The Great Plague

Trip Start Jul 12, 2012
Trip End Jun 21, 2013

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Where I stayed
Ellenhaus Hospedaje

Flag of Chile  , Los Lagos,
Tuesday, January 15, 2013

I spent just two nights in this little German town, which is another gateway to lots more volcanic, adventurous fun. Sadly, I didn't have time for much in the way of adventurous fun but I could squeeze in a trip to see some of the area’s main attractions.

A 45-minute bus ride away was Saltos de Petrohue, a large waterfall at the foot of a volcano. As I got off the minibus, I noticed that the people queuing up at the entrance kept making random, jerky movements like they were practising some strange, contemporary dance moves. A flick of the arm here; a full-body spin there… What was it all about? It was most puzzling. That is, until I joined the queue and was beset by huge, aggressive black flies and I started to move in exactly the same way, flapping them away with my hands. The flies looked like a cross between a flying cockroach and a horse-fly. Every now and then, one would land on me, unnoticed, and bite my skin through my t-shirt, a sharp pin-prick. That’s when my arms would flail around more than ever. Along with dozens of other harassed tourists, I went to see the famous waterfalls. They were lovely, but my mind was elsewhere.

Next stop was Petrohue for some potential hiking. The buses were infrequent, so, as it was only 5km away, I started to walk there. The 35C sun beat down and the flies were unbearable as I trudged along the dusty track. It brought back to me those family camping holidays in Wales when the wasps were out in force. They were too much for the 5-year-old me to cope with, so I would spend the entire holiday hiding in the car with the windows firmly shut. I could do with a hiding place now, but there wasn’t one… Oh yes there was! Here was the little bus, churning up dust in its wake, but oh what a welcome sight! The driver kindly stopped when I flagged it down and told me that the flies are called 'tavanos’ and that they emerge for only a couple of weeks each year. I was unlucky.

A few minutes later the bus arrived in Petrohue. I had assumed that it would be free of these beasties, but how wrong I was. In fact, it was even worse. As I walked along the beach of black, volcanic sand, up to 50 flies buzzed around me at any one time, invading my personal space and my photos. Hiking aborted, I hopped on the first bus out of there. I found out later that ‘petro’ is another name for a tavano and that Petrohue is famous for these pests that are attracted to the black sand there. Aw, couldn’t someone have told me that earlier?

After such a stressful day, I needed to unwind so I took a late afternoon dip in the lake at Puerto Varas. With a cold beer in hand, I gazed at the volcano in the distance and breathed a sigh of relief that I was free of that buzzing black plague, for now at least.
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