Volcanoes and Fire

Trip Start Jun 09, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Where I stayed
Chamaca Inn

Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, March 12, 2006

We take a 4hr bus trip from Chonchi in Chiloe Island to Puerto Montt (4,100 Pesos, about GBP4.50), which includes a free ferry crossing where we watch seabirds whirl and spin from the comfort of the bus seat.

In Puerto Montt, our decision not to stay in the town seems a good one because the town looks ugly and unattractive. Instead we jump straight on a minibus to Puerto Varas (500Pesos or GBP0.50) 35km away on the shores of placid Lago Llanquihue. Coming into town we see views of perfectly conical snowcapped volcanoes in the distance across the lake of blue. The view confirms the feeling that we are in a geographically different part of Chile, the Lake District.

After an abortive attempt to stay at a German operated backbapckers (where it seemed really cramped and had a particularly unfriendly owner) we wind up at 135 Mirador, where we get a reasonable room to ourselves and use of a well equiped kitchen and dining area. We bump into Gaelle again; its funny how we keep seeing each other, but not entirely surprising as we are on the `gringo trail` with similar time scales to reach Santiago.

Outside the hostel it seems really smoky, and I am surprised that someone is having a bonfire in the middle of the afternoon. Later on in town I see that I was mistaken in my analysis of the source of the smoke; one of the towns four star hotels on the waterfront, Hotel Colones, is rapidly reducing into a pile of ash. A large crowd is gathered to watch the pyrotechnics as flames leap from the twisted carcase of the building and firemen struggle to prevent it spreading to neighbouring buildings. Rachel comments that it is the first time she has seen such a serious fire before. Next morning I read in the newspaper that no one was hurt, but 92 guests didn`t have rooms that night and they think the blaze started in the kitchen.

Since we only have one day in Puerto Varas, we take a little wander around the town and try to soak up the sights, sounds, avoiding where possible the acrid smell. We take a wander up to Park Philippi, where we get some good views of the town and the distant volcanoes.

The town has an unmistakably huge red-roofed church which was built by German immigrants in 1915. It is based on the Marienkirche of the Black Forest, and gives the town a very European feel. The German influence is also apparent in the bakeries and coffee shops, where we enjoy huge slices of decadent cream cakes. I start to feel that the dark days of incipid Patagonian food are at last slipping behind us, as we move to the more sophisticated north.

In the evening we go out with Gaelle, who is proving to be good company for evening dinners, and we eat in Chamaca Inn, where the menu has about 10 pages of seafood offerings. I have the Paella, Rachel has the Congrio with potatoes and vegetables, and Gaelle goes for the Crab Caserole. For all three, including drinks and starters, the price is 18,000 Pesos (about GBP18.00).

In the morning, Rachel and I pay the bill for the hostel (10,000 Pesos or GBP10.00) and head down to the Tur Bus terminal, where we get on the 10.15am to Valdivia. Valdivia is billed as Chile`s nicest town and we look forward to finding out for ourselves.

Despite the fire, we still enjoyed our short time in Puerto Varas, and I won't easily forget gazing at the distant Osorno volcano across the vast blue Lago Llanquihue.
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gaellelc on

Hello co-travellers!
I liked your 'good company for evening dinners' :-) Yes we had a good laugh!
Thanks for your company during those last weeks, it was fun and interesting travelling together and we might meet again sooner than expected...

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