III: Down To The End Of The Earth
See also [part 2]
December 1997: Hi Folks, We finally made it down to the end of the roads in all of South America with great ease. We will take you on this last leg from Santiago de Chile to Ushuaia Argentina.
Santiago was a great place to start any trip for it is a warm and friendly place full of great people. Our Land Rover was almost ready when we arrived only lacking a couple of hours' surgery to get her in shape for the assault to the south. We found in the dealership five Land Rovers from England. It turns out that the Camel Trophy race will go south from Santiago through Patagonia and the Rovers were the test cars to see if the trip was possible. They were all here so look for the videos from Land Rover in the spring of 1998.
Jose Trisotti joined us at our hotel for drinks and just mentioned he had his military specification Santana out in the parking lot. Wow what a car. It along with his other two Landies makes him the grand daddy of owners in Santiago. Just wait until his Series I is complete, it should hold the South America trophy for restoration. Can you imagine trying to find parts for a 50-year-old car in South America?
Moving south in Chile was a breeze all the roads are in excellent shape and marked as well as any in the States. Our first stop Talca was a large and interesting city just at the south of the wine country. The Plaza hotel had a bathroom the size of a small apartment with sitting chairs and the like. We learned here that a Completo is a hot dog with the works. Temuco farther south was a stop that was most interesting. I had to get the head bolts tighten after the repairs in Santiago and the owner of the garage was so gracious to do it for free. I guess it was a courtesy of one road warrior to another. That evening we took in a play at the municipal library.
The next day took us south into the commercial tree harvesting area. Miles and miles of pine with beautiful meadows in between with great herds of dairy cows and Black Angus cattle was our days ride. Osorno a town out of Germany came next. The people, houses, commercial building everything look like a town on the Rhine. How they transported a German town here we will never know but they do speak Spanish so it is only an illusion. We arrived in Port Montt for the wait till our ship the Port Eden sets sail to Chiles Patagonia.
In Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue we had a delightful lunch with the Avial family. We were referred to them by Karen of the South America Explores Club. They have a wonderful warm home soon to be filled with the addition of twins. Ximena is on maternity leave from the University in Port Montt and her husband is a manager of a salmon farm. It turns out that this area is the hub of salmon farming in Chile. It is no wonder that you get great salmon on every menu. We hope to return to Puerto Varas for it is an exquisite spot for fishing and relaxing. All the hotels are either four and five stars and the feeling of the place is very German.
Port Montt was a port city with all sorts of activities. We went to the mall and found every imaginable item as in any big city plus a major display of wood stoves for the folks who live out in the county. We had an extra day so we took the ferry to the island of Chiloe. The pastoral beauty of the area was amazing for its likeness to upstate New York. If you were dropped from an airplane, you could easily ask which way is Utica.
The ship Port Eden is a Ro/Ro freighter which takes up to 150 passengers. Almost all are backpackers from around the world traveling to Torres del Pine National Park. The passage south through the coast is awe inspiring in one of the last uninhabited area on earth. Just one town with three hundred souls in nine hundred miles of traveling. We arrived in three days to a true frontier town Puerto Natales. Up to see the glacier at the park by boat was a full day of hard travel. From here on south are all gravel roads.
Punta Arenas on the Straits of Magellan is a real treat. This large city of 150 thousand is really impressive when you come out of the plains of Patagonia. Night life starts at 11 PM just like NYC. The town is very prosperous and the central park is dedicated to business men at the turn of the century. A three-hour ferry ride across the Straits brought us to Porvenir, a sleep town of 5,000 of which 25 percent are Yugoslavian decent, and the final 250 miles down Tierra del Fuego. We stopped along the highway near Rio Grande in Argentina to see a local rodeo with full dressed Gauchos from the great sheep and cattle stations in the area. On past Guanacos a sort of llama and Rheas a big ostrich like bird by the jewel called Lake Fagnano.
Ushuaia the last true city on the continent at last comes into view. It is a wonderful town on the Beagle Channel. We dined with Jose Tibaudin the document producer of videos on the area and learned a great deal. The trip to the end of all roads is only about 12 miles out of town in a National Park. Now on the next trip we will start the trip north. We still have an extra seat open for the drive to Buenos Aires.
- Roy & Gladys Halvorsen 2/1998
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