We returned to mainland Chile at the port city of Puerto Montt. We saw the fish markets and markets with smoked oysters and seaweed. We walked around the docks of the port and considered our options to eventually get to Torres del Paine, way down in southern Chile. We had considered taking the ferry from the south of Chiloe island, over to Chaiten, then over into Argentina and down to Torres del Paine by bus. But Chaiten Volcano began erupting again while we were in Castro, so that wasn’t an option anymore.
Chaiten erupted in May 2008, and the government had just finished with a geological report that said the town was no longer safe due to the new volcanic activity. The residents strongly resisted the planners efforts to relocate the city. The planners would not force anyone to relocate, but the government refused to spend one dime to rebuild the city in this hazardous location. This was rigorously opposed by the residents. The government then allowed people to return to their homes, but the second eruption has reduced the opposition to this reasonable planning (it’s best not to build homes where you know they will be destroyed) as everyone is now too busy fleeing the city to argue about how much they want to waste national resources to rebuild it. With everyone fleeing the new eruption, traveling through this region was no longer part of our plan either.
We looked into taking a ship that goes from Puerto Montt all the way down to Puerto Natales, near Torres del Paine that costs about $500 and takes 4 days (Navimag). However, that was too much for our budget, and the bus options are cheaper. If we had the money, it would have been an interesting trip. Instead, we took a bus from Puerto Montt over into Argentina (Bariloche) via Osorno. The drive through the Chilean lakes district was nice, but the mountains here in Argentina are really spectacular. We stopped in Bariloche to get another bus down to the town of El Bolsón. We will return to meet up with Christine and Paul in Bariloche later, so we don’t want to give too much away right now. It’s a very nice area with awesome mountain to the west, and dry flats to the east (somewhat like Bend, Oregon).
In retrospect, we probably should have taken the bus directly from Puerto Montt to Puerto Arenas, because although it was a 30 hour trip, it would have been much cheaper and logistically easier than taking shorts trips into Argentina, down south, and then back into Chile at Puerto Natales. But El Boslón is a really nice town and the mountain scenery here is awesome. This area grows hops and has many small craft breweries, so last night we had homebrew and some excellent smoked trout ravioli and homemade gnocchi with forest mushrooms in a cream sauce, delicious. We’re headed off into the hills here for more backpacking, so we’ll be back in civilization in 4-5 days.