(November 13 – written by Dave)
It’s raining here in Puerto Montt today – perhaps a good day not to be riding. I think we are going to see some wet on the Carretera Austral, it’s just part of the territory. So, we’ll have to get over riding and camping in the rain. Oh well.
We’ve made good use of the wet day off. We figured out the first couple of ferries south of here. It is not clear if you have to purchase tickets in advance or not but we at least were able to verify that there are plenty of seats available, so we’ll go with that.
We also managed to find white gas for our camp stove. White gas is called benzina blanca here in Chile. The outdoor shops that sell stoves using white gas don’t sell white gas. In fact, some of the shops told us that they didn’t know where we could purchase white gas – sort of odd to sell equipment without knowing how to get one of main components to allow you to use it. Other shops told us to buy white gas at hardware stores. North of Puerto Montt, the hardware stores all told us to buy white gas at the pharmacies. The pharmacies told use to buy it at the hardware stores. And the circle continued. Today, our luck changed, we found a hardware store that happily sold us a litre of benzina blanca – woohoo – mission accomplished.
The next chore was to get my hair cut. I found a cheap salon in old-town – they took all of 5 minutes and charged me $4USD. I’m still chasing Nancy’s trip record of $2.40 USD that she set back in July in Huancayo, Peru. I may be running out time and low cost countries for this record. Perhaps I can try again when we get back to Argentina, if their currency takes a bit more of a dip between now and then.
Our last task was to map out our days ahead and figure out a schedule to manage our mobile phone plans. We’ll be in Chile for another 30 days, then in Argentina for 10, back in Chile for a week, then back in Argentina again for about another week. There aren’t any prepaid phone plans that let you “roam” between Chile and Argentina and back, so we had to figure out the recharge rates and days. We have a plan now, so that’s sorted – of course it may all be for nought if there is no mobile signal down south, which is highly likely.
Jobs done, we had a look around Puerto Montt. As I noted yesterday, it is a bit of a rough looking town, lots of shady characters. It feels better in the daylight at least. We wandered along the waterfront and managed to find kilometre zero of the Carretera Austral. There isn’t any fancy sign, it’s just a normal roadside mileage marker – could be missing a marketing opportunity there folks. We’ll ride past the sign tomorrow on the way out of town, with only 1,240k left of the CA to ride from there.
Puerto Montt is a fairly new city. It was founded some 300 years after Osorno, as part of the large 1850 German/European immigration push. Its strategic seaside port location meant that it pretty quickly passed all the older cities and became the largest city in southern Chile. The economy has port and shipping components but the largest industry in modern times has been aquaculture, and in particular salmon and trout. Fish farming is big business here with Chile providing as much as 38% of the world’s salmon and trout – just slightly behind Norway. The late 2000’s global financial crisis, along with a 2007 outbreak of infectious salmon anemia (ISA) had a massive impact on the fish industry, and thus the fortunes of Puerto Montt. Ten years on both are still in a recovery mode.
Having learned how important that the salmon industry is to Chile, we were happy to choose a seafood restaurant for dinner tonight. But even more fun, we got to share the meal with Philipp and Tine. They put in a big effort today to meet us before we leave town tomorrow – they are heading north from here, we are heading south. This WILL be the last time we see them on this trip but we had a great time tonight reliving Peru, Bolivia and almost 2,500 miles of the trip together. As a catch up, Philipp managed to lose yet another electronic device (camera) but otherwise they are both doing great. We’ll see you down the road somewhere chicos!
So tomorrow we head out on the CA. Rain is forecast for the next week or so. No point in whingeing about it, onwards we go… CA reports will follow as we get connected.