Well after 2 good, but expensive weeks, my time in Chile is almost at an end. This afternoon we depart for Argentina and South America's premier ski resort of San Carlos de Bariloche. As the crow flies its not that far away but there are no direct roads through the mountains so we have to go the long way round, and we´ve been warned there may be some waiting at Argentinian immigration. The expected journey time is 7 hours. The Argies still hate the British apparently because of the Falklands so I hope I get through OK.
Chile has been interesting and I´ve done lots of fun activities here but it lacks the culture of Bolivia and Peru and is basically just a western country. My last 2 days here have been relatively uneventful by recent standards. We had a nice 5.5 hour bus journey here to Puerto Varas from Pucon through lovely green scenery, but the town itself, on the shores of Chile´s 2nd largest lake, is pretty small and bland. It also rains 200 days a year here and the weather for us has been pretty disappointing, with showers and clouds both days. This is a shame because the opposite side of the lake is the most picture perfect conical volcano you´ll ever see, Volcan Osorno, but it became shrouded in cloud within about half an hour of us getting here and I´ve not seen it since, so no photos sadly. The area is a popular holiday destination for Chileans despite the weather and there are massive holiday homes everywhere as a result. Many of these were built in a Bavarian style since this area was once colonised by the Germans and is still home to a large German population.
Puerto Varas is our tour guide Joaquin´s home town and he´s spent the last 2 days with his lively 5 year old daughter so we´ve not seen much of him. He gave some recommendations for things to do, but given the weather we couldn´t justify the expense of the excursions on offer. So most of us opted to get a local bus 1 hour east to Chile´s oldest national park, Petrohue. There were some nice, powerful waterfalls a short walk from where the bus dropped us off, but there wasn´t as much water flowing over them as at other times of the year. The falls are one of Chile´s picture postcard views because the Volcan Osorno is located directly behind them, but sadly it was still covered in cloud when we were there. We then walked 6km down a disappointingly bland dirt track to a village by another lake, but the cloud kind of ruined the would be spectacular views when we got there, and the village was deserted, so we switftly got the bus back.
After trying some fantastic home made empanadas for lunch back in Puerto Varas, I decided to get the bus on my own 20km south to the capital of the Chilean Lake District - the port city of Puerto Montt. The city is one of the unofficial endings of the Pan American highway, and to go much further south into Chile from there requires either a ferry trip or a trip east into Argentina. Its pretty much the southern end of the populated world in South America, and is the most southerly I´ll be going on my trip here. There wasn´t a lot to see in Puerto Montt and I have to say it felt a bit like the Chilean Grimsby, except with more people about, and more couples necking on the concrete promenade (Chileans are very publically affectionate!). I just had a walk along the front, through the main shopping streets and shopping centre, and within half an hour I was back at the crazy bus station!
So thats it for Chile. Onto Argentina next, which is just 4 hours behind UK time. Hopefully its a bit cheaper than Chile. Adios.