Cochamó Region to Argentina Border, December 25-26

The previous travelog left off with the decision of where we'd go next -- would we hop a ferry for access to more of remote Chile, or would we cross the border into Argentina's Lake District? We chose the latter. Time is precious, with several "must see" areas in Argentine Patagonia, whereas moving further afield in Chile was somewhat unknown and would have required backtracking later on. Also, we're wimps -- after several days of dusty bouncing and hurtling on marginal gravel roads, we were ready for pavement. Despite the mystique of southern Chile's Carretera Austral, which we drove a small part of, we're not alone in our decision -- most of the long-term travelers we've met are crossing over to Argentina at about this point.

We've been in South America for seven weeks and have laid eyes so far on only four other motorhomes (not including those in a traveling circus, which tripled our count in one glance). Perhaps we'll see more as we head into the true tourist season: summer vacation is January and February, equivalent to our July and August. (One Chilean told us that although motorhomes aren't a novelty, true road-trippers here travel by four-wheel-drive. It does make sense.) The area we're traveling in now is one of the most popular vacation destinations on the continent, so if we're still here after New Years, we may be dealing with some serious crowds. One welcome change since arriving in the Lake District is that it's been much easier to find places to spend the night -- both official campgrounds and otherwise.

We spent Christmas day making our way out of the remote Cochamó area (photo 1). We loaded the camper back onto the small Don Felipe ferry, knowing what to expect this time (photo 2). Heading out on a different route from the one we came in on, we took a second, larger ferry that crossed an oceanic inlet (photos 3 & 4), finally re-entering civilization close to the medium-sized port city of Puerto Montt (photo 5). The combination of Christmas and beautiful weather (the latter not a regular occurrence in Puerto Montt, apparently) resulted in incredible throngs of people swarming all of the town's small beaches. It still feels odd that the perfect Christmas day is a picnic at the beach, with sunset after 10:00pm.

The next day, before heading to the Argentina border, we paid a final visit to a super-gigantic hipermercado, to stock up on some items we'd become attached to in our four weeks in Chile (including frozen salmon of desert fireball fame, amazing chocolate-mint cookies, dark beer, and our third soccer ball -- we can't seem to buy an inflater needle for our bicycle pump, but new balls are plentiful). We also paid a final visit to a Chilean gas station. Better late than never, we discovered recently that many gas stations in Chile offer free wireless internet. Along with showers and pleasant small restaurants, we assume the entire package is aimed at enticing long-distance truckers to make an extended stop.

Crossing the border in this direction was much less of an event than when we crossed from Argentina to Chile via the Paso Jama back in late November. The Andes are considerably lower in the south, the pass we took this time is far more traveled, and the paperwork was faster too -- probably because our vehicle is registered in Argentina.

Tim has finally taken a break from fossil and mineral collecting long enough to write about it. See his Geology Log #2.

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