We were originally worried that after spending 3 days at a festival, where typically your alcohol intake is above average, we wouldn’t want to explore the wine country of Chile. But lucky for us, it was a dry festival so there were no hangovers to fear and a glass of really good wine was more than welcome.
Valle de Colchagua aka Valley of Wine
We arrived at the winery, and as we pulled in, the guard looked at our car and commented, “are you looking to spend the night here?” Why yes of course we were and it is fantastic that he asked because it saved the dance around of ‘I will buy a bottle of wine and a tour if we can sleep in your parking lot’. Although, we did buy a bottle or two of wine anyways.
We have been in Latin America for more than half a year as of now, so one would think that our issues of not knowing what we are getting, due to different languages, would be significantly lower now. Somehow it has increased, and like this tour, we did not realize what we signed up for. As we were on our walking tour of the winery a horse and carriage pulled up and took us off through the vineyards! So fancy. However, it is nice that we can give the gift of surprise to ourselves from time to time! After 5 glasses of wine at the tasting, I was a little tipsy and we headed to the employee parking lot to hang out with another couple who were overlanding and spending the night there as well.
Here is another small advertisement for this style of trip, not ever the companies. WickedCampers is a really popular company in west coast Canada, USA, Chile and Argentina which rents out your classic van you can live out of! It is a great way to get into overlanding or just travel through these countries in general.
Surfs Up With Friends From The Road
Our shipping partners Jen and Brandon, from way back in Panama and Columbia, had caught up with us and we were now in the same area. After trying to meet up for months, in various countries, we were finally able to coordinate a date. They are avid surfers, basing their trip on remote beaches with great waves through the Americas and had found a place that was supposed to be the best in Chile.
Last Coastal Beach Camp
We had intended to make more grounds after hanging around at their surf house, however after a morning of surfing where Frederik was killing it on the waves, and I was the sick cheerleader, we barely made it 20 minutes down the road. There was a tiny sign on the side of the road pointing to the beach which read ‘Rock Church’ (but in Spanish of course) so we figured we would take a look. Well, it was a sleepy spot and the parking lot provided the perfect wind protection so we didn’t make it any further than that!
The next morning, however, we did finally stroll down to the water and inside this rock church and got more than we expected. It was huge. Almost appearing man-made and this giant connecting cave hollowed out the inside of the rock. We learned later that it was once a religious site of a tribal group which made perfect sense as we imagined similar scene ourselves as we walked through.
Along the beach there was a nice little walk that reminded us of our drive through Oregon and Washington more than a half year ago. We sat on top of a rock at the end of the beach, watching the waves crash against it when Frederik noticed something in the water. There were 3 sea lions in the water playing around! Just the day before, when Frederik was surfing and we were all taking a break on the beach, the same happened. At first, he and we panicked, thinking the worst, a shark. Then heads kept bobbing up, and bodies rolled around, and we saw two big sea lions checking him out. They started 20 meters away and ended up only 3 meters behind him riding the waves as well! This day they were doing the same except jumping around in the water too. We felt so privileged to catch a glimpse of candid wildlife playing we were mid sentence saying to eachother on our walk back when Frederik noticed something again just on our left on the hill. It was a Penguin!!!! This little guy was clearly lost as he waddled around looking for friends, which were nowhere to be found. I was so excited but my excitement started to scare it off, as it ran back to the water for safety.
We had met a surfer that morning, who after talking to, asked if he could camp alongside us in the parking lot that night as well. At that point we had intended on driving South, making up for our lack the previous day, but we had enjoyed a day so much of doing nothing but hanging out and beach walking we decided to not make any miles. So we said yes and we invited our new friend to join us for a bonfire cookout in the sandy parking lot. The meal consisted of fine cooked ribs thanks to Frederik, baked potato, baked onion, a balsamic veggie bowl followed by marshmallows and a cold beer. It ended up that he was an aspiring photographer and captured how our life is on the road at dinner time pretty darn accurately. Impromptu dinners and great conversations really make a night memorable.
Finally Into The Forest
After being on the coast for months straight we were so excited to get to any forest we took of driving and didn’t stop until we reached the closest national park. The campsite we found that night was everything we had been waiting for. Off a gravel road, in the shelter of trees, many campfires pits from previous campers and a river with a waterfall running alongside. The smell, the taste, the feels, everything about the forest was exhilarating. We instinctually wanted to make a fire, however, all we had were some very fake looking hotdogs and marshmallows to cook, but none the less we enjoyed the flames and the company of another overlander.
Conguillio National Park
We only happened to be hiking in this park because we chose a border crossing at random and this park was right on the way. Weme keep getting lucky with our last minute route decisions because this park was beautiful. The ranger recommended us to a scenic hike which combined all the best features. A constant view of the volcano, a lake at the foot of it, a nice incline so we had to at least work for the view and a forest of weird trees. These funky trees are called monkey puzzle trees in English and look very very out of place on the side of a mountain and snowy volcano. They look like a species from the desert or another part of the world, but I guess that is what draws people to this park and hike!
We spent the night just outside the national park, avoiding costly camping fees with a beautiful view of the valley. Frederik had found wild blackberries alongside the stream which burst with flavour and ruined our previously boring morning oatmeal for me for the remainder of the trip.
Out of the woods just below appeared a couple who were also trying to find the free options last night. They were from Germany and headed in the same direction as us. They started their trip a couple months back in the bottom of Argentina and had primarily made their trip upwards through hitchhiking. So naturally we strapped their bags on top and threw them in the back.
Huerquehue National Park
My thick handy dandy lonely planet book suggested a near by hike in Huerquehue National park, and we had no better plans, or any at all, so the San Sebastian hike it was. There is a trick, if you are trying to be cheap, for nationals parks in North and South America. The trick is go in after the closing hours, when the attendant is gone, and magically it becomes free. We do not advocate that this is done frequently, the parks need the money for upkeep, however when they charge you an arm and a leg for entrance everytime we strongly consider it from time to time when we are visiting multiple in a row.
We arrived to another overlander couple already camping in the parking lot. After we started our very late 8pm meal another couple rolled in with the same idea as us. Oh yes and technically we are not allowed to sleep here but no one has ever has said a thing to anyone.
We had to start the San Sebastian hike before 1030am because they closed the entrance to the trail then due to the length of time it takes to walk. With the sun not even shining a bit of light on us till 8am these days, we have been bad for sleeping in extremely late. So it was nice to have a push to wake up and take on the morning.
The hike itself was a good respiratory workout we had been needing. It was around 20 km round trip, and the whole way to the top was a steep, steady incline. After the first half through the woods the trail opened up to a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains. It is now fall here, and although the trees do not change colour as magnificently as they do in Canada, there is still starting to be a glimmer of fall colours lining the mountains. For 10 mintues we were the first of the day to reach the summit and it was a beautiful peaceful moment to have it all to ourselves. A perfect 360 degree view of multiple snowy volcanoes, lakes and ridge lines. All in all a 6 hour hike followed by a fully clothed swim, little laundry and shower combo.
Argentina?! Our Last Country Already
As we were driving in the morning we hadn’t yet decided which route we wanted to take over to Argentina. Would it be very close by, through the national parks, or further down on a scenic ferry ride? The decision wasn’t made till we were at the deciding turning point. With weather in Chile being overcast we opted for the national park route.
In most countries thus far the thought of going back and forth over the border is not even in question. However, with Chile and Argentina being so profession and timely it makes the idea more feasible. We were let out after 20 mintues into a sunny Argentinean National park. Wow. We made it. This was our last country. It is incredible to think we have come this far. But we cannot get to excited yet there will still be one more visit to Chile and a total of 4000km left to drive. One thing that is interesting to note however is that, contrary to popular westerners belief, Chile is the more developed country in comparison to the destination popular Argentina. Just like the Bolivian border crossing, where Chile magically produced a paved road after kilometers of off roading, they did the same at these Argentina borders, and we were back to gravel.
Lakes District Route 40
Since crossing into Bolivia we hadn’t stayed at a campsite, which seems like a long time ago, the only exception being a hostel in Santiago for a music festival. Our first day in Argentina we broke the streak. We drove from the border into the town of San Martin de los Andes, which marks the start of the famous Lake Districts drive and Ruta 40.
After a day with little food, having multiple struggles of getting cash and paying a crazy bank fee we decided this would be a nice town to stay at the local campground it, which was walking distance from the center. It felt like Christmas was coming as we strolled through this Swiss wooden mountain style tourist city. Fall was in the air and everyone was out shopping. Our sense of time and seasons are completely confused these days. When the restaurants finally opened for dinner at…. 8pm!…we tried what Argentina is know for, their parilllas which is a grill out of loads of meat, just what Frederik loves.
The Lakes District portion of Rute 40 is ranked as one of the most beautiful drives in the country and has made the world stage as well. We did love the easy going drive through the forests and past numerous lakes and blue rivers however unfortunately we only spent one day going through rather than two like we had planned. We were in a bit of a rush to make it to the big city where we could find a mechanic to fix our exhaust pipe which has broken off creating a hole in one section. Bonus though we now sound like we have a V8 engine. We missed out on camping at one of the many beautiful lakes but we ended up getting an invite on instagram to a great campsite outside Bariloche by other Overlanders who we follow.
Lindsey and José were in Colonia Suiza which is a tiny area just outside the city with dirt roads leading into it and filled with campsites. We spent Easter Friday and Saturday together, relaxing by the lake, hanging out with other families in the campground’s cute wooden cabin and eating down at the Swiss wooden mountain style market.
They had originally said they would be leaving the following day, as we had thought to, but this cozy campground was like glue. We spent another night all together, also with a couple from Buenos Aires learning about a true Argentinean BBQ, Matte drinking rules and the cultural difference here in general.
Off To Chile Once Again
We had made a plan with the other couple overlanding (who are from ohio!) to meet up the following day, the 1st of April at a wild campsite in Chile. We both took off to an artisan market south bound and camped on our own for the night. We had wanted to make many more miles that day but we found a campsite that was worth the early stop.
The road down to it was not even on maps.me but thankfully another overlander had written a description of how to reach this must sleep at lake. Well they were not misleading. It was one of our favourite campsite on this entire trip.
A few locals came and went while we started a fire and Frederik made Frikadeller, a famous dish in Denmark. It is similar to our idea of a meatball in Canada but so much better. What is the main key to success? More butter than you can ever imagine using.
We had a whole head of cabbage we had been neglecting to eat, and when we would cross into Chile the following day they would throw out all of our fresh food, so we had to get creative on how to eat it all. So beside the chicken Frikadeller we threw in the cabbage. Even though it was fried in butter it still counts as a healthy side right?! The following days we made a vinaigrette salad out of it and almost finished it all, but we sure wont be eating cabbage for a while.
The last time we crosses into Chile we were unaware of the extreme procedures of going through our car and emptying our food containers into the garbage. So we ate all 10 eggs for breakfast and anything else we could manage, this time prepared for the search. It is annoying to go through the process again of getting another Temporary Car Import Permit for Chile, then again for Argentina but we are headed for the famous Carratera Austral route in Chile down through the Patagonias so we hope it is worth the extra work!
We are back in Chile meeting up with Lindsey and José, another overlanding couple, at an awesome campsite tonight to caravan the drive South!
And here is a video of how we pack down our car every morning. This day was cold but we have gotten very efficient. Record time being 10 minutes including eating