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Published: April 13th 2010
Over the Border, again
After our time on Chiloe we returned to Pte Montt to Hostel Suizo and it's owner Rossy for a few days rest, to catch up on washing, phone home and all the things that are impossible to do whilst in a kayak. Again we had a great stay with Rossy and were lucky enough to again meet up with the Dutch couple Koos and Nicolin, along with a fellow cyclist they met en route, Albert from Switzerland, we had a lovely evening together before we embarked on our trip to El Bolson.
Ram as per usual didn't want to take the easy route to Bariloche to meet our Australian travelling friends from Torres Del Paine, no he wanted to do it the most difficult way, which involved buses, walking , ferries and boats across several lakes, followed by more walking from Chile across the border into Argentina. We had a bus ticket for the 7.45am bus to Lago Tagua Tagua, lucky for us we were early as the bus left the station at 7.35, and if we had been at our normal pace we would have missed it, so be warned if you ever think
of doing this trip.
It was a fairly painless and uneventful trip of about four and a half hours. We arrived at Lago Tagua Tagua where we were to take a ferry across to the other side of the lake to meet up with a bus to take us on to somewhere between. The bus to Lago Tagua Tagua just stops outside a cafe for about 20mins whilst waiting for the ferry to come then drives you the last half a kilometer to the shore where we then walked onto the ferry, quite a small one that took at a squeeze five cars. We knew there would be a bus waiting at the other side (a really lovely 30mins trip), but we had to somehow organise a boat to pick us up at the edge of Lago Azul. We decided to ask a few people on the ferry if they knew the family we were told to stay with after crossing Lago Azul - Miguel and Miroslava Egger - and in the end spoke to the captain of the ferry and he radioed ahead for us. We dully got on the bus but were unsure where we were to
The two small ferries
somehow mannaged to pack five cars and a truck
get off, all we had were these two names. The bus driver was really helpful and when the bus got to Llanada Grande he stopped and took Ram into the police office, where they explained to Ram over a detailed map where the family house was and where the road was, they again radioed Miguel this time taking notes of where he was to meet us and thus they were able to tell the bus driver where to let us off the bus. We were dropped in the middle of nowhere with a muddy track to the left, it was pouring with rain and we were soaked within minutes, but we trudged on down the track and after about half a kilometer we noticed a man to the left by a barn, we went down to find that he was with a group of people about to go off to the Lago Azul to kayak, and they were expecting us as we were all to walk to the edge of the lake together. Ahead of us were two huge bulls pulling a cart with the kayaks and bags of the group. Ram and I had to walk in the mud
and rain, up and down slippery slopes carrying our rucksacks - that means all our belongings, (about 35kg for Ram and another probably 20kg for me), but it wasn' t too far about two kilometers, so it was over fairly soon. As we approached the lake it was clear to see why it was named Lago Azul, the colour was incredible and the water so so clear, my eyes had tears - it was so beautiful.
We were met by a smiling Miguel and taken to the boat, a small wooden craft with an engine, we were loaded, along with bags of the kayakers and a new travelling companion, a large smelly ram, (no not Ram a real ram), it was funny to see the pushing and shoving to get the poor sheep onto the boat. We then set off across this beautiful big, clear lake to Miguel's home on the other side of the lake. The trip was over all too soon but in some ways I was happy as I had gotten quite cold. Then I had a good laugh at Ram helping to unload the ram (standing like a 5yo laughing like a hyena pointing at
Fine grand oxes
They carry the kayaks and all luggage
me and giggling for literally five minutes). The homestead, this is the only way I can describe the place as there were chickens, ducks, turkey's, sheep, a pony, pigs, dogs, cats and bee hives all around, is a pretty wooden home with the most spectacular views back across the lake, and the shore line was wonderful but for me so so dangerous as it was covered with the most amazing and tempting driftwood I have seen, Ram had to drag me away, I don't think he wanted to carry an extra five kilos of wood to El Bolson. We were taken into the lovely warm kitchen where Miguel's wife Miroslava was kneading dough for bread. At about five we were given tea, coffee and homemade bread, jam, cheese and butter, before we were shown our room and able to take a nice hot shower. We were sort of expecting supper and because of this did not eat much with tea, but supper did not come, so be prepared. We think that perhaps somewhere we got lost in translation as we thought that the kayakers would stay overnight there but they did not perhaps the Eggers did not realized we were
coming to stay and therefore did not prepare anything. For them supper seemed to be a ritual of drinking Mate (kind of herbal tea) around the hot tub and eating pieces of the recently baked bread with some tasty homemade cheese. We went to sleep early as the next day was going to be hard and long.
We talked to Miguel about how to get to El Bolson, it turned out that we had ahead of us a 45 minute walk to the first boat over Lago las Rocas, then another boat across Lago Inferior and after that we had to walk over the border and along the edge of Lago Puelo (already Argentina) to the road, about 6 hours! Apparently this was the best way for us to do this as it was Sunday and either the Argentinian boat across Lago Peulo was not working or the prices were inflated over the weekend, At least that was what we were told. I was not fully sure due to my pathetic ability at Spanish, suffice to say it was to be a long walk for us on the second leg of the journey.
The next day started with
rain but cleared quite quickly to our relief. Miguel contacted the boat men to pick us up. It was an easy 40 minutes walk from the homestead to the shore of Lago Las Rocas. (It is possible to detour the lake on foot via another route but it takes about seven hours). Fear hit us as we had to wait for about five minutes until we heard the sound of a motor boat approaching, that was Cerefin who took us a 30 minutes journey across the lake (costs CL$20000) from there we walked another five easy minutes to the police / border control station to stamp the passports and officially we left Chile. Out and right of the office we walked down towards the Lago Inferior where we met Fernando, Miguel's son, who took us across the lake - another 30 minutes motor boat and CL$20000. There,on a sandy shore, to our surprise three teenagers waited to hop on his boat. In a way it gave us some sense of security to see more people on this route. But because they didn't carry any bags with them I thought there was a little community nearby, but there wasn't. Accompanied by
the dogs that were left behind by the teens we started walking on this sandy beach into the unknown. We knew that from here begins the last leg of our journey - a detour of Lago Puelo - a potentially six hours walk (our suggested worst case scenario ETM) but it may take only three hours (the shortest time we were told). Five minutes walk on a comfortable pathway led us to the Chile / Argentina border post - another sense of security. Then after another two minutes walk we reached to the end of the pathway and to a river that we didn't know how to cross - the two logs of wood balanced across the river did not look safe enough! Sense of security, confidence, bravery, challenge - all these beautiful words evaporated at once. I tried to stay calm and took off my rucksack to check alternatives ways. My calmness did not work well on Liz who changed gears to survival mode and stepped on the two logs of wood which were balanced across the river and crossed to the other side. The try would have been a glorious success but her front bag fell to the
river as she tried to balance herself. I ran after it, skipping above the rocks like a goat, my well-over-20kg rucksack on my back, I ran into the water and almost got it but missed it. Frantic Liz behind ran further down the stream and rescued the poor wet bag from drowning. From now on I felt as if Liz's mood changed and that no empathy was to be shown to me. We crossed over the logs to the other side of the river. As we understand, this is the way to cross the river from this way but it does not look safe, especially not when carrying a heavy rucksack and another front pack. I looked at the option of crossing via the rocks further down the stream - I think it is safer but wetter, yet possible. Five minutes walk ahead on a well defined trail led us to a signpost facing towards the Chilean border, this is the dropping point for the boats that come from the other end of Lago Puelo. According to the signpost we had to retrace our steps back to the river and then right and up along the river and away from
the lake we had to make like a horseshoe detour. The trail was marked by the odd yellow-paint marks and led to a wooden bridge across the river which connects to the Chilean part of the trail around Lago Inferior. But as we came by boat we did not see a connection to this trail from the drop point. If we knew we would have asked Fernando the direction to this path, if exists at all. We continued ahead and along the river, passed the bridge and as the footpath turned right bound entering into a forest of very tall trees, we were again facing to Argentina, the lake to our right, the height of the mountain to our left, the sound of the falling of the odd branch in the background and the occasional yellow paint ahead - we hoped that the trail would keep flat, but it didn't. After sometime we started ascending what slowed down my pace until I stopped after an hour and a half - we had lunch. Just before we finished our lunch two Argentinian guys reached us. They were heading back to Lago Puelo and told us that we need a raft for
crossing a river before the end of the route. We didn't know about that but they promised to ask the raft operator to wait for us there at 18:30. After this lunch break our energy level was up again and as we provided now with a promise that the route should not take us more than three hours we pressed on. The route is really not that tough, it is the enormous weight that we carried that made it so difficult for us. In all the treks that we did in S.AM. we never carried the full equipment but here in addition we had an extra of food and water thus I assume in total we carried almost 60kg between us.
An hour and a half ahead we reached to the Argenitian border police control where we had our passports stamped again. You cannot imagine the feeling we had as we recognised the buildings behind the woods. We probably needed to taste that sense of civilization to endow us for the last part of this journey. Secretly I was hoping for a lift by their boat... It is placed in a beautiful point by a little bay off the
lake. From there it was only 4.2km to the end of the trail but the first 2km were a notorious up hill again going far away from the lake into the mountain, sewing yet again another doubt. We followed the yellow marks, our loyal guides on this trek and reached to another signpost showing we had only 1.7km to the end. I counted my steps to countdown the distance left and then there was another plot of land with some three empty buildings, few dogs, a cat and a white horse. We could easily enter that land but from here the yellow marks disappeared into a bush, beyond a serpentine fence. In another direction a small pathway led through and beyond another bush. We put down the bags and Liz went after the yellow marks and I followed the mysterious new pathway. It took me to the lake were some fishermen stood on its bank, and to Pablo, a young lad that was looking for some wild mushrooms (to get high). I didn't find a common language with Pablo even though he spoke English very well, but Liz, who can befriend anyone and who knows something about anything, did. Pablo
said he didn't know about a raft crossing of a river and / or about anyone who was waiting for us, but he was kind to offer his help and guided us across to the campsite where he had been staying since August - that's what he said. We had to cross three streams of the river Puelo before we reached to the other bank where the yellow marks, now on timber posts, reappeared. Stupidly we didn't change shoes. My boots were already wet since the attempt to rescue the bag at the beginning of the walk. It took two days to dry them, but that forced rest was a bless.
At this point we could finally smile with pride in ourselves. We did it! I always preferred to make a trek for the purpose of travelling rather than travel for the purpose of trekking.. And here we did it and it was wonderful. Though tough, it was beautiful, surprising, surely off the beaten path. But it wasn't over yet. It was 19:38 and we were few minutes from the campsite where we only waved hi to Pablo's friends and surprise-surprise saw the dogs that left us for the
Argentinian guys. We had to reach to the bus stop of this camp before 20:00 as Pablo told us it was the last bus to El Bolson. How he came all of a sudden to our help - this Pablo - I say with owe. We would probably have crossed the river without his help, but surely it would have taken us longer. Yet, we wouldn't know about the bus without him. Thank you Pablo and we wish you all the best.
As the bus arrived we had to leave behind two lovely wood poles that helped a lot on the walk. Wet tired and smelly we head towards El Bolson to our last adventure for this day - to find a place to sleep. At the minute Liz touched the bed she fell asleep and her cravings for a hot shower faded to a dream. We slept well and in the morning we found a nice cafe where we had a good nutritious breakfast. We walked around El Bolson which we think is a nice place to stay, calm and neat, we looked at some souvenir shops and art shops getting inspired and killing time until our afternoon
bus to Bariloche where we were to meet Byron and Marika, our dear friends.
"When things go wrong what a joy is to test your soul and see if it has endurance and courage" (Zorba the Greek)
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