26 January 2016
We headed out of Frutillar yesterday morning, planning to drive to another town on Lago Llanquihue, and then head to Ruta 5, the main highway. We thought we'd just drive as far as we could and then find a place to stay, aiming for Temuco, the city with the great painted park benches in the middle of town.
Life often has other ideas.
We approached the town of Osorno, the place with the rainbow-lit fountain. Drove on by. And encountered a detour that took us off the highway. Really, the entire highway was closed on the northbound side. We weren't sure if this was for the ongoing repaving, or if there was some kind of situation where the road would be shut down. But the carabiñeros, the police, were out there waving people off at the exit. We asked which way we were supposed to go, since there weren't any signs pointing us to a detour (desvio) route. The carabiñero told us (in Spanish) that there'd be another carabiñero to show us the way. So, okay, well, what can you do, we drove off.
We didn't find the other carabiñero. We basically followed the main flow of traffic, which has become something of our fall-back position, but something of a joke. It's how my father gave directions; instead of saying stay on the main road, he'd tell people to follow the main flow of traffic. It often works. But sometimes it doesn't.
We really don't know where we ended up. There were signs for the small town of Trafun. We went across a single-lane bridge, as did most of the traffic. However, we found another carabiñero, who was riding along telling everyone to turn around and go back. So we did. We asked if we could get on Ruta 5 near La Union, he said no. We asked where to turn, and, well, who knows what he said. We followed the main flow of traffic.
This little map shows where I think we went, the zig zag purple line. (Ruta 5 is the orange.) We definitely went through the town of Rio Buenos. I thought we were heading north, but somehow we followed people on an underpass and ended up on the other side of Ruta 5. And then in La Union.
Well, there isn't much one can do at this point. We had to ask for more directions. It was going on mid-afternoon. We were hungry. So we stopped for lunch, and asked for directions when we left. Checked our directions with a very nice young man in the park, whose English was more understandable than our limited Spanish. (He checked with some friends at the fire station, and they said Ruta 5 was open at the entrance to which he was sending us.) And off we went, heading into the unknown.
A good half hour later we arrived and yes, the highway was open. YAY! We drove on to Temuco, though the hotel we stayed at last time was full. We managed to find a hotel for the night, and had a decent stay.
Onward today, to the town of Los Angeles. We seem to be the only non-Chileans in town, though we found a nice little hostal or hospedaje, and a café, both of which have people working there who can speak English. We can ask if they have a room, price, etc. - but when they have private parking, or are describing the food item, it is so much easier for us to do that in English.
So we'll spend a night in quiet little Los Angeles.
Along the drive, though, there was a whole section of highway where people have little food stands. Really, right along the PanAmerican highway! Almost all of the stands carry honey (miel), cheese (quesos), bread (pan), and many carry that summer drink, mote con huisilla, the dried peach and honey thing with the wheat groats. So people go driving along at some 60-75 mph (100-120 kph!), and then slam on their brakes and veer off to the shoulder to buy fresh honey or homemade cheese. This includes the double-trailer logging trucks carrying full loads! We found it amazing. And a little, uh, thrilling to be driving along and encountering such actions. Not exactly the recommended driving style either of us learned, that's for sure!
We basically are following Ruta 5 north, back along the same path, but without the diversion to the coast. We'll stop along the way, not sure where. Maybe a winery. Maybe Valparaiso.
As long as we return the car on Saturday, it really doesn't matter where we visit along the way.
This is a classic road trip without a plan.