Villa la Angostura, Argentina - Castro, Chile
There is a thick, wintry frost as the sun breaks through and causes the top of the mountains to glow pink. Some peaks reflect in the still lakes below. Not a creature stirs. It is world-class scenery all the way from Villa la Angostura to the Argentina border post. This is unquestionably one of the world's most scenically stunning border crossings.
After getting our passports stamped, we soon pass a petrified forest, behind it a sheer granite peak soaring to the heavens. In places there is what must be very old virgin forest; wild in a way that other forests somehow are not. I guess as this national park is technically 'no man's land', this wilderness is practically devoid of human settlement. Yes, I missed that 6-1 in Concepcion last night, but this is pretty damn special.
As we climb higher we reach thick snow and deciduous trees. At Chilean customs, the drug dog has made a bee line for my rucksack and tapped it with his small and annoying, manicured paw. Little bastard. I know I am innocent of any crime but it isn't impossible for someone to stick stuff in your bag and remove it later, rather than risk it themself. And while i queue to get my entry visa to Chile, I cannot believe it but said dog has also given my hand luggage the paws down. I must admit my heart is pounding as I unpack everything. 'My doggy smells something in your bag'. I cannot believe he just said 'doggy'. And i am impressed that i managed not to burst out laughing.
The stress builds, and builds...turns out shep sniffed a small bag of salted nuts i forgot i had. James Bond i'm not.
I am going loopy with these long bus rides now. I feel absolutely done in, all in the name of exploring stuff; wanting to see what is around that next brow in the hill.
The next highlight is witnessing not one, not two, but three volcanic peaks above Puerto Varas. Suddenly the lakeside town looks amazing rather than slightly dull. Further on and Puerto Montt is a mess of a town with few redeeming qualities aside from the weird collection of wooden houses near the ferry terminal which look like fairy tale witches' houses.
After a change of buses and a ferry ride we reach Chiloe Island, the second largest island in South America, and home to fiercely independent islanders. Right on cue the weather has turned shockingly wet and windy. It is like being out in the middle of the North Atlantic in November.
Ancud is a big town with a decent amount of development, including a free municipal gym on the seafront very much in the style of a kids' playground. But the weather is truly shocking. I feel like I am in the Faroe Islands during an Atlantic storm.
Crosscountry from Ancud we pass through a fair amount of wilderness and witness the bizarre spectacle of very-thick-and-strange, perfectly white clouds edging slowly across forests, wooden churches and small settlements as if consuming them in some Warlock's fog. I can't quite put it into words but this is a rolling land fog quite unlike any I've seen anywhere else before.
I am bussed out. I am totally sick of the things. Thanks be that the place I wanted to stay at - a palafito (waterfront house on stilts) - has beds and it is unbelievably cosy and homely . Log fire, sea view, warm inside, interior made from wood. Thanks very much. Malbec, dinner, classical music, relax by the fireplace watching the rain lash down outside, (very comfy) bed. Good night.