winter, but our method of discovering this seemed to be visiting every single one. Ellie and I eventually gave up and sent the boys out on foot whilst we stood awkwardly in a cafe, where help with finding accommodation was sought (the cakes looked amazing but there is only so much sweet food and caffeine you can take on the road) before returning to the car. Ellie and I never failed to find most situations amusing even when tired,hungry and homeless. Each of the boys could made us cackle with laughter at the silliest things, especially when they weren't around. As usual our heroes found us a lovely place to stay and we headed out to find food. A restaurant proved far easier to find than a hostel. We decided to treat ourselves to a slap up meal but found ourselves a bit perplexed at the menu. We each ordered our own steak or lamb dishes but couldn't work out the super expensive mixed meat option. Turns out it is a popular way of serving food in this part of the world. Why choose just one of all the delicious wood fired meat options when you pick one mighty meat feast and share them all? A bottle of red wine accompanied our meal and we were persuaded to try the local drink Pisco Sour. Now I miss having glass after glass (OK and glass) of warming red wine, but a cocktail with the word sour in it and I am a happy pregnant lady. A quick sip confirmed my prejudice, that and the screwed up faces of my fellows travellers as they manfully took theirs down. Talk turned to all things army and Ellie and I made the sound decision to leave the boys to it and head home.
The next day saw us raring to go, however once again we had a flat tyre. Seems the road had been harder on our car than we had given it credit for. Once again the boys were dispatched to find new tyres. Over lunch we did some research into Carretera Austral. There is nothing quite like the sight of 5 foreigners in an beautiful mountain town with all their eyes glued to their phone screens. After discovering hundreds of miles of more gravel roads awaited us we looked into another option, a ferry. Brochures showed the truly beautiful fjords covered in lush forests and wildlife close up. After such rotten luck on the driving we decided a 28hr ferry would be perfect. I was sad not to be travelling along the famous Carretera Austral, but we would still get the scenery and it would be a lot more comfortable.
We finally found our way to the correct ferry after some brilliant Spanglish from Jacko. He was learning Spanish with the help of an app on his phone and what he lacked in proficiency he more than made up for in confidence. Not one to let not knowing the words get in the way he could be relied upon to jump out he car and endlessly ask people for help, directions and all manner of information. This time Terry and Andy caught him asking about the location of our ferry. To my knowledge "lefto" is not considered proper Spanish.
We boarded late at night with images of bars and and restaurants serving local seafood, as we had seen in the brochure. A small bar serving nothing but melted cheese and bread in various combinations turned out to be the only facilitates on board. Rows of TV's at impossible angles above our heads showed all manner of films during our voyage. Schindler's List turns out to still be quite the thought provoking downer, but the kids on board seemed to enjoy it. Reclining seats provided us with our sleeping option but we all headed to the floor armed with roll mats and sleeping bags.
The dawn turned out to be hard to catch in the thick fog and rain. Although no sign of the postcard views we could see the front of the boat and it was fascinating to watch all manner of items get loaded and unloaded at the many stops along the way. The ferry really is a lifeline for the communities living in these little fishing villages dotted amongst the islands. We were particularly interested in the large number of sacks of what we thought were potatoes, they turned out to be huge shellfish of some kind, you have to love the irony. The weather did eventually clear enough for us to catch a glimpse of something truly special, an Orca Whale. . Although quite far off and not exactly the full Attenborough experience to see a wild Orca was pretty amazing.
As we were going at a walking pace it didn't not come as a shock when 28 hrs turned into 35 and we spent our second night on the boat. A large boat filled with sweaty men lead to cacophony of snoring noises. None as irritating as Terry who got a boot thrown at his head for disturbing Andy and Ellie who were catching up on a bit of Boardwalk Empire. However we did manage some sleep and awoke to another gray dawn and we had at last arrived.