The hostel we stayed at was small and compact but had really nice staff and a nice homey feel about it. On the evening of the first night we were invited to their traditional Chilean barbecue with huge slabs of steak being cooked on it. I also learnt two new BBQ tips, 1) use a hairdryer for getting the charcoal burning quicker and 2) use half a large onion to clean the BBQ, don't know why this worked but it did. I did a few walks around the place on the Sunday after but did very little else. I noticed here as in Santiago and Valparaiso that the main street is called Bernardo O'Higgins, some famous dude this bloke was to get the main streets named after him I thought to myself. I read later that he had Irish routes (hence the name) and he liberated Chile from Spanish rule.
After Pucon we moved further south to the coastal city of Puerto Montt. After 5 hours on the bus we arrived, and the bus once again took the less than scenic route to the bus terminal taking us through some very rough looking areas. Once we'd got there though a short walk up the coast and we were in a much more civilised bit of the town. Our Spanish by this stage was definitely improving as we managed to get accommodation in a hospadje (Chilean Guest-house) where the landlord only spoke Spanish so good practice. Not too much else to say about Puerto Montt other than I had a Barros Luca here, another Chilean specialty, a steak and cheese sandwich named after a former president.
The following morning we took the 30 minute local bus to Puerto Vares which was a much nicer town and similar to Pucon in that it was surrounded by the extremely large Lake Llanquihue with the snow-capped Orsono Volcano in the far distance. After a couple of hours wandering around Puerto Vares, I had seen everything I thought there was to see, so I decided to head on a random bus journey to any bus destination I liked the sound of. I picked Fruitillar because it sounded like Fruitella the chewy sweets. After 40 minutes I was in this small village on the other side of Lake Llanquihue which had a distinctly German feel to it. After reading up a bit about the place in a tourist brochure I found that it was a big German settlement area, in fact a lot of this area of Chile was - very interesting history on that that I wont go into here. Fruitillar was nice none the less but very quiet and there were only a few people milling around the village. I noticed on the bus back to Puerto Vares that in the South Central area of Chile the discerning gentleman tends to wear a range of Christmas jumpers like your grandma might knit. One particular one caught my eye which was grey with dark green and black reindeers on it, and all of a sudden I felt incredibly festive which seemed wrong for late in April.
With our intentions to go to the far south of Chile being scuppered by the winter weather and off-season closures, we took some advice from friends back home and headed to the island of Chiloe. The town of Castro was the capital of Chiloe and the guest-house we found here was really good. The main basis for choosing this place was that it had cable TV to watch the Champions league semi finals, but the woman who ran the place was really nice too. She was trying to learn English and I was trying to learn Spanish so it made for some great cross lingual conversations, and I particularly struggled to explain to her, and a room full of other Chileans who knew spatterings of English, why we had the same word 'Left' that was a direction and a past tense for leave - trust me, not easy to do.
While we were in Chiloe we took the 90 minute bus journey to the national park, which had a beach and woodlands and was very different to other national parks I'd been to. To get to the beach you had to walk through a field of cows, horses, dogs and more menacingly bulls. The beach was absolutely deserted, as was most of the park, we only saw about 8 people the entire time we were there but one of those people was a Canadian guy called Josh who was staying at our guest-house - what are the odds on that! He offered us a lift back to Castro town centre, which saved us some bus fare, and on the way showed us some of the local plants we could eat including some bright purpley-pink berry which tasted a bit like candy floss.
Back in Castro we went out for some food and beers with Josh, a Swiss bloke who was in our guest-house and a slightly mad chiloen woman who was telling me that the rivalry between Chiloens and Chileans was like English and Welsh. Oh and I had a great steak here that was served with something called native potatoes, which were really black potatoes that looked like they'd been grown in a coal mine - didn't look very appertising but they were tasty all the same.
After just 2 nights we were on the road again back to Puerto Vares for an overnight stop before heading to our next destination - Argentina.
The small town of Pucon was my next destination in Chile and Pucon I can tell you is pronounced with a hard C and not a soft one as I found out after spending 10 minutes explaining our destination incorrectly at the bus ticket terminal. Pucon is a really beautiful little town with all the buildings carrying wooden sections on the outside to give them that chalet/cabin look. Overlooking the town is the snow-capped Villaricca volcano and there's a huge lake to the other side of the town which makes it really picturesque. And it was cold too, the difference in temperature from Santiago was evident so out came the fleece and other layers of clothing. There were lots of different activities that could be done from here like canyoning, horse riding, rafting and climbing the volcano but I opted to save this stuff for a later date and just chilled out for a couple of days.