The most wicked of campers – Day 103-113 (13th-23rd March) P.S it’s a long one

Fast forward ten days, and we’re back in Puerto Varas, where we belong, and all would seem very normal in a world where nothing has changed or nothing has happened for the last week or so. For all you know, we could have stationary in this town every single minute of every single hour of every single day. We may have got slightly fatter due to the evil concept of boredom eating, and my Snapchat might have been filled with regular updates on what the weather was doing at each particular time of day. However, if you have seen any of my recent snapchats, or instagram photos, or tweets, the last ten days has been absolutely incredible. I won’t give anything away because I feel the next numerous paragraphs of descriptive literature and tactical humour needs as much of the grand old element of surprise as possible, in the hope that it will help portray the incredible sense of magic, mystery and magnetism that our latest adventure has been absolutely brimming with. I will give you one clue though, Los Tres Amigos hired a wicked camper!

Dia Uno

Day one in Los Tres Amigos’ campervan. Well, we successfully managed to pick up our new home for the next ten days without any major mishaps,and despite the very mysterious coordinates for the meeting point we had been given, the operation didn’t require too much espionage. The paying was a slight issue, as the sneaky bastards wanted a thousand pound deposit in case we decided to keep the camper and live in solitary hiding for the rest of lives, so praise the lord of money for credit cards and parents. Despite this, we set off into the town of Puerto Varas in very high spirits, and set about accomplashing our first few goals. The first challenge was to get petrol and retrieve all the supplies we would need on our road trip of a lifetime. This included vital components to expeditions such as water and ice, and although we managed to put fuel in the vehicle fairly successfully, we somehow managed to leave the supermarket without the most crucial ingredients to living in the wild. On the plus side, we did manage to remember toilet role.

With the shopping done, we picked up our stray amigo Maddie, and went to park up for the first time and assemble our van for eating mode. It was then that we discovered we had bought an alarmingly small amount of food, so we were thus required to treat ourselves to a lunch out. I was left bitterly disappointed by my very promising omelette, but Benj’s incredible crepe lived up to expectations, and even provided me with pudding. The niceties of lunch were soon over though, and we retreated back to the Hot Van, as its called, to plan our next move. This provided extremely difficult to do though, as once we had squeezed into the back of our Wicked camper, a very strange man began circling our vehicle whilst punching the air that surrounded us. We quickly put up the vans defences, but the curtains couldn’t stop the guy from occasionally appearing in one of the many gaps and watching us like we were the ones without a shred of sanity. It was later revealed by Benj’s brilliant eyesight, that this gentleman was shouldn’t have been in an asylum, but actually rehab, and it became clear to us all soon after that he was continuously sniffing some sort of fluid out of bag that was probably some kind of magic paint or glue. I do love Chile.

Once we eventually got bored of the druggy, we concluded that we should go on our first road trip, so we positioned Maddie into the back of the van where she couldn’t be seen, and headed off to the nearby town of Frutilla. The journey over there was extremely successful, and although the van tended to blow around at a very average speed of about 80 KPH, it cruised brilliantly at 60, and got us to our destination in fantastic style. It even dealt with my little scenic detour that took us down the country tracks of the Lake District, and we safely set foot on Frutilla soil barely an hour later. Not much happened in the seaside village, but I did appreciate the fake metal piano that sat right in front of the fantastic Volcan Osorno in the distance, as well as the huge theatre that was positioned right on the waterfront, and had we been there for longer, we may have even got to play on the massive beach trampolines that we closed at the time. We therefore headed out of town, and found a perfect lay by on the sea front with a fairly unblocked view of the volcano, and so we got the mate on the go, and cooked our first dinner in the van, of which we knew no better fodder for the occasion than scrambled egg and veg. It was a decent location to end up, however, it was all about the journey, as they say, as this outing marked our first solo venture to new pastures in our extremely cool van, and it felt good!

The journey back to Puerto Varas was slightly more eventful, as the route proved to be more complicated, and after a muddle up with the lanes, and a near miss with typically unreliable Chilean driver, we found ourselves on another detour around the Chilean countryside. Nevertheless, we arrived back to our spot for sleeping in time to be told to move by the very intimadating caribinaros, and settle in for our first cosy night in the lad wagon. So, to summarise, we picked up the van, drove around, parked up, people watched, drove around again, had lunch, drove around again, had dinner, drove around again, enjoyed some views, and went to bed. Think we’ve nailed campervaning already, and I feel we may be the youngest people in history to do so. It was a good first day in Los Tres Amigos’ caravan though.

Dia Dos

Day two in Los Tres Amigos’ very illequiped van. We may not have made any forward progress in directional terms, but the next chapter in our camper adventure proved to be a hugely significant one in the grand scheme of the road trip, despite ending in another night in the drug den of Puerto Varas. In fact, we did more travelling on Tuesday than we had done for an extremely long time, touring the local tourist sights and cursing said tourists as we did so. It wasn’t hypocritical though, because we had a van with flames on it, and weren’t wearing any item of beige clothing, so we can’t be classed as regular tourists.

The first destination of our first proper day of campervanning, was the Volcan Osorno that we had spent so many minutes staring at in the distance, and admiring from the eruption-safe distance of the other side of the lake. Unfortunately, we were forced to face the monsterous volcano fuelled by only some horrific healthy fruit cereal that El had managed to pick out from a crowd of respectible brands, but despite providing us with a massive insult to cereal, we were soon on our way towards Osorno with the fourth Amigo Maddie relaxing in the back, after another quick shopping trip of course. Once we were on the right road, we were quickly making ground towards our desired destination, and soon the volcano was leaning over us in a Pisa like manner, and growing in size as the metres slowly trickled under the wheels of the old camper. Google maps eventually took us off the highway, and directed us along a long road that appeared to end somewhere near the volcano. In fact, the meandering ribbon of fresh tarmac took us right up to within strolling distance of the perfect white tip. This saved us from our previously impending doom of attempting to scale the enormous geographical rock formation that looked down on all of the Lago Llanquihue and the surrounding Andes. However, there was still a decent distance that needed to be covered in order to get near to the sharp point of the volcan, and although the guardian of Osorno (Conaf ranger) instructed us not to attempt to reach the snowy summit, we felt inclined to attempt to climb in order to maintain our impeccable record of exploration and Instagramming.

The trek was a tough one, with the horric volcanic terrain slipping away under foot, and the excruciating incline multiplying the already extreme levels of heat that was burning our jeans. We battled on though, and with the help of the ice cold snow filling our bottles and covering our faces, we made it to the highest point our trainers could take us, which revealed a stunning sight of the active volcano and the thin cloud that sat on its point, as well as the unbelievable views of the surrounding mountains of the great Andes, which created what Benj labelled as a ‘Pano of a lifetime’. On the down side, the clouds had slightly ruined our views of the beautiful lake, but we didn’t et that ruin our compulsory group picture, and with that done, we slid back down the volcano and into the welcoming arms of a ham sandwich and the resident sausage dog that had joined our party in a sneaky attempt to get in on the picnic.

The next part of our day’s tour of the lake took us to the nearby cascadas, or waterfalls, that we had been directed to by another Lone Ranger that guarded over his sacred hut. The prospect of seeing some spectucalar, gushing rapids got us all extremely excited, specifally towards the thought of an ice cold shower under some fresh volcanic waters. In some ways our mission was a success, as we had managed to stray upon some incredible waterfalls, that crashed along the rocks beside us, colliding with the river to make numerous continuous explosions. Unfortunately for our desire to bathe in the showers of glory and extremely cold water though, hundreds of other people had also found this haven, probably because it was extremely well signposted, and the park ranger would have given the same untypically good directions to anyone that bumped into him that he gave to our crew. This meant the whole area was fenced off to keep us onlookers a significant distance away from the streams of water, but this didn’t stop us admiring the power and ferocity of Mother Nature, and I did manage to reach out and feel a light spray from the river that filled me with joy and freshness. This was then followed by a short ‘guided’ walk around the nearby waters, and we made the most of the opportunity to break the rules by sitting on the rocks and taking a quick group selfie, followed by a moment of peace and tranquility as we sat on a fallen tree on top of a stream, and Benj and El tested out the waterproofing of their respective phones. The whole attraction consumed little over an hour, and once we had worn it out of all it have to offer, completed by a visit to the gift store where one could pay to have a picture with a wooden model of a native and its penis, we set off to the next place of interest nearby.

I have very little to say abou the next stop, as it turned out to be just another lake with some cool scenery, and peer for some pictures, and a strict rule of no swimming, so our stay didn’t last long, and we were quickly on our way back to Puerto Varas. Surprisingly, the latest evening spent in the lovely but fairly boring town went a little differently, for me anyway, as after Benj had struggled to prepare a pasta dish using the fairly non-existent kitchen in the van and the very non-existent utensils that came with it, I set off on a date with a Chilean girl that I had woo’d in the queue for a coffee. That last bit was obviously a lie (I found her on the well renowned dating app, Tinder), but I was still a tad nervous, so I took her to a bar fuelled on a couple glasses of wine and a pack of doritos, and despite my early concerns, we enjoyed a night of discussing varying topics that I’m sure were very interesting, but sadly I can’t quite recall specifally what they were. I did remember having a nice snog at the end of the night though, something I was probably a little rusty at, but oh well, it capped off a very lovely evening. The night didn’t quite end there though, as I was greeted back in the van by three very eager listeners, of whom I gladly retold the story of my date whilst munching down my left over dinner. Day over.

Dia Tres

Day three in Los Tres Amigos’ very noisy van. The third installment of our camper adventure took our squad of amigos deeper in Los Lagos area of Chile, and further towards our desired destination of the Parque Pumalin. The journeying began in the same direction as we had ventured off in the previous day, but we could only begin retracing our steps after a rather long lie in, a bowl of much improved chocalate cereal, and of course one last visit to the supermarket, just for good measure. We trundled out of Puerto Varas in high spirits though, and with the tunes queuing up on my Spotify, and the google maps at the ready, we were soon plunging towards the location that the unknown probably began.

Our calculations surprisingly proved to be correct, as once we had turned off the very familiar main road towards Osorno, we found ourselves cruising along an empty road that took us through some magical forestry and around dominating cliffs, ending up at the incredible spectacle of a magicfecent Pacific fjord that infinitely stretched out to the horizon. This provided us with a perfect place to transform the van into lunch mode, and in a routine of imaculatley polished off manoeuvres, we had the table and chairs set out on the cliff edge, with the food on top, the kettle boiling for some mate, and three beers purched solidly in our hands.

The next part of journey took a dramatic turn for the worse though, not because of the views obviously, as they continued to get more and more spectacular, but in fact in was the van that had began to let us down. In the camper’s defence, we should have done the washing up, but for the next few hours, as we vibrated up and down like a bouncy ball on drugs, an excruciatingly annoying rattling sound from the back of the van began to creep forward and slowly eat away at my ear drums and in to my head. Luckily for the three of us, the astonishing views managed to reduce iour pain significantly, and as we approached the town of Cochamo, we began entering the infamous valley of the same name, that has rightly been compared to the spectacular Yosemite. For those of you that haven’t heard of this haven, what we had stumbled upon was an unbelievable combination of valleys, woodland, ocean and skies, and as we parked up at the edge of the town to soak in our surroundings, we couldn’t help but congratulate ourselves on finding such a gem. However, we soon had to get back to reality, and so after failing to find any much needed in fuel in the town, and therefore deciding not to venture down an unknown track through the valley, we decided it would be best to find ourselves somewhere to sleep for the night. The numerous multiple point turns that had to be carried out demonstrated our initial failure to pick a camping spot and stick with it, but eventually we settled on a small lay by on the side of the road that overlooked the town of Cochomo and its resident valley.

Dinner wasn’t the usual polished routine we have come to expect from ourselves, partly because I was in charge, but mainly due to the instance from the wind to blow in every direction possible and disrupt my cooking flow by reducing our already limited kitchen to nothing more than a shelf with some spaghetti on it. Nevertheless, I soldiered on, and after creating a solid barrier that only part of the gusts could break through, we had a bolognese on the table, signifying the end of the days events in Los Tres Amigos’ van.

Dia Quatros

Day four in Los Tres Amigos’ very cold van. It certainly wasn’t the most exciting and adventurous day for the crew, but it did happen to be a day that stuck out as being a very enjoyable one, despite the morning beginning with me attempting to do the washing up in dark, damp and fucking freezing temperatures (note my hyperbole) in the huge valley we had parked ourselves in, caused by the gigantic cliff edge selfishly soaking up all of the sun’s goodness and preventing me from a life of numb fingers and greasy plates. In the end I had to give in though, and so we munched down some muffins and were quickly speeding down the valley in attempt to find some sun light. Eventually the sun did manage to rise above the cliffs bullying, and suddenly the cold, depressing track transformed into a stunning road along the great shimmering Pacific fjord to the side of us, passing through gateways of waterfalls and woodland. This called for an immediate group meeting, which took place over a few beers (not for the driver obviously) and alongside the cliff edge, playing host to a delightful session of sunbathing and some good old bloke banter. Unfortunately our ham sandwiches made for a slightly less spectacular lunch that didn’t really fit in with the our beautiful surroundings, so we thus decided to vacate the area, only after I had satisfied my new found addiction for rock climbing by clambering up to the cliff edge and taking a decent snap of the hot van from the additional few centimeters I had got myself up the wall.

Our momentum was quickly halted by nature once again though, as after passing a fantastically entertaining looking waterfall, we felt inclined to stop and take a look, but what started off as just a little bit of intriguing exploration, soon turned into all out intrepid mountaineering, as the three of us chucked off our shoes and shirts and began scaling the rapids through the nipple-enhancing cold of the Chilean waters. Our escapade then quickly changed direction once again, turning into a youthful game of ‘who can put their heads and bodies under the freezing cold waterfalls for the longest’, which was then developed into ‘who can take the funniest picture of themselves in the water’ and ‘who can submerse the most parts of their body in the water at one time’. This played havoc with my underwear and non-waterproof phone, but that hour was a brilliant reminder of how good being a child used to be, and brought us all right back down to a prime youthful ages, from where I never want to change.

The next part of the day’s journeying mercifully took us along some paved roads, as we had finally got onto the famous Carretera Austral, the main highway that connects the north and the south of Chile. Our group mentality did take us on a few detours that were quickly driven back on, and the incredible mountain scenery of the Andes came back to haunt us in dramatically slowing up the pace of our camper, but eventually we made it to the harbour town of Hornopiren where we needed to catch a ferry to where the Austral continued and where the main part of the sacred Parque Pumalin laid waiting for us. However, we still had some exploring to do this side of the fjord, so we filled up with some much needed petrol, gathered some information from the tourists office whilst abusing their toilet facilities, and then went about ignoring the information we had been given by heading away from the mind blowing Volcan Hornopiren, and down a beautifully paved and empty road that headed away from civilisation and towards what we hoped would be the land of plenty, but not plenty of people.

We were forced to ignore some warning signs on our route towards the wilderness, but quickly the track became promisingly shit, which tends to mean there is nothing much at the end of the road. We stupidly trusted our instincts and not the facts though, and quickly it became apparent that there wasn’t anything down our chosen lane, but typically we carried on anyway. Eventually we concluded we hadn’t strayed upon any hidden gems, which was when we also cleverly solved the mystery by discovering in the rough guide that this road indeed was a dud, and only passed by the north of the Pumalin park without actually going into it. We didn’t let this affect our unwavering positivity and enthusiasm though, and so we made it our mission to find somewhere nice to park up our van and hibernate for the night. Surprisingly, this mission didn’t take that long to complete, and we actually passed the test with flying colours, as our spot came with a forest for wind protection and privacy, and lovely calm estuary that gently flowed past our hippie van, and a great big phone mast that provided some unbeatable internet connection. We had certainly continued our streak of unforgettable place to stay, and not even the bastard mosquitos could retract from what was a lovely evening by the sea.

Dia Cinco

Day five in Los Tres Amigos’ newly broken van. To the surprise of none of the vans residents, the three of us awoke in the usual cauldron of cold air and wet condensation, but this time with lovely red dots scattered on us courtesy of the true gentlemen they call mosquitos. It wasn’t a great start to the day, made worse by the battering my trunks received from the damp of the Chilean night, and this set off a bit of a trend for the day, in the way that it was an extremely up and down emotional roller coaster 12 hours or so. It did end on a positive note though, so we were all sound.

After the previous day of very little excitement, we were very eager to counteract this with a solid day of campervan exploration, and so drafted up some targets for the day that we felt needed to be fulfilled in order to satisfy our desire for adventures. For this to happen though, we had to get back to a reasonable area of civilisation where normal travellers would tend to explore, as there we could find our first target of another, and much bigger, waterfall capable of providing the squad with the right combination of excitement and relaxation. This was never going to be the easiest of missions, made harder by the sacred (probably) dog that tried to sacrifice himself for the greater good of dogs and in turn nearly dooming us for eternity to be haunted by Mapuchis for the rest of our measly lives. Luckily for all parties, El successfully dodged the crazy beast and we were soon back in the land of the living, and in touching distance of the Hornopiren National Park and it’s main attraction, the volcano. However, our first task of trying to find the waterfalls we new were close was first on the to do list, so we found the correct route to the park that we had been misled by the day before, and began venturing up the shocking tracks in our vibrating van in search of some much needed information.

Only a few dodgy hills provided any sort of challenge for the plucky camper, but they were no match for it’s might, and we soon had some information in our hands, and therefore we were predicabtly. heading back the way we came shortly after. It wasn’t a far way back though, and the resulting reward we received for our effort, and a few thousand pesos, would have been worth far more than a few extra miles. We found ourselves standing on some rocks in the beaming sun with a monstrous waterfall making an absolute racket to one side of us, and a huge drop into a lagoon the other, completed by a rope hanging form a tree and leading into the water. This could only mean two things, but sensibly we didn’t attempt to imitate Tarzan by swinging off the rope with our fists firmly beating our chests, but instead we chose the safer option of grabbing our trunks and taking it turns to pose for pictures in front of the big rapids. We also did a bit of cliff jumping, so don’t you worry, we made the most of it.

It took a few moments to recover from the genital shattering temperatures of the freezing water, and of course we had to examine the various pictures and slomos of the moments before we regretted ever leaving England, but we soon moved on to the next falls, which were a bit of a let down after the high standards set by the previous two we’ve come across on this road trip, so we took our artsy snaps and returned to the lad wagon with our first mission of the day completed.

The next destination for Los Tres Amigos was the very towering volcano that appeared to be very near to our location, so we rightfully assumed it would be hard to reach, but after asking a few locals where we could find a trail head or a lookout, and following said instructions, we found ourselves even further away from the Volcan and up a dead end track that was difficult enough to drive up that we chose just to stay there and eat some lunch. There are worse places one could devour some ham and drop some more ham on the floor. We couldn’t stay there forever though, so we left the area to rethink our adventure strategy and plan our next move.

We sensibly decided to book our ferry tickets for the next day, and then even more sensibly went back to the tourist information to gather an alternative source of instructions that we could completely ignore. Despite our ignorance, our brainstorming came up with a cracking idea of going to the nearby hot springs to wallow in our natural smells whilst celebrating our success in finding some nicer hot springs that didn’t come with the unfortunate sight of numerous large Chileans. There were few, I have to admit, but this was no cause to give up on our satisfaction, as the springs we had found featured numerous different sized pools with varying temperatures and amounts of stray bodies. It really was the haven we had been looking for, and the price turned out to be well worth it for the few hours we spent floating in the beautiful natural hot baths. My kind of place.

The day seemed as though it couldn’t have possibility got better at this point, and that turned out to be the case in dramatic and very uncomfortable circumstances in which we realised we had a puncture and our state of ultimate relaxation and cleansing came to an abrupt car crash. On the more positive note, a very kind Chilean man decided he should be the one to replace our wheel as he happened to be walking passed us, so the three of us could regain some posture whilst he kicked the shit out of the wheel nuts and had our spare on in minutes. We were left with a few dilemmas though, firstly we were painfully required to decide whether to miss our ferry and get the tyre repaired in Hornopiren, or gamble and get on the boat and hope we could fix it the other side before we got another puncture, so sensibly we decided to go for the cheaper option and concluded we would still get on the boat, but then this left us with another problem of where we could acceptably drive to without pushing the boundaries of luck, and park up for the night. This sounded like a difficult task, but our prowess in locating brilliant spots to camp in the most difficult of circumstances made it bread and butter for Los Tres Amigos, and we had a close by spot, next to the river, and out of the way, all in a matter of moments. It was magical.

The evening was the same as usual to be honest, food, mosquitos, boxed wine, and then bed. The day’s were well and truly ticking by, but this had been very successful day of campervanning.

Dia Seis

Day six in Los Tres Amigos’ very stationary van. In some ways, day six was a very positive day, probably because we were on a boat for the majority of the day’s sunlight, and I have and always will love boats with a childish passion. However, this does mean that the days blog probably isn’t going to feature the typically adventurous content that you have probably come to expect from our squad.

The day began painfully early in aid of our ambitious effort to try and get the tyre repaired before before being shipped across the Pacific fjords, but clearly we had all received significant blows to the head when thinking anything will be open in a Chilean town at eight in the morning. Upon discovering the town in the state state that we should have remembered from our time in Patagonia, we drowned our sorrows over a bowl of cereal and nervously rolled onto the ferry for what we had wrongly assumed would be a rather short trip. Although it was a perfectly nice ferry, with sockets to stockpile our technology next to, and a food service to be admired from the comfortable seats that encircled the empanadas and pizzas, the journey proved to be a very frustrating and boring one, purely because of the crawling pace that the ferry trundled along at, and the fairly average pictures on the television that was limited to the repetition of the same advert for Chile that kind was already over watched by the second time of playing through the motivational montages. We were also deprived of a view out of the windows as all that was on show was cloud, but we were also prevented from catching a few precious minutes of shut-eye, as the seats, although very comfy, were slightly too upright, which was just enough to make sleeping an impossible mission. We thought us some decent ways to pass the time, such as mate and food, but this only gifted us a few lovely seconds of pleasure, and it cost us a big mess and some sacred money to do so. Thankfully for my sanity though, the dense fog mercifully fucked off, so we could relocate to the top of the boat and enjoy the staggering views of the mountainous valley.

The next stage of our boating adventure involved some actually driving, which was required to get onto the next ferry. This sounded short and simple, but typically neither of those characteristics applied to the mental act of driving as quick as possible over the horrifically pot holed track in attempt to secure our place on the first ferry to depart from the other end. This was ok for the big pickup trucks and motorbikes that can both soar over the craters in the road like a hovercraft, but for the three of us and our fragile little campervan with no spare tyre, every bump came with its very own mini heart attack and bruise to the body. However, our plucky van truly earnt its flames, and we made it to the queue for the next ferry in a position to safely get onto the first ferry and eliminate even more horrible waiting time. We were soon on board, and soon off it again without having to leave the vehicle, and so finally, at the ripe old time of three o’clock, we made it across and into the grateful arms of the Parque Pumalin.

The arrival of our one van and three man convoy into the Pumalin park at last signified a big milestone for the road trip, and we celebrated with a jubilant ham sandwich. In typical road trip fashion though, our excitement was soon demolished, firstly by the realisation that Caleta Gonzalo was nothing more than a few buildings with only a tourist office that was shut and a little cafe to its name. It quickly got much worse for us lads as well, as once we had decided to try and leave the van and do a hike, we somehow managed to lose the keys. An increasingly stressed situation began to emerge, especially after we had completely stripped the van of all of its features and still not found it, even after removing the entire content of our food store and putting it back again. It was only once we thought to look in the cool box one last time, and I had gone through the nearby bin thinking I somehow could have dropped the keys in with the garbage of some hungry traveler, that we eventually found them in with the packaging of the lettuce. This was a huge relief, and in a desperate attempt to see the funny side of the long 30 minutes we had spent panicking and considering all available options that included running away into the forest and never re-emerging, we have now certified that ‘have you checked the lettuce’ is now a recognised saying that one can use in reply to any question that features the word ‘where’.

At this point it was getting fairly late into the afternoon, but we bravely decided to ignore the instructions to only set off on walks if you are guaranteed to arrive back in daylight, and headed off on the first trail we could find. We had heard great things about the Pumalin walks, and from a German at that, but the walk started fairly averagely, with flat wooden pathways guiding us through the woodland in a far too orderly fashion, which prompted me to utter the words ‘this is boring’, and I am so glad I did, as the Pumalin gods quickly transformed the pathway into a mind blowingly exciting and adventures route up the huge forested valley.
We were still walking on wooden planks, but they were now almost all completely vertical, and we were practically climbing hundreds of ladders that looked like they were taking us to heaven. It was tiring work trying to avoid slipping on the treacherous platforms, and at one point the path just stopped at the river and started again the other side, meaning our water wearing skills were dragged into action once again. The deserted trail continued to rise up the hills, and got better and better as it did so, until eventually we started to descended and ended up back along the river in a place that seemed never to have been seen by anyone. The last stage of the walk was absolutely insane, with a ladder taking us to the top of a boulder and then a rope that held us up as we shuffled along the cliff edges that hung over the rapids. Luckily, no casualties were created, despite our insistence on capturing the moment with our phones as we clambered round, and we found potentially one of the most incredible places we had come across during our long stay in Chile. The magnificence of the thundering waterfall from above was truly breathtaking and was the centrepiece of a location that felt more remote than even the puesto in Baguales, back in the wilderness of Patagonia. It was magical.

The route down wasn’t as hard as I had imagined, and so I didn’t tumble down the valley as I had imagined, and we made it back to the van in three tired pieces. This called for some dinner, and so we began exploring the area for somewhere nice to park up that wasn’t on the main road or too far that we would probably get another puncture, and in doing so we stumbled into the realms of another mystical area that was situated the other side of a big suspended walkway. It did feel as though we shouldn’t have been there, but we couldn’t help ourselves from mooching around and admiring the peace of the area. We soon found a decent place to cook as well, and so we spent the evening on the sea front underneath a canopy, which doubled up as a kitchen and a place to ponder life and the world around us.

Dia Siete

Day six in Los Tres Amigos’ correctly arranged van. This day was a fairly unique one for us happy campers, as it played host to a tale of three hikes. Three different hikes with different attractions and different levels of difficulty, and three walks that meant that the for pretty much the first time in our short lives in the Wicked camper we didn’t spend the majority of the hours in the van and driving to various places. On the down side, it was a crippling day for the groups mental and physical fitness and well being. Fun though.

The first hike was a fairly simple one, as after getting a map from the tourist office and planning our route through Pumalin, we set off on a trail towards a lake of some sort, something that sounded exciting enough as well as being reasonably relaxing. It turned out to be smack back in the middle of both factors, as the steep spiralling staircase parts of the trail that took us through some of the most contrasting nature and scenery we have walked though in Chile were enough to make the hike fairly entertaining, but sadly after finishing up at the edge of the incredible rainforest like woodland, the end result was revealed to us, and only in the form of a fairly average looking lake that we could only lay our eyes from a far. Of course all three of us did our best to get a decent picture, but our stay didn’t last long, and we were quickly back at the van and driving down the road towards the next trail.

This hike came with a lot more promise, due to the huge hype that the fantastic PUmalin park map had provided when describing the trail as ‘one of the most impressive in the world’, which was a bold statement seeing as we ourselves have walked some incredible hikes just in Chile, so we were pretty excited. The map also provided us with a promise of waterfalls, so the gauntlet had well and truly been dropped. I would love to tell you that Los Tres Amigos were blessed to set foot on such a sacred and hidden gem of a trail that took us to a whole new world where money grows on trees and the concept of working is a myth, but sadly the walk was a bit of a let down. I admit, in comparison to a lot of places in the world, mainly England, this trail was and still is absolutely incredible and I should be very grateful to walk such trails, and I am, but after the previous day’s astonishing spectacle, the waterfalls on the best trail in the world were a bit disappointing. The first cascada proved to be the most entertaining, as my inner child was let off the leash once again as I clambered around the waterfall with my phone firmly gripped in my hand.To the surprise of El and Benj, I didn’t drop my phone, and was therefore able to continue up the trail, passing the second rapids on the route like they weren’t even there. Thankfully, we did get a much better spectacle at the end of this logged path, as the mirador at the end provided us with a staggering view of another insane waterfall that feel from the skies like a bomb, and spraying us with artillery as it did so. However, we agreed we couldn’t help but feel disappointed at how far away we were from the water feature, but it was still cool enough to get a group picture with it.

The next part of the day was possibly the most entertaining, for you readers anyway, as after vacating the camping area we had lunch in, and driving a fair way down the road, I came to the realisation that my bag had not come with us, and in a stupid attempt to redeem myself, I chose to run back and get it. The distance turned out to be a lot further than I thought, but with the help of some school inspired words from my memories of old P.E teachers, during which I was taken back to my glory days of cross-country running, I covered the few kilometres in a school record time (maybe) and was eventually at the foot of the last hike, but absolutely spent. I certainly couldn’t back out though, so all three of us set off on the volcano hike in very mediocre spirits in search for the incredible trail we had been looking for, and boy did we find it.

Don’t get me wrong, the actual walk up the volcano was one of the most horrifically excruciating hour of my life, with the exception of my A level English lessons of course, but the reward for our efforts were well worth the mainly vertical climbing we had to do to get there. I kid you not, the makeshift stairs that zigzagged up the volcano were enough to almost reduce me to tears, but they had nothing on the completely vertical and straight trail that pointed to the sun, requiring us to clamber up on all fours at times, just in order to keep going. I probably wouldn’t have started the climb in the state my puny legs were in at the time if I had known how hard the trail was going to be, but I am so grateful we didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into, as the walk took us as close to a smoking volcano as one can get without extreme equipment, gifting us with the amazing and unique sight we had so desired for the whole day. The views of the gigantic surroundings weren’t bad either, which made taking it all in very hard, but we did so in a very sensible time, as the sun was rapidly disappearing on us, and after tumbling down the hill with a horrible stitch, and having a quick facial wash in the river, we made it back to the van and were soon driving further down the road in search of our sleeping spot.

This search didn’t take long, proving one should always follow signs to the beach. It was yet another beautiful place to stay for the night, and the seals and mosquitos apparently agreed with us, but sadly the mosquitos were much closer to us than the sea mammals, but once El had covered himself in garlic in an attempt to make himself invisible to the little shits, we decided to call it a night and lock ourselves in the safety of our camper, which we had finally worked out how it should be arranged in the correct way, that meant we were no longer fighting over space on the mattress and desperately trying to avoid falling down the gaps. It was a good nights sleep.

Dia Ocho

Day eight in Los Tres Amigos’ very inconspicuous van. It was another fairly stationary day in terms of movement of the van, but on the eight day of our camper adventure we found ourselves faced with some new challenges, which included missions that none of us had ever tackled before, hence why I label them as ‘challenges’. The first of these ‘challenges’ took place in the deathly town of Chaiten, and unlike most times when I insult a location or a person for no good reason, it was genuinely an extremely dead settlement. This was the case for a reason though, a reason that gives the town the label of being the Pompei of South America. Sadly for the people of Chaiten and everyone in Chile, the eruption of the nearby volcano caused complete havoc and destruction, meaning it is still in the process of rebuilding and repopulating the once incredible town. Luckily for us, the mechanics had already got themselves up and running, and so after completely fucking up the directions we had been given and reached the verge of giving up, we found the vulcanisation garage and soon we were enjoying some high quality entertainment form the mechanic and his work, and the naughty calendar they had up on the wall.

The next problem we had to tackle was our essential boat tickets for the return leg of the journey, but given our vast experience of letting El doing all the talking, me and Benj waltzed through the process and we were quickly out of there with a mornings checklist already completed. We celebrated our professionalism and organisation with some Chilean lunch in what turned out to be the local watering hole, but apparently the six thousand peso’s (about 8 pounds) that we spent on our Chilean ‘A La Pobre’s’ was too much of a reward for our hard work, so the gods of the Wicked Campers had decided that our van should run out of battery. Of course, in reality it was our fault, or Benj’s to be specific as he had accidentally left the lights on due to Chile’s stupid rule that everyone must have their lights on, even in the day time. This presented us with our third and biggest challenge of the day, and although we had all bump started cars before, the act of pushing a massive great van along a gravel road was extremely unknown for the crew. The chance of success was very slim, and we could have just asked for a jump start from some of the few Chileans in the town, but as three typical British males, we felt empowered and responsible to do it ourselves, and you know what, we actually did it, with me and El running and pushing with all our might, and Benj exertly pushing and steering at the same time. It was a grand effort from the team, and a hell of a success story. This definelty called for some rewarding restbite, and we only knew of one place that could do the trick, hot springs!

We arrived at the nearby pools with a high expectations, partly because of the quality of the last ones we visited, but also because in this remote area we strongly believed that surely there would be no tourists, and certainally no over weight locals taking up the entirety of the water space. In some ways, we were correct, as due to the swimming pool size of the hot spring, the numerous large Chileans that were sprawled out in the natural springs didn’t even take up half the pool. There was only so many times we could hesitantly walk around the pool and the surrounding areas looking for alternative baths, so eventually we put our stuff down and enjoyed the burning heat of the swimming pool. After a few dunks, and a beautifully cold shower, we were back in the van with still an afternoon to kill.

This called for a hike, and some sweating, so we drove up a beautiful country lane towards the mountains, and found the nearest hike that sounded easy enough for an evening and us three crippled tomatoes. We should have known better though, and after a long walk to the trail, our naivety came back to haunt us, as we were typically now climbing up yet another excruciating hill. Mercifully, it wasn’t as horric as yesterdays volcano, and after a fairly short, but long enough, walk up the hill, we came to a pretty average mirdeor overlooking the hills, but then after walking another few metres, we reached the next mirador, which gave us an unbeatable view of the nearby glacier, and a perfect chance for group candid photo. With our satisfaction complete, we trudged back down the hill and slowly made our way to the van, eventually getting there in a three man strong group of cripples.

Luckily El still had enough stength in his legs to drive us through the mine field of pot holes, and back to the campsite we had had lunch in a few days ago. This meant for a lovely evening with the whole area to ourselves, and millions of incredible stars scattered above our heads, which made even our repetitive dish of chorizo and rice seem totally magical. It was just a shame that even the dark, our van stuck out like the sore thumb of a multicoloured giant.

Dia Nuevo

Day nine in Los Tres Amigos’ amphibious van. As you have hopefully worked out from my hopefully punchy opening line, the ninth instalment of our crazy expedition into the Lake District was a day once again spent pretty much just on the water. However, this time there was not one, not two, but three boats that we had to sit on for a considerable amount of time, making this section of the entry very hard to write about in a way that won’t send you all into a comatised state of hibernation, as I had wanted to do for the majority of the day. It was certainly still an adventure though.

The morning was a prompt one in order to guarantee our place on the first ferry of the day and set ourselves off on a positive start to the day. The pain of crawling out of the cold, damp and dark van into the cold, damp and dark air of the morning turned out to be all in vain, as we after getting to the to the end of the road, the ferry was no where to be seen, so we parked up at the front of the queue and had some much needed cereal. The first ferry of the day did arrive soon after, and with me firmly flopped in the back, we boarded the ferry and began crossing the first waters that blocked the Carretra Austral and our way back to civilisation.

Once we had crossed over the fjord and drove over to the next ferry, we were met with yet another queue, so I took it upon myself to prepare by putting the kettle on for time consuming mate. However, inevitably the queue started moving as soon as I had lit the cooker, so we settled for some luke warm water and got onto the boat. Similarly to the the way down, the journey was another boring one, as the mate lasted barely half an hour and had finished well before we had even left the port. The lorries and the cows that they had inside them did provide a little entertainment out on deck, but as usual there wasn’t a great deal to write about. We bought some empanadas and a little pizza, we sat on deck, and we enjoyed the typically incredible views that surrounded the boat as we trundled through the fjord. Me and Benj did have a rather deep moment when we concluded we had probably seen enough of the amazing Chilean scenery and couldn’t wait to experience another country, but that discussion didn’t last all that long, so it was a good job I had some internet.

The part of the day was intended to be fairly chilled out, during which we would hope to fins somewhere nice to camp for the night, and so after filling up at what was clearly Chilean rush hour, we began rolling down the unsaved road with our eyes firmly peeled and scanning for potential spots suitable for our van and our high expectations. Unfortunately, as we drove further and further up the road, no places seemed to emerge, and after a few near misses with some foreigners, and an increasing amount of tension in the cab, we soon found ourselves in what seemed like another queue, and a queue in this area usually means you’re waiting for a ferry or someone’s decided to have a sleep in the middle of the road. In this case, it was the next ferry along the road that we had believed was way out of our reach for the day. And so with little other options, we got onto the late night boat and experienced yet another weird journey on the Pacific waters.

The night still didn’t end there though, as on the other side of the water, there was even less chance of places to park up that weren’t on the side of the weirdly busy road. We eventually found a decent spot, but after getting out the cooker to try and cook the quickest meal of our lives, we discovered we had in fact parked by a school entrance, and you don’t need me to tell you that that would be very weird come eight o’clock the next morning. Therefore, we sacrificed dinner, and found a nearby track that looked like it led to nowhere, and the perfect spot for us. It wasn’t quite as we had imagined, and at that point we were already very sure we had ended our streak of insane places to park up, but we couldn’t care less, and went to sleep with a chorus of barking in the background to send us to dreamland.

Dia Diez

Day ten in Los Tres Amigos’ people watching van. It wasn’t the most adventurous day of them all, it wasn’t the most fun day of them all, it wasn’t even the most interesting day of them all, but for some reason, and I can’t quite put my finger on it, I personally really enjoyed the tenth and last full day of our campervan adventure. I’ll try and work it out, but I refuse to promise anything, as sometimes, mysteries are just best left unsolved.

Due our fairly awful nights positioning of the van, we made a swift exit early in the morning, with Benj sliding into the drivers seat in order to avoid stepping outside of the safety net of the camper in a desperate attempt to make as little contact as possible with the locals that owned the houses we had plonked our flaming vehicle in front of. Our escape was made harder by the army of dogs that seemed to be lurking in front of us like a group of intimidating youths, not to mention the crew of sheep that attempted to set up a road block probably in the hope they could hike know our van, but we foiled their plan, and Benj charged through the crows and back onto the safety of the open road.

Our days venture took us to the ? National park, where we went in search for some more hikes to do in order to truly subject our legs to the most excruciating torture as possible, as well as filling the day in a productive way. The first walk was a nice short loop, with an incline that felt no bigger than a mole hill compared to the weeks previous mountain walks, and a nice few miradors that would have provided some brilliant views of the big city of Puerto Montt, had the clouds not decided to cacoon the town in a complete bubble of grey. The next walk promised better things though, and with the sun now beaming down, we headed down a track towards what we hoped would be a beautiful and easy to reach lago. Regrettably, I decided that the effort required to take off my long johns exceeded the possible pain I would suffer by keeping the winter underlayer on in the fairly decent heat of the Chilean Lake District. Obviously, I had disasterously underestimated the heat potential of the area, and half way up the steep log trail, I was forced to strip off and become one with nature. This was only a minor set back though, and we quickly reached the lake that really lived up to the promise.

We positioned ourselves on some natural architecture of logs and rocks that lay in the water, and took in the beauty and tranquility of the nature surrounding us. As some huge, vibrant dragonflies circled us like little helicopters on drugs, and the three of us began to relax into our positions, we felt it was a perfect time to reflect on Chile and how incredible, how contrasting, and how beautiful it has been in every place we have planned to go or luckily strayed upon. This place was a prime example of this, with no one within hundreds of metres, but a path that could theoretically be accessed with a wheelchair. It was really nice moment. Sadly, some stupid asshole made up the rule that all good things must come to and end, so we trekked back to the van and evaluated our next move.

Typically, this resulted in the decision we should eat some food, but just as we began heading back down the road towards potential natural eateries, we began to hear more about the horrific and distressing news of the London attacks, that let’s be honest, were just waiting to happen. It certainly didn’t come as a shock to any of us, but we couldn’t help but feel extremely strange about the concept of being so far away from the danger and the problems, but yet so close to the horrible emotions that whirl around ones head when anything like this happens. It was a weird moment in the van, I won’t lie.

We continued on though, and soon we found a place in the ‘rough around the edges’ burbs, but it was on the beach and out of the way, so we started cooking up some egg and veg in the usual struggle that comes with cooking out in the wind. The failure of the cooker meant that the afternoon soon came upon us, and we even managed to attract a large audience of intrigued dogs and a little girl that was far less interested our food, but rather took a shining to our van. As you can tell, we soon began to feel a little weird, so as soon as the scrambled egg was half cooked, we shovelled it down and carried on down the road. This route took us through yet more dodgy housing, but to our great surprise, the road burst out of the burbs and into a lovely seaside road with some incredible views of both the Pacific Ocean and the town of Puerto Montt. This location was too good to pass up as our last nights camp, so we settled for an early finish to our adventures, and settled in for an evening of people watching, napping, music and not much else. We were graced by a musician nearby that entertained us with his pan pipe playing, and accompanied our casual studying of various groups of locals around us, which sounds like it was weird, but I can honestly say it wasn’t, because we’re better than that, we have a wicked camper.

Obviously, the rest of the night went similarly to any other, with a few beers, some food, some culling of mosquitos, and a few things that I shouldn’t really talk about, but that involve a portaloo. That evening felt different though, and thats because it was, we were all well aware that it was our last night in the camper, and this was a sad moment, but only until we worked out that this meant it was our last night in the cold, damp and cramped van, and we could now enjoy the luxury of a our own beds, hot showers, and pillows once again. I’m still going to miss it though.

Dia Once

Day eleven in Los Tres Amigos’ very clean van. As you would expect, it was a very sad day on our last little adventure of our grand tour of Los Lagos de Chile. However, I still have one last story to tell, and tell it I will, even if I have to fight back the tears as I do so.

The first heart breaking task of the day was more of a physically painful mission, as we felt inclined to give the van a good cleaning before we have it back, just to make sure none of our ‘ladness’ was left in the vehicle. This included the washing up, which in the bitter mornings of Chile, with freezing water and frozen hands, was an extremely hurtful ordeal, made worse by the absence of drying materials, but I wasn’t about to give up, so I used my infamous initiative and whacked out the remaining kitchen towel and toilet roll we had and bossed my way through the dirty dishes from yesterdays meals. El and Benj took on the responsility of cleaning out the various storage spaces that we had filled with bread crumbs, mate crumbs, and other sorts of crumbs that we couldn’t quite categorise and narrow down to a certain item of food. We were severely challenged that morning, but we were kept motivated by the incredible views from the seafront, and after a few horrible hours we were back on the roads in a relatively clean camper.

The highways of Chile formed the next obstacle between us and the haven of a bed, as the groups navigiational skills were well and truly tested for the first time on the trip, as we could no longer just follow one road. It was a strong mental challenge, which couldnt have started worse as a result of roadworks causing havoc on the exact route we wanted to go. The biggest issue of them all was the impossible mission of trying to get up onto the huge main road that towered above the rest of the city and would take us out of the hectic town as soon as possible. The powers that be certainly wanted to make it as difficult as possible for tourists such as ourselves to get onto the road and out of the city, which when you think about it, is abosulute genius. Fairplay.

Eventually we did manage to vacate the town though, and soon we were cruising back into the familiar and safe arms of Puerto Varas. We had been so successful in fact, that we had some time to spare, so we cleverly decided to drop our bags at the hostel, and have some showers, before we finally were ready to give up our precious campervan. This process involved a few nervy moments, especially when he began examining the broken box for the cooker that we had personally destroyed, but thankfully the only issue was a missing plug for the sink, but that was soon found, and we were then free to go and part ways from Los Tres Amigos’ fucking incredible van.

The last eleven days has been abosultely incredible, but not in a surprising way. I think we all knew the potential that the wicked campers could offer three young lads that crave heading into the wilderness and exploring places not many people can go, however, for a long time we were very unsure whether it would be worth the large sum of money we had to fork out to rent it, and whether it would hold together well enough to get us from A to B, and most importantly, back again. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and in my position now I would recommend doing this sort of thing to anyone with friends that driving licenses, and parents that are willing to lend them the money for the van. It wasn’t;t just the van that was so incredible though, the places we were able to reach because of the freedom we were gifted with were unbelievable and well and truly lived up to the highest of standards that Chile has set. Despite this, Wicked Campers, and our hot van in particular, deserve the shoutout for our latest adventure, and I don’t think I need to justify that decision, because I think you must understand by now how much we loved that van! Los Tres Amigos salute you hotvan.

Backpackers… Unite! – Day 93-99 (3rd-9th March)

I find myself feeling a little rusty in the writing department today, as I’m sure you know there has been no entertainment from my side of the pond for some time now, but that is about to end in what I hope will be some serious style. Although you might have to bear with me whilst my mind muscles warm up and my fingers regain some feeling, I have so much to write about for the last week, as Los Tres Amigos have been on the move once again, not once, not twice, but three times, and to three totally different places that have each played host to their own stories, and have produced contrasting feelings from the three of us that might actually come in useful if you were ever to want to step into this wonderful part of the world. I think I might be about to venture into what is called ‘travel journalism’, so I might have to minimise the waffle and keep this short and sweet in order to maximise the entertainment value of my writing, and retain any resemblance to professional writing as I can possibly can.

‘What were the town’s like Matt, and how did they compare to the infamous Puerto Natales?’

Well, that is a very good question anonymous/ non-existent, interviewer/question master, but it’s also very easy to answer, as all three of the new towns we have visited over the past week or so have been completely different to both themselves, and the great Puerto Natales of Patagonia. The first stop on our tour of the Lake District was the small town of Puerto Varas, half an hour away from the big city of Puerto Montt that we had so desperately tried to avoid due to severe bitching we had found ourselves encircled in when discussing where we should base ourselves back in Natales. Whether the rumours of a nearby shit hole were true, we will probably never be brave enough to find out, but despite this, the next town along couldn’t have been further from anything remotely in the cesspit bracket, and provided us with one of the most picturesque homes we’ve had in the last three months. The main feature of the town was the extraordinarily beautiful Lago Llanquihue that sat calmly at the bottom of the steep hillside to create a perfectly arranged settlement that could have easily been mistaken for a Cornish seaside town back in England. We were lucky that the weather was so beautiful whilst we were there, as the views of the shimmering lake and the towering volcanoes beyond it were on show for all to admire, and so we did just that from the perfect location of the peer, and so we watched the world go by, complete with some loved up Americans, and drugged up Chileans. It was perfect. However, in the event of rain, which apparently is about 300 days a year, the town may not be quite as attractive, but there is no need to panic, as the powers that be in Puerto Varas are clearly very prepared for this, as all the walkways are covered, so one can take up a position under shelter and wait for the downpour to end, but you may be there for a while.

Bariloche was second on our list of destinations, mainly because our Chilean visas were looming down on us like the miserable dark clouds outside as I write, so we needed to leave the country and come back again before our three months ran out, but the city of chocolate and Nazis seemed to be an attraction well worth visiting, even just to beat the Chilean immigration system and shovel Argentine sweets down our necks outside some very German looking buildings. Bariloche also had a waterfront, but despite the incredible views out onto the Lago Nahuel Huapi, the location didn’t quite match the tranquility of Varas, partly ruined by the busy main road that snaked along the front like an evil serpent, and also due to the makeshift skatepark that had attracted large masses of youths that the three of us couldn’t help but feel intimidated by. Nevertheless, this didn’t stop us from enjoying our selection of chocolates in front of the abandoned swimming pool and dual carriageway. As for the rest of the city, it mainly revolved around a high street that homed the majority of the area’s population and most of Argentina’s tourists, and although it made a nice change from being stuck out in the sticks, I couldn’t help but feel like I was back roaming the streets of Cheltenham and exploring it’s array of fast food and hobo’s. I think we’ve become fairly accustomed to life in small, peaceful towns with a limited amount of selfie-sticks and McDonalds, and so I don’t think we really ever felt at home, despite a few of the German houses briefly sending me back to Europe.

The town of Osorno changed the game once again, and although it was undoubtedly the worst town in the looks department, I left the place feeling very grateful that we set foot there, even if we did stay for a bit longer than we would have wanted. We chose to stay in the town because it was at the centre of volcanoes and national parks, but what we didn’t realise was that it was more of an industrial centre rather than a tourist destination. This made for a very interesting first impression when we got of the bus deep into the evening with the task of finding our hostel hanging over us. The next day’s light confirmed our fears, but once we had meandered around the streets for a few hours and got ourselves comfortable with the very Chilean surroundings, we began to appreciate the benefits of staying away from the hoards of tourists in the area, as the bargain empanadas that lined the streets and the cheap bus tickets made us really appreciate experiencing the most genuinely Chilean town one can find in a country that relies so heavily on tourism. Although this meant our accommodation was rather expensive, I did manage to get my phone fixed by the first shop I laid my eyes on, after it completely died on me in Bariloche after it’s hundredth collision with the ground. By the end of our time in Osorno, as we sat in the manic bus station we were all desperate to get ont the next bus to tourists and English speakers, but I can’t help but admire the town and I will always have a very positive feeling towards it, and I’ll remember it every time I break my phone in the future.

Of course, none of the towns and cities we visited were ever going to top Puerto Natales, but they did make for a brilliant week of proper backpacking as they felt as though they could have all been at different corners of the world. Natales till I die!

‘What activities and entertainment was available in and around the towns?’

Wow, you’re on fire! I’ll be honest, we haven’t done a great deal of ‘stuff’ in the last week, especially in comparison to the once in a lifetime adventures we have been lucky enough to partake in for most of the trip. It has mainly been about experiencing some different places around Chile and Argentina, and wasting some valuable time before we pick up our Wicked camper and set off on what promises to be another cracking expedition. However, we still managed to fill our time and avoided wasting many minutes to the attractive prospect of simply staying in bed.

Rather surprisingly, the highlight of the week came in Bariloche, as we managed to uncover an absolute gem of a day out, despite being fairly clueless to what we were going to be doing and therefore horrifically unprepared for what lay ahead. It took as a fair few tries to leave our hostel in such a way that was necessary to even attempt a walk, but we were soon heading towards Cerro Otto, a nearby tourist attraction that Benj had found in the travel guide. The round trip in total turned out to be nearly 20 km, and although this was done with a combined total of three two pairs of jeans, two pairs of trainers and some boat shoes, Los Tres Amigos pulled off a huge upset by making it to the top in one piece. It was incredibly painful, especially when I had to watch my beloved Roshes falling apart on my feet, but our hiking experience in the harsh conditions of Patagonia had stood us in good stead, and me made it to the summit and some of the most incredible views yet. I felt as though I was standing in front of Rio De Janeiro as Benj fulfilled orders from me with my phone camera to take a photo worthy to take over as my profile picture, as behind me was the attractive city of Bariloche, sat on the shore of the Lago Nahuel Huapi that stretched along some incredible scenery and all the way to the horizon that was made up of the astonishing Andes. It was truly incredible, and on par with many of the other unforgettable sights we’ve been lucky enough to witness, but the day trip was soon capped off at a little Refugio on the hillside. It happened to be closed when we went, as we tend to do things at the wrong times, but despite it being the religious day of Sunday, we made the most of the balcony seating, and got a fantastic automatic group photo after only 100 attempts.

During our stay in Osorno, we were quite desperate to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city, so we found ourselves a bargain of a bus after only an hour of trying to find the right bus stop, and headed over to the nearest national park, Puyehue, that was home to some infamous and very sought after volcanoes. This turned out to be slightly less successful in terms of entertainment and amazement, as the only notable sighting of the day was probably a not so rare sighting of a herd of Chilean tourists in feeding season, that were enjoying the delights of some natural hot springs, and in doing so took away the delights of the warm pools of water for everyone else. However, the day out was still virtually free, and courtesy of a solid waterfall and two empanadas each, we made the most of a day’s travelling, with the only downside being we still haven’t got near one of the areas volcanoes. We will find them, and we will climb them.

Our stay in Puerto Varas was more of a chilled out one, and to be honest we spent most the time shopping, eating, drinking, shopping, walking, browsing, shopping and then sleeping. I flirted with the idea of buying a floral shirt in aid of the Mexican dream, and we came close to buying a tent and camping gear, only to decide once and for all that we wanted to hire the campervan and not spend all our money of very cool varieties of camping appliances that were on the market. Our ten pounds worth of ice creams and crepes were a highlight, and as was the second hostel we stayed at that literally defined the image of a youth hostel, with dorms on balconies, a large central living room with a breakfast bar and sofas, and a tiny kitchen that could barely accommodate the pots and pans, let alone a whole hostel. It was certainly a less exciting part of the trip, but it was just what we needed at a time when plans were becoming hard to come by, and new clothes were becoming harder to not come by. There is an awesome sounding day trip in Puerto Varas that takes you up the Osorno volcano and then back down on bikes, so that is undoubtedly going to be our next mission.

‘What was your favourite place of all, and which one would you recommend to potential travellers’

Another tough question there boyo, but in truth it can’t be answered in just one response. It all depends on what kind of traveller you are and what you are looking for. Puerto Varas suits both the backpacker and the family, as the picturesque location, the array of shops, and the good travel connections make it the ideal place to stay for a fairly lengthy amount of time, during which you can branch out to find the nearby adventures. Bariloche on the other hand is definitely designed for the tourist, with hundreds of chocolate stores and expensive restaurants, it makes for a nice city, but a place that would probably only be used for the accommodation from where you can head deeper into Argentina, and get a little bit fatter. As for Osorno, to be honest I probably wouldn’t recommend this place to tourists, as despite our accommodation being so amazing in our little cabin, the town doesn’t have much interest to offer to your average tourist. However, if you are like Los Tres Amigos, and reading this thinking we’re the dogs bollocks and you are now beginning to plan your trip to Chile at the age of 15, please go to Osorno! Even if it is just for day, as I can promise you will leave with huge relief that you are leaving, but also with a feeling of satisfaction that you have experienced a TRUE Chilean town. Honestly, I loved all three places, and I wouldn’t tell anyone to avoid any of them, but one tip would definitely be to do some research and plan ahead, just so you can really make the most of these wonderful places.

The shoutout of the last week is going to be awarded to the incredible bus network in this part of the world, that has allowed us to cross borders, pierce through the monstrous Andes, and even fed us whilst we did it, and all at a day’s notice and for the price of a Banana split in Puerto Varas. They may have forced Benj to unpack his brilliant efforts and methods in packing his bag, and the chocolate cake may have tasted like air, but they have allowed to span the width of Chile back and forth with absolute ease, and so we owe them so huge respect.

New Places, New Faces – Day 91/92 – 1st/2nd March

The coming of the new month, and the day after, has brought about new places, and new horizons, as for the last 48 hours Los Tres Amigos have been on a bus to the city of Punta Arenas, a plane to the capital of the Lake District, Puerto Montt, and then a transport to the beautiful town of Puerto Vargas, where we have now settled and are now waiting to see what the world has to offer us in the coming weeks. This may sound all exciting and adventurous, but in truth Punta Arenas is just a big city with lots of restaurants, lots of supermarkets, and a square with lots of youths surrounding it and playing loud music out of a boom box. Furthermore, Puerto Montt is said to be a bit of shit hole, so we went straight to Puerto Varas, which is an absolutely incredible seaside town, but I think I’ll leave that descriptive material until tomorrow. However, this means I need a topic to please you demanding readers, but I think I know the perfect thing to write about, which I hope will to only entrainment my audience, but also give me some closure of the loss of our home in Patagonia. I’m trying to weep, honestly.

I believe the main reason for the blossoming love affair between Los Tres Amigos and Patagonia wasn’t because of the incredible scenery, the incredible array of activities on offer, or even the highest quality of box wine one can find anywhere in the world, but was in fact due to the vast selection of amazing people we have met, befriended, and sometimes even shared a mate or two. It hasn’t just been the natives either, Puerto Natale and the surrounding areas just seems to have a remarkable effect on the human brain, which results in making everyone that resides in it become unbelievably generous and hospitable. I really hope some of it has rubbed off on me. Anyway, for this reason, I feel it is fitting that I celebrate the huge impact these people have had on our lives for the last three months, and thank them for their services to the gap year.

In no particular order, I would like to start with the hospitality award, and in particlular the team Erratic Rock, where we spent numerous days sleeping, smelling and washing and then smelling again, but at no point did Bill, Rustyn, or anyone else that worked so superbly, treat us any differently, and they perfectly fitted the model of a warm, welcoming and chilled out place for us to go and recouperate after one our many adventures. A special mention also has to go to Shikana, who ran the perfect little establishment, named after the great man himself, which provided us with a refuge to go when the stench was too bad to bestow on the kind but rather soft Americans at Erratic Rock, and our social skills weren’t in the kind of working order necessary to fit in other hostels. Shikana made a great breakfast, usually just for us and his family, shared his mate and the wise tips he had to go with it, and even managed to remember who me and Benj were by the fourth time of staying there, and he did all this from the extreme discomfort of a sleeping bag on the bottom bunk under one of us. He was also the gentlest of gentlemen.

The next shoutout goes the Kevin, Ian and their squad of gauchos, volunteers, and everyone else involved in the six weeks we were working for the King and Prince of Patagonia. Of course the highest honour has to go to Kevin and Ian for choreographing an incredible work placement at three of the most amazing places one can find in Patagonia, and doing the coolest jobs a teenager could ever have. Yes the hole and the fences weren’t the most of enjoyable tasks, but I put them down to character building, and in the grand scheme of the work we did when mastering thousands of sheep, guarding the same beings from poachers and pumas from the base of a caravan, and driving along the fjords in a dying truck, a little bit of digging and hammering really doesn’t seem bad at all. However, it wasn’t just Kevin and Ian we owe a huge thanks too for making the experience so unforgettable, and in fact there is a long list of names I will never forget. As as you would expect, Lucho is right at the top of the list, as three men and a guacho can’t live with eachother for ten days and drink mate until the sun goes down, and not create an unbreakable bond, and we have the same admiration for Ramirez at La Peninsula. Rodrigo also has a special place in our memories, with his soft voice, note pad, and gillet all creating a lasting image of the top bloke that brought us our supplies and taxied us around. I could speak all day about each and every person we met in the six weeks, but I don’t happen to have all day, but Marco, Huesito, Chef, the students, Kevin’s mum, Pepe and the carpenters, and even more deserve huge gratitude for making us so welcome everywhere we ended up, and making our voluntary work so incredible.

This next paragraph is a bit of a random one, as it gives recognition to the ‘random’ people in Patagonia that have aided in making the first six months of our travels as good as it was. The guides that we have met on our adventures have all been amazing. Vicente on our mind blowing Christmas Day ride up to Cerro Gido, was an absolute hero with the lamb on his lap and condor feathers on his saddle, as were the two kayakers Jeremy and Gabo who made one of the most exciting activities in Patagonia, even more special and highly entertaining. Vickie takes the credit for the Death ride at Christmas, and also for taking us on the unplanned safari through the pampas of Chile and Argentina, and delivering us safely to Calafate with a guanaco skull still intact. We have also met lots of people on the way; Maddie and Mattheo at Shikana (very surprising) who partook in one of the better nights out we had in Patagonia, the Chilean students at La Peninsula that forced me to stay up way too late against my will, but did provide us with good company when the carpenters and Chef left us to fend for ourselves, and of course the four Americans we met in Calafate that somehow managed to make the diar and depressing hostel and a rather fun experience. There is also a few people that I would like to mention that I don’t actually know the name of, as they incedently played a key role in making Patagonia the brilliant home it was. The women at La Milodon laundrettes for example, became a very familiar face in our Natales routines, and supplied us with perfect washing every time, and for the price of a beer. The lovely lady at the Almacen opposite Bluegreen that me and Benj took a liking to will also have a place in my heart forever, as she supplied us with alcohol, chocolate, and not much else, but she did it in such an indescribably lovely way, which seemed typical of everyone in Patagonia that welcomed us in to their place of work or living, and treated us as though we were family.

This leads me on perfectly to the last, but biggest award of the evening, which is dedicated to the incredible family that we were made a part of at the Bluegreen office and the home of Claudia, Panchi, Amelia, and for the time we were there, Lian. Eliots mum deserves a special mention of her own for her unbelievable generosity to the three of us, and me and Benj in particular who to a normal person, are just two amigos of her son, but to she treated us like one of her own, and became Los Tres Amigos’ travelling mother, but also earned the position of the fourth amigo. As for the others, we all owe them more thanks than I think I am capable of in one blog, as ever since that first evening that we nervously knocked on their door back in December, they have welcomed us into their living quarters without invitation, and let us use steal their wifi, hot water and beer. Their cooking was incredible, their music was spot on, and their entertainment was quality, and they will always be our Patagonian family.

The majority of the people I’ve mentioned won’t read this, but I want to thank each and every person I’ve talked about, as without them, the first half of our trip in Patagonia wouldn’t have been anything like it was, and anything as amazing as it was. Praise the lord we found them in the wilderness that is Patagonia.

Last day in the Land of Plenty (Puerto Natales) – Day 90 – Tuesday 28th Feb

The time has come at last for Los Tres Amigos to say goodbye to the amazing town of Puerto Natales that we’ve been living in, washing in, eating in and drinking in, for the last three months, which means I have to battle back the tears and write up the final blog in this incredible place. Thankfully though, I couldn’t have asked for a better day to write about, but not because the three of us have survived another adventure of some sort, or met another remarkable person, but because the last 12 or so hours have been absolutely typical of the numerous days we’ve spent in the town in between every chapter of our Patagonian travels in order to recuperate, recharge, and re-socialise before we packed ourselves, and my huge bag, off on the next mission. It’s been an honour and a pleasure to live in you Puerto Natales, this one’s dedicated to you.

The day couldn’t have started better, even if a geni had appeared out of my kettle and given me three wishes, and of course one of them would be infinite wishes. As you can probably guess, our happiness was induced by food, but unlike our normal breakfast cereal and processed milk, or occasionally egg, we had managed to weasel ourselves a free all you can eat buffet breakfast, courtesy of Lian and her many connections, and the hotel she was staying in for the night, complete with little sculptures of ham, the crispiest bacon you will ever see, and chocolate brownies that I couldn’t finish off, so I tucked them away in my pockets and enjoyed them for an afternoon snack. It truly was a brilliant start to the day.

The fun in the hotel didn’t end there though, as Lian invited us to check out the hotel spa, which was very generously offered in exchange for only 30,000 pesos, and although we went in to the tour firmly against spending the afternoon relaxing in heaven, we were so very tempted by the incredible room of pools, sauna’s and towel gowns that were all placed around a Bosch that was perfect for mate. It was a hard offer to resist, especially when I saw the double beds that were situated right by the window looking onto the amazing fjords of Chile. It was a difficult decision to make, but we just about managed to walk away with our bodies and minds un-soothed by the luxury of the spa, and instead bravely walked into town to do some typically Chilean shopping. This involved attempting to waste some time whilst it rained down upon us, but soon we were out of ideas, and so headed over to the bus station to book our tickets to Punta Arenas. This time wasting activity really came into its own, as the local wifi on offer and the option of a bench under the cover of a roof made the perfect place to chill and watch the morning drift by.

The next stop on our last tour of Natales was Erratic Rock, where we arrived with the intention of collecting the key for another night in the great bodega, and possibly share some mate with our good friend Bill. However, we inevitably ended up embroiled in a long conversation with some American girls about what we’ve done, what we’re going to do, and what our life stories consist off, the usual three topics of conversation amongst travellers that has pretty much become a scripted monologue, titled Los Tres Amigos. Despite this, the time was well spent, and after a few rounds of mate, the rest of America joined into the conversation, so we decided it would be best to sneak out while we had a chance in order to avoid any further re-telling of our story. We ran away towards the bodega, and after meeting Rustyn’s ‘death dog’, we headed back to the hotel to run an errand for Lian, but in a surprising turn of events, we ended up back at Erratic Rock in search for shelter and some entertainment. This resulted in a weird afternoon spent watching Anchorman two on the hostels Netflix. The classic film didn’t disappoint, however it attracted a large crowd around the TV, and I have to admit I would much rather have been in a comfy bed watching the next instalment of Harry Potter on my ipad, like I usually do when soothing my aches and pains in Patagonia, but it was an afternoon well spent nevertheless, and soon the evening was upon us, which meant only one thing… food shopping!

This task took us on our final tour of the supermarkets, which I can’t say was ever a pleasurable experience, but as we mooched around the busy stores for the last time, I think we all felt a slight sense of sadness that we wouldn’t get to bundle our way through the crowds to get our food and then have to queue for approximately an hour whilst the workers gossiped about whatever they had to gossip about, ever again. It was a solemn moment. However, there was no time to waste, as we had to rush over to the Bluegreen office and Claudia’s house to cook them one last meal in an attempt to express our huge gratitude for what they’ve done for us. The best dish we could think of in our repertoire that really said ‘thank you’ was fajitas, but of course no meal at our second one was complete without alcohol, so I volunteered to peg it over to the wine store to get some high quality, but still extremely cheap wine. This took slightly longer than anticipated, as the typically nice Chilean at the winery insisted on picking the best bottles out for our requirements, and I felt morally inclined to pick up Panchi some foreign beers, but I got back just in time for dinner, and a fantastic one at that.

The evening was a fairly typical one at Claudia’s, one that got louder and louder as the night went on and the wine bottles started filling the bin, but unlike most evenings we’ve spent at the house, Emilia was abnormally confident around the three of us strange beings, and although we couldn’t understand a word that we were saying to each other, my reliable tricks in kids entertainment didn’t let me down, and we really started to bond over fart noises and the honking of the nose. It was a lovely last evening with the crew, topped off my some vienetta and classic jazz on the record player, but eventually it had to come to an end, to we forced ourselves out of the door, and headed over to our bodega. Tucking in for ther night in a shed in the garden of someone we have met here, in the centre of this wonderful town, felt like a perfect fitting to a perfect last day.

There isn’t really a shoutout for today’s blog, as the whole day was a perfect tribute to the town of Puerto Natales that we have loved so much for the last three months. The people we’ve met, the places we’ve stayed in, the thing’s we’ve done, they have all been incredible, and I will never forget this place along with Patagona as a region. But don’t worry, I’ll be back.

Kayaks and Bro’s – Day 92 (27th Feb)

What a day! I’m not going to give it away just yet, but the last 10 or so hours has been absolutely incredible for Los Tres Amigos, which means the next ten or so minutes of your time is going almost as incredible, as you get to read a detailed account of me boasting about our day, which almost guarantees for a fantastic read. As you can tell I’m quite excited to share our experiences, but don’t worry, it wasn’t all plain sailing for me personally, so you should get some pleasure from the blog, but that’s all I’m revealing, other than it was a kayaking trip, so you’re going to have keep reading.

As a result of Eliot calling in a favour from another member of his extremely useful and frankly brilliant family, his dad, Los Tres Amigos had got ourselves onto a kayaking day trip on the Grey lake and river of the Torres Del Paine National Park, as volunteers. This promised to be an amazing experience, so when we awoke bright and early this morning, the three of us were extremely excited, so much so that we forgot it was 6:30 and we had barely had half a night’s sleep. The early mornings preparations in our room at Hostal Geminis strongly resembled a similar moment three months ago, when were getting ready for the W hike at a similar time and in the exact same room, with the exact same odour filling the room and pushing us out of the door. Unfortunately, we hadn’t been offered breakfast like last time, so we filled our bowls with the usual cereal and headed over to the Bluegreen office to wait for our lift.

The van arrived at the office a few cold minutes later, with the kayaks on a trailer, and two guides that couldn’t have suited the role more perfectly, one with long hair and a French accent, and the other with his shades firmly fixed on his eyes. The greetings were quickly completed, and after picking up two Americans that were typically compulsory to any trip we have been on or that anyone has been on in Patagonia, we set off for the park and the Grey Glacier. The journey was a good one, mainly because the views of the incredible towers of Paine and the surrounding geographical eyecandy was on perfect show for all to see, but the little mate session that took place out of the top of Jeremy’s (the French guide) thermos, added that little something extra that makes a big difference in the world of tourism. Top marks. The journey and the mate soon came to an end though, and once we payed our extortionate park entrance fees, we were ready to kit up by the lake and get onto the water.

The selection and array of kit that was available to us was truly something to behold, and as once it was all on, gave me the feeling of complete security and invisibility, especially in the fight against the freezing cold glacier water we were going to kayaking on. The wet suit socks were a highlight for me, as may toes have honestly never been as warm and comfortable without smelling horrendous in my whole life. The dry jacket stole the show though, complete with a shielding underlayer, a spectacular amount of pockets, and hood with its very own cap built in. The colour was pretty cool as well. With all the gear on and my lungs struggling to breath, we went over to the boat to receive our safely breeding and demonstration which was said to be ‘crucial’ and had to be listened to. I heard this as ‘boring and useless waffle’, so I instantly drifted off into a comatose state of daydreaming, with my ears full shutdown. My naivety came back to haunt me pretty quickly though, as it had to be me that was hunted down to partake in a demonstration of what had been taught a matter of dreamy seconds ago, and a very important one at that. Jeremy asked me to show the others how to get back into your boat should you capsize, and my attempt at guessing what to do didn’t quite go to plan, but luckily i wasn’t called out for being an idiot and not listening, and after being shown what to do again, I nailed it on the second time of asking. We were then taken to our boats, which was when we had to complete our jobs for the day by putting the kayaks in the water, and so once we had earned our place on the incredible and rather expensive trip, the group were onto the lake and heading to the icebergs.

I was put in a boat with Gabo, the other guide, which gave me a very relaxing feeling in terms of both safety and exercise, but this turned out to be a false sense of security later in the day. Nevertheless, we set off with the guide offering me guidance and telling me I was kayaking all wrong from the offset, and we soon reached the first point of interest on the trip, which was two spectacular and extremely blue icebergs standing proud in the middle of the beautiful Lago Grey. We were told their colour was just an illusion and to do with air or some complicated shit like that, but they were a spectacle nonetheless, and it took a good few circles to get the right picture, probably because my waterproof phone case that is supposed to allow the user to use the touch screen, severely let me down, but this was a blessing in disguise, as it gave me some valuable respite from using the paddles and my limited arm muscles. Thankfully, Jeremy took it upon himself to be the designated photographer with El’s phone, and so we could all relax and let the instagram pictures come to us.

After an hour or so of cruising around the lake, and Jeremy had flirted with the idea of paddling through a hole in the extremely fragile iceberg, the team headed towards the beginning of the Rio Grey, and the more challenging and exciting part of the trip. It was at this time, as we were fast approaching the rushing currents of the river, that Gabo really came into his own, and announced his intentions by requesting if it would be acceptable to ‘do all the fun bits’ in which I was inclined to reply ‘go for it’, and so he did. With the new safety briefing over in seconds, we were suddenly speeding down the river quicker and quicker, and soon the first of the infamous rapids came into sight, and I immediately could see what was coming. As the others all sensibly avoided the fast parts, Gabo thought we didn’t just need to go down the rapids, but also needed to go up them first and then circle round and bomb down the rough water. I couldn’t really complain, as Gabo’s antics did make the journey down a whole lot more exciting, however if I was to really try and moan, at the time, I didn’t really appreciate my soggy crotch that had suffered from the leak in my kayak skirt, but in hindsight, this leakage was absolutely nothing!

The rest of the morning, before lunch, followed in a similar pattern, with me and Gabo at the back after painfully charging the wrong way up the rapids, and my part of the boat getting more and more flooded by the minute. The highlight of the morning happened a bit further down the river, when we all put our boats together and let them float down the incredible Rio Grey, with the beautiful scenery of the park all around us, and a chocolate bar in my hand. It was a lovely moment. This was interrupted after a while though, by the sound of our impending doom at the hands of the biggest rapids along the whole journey, and they really were big! We could hear them long before we could see them, and they may not have been Niagra falls or anything, but when the rough waters revealed themselves, I couldn’t help but picture my feet sticking out of the glacier water and my boat upside down. Despite the very likely outcome, we were all very excited for some action, and so with Jeremy in position with the camera, we charged in formation towards ‘the white bits’ that the guides had insisted we stay in. This didn’t make sense, but after many incredible seconds of adrenaline and excitement, we made it out with the boats intact and our bodies firmly still in them, however my kayak was now very close to be labelled as ‘flooded’.

The rest of the journey before lunch was supposed to be ‘very easy’ and technically it was a very easy, relaxing and comfortable route to the break stop. Unfortunately for me though, it turned out to be just too simple, which meant Gabo felt inclined to fill the time with some kayaking exercises that were aimed to scare the shit out of the less experienced participant by flirting with the risk of capsizing. At first this went well, and I was quickly beginning to feel much more comfortable and actually enjoying putting the health of my precious genitals and all other body parts that don’t like the cold on the line for a little bit of excitement. However, what started off as an easy exercise, quickly turned into a choreographed and video’d procedure that kayakers call breach. I had no idea what I was doing, and after only a few quick demonstrations from Gabo, we were preparing to perform the move and hopefully successfully stay dry. Gabo counted us in… ‘one, two,’ and then plunged his paddle as far out from the boat as he could which I was supposed to be mirroring right down to the last millisecond, but I wasn’t aware that in this country, people don’t count up or down to three, but instead capsize the boat on the count of three. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I fell in. Despite my best scrabbling efforts, and Gabo’s brave attempt to flip the boat back over, the two of us were left bobbing up and down in the four degree glacier water, with my laugh desperately trying to get out of my mouth, and my lungs struggling to function. Jeremy’s laugh had no problem getting out at all, but eventually he finished chuckling and came to rescue us, righting our boat and kindly tipping out the sea of water that had collected in our kayak. It wasn’t a particularly pleasurable experience, but it was fucking fun.

Luckily for me and my soaking body, the lunch stop wasn’t far away, and it gave us a chance to warm up, put on some new clothes, and watch the drama unfold on the video. We were also granted some much needed food and coffee, and soon my hands were functioning again, and we were ready to complete the rest of the trip. This was a much more relaxing journey down, and although Jeremy and Gabo did their best efforts to make it more exciting and difficult by taking us down new and ‘experimental’ routes that scraped us along hedges and the river bed, we made it to the end of the route without any incidents, and could park up and get out of my soaking clothes. Or so I thought… instead Gabo attempted to get revenge of Jeremy by pushing over with his paddle, which kind of worked and felt quite good, but inevitably, Jeremy then seeked revenge and pinned his boat up against ours and put us on the verge of capsizing once again. My heart sank as I accepted our wet doom, but thankfully the Frenchman in the guide came out and he let us go with our boat the right way up. He also provided some quality last entertainment by voluntarily flipping his boat, staying underwater for a horrible amount of seconds, and then righting himself. And with that, we were back on land.

Getting changed was a hard struggle due to the now pouring rain, and little cover, but after many difficult minutes, we were all dry and in the truck, drinking some beer. This capped off an incredible day for Los Tres Amigos, and despite a rather horrible journey home trying to hold in a piss for the duration whilst also nursing my shivering body, we made it back to the hostel to reflect on how amazing the day had been over some chicken and garlic rice.

Shoutout for the day has to go to our two guides, Gabo and Jeremy. They may have aided in making my life as difficult and as cold as possible, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and they set the perfect example of what a guide should and usually are in Patagonia. They were cool, funny, adventurous, and drunk mate. Respect.

Mate, mate, mate – Day 88-91 (23rd-26th)

The last four days have held the frequent and extremely necessary detox after yet another week of strenuous activities, intrepid exploring and absolutely no showering. As usual, these days in Natales have been pleasant enough and quiet enough to nurse us back to life in time for our Kayaking trip tomorrow where we’ll undoubtedly be reduced to a bag of sleeping bones once again, which means I need to find myself something to do fill the next few minutes of your lives with an interesting topic that is worthy of covering the last four days. I was thinking about writing a piece on the amazing range of food in Chile, or about the incredible and cheap wines on the market, or about both as the beautiful combination they make, but even just writing the last sentence has got be drooling for some vino tinto and a rack of lamb, and sadly that combination isn’t available at 12 o’clock, despite dinner ranging from late afternoon to late evening in Chile. Luckily however, a Boy Scout is always prepared, and I happen to know to that for some reason, which means I have a back up, and a bloody good one at that. It think its time for some mate.

Yerba mate is a type of tea that originates from South America, and is only widely consumed in the same areas, and especially Patagonia. The taste of the drink is extremely bitter, and as a man who only accepts a cup of tea with at least two sugars in, I didn’t expect to enjoy the beverage as much as I do. It took some warming too after the very first time we took part in a mate circle with Panchi back in January, but now Los Tres Amigos rely on it heavily after a busy day of doing ‘things’, or to fill time when we are not doing ‘things’, and we have also promoted ourselves to Taragui drinkers, which is the stronger and more manly type of mate that all the guachos, and Panchi,drink numerous times a day. Although it is techniquly a form of tea, the taste has very little resemblance to the classic British brew, although the routine and purpose of mate often reminds me of sharing a kettle with friends and family back home. It is also traditional to have an alcoholic drink in with the mate, which is called Mate con punta, but after trying it with whisky, as Lucho suggested, I don’t think we’re going to be trying it again anytime soon, and I would suggest it’s probably just better to keep the two beverages separate, in order to maintain any feeling in your mouth whatsoever.

The way mate is shared and drunk is completely different to anything else I have experienced, with the only exception being the consuming of a cocktail jug on the strips of Prague or class of Wetherspoons. The mate is drunk out of a gourd, or calabas, which is usually made of a vegetable like a pumpkin, and sipped through a metal bombilla, which is effectively a straw. This is then passed around the often large circle of participants in such a way that can only be described as a ritual. The person with the kettle, that is usually heated to a warm temperature on the Chilean boscas (stoves), is always the boss of the session, and fills the calabasa up after each person has had their few sips. The boss must pass the calabasa with his or her right hand, anticlockwise, and is in charge of judging when the mate no longer has enough taste to carry on. A participant may leave a circle at anytime by saying ‘gracias’ but this means one must never say thank you when receiving the gourd, otherwise you might just find yourself out of the group before you even get to try it. Although most guachos, like Lucho, will have to drink their precious mate without company, as there probably isn’t anyone within 100 miles of them, the tradition of the drink means, when possible, it is shared between huge groups of friends, and acts a brilliant social gathering, or a catch up with old friends, and from what we have discovered from our experiences, it is a great way to form relationships and bonds, even if the drinkers don’t speak the same language and that’s why I love it so much.

One of the main reasons for our desire to start drinking mate was to inch ever closer to being able to determine ourselves as true guachos, and after becoming at one with the sheep, and learning how to sport our boinas properly, it was crucial for the next step of gaucho-hood that we be able to perfectly share the beverage with the farmers themselves when the time came, and so it did. Of course the most significant mate partner we’ve had over the past few months is Lucho, but Los Tres Amigos have also bonded with Ramirez, Kevin, Marco, Shikana, Bill, the guides on our kayaking trip, and most importantly, the legend that is Panchi. It has been a honour sipping with you gentleman.

So, that’s your beginners guide to mate pretty much completed, but of course you’ll have to come to Patagonia (or the Middle East) if you want to try it for yourself.

Expedition to The Land of Fire – Day 82 – 87 (17th Feb – 22nd)

Date – Friday the 17th of February, 2017. Location – Tierra Del Fuego. Mission – Successfully navigate and explore the desolate and unknown areas of the Land of Fire without significant physical or mental damages to the group.

The expedition that faces our experienced explorative group of three youths and a mother promises to be an extremely challenging and unique mission, plunging deep into the most southerly lands of the world equipped with only a few pairs of pants each, limited supplies of tea, and a truck containing only one tank of fuel and a pack of boiled sweets. The purpose of our venture into the unknown is to discover and learn more about Tierra Del Fuego, and the strange people that have for some reason chosen to live so far away from phone signals and a source of alcohol. We have also been tasked with advertising and researching on behalf of Bluegreen adventures in aid of their new tourism project in the area, making our role a matter of life or death. I can promise you this, it’s going to be one hell of a journey.

Day 1 – The journey begins

It hasn’t been the most significant or successful day of exploring, I won’t lie, but Los Quatros Amigos have certainly made huge inroads into the monstrous journey towards the south, and we’ve began gathering information and research in aid of our challenge. It’s certainly been a tough first day, with little reward, but we can sense we are on the verge of entering the heart of Tierra Del Fuego, and closer to the destination of our expedition.

The first obstacle standing in the way of our squad and the land of fire was the natural blockade of the Earth’s sea, specifically the viciously cold and windy straits of Magellan. Seeing as our legendary, but sadly simple, truck wasn’t equipped to take on the mighty waters, we were left with only one available option in order to carry on with our mission, which was a car ferry that inevitably left at the unnatural hour of ten o’clock in the morning. This forced us to begin the day fuelled by only a few rounds of the smashing buffet breakfast, and an apple I successfully navigated out of the building, but we had no time to complain, as the ferries departure time was looming over us like an evil shadowy, and as our time limit rapidly grew closer, our knowledge of the where the terminal was became no clearer. When we eventually arrived, we were greeted by an array of waving hands, and in the mental confusion of the operation, the team were left with no clue of what we had to do or where we had to be to be granted access to the boat. The drama lasted for a good half an hour, in which time all other vehicles had circumnavigated our truck and found their way on the ferry, whereas we were still waiting for our tickets, but mercifully Lian came charging out of the ticket office with our passes and we were ushered towards the other cargo. We were now officially en route.

The two hour crossing wasn’t the most pleasant journeying I’ve been lucky enough to partake in, however it did strongly resemble the many missions I was involved in as a child when venturing over to the extremely unknown and wild Isle of Wight in the U.K. The initial suffocation that hit me instantly reminded me of the ferry crossings of old, with the mix of desert dry heat and stench of other human beings hitting me in the face like a brick wall, and pushing me back down the steep staircase to the car deck. The horrific reminiscing continued with the continuous thundering drone of the crammed in passengers stabbing my ear drums with no respite in sight. Luckily we managed to put together four chairs in a space fit for one, and could attempt to pass the time as rapidly as possible, so I obviously went for the best technique I had learned over the years, and closed my eyes and prayed I could fall asleep. Thankfully, the early morning had taken its toll, and I just about managed to grab some precious minutes of sleep whilst propped up on my arm and in between the many pushes and shoves I received from behind. This plan worked perfectly, and soon it was time to disembark and continue our journey towards the end of the world.
We vacated the ferry onto the soil of Porvenir, the gateway to Tierra Del Fuego, which gave us an opportunity to finish our final preparations for the expedition, and also begin our consumer research in aid of the future Bluegreen trip. We weren’t spoilt for choice in the small town, but we did find a nice cafe to have a hot chocolate and enjoy last service we would find for miles to come, complete with an 18+ Game of Thrones board game, and a magazine with english translation. With a high rating certified by Los Quatros Amigos, we left the cafe in high spirits as we left the inadequate town of Porvenir, and began the serious exploration of the area. The end of the paved road, a matter of metres down the road, marked the official beginning of our expedition, and signified we were now entering the unknown territories of Tierra Del Fuego. The adventure had begun.

The next marker on our route was a location known to be the home of a colony of magnificent King Penguins that we felt inclined to visit due to our mutual love of Penguinos and the extreme rarity of sightings. To our serious disappointment, it didn’t quite turn out to be quite as special as we had hoped, mainly because other explorers had got to the group first and managed to set up a whole tourist sight before we had even gotten close, complete with hundreds of annoyingly eager visitors, portaloos, and even a little gift shop. Nevertheless, we politely listened to painfully tedious speech that last far too long, and did the quick loop of the penguins. They were certainly as magnificent as I had hoped, but the huge wooden wall in between us and them, as well as the large amount of distance, made for an inevitable feeling of disappointment as we returned to the truck, but there was little time for moping, so we had a typically British explorers lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches in the dry cabin of the vehicle, and set off deeper into the unknown.

The next part of the journey was classic expedition road trip, with numerous stops to chase after flamingos with our cameras, and explore old gold mines, and after a few more hours, we reached a settlement named Russfins, which was planned to be our first stop, and our first real chance to test and review a possible location for Bluegreen’s planned trip to Tierra Del Fuego. However, as we approached the grounds of the village, it began to look distinctly like some sort of industrial factory of some sorts, and certainly not a nice location to be housed in, and definitely not the location that we had seen on photos. We parked up nevertheless, and searched around for a person who looked like they may in control of what had turned out to be a huge wood mill with gigantic warehouses capable of containing huge amounts of logs but probably not beds or a kitchen, or even a tent. We were passed around from person to person, bout eventually we were taken around the back of the complex, which revealed the small group of cabins that were perfectly placed right in front of the fleet of diggers and machinery, with mind blowing views of the whole entire factory. It wasn’t going great for this accommodation, but once we had been shown around one of the cabins we were slightly more optimistic about staying in one. This optimism was quickly wiped out though, as we were told we couldn’t use the living area of the cabins, and somehow there was only one room left, we made a rapid escape for it, and planted a big fat two out of ten review on it, with a possibly of that increasing to four with the availability of petrol, as promised.

This disappointment left us with little other options for the nights accomodation, and with the evenings light rapidly disappearing, and our willingness to camp in the wild completely obliterated, we sped off further down the road towards the next mapped settlement in hope we could find some sort of building that was available to the public. The road was a mysterious one, winding through the dense forest of Tierra Del Fuego, and passing over the famous Rio Grande, as well as gifting us our first sighting of one of the thousands of beaver dams that are supposedly destroying the environment of Southern Chile. It looked pretty harmless to me.

The track soon came to an end, and revealed a truly beautiful reward for our days efforts in the form of the stunning lago blanco and it’s surrounding volcanic looking mountains. I could have taken in the incredible sights all evening, but we had still had work to do before the night could finally come to an end. We did a routine scout of the camping area, and we were extremely pleased with the facilities and location, however a bed was absolutely vital for the team, so we went over to the nearby lodges and requested to rent one for the evening, and despite a reaction of surprise from the owner, we were granted a nights stay in the cabin and shown around. It was so certainly so far, so good for our first accommodation, and Lian soon had a plan in place for Bluegreen and their trip.

We eventually reached the havens of our beds after recharging our bodies with as much carbs as we could muster up and a few restorative glasses of Chile’s finest boxed wine, and we have ended the day with our positive morales intact, and an excitement for what tomorrow has to offer for our incredible expedition.

Day 2. – The End of The World

It has been another elongated day that has felt as stretched out as an elastic band trying to fit around a post box, but it has been an extremely more enjoyable journey of exploration and discovery, compared to yesterday’s drive through nothing. I can also officially say our team have finally reached the desired destination and accomplished our main goal of reaching the heart of Tierra Del Fuego with all four wheels, and all four explorers intact and safe. It’s been one hell of a journey, but now we have set up camp and cemented ourselves deep into the wilderness of Chile, the real exploring can begin.
Upon awakening, prepping (eating) and then re-packing the truck in the closest way possible to replicating the expertise of Panchi back at the Bluegreen headquarters, Los Quatros Amigos were back on the road and the truck was soon motoring back onto the unknown miles of dirt track that the mapped stated would take us to our planned destination. However, it wasn’t long before our one vehicle convoy was grinding to a halt once again, as we quickly had more research work to carry out at the next settlement we came across. This area in particular was the gateway to the Karukinka park, a privately ran space that desperately needed exploring and checking out before Lian and Bluegreen can confidently send tourists to the location as part of the itinerary. We received a tour of the domes and camping areas they offered, the cabins that could be hired in return for an extortionate amount of money, and a dead beaver hanging from a ceiling that could have been eaten if one was absolutely mad. This gave us a reasonable understanding of the accommodation on offer, but seeing as the day was still young, and we had barely progressed ten km, we couldn’t justify settling in for the night under the roof of one of the lovely cabins, so after catching a glimpse of the English football on the only television within a 100 miles radius, and of course dishing out the relevant contact details and promoting for our expedition managers, Bluegreen adventures, we were back on the very unbeaten track and heading further south.

The journey carried on for a few uneventful and unexciting hours, but as we gradually drove higher, the scenery began bursting out with beauty and our eyes were quickly bursting out of their sockets and fixed on the incredible views that were appearing. The sights soon got to mind blowing for all of us, forcing us to pull over, leap out of the truck and take in the endless views through the medium of our phone cameras. As it turned out, we had just about chosen the best place to look upon the landscape of glistening lakes and perfect mountains, as well as the miles and miles of empty space beyond, even bettering the mirador that we then found five minutes down the road. It was a dramatic development between the antagonistic landscapes of the desertous flats to the gorgeous mountains, and in such a small space of time, which made the whole experience and the entire views even more impossible to take in, but I certainly didn’t let that take away any valuable picture time from the cliff edges we were parked on. I felt inclined to find the perfect position, even scaling the dodgy ground behind us in order to get a decent shot of the magnificent truck in front of the almost as magnificent land. It was incredible, and well worth the damages I received to my garments as a result of my quick desecration from the cliff edge.

We reluctantly got back into the truck minutes later, and sped off down the road in hope that we could make it more than a few measly miles before we stopped again. As is inevitable when driving through this incredible place though, the Toyota was once again called to a halt a small way along the road. On this occasion, we had parked up by a not so rare, but still quite unbelievable sight of what we thought was classified as a huge and unique beaver dam, that spanned as many metres as I am capable of running (about 30) and created a remarkable blockade that created an image that we thought closely resembled a luxury infinity pool, an image that really was a sight to behold. However, as environmental explorers, we have a duty to wage the war against the beavers that are apparently destroying the environment with there thousands of invasive dams, so we did just that, and began using all of our available effort to take apart the incredible masterpiece of construction that the rodents had created. This turned out to be much harder than we had anticipated, and in frantically trying top pull out the logs that were so expertly engineered, my feet soon become completely drenched, and my enthusiasm completely abolished. After a few holes had thankfully appeared, we judged that was job done, and retreated back to the truck to complete the next one km part of our journey before we would probably want to stop again.

Our next pit stop coincided with lunch, and took us to an incredible location on the shores of Lago Deseado, gifting us a beautiful view across the gigantic lake to relax and eat our makeshift ham and cheese sandwiches. It was so astonishing in fact, that we judged it to have merited the consummation of a beer, which possibly marked one of the most amazing locations I have had and will ever have an alcoholic beverage. That’s a very serious and impressive accolade to have, especially when compared to the incredible parks, pubs and public facilities that I have explored, conquered, and had a drink in during my vast experience of exploration and alcoholism. On a more serious note, it was genuinely a perfect place to unwind and recharge, and a brilliant find by the crew.

With lunch ticked off the task list, and the dishes washed up with lake water and grass, we rejoined the track and carried on further towards the unknown. As it happened, the unknown turned out to be at the end of a perfect ribbon of road that wound itself down through an equally perfect valley and towards the faint blue sight of a pot of gold in the form of a lake. If this little stretch of road were to be paved, and Jeremy Clarkson weren’t to have punched his producer, Top Gear would be down here in an instant and would probably label it as ‘the best road in the world’. Of course this isn’t a title we would want being slapped on by three monstrous super cars and their equally as monstrous drivers, but I hope this hypothetical example might give you the best idea of just how jaw-dropping this road was. I also took a picture though, which ,despite my awful photography skills, probably will give you a pretty good image of the valley. Nevertheless, this called for some serious road music, so I put in my headphones, cranked up a bit of ‘Don’t stop believing’, and enjoyed the unbelievable scenery as it passed on by.

This route came to an incredible climax a few miles later, revealing the stunning Lago Fagnano and the Cordillera Darwin mountain range that surrounded it. All I can say about that place to justify it with the description it deserves, is that we stopped beside it for almost hour, during which we failed to taken in the breathtaking surroundings, but successfully captured hundreds of photos in order to save the moment. It was incredible, but it got better. After we had checked out a mysterious road that was believed to be unfinished, and had been stopped by the army trying to drive along it, we turned back and headed for another road we knew of that led to the planned destination that we knew absolutely nothing about. We posed for some more photos along the way, but we were quickly onto the new track and heading straight through another gigantic valley until we could drive no more. This only added a minor amount of time compared to the huge two days of touring it had taken us to get to that point, and thankfully for the story and the team’s fragile morale, it would have been worth 100 of those journeys, and a big fat kick in the balls at the end. Yes, it was that good.

The end of the road brought us to the beach of the Pacific fjords, and what could only be described as the end of the world. It may not have been the furthest south one can drive, or the most remote one can go, but the hand made marker signifying the end of the road, the small house that perched by the side of the road, the vast stretch of sea that sat as still as a pond, the towering mountains that sandwiched the truck and made it look so insignificant, and the miles of road that headed back the way we came, all combined to create an undeniable sense in the minds of all the team that this is what the end of the world would look like if such a place really existed. It was and still is mind blowing.

However, we still had the problem of accommodation for the night, and we were left with only one option of begging the residents of the house if we could camp on their land. This was a tense moment, but in true Chilean fashion, the landlord was an incredibly nice guy, and in fact had a little set up on his land for campers that he had set up in case anyone like us ever came across his farm, but once a German lady came and introduced herself as a fellow camper, we started to realise we weren’t the only ones that discovered this place. However, we are part of a tiny portion of the world that has laid eyes on this replica of heaven, making it a true hidden gem. All that was left to do was set up camp, leave something and our numbers in the drop box at the end of the road, and then tuck in for a well deserved night’s sleep at the end of the world.

Day 3 – Sea Elephants

Valuable research has been carried out in the last 12 or so hours, as despite spending way too much time ‘living’, the team have explored the territories of an undiscovered species of elephant, entered the home of the resident recluse that resides secretly in the little houses situated at the end of the world, and negotiated trade links between the north and the south, with the desired hope that the two areas of southern Chile will be linked for years to come. Mission successful.

The morning was a very insignificant one, and was just spent lounging around in our camping area, and watching the day pass by in the sky of our beautiful location. Our lack of action and actual work was due to the impending promise of a boat ride we had received late last night from the estancia owner, Julio, which had been set for around ten or eleven o’clock. However, this being Chile, noon was quickly upon us but we were still nowhere near any form of water transport, meaning we had now sacrificed many valuable minutes of exploration time, as well as 120,000 peso’s that we didn’t/don’t have. We managed to pass the nervous wait by making the most of the Chilean generosity, and enjoying some incredible sopaipillas with a resident of the house, as well as receiving a grand tour of the new lodges that were being built on the land. This activity called for some more fine fodder to keep us sharp and motivated, but typically, as soon as I had the bacon in the pan, the call for the boat was made, so we quickly wolfed down the half cooked rashers, chucked on anything waterproof we could find, and headed over to the shore to get on the boat. The vessel in question wasn’t quite as grand as Christopher Columbus’ galleon, or Neil Armstrong’s space ship, but our little dinghy, powered by a few little horsepowers, was perfect for the task in hand; to find and study the nearby colony of sea elephants.

Once we had safely negotiated the boarding and embarking process with our clothes and bodies dry, we were tactically positioned around the boat and then sped off into the distance in search of the beats. This didn’t take quite as long as we had thought, and probably hoped, as the short 20 minute journey was undoubtedly the most incredible way one could possibly travel from A to B. From on top of the icy fjords, the panoramic view of the area reached new levels of insanity, with the mountains towering over us like never before, and the horizon becoming more extreme and vast by the second. The route took us closer to the distant glaciers and waterfalls, giving us possibly the best sight of the expedition yet. But it was about to get better.

After just about mustering up the courage to bring my phone and get capture this unbelievable moment, the boat began to slow which signified the elephants were near. The beach that they were believed to be located on was now in sight, but all that my measly human eyes could catch a glimpse of was numerous huge rocks. They were impressive rocks, and in a brilliant location, but this isn’t what we had come to study. All four of us were desperately searching around as we edged closer to the beach, but to no avail, until suddenly one of the huge rocks began to move and shuffle along the beach. These were no rocks, they were the sea elephants! They were absolutely huge, and got bigger and bigger as we cautiously floated to the very edge of the sand that they had taken over, being careful not to disrupt their territory and upset the alpha male, who could apparently burst into action in milliseconds and be sinking the boat moments later. This was hard to believe when watching nearly twenty of the huge animals soaking up the sunshine like a bunch of beach babes as they snored away the afternoon, however we were taking no risks, and took in the incredible spectacle from a safe distance. As if this wasn’t enough, several condors joined the party and began circling around the cliffs above us. It was a shame I couldn’t fit all of the nature and geography into one picture, so I just videoed it all instead.

Once we had gathered enough evidence to write about, and boast about, the whole experience, we headed back to base, which gave us a good opportunity to use the slow motion feature on our phones, which Lian managed to perfect with a dramatic clip of me and my overgrown hair standing proud in the winds and in front of the incredible scenery. It was a painfully short journey back, but this amazing opportunity we were gifted will never be forgotten in the history of Bluegreen adventures and our team, despite only lasting a quick hour.

Although we were back on land in time for the afternoon, our latest adventure had well and truly finished us off for the day, and in truth, anything else we could have done today would have looked horrifically average compared to what we had witnessed at lunchtime. Therefore, I am left with nothing else to log for the day, other than to describe the brilliant moment I enjoyed for a brief few minutes on my own. It was as I stood in front of the fjords and the still incomprehensible views ahead, accompanied by a mug of Chile’s least finest wine, that I really began to take in the enormity, beauty and significance of the place that I was stood in the middle of, and truly understand quite how lucky the team and I are to be in such an outstanding place. This also topped the beverage we enjoyed at the lake yesterday, and therefore took top spot and my prestigious award.

Day 4 – We’re off to see the sea elephants

Not much to report from camp tonight, only that my toes are about to be sacrificied to the freezing temperatures of Tierra Del Fuego, and my bladder is about to implode under the strain of being imprisoned in the safety and warmth of my sleeping bag. In other news, we successfully made it out of the end of the world, with all four tires intact, a little bit petrol left in the tank, and just about enough charge on my ipad to write up today’s report. Luckily, it hasn’t been a busy day in terms of exploring and researching, meaning there isn’t a great deal of information to write up, however, we have discovered some crucial information for Bluegreen Adventures in regard to the highly disappointing accommodation we have landed ourselves in for the night at the campsite Vicuña that we had rated so highly on our first visit. This information will be pivotal to the route planning of the tourist trip to the Land of Fire.

The most challenging part of the day came quickly after the sun had risen, as once we were awake and had consumed enough coffee to prepare us for the day ahead, the impending task of packing up our camp finally dawned upon us, and eventually we had to give in and tackle the mission head on. The team was split into two teams, with me and El beginning to destroy the huge pile of washing up, and Lian and Benj sorting out all of the excess food, and determining between ‘salvageable’ and ‘completely destroyed’. This took up a large proportion of the morning, mainly because of the lack of hot water, but also because of the severe leakages that had plagued all but one of our food boxes, but once it was complete, we were left with the fairly easy task of taking down our living quarters of two tents and the ‘Noah’s tarp’ that we had used as a roof over our kitchen area. This step of deconstruction wasn’t a problem, however when it came to packing all of the equipment into bags, we ultimately failed, as in the end we settled for stuffing everything into bin bags and burying at the bottom of the huge pile of stuff in the truck, and then said good riddance and went off for a lunch time session of exploration.

The walk was only meant to be a short trip down the beach, but as we began meandering down the shores, we rapidly became addicted to a little game of ‘who can find the most mussels’, which of course Benj won, but in scraping around every last little pebble by the water’s edge and wedging as many of the little sea creatures in one hand as humanly possible, the walk took quite a lot longer than planned, and soon we had lost Lian to the horizon and had a huge bag of mussels to carry. We therefore decided it was probably time to head back to the truck and start making our way out of this beautiful place, but once we found Lian again, we also found two odd looking men in the forest. It initially felt like we were straying into a murder mystery by Agatha Christie, but thankfully Lian revealed that they were here to build some cabins, which was when I noticed the three huge buildings a matter of metres away from us. This discovery allowed for some unplanned expedition work, as Lian quickly began gathering information on who was funding the infrastructure, and if they were planning to rent them out to companies such as Bluegreen Adventures. As it happened, the carpenters defied the stereotypical British builder by knowing a lot about their project, and so we left for the truck armed with another precious number and our reputation enhanced even more. Once we were back at the truck, the hardest part of the day appeared in front of ours, as we now had to carry out the horrible task of leaving the beautiful Caleta Maria behind us, knowing that we wouldn’t see anything or anyone as beautiful unless we return again sometime in the future, or if an alien race take over the world and they happen to be the most attractive species in the galaxy. It was a tough drive, but we knew it had to be done if we ever wanted phone signal again.

The road back to civilisation felt much longer this time, and other than our quick stop to check out some cabins that were in progress, and a lunch break at the same spot as three days ago, the journey was fairly boring and uneventful, which helped to create a fairly poor mood within the team, and made worse by the horrific rain and Eliot’s little mishap with the leftover curry that was supposed to be for lunch. We battled on through, and eventually reached the Vicuña campsite in mediocre spirits, but the fact that we didn’t have the daunting task of setting up a tent for the night, and the thought of finally lighting a massive great fire to go with our marshmallows and squirty cream, lifted the mood of the squad greatly, and we were soon huddled around the flames and preparing our mussels.

Although our freshly caught dinner of ‘Mussels con arroz’ was slightly ruined by the discovery that the seafood in Tierra Del Fuego had a disease called Red Tide and that if we ate it we would be exploding from all bodily orifices for months to come, the night was a really lovely one, spent staring up into the incredible clear night sky and the thousands of stars on show, whilst shovelling down a mixture of marshmallows, cream, biscuits and chocolate. Unfortunately, our fire in the Land of Fire couldn’t last forever, so we eventually retired to our pod, which brings me to the present, and my initial review of the camping. It’s shite. I know that is not the most professional opinion, but the rock solid floor and the shocking insulation have made for a seriously uncomfortable place, despite our high quality mats and sleeping bags. I’m predicting a nights sleep of the lowest of standards, and my standards are pretty low.

Day 5 – Goodbye Tierra Del Fuego

It hasn’t been a notable day for the team and our expedition, mainly due to most of the day being spent inside the confines of the truck, in a desperate attempt to make it over the fjords to avoid having to stay another night in the lesser part of Tierra Del Fuego, and be reunited with wifi and technology. We did make it though, which means the squad have left the Land of Fire in one piece and with no major mishaps, which can be seen as a brilliant achievement for Los Quatros Amigos.

We awoke this morning in a freezing cauldron of the harsh southern temperatures, which our dome had done absolutely jack shit to fight against, and had arguably made even worse by providing a floor that has mastered the art of breaking backs. This made releasing ourselves from the warmth of our sleeping bags near impossible, but we eventually had to vacate the dome in order to refuel, so we fled to the fire pit and shelter as quickly and efficiently as we could. As if the weather gods had looked down on us with some sympathy after their poor showing yesterday, the fire just about still smoking from last night, so Benj soon had flames once again and we could be warm once again. With our cereal eaten, and a formal review of this campsite swiftly agreed on, showers all round, and a begrudging payment, we made a fast exit to the truck and set off on the last leg of our amazing journey.

The next part of the journey was arguably the longest yet, and the several hours that it took to make it back to any form of life was spent on some horrific roads, with potholes the size of craters and gigantic trucks bombing past as if they are in a manic rush to get somewhere, but in reality I don’t think they even knew where they were going. This made our progress extremely slow and painful, and with our lunch buried way too far underneath our pile of living equipment, the team were desperate to reach the next settlement, which for all we knew could be another hundred miles away. Nevertheless, we soldiered on as normal towards the ferry crossing and civilisation, and soon we were gifted a reward from the God of Tierra Del Fuego, in the form of a fantastic little diner, which completely matched the image in my head of a road side cafe in the middle of nowhere and nothing. Apparently the truckers had come in useful, as the are the main users of the restaurant, so we owe a big thank you to them for providing us with four incredible burgers with fries not included, and a luke-warm beer, and for not driving straight over our truck and killing us all, which they could pretty easily. It wasn’t the best fodder in the world, but it was the perfect pick up we needed to motivate us towards the finish line.

The last few fries had barely reached our stomachs by the time we had settled the bill, so after receiving some useful tips and top class entertainment from three Aussie motorbike riders, we were back on the road, with Benj trying to keep a steady place of 60 mph on the hideous roads to try out the bikers suggestion. Of course they were wrong, meaning we were not skipping over the potholes like they didn’t exist, but luckily once we turned off onto a quieter road, the surface smoothened out and it was a nice cruise to the ferry port. I say ferry port, but the jetty was pretty much just the end of the road, which made for an interesting queuing system and method of embarking, but we were soon parked up and heading out into the fjords once again. This marked the end of Tierra Del Fuego, which left us with a genuinely sad feeling, as I know I can speak for the whole team in believing that the Land of Fire is a truly incredible place, but more on that tomorrow.

The ferry journey was very short, only just giving me enough time to explore all three floors of the tiny boat, which left us with only one task to do for the day, which was to find a bed for the night, a task that was absolutely crucial for the survival of the team. Thankfully, this was much easier than we anticipated, and in fact we found something of a hidden gem, which was a hostel complete with small outbuildings complete with a living room, TV and a bathroom, and we had it all to ourselves. This was a fantastic reward at the end of a long day of driving, and the cooked dinner was a bonus, and so was Jurassic park in spanish that was on the box. The internet wasn’t so great, but we’ve learnt one really can’t be fussy when in Southern Chile, and especially after a challenging day trying to navigate around Tierra Del Fuego. Therefore, we all slammed into our pillows in a happy mood, and I’m currently struggling to console my excitement for finally going to sleep. I can’t resist any longer.

Day 6 – The Last Hoorah

Today was supposed to be an simple and easy day of slowly meandering back to base in Puerto Natales, seeing the average (in comparison to Tierra Del Fuego) sights of Southern Patagonia, and enjoying the easy ride that comes with civilisation and infrastructure. As is obvious by my tone and choice of language, this was not to be the case, and somehow our impeccable squadron of experienced explorers, that had perfectly overcome the extreme challenges that the Land of Fire throws at anyone that tries to conquer it, somehow managed to make a supposedly easy journey back, a massive mission that has left us all absolutely amazed and very relieved. It has taught us a key lesson in exploration though, which is to never get complacent, and we will carry that on our shoulders for years to come.

The morning began as it should, with a nice cooked breakfast, and a coffee to go with it, and all felt well and normal in the group, and we were all certainly looking forward to getting back to Puerto Natales and looking back on the expedition from the comfort of wifi and civilisation. We set off about an hour later, once the usual shower routines had been carried out, and headed onto the cross country route back to Natales, which promised to be a good looking but very easy cruise back to town. The problems began to slowly emerge via the fuel indicator on the dashboard that we hadn’t realised was now dangerously low to the bottom, and despite us being much nearer to large infrastructure than ever before on our expedition, a petrol station now seemed to be much further away from us than we wanted and probably needed. With very few options available to the team, other than panic and scream until petrol magically begins to fall from the sky, the truck kept rolling on at the steadiest pace possible, with Lian using her experience of economic driving and avoiding slowing down for anything or anyone. This seemed to be working perfectly, and although the needle was flirting with the empty line, we seemed to have stemmed the loss of fuel which kept the indicator on a reasonable level. Of course this plan was too good to be true, but surprisingly it wasn’t the fuel or our idiocy that caused the next problem, but in fact it was the last car to come along this road that had hurt the squad, and a poor sheep. Despite our desperation to stay at a steady speed and not stop for anything, we couldn’t leave a dying sheep to suffer in pain, so we put it in the back of the truck, along with a harness in the form of Benj, and kept on driving to ding the next estancia along that could kill it humanely and put it out of its misery.

The next farm along wasn’t far away, and we were greeted by a decent looking gaucho who we trusted would tend to the ewe appropriately and enjoy it for his dinner over the next week. His method in grabbing the poor sheep by its two broken legs was extremely hard to watch, and did suggest he may not be quite as nice to the animals as we had first thought, but by this time the animal was already in the pen and ready to be eaten, so we hesitantly got back into the truck and set off for what we hoped would be a smooth and sheep-less journey back.

We quickly rejoined the main road, but the signs weren’t as promising as we had prayed for, both on the side of the road and on the dashboard, as the pin was now firmly indicating empty, and the distance to Puerto Natales was still over 100 km. We bravely came to the conclusion that we were definitely going to fail in our quest and run out of fuel, but Los Quatros Amigos agreed to go down fighting, and kept on motoring along the route to home. We figured the closer we got to Natales and the source of fuel, the less time we would have to sit in the car wallowing in our failures whilst waiting to be rescued. The next load of kilometres passed fairly easily, with pretty much no inclines and very little traffic, but as we nervously waited in anticipation for the engine to meet its fate, the truck just carried on battling along the road and ever closer to home. However, the hills soon got bigger and we were pushed further onto the edge of our seats every minute that the hero of a vehicle kept on going. It was incredible what was happening, but the Toyota was clearly in no mood for sitting in a lay by for hours and wanted to get home and get washed just as much as us, and so after a horrifically painful but absolutely remarkable few hours, the incredible truck rolled into the Natales petrol station, containing a cabin full of celebrations and relief. We had made it.

With the ‘slayer’ truck fed and watered, we headed over to the Bluegreen HQ and walked through the door to a hero’s welcome. It was then time for our debrief, and so we began pouring out all of the stories we had, and chucking our photos at the eager audience of officials, who could be nothing but delighted with our successful trade mission. Unfortunately, our celebrations couldn’t last for ever, as a truck full of our equipment and leftover food sat waiting to be cleared out, which was a huge job of cleaning, sorting and binning, but we didn’t mind, it was worth every bit of hard work, grit and determination, and cleaning that we had done just to enter the realms of Tierra Del Fuego.

It didn’t always seem possible, both today and at times throughout the expedition, that our team would make it back in relatively the same condition as we left, and in some ways we didn’t due to the most incredible sights we have now seen with our very own eyes that can never be taken away or be forgotten for as long as we live. However, we did eventually make it back to mission control in Puerto Natales, safe and sound, despite our best efforts to make the last day of our expedition the hardest of them all, and I can confidently say our trade mission was a huge success, and so Bluegreen Adventures can now broaden their territories over to the deep south, and help to safely send more people into the unknown of Tierra Del Fuego.

As for the Land of Fire itself, I know of few words in the english dictionary that can sum up the incredible place we have been exploring, the mind blowing scenery we were lucky enough to lay our eyes and cameras on, and the amazing places that we managed to find and seek refuge in. I know the whole team feel so privileged to have been gifted the opportunity to explore, live and discover such an incredible place on earth. If I can tell you one thing about Tierra Del Fuego that you probably won’t already know, it’s that you HAVE to go, otherwise you will be doomed for all eternity and haunted in the afterlife (if there is one). It’s the most different place one could possible go to when coming from somewhere like England, with consumerism yet to get anywhere near it, and remaining so untouched by the rest of the world. Even compared to Puerto Natales and Patagonia, this area is nothing like anything I’ve ever seen before, and that’s why I loved it so much, and that’s why it gets the shoutout for the whole expedition, as nothing would have been possible without it. FYI, we discovered it is an extremely difficult, challenging and stressful place to explore, and I would seriously recommend doing a lot of planning before entering the realms of the end of the world.

However, the trip also wouldn’t have been possible to Lian, who organised, funded and looked after the whole trade mission, and I hope we have succeeded in our challenge in order to make it even more worth while to her. The team leader deserves such huge gratitude. As does Panchi’s truck, Slayer, who defied all the odds to made it into the heart of Tierra Del Fuego and back on two tanks of petrol, the four tires it began with, and with all four occupants in one piece. What a machine!

Dreams – Day 81 (16th February)

The time has come, once again, for Los Tres Amigos to embark on yet another adventure, and begin the next sub-chapter in our Patagonian adventure. However, this time I’m told we’re not actually roaming the lands of Patagonia, but in fact we are making our way into Tierra Del Fuego, the Land of Fire and the bottom of the world as we know it. I’m building it up for a reason, as I can already tell it’s going to be one hell of an expedition, with wild camping, serious exploration, and absolutely no washing at all. Unfortunately for the dramaticism of the story, today hasn’t quite fitted in with those characteristics, as the beginning of our mission has actually taken us up in the world, so much so that I am currently sat writing this in near luxury surroundings whilst feeling very out of place and in bewildering comfort, but more on that later.

The adventure began at our hostel, at the reasonable time of 8 o’clock, but the first mission I was required to tackle was to fit everything I could possibly need for the week in two small bags in a desperate attempt to avoid bringing my humongous monster of a rucksack. Buzzed up on adrenaline from our impending expedition and the strict time limit to be at the Bluegreen office that we needed to meet, I stuffed as many pants, socks, charges and zip lock bags as I could, and caught up with the well prepared people in the group in time for the mornings preparation. This turned out to be a horrifically long process, as despite our excitement to bury ourselves in the wilderness of Tierra Del Fuego, we were tempted into bringing every piece of camping equipment available to man or women, which combined with our bags and Lian’s suitcase to create one hell of a pile of ‘stuff’ capable of making any camping trip a matter of luxury and comfort. There were no complaints from me as Pachi brought out the ‘portable’ gas stove with four ringers and a huge gas canister, as well as a sheet with powers of roofing and a massive Thermos with the ability to accommodate several cups of tea and rounds of mate. On the less of a plus side, we were now responsible for half of Bluegreen’s resources, and we also had to pack it all into Panchi’s sacred truck, known as Slayer. I gave it my best shot, but this jigsaw puzzle required the mastery of Panchi, and then his extreme skills of knot tying, in order to secure our life source for the journey ahead. With this done, coffee drunk, and goodbyes said, we lept into the truck and began our adventure.

Predictably, we only reached the edge of Natales when we first required a stop in order to fill up the truck and our stomachs with fuel, so we grabbed some road empanadas and some essential petrol and attempted to leave the town for the second time. It was a case of second time lucky, and after a few hours down the road, we had made it to the bigger city of Punta Arenas and the bigger supermarkets that came with it. The first of two shops we ventured into could be compared to a shitter version of M&S, in which we failed to acquire a great deal, as most of the shop was taken over by varying selections of pants and socks. Alternatively, the second supermarket sold a lot more of what we needed, specifically in the food and drink department, and so it would probably resemble something of a decent sized Tesco or Sainsbury’s, However, despite the very normal and insignificant volume of the stores, due to our very long stay in the beautifully small and non consumeristic town of Natales, the shops appeared to us as gigantic and very scary megastores that engulfed half the world’s population and their necessary resources. This made shopping for what we needed very difficult, as it was almost impossible to stay focussed enough to decide what type of apples we wanted, what colour of pasta we desired, and what brand and flavour of tea we fancied for the next week. I also struggled to control the massive sized trolley that we required, which ,when compared to my impressive and impeccable record in the driving department, really demonstrates quite how out of practice at consumerism we were. Nevertheless, soon we had two trolleys full of ‘stuff’ worth 350 pounds, which revealed the next big challenge of the day which was to add all of our buys to the already full rear of the truck. This mission would have been ok if we were hidden away in the comfort of time and space, however as we had decided to take on this task in the middle of the supermarket’s car park, we forced upon ourselves a feeling of urgency, stress and frustration, as we packed the coolers and limited boxes we had with as much stuff as humanly possible, and brainstormed as many smart ways to reduce volume as we could. This resulted in many drastic ideas such as putting all the crisps into one bin bag, and put all of the cereal into one bin bag, but instead we just ditched as much cardboard as we could and soon we were done and on the way to the hotel.

As we approached a huge modern looking building that towered above its neighbours, and Lian mentioned that this was where we were staying for the night, we began to feel a sense of insecurity and realised we may be slightly out of place, something that was soon confirmed when we’re checking in at reception surrounded by shiny marble, numerous members of staff wearing clean clothing, and a casino with lots of bright lights and two bouncers. At this point me and El were fairly lost for words and pretty lost in general, however Benj took full advantage of the service and handed one of the concierge his banana peel to put in the bin. Once a credit card had been swapped hands, and the vegetable skin was in the bin, we were directed to the lift that would elevate us to our rooms. This was when our bewilderment reached its peak, as upon opening the door to our triple room, a bathroom of all bathrooms appeared in front of my eyes, complete with a huge tub, an all-angle power shower, and huge glass windows between it and the rest of the room with electric blinds to give you some privacy. It was incredible. The room wasn’t too bad either, with a flat screen tv, incredible views over the city, and pristine white duvets that created the perfect cocoon. It couldn’t have been more different to the simple bunk beds of Erratic Rock or the old fashioned decor of Lucho’s cabin, but I don’t think any of us really felt at home in the posh room, and I certainly missed being shaken to sleep by

Estancia Life – Day 79 – 80 (14th/15th February)

As another couple of days ‘monging’ out in Natales after a hard week or so working our arses off, has come and gone, I find myself racking my brain for something to write about for the last 48 hours. I wasted a good few minutes considering basing the next few paragraphs solely on a deathly ice cream parlour that we strayed into that scarily reminded me of an evil butchers that secretly dissect and sell human bodies that have been stolen from the local graveyard. However, I don’t particularly fancy reliving that nightmare, so instead I’m going to write a short section that explains a bit more about estancias and particularly the ones we’ve been too, as I know I didn’t quite understand their role in Chilean society, and seeing as they have been involved heavily in our travels, and I need to hit the hay asap in preparation for the beginning of our next adventure, I think this little paragraph or two fits perfectly.

As far as I know, the word ‘estancia’ translates as farm in english, and on first impressions, the numerous farms we’ve been to have certainly resembled what us Cotswoldians would label as a farm, with livestock dotted about, a strong stench of some kind of animal waste, and often a beautiful farmhouse standing proud in the middle. However, as our trip has gone on, and we have visited, worked in, and stumbled upon more and more estancias, we have quickly come to learn that farming in Chile couldn’t be more different to the British version, despite the main elements that they have in common. The main focus of most of the estancias is livestock, as the unpredictable weather and extreme climates here make it near impossible to grow any crops, as demonstrated by exhibit A which is the Baguales estancia, which struggles to produce anything that could maybe be called grass, let alone anything edible. Unlike British farming, and especially in the Cotswolds, the farmers such as Kevin and Ian, mainly own sheep and lambs, and therefore focus mostly on selling wool and feeding the majority of Natales. This business plan means a holy fuck load of sheep are needed, and I believe the Maclean’s own around 5000, which makes transporting them around the place extremely hard, as we have well and truly had engrained into our heads, mouths, hands, and feet over the last month or so. The terrain and geography of Patagonia doesn’t particularly help either, but the transporting of sheep on trucks, boats and lorries is just the norm in this area, and is extremely successful, demonstrated by the title of Kings that have seemed to be forced upon Kevin and Ian. Cattle are also common on the estancias, but I’m glad to say an experience with cows can wait for another day.

The second element of a lot of the estancias in Patagonia is tourism, and this seems to be getting more and more common and sought after by farmers in the area and thousands of people are clearly interested in watching sheep being kept in a field, being herded in a circle, and being roasted on a stick. It doesn’t sound that great when I say it like that, but it really is an incredible experience, and the two Russian billionaires that came to visit La Peninsula when we were there probably thought the same before they flew off in their private jet. Nevertheless, the eco tourism in the area is absolutely flourishing, especially in the horse industry, which we have taken full advantage of by riding at three different estancias, up huge cliffs, along beaches, and around ancient burial grounds. The rise of tourism at the farms also means that if they didn’t before, the now look absolutely impeccable and create a fantastic modern twist on traditional farmhouses and buildings, not that we got to experience this a great deal in our caravan, but we got pretty close.

It’s truly been a major pleasure spending so much time at these wonderful estancias, and I hope my little weary attempt to paint a picture of them for you has helped your understanding and appreciation for them as well. Therefore, the estancias get the shoutout for the last two days and the last two and a half months, it’s just a shame our time in amongst the farms is basically over. I’ll be back for the cows though.

P.S We’re going off the radar for a week again, specifically the depths and darkness of Terra Del Fuego so don’t expect any entertainment from my direction anytime soon!

Estancia Cerro Negro – Day 68 to 78- (4th February – 13th)

It’s currently nine days later after my last update, meaning we’ve made it back to Natales alive and well, something that I thought wasn’t always a certainty in the wilderness of Cerro Negro, so I’m currently feeling quite relieved, and my enthusiasm has also been bolstered by the availability of an internet connection and a social life, especially because I can now announce to my family, friends and anyone reading my blog, that my heart is in fact still beating, and my fingers have still been typing away whilst I have had no wifi. I think it’s relief all round. However, this does mean I’ve yet again left myself with a fuck load of writing to do in order to cover the latest escapade in our huge adventure, but all I find myself wanting to do is bury my head into my pillow and suffocate myself into a beautiful week long coma. Adding to my difficulties is the realisation that we have finished our six week stint working for the extraordinary Maclean family, and although this means we won’t have to be rolling around in sheep shit for a very long time to come, I feel very inclined to mark the occasion with a top quality blog post worthy of giving Kevin, Ian and everyone else that has made the last month or so such an incredible experience, the respect they deserve. I think we all know who’s getting the shoutout for the last ten days.

Similarly to our time at Baguales, we haven’t quite been busy and intrepid enough to make each day worthy of its own separate post, and although the work has been much more exciting and entertaining whilst fulfilling our crucial assignments in order to protect the sacred lambs, I think it would be best for all parties involved in writing and reading this blog if I squeeze all of our antics into one mega-blog. However, I’m not feeling quite as organised as I was after Baguales, so I’m just going to scribble down the most entertaining, weird and interesting that Los Tres Amigos have been a part of since Sunday the fifth.

I believe most people say that one should always save the best until last, and this could include a politician’s bullshitting speech, an unconvincing sales pitch, or even a person’s mother when trying to convince you she has lots of ‘brilliant news’, when in truth, everyone knows it’s all absolute codswallop. However, I’m not one to comply with the ‘norms’ or ridiculous rules, and I think that this first short story will improve the rest of the blog significantly, so I’m going to tell you about it now.

Chapter One – The Mystical Forest of Cerro Negro (the black hill)

Once upon a time (the 5th of February, 2017) three young amigos were sleeping in a van, with the sole purpose of guarding and protecting 2338 lambs. I happened to be one of these youths, and so this is the story of me and my two friends, and our discovery of the mystical forest of the Estancia Cerro Negro. One of the main parts of our job was to frequently check on the little shits and make sure none of them had been eaten by Pumas, as well as monitoring any potential sheep-nappers disguised as fisherman. This sounded fairly simple and quite exciting compared to fencing, and we entered the paddock for only the second time with more confidence than we knew what to do with. As you would expect, this backfired significantly, as we became extremely lost extremely quickly, despite the paddock appearing to be a simple circle shape and no bigger than a playing field. We soon realised we would need to engage our brains if we were going to get out of the forest alive and in time for lunch, so found the river and worked out the caravan should be in the opposite direction. This assumption was fairly realistic, and we marched off deeper into the wilderness in search of our home. In order to stay in a straight line, we refused to take any easier routes or paths, and insisted on crossing every single bit of river that was in our way. This made for one hell of an intrepid expedition, but our enthusiasm took a serious battering when El worked out we were about to cross a river on the same piece of fallen tree that we had crawled along a matter of minutes ago. Feeling let down by our navigational experience and D of E training, we spiralled into a state of disarray and depression, and almost accepted our abysmal defeat at the hands of a bunch of trees. I was about to begin covering myself in sticks and hoping nature would adopt me, when I caught a glimpse of what looked like a fence. We immediately started running in the direction of my sighting, and a beautifully man made construction became more and more real as we did so. We had made it! Of course we hadn’t quite arrived back where we wanted to though, as somehow we had done a full circle and found ourselves back at the Argentinian border fence, along way from our van, but we now knew we would live to tell the tale.

The story doesn’t end there though, as later in the day we decided to try out our homemade fishing lines, or tarros, and so headed back into the woodland, but this time with much more caution and following the river. My water bottle/tarro, as well as El’s pisco bottle and Benj’s tin, were all working well, however the fish were having none of our nonsense, and so we were forced to frequently moved spots in order to retain our sanity and waste some more time. The minutes passed by, but the only action we got on the end of our lines was a tree trunk that had attached itself to Benj’s hook, but once we had eventually freed his line, we decided we needed some better bait and began the journey back to the van. As were feeling a bit more comfortable in the wood, we stupidly decided to go back an alternative route and headed away from the river bank. We genuinely thought we couldn’t possibly go wrong, as we had even brought a compass with us and worked out the direction of our base, but in extraordinary circumstances, we quickly stumbled upon what appeared to be a completely new river. I know I speak for all three of us when I say our sanities were really tested at this point, however the only explanation we could come up with to answer the millions of questions that were now whirling around our heads, was that the paddock had some sort of magic powers and was a haven for the supernatural and mystical elements of the world. Obviously you know we made it back to our beds without being consumed by magic, and you are probably also clever enough to know that the three of us were just being massive idiots, and you would be write. It turned out the ‘new’ river was just the same one but we had been fishing in a huge meander, and we had been probably getting lost because of our incompetence and insistence on clambering around the forest like monkey’s. However, the I can’t help but think the area, similarly to Baguales, has a very weird aura about it, and you will soon find out we had other questionable experiences in the forest throughout our time in the caravan.

Chapter Two – The Bake-off

The next chapter of my little story book for not so little children, is loosely based on the true story of two budding bakers and their tiny little kitchen. The events of the sixth day of February, and our fourth day in the campervan, came as a result of me and Benj trying to make some sopaipillas and bread, in order to feel more Chilean, and get good women, as Ian had encouraged us to do. For most people, the act of making dough and putting it in the oven or in some oil would not necessarily go too well, but probably wouldn’t provide the kind of entertainment that our little session of the bake-off managed to pull off. I’m no Sue Perkins, and Benj is not quite Mel Giedroyc, but I think we could have made a pretty successful baking programme in our little portable trailer kitchen. At least we had a caravan in the middle of Patagonia, and not some shitty tent dotted somewhere in the British countryside.

My mission to successful make the Chilean delicacy of sopaipillas, which are effectively donuts but much nicer and cooler, began in the morning, and the first step was to create the dough that would be cut up and fried. Due to my limited knowledge of cooking, I genuinely thought it would be as easy as I just made it sound, and my two instructions that I had screenshotted from google reinforced my belief that baking was like playing jazz, and that you could simply improvise your way through the process and to success, even if you make a few mistakes along the way. If hadn’t been for the presence of the two anal perfectionists called Benj and El, I would have waltzed my through the baking, and even if ended up cooking a few disgusting dough balls, I would have guaranteed an enjoyable and pleasurable experience when making them. However, this wasn’t possible in hell’s kitchen, and so with the aid of the two master chefs, I precisely measured in the yeast, flour and other shit into the bowl and began mixing my dough. After this step was completed, I was told numerous instructions from different recipes that all three of us had collected, so I bravely chose just to leave the dough as it was to ‘prove’ and sit down to relax.

After an hour of beautiful boredom had passed, we checked on my creation, only to be disappointed in seeing the mixture hadn’t really done anything it was told to do, so in went back to my seat, frustrated and annoyed that my project wasn’t coming together. My apparent failure inspired Benj to try and do better, so he gathered up some spare ingredients that had been spilled on the table by me, of which there was an awful lot, and began doing the same thing as me in an experiment to find out where I had gone wrong. Annoyingly, Benj’s dough immediately started to do a lot more than mine, and soon he was ready to begin kneading the mixture to complete the last step before it was to be cooked. Mine on the other hand was doing fuck all, so I left the others to it, and my lazy bread to do nothing, and gave myself a well deserved nap. I thought this might do the trick, but as Benj was placing his bread shaped dough into the oven, my shit-shaped mixture hadn’t changed whatsoever, leaving me and my food in tatters. Fearing the abysmal reviews of Mary Berry and her apprentice Paul Hollywood, I through caution to the wind and my dough onto the table, and began the best bit of baking by a country mile, the kneading. As a kid, this was occasionally the highlight of my weekend, as for some unknown reason, getting your hands as mucky and sticky as possible in aid of cooking food was extremely exciting, and I won’t lie, it still is. I was absolutely loving it, but according to the now disgustingly doughy table, chairs, floor, sink and flour bag, I had slightly lost my touch when it comes to battering the shit out of a ball of nearly bread. Nevertheless, I eventually had something in my hands that resembled what I had seen Chef using back in Peninsula to make the sopaipillas, so I cranked up the heat, chopped up the dough pie that I had flattened with a mug, and was soon ready to put my squares into the oil.

The first few attempts definitely didn’t to plan, and was probably down to the oil being way too hot, and my stiff refusal to accept I was wrong, meaning I was left with two very burnt but still doughy balls that I’m pretty sure couldn’t be compared to the heavens creations that the Chileans make. However, I had come so far and was defiantly refusing to accept defeat, so I waited for the oil to cool, and tried a few more. It was tense wait whilst the dough was hopefully cooking, but the first sign of success arrived when they squares began to float, and after another few precious minutes had passed, and I had superbly flipped them, it was time to remove the potential sopaipillas from the oil and onto the tasting table. We each took a bite, and after a few chews, a few additions of flavouring, and three swallows, the verdicts were in… they were sopaipillas!!! We all agreed they were a tad salty, but this was easily covered up by a coating of chocolate spread, confirming the success of my latest mission, and leaving me extremely pleased with myself and my dodgy cooking skills.

To add to this accomplishment, Benj gained a new life skill capable of earning the arm of a good lady, as his experimental loaf tasted good enough to feed the five thousand, which he now hoped would be five thousand females. The day got even better, as Kevin and his cousin came to the caravan to have some mate, and accidentally roped themselves into trying my sopaipillas, but as I nervously handed over the shaking tray, they chose their poison, but to my great surprise, they actually seemed to enjoy them, and rather might have even been genuine, but it’s hard to tell. All in all, it was a proud day for Los Tres Amigos, as we had taken another huge traditional step forward to becoming true Chileans by adding sopaipillas and bread to our repertoire of food and drink that we have not only tried, but successfully made.

Chapter Three – The Three Frightened Amigos

The falling of darkness on the evening of the seventh, and the emergence of the almost perfect moon that shone bright on our little caravan, brought about a story that is well worth being told to you and shared by all. The events that unfolded have left me a changed man, as the things I saw and the things I felt, have affected me in a way that I could never truly describe to anyone, and I will never be able to forget this night for all of eternity.

If you’ve noticed I’m trying to write in a mysterious and creepy way, you are extremely clever because it’s no secret that I’m absolutely terrible at writing in a scary and intimidating way. However, I feel I should get in some practice, and seeing as the three of us endured a genuinely creepy night that merited a small portion of the fright that it actually caused, I don’t think there will be a much better opportunity.

The day had been typically normal as a chilled out but slightly boring day, so we waltzed through the early evening and the last few hours of light with an absolute breeze, and began prepping for bed time with a strong ease of security and safety. However, as the moonlight gradually got stronger and the darkness began engulfing the caravan and the three puesteros that were hiding out in it, the night dramatically changed direction, signified by the intense howling from the dogs inside the paddock, which suggested danger was near, and meant we had to fulfill our duties by going in search of this unknown threat. Despite mine and Benj’s sensible reluctance to enter the huge woods at night time, seeing as even when it’s light we manage to get completely lost, El marched on into the forestry and lead Los Tres Amigos towards our fate. The dogs screaming edged closer as our hesitant steps inched our formation forward, but then suddenly the whole planet fell silent, and all we were left with was the sound of nature’s rustling and my irratable bowels. This was enough to scare the shit out of anyone, so we decided to turn back, only to hear an echoing and screeching howl from the opposite direction, so we quickly upped the pace and retreated to our home.

We were back in our van and cocooned in our sleeping bags within minutes, but our ‘cabin in the woods’ experience began to create the start of a real life scary story that would be told by millions around the campfire for years to come. Once I had written down a great storyline to a horror movie featuring the three of us and some evil sheep, I attempted to forget about the frightening situation we were in, and shut my eyes in a desperate attempt to get to sleep. This was impossible due the ferocious winds smacking against the fragile caravan, and the crashes and bangs inside of the furniture didn’t help my heart rate at all. Even with Benj layer a matter of metres away from me, I felt isolated and trapped amongst danger in my little shelf that I call a bed. The night seemed like it would never end.

With the help of my headphones and some brilliant music choice including The Beatles and The Scissor Sisters, I managed to drift off into a state of semi-sleep, but then suddenly the darkness outside the windows was wiped out by two beaming rays of light, and I began to hear the sound of a roaring engine. Was it aliens? Was it kidnappers? Was I dreaming? I had no idea, so I bravely send out Benj first to check it out. I called his name but got no reply, so I crept out of the door armed with a kettle and a spatula and made my presence known to the evil being that stood before me. I thought this was the end. I said my goodbyes to family and friends, and bowed down in offering my head.

Of course I wasn’t actually kneeling in front of a superior species, as It turned out to be Rodrigo coming to drop off some work stuff at a typically weird hour. He had left us messages but no one had internet, but we were still bemused at why he had left it so late, and also how he had successfully navigated his way to the van in the complete darkness. Classic Rodrigo. Thankfully, his friendly presences eased our nerves, and we had all flopped soon after he left, ending our very own nightmare horror story.

Chapter Four – Masterchef

The next chapter of my novelistic adaptation of the true story of Los Puesteros, comes from the ten days as a whole, as I believe the standard of our cooking skills deserves a huge amount of publicity and respect, especially in the circumstances of our tiny little kitchen in our tiny little caravan. Thankfully, for most of our time at Cerro Negro, we didn’t have the horrible pressure of cooking for a master like Lucho or Panchi, but although we haven’t had Greg Wallis or his bald assistant to judge us on our food’s appearance, smells and the time it took to prepare each dish, the three of us agreed that we continued to better ourselves every time we entered the kitchen, and despite the obvious bias, we think we could have breezed through Masterchef, dominated the professionals version, and then bossed our way through the celebrity edition. Other professional chefs, cooking judges, and just any other normal people may disagree with us, but we genuinely are very proud of the meals we have put together, especially our speciality dish that still has no name, so I would strongly advise that you just assume I am telling the truth about the quality of our food if you hope to avoid any tantrum or backlash when I get home.

The first few nights started fairly average, as we played it safe by constructing burgers with eggs the first night, and putting our new form of rice, that wasn’t yet perfected, with some prom steaks that looked after themselves in the oven. This was in aid of three ravenous young chaps that had been battered by lambs for the two days and just wanted some easy and filling comfort food to soothe their wounds and pains. However, by the third night we were bored enough and motivated enough to kick it up a gear, and so decided to bring out the big guns, in the form of a massive beef joint of an unknown part of the cow. However, before we could begin tossing in ingredients and forming something edible, we had to perform a quality test on the meat to see if it was still worthy of being eaten by us kings, and conclude whether or not it would kill us in the process. Our fears regarding the dodgy fridge and complicated power system in the van nearly came back to haunt us, as upon removal from the freezer, the joint had an extremely pungent smell of something it really shouldn’t have reminded me of, but after unwrapping it, and deciding we couldn’t afford just to ditch two meals worth of food, we began preparing our fajita dish.

Some would say that using any sort of prepared marinade or powder rub would be classed as cheating in the cooking world, and maybe in the lives of the millionaire celebrity chefs in their million pound kitchens, this would be true, however I will definitely believe until the day I die, that our amazing use of something called initiative was not breaking any cooking laws, but actually was making the most of our resources and minimising cost, effort and time, three things that are crucial in the kitchens of real world. Furthermore, the fajitas, which included peppers, onions and our special garlic rice, tasted amazing!

This would be hard to top, but the next day (the 6th) we brought out the skills we had gained when making the apparently successful cottage pie, and extracted our mince and applied it to a spaghetti bolognese. The mixture of seasonings, sausage mince, and colourful spaghetti, made for a superb Italian feast, but we knew we could do better. Unfortunately, our skills of variation severely let us down, as for some unknown reason, the next day we decided to cook our simple, but still Italian, dish of pasta, sauce and chorizo, so I’m just going to skip past this meal and straight to the eighth when Lian came to visit and we conjured up a very suitable chile, made with the usual combination of peppers, onions and anything else we had in the fridge, and accompanied by our usual side dish of rice. Despite my best efforts to look after the pan of chile whilst head chef El and sou chef Benj were out searching for a lost Lian, I just about managed to burn the meat and sauce by the time they were back, but thankfully nothing could ruin yet another top quality meal from Los Tres Amigos.

The most traditional and suitable meal we could come up with for the country that we have been homed in, was a spanish omelette or frittata. We obviously gave it our own little touch by inserting some bacon, and of course we added peppers and onions, and made a bit of rice to go with the dish, which all created an immensely tasty and good looking omelette pie type thing that we thoroughly enjoyed. It probably wasn’t our best meal as it took us a good three hours in total to make, but this only made our appetites stronger and therefore made the food taste even better.

The tenth of February was lucky enough to host the meal of the week (ten days) as it was time for us to whack up our gastro creation of chicken con peppers, onions, chorizo and special rice, which after both the two times we have made it, we have believed it will someday become a world-renowned dish and cooked by billions. It certainly topped the menu for the week, but was closely followed by the professional standard of stir-fry we put together on our last night, after we had done pasta and sauce again the night before to accommodate the fourth addition to the Puesteros in the form of a student vet that looked like he was pretty hungry when he arrived. Somehow, even with noodles, onions (we had run out) and a wok, we still successfully cooked up a fantastic dish worthy of being eaten by the Chinese themselves. It was a brilliant last dinner, and topped off a week of fantastic meals and majestic eating.

As a little conclusion to this chapter, I would like to add some of the many things we have learnt about the world of cooking during our time in the caravan. The first piece of useful information we gave ourselves was the importance of space. Having a large kitchen that can accommodate more than one small being, and more surface area capable of holding at least one chopping board, would have helped in the huge effort of feeding ourselves. Better cooking equipment would also come under the category of cooking difficulties, as although we had not one, but two spatulas, the lack of a frying pan and baking tray until the middle of the week limited our cooking options severely, until Rodrigo came to the rescue at 12 o’clock at night. We also learnt the significance of peppers, onions, garlic and rice, which we have noticed can feature in pretty much most meals available in the worlds cooking book, and are capable of making any dish absolutely incredible, even when a complete novice and infamous idiot is at the helm. And lastly, I have to highlight quite how much time is taken up trying to survive, and I don’t just mean the actual cooking. The combination of washing up, cooking the food, cleaning and preparing the table, filling our plates, devouring the meal, and then washing up the aftermath, takes up a huge amount of time, ranging from a couple of hours if we were quick, and up to four hours if we were feeling lazy, which we usually were. Time really is a valuable thing.

Chapter Five – Working Men

I’m very aware that my story so far has included exhilarating fast-paced action, periods of emotional turmoil, and pure comedy gold, however I think I may have forgotten to insist that during all of our exploring, adventuring, and alarming stupidity, we were actually doing some work for our employers, especially in the sheep department. Our jobs spanned the entire ten days, however a few days in particular stood out as hosting the most interesting part of our job and being well worthy of being retold in chapter and verse.

As I have made it very clear throughout the story so far, Los Tres Amigos, known as the Puesteros, were tasked with guarding the sheep with our lives in order to fulfill our roles as the sole protectors of the herd. However, as the week progressed, this job got harder and harder, with more blood, sweat and tears shed each and every day. This was almost solely down to our infamous enemy, the fence, who came back to haunt us in two disastrous and horrifying ways that made our lives an utter misery! (I’m exaggerating for effect).

The first of the challenges we faced, and faced a terrifying amount of times, was the continuous process of rounding up the stray lambs that were cheeky and cocky enough to sneak through the fence, and herd them through the gate or force them to jump back through to the paddock. If they thought they were big enough or clever enough to outsmart Los Puesteros, they wouldn’t have seen our brilliance coming, and by the third day of hunting, chasing and shouting, we had operation lamb perfected. Once we had the naughty group all together, one amigo would push from the rear, another would act as the side barrier parallel to the fence, whilst the third (usually me) would peg it out in front over to the gate in order to open it with the usual struggle before the lambs got there. It was tiring work, but seeing as we didn’t have much else to do other than waltz along a beautiful lake and explore an amazing forest, we couldn’t complain about the daily struggle with escapees. However, on the fourth day, we were brought back to reality with a bang, as after Kevin had come over with his cousin to enjoy some mate and had been force fed an unexpected sopaipilla, he informed us that a large group of lambs had made their way beyond our caravan and deep into the next paddock along. There was little need to panic as they certainly weren’t going anywhere in a hurry, but we did just that, and got in the back of Kevin’s truck to go and retrieve the strays. This round of ‘find the sheep’ was a little harder than before, as the biggest group yet had stretched themselves as far away from each other and the paddock as humanly possible, but we still thought we knew what to do, and therefore organised ourselves into a formation as quickly as possible, and began pushing the lambs in the right direction. Unfortunately, our tactics had seemed to be worked out by the corderos, as they masterfully split into two groups and went in different directions. This wasn’t a problem for me and El, as we were together so we had our group quickly scampering back to the desired location, but this meant poor Benj was left to try and control a large group of little shits all on his own. As he ran down the hill like a sheepdog, changing direction and circurling the lambs in true herding fashion, he really reminded me of a sad supply teacher that just left university and trying to earn her way up the ranks, but in turn landed herself in a bottom set class of idiots that found it funny to be as hard work and uncontrollable as possible. Obviously I was too good for that when I was in school…

Nevertheless, we eventually had them back in the pen, but decided it would be best if we picked up our hammers and try and fix the fence in order to make our lives a bit easier to get on with and allow an easier siesta. Luckily, this fence wasn’t quite as long as the miles of wire at Baguales, which meant we could go back for a cooked lunch, meaning we were more than happy to fix the barrier, however this fence was a lot more difficult to fix, especially on the first day, as the terrain either side of it was often made up of huge logs that were blocking the gaps. This made for some ultimate and intrepid fencing, with dangers such as falling over and maybe even shedding some blood, ever present. Us men weren’t fazed though, and we had the fence fixed up and polished off in no time at all. Not that it made a great deal of difference though, as the not yet fat lambs could still climb straight through the gaps in the wire, and some were still managing to sneak past our wall of wood by the river. Trying to patch up the gaps, and fetching those that had escaped did at least pass the time though, and stop us sleeping all day long. It wasn’t a hard life.

When I put it like that, it makes our job sound as though it was absolutely piss easy, and in truth it kind of was. It’s only now that i realised quite how lucky we were when being housed in return for a little bit of sheep herding, some fencing, but mostly just exploring yet more of this beautiful area. I don’t think we realised how little people would get to do what we did, specially when we enjoyed a half an hour nap by the riverside, in almost complete silence, with the only sounds being nature, and the occasional whine from a lamb. However, there were some negatives to the job, the main one being when we had to drag back a dead lamb that seemed to be missing a vital part of his body, which appeared to be his head. Despite this, work was just brilliant.

Chapter Six – Living or surviving?

The last section of our epic story covers the difficult and very unusual tasks we were required to complete, and the time we took to do them, in order to just survive in the campervan environment. I’m honestly not trying to make it seem as though our lives were a struggle during our time at Cerro Negro, as I believe trying to avoid the difficulties of the consumeristic world of England, and the nagging environment of my house, is far more difficult than living in the peace of Patagonian estancias. However, I want to take the opportunity to express my views towards how alternative our lives were for the ten days, and just how surprisingly tedious living can be.
The hardest of all the missions of survival was the almost daily job of filling the supposedly huge water tank, and then retrieving yet more water from the river in huge containers for the next time we used up the supply. Originally, we had thought we might have to fill the 250 litre tank maybe two or three times, however, once we had used up the full tank we had filled on the second day of living in the caravan, without any showers and a limited amount of washing up, we knew deep down we were going to be in for a long week of rationing the sacred river water, even if it meant no showers for ten days, and extremely soapy and unrinsed dishes at dinner time. On the plus side, the whole process turned out to be a great work out for the three of us, which happened to fulfill all of my planned gym time over my whole life time, meaning I will never feel even the slightest bit of inclination to step foot in those hell holes until the day I die. The job involved taking down one big multiple litre barrels and two buckets down to the river which was approximately 50 metres, hundreds of huge log obstacles, and one horribly steep incline away, and filling them all up by the slippery, wet and muddy river bank and then making our way back. For the person carrying the buckets, they got it fairly easy as they just had to partake in a light workout of the biceps, however the other two were forced into a game of barrel rolling and football. You would have thought this would have suited me, but it really didn’t. Furthermore, it would have been nice if we were rewarded for our efforts by some clean and safe drinking water and a lovely hot shower, neither of which were allowed by the shitty river water that was apparently infected by cryptosporidium, which I have no knowledge of, but the name alone was enough to stop the three of us from drinking water from the tap or washing ourselves at all. The mission of actually putting the water in the tank was a whole other issue on its own, but I’m getting far too stressed out just thinking about what we had to do in order to sparingly sip on a small glass of death water which may or may not have the ability to make ‘stuff’ come out of both ends at rapid speed.

The lack of space in the small caravan again reared its ugly face, but this time in the toilet department. It already sounds horrible doesn’t it? What had appeared to have happened by the fourth day of living in the van, was that we had used the toilet one too many times, and of course I was that one time too much, meaning I spent a lovely afternoon decontaminating the whole caravan (it wasn’t that necessary) whilst Benj and El got a bit of much needed clean air. I felt my cleaning skills were incredible, however this still left us with the dilemma of how to empty the toilet container, and if we couldn’t where could do our business. Seeing as the release pipe didn’t quite stretch as far away from the caravan as we would have liked to be away from a mass of teenage waste, from that moment we had to do our stuff out in the wilderness in the accompaniment of nature, a toilet roll and some hand sanitiser. Our usual place was an area of woodland near the van that was big enough to accommodate lots of visits, however on the odd occasion, when we were feeling lucky, we hopped the double fence over to Argentina, and did the dirty all over their precious Argentinian grass and scarring all of their Argentinian birds for life. That ticked off the ‘illegally immigrate to do a number’ part of the bucket list, and also nicely concludes the last chapter of the book.

As a little outro to our latest adventure, I would like to pay tribute to Kevin, Ian and the rest of the family, seeing as we have finished our six week period as their little bitches. I can speak for all three of us when I say the whole experience has been absolutely incredible and has defied our expectations more than Leicester did when winning the Premier League last year, and even on par with my prediction of my English grade last summer! Make no mistake, it’s been fucking hard work and absolutely hell at times (I’m looking at you two, lamb and fence), but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything, and it’s all down to the Maclean family who have made our experience as amazing as it’s been. For me, the highlight was galloping back to La Peninsula along the waterfront and through the piercing rain, but I’m guessing Benj’s best moment could have been living with the idolised, true gaucho that is Lucho, and El probably most enjoyed the days off we had in Natales. Nevertheless, the last six weeks has been mind blowing, and I’ll never forget it for as long as I live. Shoutout to the Maclean family. Thank you.
The End