Puerto Varas, lovely lakes & awesome Volcan Osorno

Trip Start Nov 06, 2009
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Flag of Chile  , Lake District,
Friday, November 5, 2010

Pulling into Puerto Varas bus station we could have been forgiven for thinking we'd been teleported to Germany. The houses and churches are all very heavily German-influenced, and German beer, chocolate and 'kuchen' are sold everywhere. It's named after Vicente Pérez Rosales who founded it in 1854 and offered farmland around the lake to mainly German-speaking European settlers.

The town sits beside Llanquihue Lake, one of the biggest natural lakes in South America. From the lakeside we could clearly see the snow-capped peaks of the mighty Volcan Osorno, Mount Calbuco and Mount Tronador rising up majestically from the other side.

We checked into the cosy Compass del Sur hostel, a lovely old classic German-style colonial house on a street full of lots of other lovely old classic colonial houses, heated by toasty woodburners throughout (especially handy for drying wet clothes and backpacks when it rains - as it does mist of the time in Puerto Varas!).

Fortunately however, the day we decided to visit the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park (our main reason for visiting Puerto Varas) Mother Nature was very kind to us, turning the rain off and cranking the temperature up a few notches.

A lovely Spanish couple, Danny and Mirella from Barcelona, gave us a lift to the town of Petrohue, the gateway to the national park, about 60km from Puerto Varas.
We trekked along the 'Sendero Paso de la Desolacion', which took us along a black sandy path alongside Lago Todos Los Santos (All Saints Lake), through dry scrub and dense green beech forest, along dry river beds, over lava rock cushioned with a carpet of soft moss, and up barren slopes of loose volcanic cinder rock (from which the pass' bleak name is derived) to a viewpoint.
When we started the trek the snow-capped peak of Volcan Osorno was hidden behind mist and dense clouds which threatened to dump their load on us. However as we got higher and nearer to the volcano the sun made an appearance and melted the clouds away, treating us to an absolutely awesome view of Osorno. We ate our packed lunches on our high up rock, taking in the breathtaking views across Lago Todoa Los Santos, Volcan Osorno, Volcan Calbuco and Volcan Puntiagudo. Pretty special!

We then bounced our way back down the soft black volcanic sand slopes (much easier than climbing up them, which involves taking one step up and three steps back with every step) and walked down to the black sand beach bordering the lake. Through the crystal clear water we could see right to the bottom of the lake bed - made up of bright red and dark grey gravel-sized bits of volcanic rock.

The waters of Lago Todos los Santos flow down into a narrow canyon joining Lago Llanquihue  and forming a set of wild white water rapids, and forcing the river through narrow gaps in an old lava flow, creating the Saltos del Petrohue (Petrohue Falls). From Petrohué town we took a local bus to the falls.

Like the last set of falls we saw - Huka Falls near Taupo - Petrohue Falls are pretty powerful, with an average waterflow of 270 cubic metres per second. Again, pretty impressive.

Then back on a bus to the small settlement of Ensenada, where we visited the Laguna Verde  (Green Lagoon). It was, as you may imagine, a lagoon of green water. Pretty. But more exciting was the wildlife we happened to encounter there; a small grey fox-like creature crossed our  path. It watched us curiously from a few yards away for a little while, as we watched it curiously too. We later discovered that it wasn't actually a fox, but a 'chilla'. Another word to add to my ever-expanding list of Spanish animal vocab!

By the time we made it back to Puerto Varas we were tired but happy and very ready for a slap-up meal (the previous night's leftovers - still very tasty even if we do say so ourselves!) and a good catch-up over a bit of wine with our fellow hostel mates (this time from Aus, Germany, Spain, Holland, France and the US).
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