The Lake District - The further south you go , the greener it gets, until you find snow-bound volcanoes rising over lush hills and lakes.
On Sunday, day 4, we headed from Pucon, along the Seven Lake Route, in the beautful Lake District of Chile, to Valdivia. First stop was the sleepy town of Lican Ray, located in the North Riviera of the Calafquen Lake. Next stop was Conaripe for some Kuchen (tart with fruit in - yummy!). Stopped to admire the view of the mountains and volcano - spectacular! From there went to Panguipulli, located on the riverside of Lake Panguipulli, which maintains a charming lake port atmosphere and has thousands of rose bushes around the town. Last stop was one of Chile´s most beautiful cities, Valdivia. It is located between the rivers Calle Calle, Cruces and Valdivia. Chile´s national flower, Copihue or chilean bellflower (red flower shaped like a bell), as it´s sometimes known, grows in forests in this region of southern Chile and is part of Valdivian flora. As soon as we arrived we headed to the colourful Feria Fluvial, a riverside fish and vegetable market, where sealions paddle up for handouts. Drank pisco back at hotel (Casagrande, great brekkie) with the group while Dragana told us some amazing stories of her travels including the time she ended up trekking with members of a tribe in the jungle in Ecuador, giving out reading glasses to old ladies on an island in Indonesia & sailing on a very small boat down a river in Madagascar.
Day 5, last Monday was spent driving to Puerto Montt, one of the fastest growing cities on the continent thanks to the salmon industry. From the city you can see the volcanoes, Osorno and Calbuco. First we visited the handicraft market which is the largest and cheapest in Chile. We then followed the port to Angelmo, the country´s biggest fish market offering products from the pacific and the Archipelagos interior sea. The market is formed by a big store house for seafood and vegetables. Thepalafitos at the far end of the Angelmo have loads of ambience and good meals for 3 pound. We went for lunch in a tiny restaurant here. I had a delicious Chupe de Centollas (King crab with cheese and cream in a claypot), Jem had Cancato which is Salmon and chorizo and Marcelo our driver had a typical chilean dish called Curanto which is a plate of seafood (mussels), meat and potaoes. The smoked salmon was so so cheap and looked amazing I only wish I could send loads home for you all!
From Puerto Montt we drove to Puerto Varas, lovely city and former German colony. It gets very touristy in the summer but, like most of the cities in the south, is very quiet in the winter. The usual hostel that pachamama uses is closed for the winter so we used another one called Hellwig, it was cheap and it´s a bed so we didn´t mind! I spoke to Mum and Kat because I promised I´d phone for my birthday (5hrs behind here), we had a gorgeous hot chocolate in Puerto Cafe, cool cafe with couches and good atmosphere and then we all had a walk round the town admiring the 19th century German architecture. Also saw the colourful 1915 Iglesia del Sagrado Corazon, which is based on the Marienkirche of Black forest, Germany. It was getting cold by now and we had to say goodbye to Jereon who was heading back to Puerto Montt. After our farewells we went to the cosy, corner pub called Esquina (means corner in spanish) for a few pints and a chat. Finished the night with chips and I lost the key to our room so the guy and cotes had to go through a pile of keys to open our door - ooops!
On Tuesday, day 6, we started the drive back up north. We drove along the shores of Llanquihue Lake (to dive in Mapuche language). The Llanquihue is the second largest lake in Chile. The cities of Frutillar, Llanquihue and Puerto Octay are located on its shores. Had great views of Volcano Osorno (2652m) along the way, and in the distance Volcano Puntiagudo (2190m) and Volcano Calbuco (2015m). stopped for breakfast in Frutillar, the most interesting of the cities. Alot of German influence and found a great Kuchen, which is German word for cake, shop so bought a strawberry cheesecake and a pecan and caramel cake for later. Met a lovely dog that wanted to get in the bus with us too. From here went ot the spectacular waterfall of Saltos del Laja, where the Laja river falls into a deep, rocky canyon formed by water erosion. Cotes said that she had been to the waterfall in March and because there was less water it didn´t look nearly as good. Stayed at a hotel, with views of the waterfall, called Las Mantantialas (means spring or fountain in spanish) which would have been lovely in the summer but again it was just too cold. Had a gas fire in room but had to turn it off due to smell of gas. Had a lovely birthday dinner of Cazuela (chicken broth with potato and pumpkin) at the hotel with jem and Cotes and a bottle of wine. Finished off meal with ice-cream and the kuchen - yum yum!
Yesterday was our last day of the tour. We left the hotel after seeing the strangest sight of peacocks in the trees?? I didn´t realise peacocks could fly. Very funny sight anyway. Again we had a long drive north but we had a nice stop at Vina Balduzzi, a family run winery in San Javier in the Maule Wine Region. We had a tour and tasting for just over 2 pounds and from there we stopped for lunch to have Cazuela at a local restaurant. Just outside the restaurant, Marcelo found a cockrel had been run over but which hadn´t properly died so to put it out of it´s misery he had to kill it - not a nice sight before lunch but the owner of the restaurant took it in the back for tomorrow´s lunch! After lunch Jem and I passed out and we arrived back in Santiago, at our hostel Casa Roja at 5ish.
Today Jem and I have chilled at the hostel and planned the next stage in our trip. We were thinking of doing the same tour in the north but Chile has been really expensive for us and being here is eating up our money so we are heading on a 24hr bus journey tomorrow afternoon to the town of San Pedro de Atacama, Northern Chile. From there, probably Sunday, we´ll take the bus to Salta in Argentina were it´s hopefully cheaper!
Tomorrow morning we´re going to check out Museo del Huaso - Museum in Santiago with a massive poncho collection. Will be in touch, take care and big kisses from us xxxxx