Third Time Lucky!

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3 January - Caleta Tortel to Villa O'Higgins

We're ready to leave Entre Hielos, but as we're having breakfast, we are called out to see something...

Two small owls sitting on an electric pylon just outside the lodge!

They are dead cute, and well worth interrupting breakfast for. Thanks to Maria and Felipe for their wonderful and friendly service and goodbye.

So it's carrying our bags the half-mile of boardwalk and steps for the last time and we'll head back to the Carretera Austral. The route then will involve a ferry across yet another of the many lakes. Trying to go round it appears to be such a ridiculous idea that the Chilean Highways Agency have chosen to pay for the free ferry service rather than trying to build a road.

The (closed) coffee and souvenir shop is liberally plastered with stickers. We're slightly confused by this one, because, as Ogden Nash wrote,

The one-L lama, he's a priest;
The two-L llama, he's a beast.
And I will bet a silk pajama
here isn't any three-L lllama!

And when you look at the URL, you can only scratch your head as to where Mongolia comes in. However, in the interests of science I have gone to that web site and found that it's mostly in German. If there's any reality in national stereotypes, it's a fair bet that the Germans won't understand Ogden Nash.

So as the coffee shop is closed, and musings on l+amas will get us nowhere, we take a little stroll.

Another wooden shingle church. We go in and it seems well cared for despite the fact that we can only see one house anywhere near.

Back at the port, it's getting closer to ferry departure time and the shop has opened. We are now old hands at this coffee malarkey so aren't a bit confused when the proprietress puts the Nescafé jar in front of us and invites us to take a large or small spoonful according to our prerference.

I make no promises, but I may never criticise Starbucks again.

Here comes the inbound ferry. We deduce from the timetable that this boat just shuttles back and forth throughout the day in peak season, although the service is reduced outside that time.

The bus at the front seems to have some difficulty getting off when the ferry docks, possibly because it's lacking in ground clearance for the rather uneven ramp access. That's s a bit surprising as it seems to be a regular part of the bus route; maybe the old hands are making it look relatively simple even so, and non-expert drivers would just go crunch and get stuck.

Tiggo is fine with no concern for any accessibilty issues.

The northern terminal wasn't exactly an urban metropolis, but this is even less populated. We can't see even a single house and church as we did earlier.

The Southern Highway continues not being very high: really quite low!

Apropos of nothing, this is maybe a good place to mention that driving the Carretera Austral has been proving to be very easy, with one proviso. That is, it's basically a rally stage and the direction the car is going is not necessarily the direction the front wheels are pointing. Steering is partly determined by what you do with the steering wheel, partly by what you do with the throttle, partly by the brakes, and partly by what you did with all those things a little while back. For all its patronising annoyances, Tiggo has everything you need to drive this road at a decent speed.

Of course, my idea of 'decent' speed is probably fast for a tourist, but still utterly pathetic to a local. More than once, the first we know that we're being overtaken is when Tiggo's "close pass" warning bleep alerts us to the vehicle shooting past us.

In some ways, the biggest problem for us is when there's a slower vehicle ahead, be it a tourist or just a farm truck or something. Much of the road is very dry, and every vehicle throws up huge clouds of dust. The locals don't seem to care that they can see bugger all ahead but I'm a bit more wimpy about it. When the wind is in the right direction, and/or there's a huge empty space ahead so I can see what I can safely do well in advance, then whoosh, hit the throttle and we're past them, but otherwise it's drop back to non-choking distance and wait for circumstances to change.

But remember, we're on holiday: we're not trying to get from A to B in the shortest possible time, so if we're stuck behind an impassible object for too long, we'll just pull off at the next interesting spot and do some touristing before getting back to driving.

Ah, yes, it's not just cars that can be an obstruction.

"Las Ruedas de Patagonia", Villa O'Higgins.

There's no restaurant here, so we have a self-catering kitchenette.

Err, where?

Err, there isn't one.

Note: we are having serious problems because our Spanish isn't quite up to the task, nor is his English. However, we eventually figure out that we've been booked into a cabin that doesn't exist: there's no two-person + kitchenette option available despite what it says on our paperwork.

Mr Man is very nice, though, and recognises that it's not our fault we've been lied to, and as (two-edged sword!) they are not fully booked, he can give us a larger cabin with the facilities we have been promised.

(This is it above. The inadequate alternative looks very similar from the outside, just a bit smaller.)

It's nice inside, and again we have a wood-burning stove to keep us warm.

[Another retrospective thought: nobody ever asked if we knew how to use such a thing. Well, yes, of course we do, but I'm not sure that's universally true for all visitors.]

So here I am demonstrating my mastery of the kitchen. It doesn't take much, there's not much to master.

Now that I'm cooking myself, I'm even more impressed by what Felipe was able to do at Entre Hielos. You just can't buy the ingredients at the local supermarket, so I reckon he must have grown his own herbs at the very least, and if he didn't go foraging himself, he knew others that did.

I was thinking that locally caught fish would be a thing, but maybe it's only a thing if you know the local fisherfolk.

But all that said, I'm not ashamed of what I can produce for dinner, and that's what counts.

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