Backpacking Eight Months On the Road
By Bus Through South America
By David Rice
Page Twenty Three
Santiago, Chile, Backpacking by Bus In
Eight Months On the Road
By David Rice
From El Chitan I headed north on a local bus and later I would hook
up with a series of buses that go over the Carreterra Austral
highway, a road in varying states of repair that runs right beside the
Andean peaks. This route has beautiful scenery with high lakes
surrounded by mountains but the roads in places are barely passable
after a harsh winter. The towns along this route were tiny villages,
just coming out of their winter slumber as they bloom with
springtime flowers and flowering fruit trees. Lupines crowded the
roadsides while cherry trees and apricot groves grow beside the
road. Many rivers came streaming from the mountains, feeding these
lush valleys as the winter snows melted. Guanaco, llama, and Emus
grazed in the wild, far out in the fields and meadows below the
I kept working north through this idyllic scene on a network of dirt
roads, gravel tracks, and finally pavement as I headed for Puerto
Aisen where I would catch a Navmag cruise ship north through the
archipelago and back to my starting place at Puerto Montt.
In Puerto Montt I boarded a Navmag passenger and cargo ship
combination for an uneventful passage through the maze of islands
that form the archipelago and I made landfall at Puerto Puerto Varas,
(Montt). Before I could get too far from the dock, a lady approached
with an offer of a room in her home and I took it. I wanted to stay
two nights to rest and didn't have the energy to shop for a place.
Rested after a good nights sleep I toured the area by local bus
making a day trip out to Puerto Varas, a quaint town on Todos los
Santos Lake and taking another bus through a beautiful valley to the
foot of Calbucao and Osornos Volcanoes at the village of Petrohue.
From the village I hiked along the river and then up to the Osornos
Volcano for a memorable view of the river valley between the two
volcanoes. I returned to Puerto Varas (Montt) in late afternoon my
memory full again of images of this incredible natural beauty. I rose
early the next day to catch a bus to Santiago, a 28-hour trip.
After arriving in Santiago I took the metro to the house where I had
first stayed on my way south. The lady had a full house but had
another place where she offered me a private room on a tree-lined
street for the same price.
I had earlier made a reservation via the internet for a trip by the
airline Lan Chile to Easter Island. Once I arrived in Santiago I
confirmed my reservation and they booked me on the following day
for a $700 round trip flight, a figure about twice what a Chilean pays.
The airline flies three times a week to Easter Island, 2,500-miles off
the Chilean coast. Locally called Rapa Nui by its 2500 residents,
70% of whom are native Pascuenses, speakers of a Polynesian
language, Easter Island officially speaks Spanish.
Our jet touched down at Hanga Roa airfield and from there I walked
the entire island the first day, about 12 hours of hiking. The path took
me through all the heads, including some that had been knocked
down by a huge wave and had been replanted with the help of
donations from the Japanese. Volcanic rock was everywhere and
although the Island had been denuded of trees long ago, there now
are Eucalyptus trees growing.
Most heads faced inland with just a few facing the sea, one of the
many enigmas that still defy researcher's understanding as they try to
make some sense of the Island archaeologically. The stones tell them
that the inhabitants started carving the colossal figures in the 7th
century AD and continued up until the 15th Century. The rest is a
I stayed in a private home out on the tip of the island at the edge of
the ocean where I paid $35 a night. I stayed four nights, plenty of
time to see the whole island, including the volcano, the standing
heads, and the quarry where the ancient people carved the heads.
I was hitchhiking one day when a local gal picked me up. I asked
about all the horses that I had seen roaming free.
"Oh yes," she said, in a matter of fact way, "We eat them"