A short 6 hours down the road from Pucón is lovely Puerto Varas, Chile...another great little town in the Chilean Lakes Region. We arrived and the sun was shining something fierce as we walked across town to our hostel; Margouya 2. As we checked in the Frenchman owner commented to us how lucky we were to be arriving today as it was the first sunny day in many months. Yup, we'll take it! Also, we will happily take the huge room that we scored at the hostel. Seriously, the biggest room we have had in all of our travels...including a big bath tub, which Gina keyed in on immediately.
We got changed and decided to stretch the legs a bit after our morning bus session and headed down to the lake for a little jog. Can I just say that running can actually be fun when you get weather and views like this?!? It was warm, but not hot and breezy but not windy. The lake of crystal clear mountain water shone a beautiful blue and the 2 snow covered volcanos across the lake reflected majestically in the water. Yeah, it was quite a scene. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we went up and back along the lake path twice, in the end doing about 5 miles...if only every jog was this nice...I would be a marathon runner.
The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the quiant little town and handling a few errands: laundry and grocery shopping mainly. But, before dinner we spent about a hour just chilling down by the lake. Even as the sun began to set it was nice and warm and extremely pleasant down there. We snapped some photos and just took in the views. Not bad living!
The next day we were greeted with another glorious morning and so we quickly scarfed some breakfast before hopping on the rental mountain bikes that the hostel offered. The Frenchman owner of the hostel gave us a map and pointed in a few directions, and echoed his sentiment from the previous day about how lucky we were to have a sunny day as it was the first sunny day in several months...we smiled and agreed and with out much of a plan we headed out.
We started to ride around the lake and continued as we found the bike lane that went along the road. We were feeling good and started to get some ambitious thoughts about trying to get to the next town which was a cool 40 km away. Just then the bike lane ended abruptly and the signs made it clear that they didnt want people riding bikes along the perilously narrow and windy road that lay ahead. We sat there perplexed for a moment until a local came riding up and quickly turned around...clearly people follow the rules as dictated by the road signs in these parts. We started to head back to find a turn off that we had been told about when another local guy came speeding by...when we stopped to have a drink of water before he turned back we asked him if we could continue...he said it wasnt a good idea, but then offered to show us a side route back into town.
Slowly peddeling down the road, exchanging pleasantries with our new acquaintance, Victor, we eventually arrived to a dirt road turn off that lead uphill to what appeared to be someone's farm land. Trusting that Victor knew what he was doing, we followed closely behind. The rocky, dusty road climbed steeply up and then descended quickly through the winding paddocks. The view from the bike trail was nothing less than stunning. The immense snow-capped Volcano loomed in the distance as we sped past happy, grassfed cows and seemingly endless fields of wildflowers. We stopped a few times to snap some photographs of the scenery and all was well until on on particularly steep and loose section Gina had a little skid out and ended up bonking her knee right on a fist sized rock. Luckily, she is a tough cookie and after a little break was able to keep on trucking. Eventually we made it back into town and Victor pointed us back towards the lake while he headed off up the hill to finish his ride back to Puerto Montt. Nothing like a little spontaneous local love to turn a great day epic.
We cruised back to the hostel for a little lunch and rest session and Gina popped a few pain pills to numb up the knee a bit. At about 2 we headed back out on the bikes (we had them all day and it was still gorgeous out, so figured we should get some more riding in), this time heading north. The Hostel owner had instruced us to follow the train tracks north to a small town from which you could take a road to the next small town to the North which was meant to be charming and have awesome views. We found the train tracks and after about 25 meters of riding along the tracks decided he must have meant that there was a trail along the tracks because there is no way anyone would want to bump along train tracks for 7 km. After a little exploring we found the trail and headed north along the coast. It was a great ride and we were still feeling good when we got to the next town...so good that we had a look at the map and decided to go the extra 22 km to the next town.
What we didnt realize was that the next 22 km were not as flat as what we had been navigating up to that point and it wasn't too far down the road that we realized we had possibly been a little too ambitious. The problem was that by this point we had already gone up and over a series of steep hills so turning around now meant going back up and up and up. Damn. Our only hope at this point was to push on and hope that we could talk a bus driver into giving us a ride back with the bikes....so on we peddaled. The going was definitely tough...and although she was tired and had a sore knee Gina soldiered on. At last we peddaled our way into town releived to be there and as we cruised in we spotted the bus stop.
Now our plan was to chill in the town for a few minutes and maybe get a beer, but we wanted to make sure we could get a ride back so we went over to inquire with the bus drivers. The guy said he would give us a ride with the bikes if we paid for 2 seats for the bike, but he was leaving right then. Before we knew it we were loaded onto the bus and had bike tires in our laps...we literally had been in the town for 2 mintues and hadnt even gotten to check it out. Still, we were happy to be getting a ride back...there wasn't anyway in hell that we were gonna ride the 30 km back by that point. We arrived back at the hostel and told the owner where all we had been. He seemed impressed saying that we had probably gone about 55-60 km or about 35 miles which may not be impressive for some people...but we were pretty happy about. We took it easy that night and cooked a little dinner in the hostel kitchen before calling it a night. G had a long soak in the tub and iced her knee up in preparation for more activity the next day.
Our plan the next morning if the weather was good was to head to the National Park for a little hiking, and as luck would have it...we awoke on our 3rd day and, yet again, the sun was shining and the skies were blue. We chatted again with the owner who gave us maps and instructions on how to get to the Park and for the 3rd time reminded us how lucky were to have a sunny day as it was the first sunny days that they had experienced in several months...we agreed with him as we grabbed our pack and headed out. The bus ride took us about 1hr 15 minutes out around the lake to the National Park and dropped us in a tiny town (not a town, more a collection of about 3 buildings) which is at the base of the huge Osomo Volcano. We wandered along the lake until we picked up the trail that traversed along the the lake front and across the bottom of the volcano before turning and heading up a section of trail that climbed to the saddle between the Volcano and the neighboring mountain range. The sun was warm on our backs as we hiked and quickly we came to a pretty incredible realization. Not only was it about as perfect a day as you could ask for, and not only were we in about as pretty a place as you could imagine...we literally had the whole damn place to ourselves. Seriously, we were there for almost 5 hours and didnt see a soul until we passed one solo hiker when we were about 20 minutes from getting back to the trail head, incredible. I guess ol' Frenchie was right! We were pretty damn lucky.
We found an awesome view point about 2/3 way up to the saddle and stopped to take some photos of the lake as it lay sprawled out before us ringed by snow covered moutains before trudging up the steep volcanic sand trails to the ridge. The views of the Volcano from the top of the saddle were impressive, but we decided to head back to the first view point to bust out or lunch and chill for a while. We hung out at that spot for about an hour. It was warm, serene and almost painfully beautiful...magic, really. I dont know if the photos do it justice, but I can tell you it is a place I will always remember and that of all the beautiful things we have been lucky enough to see in our 16 months of traveling the world, this ranks up near the top. Unbelievable.
The hike back was quick and painless and we made our way back to the parking lot where we waited a while for the bus to come. On the way back there are some waterfalls that you can stop and check out, but we had decided to skip them as it was getting late and we were ready to get back, but the bus driver pulled over and announced that we had a 10 minute stop so we hopped out and headed over. Unfortunately, they wanted to charge us about $5 each to just look at the waterfalls and as we had already had a stunner of a day we decided we would save the $10 for a nice bottle of wine over dinner.
And that is exactly what we did too...after a shower at the hostel we headed across town to a restaurant Gina found on Trip Advisor: Bravo Cabrera. One review in particular had sold us: "delicious ceviche, great pizza": 4 little words that make our hearts sing just a bit. As for the wine, we were sold on a Chilean regional special: a Carmere/Merlot blend and it was good, damn good...and so was the ceviche, and so was the pizza, and of course...so was the company. The perfect end to a perfect day!
We awoke in the morning and peered out the window, it was rainy, grey, and nasty looking. Good thing we were hopping on a bus that morning and peacing the hell out of that spot and making for the eastern side of the Andes and back to Argentina, where the weather is a lot better. We had breakfast and packed our stuff up before I went in to settle up our tab with ol Frenchie...after settling the tab, he asked where we were heading. When I told him Bariloche he laughed and said, "you know, you are pretty lucky...the weather here will probably be miserable for another month or two, but Bariloche is supposed to be nice this weekend."...He told us to come back anytime since he was convinced we brought the good weather...3 good days in the middle of 7 months of rainy, grey nastinest...Yup...we scored Puerto Varas!!! I guess that's just how we roll...