Carretera Day 1: Villa Santa Lucia to Parque Nacional Queulat

While the road is silent at night—save for the rushing of water—morning brings a steady passing of box trucks heading south loaded with supplies. We wake up, have breakfast riverside, and get back on the road. All morning we wind through forest, passing by one waterfall after another, each leading to a little stream with a tiny bridge seemingly too small to have its own name, but with a sign indicating otherwise. On the road we run into Jordan and Anne again and we all head to La Junta for a typical Chilean lunch of meat smothered in butter and your choice of either mashed potatoes or rice.

The weather is great. Anne and Jordan tell us that the caretaker of the fishing hostal they camped at the night before predicted we had four days to enjoy the sun and heat before the more typical rainy weather returned.

After lunch we get back on the road and about 30km further down the gravel Carretera the landscape changes—when we come upon Puerto Puyuhuapi, built on the edge of a fjord, we encounter the sea for the first time since we left Pichilemu three months earlier.

According to our guidebook, four Germans settled this little port in 1935 to open a rug factory. The town grew around the factory that is still in operation today and you can tell from the paved town roads and well-kept buildings that this town, while small, is well organized and has an income source beyond tourism.

We check our email using the free WiFi (pronounced wee-fee) provided by the town, buy a couple bags of overpriced ice, and begin to wind our way south with steep cliffs both above us to our left and below us to our right, leading straight down to the salty water. As we head out of town towards our camping destination in the National Park a condor jumps up from the road and flies barely a meter over Jordan and Anne who are riding in front of us.

Once in Parque Nacional Queulat we set up camp and take a quick walk to a viewpoint for the park’s main attraction: Ventisquero Colgante, a name we decide sounds like made up Spanish but actually translates to “hanging glacier.”

It. Is. Awesome.

In the distance we see an ice blue glacier being cradled by granite with water pouring from the bottom, tumbling down to the valley below. The water feeds an aqua blue lake that drains into a rushing river with so much water moving so fast.

We decide we’ll get a closer look in the morning and head back to camp to cook, drink wine, and chat with our new friends.

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