The early morning drizzle didn’t bode well for our volcano trip, but we hurried to pack up our campsite and headed out. At the tour company, the outlook didn’t improve. Given unpredictable weather on the volcano, they’re pretty cautious about anything hinting at inclement. We chatted with one of the guides who showed us that it was raining on the volcano, with more cloudy skies in the forecast. The prior day ad been sunny and beautiful, but it was certainly hard to tell how today would turn out. If the current weather continued, the guides wouldn’t go up at all, and even if it improved, we probably wouldn’t have been able to summit. Weighing our options, we decided it wasn’t worth it to us if we couldn’t summit, and since the weather didn’t look like it would break, we decided against the whole thing. Since the weather was iffy cancelling was no issue. A bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be climbing a volcano, we consoled ourselves with the promise of more adventures ahead and took advantage of our early start to put some road behind us.

We decided to blaze through much of the Lakes Region of Chile in favor of making headway towards reaching Tierra del Fuego. We decided that since most of our Chile priorities were centered much further south, we would head there first, and hit anything else we wanted to do on the way back up and if time allowed. With that, we headed towards the island of Chiloé.

The ferry crossing couldn’t have been easier. We arrived and drove right on, they closed the gate behind us and we were off.

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Parque Nacional Conguillío to Pucón

We were excited again to tackle another leg of our journey and after the necessary coffee and breakfast made in the van, followed by a quick stop at a grocery store, we hit the road.

We had mapped out a couple of route options the night before. As we worked out way south, we wanted to see something other than the Panamerican, so we opted to try a road of questionable quality that we thought might take us through some pretty countryside. As a complete bonus, it also happened to lead us through Parque Nacional ­Conguillío we had read about it in the guidebook and it sounded interesting, but we weren’t expecting much.P1060020 (1024x768)

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Salto del Laja

Most of the planning we’ve done for our trip has been van-related: mechanical repairs, camping equipment, a few safety/customization projects (more on those later)… we’ve spent almost no time coming up with an itinerary. That’s somewhat on purpose, since we have no idea what the roads will be like, what bad weather might pop up, or what other unforeseen delays might arise. So while we were waiting for the van to arrive, we made a rough outline of our priorities for the overall trip. The big must-see sights, and must-do activities that were on our South American bucket lists, along with how long we thought it would take to do or see all those things, plus travel between. That gave us an idea of how long we should allocate to each country or region. In addition, we were planning to rendezvous with a couple of good friends and travel together to Bolivia and possibly further, which helped us set a deadline for our time in Chile. From there, we figured we would fill in the gaps with allllllll the other things that sounded awesome.

With that, our plan was to drive south. Until the continent ends. And then – turn around.

So we started doing just that. We chose Salto del Laja as our next destination: partly because the guidebook called it a mini-Iguazu Falls (you all know Iguazu was a hit with me), partly because it seemed like a reasonable distance for us to drive in one day, and partly because quite a few travelers who had completed trips similar to ours had documented positive camping experiences there.

So, we started the day with a nice breakfast at our first little campsite…


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It was Friday. And we weren’t quite sure where we were going next, but we were happy to be ging somewhere. Over breakfast we figured out we wanted to make our way to Pichilemu, a surf town south of Valparaiso. We scouted a camping option there and it seemed like a good place for our first night sleeping in the van. So, after one last shower and gathering a few supplies, we made our way south.

We’ve already learned a few things about driving here. One: the maps we brought with us don’t do much, and the signage on the road doesn’t help much either. So our new navigation method is to route a course on the iPad when we have wifi and then pray that we don’t need to change our plans :) Second: unless we’re on the Panamerican highway which runs north to south through the center of the country, we probably won’t be going anywhere quickly.

Since we realized we wouldn’t be making good time anyway, we gave in and stopped at Vina Matetic, a winery on the outskirts of the Casablanca valley. We tasted a few wines sitting out on the patio while a group next to us shared a bottle over a game of cards. It was quite and sunny and a perfect first stop on our trip.

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Van Day!

Thursday morning I woke up feeling nervous. It was the day we were to pick up our van and, theoretically, start the trip that we thought we would have started a month ago.

Since deciding to take this trip we’ve learned a lot about how to ship a vehicle overseas. First we had to decide whether to do a Roll-On Roll-Off (or RORO), which means we hand over our vehicle and our keys at the dock, and then our vehicle takes a glorified ferry ride to our destination and we pick it up and hope that the person we handed our keys to didn’t call his cousins to come down and strip our vehicle of everything down to the copper wiring. Since we had hoped to load the van up with everything from camping equipment, to a spare tire, dishes, tools… we weren’t all that keen on providing the shipping company employees with complimentary access to all our worldly belongings. So, we decided against a RORO shipping option and instead chose to send our precious cargo in a 20 foot shipping container which would allow us to lock up the van and hold onto the keys until it reached Chile, presumably with all our stuff inside. A bit more expensive, but we thought it would be well worth it to arrive somewhat self-sufficient and with a few comforts from home.

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Vina del Mar

After a few days in Valparaiso, we were ready for a change of scenery and made plans to move a few miles up the road to the neighboring city of Vina del Mar. Since our boat was scheduled to arrive in a week, we were happy enough to stay nearby and explore the area a bit more. We also wanted to be close by in case we needed to take care of anything in advance – dealing with customs, meeting our shipping agent, or filing any paperwork. We don’t really know what to expect and staying close by gave us some peace of mind.

Once we checked out, our Airbnb host met us and offered us a ride to the metro station we wanted to reach. Since wandering around with our awkward luggage is anything but fun, we took him up on his kind offer and pretty soon we were on the metro making our way towards Vina del Mar. The violinist on the metro playing Christmas carols made my day :)

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Landing in Santiago again, we felt like total pros. We knew exactly where to go and what to do and the bus schedule and route… what a difference a couple of weeks make. We caught the bus from the airport, arriving at the bus station where we bought tickets found our platform and boarded a bus to Valparaiso, all in about 10 minutes. Total pros :) The bus trip out to the coast was an interesting glimpse into what the rest of our trip will be like.


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