Day 14 – Chaitén to Hornopiren

Tuesday, January 14th

Distance – 75km, 100% ripio

Ferries – 30 minutes, 4 hour

In this area of Los Lagos, the Carretera Austral becomes discontinuous and your transportation becomes bi-modal. There are sections of road connected by ferries. Today, we have two ferry rides to enjoy, a short one of five miles or so in Pumalin Park and a longer one from the other side of the park to Hornopiren.

Pumalin Park from Google Maps

The Chilean government has plans to extend the road but are fighting with the American environmentalist Douglas Tompkins who owns the land.

As we left Chaiten, we came on an interesting sight. The road went from 10 meters wide to 100 meters wide. For a moment, I thought we’d come to the end and needed to turn around. It turned out to be a runway. The Chaiten airport had been destroyed in the eruptions and a temporary one had be constructed on the highway

As it turned out, there were flights due to come in shortly, so we stopped to watch the spectacle. As the planes neared, cones were pulled out across the road at each end of the runway. That didn’t stop the local dog mind you.

Wildlife control?

Once the track was clear, the first plane came in nice and smoothly throwing up less dust than we typically did on these roads.

Chaiten International

The last plane to come in was a pro. The first two planes had overshot the airport entry and had to turn around. The last pilot dropped out of the sky as smooth as peanut butter and turned directly into the airport – three nissan huts and a portapotty.


After we had left, it was a quick jaunt to the ferry port. We went through some amazing territory where there was evidence of the volcanic flows from the eruptions. It looked like most mud flows and flooding but could have been lava flows in some places.

Rather than risk missing the ferries due to mishap, we had given ourselves plenty of time to get to the landing. It turned out to be too much but we had wonderful vistas and a fantastic restaurant to hang out with.

Ferry landing

This was the only time this trip that I wished I had a camera with a telephoto lens. The Fuji X100S took some amazing photos. These are all JPEGs taken off the raw files with no conversion. However, its 23mm lens was no way to pick up the condor that was circling about us even as massive as the bird was. It was sharing carrion with a bunch of turkey vultures and was three times the size of those birds.

There’s a condor here somewhere Waldo

The condor circled over and around this peak for hours.

Bobo flies

“A man was wandering through the jungle with a guide when he was swarmed and bitten by massive flies but his guide was untouched. He asked his guide, ‘Why are you not being bitten? What is your secret?’ His guide replied, “Sir, those are the bobo fly. They are know to bite ugly people.’ Disgruntled and thinking there would be no tip for the guide today, the man angrily shouted, ‘Are you calling me ugly?’ ‘Oh no sir. But there is no telling those bobo flies’, replied the guide” – Charles Holmes


The ferry is de-boarding the passengers from the opposite journey we will take.


The lads are off and getting the bikes on board. The ladies all nicely stood on their center stands reaydy for the voyage.

Pretty maids all in a row

The ferry certainly had a familar feel to it. Getting into the lounge, I was overcome by deja vu.

It was when I went to the toilet that I recognized why it was so familar. It was a re-purposed Greek ferry. I could have ridden this back in the 80s going between the Greek Islands.

The poor-man’s cruise is under way. It could not have been a better day to enjoy the ride from Pumalin to Hornopiren.

A set of likely lads

We met a group of Chilanos who were drinking maté in the traditional manner. A flask/urn for the leaves, a flask of hot water, and a silver straw. Here is Simon giving it a shot.

Hoggy tries Yerba Maté

I think Charlie would have been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD if he’d been born 20 years later. Here is Cap’n Holmes making sure that we are going in the right direction.

Charlie steers the ship

As we approached Hornopiren, the volcano become more apparent and was beautifully lit.

Volcano Hornopiren

Sunset over the fjord as we approached the port for end of our ferry ride.

Sunset on the fjord

It was late when we got settled into the cabaña and off to dinner. Here are more fishing boats at low tide.

Chilean fishing boats at low tide