Start: November 16, Aconcagua, Chile
Finish: December 11, Pucon, Chile
Consecutive Days Camped: 29
Consecutive Meals of Thanksgiving Pork: 6
Days Spent in Beach House: 10
Liters of Oil Left in Blue After a Bad Oil Change: About 2
Dishes Cooked and Photographed: 47
Sorry for the delay getting some updates on our trip out the door. We've been side tracked by a new project, a consistent lack of internet and time spent hanging out with overlanding friends. But enough with the excuses...
Following The Great Argentinian Thanksgiving Pork Roast of 2012 we headed back into Chile, crossing the pass in the direction of Santiago and ending up at a beach-side rental in the small town of Concon on the Pacific coast. We spent a hectic 10 days catching up with online work and beginning our new project, a cookbook for campers and overlanders. We spent entirely too much money on food, and on a botched oil change for Blue that nearly ended in disaster.
From Concon we pointed south once again. First following the coast and then heading inland towards the lakes district where we endured the worst weather thus far on our trip. After spending a few months in more or less desert countryside, it took us a bit to get used to the rain again. But we're from Seattle, and it takes more than a few rainstorms to ruin the fun.
Our last campground in northern Argentina was at a ski lodge just shy of the Chilean border. It's open for campers in the summer, but there wasn't really a sheltered area for us to setup camp and we were told it would be very windy and cold after sundown. And it was. But the scenery and seeing a few Andean condors circling overhead more than made up for it.
The caretakers of the ski lodge left their sprinkler on overnight, and as this photo illustrates, it did indeed get a bit chilly the night before. Plantcicle anyone?
Just before the border crossing is this curious natural bridge called the Puente del Inca (Inca Bridge) which was visited by Charles Darwin in the 1800s. Once upon a time tourists could cross the bridge and enjoy the thermal pools in the bath house built under the bridge. It's likely some poor schmuck fell to his death and doomed the baths, now just an eyesore, to closure.
Our final stop before crossing into Chile was to snap a photo of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas at 22,837 feet. Outside of the Himalayas it doesn't get any higher than this.
On our small hike in the park below the mountain Jessica spots this sign that translates to "Don't bother the ducks." Or "Don't molest the ducks." As you can see, Jessica prefers the later translation.
At the border the process goes fairly smoothly. No long lines, no extra hassles and everything is in the same building. Our biggest concern was how bad the agricultural check may be. We've heard of people losing all food products, including things like spices and canned goods. Fortunately we passed the canine inspection with little more than a few claw marks on the lid of our fridge to show for it.
Heading over the pass we start on the first of 28 curves that lead down the mountain and into Chile. It's a dizzying sight from up top.
Our final destination after crossing the border was the town of Concon and a beach-side rental we had reserved for the week. This brought our record-shattering 29 days of consecutive tent camping to an end. The last time we spent more than 20 days in a row in a tent was in Nicaragua and Costa Rica many months ago.
The house is fairly unassuming from the front, but the view out the back speaks for itself. We arrive on a Sunday to find the beaches packed with weekend retreaters. Our attentions are too absorbed with luxuries like a bath tub, mattresses, a kitchen sink and a sofa to care much about the beach. Ahh, the little things.
The best part of the house was having access to fast internet, nearly as fast as what we had in the US. After a month in Argentina with very disappointing online access, Jessica and the rest of us make the most of it.
Our main goal while at the house was to get our new project underway, a cookbook for campers and overlanders. Nearly 50 recipes were written, over 40 were cooked and photographed. We spent hundreds of dollars on food, and very little of it went to waste. Unfortunately there was a scale in the house, so after our 10 days was up we could accurately measure the damage, about 5 kilos in Kobus' case.
Check out our Facebook gallery to see some of the photos, and stay tuned on our website for more information about the book.
We didn't leave the house much except to go to the supermarket and take Blue in for an oil change. After being in the house for a week we decided it might be good to take a break and head to the nearest big city, Valparaiso, 20 minutes south of Concon.
That little day trip nearly ended in disaster as we noticed a rather large streak of very clean oil pointing to our parking place in the underground garage near the city's center. We were able to deduce that the oil filter seal had blown and that there was very little oil left in the engine. Not a good thing. To further complicate matters it was Sunday. We could have fixed the problem ourselves if we could locate a filter and the right tool to get it on, but no parts stores were open.
Our two options were to have a mechanic come with the filter and wrench and do the work in the garage, likely to cost us $100 or more, or go home and talk to the guys who screwed up the oil change in the first place. We decided not to sink more money in the problem and took the bus back to Concon after seeing all of two blocks of Valparaiso. So much for a day off.
The following day Kobus headed up to the mechanic to explain our problem. He's immediately apologetic and offers to drive Kobus along with two guys who can replace the filter and refill the oil. Once they arrive and take a look the problem is immediately obvious to them, a combination of the wrong filter and having put too much oil into the engine. Both of which Kobus questioned while observing the oil change, without much comprehension on the part of the guy doing the work.
It appears as if the mechanic's son did the oil change and didn't have much of a clue what he was doing. But luckily Blue fired up just fine after the fiasco and hasn't had a hiccup since. Fortune smiled on us. Rather than noticing the problem after only 20 minutes of driving we would have been over a hundred miles on the road before stopping, and likely broken down in the middle of nowhere well before that.
After a few more days in Concon, and a couple dozen more recipes prepared, it's time to say goodbye to our luxurious bathtub and sofa and turn the wheel south once again. We change our plans at the last minute and decided to continue following the coast south and take in some of Chile's small rural towns before cutting back into the mountains. Above is a shot of one of the beaches we camped near. Fishing was attempted, but catching wasn't happening.
After a couple nights in the town of Pichilemu we start east towards the Andes and Chile's Lake District with the hopes of fishing and enjoying our first taste of alpine wilderness since leaving California. To break up a long stretch of driving we stop for the night just off the Pan-American near the waterfalls of Salta del Lajas and find more campgrounds in a five mile radius than we've ever seen.
Every block there are multiple campsites: hotels with camping, cabins with camping, restaurants with camping, souvenir shops with camping. Surprisingly it's still hard to find a quite spot on a Sunday afternoon. Every place is packed with picnickers and school buses of children.
The next day we hit the start of the lakes near the town of Villarica. The sun is shining but the wind is nasty. We plan to spend two nights on the lake, hopefully getting some fishing in, but the weather doesn't cooperate. On the second day, a day we're supposed to be working (and writing this article), we get a message from our friends Mark and Sarah at FromAtoB that they're camped just up the road in the town of Pucon in the sun. Fed up with the weather, we decide to head their way in the afternoon after cutting the work day short.
Up Next: We enjoy one last day of good weather and grill up a feast for some old and new overlanding pals in Pucon.