We weren’t ready to give up our perfect spot on the Pacific just yet and thus stayed for another 2 days. Although these days were mainly days of leisure, I did spend one day on the roof of the van. Since Brazil, we had a leak just above where our heads would be in the van on days, or nights, where it rained heavily and the wind came from a certain direction. We had tried to mend this a few times but, fortunately for us, it rained so little there weren’t that many occasions to check our fixes. The last time it rained it became clear we didn’t solve the problem yet and this time we went for a more rigorous approach. Firstly, I kitted all possible origins of a leak with some heavy-duty kit and secondly, I covered the whole roof with roof tar turning the once red roof into a black one, which, as a bonus, looks a lot better we think. We did have some rain in the weeks to come and are happy to say it is now fully waterproof.
From our idyllic spot on the coast we first went into Valdivia for lunch, some home front Wi-Fi updates and some grocery shopping. Back on the boat from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt, Jacob told us that Valdivia used to be a Dutch town called Brouwershaven. Not that we really looked but we didn’t find any proof, still a sort of fun fact. At the market, we bought some delicious cheese and fruits while the sea lions were eating the leftovers from the fish stalls. After lunch, we drove on towards Pucón, a village in an area full of volcanoes among which the Villarrica volcano. This volcano is among the most active ones in Chile and is also known as Rucapillán which means house of the ghost in Mapudungun, the language of the local Mapuche Indians. It took us a while to find a good wild camp spot, or maybe we were just spoiled with the spot of the last days, but in the end, we settled for a place underneath some trees. We were just settled when a car came driving towards us and a guy got out. He was an employee of a farm a bit further and was ok with us staying there, he just needed to close a fence and we would not be able to leave before 8 am the next morning. Usually, that is something we are very ok with but this time we wanted to leave early to go on a hike among the volcanoes the next day. We contemplated packing up our stuff again but it had also started to drizzle so we opted against it and settled on leaving a bit later than planned the next day.
At 7 am we woke up from the sounds of someone opening the gate so, in the end, we were able to leave quite early to some sort of makeshift campsite area which marked the start of the trail. The lands we were about to walk on were not a national park but were being preserved by a private investor that wanted to keep the rainforest pure. We had to pay a small entrance fee and received a map that would explain some parts of the trail. To be honest the trail itself wasn’t that interesting and especially the first few kilometers and the last were pretty tough but the view at the “finish” was all worth it I guess. Not sure if Cees agreed though. On the way back, we encountered a small fox that did not seem to be at all impressed with our presence. We almost had to jump aside while he was searching for food and ignoring us.
After this strenuous walk that for some reason never seemed to end on the last few kilometers to the campground, we deserved a treat. Since this area is famous for its volcanoes there are also lots of natural thermic baths to be found. We headed to one that was supposed to be one of the nicer ones but still affordable and after buying a ticket and parking the car we were met by a not so nice surprise. Before we would be able to take a plunge, we had to descend a stair that seemed to have a million steps, not something our sour legs were looking forward to. We manned up and headed down and the pools made good on their promise. Alternating the hot pools with the ice-cold river rejuvenated our bodies. As soon as we left the thermae it started to rain and then pour and we chose to drive back to sort of the same spot as the night before since we didn’t fancy looking for a new spot in the soaking rain and pitch-black night.
The next day it was all sunny again and we drove into the town of Villarrica for breakfast and coffee and some grocery shopping. Since we didn’t really have the time to cook on our 2014 trip to the World Cup Football we never equipped the van with something resembling a proper kitchen and although I can’t say I’ve missed it in the last 14 weeks I would like to be able to cook a hot meal from time to time. We tried it with a saucepan on a fire and although not perfect we made some very decent meal this way but I had my eye out for something like a Dutch Oven. In Villarrica, I spotted a grossly overpriced Potjie, a South-African metal pot on three legs. The next ferreteria I ducked into had a much more affordable version and thus we bought one.
Even though the walk of the previous day was quite beautiful and the thermae were ok as well we hadn’t fallen in love with Chile yet and decided to try our luck across the border. This was still a bit of a drive so we hoped to reach Argentina in about 2 days. After driving away from Villarrica we stopped at a nice spot along the river with some fireplaces. The wind was blowing quite fiercely which made it fairly easy to keep the fire underneath the Potjie lit to get it to burn in before its first use. The laundry we did the next morning was also dry within minutes.
When we reached the border, darkness was approaching and we never like to drive in the dark and try to avoid it whenever we can. The computers on the border did not cooperate though and we had to wait for quite a while to get processed. When closing time arrived and the computers were still not up and running they wrote down our details on a scrap of paper and assured us they would process it the next day, the stamped our passports and we were sent on our way again. It was fully dark now and driving proved quite dangerous since the road was absolutely perfect except for the cows in the middle of the road from time to time. We struggled to keep driving at a sensible low speed to avoid hitting one of them and in the end, we made it to a river where we made camp for the night.
On Sunday we drove a beautiful and mostly deserted part of the Ruta 40 towards Mendoza. We encountered volcanoes, emptiness, gauchos with their herd of goats, rivers, canyons, all in all just spectacular environments. What was lacking in space and roughness in Chile was abundant in this part of Argentina, we could only hope the weeks to come would be just like this.
The last part of the road towards Mendoza was a little bit boring and the traffic became increasingly denser. We drove to the wine farm of Belgian Hans where we would spend the night before going to a garage the next morning since we weren’t happy with the way the carburetor was working. Just after we had arrived at the farm the caretaker of the place got a call from Hans that he and his Land Rover were stranded and in need of a tow. So instead of taking a shower, I drove over to tow Hans back to his place. Cees had played host for the guests that had arrived in the meantime and Hans cooked dinner for all of us while we were sampling some of his estate’s product. A perfect way to end an interesting week. Maybe not the best way to begin a new one…