iKamper blog: Episode 14: Chile tour
After crossing the Bolivian border, we descended into the Atacama desert in Chile. We spent a few days exploring the majestic desert landscape before continuing south straight to the cosmopolitan cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. We didn’t wait long to get to the grand finale of all Pan-Am adventures: Patagonia. Touching the Atlantic, Pacific, and Southern oceans, Patagonia is the southern region of the Americas, where only the brave and determined arrive to witness its glacial beauty and smell the freshest air in the world. Patagonia shares is pristine landscape with both Chile and Argentina, and one of the best ways to see Chile’s side is touring down the Carretera Austral (Southern Highway).
The infamous Carretera Austral, Chile’s most adventurous, scenic and sometimes dicey road-trip, is a half-paved road, snaking down the long country for more than 1,200 km. The question isn’t if you’ll hit a pothole, rather how manytimes you’ll hit and how hard. After driving for 7 months through Latin America, we didn’t have a single flat tire, but shortly after beginning our venture down this Carretera, we had two flat tires in two days, one right after another. The entire road isn’t paved, but wow is it beautiful, veering in and out of the Andes, getting glimpses of the mirror blue lakes and the white capped mountains.
We were lucky enough to find great travel partners, a Canadian girl and Danish guy, cruising in a Toyota Cruiser. It can be hard to find other travel partners with a similar vibe, but they could throw down a mean bonfire and their crepe-bacon-brunch-game was fierce, so… obviously they were approved.
In the overlanding community, they say the longer you are on the road, the more adventurous you get. It might sound counterintuitive, but it proved to me true for us. At first, we veered off the road a a bit, in search of good bonfire wood and swimming holes, but not too far from the local town. But once we started building confidence, we sought out those remote, un-touched gems that Chile proved to be full of. The whole ruta was a overlander’s playground: thick forest, calm glacier lakes, and not a soul for miles.
One particularly memorable time, in the heart of Patagonia, near General Carrera Lake, the two Toyotas put their 4wd into gear, and zipped off the main road. Tucked behind the mountains, the small dirt road opened up to a wide open space of pure Patagonia plains, with no sign of life. We tried to gage the direction of the wind, and decided to butt our rig’s rears together, creating a little cove for our campsite. Everyone went right to work. Gather wood, put more layers on, designate the pee bush… the usual tasks. Once we had the fire going, we popped open our Skycamp, making the campsite complete. Since the cold set in, we started getting creative with storing our alpaca blankets and sleeping bags all the way in the back of the tent. Nights like these, in the middle of nowhere, you want to set yourself up to make your sleeping arrangement as accessible as possible because once that fire goes out, the cold hits you like a ton of bricks. We spent the evening adding wood to the fire, contemplating our lives, and reflecting on journey. We had great food, cheap (but great quality) Chilean wine, great company, and nothing but Patagonia’s fresh mountain air all around us. We howled at the moon and laughed until our bellies hurt. Even right in the midst of the moment, time slows down, you look around you, and you feel so grateful for where you are and making that plunge to do an adventure as daring as this one. We snuggled into that Alpaca that night, with a full heart, and already dreaming of the morning’s crepes and bacon.