Published: June 9th 2008June 6th 2008
I'd heard that Volcan Chaiten had been depositing ash on a couple of places further south that I'd intended visiting so, with no wish to look any greyer than I already do, I went west instead. The journey across the Andes and down into Chile provided some views of the volcanoes that punctuate the landscape here with a menace not conferred on mere mountains. Volcan Osorno, possessing a shape of which Hokusai would no doubt have approved and conveniently closest to the road, drew my eye for several hours.
My chosen hostel had a name translating as "Blue House" in English, a description it fulfilled even down to the colour of the toilet paper. Other guests were scarce so, with the young dog's idea of fun being to try to bite me and cover my trousers in muddy pawprints, I found myself instead playing with the owner's 4 year old son, who seemed unconcerned that I had little ability to either speak Spanish or understand the rules of engagement in a fight between a toy dinosaur and a miniature truck.
Typical of the region, Puerto Varas has its share of German colonial architecture, though its most striking aspect is
the view of Volcan Osorno and Volcan Calbuco across Lago Llanquihue. Haze and cloud more often than not obstructed both, but my first sunrise there produced some remarkable colours.
A popular day-trip from Puerto Varas is to the nearby village of Frutillar, its lakeside streets packed full of German architecture. The place was first settled by immigrants in the 1850s and within 10 years there were over 1,500 German colonists in the region. The German connection is also evident in the hosteria names, cafes advertising kuchen, and garden gnomes. I had a very satisfying bratwurst lunch that sadly left no room for any dessert.
A jarring note was sounded by the large under-construction concrete affair that will apparently be a theatre, but otherwise Frutillar was a pleasant place to potter around in, and I suspect I was the only foreign tourist in town. A museum containing reconstructions of various buildings from the initial settlement provided more background info. Before coming to South America I had really had little idea of just how many European countries had contributed to the ethnic mix, and encountering these cultural enclaves has been both fascinating and thought-provoking.
I'll note in passing that,
in my experience so far, saucepans in South America seem to be precisely for making sauce. If you need a larger vessel for boiling pasta or potatoes then it will not have a long handle and will instead require the use of towels to lift it by its short handles.
A strike protesting the rising price of fuel meant that it took me a while to move on from Puerto Varas, however on my fourth attempt I finally made it to my next destination, a rainy island populated with people who like eating potatoes - Isla Grande in the archipelago of Chiloe.
There are more photos below