We were on such a high after finishing the Carretera Austral, we agreed we would take it easy for a few days in the beautiful Chilean Lake District. While not as rugged and remote as Patagonia, which we were already missing, it does have its charms, including lots of beautiful lakes and volcanoes. And an abundance of vegetables.
The first couple of days were awful weather, and we huddled down in the van doing schoolwork at a campsite that had internet. Well, Lauren did the schoolwork. I supervised and wrote parts of this blog and tried to work out our next move after Santiago.
When the sun came out, the lakes were huge, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, including the permanently – active villarica volcano.
The lake district was odd. We were there out of season and it is clear that during high season the place is packed – huge car parks on the outskirts of some towns, and many restaurants and cafes and big campsites. Almost all were closed, and we struggled to find somewhere to park the van – I didn’t fancy wild camping or just sleeping on the street as it’s a much more built up region.
One night we followed a tip from the user-populated app ioverlander and ended up in a guys garden. There were no other campers at this time of year, it was a long way off the road, and the whole set up was kind of freaky. Set in a dense thicket in the forest, his wooden house was beautiful in a slightly sinister, Hansel and Gretel kind of way, and he insisted on inviting us in to sample his homemade jam, drink tea made with herbs he picked from the garden, and admire his art. I guess he was a bit lonely, but when he started telling me how he read runes, I made my excuses.
One highlight was the lovely little town of Pucon – the first place in the lake district that, despite being pretty touristy, did feel lived in. We found a campsite open and had a brilliant meal at an all-organic place. The next day we spent the morning with someone I had connected with through a facebook group for families who believe travel is a key part of education.
Too soon it was time to start the long trek north to Santiago. It was nearly two full days of fairly dull highway, but we stuck on an audiobook and just kept on moving. When we left the lake district it was 8 degrees during the day, maximum. In Santiago when we arrived it was 30 and I still had my thermal socks on!!!!
The last night was spent cleaning up a month’s worth of mud and grit and bug splats ….
Finally, 4 and a half weeks after picking the van up in Punta Arenas, after an astonishing 4834km, we were truly sad to say goodbye and drop the monster (as we christened her) off on the outskirts of Santiago.