Carretera Austral – Chaiten & Futaleufu

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Finally, we reached the famous Carretera Austral! The day started off taking the ferry from Hornopiren to Chaiten which we reserved two days ago (advisable since often sold out). The ferry took 4.5hours and to everyone’s joy we saw multiple groups of dolphins on our route 🙂 The ferry dropped us off ca. 60km before Chaiten. In pouring rain we followed a narrow dirt road through thick vegetation towards Chaiten. Fortunately, 25km before Chaiten the road started being completely paved – good for Oscar and hence good for us 🙂

Before dinner we received great news: Our Padron (official inscription of ownership) for Oscar finally arrived! That meant we could now officially leave Chile if we wanted. Fortunately, this happened on a Thursday such that Lothar could go pick up a copy of the Padron at the Registro Civil in Chaiten (service fee 840clp). A short visit at the local copy shop and ready were three laminated copies of the Padon – better be save than sorry 😉

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We spent the day hiking in Parque Pumalin, a privately owned park (Douglas Tompkins, the North Face founder). We picked the Senderro de Darwin and the Senderro de Mirador, two beautiful trails with varying fauna in excellent shape. As a matter of fact, this is so far the best prepared park in Chile! The views from the latter trail were spectacular: We could see all the way down to the bottom of Glacier Yaten. Also we met a lot of cyclists who camped at lush green campgrounds.

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The next day was dedicated to climbing the crater rim of Volcano Chaiten. It’s an active one and erupted the last time a decade ago which destroyed the entire village. The six of us started the ascend at 10.30am and it should take us more or less the proclaimed two hours to reach the top.

Apart from the first 300 or 400m the trail was steadily steep and it was good to have four fit adults to carry the kids occasionally 🙂 As a matter of fact, Leo and Maja did a great job hiking and they are the youngest Kruppoks ever reaching the peak of a volcano!

The shape of the volcano was different from others we’ve seen before: The peak with steaming holes was separated from the crater which was filled with two crater lakes of different color.

We’ve completed the day with a nice spare rib barbecue celebrating Aljona’s birthday. It was also her first volcano ascend – she made herself a fantastic present.

Futaleufu

As our Padron was finally ready it was clear that Futaleufu would be our boarding crossing destination. The road from Chaiten was paved up to Villa Santa Lucia (half of the route). We had not heart about catastrophe which affected this little village a year ago: A huge rainfall triggered a landslide and whipped out the entire village. The village has mostly recovered but its impact was clearly visible given the huge eroded forest area and left behind destroyed houses and trucks.

Futaleufu is a rafting mecca in South America. The Rio Futaleufu and Rio Azul offer rapids of different categories up to class 5. We decided to go for the half day trip on Rio Futa (65,000clp per person). Unfortunately, the trip got changed in the morning to Rio Azul (only 45,000clp) since the water levels got too high (caused by flooding of an Argentinian water dam). As consequence, we did not got to experience challenging class 4 and 5 rapids 😦

Our group of 16 was distributed on three rafts. We spent 1.5h on the water. We had to bridge a small section (too flat water/sharp rocks) by foot. The most fun part was the jump from a cliff into the cold glacier water 🙂 Unfortunately, the battery of our GoPro died just seconds earlier 😦

 

Although the trip did not exceed class 3 rapids we still had a great time on the river – particularly thanks to Patagonia’s fantastic scenery.

Puelo

Our last stop before the Carretera Austral was Puelo. It’s a small village where the same named river enters the Fjord/Pacific Ocean. It was our base for couple of hikes in the region. Unfortunately, finding the trails and completing them was quite a challenge due to missing trail signs and the amount of rain from recent days.

Maja, Leo, Irina and Lothar got lucky to find a local farmer (we used the access to the farm El Quechi) who allowed them to hike over his land to Laguna Candelaria. The trail was a blend of green grass fields and rain forest and in surprising good condition. The finish was at a neat boat ramp.

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Kurt and Aljona were struggling more with the conditions of their trail which started slightly northern of the Rio Puelo bridge. Muddy sections and unmarked trails made them end up at the same spot they started a couple of ours later. Overall, the trails in this area are still in their beginnings and have a lot of room for improvement. Maja and Lothar finished the day with a small loop along the Rio Puelo.

Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas & Ensanada

The locals call Puerto Montt also Muerto Montt which seems to be quite reflective. Apart from the harbor and the supposedly great seafood (didn’t got the chance to try it) there’s nothing apart from big food stores, banks (cash is king) and gas stations which attracts a traveler to it.

The complete opposite is true for Puerto Varas. It has the charm of a Swiss mountain village with Alpine architecture, ample Kuchen shops and a beautiful mountain lake surrounded by volcanoes.

We even found an indoor playground for the kids (Kaffee Wild). Since it’s pretty posh/expensive in Puerto Varas we stayed at the eastern shore in Ensanada. Unfortunately, we could not fully make use of our huge screen towards Volcano Osorno since it was half covered by clouds at the time when we arrived.

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