Next, my itinerary took me across the border to Chile. The 5-hour bus ride went over a mountain pass and then down to the Chilean immigration post.
Passport checks were quick, but Chilean customs controls were slow. They involved making an online declaration and then a search of every baggage item for fruit, meat and dairy products. Workers with rubber gloves opened suspect bags and confiscated apples and bananas from some members of our group, shaking their heads and taking photos of their passports and incorrectly completed customs declarations. The road then descended to a flat, verdant plane with farms and cows. I could have been back home in England if were not for the two snow-capped volcanos – Osorno and Calbuco – in the distance. Puerto Varas turned out to be a very pleasant town – nicer than Bariloche – with cute wooden houses, many constructed by a wave of German immigrants in the 1850s and 60s. The Germans were welcomed by the fledgling independent Chilean state with a free plot of land and cattle. Even today, the German influence is strongly present in many ways – like the name of my hotel, “Dein Haus”. My room was brilliant, with a panoramic view of the lake and the volcanoes in the distance.
It was now late, so I unpacked and headed out into town for dinner in a German “Bierstube”. Like Bariloche, there was good excellent locally brewed craft beer in Puerto Varas, but the prices for food and drink were double what I had got used to paying in Argentina – similar to European prices. The next morning, my view of the volcanoes had disappeared behind cloud and mist, and it was raining. I should have realised that with landscapes this green, it must rain a lot, but after two weeks of continuous sun in Argentina I had forgotten that it could rain and stopped checking the weather forecast. I logged on to my computer and was distressed to see that rain and cloud was forecast for the next two days in Puerto Varas, and after that for the two days I would be spending further south in Puerto Natales. I set off all the same to explore the region and was rewarded when, contrary to expectations, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. The views of volcano Osorno became more and more impressive, and I took a side road to climb up to its summit.
A short walk from the car park was a place offering amazing views over the Andes and back towards Argentine.
Next, I decided to drive a less well-known route, making a big loop to the south through the town of Puelo. The scenery was nice….
…….but the surfaced road turned into a dirt track, and my progress was much slower than I expected. I also had to take a ferry and then drive through the city of Puerto Montt, the regional capital, which turned out to be large, sprawling, ugly and choked with traffic jams. I got home late and tired, and resolved to take it easier the next day (as I had often done before).
On the following day it was cloudy, and in the morning I spent a pleasant couple of hours exploring the wooden houses of Puerto Varas.
Photographing the town was made more difficult by the ubiquitous and ugly black cables hanging everywhere – this had been a feature of many of the places I had visited so far, and I was puzzled as to why so many were needed. I pondered this question whilst trying the traditional German “Kaffee und Kuchen”.
In the afternoon I made a short drive to the Lago de Todos los Santos, one of the most famous sites in the area, but in the cloudy weather the views, whilst still pretty, were less spectacular than the day before.
For once, I decided to have a lazy day, and headed back to my hotel to relax, have dinner, and catch up on my blog.Tomorrow I had a big day ahead of me.