Puerto Natales and Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile

Warning: This is an exceptionally long post. You may wish to pop on the kettle.

Puerto Natales

Just over 2 hours from Punta Arenas, passed a desolate, windswept landscape at first and then snowy mountains jutting out in the distance, you’ll find yourself in a new province, Ultima Esperanza. We travelled with Bus-Sur ($6,000CP) who dropped us off at Rodoviario bus terminal, about a 15 minute walk from the town centre. We stayed at Erratic Rock ($30,000 for double room) which was the most perfect place – homely, warm and welcoming; and a great breakfast. There’s not too much to do in Puerto Natales proper, it’s really just a spot to organise yourself for a trip to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine. Erratic Rock is right next door to Base Camp, a pub which organises a free information session every day at 3pm where you can learn about Torres del Paine (treks to do, gear to bring, you can also rent gear or take free stuff from recently returned trekkers from the pub). We found a lovely café down by the water, The Coffeemaker, which has an open fireplace, good tea and banana cake, and a great view. We had fantastic pizza at Mesita Grande – king crab on a pizza? Yes please!

Puerto Natales' Cathedral

Puerto Natales’ Cathedral

The loveliest postbox in the land

The loveliest postbox in the land

Wish I could knit. I shall have to learn!

LOVE this store! Wish I could knit. I shall have to learn!

The Navimag ferry bringing the town all it's supplies

The Navimag ferry bringing the town all its supplies

Local sculpture

Local sculpture

Kinda looks like a potato

Kinda looks like a potato

There are some mountains back there...somewhere

There are some mountains back there…somewhere

John trying to break his hand

John trying to break his hand

Me trying to break my body

Me trying to break my body

Bit of water in your boat there mate

Bit of water in your boat there mate

Torres del Paine

We booked tickets at our lovely, homely hostel, Erratic Rock, for the 7.50am bus ($15,000CP open return with ‘Via Paine’) heading from Puerto Natales’ Rodivario bus station to Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (TDP). I’d recommend getting tickets for the 7.30am bus to the park as the 7.50am was full when we got there so we had to wait another 15 minutes for them to put on another bus – which is fine but if you want to camp for free then you need to sign up at the park’s entrance point and everything was booked up by the time we arrived. Actually, if you can then you should try to book your bus tickets with ‘Buses Gómez’ – they seemed a lot more professional than Via Paine. The journey from Puerto Natales to TDP took a little over 2 hours including a 15 minute café stop along the way (delicious homemade cakes).

The entrance point to the park is called ‘Portería Laguna Amarga’ and once you’re here you’ll have to fill out a form (they have pens) and you’ll need to go to a desk to pay your park entrance fee ($18,000CP). You’ll then need to bring this form to the next desk to get stamped in and they’ll provide you with a map to the park. If you want to camp for free at Camp de Torres you’ll need to queue up again and register. You’re then obliged to watch a 3 minute safety video before hopping on a waiting shuttle bus ($2,800CP) to take you to one of the trek starting points. We decided to start our trek at Hotel Las Torres.

Most people who visit Torres del Paine do a trek called the ‘W’ which brings you round some of the highlights of the park and usually takes around 5 days. There’s another trek called the ‘Circuit’ which brings you all around the back of the park, and includes the W and can be done in around 9 days. There’s another, longer trek called the ‘Q’ which takes around 10 days. We decided to do a bit of an ‘O’ shape – the back of the circuit and most of the W, excluding a little bit in the middle, in 6 days.

Views from the bus en-route to the park

Views from the bus en-route to the park

On arrival at the campsite of Hotel Las Torres ($8,500CP per person. Yes, that’s $34 to fricking camp!!) we organised the tent and then started a one day trek to the Base de Las Torres, probably TDP’s most infamous site – three towering granite mountains overlooking a beautiful turquoise lagoon.

This is a mostly uphill slog that took us about 8 hours return. It was definitely difficult (it’s very rocky so I’d definitely recommend hiking boots) but once you get there you forget all about it. We took a little toe-dip into the glacial water – the perfect recovery for aching feet!

Our first nights camp

Our first nights camp

And we're off!

And we’re off!

A wowsers moment

A wowsers moment

Fecked already

Fecked already

So far so beautiful

So far so beautiful

Just horsing around

Just horsing around

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Up up up

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Thought we were already in here…but yay!

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Finally here and I’m zonked

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Ok it’s pretty damn gorgeous

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Taking it all in

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Wow

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John taking a moment

Day 2 was a 4 hour walk in the park! We took a few breaks and met a lovely German chap who we ran in to everywhere for the next few days. We passed lots of fields of something along the lines of wheat (??) and many, many horses. Campamento Serón ($8,500 per person) was possibly the windiest place on the earth to try to get a tent up. We’re becoming pros now though 😊 You can actually get meals here AND they use Kerrygold butter so they could only be great, right?

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Let the orange marks show you the way…when you actually spot them

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Freaky little spot

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John with the weight of our world on his shoulders

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Walking with horses

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12km complete!

Day 3 was 6 hours from Campamento Serón to Refugio y Campamento Dickson. This was a little bit difficult at the start of the day (damn climbing. John’s now a convert and no longer seems to enjoy climbing. Thank Jesus!) but once we got up a hill overlooking Lago Paine we were treated to a stunning view of the lake along with all the wind in Patagonia. Not joking – I could hardly walk with the wind pushing against me! Onwards and upwards and we landed at Coirón, a ranger station where you have to register and then on through a lot of windy forest and pass some beautiful rivers until you get a view of the a beautiful glacier and you just pray that the lodge you’re looking down on with horses in the grounds is your campsite…and it is!! Joyful! A quick descent landed us into the lakeside Campamento Dickson ($4,300CP per person). There were cold showers here and a little mini-market (they had Twix!) too. As this place is beside a lake it’s teeming with mosquitoes – aggressive little feckers too so definitely bring repellent.

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Big day today

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So pretty

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Actually managed to get ahead of John for 5 whole minutes

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Just another day 😊

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I think this is where the hobbits live

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Wowsers

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Delighted to see this sign for a little rest stop

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Pretty clearly defined path round these parts

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More snow!

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This place is just amazing

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There’s our little orange home

Day 4

This was a relatively easy 4 hour hike from Refugio y Campamento Dickson to Campamento Los Perros (camping was $4,300 per person at Los Perros). It was mainly a walk though hilly forest with a couple of viewpoints until you reach a small but still very impressive glacier, Glacier Los Perros. It’s just 10 minutes from the glacier to the camp so we set up shop and wandered back to the lake by the glacier to chill (quite literally) by some gigantic icebergs.

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Bye!

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Little more climbing today

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Proof I’m up here 😊

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Totally cool; that’s not fast moving water…

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Well hello!

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Absolutely massive up close – I mean size of a bus

Day 5

We started at Campamento Los Perros and had a 2 hour uphill slog to Paso John Gardner, 1,200m in the air. Have to say neither of us were enjoying this John Gardner chap. Once you get to the top you forget all the blister and muscle pain though – you’re overlooking the 28km long Grey’s Glacier – probably one of the most spectacular vistas either of us have ever seen. It’s a very steep descent from here for another 2 hours to Campamento Paso. We made lunch at Campamento Paso and continued on for the 4 hour trek alongside the glacier to Refugio y Campamento Grey. This walk was mostly through forest and we spotted a working woodpecker which was awesome. There were some seriously fun suspension bridge crossings thrown in on this leg of the journey too. High up and windy = great combination! Although it was the longest of our days it was probably the most enjoyable – I don’t think I can do the scenery justice with words and pictures.

Grey’s camp had great facilities; piping hot showers (from 7pm to 10pm), a mini-market and indoor cooking facilities – a real treat! We met a lovely American couple here on their honeymoon so had a great evening chatting over pasta. Camping here was $4,300CP per person.

Day 6 started with an early morning wake up call and 3.5 hour trek in the rain. We’ve had the most amazing weather for the whole trip so a little rain didn’t dampen our spirits at all. A river crossing over jagged rocks wasn’t ideal though…

We caught the 12.30pm ferry from Refugio Paine Grande ($15,000CP) across the most beautiful turquoise Lago Pehoé (30 minutes) and took a waiting bus back to Puerto Natales for some time indoors. Such an amazing experience.

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Oh such pretty colours

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We made it!!

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So Grey’s Glacier is pretty damn beautiful

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John on the descent

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Bravo nature 👏

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Beautiful little things

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We’re pretty high up

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Me and my companion, Sticky II

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Kinda vast

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Yes, it finally ends

There's a stairs we gotta get up over there!

There’s a stairs we gotta get up over there!

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Homeward bound now

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Sad to be leaving but woah that’s a turquoise lake!

Next stop: El Calafate, Argentina

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Punta Arenas and Isla Magdalena, Chile

Punta Arenas

We flew in to Punta Arenas from Puerto Montt with Sky Airlines (quick 2 hour journey with amazing views of the snow covered peaks of Parque Nacional Torres del Paine – try to sit in a window seat on the left hand side of the plane). We took a little mini bus for the 20km trip into the centre of Punta Arenas ($3,000CP per person) and quickly found some lodgings at Barefoot Backpackers on a quiet street…saying that I think all streets are quiet in Punta Arenas, it’s the definition of a tumbleweed town apart from the main street. There’s a pretty good Unimarc supermarket (Address: Salvador Allende 349) for picking up supplies and lots of outdoorsy stores – The North Face currently have 30% off!! We had a relaxed cuppa at Amaranta just next to the Bussur bus terminal. They have good wifi and if it’s empty it’s because of their ludicrous prices – $5 for a cup of tea. Would you be well? We also had some lemon pie at Café Tostado (Address: Hernando de Magallenes 922) and some ok coffee and lovely tea from the cutest looking place in town, Patiperro (Address: intersection of Lautaro Navarro and Pdte. Julio A. Roca) to take on a little wander to the waterside down by the casino. We ended up staying in Punta Arenas for 3 nights but unfortunately that’s only because I caught a little bug so was bedridden for one of those days. Aw.

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Bus-Sur’s fancy schmancy terminal

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Good ol’ Ferdinand Magellan

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Church by the Bus-Sur offices

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Penguin merchandise

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Give me more penguin stuff!

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Museo Braun Menéndez

Patiperro coffee shop

Patiperro coffee shop

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Warming up

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Punta Arenas’ fitting graffiti

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Princess Cruises docked in Punta Arenas

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Bird-watching

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Just in case you need keys cut

Isla Magdalena – PENGUIN TIME!!

We booked a tour to Isla Magdalena to see an island full of penguins with Comapa Travel for $30,000CP per person. Demand is exceeding supply at the moment so we had to book 2 days before. On Saturday we rocked up to the Terminal Tres Puentes ($2,700CP taxi ride from Punta Arenas’ centre) at 2.30pm. Our boat/ferry, Melinka, finally left at 4pm for the hour and a half journey to the island. It’s a pretty boring ferry trip so bring a book and some food/be prepared to nap. Luckily I have some magazines on my trusty Zinio app.

All I can say is woah! Approaching the island you see thousands of black and white Magellanic Penguins (and plenty birds too) and plenty of penguins swimming alongside the ferry to get to dry land. It’s so awesome! We spent an hour on the island just click clicking away. You have to stay on the designated path but the penguins aren’t obliged to do so (!) so they cross in front of you all the time. We saw a few furry baby penguins next to their burrows. There’s a lighthouse up the top of the island with a couple of posters on penguins the birds of the area. It’s honestly the windiest place I’ve ever been – we’re talking 2 tops, 2 fleeces, a windbreaker jacket, 2 pairs of socks, hiking boots and a woolly hat – and I was still cold! My one mistake was the yoga pants though, those babies ain’t made for seafaring.

Just a word of warning – once you start closing in on the ferry terminal back in Punta Arenas you’ll want to make your way outside (we saw penguins swimming alongside us and John saw a whale) as once the ramp goes down it’s like an episode of The Amazing Race; every man for himself to try to get a taxi! There were only 5 taxis and a few minibuses for the entire ferry so you’ll definitely want to get off ASAP so you’re not waiting around in the icy weather.

Definitely worth a day trip from Punta Arenas 😊

Our ferry to Isla Magdalena

Our ferry to Isla Magdalena

Oops

Oops

I see them, I see them!!

I see them, I see them!!

We're here!

We’re here!

They're everywhere!!

They’re everywhere!!

Popping up everywhere 🐧

Popping up 🐧

Doesn't the guy on the left look like Cruella Deville wearing a coat?!

Doesn’t the guy on the left look like Cruella Deville wearing a coat and heels?!

This guy actually walks like The Penguin in Batman

This guy actually walks like The Penguin in Batman

Hello, is it me you're looking for?

Hello, is it me you’re looking for?

Do I smell?

Do I smell?

Buds for life

Buds for life

Abbey Road? The Beatles?

Abbey Road? The Beatles?

Hellooo! Anybody home?

Hellooo! Anybody home?

Aw, fluffy babies 🐧🐧

Aw, fluffy babies 🐧🐧

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Hurry up!

Watch my back?

Watch my back?

Penguins crossing

Penguins crossing

All by myself!

All by myself!

I'm home lads

I’m home lads

Well, it is breeding season

P-p-p-pick up a penguin. Well, it is breeding season

Ok last pic

Ok last pic

Next stop: Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile

Chiloé Island, Chile

We rented a car from Europcar for Valentine’s weekend and took a ferry from the mainland town of Chacao (about 45 minutes from Puerto Montt) with Cruz del Sur for the 30 minute, $11,300CP trip across the water. It was absolutely packed on the way to Chiloé but there were only 6 of us on the way back – guess nobody’s leaving Chiloé! Chiloé island is the second largest island in Chile and is famous for its 160 wooden churches – 14 of which are World Hertiage Sites. We wanted to get a bit of countryside therapy anyway and see something a little different so it was a perfect side trip. On arrival at the port we drove to the first big town, Ancud (about half an hour drive) for a quick look around and a bite to eat. We stopped off at La Botica de Café for a very tasty sandwich and some warming drinks. The main square, yet another originally named Plaza de Armas, has some fiercely random stone sculpture things like gargoyles – apparently there’s a pretty rich culture of witchery and the like here. The waterfront area isn’t very pretty so Ancud was really just a quick stop off on the way to pastures greener.

Catching the ferry to Chiloé

Catching the ferry to Chiloé

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John learning to pole dance in Chacao

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Chacao’s church

By Ancud's waterfront

By Ancud’s waterfront

After Ancud we continued on to Tenaún and San Juan to see their churches (and to polish off some white chocolate raspberry magnums, delicious!), before continuing on to Castro where we found the central plaza prettily easily. Castro is dominated by the most colourful church on the planet – it’s just beautiful! It’s constructed with timber and the inside is lovely – definitely worth a wander in. There was a service on when we were there so we didn’t stay long. There are models of some other churches of Chiloé dotted around the inside of the church – probably a good idea to check these out to see if there are churches you definitely want to see. We took a walk downhill and ended up in a little plaza by the water, Plazuela del Tren, which was full of old train parts. It’s worth a wander down here, if only to see the cutest hotel ever – and it’s pink! A lot of backpacker accommodation is centred around the Palofitos Gamboa area (palofitos are houses on wooden stilts) and the main street here is E.Riquelme which houses Café del Puente, a worthwhile stopover if you like coffee, although be prepared for a long wait. We stayed in Quilán Cabanas ($50,000CP) with cable TV (!!) for our one night in Castro. We also took a drive to a church about 3 minutes away from Castro. It was just a quick stopover but it’s called Nercón and it’s worth checking out!

Church of San Juan Bautista de San Juan de Coquihuil

Church of San Juan Bautista de San Juan de Coquihuil

We are where it says 😊

We are where it says 😊

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Relaxing in San Juan

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Tenaún’s World Heritage listed Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio

Just so beautiful

Just so beautiful

Fisherman's boat in Tenaún

Fisherman’s boat in Tenaún

Castro

San Francisco church, Castro

San Francisco church, Castro

From the Plaza

From the Plaza

Hotel Unicornio Azul

Hotel Unicornio Azul

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Palofitos Gamboa

Under the Palofitos Hamboa

Under the Palofitos Hamboa

From the side

From the side

Nercón church

Nercón church

Chepu

The following morning we continued to Chepu where we set up the tent for our second ever night of camping at Chepu Camping, which is run by the loveliest man who just has to be 120 years old. Getting to Chepu wasn’t terribly easy; we had rented a Hyundai Accent and let’s just say that the gravel roads here are much better suited to a 4×4. I honestly thought we’d have the whole car scratched and dented but thankfully all was well. We took a drive and a little walk to Chepu’s sand dune area where we promptly made friends with an uber-sized bee who made it his business to show us around. We then took in the sunset by the water just next to the campsite.

Does anybody else see Ireland here?

Does anybody else see Ireland here?

En route to Chepu

En route to Chepu

House numbers go pretty high up here!

House numbers go pretty high up here!

Bee business

Bee business

So colourful!

So colourful!

Bit eerie

Bit eerie

On some of Chepu's sand dunes

On some of Chepu’s sand dunes

Catching the sunset in Chepu

Catching the sunset in Chepu

Note: I seriously would not recommend going to Chiloé without a car. There are countless backpackers thumbing all over the roads with the most frustrated of looks on their faces. It’s difficult to get to a lot of places here without your own transport too.

Next stop: Punta Arenas and Isla Magdalena (penguins!!), Chile

Puerto Montt, Puerto Varas and Volcán Osorno, Chile

Bariloche to Puerto Montt, Chile

We opted for a 9am departure from Bariloche with Andesmar Chile (ARS$400) for this border crossing into Chile. I know I’m telling you guys about a lot of border crossings but it’s the easiest way of seeing things down this end of the continent. About 2 hours into our trip we stopped to get some Argentinian exit stamps (this took about 40 seconds) but ended up being stuck here for hours as the speedometer on the bus broke so we couldn’t move on. Ugh. 3 hours later 15 of us were allocated seats on a new bus for the trip through Chilean customs (which took about an hour) and on to Osorno (another 5 hours) and then they made us change buses again for the 1.5 hour trip from Osorno to Puerto Montt. Absolutely ridiculously long trek for what it should have been. Needless to say I would not recommend Andesmar Chile.

Puerto Montt

As we were dropped off quite late at the bus station in Puerto Montt and didn’t have accommodation booked we had to head straight out to find some digs for the night (also we’d heard the area was a bit dodgy at night. I didn’t feel in the slightest bit odd about the area though – it was full of locals wandering about. Maybe like 2am would be dodgy?). We found a few places but they all had ‘no vacancies’ signs on their doors. I had a light bulb moment and told John it was so obvious that nobody would bother climbing a hill to find accommodation so we wandered up the first hill we found and low and behold we found a home. Sorted. God it’s hard being right all the time. Haha! We stayed at Residencial El Talquina for $18,000CP a night. It wasn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination but the wifi was good and the family friendly.

Puerto Montt isn’t a particularly pretty city but we managed to fill a few days there. The bus terminal is new enough as Puerto Montt is a transport hub for Patagonia. We haven’t really been planning anything in advance in general in South America but that’s not really the best strategy down this side of the world. We would have had to wait for days upon days to get to anywhere we wanted to so we decided to stay put in the Puerto Montt area for Valentine’s weekend and hop on a flight the following Tuesday for Punta Arenas down in the very south of Chile. We had planned on getting down to Villa O’Higgins and walking/boating across the border to El Chaltén in Argentina but it’s nigh on impossible to get to Villa O’Higgins from Puerto Montt and we unfortunately just don’t have the days to wait around for buses at every stop.

Puerto Montt is one of the windiest cities I’ve ever been to but it’s oddly not too cold. They’ve recently revamped what I guess you could call their boardwalk along the water so there’s a nice enough wander from the bus terminal all the way down to the Costanera Shopping Centre. This isn’t a bad shopping centre; there’s a pretty big ‘Unimarc’ supermarket here (there’s also a ‘Bigger’ and ‘Santa Isabel’ supermarkets across the road from the bus terminal), a Hoyt’s cinema (obviously we did that!), a couple of department stores and a huge food court on the top level. Do yourself a favour and head for a hot chocolate from Abuela Goyes. God I’m praying that place is in Buenos Aires!! There’s not really anything else to do in Puerto Montt itself to be honest – if we were going back I’d definitely stay in the nearby town of Puerto Varas (half an hour away) as it’s much prettier and there are plenty of cafés and a beach.

Puerto Montt's waterfront

Puerto Montt’s waterfront

Cute area across from the bus terminal

Cute area across from the bus terminal

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Cute cheese shop

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More cheese!

Puerto Varas and Volcán Osorno

We rented a car from Europcar (booked online – they told us they had none when we visited the office but there were a few online. Thinking they were too lazy to call the airport and get one sent it to their downtown location. Ha – we showed them!!) for the weekend and went to Puerto Varas and on to Volcán Osorno and to Chiloé Island, South America’s second largest island (I’ll do a separate post on Chiloé). There is a toll on the way to Puerto Varas ($600CP) unless you take the back road – check it on Maps.me! We stopped at La Gringa café down by the beach in Puerto Varas for some sublime cakes (gluten free, yay!) and lovely tea and coffee. Definitely worth stopping in Puerto Varas for their orange and almond cake alone!

Driving on, we passed the really cute Capilla Santa Cruz church en-route to Volcán Osorno. The volcano is about an hours drive from Puerto Varas along the beautiful Lake Llanquihue. The roads are very good around here – you can see a lot more is being spent in this area compared to Puerto Montt. The volcano is a ski resort in winter – they have ski lifts which you can use (for an exorbitant price – $10,000CP or $20 – what?!) but we decided to climb up instead. It’s only about a 15 minute climb and the views are stupendous.

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Capilla Santa Cruz

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Cute little holiday spot

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John making his way up the volcano

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Wowsers

John taking in the stunning vista

John taking in the stunning vista

Just look at that

Just look at that

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Having a break

Good on you nature

Thanks nature 🙂

Note: All the photos in this post were taken using our phones and iPad as our camera is currently having a moment.

Next stop: Chiloé Island, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile

We took the 1.5 hour journey from Santiago to Valparaíso with TurBus for 3,600 CP (prices fluctuate and vary widely depending on the time of day). Tip! If you look at the TurBus website or the booth at the bus terminal (across from the ticket desks) in Santiago you can check out the best deals before you buy. Valparaiso’s bus terminal isn’t really walking distance from the main tourist area so we got a taxi outside the door. This cost 4,800 CP (about $10) which was a rookie mistake on our part. The city’s mini-buses take 10 minutes and cost 490 CP (about $1) haha!! We had booked accommodation on AirBnB though so really just wanted to get there without dragging our bags everywhere. Also, we had just done a food shop and picked up a cooler bag so I was literally weighed down with fruit and veg. Our accommodation was called Casa Elias, situated at the foot of an ascensor or funicular built in 1902 called Ascensor Reina Victoria. Just a side note: AirBnB is a little different in South America in that there are hostels all over bloody thing – it’s really annoying when you’re searching as they’re clogging up all the site! Anyway, our accommodation turned out to be lovely (even though it turned out to be a college house share), we had a balcony overlooking the ascensor but there was a bar downstairs meaning that no sleep was had until after 2am…until 6am when a group of homeless people congregated on the street below. Still, it was nice!

Here we are!

Here we are!

Ascensor Reina Victoria

Ascensor Reina Victoria

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Where are we?!

That's pretty much how it looks!

That’s pretty much how it looks!

Valparaíso is a city you’ll either love or hate. Lots of people from Santiago don’t like it at all. It’s definitely different to Santiago’s clean, well-maintained and manicured streets. It’s a port city so there’s a lot of industrial activity, an inordinate number of dogs, and a serious whiff of urine in all crevices of the city. On the other hand, at the top of the ascensors lie numerous cerros or hills dotted with colourful mansions and plentiful cafés…and more dogs thrown in for good measure. At the top of our ascensor (cost was 100 CP for each use) was a little slide down a few feet which was so cool! There’s a definite vibe of San Francisco here; we really enjoyed our time in Valparaíso, as you’ll see from the billions of pictures I have to share with you!

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So. Much. Colour.

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Something about the heart, a gun and your fist…

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Who doesn’t love a window box? 🙂

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Pretty port city

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Don’t much like cats but this one’s not so bad

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Pretty cool entrance to this hostel

We spent 3 days just wandering around taking hundreds of photos of the amazing graffiti that bombards you at every corner. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion were our favourite hills for meandering, stopping at cafés and just taking in the view. We found the tastiest chocolate muffins at a cute little tea shop, Mercadito Alegre on Cerro Alegre. There are probably a hundred spots you could drop in for a coffee and cake here. Lovely place for a meander.

Down in Sotomayor Plaza lies the Armada de Chile, Chile’s naval headquarters, a short walk from the pier. There’s a teensy shopping centre down here with a pretty good supermarket, randomly selling Waitrose products! We found an Australian café, the Melbourne Café on Sotomayor Plaza too where John had his first cup of good coffee in a while and I got an awesome chai latte, I cannot stress how good it was – they pretty much just give you milky chai tea elsewhere 🙂 It’s funny but we’re both finding that we’re appreciating the little things a lot more, a nice cup of tea, a hot shower, a comfy pillow.

A walk down along the port brings you to another ascensor, Ascensor Artillería (300CP), which is over a century old and provides lovely city views from the top. These funiculars used to be painted up but unfortunately that’s no longer the case. I was really looking forward to checking them out as I had read a great post at Rhea Collections.

The area around Ascensor Polanco out beyond the bus station isn’t the prettiest but there are a few streets filled with graffiti worth checking out if you’re in the area or have some time to kill whilst waiting for a bus. The ascensors is one of the coolest ones and goes underground but sadly it was closed on our visit. It being the afternoon and all…

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Party over here!

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Who wouldn’t want to live here? That green building is the awesome looking Hotel Manoir Atkinson

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Didn’t do anything childish walking up here. Ahem.

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The cutest street

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The majority of these places were hostels

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Tell me where we are again?

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Armada de Chile, Sotomayor Plaza

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Local transportation, Valparaíso’s Trolebus

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Elephant and elephant?

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Ascensors Artillería

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I’d definitely put this over my fireplace…if I had one!

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Definitely a San Francisco vibe

God, so true

God, so true

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Adorable

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It is what it says 🙂

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Around Cerro Polanco

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Daisy Days

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Pretty cool lamp-post

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Just around the corner from our AirBnB

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Just cute

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Overlooking Valparaíso, that’s the Lutheran church in the background

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Sotomayor Plaza

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Ya I’m totally fine with that. Jesus.

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Feria de Antiguedades y Libreros

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Arco Británico on Avenida Brasil

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Hostel near Ascensor Artillería

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Talking a walk, on my own apparently!

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Bit poignant

Sitting pretty

Sitting pretty

Let me live here!

Let me live here!

Maybe it's Maybelline

Maybe it’s Maybelline

The cutest game of x's and o's ever

The cutest game of x’s and o’s ever

All done!

All done!

Viña del Mar

We took a trip to Viña del Mar, the beach area about 15 minutes up the coast from Valparaiso (490 CP for the bus which we got from Plaza Cummings but the buses are everywhere). We didn’t really get the draw of Viña del Mar so only spent a couple of hours by the beach.

We took the bus back from Valparaiso to Santiago for 3,900 CP.

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A good ol flower clock

The beach at Viña del Mar

The beach at Viña del Mar

Castillo Wulff

Castillo Wulff

Next stop: Bariloche, Argentina (back to Mendoza via Santiago first)

Santiago, Chile

We ended up in Santiago twice during our jaunt over to Chile from Mendoza in Argentina. On the first trip we arrived after a 7 hour trip from Mendoza. We booked a ticket with El Rapido in the bus station at Mendoza for ARS$400 leaving at 1pm. The border crossing at Los Libertadores took about 1.5 hours and keeping a short story short – the bus stops, you get into a line specifically for buses and get your exiting Argentina stamp then you move to the next window and get your Chilean entrance stamp. Next you put your hand luggage on a table and a labrador runs all over it sniffing for drugs and apples. In the meantime customs are putting your backpacks and the like from underneath the bus and popping them through some x-ray machines and then back on to the bus. You’re then back on the bus on your way to the Chilean capital. Easy peasy. Unless you’re a druglord or apple-hoarder I guess…(on the journey back from Santiago to Mendoza customs took us 3.5 hours so leave as early as possible…something that we never do).

En-route to Chile

En-route to Chile

That mountain is called Aconcagua

That mountain is called Aconcagua

Woah

Woah

There’s a fantastic metro system in Santiago so we hopped on the metro underneath the bus terminal (the name of the stop is Universidad de Santiago) a few stops to Baquedano to our first accommodation in the Bellavista area. There are different prices depending on the time of day you use the metro system, 720 CP during rush hour, 660 CP during the day, and 610 CP during quiet hours. Pretty transparent. So new currency time again. Chilean Pesos here. We’ve been working out what this money actually is in Aussie dollars by just doubling the first figures – so 720 CP is very roughly $1.44). We stayed in a house here, although it was called Chile Backpackers Hostels (21,000 CP a night, so about $42). I’ve no idea where they’re going with that name – it was a house with 3 rooms, one with a few bunk beds. Anyway, the area of Bellavista is lovely. It’s great in the evenings as there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. We arrived quite late on our first evening so went straight for dinner (9.30pm dinner is what everyone does here) at Il Siciliano in Bellavista. Ever had crabmeat lasagne? So good! Dessert was so nice too. There’s a place here called Patio Bellavista which is basically a building full of restaurants and bars. There were loads of places here we wanted to try out but time restraints were an issue 🙂 We stayed in a little apartment we found on AirBnB on our second visit around the La Moneda area. We did a little less sightseeing and the like on our second visit as we had to go tent shopping (Yes. Seriously.) for Patagonia. John got a little carried away here and now we have tiny fold up chairs too. For the future you know. Ahem!

I had a few errands to run in Santiago so had to find the Australian embassy (El Golf subway stop if you need it) which led us to the business district of Santiago. We had a quick coffee in Ritual which adjoins the Ritz-Carlton (la di da!) and located the BEST shopping centre I’ve seen in aaaages. It’s called the Costanera Center and is housed in South America’s tallest building (the second highest building in the Southern Hemisphere after the Gold Coasts’ Q1). It’s got Accessorize, Zara, Topshop, Mango, H&M, Forever 21, God I could go on…and I didn’t buy a thing. Honestly backpacking is like torture sometimes. If I have to wear any of the clothes I’ve been wearing over the past 5 (!) months in my ‘real life’… In fantastic news, as a tourist you can get up to 20% off in some stores here (Topshop has 15% off). Yay! All you  need to do is bring your passport to the OnTour desk on Level 2 and you’ll get a little card to show at the till. Lovely! They have a supermarket here called Jumbo and it’s the best supermarket I’ve ever been in. Ever. We spent an hour and a half in here alone and that’s a huge deal as John absolutely hates supermarkets. I usually have about 7 minutes before he’s complaining and ready to leave. They sell everything you could possibly imagine with a lot of German produce actually and butter from the homeland, Kerrygold. We were so delighted!! They sell awesome cheese plates here so we got some a few times to have in a park. Nice little treat 🙂

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Costanero Centre

We took a bit of a walking tour one day which took in the beautiful Belles Artes Museum (Entrance: 1200 CP) which was a lovely break from the sweltering sunshine. The building is absolutely stunning. A real work of art 🙂 There’s a temporary exhibition in here by Venezuelan artist Oswaldo Vigas who I’d never heard of before but I now really like – his work is quite surreal, definitely an air of Picasso. Check him out on Google Images! Just behind the museum lies a pretty awesome Botero sculpture too. Definitely don’t miss it! We wandered around Barrio Lastarria or the neighborhood of Lastarria close enough to here which was nice for a stroll. Plenty of cafés and cute little shops. Cerro (hill) Santa Lucia is around here and definitely worth a look – they shoot off a canon here at 12pm – you can hear it all over the city. The Plaza de Armas is pretty much the heart of the city. There’s a cathedral here but it was covered in scaffolding so we didn’t manage to take any photos. The post office building is just next door and is really lovely though. We had a tasty lunch in a vegetarian restaurant just around the corner from the plaza called El Naturista. A bit of a walk from the Plaza de Armas is the Palacio de La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace. It was originally the mint which is where the ‘moneda’ in the name comes from. They have a changing of the guard here every second day which we unfortunately didn’t get to see – God damn it though – I do love the festival atmosphere they bring about on an ordinary day!

Plaza de la Avación

Plaza de la Avación

I actually can't pass flowers and not snap away...

I actually can’t pass flowers and not snap away…

Parroquia de la Vera Cruz (in Barrio Lastarria)

Parroquia de la Vera Cruz (in Barrio Lastarria)

By Cerro Santa Lucia

By Cerro Santa Lucia

Museo de Belles Artes

Museo de Belles Artes

Inside the Museo de Belles Artes

Inside the Museo de Belles Artes

A little more...

A little more…

Modern and not so modern

Modern and not so modern

Last one!

Last one!

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Botero 🙂

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The back of the museum

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La Moneda…

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…and the other side

Chilling by La Moneda

Chilling by La Moneda

Going all patriotic

Going all patriotic

Getting US Dollars in Santiago

We needed to get USD to exchange at the blue dollar rate back in Argentina as we foolishly didn’t take out enough USD in either Ecuador or Bolivia so we had to take Chilean Pesos out of our Aussie accounts (you can’t get a cash advance in Chilean banks nor can you withdraw USD from their ATMs. So basically you’re stuck with withdrawing Chilean Pesos with a daily limit) and then go to a Casa de Cambio or Currency Exchange Office to change that into USD all so we could change our USD into Argentinian Pesos!! Phew! We found that Banco Estado let us take out the highest daily amount, 400,000 CP. We went to Guiñazu Cambio to get our USD (and came out about $20 better than the bank rates) 🙂

Next stop: Valparaíso, Chile