Day 282: Villa Castillo & Marble Caves – Chile – Mar 26th

Sleeping in later than usual, we were welcomed by the warming sunshine on our cabin. Making the best of what we had, we made another pot of vermicelli and ate it outside in the garden. There wasn’t much distance to cover so we took our time and decided to head back on the road at 10am. We stopped at the supermarket for the last two packs of vermicelli and at the cash register, Alan even taught the attendant how to cook them. Seems like the locals have no clue how to cook them, so we’re REALLY wondering how they even get them in the first place!?!? We headed to ATM for some cash. Problem with the card….. !?!? Shit, so we head back to the hostel where the internet connection is fantastic (no sarcasm!) to Skype our bank… they didn’t have a problem so we tried again. Turns out, the ATMs didn’t have a connection to the VISA network since our MasterCard cards work… damn. Then we needed to get gas, since the gas stations are spaced far apart and we try to fill up whenever we can to avoid any unnecessary surprises, and then we couldn’t find the stupid gas station after asking around so we headed back to the hostel once again to ask…. haha, what a morning! But wait, there’s more!

Finally by noon, we were ready to go! The towns here are very small, and there’s usually two roads. One coming in, and another heading out, and we as we drove closer to the road out we see two hitchhikers. Thinking about how bad the bus service was, their standard backpacker’s look we said why not and were on our way out with two new friends! They were a nice newly-wed couple from Poland, traveling in South America for their honeymoon!

The drive was extremely scenic the moment we left town. Twisting and winding, uphill and downhill, we were driving along the coastline of Lago Carrera. It was an amazing lake with a distinct hue of blue and a wind swept surface rippling across the waters, and the Andes were the backdrop. There were a few mines, and a few small cattle/sheep ranches would pop up here and there. The more frequent sights were wooden signs advertising fishing, horse riding, cabanas and asado (grilled meats) as a form of cottage-country travel for people. Those log cabins look very, very cozy, but we must beat on!

One big motivation for us to come to this area was because through talking with our HK friends from trekking, they mentioned about how they failed to visit the marble caves at town called Puerto Tranquilo (awesome name!). Googling some pictures, we were so mesmerized at the colours and contours of the caves and really wanted to go. When we were at Chile Chico, and they only had tours going every Mon/Thurs/Sat, and we weren’t waiting 3 days. To add insult to injury, it costs $100USD per person!! So we dropped our hopes and gave up going to the (now even more attractive because it is unattainable) caves…. but hearing from our new Polish friends, they were saying that it was possible to get a boat outside the town and it was cheaper. They heard this from a girl who rode a bike 120km through hilly+rough gravel roads to see them…talk about dedication!

The scenery while we drove definitely made it awesome, but we stopped so many times for pictures and the poor road conditions made it really slow despite being only 150km or so away. We were quite afraid that, this being rural Patagonia, that the boats would stop after a certain time, and we didn’t know how far it was to go or how long it took! All these uncertainties layered above the anticipation for doing something unexpected and previously thought unattainable made it oh-so-exciting. Alan had to channel his inner Colin McRae rally racing skills, and we made it to the outskirts of the town, but Alan actually sped past several signs without reading them properly…we turned back in curiousity, but turns out the sign was pointing down towards the dock for a trip to the caves!!!!!!!!!!!!!! EXCITED. And to make things more fun, the road down was a 45degree winding dirt road with hairpin turns!

We got to the dock, and our Polish friends with his Spanish skills, talked us into a boat taking us out for $15USD per person. FOR SURE! Everyone was so happy and excited! FINALLY WE CAN SEE THE MARBLE CAVES! The boat ride from the dock was only 5mins, and when we got there……anticipation turned into a bit of disappointment…. The marble formations were really pretty and totally amazing as we sailed our boat right into the caves, but the were darkly lit as the mountains blocked the sun as it was already in the Western horizon… It was nice, but nothing compared to what we expected! Aahhhhh! Oh well, not everything’s perfect.

One big constraint with our Polish friends was that, they had a flight to catch, and they were never sure if there was any transport to get them to the airport. We ended up convincing them to join us as we went further along Ruta 7, closer to the airport and more likely there would be transport. We drove 3 more hours into the dark, and the slippery roads and tight corners made driving a bit more dangerous especially under moonlight. There’s a full moon, and it was extremely scenic as it casts its glow onto the overlooking silhouettes of the mountain ranges.

It was late, we were tired but we were so glad we saw the lights of what can be called a town. It probably has more than 10 houses, too! It’s hard to know what to expect around here! We looked around for a hostel using our LP, but turns out the hostel didn’t have any signs, it was really just some person’s house, and for some strange fucking reason, they were FULL. We drove around, asked 2 more hotels, and they were also full! W T F? We really doubt them, but apparently there’s a Chile vs Uruguay World Cup qualifying match going on, and we think they are all in a bad mood because Chile is losing. One last try, we landed ourselves in a simple but clean hostel with cheap beds at $15USD per person. FOR A BED. W T F Chile. At least it’s clean.

We wanted to get here at Villa Castillo to do a day-hike up to see the mountains, but our hostel owner says a 2-day hike is required as it’s a long walk. So, we can’t do a day-hike tomorrow but our Polish friends are much happier, because now we can drive them to the airport and save them the uncertainty of waiting for a bus and waking up at 6am to wait for one! Awesome!!

And now, we’re off to bed while the cows are having a mooing party in the distant. Not joking… cows have been mooing in the fields non-stop since 10pm, and WE CAN HEAR THEM IN OUR ROOM. Haha, you can’t make this stuff up.

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