Tuesday, November 13, 2012
First stop: Chile Chico
With the motorhome and transmission under the tender care of our mechanic Adrian Biasussi, there was little to do but wait – again. So, when Marcela and Mariano suggested a short weekend trip into Chile, we jumped at the chance. Our route was going to be a circuitous one. We had missed an earlier opportunity to go to Chile Chico when we renewed our visa and this would be our first chance to take a ferry through some of the Chilean fjords, drive a part of the Carretera Austral and visit Coyhaique, the capital of the Aisen region of Chile before returning to Argentina via Rio Mayo. All in three days! Pelusa, their Jack Russell terrier will come with us on his first adventure to keep Winston company. We left at noon and the five hours to the border was uneventful and quick, stopping only for gas and to walk the dogs. Here the Argentinean pampas stretch for miles and it is so arid that we wondered where the sheep and cattle obtain water. After asking Marcela she told us to look out for steel tanks with a windmill attached. The windmills pump water into the tanks from underground and that is where the animals drink. She said they will walk for miles to get to one. At the border, there was one small issue with SAG, the agency that monitors any food products and animals entering Chile. The official who searched our vehicle found Winston’s dry food and immediately said that it was not allowed. This is our fourth time entering Chile and we have never had a problem so we immediately began to argue our case. She stood firm and so did we. In the end, we won but with a strange and somewhat perplexing admonition. “Tell the man that the food is only for the dog”, she said to Marcela. Once we were told we all laughed and I replied that Tom prefers crab to kibble. We could only surmise that what she actually meant was not to feed it to the wild animals but that is a simply a guess and we had fun joking about it. The small town of Chile Chico is only 6 kilometer (4miles) from the border and this is where we will spend our first night. The town is located on the south shore of Lake General Carrera. On the Argentinean side at Los Antiguos this same lake is called Lake Buenos Aires. It is actually the second largest lake in South America – the largest being Lake Titicaca and encroaches into both countries. We had rented a cabin for the night from the Hotel Austral which turned out to be perfect for the four of us and the two dogs. It had 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms with a small sitting/dining area and even smaller kitchen. No worries there, as pizza is on the menu for dinner. It was the view from the balcony that was worthy of the cabin cost alone. Overlooking the lake, we had clear views of the vast Argentinean pampas to the east and the craggy snow-capped mountains in the west. As we sat on the balcony sipping red wine, we watched the sun setting giving the mountains an ethereal glow.