The passenger and car ferry brought us from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibanez in just four hours. The ride was calm but pretty windy outside. Most passengers stayed seated in the passenger cabin.
In Puerto Ibanez a big group of people was already waiting to board the returning ferry. The buses which brought them were now waiting to take new passengers directly north to Coyhaique or the Airport in Balmaceda. None of the buses would drive west to 38km away Villa Cerro Castillo. It was the town we needed to reach in order to go trekking around Cerro Castillo.
Without a reservation, we got nervous as the buses filled up super quickly. Everyone seemed to have pre-booked a place. Finally, we found two seats on the last waiting bus. For a negotiated but still hefty price of 5000 pesos per person the driver agreed to drop us of 30km further north on the Carretera Austral road crossing to Villa Cerro Castillo. From there we had to either walk 8km or hitchhike to town.
On the road crossing, we met two Chilenian buskers sitting in a bus stop shelter. It was their second day waiting for a ride down to Puerto Ibanez. The public transport density was really not that great in this part of Chile.
Somehow we had more luck with catching a car. A passing pick-up truck stopped after I symbolically swung a rope as if I wanted to catch cattle with a lasso. After all the land was full of ranches, horses and mammals alike. The lasso did the trick, we hopped on the back loading deck and drove to town. Watch the short 360-degree video below to get a feel for hitchhiking in Patagonia :)
Hostel and Camping Senderos Patagonia was our choice for the night, it provided hot showers, comfy beds and a community kitchen for cooking. We spend the day resting, shopping for groceries and preparing to do the four days long Cerro Castillo trek. It was recommended to check the Cerro Castillo mountain weather forecast first. The report stated only one night with sub-zero temperatures so we decided to give it a try on the next day.
In order to start the full Cerro Castillo trek, we had to reach the trailhead first. Funnily the starting point was located in Las Horquetas, another 29km away from Villa Cerro Castillo! One option was to take the bypassing bus to Coyhaique in the morning (Presumably there were any free seats left). Our choice was to hitchhike out of town.
This time we were not alone, another 5-8 backpacker surrounded the main street of Villa Cerro Castillo, all waiting for their chance. The only way to get a better chance for pickup was to separate us from the pack. We started walking uphill out of town to the “llevel un mochilero” sign and hold our dedos (thumbs) up for another hour or so.
Finally a kind local man stopped and gave us a ride to the trailhead. Lively and with limited Spanish skills we managed to discuss local developments as well as national politics. Time flew by, we got off at Las Horquetas, thanked our driver and walked towards the Cerro Castillo park ranger toll/entry station.
To be continued…