Start: December 23, Puerto Montt
Finish: December 27, Quellon
Overlanders at Christmas Dinner: 7
Cost of Nine Pound Salmon Filet: $18
Kilos of Charcoal Consumed: 30
Whoopie Pies Made: 14
About two weeks in the making, our second Christmas on the road proved to be very memorable. Full of delicious food and great company.
From Pucon in Chile's Lakes District we planned with our friends Mark and Sarah to meet up on the island of Chiloe and celebrate together. Joining us were two new friends, Lacey and Luis of Lost World Expedition who happened to be in the neighborhood after restarting their journey after a six month hiatus back home in the US.
From our rainy campsite just east of Puerto Montt we drove into the city to pick up supplies on the 23rd. After two hectic runs to very crowded supermarkets we managed to stuff Christmas in the back of our 4Runner and head to the island of Chiloe with dreams of sunny skies and dry tents in our heads.
The ferry to Chiloe is a simple affair - drive on, pay the man $20 and a half hour later you're on the island. Above is our first glimpse of Chiloe with impending gray clouds and a light sprinkle of rain as a welcome. They say some areas of the island get over four meters of rain a year, and your only chance of seeing clear skies is to visit in January and February. D'oh.
Mark and Sarah arrived the day before and scoped out a good campsite for us. We waste no time setting up our tarp to help keep the rain away, and Jessica immediately starts the decorations, complete with a home-made Christmas wreath.
The next morning we head into town on Christmas Eve, hoping to find a nice chunk of salmon for dinner and a few things for Christmas that we couldn't find in Puerto Montt. Town was swamped, but we eventually found the market and marveled at the giant slabs of salmon for sale. We picked up the biggest one they had, weighing in at nearly 4 kilos, and paid less than $3 per pound. Argentina may have the beef thing covered, but Chile certainly knows a thing or three about seafood.
Among piles of seaweed, oysters the size of my face and muscles as big as a softball, we find a crate of still-moving barnacles. I'd be willing to give it a shot, provided I could figure out how to cook them, but I can't get over the little pinchers inside the shells that look like they might take my finger off.
Back at camp our new friends Luis and Lacey arrive just in time for the rain to pick back up. We seek shelter in the campsite and swap stories, but quickly grow tired of the wind and wet.
Luckily there's a great common area at our campground (called a fogon) with ample cooking area and stove to make a fire. After some persuasion, I'm convinced to move shop inside and start the prep for Christmas Eve dinner.
We purchased two gigantic bags of charcoal to power the stove and grill, which is about 5 feet long. Jessica bakes some banana bread for Christmas breakfast and Kobus stokes the coals for the salmon.
Back inside I start up a batch of blue cheese and pear risotto with Luis watching on. Apparently Luis is no slouch of a cook himself. He gives me a tour of his enviable tailgate kitchen setup in their Toyota and we swap some notes. It's not often he's on the sidelines for and overlanding cook-off. I don't mind, there's always next time.
With a roaring fire going we sit down for dinner. Risotto, grilled salmon and proscutto-wrapped asparagus are on the menu.
Here's the whole crew - Kobus, Mark, Sarah, Lacey, Luis, and le chef, yours truly.
After dinner we were greeted with a spectacular sunset. Considering it rained most of the day, this sight gave us hope that Christmas day would be a dry one.
The next morning the three of us wake up to find Santa Claus visited our campsite. After coffee and a bit of banana bread we tuck into the presents, something we didn't really do last year in Mexico. We went shopping at a supermarket, so most of the gifts are edible, which is good because space is always an issue.
Aside from food, Jessica got a knitted wool hat that's about two feet long and a new camp chair (her fourth). Kobus got a nerf dart gun to chase off stray dogs and a bellows for making charcoal fires. I got a thermos and a cookbook that explains how to grill giant chunks of various animals in Spanish.
After opening presents we move back into the fogon to start on the food. Jessica plays the dual role of Decorations Supervisor and Whoopie Pie Maker. Whoopie pies are a Pennsylvania Dutch (Amish) recipe from our childhood. They are sort of like those snack cakes with a cream filling that have a shelf life through the apocalypse, but way better. From time to time (maybe two times) we've made them at home. After Jessica makes a half a batch she remembers why, it's a lot of work!
For Christmas lunch I fry up a batch of smoked salmon and cream cheese wontons. Not only did I smoke the salmon myself the night before, but we made the wonton wrappers from scratch as well. Just about everyone agreed that they were possibly the most delicious thing in recent memory. Between the seven of us we polished off about 40 of them. We also had homemade arepas, Luis' contribution. And pigs in the blanket from Mark and Sarah. Sausage wrapped in bacon and stuffed in a hot-off-the-grill arepa? Heck yes.
After that epic lunch most of the crew try to stay busy to keep from falling asleep. Jessica and Kobus walk down to the beach, pictured above. Mark attempts to fix an electrical problem in his truck. Luis and Lacey contemplate life back on the road after being home for six months, and how they would deal with the rat infestation that pretty much destroyed their rooftop tent. Meanwhile I stay in the kitchen, getting ready for dinner.
Dinner was surf 'n turf. A gigantic chunk of beef that Luis and I think was a round roast, with bacon-wrapped shrimp on skewers, all done on the grill. For sides we had our Thanksgiving bacon and almond green beans and a batch of homemade stuffing that made even the newly discovered glucose intolerant Luis reach for seconds. Another meal fit for kings. One thing is for sure, we're eating rice and pasta for the next few weeks and the next time we run into Luis I'm passing the baton.
Up next: We head farther south in Chiloe, encouter some beautiful blue skies, and get ready to take the ferry to the start of the fabled Carretera Austral.