On Friday, February 22, we got up, had a quick breakfast at the hostel and headed for the bus company. We heard that that the bus across to Chile Chico, Chile left just after noon, so we hoped to still be able to get a ticket. The ideal scenario for the day was cross the border, get on the ferry across Lake General Carrera to Puerto Ibañez and from there get to Coyhaique, Chile, which would serve as our base for the weekend.
Things started off well as we were easily able to get a ticket to Chile Chico. The distance from Perito Moreno isn’t far, but with the stops at the Argentina-Chile border, it took us 3 hours. We immediately headed for the docks to enquire about tickets across the lake – a 2.5 hour journey that would save us 4 hours if we had to take a bus around. Again, we were in luck and purchased our ferry ride across. Now, the last part of our trifecta would be getting a bus on the other side once we landed to Coyhaique. We were told that this wouldn’t be a problem by the locals, but there’s always that chance that it won’t work out. We had a nice lunch in Chile Chico and headed off to an internet cafe while we waited to board.
At 5:30, our ferry headed across Lake General Carrera, which is shared by Argentina and known on the other side of the border as Lake Buenos Aires. It was a nice boat ride as we passed over the icy blue lake with mountains and volcanoes to the west. It reminded me a little of my Navimag ferry ride down to southern Chile a bit. The sun was out with few clouds in the sky and there was just enough of a cool breeze requiring a light jacket outside, but nothing more. The ride was also remarkable for the passenger mix. Most of the people were Chileans, not foreigners. There were a few of us. But, after traveling so long on the backpacker circuit, it was nice not to be surrounded by other tourists. I had a great chat with a grandmother with her granddaughter returning from a visit to Argentina.
We landed around 8PM in Puerto Ibañez and the buses were literally waiting for us. Matt and I found one and off we went to Coyhaique. I couldn’t believe our luck. We started the day knowing virtually nothing about how to navigate from the Argentinean border to Coyhaique, and yet, here we were – on our way.
We were dropped off at a hostel that both of our travel books recommended as good and cheap, Hostal Don Santiago. There was plenty of room so we dropped our stuff and headed into town for a late dinner.
On Saturday, we took the day off to veg out. I was surprised to see that the town was not crawling with tourists. This is central stopping point on the southern highway route and I expected massive crowds. We found out later that the high season is ending for the region so things had slowed down quite a bit. Also, as we later experienced, the tourist infrastructure wasn’t as developed here as in other areas so it’s a little harder to navigate. I’m sure that keeps people away too. I was happy for that. We found a great gourmet restaurant for dinner dining on grilled emu. We were the only ones in the restaurant which again seemed surprising. As we walked through town after dinner, we saw that most restaurants were empty.
On Sunday, Matt and I went to the local National Park for a hike. It wasn’t the most beautiful hike I’ve ever done, but it was nice to get out and do some activity. We had a nice talk with the local rangers afterwards (they had also let us in for the local rate of 800 pesos instead of 2000 pesos, i.e., $1.60 instead of $4.00. Afterwards, we went back into town for a quick dinner before heading back to the hostel to pack up.
Matt and I decided to split up after tonight. I wanted to rent a car and drive up the highway. The cost estimates were significant so Matt decided to move on. Plus, he had to start heading back home to Cuzco, Peru and needed to allow enough time to get back. So, Monday morning, Matt headed off to the bus station and I started looking for a rental car. The trip was changing again and it was time to look forward.
Originally Published February 25, 2008
Check out more posts on travel to Chile.