Tales of Travel: Pucon

From Puerto Varas, we caught a “bus” (a rickety old minivan that wobbled and bounced all over the place) to Pucon, a lovely mountain town with Volcan Villarrica smouldering as its backdrop. Pucon is another popular backpacker’s place, with people flocking to the area for the usual adventure activities, as well as the nearby thermal pools. The town itself is pretty quiet during the day, as most people are off doing exciting, active things, but it has some lovely shops and a nice area by the lake front to relax in.

Beautiful Villarrica

Our first full day dawned bright and clear, and Tall headed off with 15 others to tackle Volcan Villarrica. I slept in (aahhhh), chilled out in the awesome backyard of our hostel (with great views of the volcano) and wandered into the town centre.

Mapuche Indians standing guard by the lake

Mid-afternoon, the sky started to look pretty black and I escaped back to the hostel before the clouds could unleash; just a couple of hours later, the climbers were back. Only half of them had made it to the top….and Tall was one of the them. He arrived back soaking wet (they got caught in a thunder/hail storm on their descent…apparently lightning + metal climbing spike + snow = scary) and said it was challenging but incredible.

Smokin’ hot lava

“Yeah, I climbed that active volcano right there…”

After the exertion of the day before (on Tall’s part, at least), we spent our second day being lazy, wandered to the black sand beach on the shore of the lake and generally relaxed in preparation for our next long bus journey up into wine country.

(December 2009)

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Tales of Travel: Puerto Varas

The bus ride from Villa la Angostura to Puerto Varas took us across the Andes, into Chile. We left Angostura on a sunny morning, and were suddenly driving through snow-covered ranges as we ascended across the border. As the road wound down again, the snow melted away, and it was as though we’d had a trip through the wardrobe into Narnia and back.

Lago Llanquihue

Long before you arrive in Puerto Varas, you’re hit by the sight of the two inactive volcanoes (Osorno and Calbuco), at the northern end of Lago Llanquihue. Puerto Varas is situated on the southern shore, so no matter where you are in the town, you can almost always see the mountains. The evening we arrived, we wandered around the town and up to a nice, very Germanic, church. In front of the church was a small public garden with a whole lot of decorated and sponsored christmas trees – it was the first sign of the coming holiday that we’d seen, and it made me excited about our pending return to New Zealand.

Eek! T’was the season…

We hadn’t organised any tours or any sort of itinerary before we arrived (that’s the way we tend to travel; we wing it when it comes to what we’ll do, where we’ll go and where we’ll stay), and the one tour we wanted to do – around Lago Llanquihue, with stops at various towns and at the bottom of Volcano Osorno – was full.

Instead, we (okay…mostly I) decided to take a bus tour to Lago Todos los Santos (“All Saints’ Lake”) and take a catamaran to Peulla. We didn’t know much about the tour, but figured it would be good to do something, and that the boat trip would be good anyway.

Early the next morning, a big tour bus pulls up, and the guide starts talking about crossing into Argentina and needing our passports. Tall and I were looking at each other thinking, “Huh? what’s going on?”. It turned out that the tour company runs day excursions (phew) as well as full transport from Puerto Montt, in Chile, back to Bariloche, which is a popular way for people to cross from Chile to Argentina.

Petrohue waterfall

The first stop was to admire the rushing Cascada Petrohue, then it was back on the bus to meet the catamaran. The views of Volcano Osorno and Cascada Yefi (not my misheard Jeffrey, which I think is a much better name for a waterfall!) from the boat were nice, but other than that, it was a very sedate journey across the lake. The tour company were all about pushing their activities to do for the three hours is Peulla – Tall was put off the canopying (flying-fox styles) by the old ladies on the video, and the “jet boating” for “adrenalin seekers” was also suitable for the whole family, and looked decidedly unexciting. We figured that we’d have lunch and wander round Peulla, maybe buy some souvenirs, write postcards while sipping coffee in a café overlooking the lake…….

Peulla consists of two hotels, one restaurant (and I use that word very loosely here), one tour company, one school, and a handful of houses. No shops. No postcards. No cafés.

[insert three hours of crickets chirping and tumbleweed rolling by here]

22 weeks pregnant with Tiny, at a little waterfall in Peulla

After an excruciatingly long three hours (during which we s-l-o-w-l-y ate our cafeteria lunch, wandered to a little waterfall, and sat down to write a list of what we were looking for in a house when we got home), we got the boat back across the lake, saw Yefi and Osorno again, and then back on the bus for the two-hour ride back to Puerto Varas.

It was an unexciting place for us to visit due to the unavailability of the tour we hoped to do, but it was nice to do something different…and to realise that sometimes, winging it just doesn’t work out the way you hope it will.

(December 2009)