Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Bariloche to Puerto Varas
We took the Andesmar bus leaving at 1.15pm from the Bariloche bus station (300 pesos / $23) to arrive in Pureto Varas, Chile at 8pm. This bus even included a simple lunch with some sandwich meats and a mini quiche. The views on this bus ride really are quite beautiful as it takes in a small portion of the 7 lakes route heading north from Bariloche.
The border crossing formalities were fairly simple except the usual long entry into Chile to check for illegal foods. Heading towards Puerto Varas at sunset we were lucky to have clear views of the perfectly symmetrical Volcano Osorno.
Rainy days in Puerto Varas
We checked into the cozy family feeling and small Hostel Casa Margouya (8,000 pesos / $13.50 ea in a 6 bed dorm).
Our first day in Puerto Varas was heavy with rain. Nancy had chosen to do a Canyoning tour leaving the both of us to do some shopping on a rainy day. We were on the lookout for some puffy down jackets to give us some extra warmth while being light and taking up little space in our packs. We took a mini bus to the nearby port town of Puerto Montt to visit the shopping mall. Toby got lucky and found a jacket that fit him on heavy discount.
The next day the weather was still not good with predictions of rain. We did a small walk around town.
In the afternoon we all agreed on a mini trip to see some waterfalls (Saltos del Rio Petrohue) and a lake, Lago Todo los Santos. The return bus would cost 2,600 pesos ($4.40) each. The waterfalls were a brilliant blue colour and even offered some views of the partly cloud covered Volcano Osorno.
Next stop was the lake where we met a crazy dog who loved sticks. Toby would play with the dog most of the time as we tried to avoid the rain.
Puerto Montt to Chaiten
This was a hectic and expensive journey. If you want to save time and money we recommend travelling back through Argentina as the roads are better, buses are more regular and its cheaper (depending on seasons and availability). We’d been told from Bariloche the buses weren’t going down Route 40. That meant we would have had to take a 30 hour bus from Bariloche to El Calafate via the Argentinian coast. We chose against this as Rodora had been desperate to visit the marble caves in Chile and this would have made things really hard to get there.
Our journey started with the Naviera Austral Ferry starting in Puerto Montt and going to Chaiten. The ferry departed at midnight and arrived around 8am (16,000 pesos / $27). We were lucky as the ferry was maybe only a quarter full, we could lie across several seats and sleep.
This town was rocked by a volcanic eruption in 2008. Huge amounts of ash flowed for over a month, blocked the river which then flooded the town causing the long term evacuation of the 4,000 locals. There are still some houses bordering the river that have been left as living monuments to the power of the volcano.
We would meet a local man, Nicholas, who works in tourism and speaks English that gave us some great help and advice (www.chaitur.com). We would get on a 12pm bus going to Santa Lucia (1,000 pesos / $1.70). Here we would connect to a bus going to Coyhaique (18,000 pesos / $30). This would be a punishing 10 hour trip on the Carretera Austral. This is truly some of the roughest and isolated road you might see. It’s the unofficial continuation of the Pan America highway that goes for around 1270km’s with single lane roads and mostly muddy or gravel surfaces.
We arrived into town just after midnight and wanting a hot shower and warm bed. We found a local hostel with a private room at 20,000 pesos ($34) and went straight to bed. The next morning our bus would leave at 9am going to Puerto Tranquilo (9,000 pesos / $15) and take about 4 hours through more snow capped mountain and dirt roads along the Carretera Austral.
Puerto Rio Tranquilo
The weather in town as we arrived was blue skies and with rain the past 4 or so days we knew we should jump on the chance to get the tour as soon as possible. We would check into the nearby Residencial La Paz (10,000 pesos / $17 ea) and go straight for the boat tour to the caves.
Marble Caves of Lake General Carrera
This is the main reason for this whole big detour by bus. It is known as Capilla de Marmol (Marble Chapel). It is a natural geological formation sculpted by the lake waters and high winds. We were expecting some high tour prices but in the end it was only 8,000 pesos ($13.50) each for a 2 hour boat trip. We organized it through our hostel, but it was the same price as the office right next to where the bus drops you off. We took a mini bus to the nearby boat dock to find our boat and captain.
We got really lucky with a beautiful blue sky and fluffy white clouds. It was only about 15 minutes until we were at our first caves with bright blue water.
Depending on the size of the caves, we could take the whole boat inside to get really close.
We continued along the shoreline following the caves to arrive at the dog. Or at least a rock shaped like a dog.
The showcase piece is called the Cathedral with the boat able to go completely inside and the whole side open to the water.
Next to the cathedral, we could get out of the boat and actually climb onto some of the marble. This allowed for some really great photos.
The final natural phenomenon was where the water had carved what looks like a rabbit into a rock.
Getting out of Puerto Rio Tranquilo to El Chalten
Our next destination was to get to Glaciar National Park near El Chalten, Argentina. This was set to test our patience, Spanish skills and determination to continue travelling. Our first issue was to get across the Argentinian border. We didn’t want to backtrack going North to Coyhaique so instead we took one of two weekly buses going to Chile Chico on the border with Argentina. This was not cheap at 14,000 pesos ($24) each for a 4 hour ride. We were hoping to directly connect across the border to Los Antiguos but would have to wait until the next day as we got in too late and the border closes at 8pm.
In Chile Chico we would camp at Kon-Aiken for the bargain price of 2,700 pesos ($4.60) each.
Our challenges continued as we tried to determine if there was a bus going down Route 40 from Los Antiguos. We had been regularly using the website Plataforma10 (www.plataforma10.com/en-US) to plan our Argentine buses. This said a bus would leave at 1am the next morning going the way we wanted. None of the locals knew about this. We hoped that our arrival in the bus station at Los Antiguos would give us some better news. Interestingly, the bus company office was closed when we arrived, thanks to Argentina’s lengthy afternoon siestas (1pm-5pm). We asked another company and they said they didn’t know anything about the bus. Even the tourist information office knew nothing about the bus. At 5pm when the office opened, we were happy to hear the bus was coming and they had space for us. Now it was time to kill another 8 hours before an overnight bus (810 pesos / $62.50) with Taqsa/Marqa.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/