Friday, November 28, 2014

Chile V - Chasing Volcanoes 2

Yay! I'm back. Apologies for the long delay between posts. My computer suffered a nervous breakdown after I loaded up the 2,000 photos I took. It has now been restored to prime condition (thanks Clu) and has stopped saying weird things like" would you like to change the colour scheme" or interminably trying to install update 1 of 1 whenever I log on so the story continues....

More awesome Waterfalls
From Pucon I ventured south to Puerto Varas in Patagonia where there were said to be more volcanoes and more waterfalls.  Alas, it also had real West Coast rain - it rains 200 days a year there -and was freezing cold. There was no breakfast and as it was Sunday everything was closed. Ended up eating half a stale lukewarm empanada with a slightly off filling for lunch followed by some of my packaged soup. There was still a lot of soup mix left and a few carrots, so I offered to make soup for everyone in the hostel that night. This proved to be an excellent idea as other hostellers added  potatoes, onions, zucchini and garlic to the pot making it much more substantial and more than enough for everyone. People also shared pasta and salad they had made so a good night was had by all.
As the morning looked pleasant and sunny I took the mini bus to the Petrohue National Park near Volcan Orsorno. A  charming schoolboy who sat next me shared his chips and carried on an animated conversation in Spanish.  I couldn't understand much of what he said and he couldn't understand what I was saying either but we had a pleasant journey and the chips, delicately fried and topped with chilli, mustard and avocado dip, were probably the best I have ever tasted.

My companion on the road

Although we could see the volcano all the way until we got there, it abruptly vanished behind a cloud when I got off the bus but the waterfalls and the majestic lake and mountain scenery more made up for it. Though not very high, these waterfalls were very numerous and powerful.


Volcan Orsorno visible from the bus

Feel the Power! Petrohue has dozens of waterfalls like this

And the setting amid mountains and rainforest is spectacular too


By the time I got back to the hostel it was cold and overcast again, but the charming French girl who ran it  made some pancakes with caramel (everything is with caramel in Chile - they have it like Nutella on their toast) and at five on the dot she peddalled off on her bike carrying a large guitar or cello on her back - very French. The service was very French too. After that we were left alone except for a very large dog which occupied one of the chairs and stared balefully at everyone as they came up the stairs. The telephone rang, people knocked at the door and the gas heaters went out (perhaps that's why we were treated to pancakes), but all to no avail.
Up to this point, I was still toying with the idea of going further south but as I froze even in my thermals, the idea quickly lost its appeal. Instead, I headed towards Frutillar which is notable for its German style architecture and cakes. In fact they have an annual Kuchen competition here and places have names like Salzburg Hotel, Austria and Frau Holle (Restaurant and B and B). I was very curious about this. Apparently around 6000 Germans settled in the region between 1846 and 1875, initially under a private scheme but then with government support as the country feared neo- imperialist claims by European powers in the post Spanish era. For their part, German immigrants were influenced by a series of Revolutions that began to rock Germany in 1848. Apart from their influence on the culture and cuisine, their most notable contribution appears to be the large Kunstmann brewery in Valdivia. My main interest however, was that the tourist brochures promised a view of not one but two volcanoes hovering over the lake. I sat by the lake for many hours waiting for the clouds to lift but once again Orsono remained elusive and so did its mate, presumably Volcan Cabulco.

Waiting for the clouds to lift in Frutillar
   Drove around for a while visiting some of the other towns around Lake Llanquihue such as Puerto Octay and  Puerto Montt which also promised views of volcanoes but no luck there either. Eventually I ended up at Valdivia an old Spanish Fort town famous for its seafood and the aforementioned brewery, neither of which did much for me. Did have a nice time in the hostel though. Two lovely Santiagans Sebastian and Christian, both physics teachers, not only shared their pizza with me and a Korean hosteller Min, who just happened to have a bottle of Pisco Sour, but they took me to one of the local nightclubs for a bit of local culture. I was very grateful as I hadn't had a chance to experience the famed nightlife or listen to the local music. Unfortunately, much of the satire was lost on me, but I'm sure it was very good. I really enjoyed the strawberry Pina Colada they shouted me too.

Another recommended spot for volcano lovers was near Temuco north of Pucon, on the way back towards Santiago which was starting to loom large on my horizon being my last stop before returning to Oz.  This was almost a disaster as there were no hostels and I paid far too much for a bed in a draughty old  hotel in a fairly depressing town. This didn't include breakfast and the shower was cold too though the landlady was quite nice. "Frozen pipes," she told me with a smile and did bring me hot water for my coffee. With that I headed off to Parque Nacional Conguillio about 80 Km east. This being the off season much of the park was closed and I only glimpsed the volcano in the distance before catching the bus again.

The last Volcano  -Volcan Llaima  3125m seen from Mellipeuco
   I still had five days before my flight out and nothing was as spectacular as the sight of Villarica in Pucon. I also missed the warmth (physical) and friendliness of the hostel there though I was tempted to spend a few days in Argentina being so close to the border. It did however necessitate an expensive reciprocal fee for Australians and Americans so I reluctantly gave that a miss. Unfortunately the weather was dismal this time  so I did little more than read and do laundry before catching the 12 hour bus to Santiago but the welcome was warm and it was very relaxing and  both the town and the hostel still had that pleasant buzz without being outrageously expensive. Thanks Pablo for the lovely room and for keeping the home fires burning.

I never did find out whether the wattle trees were imported or native to Chile also


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