Have you ever read those news stories about the person that follows google maps into a lake despite it being overtly obvious that they shouldn’t be driving into said lake? Well I have, and I always wondered what kind of idiot trusts google maps over their own two eyes. Now I know: me kind of idiot.
Our time in Chile’s Lake District began–and gratefully concluded–the driving portion of our travels. After arriving in Puerto Montt on Boxing Day, I drove onto a ferry for the first time as we made our way to Chiloé, Chile’s second largest island.
We stayed at a wonderful Airbnb in the hills of Dalcahue, where the adult daughter of our host engaged with us in an interesting and personal conversation about Pinochet. She was ten years old when Pinochet’s rule came to an end. She remembers when one of her cousins was politically imprisoned and tortured; her family was scared to speak about it with anyone, not knowing who they could trust. As for her own political views, she joked “nobody would talk about anything at home or at school, but one of my friends was a communist, so I became one too.” This is why I question Chile’s decision to not teach about this in school…
Another thing I question about Chile? Their inability to pave roads! I thought we left the road troubles behind in San Pedro de Atacama, but they were back in full force here in the Lake District. We set off for Parque Nacional Chiloe a bit weary as we couldn’t find an exact address for a park entrance, but I trusted google maps to take us there anyways. I now know better… As we were inching along through what I can only describe as the set of Jurassic Park, a list of everything that could go wrong kept playing on loop in my mind: (a) we could easily get a flat tire; (b) we could be ambushed by humans; (c) we could be ambushed by animals; (d) there could be a tsunami; (e) there could be a fire.
The loop kept playing but google maps kept telling us to drive a bit further, so I kept doing just that. I finally came to my senses after passing what looked like a recently burned area and we turned around, simultaneously cursing google maps and Chile’s lack of signage and pavement as we made it back to the sea.
With an altered sense of risk as we headed back to find the actual entrance to the national park, we stopped to pick up a group of three hitchhikers who seemed relatively harmless. They were bound for Muelle de Las Almas, and since at that point I didn’t know where anything was and just wanted to go *somewhere*, I decided that is where we were headed too. While they ultimately decided to ditch their plan once they realized there was an entrance fee, Dom and I kept going and boy am I glad we did! A beautiful 45 minute hike through lush forests and hilly farmland led us to astoundingly beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. I was happy to claim at least one proper victory that day.
After arriving safely back at our Airbnb I was hesitant to venture out driving again, so instead we hopped on a ferry the next day to Quinchao, yet another island in this archipelago. We took the local minibus to Achao (or, as Dom liked to say, “Ahhchoo!”) where I finally tried the traditional seafood cazuela for lunch at yet another local restaurant that thinks menus are unnecessary. After lunch we walked up the hill before hopping on a minibus back to the ferry, admiring the number of bus stops and bus frequency on this island of 7,000 inhabitants.
We headed back to the mainland for the remainder of our stay in the Lake District and based ourselves out of Puerto Varas, a German-influenced town on the shores of Lake Llanquihue.
We concluded 2018 on an adventurous streak. Our first day in Puerto Varas we rented kayaks, taking advantage of the break in the rain to enjoy the views. (Although I am convinced that all of the photos showing off Osorno Volcano are photo-shopped, as the clouds never cleared enough to actually see the volcano in full.)
The next day we ventured out for a 19km hike through Vincente Peréz Rosales National Park, Chile’s oldest national park. Although our 4km-basically-completely-vertical-through-sand-and-rain diversion to Mirador La Picada proved somewhat moot (see exhibit A), the hike was fantastic overall! In the span of four hours we ventured through mountains, forests and shores, each showcasing their distinct beauty at the foot of Osorno Volcano.
For our final day of 2018 we went white water rafting down the Petrohue River, and it was a blast! Unsurprisingly, I volunteered us to sit up front which meant a first row seat to the many rapids that came our way. No regrets.
As is a theme with our New Years (and I’ll take full responsibility here), it was a struggle to stay up. But we did spend some time mingling with others at our hostel’s barbecue, went for a walk along the lake where fireworks would later ring in the new year and then went to sleep promptly at 12:05am.
And it’s a rather good thing we did get a full night’s sleep, because our first day of 2019 was an adventure to say the least. While neither of us are avid–or even regular–cyclists, our hostel advertised a 32km bike ride to neighboring Frutillar as one of “the big 5” things to do in Puerto Varas. So despite some reservations, we rented two bikes and set off just after noon, expecting to have a nice lunch around 2pm in Frutillar before catching the bus back home. Needless to say, after 8km of a “dirt” path next to the train tracks and 24km of aggressively rolling hills, we scarfed down a hearty dinner at 5pm when we finally made it to Frutillar.