Tuesday 21st October – we travelled from Puerto Varas in Chile to San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina.
Wednesday 22nd October – rest day in Bariloche to thoroughly sample the excellent local chocolate (and admire the gorgeous setting of the city in the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi, of course).
Thursday 23rd October – we are now in Trevelin (south-west of Esquel), the village of the mill, founded by Welsh settlers in 1889. Still two Welsh tea houses and plenty of Welsh names about – our cabaña is called ‘Ty Gwyn’, the white house.
Friday 24th October – tomorrow morning we will head to the border and enter Chile again; then we will try to get as far as possible from Futaleufú towards the Carretera Austral and further south – Santa Lucía, La Junta and maybe even to Puyuhuapi.
Internet is already flaky and we don’t expect major improvements until we’ve reached Coyhaique. Buses will become a rare occurrence, too, we have heard – nothing and no one seem to move during weekends in this part of Patagonia and some connections run only thrice a week. Wish us luck…
Pictures – as could be uploaded so far – can be found here.
Sunday 19th and Monday 20th October 2014
From Valdivia we take the bus to Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue, starting point of the Cruce de Lagos, one of the most iconic crossings of the Andes that takes you via Lago Todos Los Santos, the most beautiful of the lakes, Lago Frias and Lago Nahuel Huapi to Bariloche in Argentina. This trip I couldn’t do in 2010, as there is no way to take a motorbike on the boats, and I am very much looking forward to an unforgettable experience.
When we enquire about the details of the journey, three obstacles raise their heads: the price – 280 USD per person, the weather forecast – rain, clouds and fog will last at least until Thursday, and the time – we cannot wait three days until the sky clears, as we will need sufficient buffer days on the Carretera Austral where buses are scarce and may only run twice a week. There is no point spending a vast amount of money if we can’t see anything of the gorgeous landscape.
Well, what are our priorities? I would like to see the Saltos de Petrohué (waterfalls) and the Lago Todos Los Santos – the fact that the ferry trip also takes you to Argentina is a welcome side effect, but there is also a very beautiful bus journey over the Paso Puyehue (Complejo Frontizero Cardenal Antonio Samore), which is far cheaper and more reliable.
A tour agency offers a day excursion to Petrohué which includes visiting the falls and a boat trip on Lago Todos Los Santos for CLP 34,000 (around £35) per person. With the helpful agent we arrange that we can just turn up on the day after checking the weather in the morning (usually they want you to book a day in advance, understandably).
As we have found an absolute gem of a hotel (El Greco), we decide to stay two days in Puerto Varas and hope that the weather improves.
We are not the only ones affected by the cold climate
Puerto Varas in the rain
This is what it should look like
Our superb accommodation – Hotel El Greco
Local delicacy Paila Marina in the evening
We do a bit more research and then take the local bus to Petrohué the next day. The route follows the south shore of Lake Llanquihue.
The driver drops us at the waterfalls, the road is being repaired further ahead and apparently closed. Ok, although we have planned to visit the lake first, we obey and head for the -
We can almost see the Volcán Osorno…
The vegetation is absolutely amazing
We spend just under two hours at the falls – in comparison: on the Cruce de Lagos you are allowed only 20 minutes… Leaving the visitor centre, we start walking the six kilometres to Petrohué village along the unpaved road.
It’s dry and pleasant but still a long stroll – fortunately, after 1.5 kilometres, we manage to blag a lift with an empty tourist bus to the shore of Lago Todos Los Santos. And here I am very grateful to have my dad with me; while I am far too hesitant, Johannes just approaches a skipper who is about to set sail and asks in a mix of English, Spanish and sign-language if he can take us on a boat trip. The reply comes in German – by chance we have stumbled across a group of German tourists who are shipped across the lake for a long hike; we can join them for a small fee and will then be taken back in the otherwise empty vessel. I am over the moon!
The weather has held the whole day and our self-made trip has cost us CLP 9,000 (under ten pounds) per person – we are more than pleased!
For the next day we buy the bus tickets to Bariloche and look forward to the road journey to Argentina.
Puerto Varas by night
All pictures from Puerto Varas, Saltos de Petrohué and Lago Todos Los Santos here, #857 to 1,185
Saturday 18th October 2014
With a heavy heart we vacate our cottage on Saturday morning and head to the bus terminal, where the super-friendly owner of the café serves us a lovely breakfast. The coach leaves on time but Villarrica disappears from the horizon without Johannes ever seeing the volcano. We will have to come back one day…
A pleasant 3-hour trip takes us to our next destination Valdivia, capital of the Los Ríos region appropriately situated at the confluence of the rivers Cruces, Calle Calle, Valdivia and Cau Cau which also connect the city to the sea. Valdivia is also called the Capital de la Lluvia, the rain, as we hear and notice later. After two fruitless attempts we find a nice hostal near the Costanera along the Río Calle Calle, make ourselves comfortable and then set out on our usual sight-seeing tour.
Among the must-see places are the docks and the sea lions, the mercado municipal, the distinctive houses built by the German settlers, the plaza and the Isla Teja. The helpful señorita in the oficina del turismo also recommends to visit the sea-side resort Niebla on the Pacific coast and we duly obey. On the way back we stop for dinner at the Cervecería Kunstmann, which is quite a tourist trap, to be honest – but visiting a brewery that makes beer according to the German purity law and then advertises it as ‘das gute Bier’ in Chile is almost mandatory for us.
When we return to Valdivia we get off the colectivo in the centre and are in for a nice surprise: the city celebrates its Carnaval de Primavera (spring carnival) and we join the locals lining the costanera and watch the colourful parade. What a great timing that we arrived in Valdivia this weekend!
Breakfast at the JAC bus terminal in Villarrica
The Chilenos are constantly improving their road network
All pictures from Valdivia and Niebla here, #574 to 856
Thursday 16th and Friday 17th October 2014
We leave Chillán early to make the most of the day and board the bus to Temuco where we have to change to a colectivo that brings us to Villarrica in the Lake District.
Housing estate Chilean style
On this side of the world the rapeseed is just coming into bloom
Villarrica lies very picturesque by the lake and the volcano of the same name. Unfortunately the impressive mountain is hiding behind the clouds and if I hadn’t told my dad how beautiful the volcano was he wouldn’t even know it was there…
This is what it should look like… (picture from 2010)
… and this is what we are presented with today…
On the way to the tourist information, where we want to enquire about suitable accommodation, a bright lilac building catches our eye, the Hostal Donde Mora. “No, we don’t have any twin rooms, only matrimonios”, says the landlord, “but you can have a whole cabaña with two bedrooms for the same price.” Well, we like the idea of having our own cottage in Villarrica very much and so we agree without complaints.
Our cottage in Villarrica
A stroll to the lakeshore is mandatory and with every hour that passes we hope the clouds will lift and reveal the gorgeous volcano. But nothing – the sky turns blue, the sun comes out but the mountain towering over Villarrica and neighbouring Pucón remains invisible. So we decide to stay another day in our cabaña and hope for the weather to improve.
Huh, there’s at least the tip!
When we look out of the window the next morning the sky is overcast again. Never mind, it’s dry at least and we can explore a bit more of the Araucanía region. Colectivos take us along the lake and on towards Caburgua, where the river of the same name creates beautiful waterfalls and deep blue ponds – the Ojos de Caburgua.
Laguna Azul – the blue lagoon
There are actually two sites to visit the waterfalls, one on each side of the river and for some strange reason the landowners haven’t come to an agreement yet to build a bridge. This means that you can only see a fraction of the ponds, then you would have to drive seven kilometres, pay another entrance fee to see the other part and then drive back the way you came or carry on to Pucón for another 15 kilometres. Not an option for us on foot.
After pondering the moral aspects of our behaviour we decide to ford the river at our own risk and save us the hassle of extreme trekking that day.
We don’t mind paying the extra pesos, as there are quite a few walkways and miradores to maintain, but walking 14 or even 22 kilometres more to see an area 10 metres away is just unreasonable. Why don’t the owners raise the fee, build a bridge, share the income, minimise the traffic and environmental impact and make visiting the site more user-friendly? As it turns out later, the crossing is also commonly used by the local pedestrians, who helpfully advise us that there is no alternative path anyway and that the only minibus serving the other side won’t pass until six in the afternoon – far too late for us.
View of the other side from the other side
You see, there are adventures to be had on a rucksack trip as well. On the way back to Villarrica we stop in Pucón and have some shockingly expensive but heavenly delicious coffee and cake in the Café de la P.
Then it starts to rain and doesn’t stop until the next day. We still manage to make the most of our time in Villarrica.
The big question remains, will Johannes see the volcano after all? Don’t miss the next episode!
All pictures from Villarrica here; #348 to 573
Wednesday 15th October 2014
Our next main destination is the Chilean Lake District, 770 kilometres further south on the Ruta 5, the Panamericana. Without our own transport we have to stick to the main roads where the coaches run and can’t meander along the Pacific coast as I did the last time. The town of Chillán lies halfway between Santiago and Villarrica on the northern end of the lakes, it is described as picturesque place and it’s also the birthplace of Bernado O’Higgins, one of Chile’s founding fathers and leader in the country’s struggle for independence from Spanish rule. A perfect overnight stop.
We enjoy the last freshly squeezed raspberry juice in the Happy House Hostal, use the last credit on our BIP card for the metro and arrive early at the perfectly organised Tur Bus terminal near the Universidad de Santiago. The bus is only 15 minutes late, we drive conveniently through the fertile Central Valley and arrive early afternoon at our destination.
The sixth hotel where we ask for a suitable room is ours and we set off to explore the apparently slightly boring town. Rarely has a contrast been so unexpected – from our tranquil neighbourhood we stumble into buzzing community life on the other side of the Plaza de Armas, the main square, with chaotic traffic, mercados, shopping malls and life music everywhere.
We spend a very pleasant evening in Chillán and are glad we have chosen this somewhat hidden gem as our stopover.
Cathedral of Chillán, built to withstand earthquakes
You can get literally everything in this department store
All pictures from today here – #380 to 447.
Monday 13th and Tuesday 14th October 2014
From Valparaíso we take the bus to Santiago, a comfortable 90-minute journey through green valleys and along the Ruta del Vino. It’s under three kilometres from the Terminal Alameda to the Happy House Hostal, recommended in various travel guides and close to the city centre, so we walk along the Avenida Bernado O’Higgins to gather first impressions.
We like the accommodation and check in for two nights; then we use the excellent metro and bus network to visit a fellow traveller, who I met in 2010 in Buenos Aires, in the district of La Reina. Mick, originally from Denmark, travelled the continent on his VFR750, got stuck in Santiago and is now running a motorcycle touring company (Ride Chile www.ride-chile.com) and service & repair workshop (Moto Service STGO www.motoss.cl) together with his friend Tomás. Both of them give us a warm welcome and invaluable advice for our journey south.
We then spend the evening and the following day exploring the sights and delights of the Chilean capital – here are just a few impressions.
Ruta 68 between Valparaíso and Santiago
Street exhibition: foreign elements in the Cocina Chilena
Our modest alojamiento
Room with a view
With Tomás and Mick
La Moneda – the presidential palace
Cerro Santa Lucía – Huelén in the language of the Mapuche
Cerro San Cristobal
Museo Histórico Nacional on the Plaza de Armas
Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago
Absolutamente. All Santiago pictures here.
Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th October 2014
qué disparate eres,
qué loco, puerto loco,
qué cabeza con cerros, desgreñada,
no acabas de peinarte,
nunca tuviste tiempo de vestirte,
siempre te sorprendió la vida…
I love this place. Four years ago I stayed far longer than intended in Valparaíso and this time I want to show my dad this wonderful ensemble of beauty, decay, geography, history, art and life. We start early in La Serena and again, our bus is late, but we still make it in daylight to Valparaíso.
Having lost all sense of time and days of the week, we didn’t realise that it is Saturday and accommodation scarce – the city is a popular weekend destination for Chileans as well. It takes us until after 20.00 hrs until we finally find a far too expensive hotel in the picturesque neighbourhood of Cerro Alegre.
Talking of time, it takes way too many hours of our day to keep this blog relatively up-to-date; I usually spent three to four hours writing a new post and thus I’d like to limit future entries to a brief summary and a few selected pictures. If you want to see more of the places we visit, please have a look at the Photo Galleries.
I am sorry, especially when I think of all the kind feedback we have received for our frequent reports, but Johannes has just made a projection of the time already used and the time necessary to keep up the pace and came up with 176 hours! So I hope you understand that we rather spend these hours enjoying our journey of a lifetime.
Thus here are just a few snaps from Valparaíso where we stayed two nights -
… by day
… by night
The Cerros are not the most very trolley-friendly environment…
Armada de Chile
I could stay here another few weeks, maybe longer – but Santiago beckons…
All Valparaíso photos here.