The thirty minute sailing was quickly over and after some entertainment watching a large camper do battle with the steep ramp our wheels were soon eating up the gravel again. This hour long stretch of road was probably some of the roughest we encountered on the trip so far, the large frequent potholes reducing our progress to 20km/hr at times. We arrived at the ferry terminal in Hornopiren to a busy scene of cars, campers, utes, motorbikes and cyclists. Rochelle went to organise us a ticket while I sorted a few things in the vehicle. The previous day in Puerto Varas we had investigated all the ferry crossings we would be making and were told by no less then two information centres that "no" a ticket was not needed before hand and we should just arrive early as the places were based on order of arrival. If only that was the case! Rochelle came back empty handed and we watched the fully booked ferry arrive and depart without us onboard. Luck was on our side though and there was another sailing at midday, after some nervous moments when a large bus arrived just before the ferry was due to depart we were given the nod and were the second to last vehicle on before the ramp came up. This was the longest crossing taking just over three hours so we got a prime position on the rooftop deck to take in the views of the surrounding fiords. While filming a time lapse of the crossing we meet all sorts of people, most notably Luis and Lacy from California they were driving a 1980's Toyota Landcruiser and had spent the last three years driving south. We grilled them for info and eager to see how experienced overlanders do it we made a plan to camp together for the night in Parque Pumalin later that day.
The next day after a nice river side camp and some semi successful bread making we decided we should check out one of the more recommended glaciers in the area, Ventisquero Colgante. Feeling a little poorer now due to the impending radiator repair we employed a slightly dodgy technique to enter the national park which involved I guess a form of people smuggling… Rochelle hid in the back with a blanket over her. After a few tense moments we were in and at a fifty percent discount, although the cost for a foreigner was still four times the price of a national. While in the park we met two Chilean brothers Javier and Francisco who were part way through a southern climbing trip. After a broken conversation through another guy who spoke both English and Spanish we hatched a plan to take them south and do some climbing together at Cerro Castillo. Little did we know but this was the beginning of one of our most memorable weeks of the trip despite us not speaking Spanish and them not speaking and English!
That evening the brothers recommended a stop on a huge curved bridge where they showed us an old rock climbing route and Will spotted some huge Trout swimming up the rapids. The brothers played with the idea that we should abseil over the bridge to the rocks below about 30m. Why not thought Will and I, so much to the delight of the gathering onlookers we abseiled twice each over the bridge. Possibly this was a test from the brothers to see if we had what it took to go climbing with them…and we must have passed. That night we camped next to a river claiming the good spot just before another car turned up.
Our leaking radiator was still a big problem and we stopped in the larger town of Coyhaique to see about getting it fixed of course it also happened to be a Sunday so the guy couldn't do it until the following day! Stuff it, we decided to get some food supplies for the climb and head south towards Cerro Castillo. Though only after seeing the Germans again by chance and hatching a border crossing plan for later. The brothers Javier and Francisco had out done themselves and proved how nice Chileans are by buying a Mutton leg for our camp near the foot of the mountain which worked out really nice as it was also my birthday. So despite the thousands and thousands of large biting horse flies that had swarmed us until dusk we ate like kings and our communication skills improved with every drink.
That morning we packed our climbing packs as fast as possible while the flies attacked and thought we would finally be going climbing. No rush from the brothers though as we all stopped to photograph a loan wild deer near the road. Finally at the start of the track the brothers went to talk to the information centre while I contemplated where to go for a pee… I saw a good spot on the other side of a hedge and away I went though on my return I wasn't watching my head and scratched it rather hard on a branch. I touched the scratch and felt blood, lots of blood was now dripping down my face as I walked back into the information centre looking for Will. Everybody saw me and rushed to my aid, it was only a small cut but boy did it bleed and I needed a wash so the lady kindly lead me to the bathroom which I should have just asked for in the first place!! Will cleaned me up in no time but talk about drama. Finally we parked the car put on our packs and begun one of the more hellish assents of our lives. It was hot like never before, the biting flies were intense roughly forty per person and the trail was far from clear. I was sweating either way but my jacket at least provide some relief from the flies. Finally we made it to a nice river camp and as the sun set the flies left. The next day we walked only a short way, that with an earlier start we could have walked the day before. But it meant plenty of time to polish our rope work with the brothers help and set up a zip line across the river with a quick practice for the real thing at 3am in the dark.
Back in Coyhaique we said our said good byes to Javier and Francisco then dropped the Dodge off to get the radiator fixed. After lunch and spending too long at the cafe with free wifi we returned to the still unfinished Dodge. Not long after they proclaimed it fixed we turned on the car only to see several small leaks they had missed with the solder. Again we waited while they soldered them up and $200 later we were on our way. Only now as I write this over two months and many more problems later can we confirm what a waste of money this was as they can't have taken out the whole radiator like they said they had and thus did a very average repair job that was leaking again less than 300km later! That night we arrived in the dark to a known campground where we had our first luxurious hot shower after a week of cold river swims. The next day was filled with the post trek domestic duties of washing gear and cleaning out the car, rice and soy sauce spills included after the chaos of having four people in our already full car. Finally at 6pm we had reloaded the car and hit the road only to camp again two hours later next to another river. Of course I was driving and left the lights on so in the morning we had to flag down several drivers until we found one with jumper leads willing to drive down and jump us. The Dodge didn't appear to like this very much and as soon as we put it into drive it kept stalling. The jump starting must affect the computer and it wouldn't idle so after a bit of high rev driving from Will we were back on the road and the Dodge eventually came right. Meanwhile I decided maybe we did have enough money to buy our own jumper leads after all.
That day we made it to Cochiane where we noticed the engines temperature was up again and we could see puffs of steam from under the bonnet, so much for our expensive repair! Not to worry Cochiane had this amazing shop full of everything you could ever want: food, veggies, ice cream, shoes, material, clothing, guns (yes even handguns), chainsaws and best off all car accessories. We brought every possible thing we could think off to fix the leak including two types of stop leak and an epoxy resin to put over the crack. However Will refused to use any of this until he had had the chance to clean the area and apply them properly so with another water top up we headed out of town on the dusty road.
Ahead of our schedule to meet the Germans in Villa O'Higgins we side tracked to the street-less sea side town of Caleta Tortel where we discovered we had a flat tyre thanks to the sharp gravelled access road. Will changed it in a jiffy and we meandered around the board walks of the peaceful town. We couldn't decided if it was a gorgeous place or weather the sewerage going directly into the sea below the board walks kind of ruined it. As evening came we camped beside the impressive Rio Baker and next morning I woke to a warm solar shower and freshly made banana pancakes, thanks Will! We also noticed that another tyre was a bit flat so we pumped it up and drove to the final and free ferry crossing on the Carretera.
After refitting the patched tyre that evening we left the campsite and the others, camping onroute to the border. At first light we drove until the road came to an abrupt stop at the large Rio Mayer. Here our enquires about making the border crossing were met with a friendly but firm "No authorisation" reply from the local Carabineros. The road lead into the braided Rio Mayer but according to the Carabineros it was the deep and swiftly flowing Rio Carrera further upstream that was completely impassible all but for the coldest winter months of the year when the flow was at its lowest. After all the speculation of the last few days we figured this might happen so we hightailed it north to the next closest crossing at Paso Roballos. After driving all day on the typically narrow and rough Chilean roads we again had a riverside camp to ourselves just before the border. The next day entering Argentina was a fast and hassle free five minute border crossing. Making a beeline for the Atlantic coast the effects of crossing to the eastern side of the Andes was immediately obvious, while still gravel the road improved dramatically and the lush dense forest of Patagonian Chile gave way to barren and dry plains. Straight away we missed the constant rivers and lakes of Chile now being faced with camping in an endless windy desert and a road just far enough away from the ocean that you couldn't see it. Over the next few days we put in some huge miles and after re-entering Chile for a quick but rough ferry trip across the straights of Magallanes it was back into Argentina, down the Ruta 3 and after 55 days and 5,553km we had finally made it to the end of the world and the official start of our trip USHUAIA!!!
Rochelle & Will