Qeuelat, La Hunta, Chaiten – Carretera Austral, Chile

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Our next destination is Qeuelat National Park for its hanging glaciers.  We had to get to Coyhaique and then from there take a bus to Puyuhuapi, a village next to Qeuelat, in order to get bus to go to the national park.  Though quite small in size, Coyhaique was actually the second largest city in southern Chile.  We stopped by a little café, had our first set of Chilean-style seasoned hot dogs called “completo”, before shopping around there then bumping into Melissa (the America girl we met in Villa Cerro Castillo)’s mother-in-law selling artisan stuff in the market.  We looked around for barbeques but found them very expensive so decided to have some more meals at the same café.

After lunch we ran to the bus station for our 3pm bus (which I mistaken for 3:30) to Puyuhuapi.  We got in the village that night around 8pm.  After getting our groceries Pavel realized that he can’t find his $300 Northface jacket.  We looked around and realized that he probably lost it in Coyhaique.  Well, it’s a little late to go back another 5 hours tonight now, and we had our transportation for the national park scheduled for tomorrow.

Talking about going to the national park, there is a huge riot around the area and all the gas stations were either destroyed or blocked, effectively stopping all public transportations for the next several days.  We had the hardest time figuring out an alternative way to go to the national park that’s 22km away from this village.  We thought about renting a bike, then we found a tour agency with a group of other hikers sharing a car rental together, so we joined that.  When we came back to the hostel, the hostel owner told us someone in this village is going to pass the national park tomorrow morning and we could catch a ride we them.  We happily obliged despite the fact that we had to wake up at 4am in the morning, but a free ride in this situation is priceless.

Our ride arrived that morning half an hour earlier.  Unprepared, Pavel kept hurrying me up, “they threatened they gonna leave here without us!”  He came to me several times watching me furious packing and panicking.  We finally got onto the truck with these already unhappy people.  The car was going to Coyhaique, I almost felt that I should urge Pavel to go to Coyhaique with them to look for his jacket.  Then realizing that there is no transportation coming back due to the riot, our chance of reunit in a short time could be difficult.  We were dropped off by the national park in the dark.  Putting up our lights, we proceeded a 3 km walk into the entrance of the national park.  We got to the entrance around 6am in the morning and found several hikers already waiting at the ticket office.  “Aren’t you guys waiting for the ticket office to open?”  No we aren’t.  If they ain’t here to collect money, then it’s a free entrance J

We were the first ones getting to the glaciers that morning.  It was still covered under the misty clouds after the rain, quite disappointing.  Since we could see nothing, we decided to catch some sleep that we lost this morning.   So we laid ourselves on the bench and took a nap.  In the middle of my dreams I heard “Jen, it’s clear.”  Then I realized it’s Pavel’s voice and I woke up.  There, the glacier right in front of my eyes.

Since we were the first ones getting to the top, we were the first ones got off the mountain that day.  Walking back to the village, we were quite worried that we could not find any transportation going back to the village and we had 22+5km in front of us.  There weren’t many cars on the road that day, perhaps due to the riot.  We waved a couple cars and no one stopped for us – not even the police patrol car from Puyuhuapi stopped to pick us up.  Finally a long-bearded man with a long hair took us up in his truck.  Pavel put me in the front, and he hopped onto the truck’s wagon.

After arriving the village, we went to tourist information center and called the café that we ate lunch in Coyhaique – they did not find his jacket over there.  So now most likely Pavel left his jacket in the bus station or on the bus.  He called the bus station, but it was closed that day due to the riot.  Then someone told us that the bus that dropped us off here is in La Hunta – our next town.  So we proceeded to try to hitch a car going La Hunta.  It was quite worrysome trying to get a car since there was no public transportation available.  Every tourist heading out of the town is waiting at either side of the village to hitch a car.  We were fortunate to catch a bus from forestry association’s co-op.  Apparently it’s been picking up hitchhikers along its way.

We were dropped off La Hunta, and found the same bus that dropped us off in Puyuhuapi on the side of a street next to a house.  The drivers lived in this house which kinda doubled up as a ticket office as well.  We asked the drivers inside if we could try to find Pavel’s jacket.   Apparently they spotted nothing and we couldn’t find anything on the bus either.  We asked the drivers to help us to call the bus station in Coyhaique to check if they could find the jacket there, and these people laughed at us and refused to help.  Now finding Pavel’s Northface jacket seemed more and more remote.

Since these Chilean bus drivers treated us badly, I decided to take a chance and try to hitch a car to Chaiten… We waited by the side of the road and literally nothing stopped for us.  By 6pm we decided to call it a day and resorted to buy the bus ticket…. I guess that’s why these Chileans could treat their customers without any manner, because their customers don’t really have a choice.

We got in Chaiten in the pouring rain.  And upon arriving there our first priority is to buy a boat ticket going to Chiloé.  Unfortunately we got in a bit late for the same day departure, so we bought the next day ticket then start looking for a place to stay over for the night.  Well, since it’s raining, most of the hotels ran out of the space as all the campers took up their tents and rented out the hotels for the night.  After several tries and found all the hotels were full.  We gathered our gears under the porch of a grocery store and Pavel set out by himself to look for a place to stay. After waiting for a long time, he came back smiling, “I found a place, come.”  Following him, we got onto a truck, and the driver took us to a nice hotel.  Though it was a bit pricey – $50, we got a pretty nice suite to ourselves.  “I stopped by this place earlier and was told they were full.”  Pavel told me, “ but the owner caught up with me in his truck and told me there is one more room that I could look at, and I took it in right away.”

Nice choice.  Then I realized why Chaiten was so dusty and grey, because several years ago a nearby volcano erupted, leaving tons of volcano dusts everywhere in the town.  Some houses were buried under the ashes; even those who weren’t buried, they were left dusty and gray.

From Qeuelat, La Hunta, Chaiten – Carretera Austral, Chile, posted by Jenny Zheng on 6/24/2012 (77 items)

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