Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chiloe to Lake Country: Jan 13 - 18

From Chiloe we took the ferry back to Puerto Montt. Among other things, I had to see about getting a ticket for the ferry from Puerto Montt to Chaiten (the REAL beginning of Southern Chile and the Carretera Austral or Southern Highway). Not surprisingly, the office of the boat company, Naviera Austral, was completely screwed up. I say not surprisingly because we had gotten totally different information about sailing routes and schedules from the two tourist information agencies in Chiloe, it was impossible to get them to answer a phone, and their web site was down.

I wanted to take the boat on Monday after Karen left, but they told me there was no space for a motorcycle. Come on girls, ‘it’s a bike not a car’, says I, ‘it hardly takes any space at all’. But they gave me their best ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’ look and told me I would have to wait. Now, since the next available boat was 5 days later I wasn’t having any of that. And having lived long enough in Latin America, I knew that there is always someone who can make a different decision. So upstairs I go to talk to the jefe supremo (head honcho) who says those words I’ve so come to love to hear: ‘no problema’. So my trip is arranged, and off we go to the lake country.

Wednesday night was the SPLURGE. Warning: Those of you who use Lonely Planet guides on a regular basis know that their information of prices is generally a POS. For the rest, be aware. Anyway, according to the Lonely Planet, the price for day use of the spa at the Hotel Puyuehe was about $15. This was for the thermal pools. This hotel is a definite 5 star, and day use was a lot higher than we thought. When I asked them for the price if we stayed overnight, what they quoted was not much higher than day use, or so we thought. After checking in, when they gave me the credit card slip it turned out that price was per person… so a little more than planned. To make a long story short (I know, it’s already too late for that), we ended up staying in this beautiful 5 star, all inclusive hotel for the night. We decided it was our Christmas present to each other, since we had not been together for the holidays.

I’m usually not too impressed with ‘all inclusive’ facilities since they often tend to skimp on food or other things, but this one was great. Food, wines, drinks, you name it: all top notch.

Massage was extra, but after months sitting on a motorcycle I just NEED one sometimes. There are certain parts of the anatomy (not to be excessively described) that simply spend too much time in contact with the motorcycle and need to be rubbed out, as it were. When I get rich I’m definitely going back.

On Thursday we went to Argentina. The border crossing from Chile to Argentina was no hassle, and the road through the mountains was beautiful.

The first town we came to was Villa La Angostura. Very pretty, and we were told very expensive. Our original intention was to ride to Bariloche and stay there for a few days, so on we went. However, as we approached Bariloche the landscape changed. Fewer trees, somewhat barren, and very heavy winds. We decided to return to Villa La Angostura. Unfortunately, there were NO hotel rooms available, but after about 15 tries (nobody bothers to put out a ‘no vacancy’ sign… that would make too much sense) we found a room in a beautiful budget-buster. We had a great steak dinner (Argentine beef can’t be beat) at a restaurant on the lake, and the next day returned to Chile.

We got a nice little rustic cabin on another lake, and stayed for three days

We also did some hiking in the park at Aguas Calientes (the poor man’s version of the Hotel Puyehe), which kind of reminded us of the rain forest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.

On Sunday, Jan 18, we rode back to Puerto Montt. On the way we stopped for lunch in Puerto Veras, where we also had coffee with Sandra Shories, the young German woman who I had met in Cuenca, Ecuador. She was working for three months at the Casa Azul hostel, which looked really nice.

While we were checking email in Puerto Varas, I found a message from Adam Lewis. Adam had seen a posting I did on Horizons Unlimited (an adventure motorcyclists’ website) asking if anyone was travelling in this area. He said he was in Puerto Varas. I told him that I was in Puerto also, and by the time we got back to my bike Adam was standing next to it. He figured it had to be mine. We decided to try to get him onto the ferry the next day with me and ride together a bit.

The next morning Karen flew back to Panama, while I rode up to Osorno for a new set of tires, then back to stay in Puerto Montt until the ferry for Chaiten left at midnight. We had managed to get Adam a ticket on the boat (also had to go back to ‘el jefe supremo’ again), so I had a travelling companion for at least a little while.

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