I’m not sure if improvisation is an aspect of travel or a synonym of it, but we’ve been doing a lot of improvising lately. After countless changes of plans and a 20-hour bus ride (that for lack-of-infrastructure reasons) took us into Argentina and then back into Chile, we arrived in Puerto Montt. The plan was to head back into Argentina, but having passed through our destination (no passengers are allowed off in Argentina for some reason) and not being too impressed, we decided to head north next. The only question was: should we stay in Puerto Montt or just hop on the next night bus to Santiago?
It was raining steadily when our bus pulled into Puerto Montt. Despite the grey dampness that pervaded the city, we decided to stay at least a night and have a look around. For the first time since arriving in South America, we followed a tout. He seemed nice and showed us cards and photos from a few hotels. We agreed to have a look at one of them and followed him a couple blocks. When we stopped in front of an industrial building on a deserted street and rang the bell, we asked where the hotel was. He told us that this was an alternate location, to which we said we’ll look for our own and walked away. Walking through the downpour towards the closest recommendation in our guidebook, we decided to never follow another tout in South America.
We did find the place in our book, a nice family-run hospedaje close to everything in town. Besides checking our email and buying some food from the market, we stayed inside all afternoon due to the rain. I was beginning to doubt our decision to stay in Puerto Montt, because it was pouring so hard, it was impossible to do or see anything. After dinner, we contented ourselves with a movie night of sorts, since our room had a TV with some English movie channels.
It was overcast all day today, but it only rained a little bit in the midday. We started our day by walking down to the water (Pacific Ocean for the first time in awhile) and along the waterfront for a couple kilometers to the fishing port of Angelmo. There were a lot of colorful fishing boats docked and a few smaller vessels which transported people to the various islands in the bay. We saw some sea lions swimming around, waiting for some scraps of food from the market. The seafood market was interesting, but not terribly appetizing. There were plenty of shellfish, prepared in every which way- raw in bins, cooked and strung together on strings, or packaged. Unfortunately, most of the fresh ones looked dead already and there didn’t seem to be nearly enough water or ice. The fish (mostly salmon) was cheap (around 2.5 USD per kilo of filet), but didn’t look so good either. I’m not sure if any seafood with ever live up to what we ate in Japan though. We did sit down for lunch at a nearby restaurant though. Joylani ordered clams and I got a huge salmon filet. Mine was good, Joylani’s wasn’t. I told her I didn’t think it would be that great and she scolded me for not saying anything when she was deciding what to order. But I pointed out that I’d advised her against ordering barnacle, so I felt that I had helped her avoid even worse food.
After lunch, we walked along the waterfront back towards town. Several times we passed groups of teenager, who would ask where we were from. Upon telling them as we passed, they’d ask for a dollar for talking to us. We tried to avoid teenagers the rest of the day. We checked out the surprisingly modern mall, before walking back to our hospedaje. Later, we sat near the waterfront and talked while we waited for our night bus. Puerto Montt was not exciting, or even interesting really. But it is a typical Chilean town and gave us a better feel for the country.