That morning we left from Santiago, the weather was sunny and the day bright like our smiles. We were so happy to be on the road again! We took the Panamerican (Ruta 5) towards the south and as usual, we had no idea what we’d see or where we’d spend the night. The summer had come and the day was getting bigger and bigger every day, so we didn’t care much about where the dark would find us. So many hours of daylight beat the stress off, so we drove and drove…We finally stopped to spend the first night at a COPEC gas station, which means one thing for us: luxury! Clean toilets and shower facilities, free Wi-Fi and a 24h store. In some gas stations in Chile, there were even touch-screens to evaluate the facilities. We gave them an “A+”. For the first 3 days of our trip towards the south, we followed the same pattern. Many kilometers during the day and a good night sleep at a 5-star gas station.
From Santiago to Puerto Montt, where the famous Carretera Austral (Ruta 7) begins, the distance is more than 1000kms. We traveled until there without leaving the Ruta 5 (Panamericana) and when we got close to Puerto Montt, we thought of spending the night in Llanquihue. Llanquihue is a small town which took its name from the nearby Lake. We found a really beautiful campsite next to the lakefront. The place to pitch a tent was under tall thick trees and from there, one could enjoy the view to the Osorno volcano and the lake. The price was fair but just before we agree to stay there, something made us change our minds and we decided to continue to Puerto Montt. Our Vespa had other plans, though…
Some gas stations are a luxury.
The “jackal” was keeping us company and hoped for a treat!
Spending the night at a gas station.
Hope it doesn’t explode!
Travel tip 3975: Never peel onions in a closed tent!
Should we take him home?
Back when we were in Peru, the second and third gear developed a bit of a character. Kitsos was not always happy with these two gears, but we ignored him. At Llanquihue, he revolted! We tried to get to Puerto Montt but as it was getting dark, we decided to stay at a gas station a few kilometers outside the city. We slept and the next morning we packed our stuff and we sat on the pavement in a very grumpy mood and started chewing a stale piece of bread for breakfast. A truck driver who had spent the night at the same car park, was getting ready to leave and we were gazing towards where he was, but without actually looking at him. Suddenly, we saw him coming towards us, holding some dairy products. Before we even realized what happened, he offered them to us and left waving his hands like he wanted to say: “oh, it was nothing, don’t mention it!”. The unexpected act of kindness from a total stranger made our day! We were now smiling and having eaten our yoghurt, we left to go back to Llanquihue and see what we’d do.
The unexpected act of kindness from a total stranger made our day!
We camped under the trees of that wonderful campsite and immediately started studying the Vespa’s manual. After some scientific research – and after a phone call to our mechanic K.Kyrou in Greece – we decided to replace the gear selector by ourselves. We also had to replace the two gear cables which were about to cut. However, finding cables in Llanquihue proved to be trickier than we thought. We went to almost every store of the town and cry-laughed trying to describe in Spanish all the parts we needed to repair the Vespa. Somehow, we made it. With a lot of improvisation and with the help of the manual, we did our best. The place was so beautiful though, that we didn’t want to leave on the next day. We met a girl from Russia who had been traveling for the last 2 years and some local guys who told us everything about the history of the place. The myths of Mapuche about the Lake Llanquihue and the Osorno volcano, the story of the German migrants who came and had a strong influence on the culture of the area…Talking with all these people was so interesting that three days passed and it was Saturday when we finally left.
Improvising to replace the Vespa’s gear selector.
No, not dirty at all!
Who wouldn’t choose this work environment?
We packed everything up and proud as we were after the successful intervention in the Vespa’s inner parts, we left. To our horror, before we even got to Puerto Montt, we realized that we hadn’t done much of a great job. Unfortunately, we needed one more tool to tighten and secure the gear cables, which we didn’t have. So, very cautiously, we managed to arrive at Puerto Montt and started looking for a motorcycle garage. It was almost 14:00′ when we found one and just before it closed for the long weekend, we dashed into and begged for a quick repair. The mechanic fixed the problem immediately and assured us that we wouldn’t have any problem from now on. He proved to be a Vespa fan and even tried to make us promise that when we finish our trip, we’ll give him the Vespa as a gift…He seemed a bit disappointed when we politely refused!
Luck was on our side! We had found a garage just before everything closed for the long weekend, we had repaired the Vespa, the weather was wonderful and we couldn’t wait to take the Ruta 7, the famous Carretera Austral. Just after Puerto Montt, we left the Ruta 5 which leads to the island of Chiloe. We were on the Ruta 7 at last! We soon took the first boat to cross the sea between two lands. We would take some more boats on our way south, because this particular area of Chile has a very interesting geography. Fiords, forests, lakes, volcanoes…Everything there seems randomly placed, making the landscape so unique! The crossing from Caleta La Arena to Caleta Puelche took about half an hour. Next stop: Hornopiren.
Everything we had seen until that moment was really beautiful. What followed though, made us regret for the “cold” feelings we had toward this country in the beginning.
To be continued…
10-inch wheels are rarely spotted in the Carretera Austral, so just in case…
Caleta La Arena – Caleta Puelche: our first ferry on the Carretera Austral