Volcanoes, Glaciers, Waterfalls, and Alpine Lakes
Updated: Feb 12, 2019
Pucon, Cochamo, Pumalin and Beyond - Chile
So, here we are, four months into our journey and half way down Chile - the most southerly country in South America. It has been a huge journey to get here, and we’ve had to skip several countries in South America, along the way. What we’ve learned is that you can’t do Central and South America, to completion, in six months. There is far too much to see and do. That being said, we’ve had the opportunity to indulge in a HUGE amount of it. We’ve seen and experienced so much it, it will require some time when we return home (March 25, 2019), for us to fully digest this adventure. For me, even going back through the blog, I find it hard to believe everything we have had the opportunity to live and experience. From volcanoes to Conchs, glaciers to Boobies, paragliding to Guatemalan family life, it seems like there can’t possibly be more to see or experience, but there is something new and different just about everyday. About the only thing that has remained a constant on this trip is the continuation of empanadas throughout Latin America.
If you are planning on embarking on a trip like ours, do yourself a favour and don’t eat empanadas before you leave. You will eat a lifetime's worth while you are here.
Let’s do a 180 from my nostalgic bleating, and get back to the here-and-now. Today I’m writing this post as we sit on a ferry, partway through a ten hour journey from Puerto Montt to Pulamin National Park, Chile. We are slowly making our way our way down to the famous Torres Del Paine, camping and hiking along the way. February weather in Chile is the equivalent of July in Canada - we are in the midst of summer. Because we are traveling here in peak season, we haven’t been able to book all of the campsites we need for Torres Del Paine (which is a NIGHTMARE to book, I feel for you if you are looking to do it), but we are still planning on doing it.
When you’re backpacking on a loose itinerary, a lot of your plans will be based on a hope-and-a-wish. For us, it has worked out pretty well, up to this point.
It is peak season here, and the Chileans are on summer vacation. That being said, as we continue South, we are slowly peeling away from the hoards. Our hiking destinations over the next couple weeks are in spots which are very difficult to reach, so we can continue to live our relaxed camping lifestyle.
What is the West Coast of Southern Chile like in February? Think West Coast Canada, in late June. The scenery is unbelievably similar, the temperature is sort of equivalent, and the towns are similar but a little more run down. Puerto Montt has a very similar feeling to Port Alberni, Vancouver Island, British Columbia. You don’t travel here for the towns, though. If you have put in the effort to get here, you are likely on a similar itinerary to us, and you are focused on the hiking and biking in the area.
Our journey, as we continue South, has become inundated with people who are biking the Carretera Austral - a wicked way to travel through South Chile!
All of the travellers here are decked out in outdoor gear, and stocking up on food prior to their next trekking adventure. From Puerto Montt we did the Cochamo Valley, which is awe inspiring. Checkout Rose’s post on it for some of the epic mountain scenery! The views are MiND blOWInG! Throughout the granite monolith topography, there are stunning snow capped volcanoes billowing smoke against a bright blue sky. Lying at the foot of the Volcanoes is densely vegetated green landscape, and beyond that, the magenta blue pacific ocean extends to the horizon. Every view i a sight to behold. The topographic relief is dramatic, and only getting more stunning as we continue South. The forests from far look identical to the forests of the SW coast of Canada, but when you get inside of them, the plants, while similar looking, are completely different. For me, walking through these forrest feels very unusual. It seems like an environment that I am intimately familiar with, but is completely alien.
For the most part the hiking has felt “same same, but different”, except for when we ran into a fist size Tarantula tucked into a rotted out log. So, maybe it’s no exactly like the West Coast of Canada.
We stocked up on camping gear in Santiago Chile, but have been dealing with issues with some of it, but luckily were able to return the camping mats in Puerto Montt. There are lots of outdoor stores here - Lippi, Doite, Andes Gear, etc - but they sell house brand gear that hasn't survived our trials (at least this has been our experience with Doite, we can’t speak to the other brands).
One of the mats sort of internally imploded underneath me. It was a pretty unique experience as the internal structure came apart and the mat became a structure-less ball of air. It also made a pretty unique sound. After sharing this special moment with my sleeping pad, I got to sleep on the rocky ground while we were in Cochamo - YAY!
In other news… WE GOT NEW SHOES! I don’t think I’ve had a more satisfying purchase in my life. We were really hesitant to spend the money this, but it was time. As you already know - because I’ve been lamenting over our shoes since before Christmas and you diligently read all of our posts - right!?! - our shoes had become bio-hazardous waste, and Rose’s shoes were on the verge of completely ripping in half. They had lived a meaningful life, sparked much joy for us (in the words of Marie Kondo ;)), and were enthusiastically thrown into the trash. HOORAY! For now, I have refrained from wearing my new shoes, in the hopes of keeping them in mint condition for as long as possible, but I know that sooner than later I will have to trade out the flops for, in the words of my mom: “proper footwear”. But until that time, they will remain a wonderful “new shoe air freshener” for my bag!