Lakes Crossing through the Andes

Trip Start Feb 10, 2008
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Trip End Aug 14, 2008


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Friday, March 21, 2008

We were so sad to leave Southern Patagonia (this is the statue whose foot we had to rub so that we would return; if you click on the photo to enlarge it you may see how shiny it is) but when we arrived in the Chilean Lake District and saw our hotel in the distance we were yet again entranced. It was on the edge of Lake Llanquihue(pronounced Yan kee way) with beautiful views and walking distance to the town of Puerto Varas. We felt as if we were in an Alpine town with lakes and mountains and wooden chalets and the German settlers had brought a definite European influence. This area has salmon farms and exports all over the world. They have cages in the lakes where they keep the salmon for 6 months and then move them to the ocean for 18 months to grow huge; trying to replicate their wild life-cycle. Needless to say we dined on delicious grilled salmon.
When we walked into town there was a street market for Easter selling eggs, bunnies, chocolates, jams made from local berries(excellent) and all sorts of related stuff. We bought a huge punnet of fresh raspberries for about $2. Quite fascinating and even a busker playing pan pipes(David's favourite, as you may imagine?). On our walk back past the local church we heard beautiful music and singing which was more to our liking.
A good place to say farewell to Chile and start our first crossing of the Andes.

We set off at 8am for our first bus trip of 2 hours around the southern rim of  Lago Llanquihue with a stop for a walk to the spectacular Petrohue Falls in Chile's oldest National Park. The paths were slippery and rough and several older people fell over so we had to be careful! 
Then our first lake crossing; a 1 hour 40 minutes boat trip across Lago Todos Los Santos with spectacular scenery and emerald-green water because of minerals in it from the glacial melt. Clouds were covering part of the Volcano Osorno but we could still see parts of its snow-covered tip peeping through. We then had lunch at Peulla and on to a 4 wheel drive bus over windy, narrow, dirt roads  to the Chilean customs post. Formalities did not take long and the bus ride through the Andes continued to the Argentine customs, a few more km of dirt away. All went smoothly and we boarded a boat for a short  trip to Pto Allegre. Yet more stunning scenery through Argentina's oldest national park. Another short, bumpy bus ride of about 15 minutes then on to our third and final boat bound for Pto. Panuelo in Bariloche. It felt similar to crossing from north to south island NZ only on a much grander scale and going on for ever. This took about 1 hour but, on arrival, we had to stay on board for about half an hour before being allowed off. So frustrating but with marine police there we could not argue(though David was itching to try). We finally arrived at our hotel in Bariliche about 9.30pm. so a very long and tiring 13 hours but what an experience and so much better than flying. Our first crossing of the Andes and it was spectacular. The beauty of the lakes and mountains is breathtaking.
We were told that this was a main trade route between Chile and Argentina before the Panama Canal opened as it cut 4 months off the boat journey round Cape Horn . It is  amazing to think of those times long ago and the dificult conditions they faced. Wonder how long the journey took back then? A Swiss gentleman bought the company forseeing the tourism potential. Thanks to him that we were able to do this amazing journey.
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