If we wanted to get a boat from Chiloe to Chaiten, it would be at least two more weeks. So, we decided to head north and backtrack several hours to Puerto Montt for our 6th time.
From here, another few hours south of Puerto Montt, we took a ferry from Caleta La Arena to Caleta Puelche. Now on the famous dirt Carretera Austral, we continued on to Hornopiren. This is it: Patagonia. Nothing will be easy from here south.
Although it was late in the day when we reached Hornopiren, we decided to stop by the ferry rampa to see about ferry logistics. Surprisingly, they were open and only merely smirked when I asked about the boats for the next few days. Two ferries cross daily, they can hold 20 cars each, and they are booked up for the next 8 days. They only run in January and February, and it’s getting really close to the end of February.
There was a waiting list, so I signed up as lucky number 33. If you are on the waiting list, you are expected to show up an hour before the departure and just wait.
It was pouring, so we decided it was a nice time to camp. There is a little campsite in Hornopiren behind the gas station with 4 sites and we had it to ourselves. No signs or anything – we just lucked out when we found it. Good thing, since cabanas here are booked with people waiting on the ferry and going for $100 USD a night.
Our spot had a covered table, so it wasn’t nearly as bad as I make it look in the photo below. A guy in a nearby cabana spotted us and actually came over and offered to help us if we needed anything- hot water, shower etc. I think he pitied us, but we were fine.
There were many discussions about what to do next. The problem was, we just didn’t know how likely it would be that we’d get on a ferry. Jason calculated the cost and time of going north and crossing back into Bariloche, Argentina– and both would be significant. We decided we would wait a day, try to learn more from the others waiting, and decide the next night.
At 8:45 the next morning, we just left Bode sleeping in bed and drove to the port. The ferry is scheduled to leave at 9:30, and at 9:35 cars and trucks with reservations were still lined up waiting to get on. Eventually, each was loaded backwards and tied down. The rest of us waiting just stood in the rain, compared space left on the boat with the number of cars still to go on. There was lots of head shaking and ‘mal‘s going around. I buddied up to a family and learned that this was their 3rd day of waiting. They said sometimes a few extra cars get on, sometimes none. We have to assume that many people give up waiting and go home, with their name still on the list. There was no way to tell how many people were truly waiting, but outside in the rain at 10:30, when the ferry finally left, I only noticed about 10 people.
I headed back to the office to make sure I was still on the list for the 2 pm ferry. Inside was a woman claiming she was next on the list (at number 14). She had waited 4 days.
We went back to the campsite and made some lunch. Then, headed back into town to see what supplies we could get. I went into 6 stores and only came out with eggs, bananas(!) and rubber boots. I didn’t mind waiting 4 days, but it was supposed to continue raining and if I was to wait outside twice a day for 2 hours I wanted to at least have dry feet.
The rain continued and we realized that every screw in the top from the solar panels was now leaking into the van. Everything is becoming a soggy mess. But, if you want the rainbow, ya gotta put up with the rain.