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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.