From Lake District to Punta Arenas city

Llanquihue Lake

Llanquihue Lake

Puerto Varas is a picturesque town, surrounded by two jutting volcanoes on either side, like twin sentinels guarding the town from attack. It reminded me very much of a Swiss town nestled high up in the Alps. We weren’t terribly lucky with the weather while we were here though, as it rained virtually the entire time, with dreary overcast skies and rolling fog. Even the towering volcanoes couldn’t be seen through the murky haze much of the time. Puerto Varas is a well known destination for those seeking physical activities, with tours being offered daily for such endeavours as kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, or mountain climbing. The tours as we found out were rather expensive though, as much $90 U.S per person per day, which would cut into our travel budget immensely. As such we decided a little independent travelling and exploring would be on the menu instead.

Osorno Volcano

Osorno Volcano

First up we decided to roam around the Lake District, and ended up travelling to the village of Petrohue on the far side of the lake, on the other side of the nearest volcano. We had decided to hop on a bus, though we had no idea where it would take us. Not many people in this region spoke English. We were joined by a couple of athletic looking guys from South Africa, so at least we weren’t alone on this trip into the unknown. As we bounced along the road, it was difficult to see much of the surrounding environs. It was what my grandma would call pea soup weather. Rainy, low lying clouds, foggy, just a dreary day all told. Once we reached Petrohue it was absolutely pouring out, and it seemed nothing was open, not any restaurants, stores, hotels, nothing, although for all we knew, there could’ve been something open right in front of our noses and we would have been none the wiser with the low visibility and pouring rain. With no idea what to do or where to go, and not even sure of when the bus would depart, we decided to hike towards the volcano (this wasn’t my idea, I would’ve been happy just sitting under an overhang somewhere trying to stay dry).
So we trudged along for an hour in the pouring rain, eventually circling back and returning to town. The good news with rain is that eventually you and your clothes can’t get any wetter, so after awhile it really didn’t matter, and it actually made the day feel like more of an adventure. The South Africans on the other hand had stayed behind waiting for the bus, which was my first inclination. We ended up waiting three more hours until a bus finally showed up to take us back to Puerto Varas.

Cementery in Punta Arenas

Cementery in Punta Arenas

So day one of our solo adventuring was a miserable failure for the most part. We were still very excited to continue on with our journey though, which took us way down south to Punta Arenas, pretty darn close to Antarctica if you can believe it. Punta Arenas has a climate very much like where I’m from in Alberta, Canada, so I felt right at home here, and the people were very friendly as well. The temperature here stays relatively level the year round I’ve been told, though when winds blow up from the south it can get fearsomely cold. If you know anything about Alberta though, you’d know that a little cold doesn’t scare me at all. The skies here are large and open, much like Alberta as well. The difference is the water. Alberta has very little water, and here we’re right on the coast, and have had the opportunity to ride on ferries, see dolphins, and much more. It’s been a real blast for me.
From here we’ll head to Puerto Natales and a trek in the Torres del Paine National Park. It should be very interesting and fun, as we get to stay in places called refugios, which are huts. I’ll be sure to write more later. For now I’m going back down to the water to see if I can spot some more penguins.