Sailing Across the Andes

Written by Marion Brennan
(One of two winning entries in the Travel & Water Writing Competition.)

Andes: Disembarking at Puerta Peulla
Disembarking at Puerta Peulla

We recently visited Chile and embarked on an amazing journey. Our plan was to move on to Argentina. But Chile is a long narrow country and once explored from North to South, the idea of doing it in reverse in order to visit Argentina, just next door, is daunting.

But there is a great alternative. Go East. Cross the Andes. What an adventure to go by bus and boat from Puerto Montt in Chilian Patagonia to Bariloche in Argentina! And it can be done in only one day. Arrangements were made through an efficient local agency. Our adventure would begin early the following day.

The first leg was by bus to Petrohue via Puerto Varas where our luggage was checked through to the final destination, a real plus. The route follows the shoreline of tranquil Lago Lanquihue, and is overlooked by the awe-inspiring snow-capped volcanoes Volcan Orsono, and Volcan Calbuco, both over 2000 metres high.

Volcan Orsono
Volcan Orsono

At Petrohue a large catamaran waits on the western edge of Lago Todos Los Santos to take passengers east across to Peulla. Excited folks clamber aboard, the fortunate ones finding seats on deck with cameras at the ready.

On both sides of the lake steep cliffs, one side backed by the Volcan Puntiagudo. Dramatic! We glide over glassy waters, past snow-capped mountains and rushing waterfalls, taking shots of seagulls swooping to swipe snacks from shaky fingers. Sure to impress the folks back home.

Peulla is a small lakeside hamlet with a modern hotel built in alpine style. Here visitors arriving by ferry can have a meal break and even stay the night. We had a picnic at the lakeside then wandered the extensive hotel gardens full of flowering shrubs.

Relaxing along the way
Picnic at the lakeside

Whilst we chose to continue the journey, a group of older tourists decided to have a leisurely lunch then stay overnight in comfort at the hotel, a welcome break no doubt. The hotel offers a selection of local tours which could tempt folks to stay even longer.

After our stopover, we left the hotel and a bus took us through dense forest, over a rough road, to bustling Lago Frias where we prepared to cross the lake on a much smaller ferry to Puerto Alegre. At this point we caught a brief glimpse of our luggage being transferred to the ferry. It had followed us safely. On that short crossing cameras were still busy recording the glorious Chilean mountain scenery.

Feeding the Seagulls
Seagulls swooping to swipe snacks

From Puerto Alegre another bus and soon we were at the Argentinian border post at Puerto Blest. After completing the simple custom formalities, we went by ferry to Puerto Panuelo on Lago Nahuel Huapi, our last port and the first in Argentina. Cheers rang out. We’d made it!

In a large comfortable coach we finally came to the small town of Bariloche. It was almost dark when we were dropped at the door of our pre-booked hotel. Bariloche is renowned for its chocolate, delicious steak and excellent wines: plenty of choice for travellers celebrating their arrival in Argentina.

And what a wonderful route we chose. A total of seven comfortable buses and ferries had been skilfully arranged to make crossing the Andes spectacular, each stage of the journey lasting no more than two hours. And the weather had been kind to us, sunshine all the way. It was an unforgettable experience. Our cameras recorded it all. We will return.

The trip was booked through Cruceandino.

POSTED 2nd March 2016 by STEVE HANSON on behalf of MARION BRENNAN. The photographs were supplied by the author after the competition had been judged.