Wearing out our Welcome in a Lakeside Oasis

Trip Start Sep 03, 2008
Trip End May 2009

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Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ceiling, mattress, wall
The view is not so stellar
From the hostel bed

Our progress hit a snag this week when, enjoying our recent arrival to idyllic lakeside town Puerto Varas, Eli was blindsided by a raging fever and intestinal distress. More on that in a minute. Pre-snag, we spent several pleasant days in Valdivia, the City of Rivers, known for its waterfront, its brewery (the Kuntsmann), and the regional delicacy "crudos" - chopped raw meat on white bread (think steak tartar, pub style). We had the opportunity to partake of all of the above: bustling, thirst-quenching, and surprisingly delicious, respectively. There is a great fish market here, and enormous sea lions come right up to the dock to eat whatever the vendors toss their way. We also enjoyed some culture at the Modern Art Museum, housed in the remains of a burnt out brewery on the riverside, and strolled through the botanical garden at the Universidad Austral. We even managed to watch the Presidential debate from our hostel, complete with Chinese takeout. Topping off our visit was a day trip to nearby fortress town Niebla and a sunset litro of Escudo beer on the beach.

Moving south we arrived in Puerto Varas, a tiny vacation town which, when weather permits, has stunning views of several volcanoes across the peaceful surface of Lake Llanquihue. Sadly weather only permitted for a day, then clouds moved in on our adventure literally and figuratively. Tuesday night, after a nice day trip to neighboring town Puerto Montt and what might have been *too* affordable a lunch, Eli awoke with a fever, chills, and stomachache at 2 am. It was Saturday before he was even able to get out of bed again. Bron spent these days improving her Spanish, especially in supermarket transactions ("donde estan el gatorade y las galletas de soda?") and taking repeated walks around the 8 blocks of downtown Puerto Varas in an effort to maintain her sanity.

Even with Eli on the up and up at the start of the weekend, we had pretty much decided our time in this town would be a wash. However on Eli's maiden voyage back into the world, we happened upon...wait for it...OKTOBERFEST!!! Thats right, folks, as we mentioned southern Chile is a hotbed of Germans, filled with kuchen cafes and covered in saurkraut. And October 2-4 is Oktoberfest Puerto Varas style. After only broth and soda crackers for a week Eli reintroduced solid foods with (a few small bites of) bratwurst and (tiny sips of) draft beer! Other highlights of the festival were Chilean children's dance troupes performing traditional German folk dances, polka bands, and an afternoon of "popular German games" including nail hammering and log sawing contests! We learned our new favorite Spanish phrase "al seco" which translates to "until its dry" and is used to encourage someone to chug a beer!

After two fun-filled afternoons in the Oktoberfest tent, we capped off Eli's triumphant return to health with a Chilean pro-league basketball game played in nearby Llanquihue. These were some serious hoops, played at an extremely high level in a moderately low level gym. Each team in the league is allowed 3 foreign players, so there were some big Americans on the court. The crowd was small but enthusiastic, and at half time all the kids in the audience get to run rampant on the court and shoot baskets. We also learned that "al seco" can be yelled out here, to mean "drain the ball! Sink it!" We got really attached to the home team and were devastated when they lost by 5 in the last moments of play. The whole experience was reinvigorating and gave us a little taste of home.

Thus after way longer than we had anticipated being here, we were finally fully recovered and able to leave Puerto Varas. Crossing our fingers for no more prolonged illnesses, we're off to the islands to try to spot some penguins!


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Where I stayed
Hospedaje Ellenhaus
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