Chile - March & November 2011

From March 3rd to March 12th, 2011

We are officially in South America!

Upon our arrival in Santiago, we contacted a customs agent, in order to get our vehicle out of the port as soon as possible. Everything was arranged, we only had to wait until the vessel arrival on Sunday. We spent part of the weekend in Santiago with our friend Paola, met in India a few years before. The downtown looked like some European cities. The cars were new and the streets were clean, people looked like they had everything they needed. Paola drove us to a less glamorous part of town. At Vega Chica market, you could be in India, but here was the place to taste one of the local dishes called Porotos con Rienda. Huuum !

Streets dogs were still present, but here, no more little Mexican skeletons. They were big teddy bears who did not have time to waste looking for junks as they were far too busy sleeping or playing. In Valparaiso, the houses were colorful and it was nice to walk in the historical center overlooking the city (Cerro Alegre) and the port. We even saw the unloading of Baya Castillo, the boat which was carrying our van.


In the morning, helped by the customs agent Alan Smith, we began the formalities by getting our transit permit from the customs office. We paid the container insurance, then the gating fees and customs agent charges. Despite our training in freight forwarding, the costs for the exit of the port seemed a bit high. The most important was that our vehicle was in our hand at the end of the day and arrived with not scratch. We paid 1875 USD for the transport from Colon in Panama to Valparaiso in Chile, plus about 800 USD for port charges at destination. Besides this, while in the subway, our wallet disappeared.

Let's go south! Here, no more free roads, there were tolls, and gasoline was more expensive than in North America. We took this all as a game and stopped thinking about money. It was like playing Monopoly, we paid for tolls, a right to park, a night in a hotel, etc.

We left the cosmopolitan area and started to travel closer to the nature. We crossed the wine region and rediscovered the cheese. We then approached the regions of rivers, lakes and volcanoes. As the nights got cooler, it was a pleasure to enjoy some hot thermal baths to warm up in the moonlight before a good night's sleep. The region of Lake Villarica offered many option for adventures. We went on a rafting trip on the Upper Trancura River (class IV). Last smile, Devil's throat and Rapid of fear, were the names of the rapids and falls we crossed with adrenaline rushes, but without falling into the water ... At some point, we had to jump a 5 meters cliff in order to bypass an really big waterfall.


We continued our journey through Valdivia, where sea lions swam the 15 km of river to relax on a jetty , in front of the fish market. We met Sven, a German on vacation in his wife's family. He invited us to warm up in the house. We felt on the images of the earthquake in Japan. The tsunami wave was supposed to touch the Chilean coast later in the night. Valdivia was the epicenter of the greatest earthquake of history in 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5 on the Richter scale. The family explained us how they experienced the various events, including last year earthquake.

Osorno was where we left the Panamerican Highway to reach the Argentinean border on the other side of the Andes. After crossing the 41 kilometers between the Chilean and Argentinean customs offices, our vehicle got rejected because we did not have any third party insurance. But where was the insurance salesman who was usually at each border? On the Chilean side, accross the mountain. We went three times across the pass in the same day, which was an extra 82 kilometers on our journey!

Click here to read the following story in Argentina.

From March 21st to March 26th, 2011

We temporarily left Argentina to reach Torres del Paine national park in Chile. This is a group of small mountains, including the Cerros del Paine, forming three granite pillars. We made the seven hours trek to Mirador Las Torres, along with a few snowflakes on the last part. It was only once we reached the top that we discovered the beautiful panorama. A lake was surrounded by the huge pillars and everything was covered of snow. The various lakes in the park had a beautiful color. We especially liked the Laguna Amarga, with its flamingos. We spent the night under a beautiful sky full of stars.


We reached the Strait of Magellan in Punta Arenas. Unfortunately the Magellanic Penguins trip on Magdalena Island was canceled due to strong winds. Despite this inconvenient, we had the opportunity to see a smaller colony near Punta Arenas. In the free zone, we purchased some warmer sleeping bags and a new gas stove in order to be able to cook inside the van and get some heat at the same time (which was not possible with our gasoline stove).


We reached Tierra del Fuego in Porvenir by ferry. We traveled a few more hours on a dirt road without crossing any soul. The island was named Tierra del Fuego because of the fires made by the natives which Hernando de Magallanes saw from his boat.

Click here to read the following story in Argentina.

From the 30th to the 31st of March 2011

Once the Chilean border crossed, we decided to go back to the magical King penguins experience. A few miles away, we met Yvonne and Raphael, from Zurich. Disappointed not having found the hiding place of the penguins, we offered them to follow us. Nearby, we felt on Jean-Jacques & Martine, who did not yet go through the explanations we gave them a few days earlier. It was all together that we spent this magical time on the beach admiring the penguins and a great sunset. We were pleasantly greeted by the Estancia Tres Hermanos, which provided a windbreak for the roof tent of Yvonne and Raphael's vehicle.

Click here to read the following story in Argentina.

From the 29th of October to the 15th of November 2011

After a few days without appetite (due to altitude sickness), it felt good to go down to San Pedro de Atacama. At 2200 meters, the climate was very pleasant and it was the opportunity to relax on sunny terraces for breakfasts. The touristy village of mining origin is located in the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions in the world.


After discovering beautiful lagoons in the south of Bolivia, it was time to immerse ourselves in those of the Atacama Desert. We spent an afternoon throwing ourselves into the Ojo del Salar, two holes filled with lightly salted water, in the middle of the desert. The water was a little cold, but it was a good excuse to spend a night under the stars, while tours spent only half an hour and disappeared after sunset. We then visited the Laguna Tebinquiche, too salty for swimming, but beautiful for photo shots. On the way back, we made a last stop at the Laguna Cejar. Here, it was like swimming in the Dead Sea, the density of the salty water made us float without effort...


Back to San Pedro de Atacama, we met again our Austrian friends, Christina and Christoph, encountered a few months earlier in the garage of Ernesto Hug, in La Paz. After two days sharing stories, we spent our last night near the Valle de la Luna.


Our stay in San Pedro de Atacama gave us the opportunity to explore the sky with Exploration del Cielo Austral, an observatory owned by a French, located in the desert. It was with a touch our humor that Alain made us discover stars, planets and constellations through its telescopes. More details on

In the middle of the night, our van started moving, as when we drive on a dirt road. A glance through the curtains conforted us, it was not our van which was rolling but the earth which was shaking ... Because the country is placed at the junction of two tectonic plates, earthquakes are part of Chileans life. During our stay in San Pedro de Atacama, we felt the earth shake twice, at a magnitude of 5.2 and 5.4 on the Richter scale.

The road for Peru was long, desert landscapes were monotonous, the sea shore was full of rubbishes, we did not recognize Chile. After a night in Iquique, we made it to Arica, the last town before entering Peru. We were warmly welcomed by Jennifer and Jeremy in the guest house "Arica Unite", where we enjoyed the best internet connection since we are in South America !!! We thought spending just a night and cross the border the following day. In the end, we spent almost a week there. It was also the opportunity for Aless to get back on a surfboard, surrounded by sea turtles.

Click here to read the following story in Peru.

See the album "Chile - March & November 2011"