Santiago to Chiloe and back

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April 19th 2014
Published: April 25th 2014
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Thursday 17th

We wait for our pick up by the Pachamama bus and eventually it arrives about an hour late. We head out of the city and the scenery soon turns green and lots of trees and rolling hills. Our drive is short today and we soon arrive at the little town of Pomaire. We have a look around and it's a place full of shops selling the same pots. It must be a the pot capital of Chile ! No one buys any as most are too large to carry.

Back on the bus and after another short drive before we stop at the Rapeal dam. It's a big hydro electricity scheme in Chile but fairly small as dams go.

We continue for about another hour or so and finally stop in Pichilemu. It's another small town on the beach. There's not much to it and the beach is black volcanic sand.

Late afternoon we go to Punta De Lobos to watch the sunset. It's ok but we've seen better ones. It's cold !

We go out as a group for dinner and find out a bit more about our fellow passengers. One is an American born again Christian who also has a conspiracy theory about everything and one an American ex policeman with tattoos, pony tail and more guns at home than the British army ! There's a lively discussion about gun control.

Friday 18th

It's going to be a long day as we have to drive over 700K. We set off late as three don't bother to arrive for breakfast until after we were supposed to have left.

The drive's through more green valleys and we pass a number of olive groves and vineyards. We stop after a couple of hours at a museum in Santa Cruz. It's a huge museum and really interesting and we spend a couple of hours there.

Then it's back on the bus for several hours and at 8.30 we stop in Pucon for the next two nights.

Saturday 19th

We have a lay in and reluctantly get out of our really cozy bed. After spending a lazy morning we go out around the town and have a look at the shops. The huge Villarrica volcano dominates the scenery. We go on a short boat trip around lake La Poza whilst the rest of our group set off to climb the volcano.

The trips quite nice and we see the black beach and woodland. It last only about 45 mins but that's long enough as it's pretty cold.

Pucon resembles an alpine town and looks more like an Austrian ski resort.

After lunch we have a walk around the lake edge and through a market before heading back to the hostel for hot chocolate and a check on the football results.

Our group go off to the thermal pools after their climb but we stay behind to have a proper dinner for once at an early hour. We seen enough thermal pools already.

Sunday 20th

We set off late again and drive for quite a while. The scenery is green rolling hills most of the time. After a cake stop it's onto the 7 Lakes Road and we soon see beautiful lakes with snow capped volcanoes in the background. We make a couple of photo stops along the way.

Our next stop is where Conaripe village got wiped out in the 1960's when the volcano erupted. It's just black rock now.

It's then onto the new Conaripe which was built to replace the old one. It's a small village on the banks of a lake. There's not much to see..

We finally pull in to our hostel. The Casa Grandee in Valdivia. It's anything but ! The wall paper's coming off in most rooms and then we find we have no hot water. The first time since Malaysia !

We set off for a boat trip around the nearby islands to suddenly find our guide has decided to stop at a food fare for another top up. Bye the time we've finished eating it starts to rain so the trip's cancelled. It's not a great afternoon.

We get dropped off in town, described as the most beautiful in Chile. I'm not sure who called it that, but it's pretty awful ! We have a walk along the river front and around a handicraft market before heading back to the hostel.

We manage to find a Japanese restaurant near the hostel for dinner. Not one of our most enjoyable days.

Monday 21st

Another late start before we set off down the motorway and see two wonderful looking snow capped volcanoes in the distance. More rolling green hills and lakes.

Around lunch time we arrive at Puerto Montt on the sea. It's almost as far as it's possible to drive south in Chile unless you go far east towards Argentina.

Our guide has arranged for us to lunch in one of the port side seafood restaurants and it's one of her better decisions as we have good fish and chips.

Afterwards we walk through the nearby handicraft stalls and Christine at last buys a gawdy zipper which she calls colourful.

We then drive the short distance to Puerto Varas and get dropped at our hostel while the rest go to another. We're relived !

That's the end of our tour as we pick up a hire care tomorrow for 3 days to explore on our own.

The tour's not been great. The guide has been fairly useless at organising and communicating and we've had virtually no information on what we've seen. Also the group's not gelled together and some have been bloody awful !

Tuesday 22nd

We leave one bag at the hostel and pick up our car. We drive for about an hour and arrive Pargua and drive straight onto the ferry for Chiloe. We don't know the cost of the ferry until the chap comes to collect the fee. It's about £12.

The crossing takes about half an hour and we see sea lions and dolphins swimming alongside the boat.

Once on land again we drive to Ancud, one of the largest towns on the island. It looks pretty shabby when we get there but we decide to book in at a hostel and have a look around.

We go to a locals café for lunch and have wonderful fresh fish and chips and half a bottle of wine for £10 ! Afterwards we visit a handicraft market and I try on a poncho. It must be the wine ! I don't exactly look like Clint Eastwood from the Good the Bad and the Ugly ! Fortunately good sense prevails and I pull out of the purchase at the last moment.

We then visit the town museum, which is quite interesting and then walk along one of the oldest roads in the town to see the timber building covered in timber shingles. Most look pretty shabby and more like shacks.

We then call in at a church restoration centre and see the various techniques for repairing the timber churches on the islands. It's very good and the craftwork incredible.

Walking round town we visit yet another craft centre and nab another souvenir.

After a short rest we drive out late in the afternoon around the peninsular. It's a longer drive than we thought, about 30 miles each way ! First we stop at a small bay full of colourful fishing boats before continuing on to Faro Corona on a peninsular. There's a small lighthouse complex under repair and the workman allow us in and then show us up the lighthouse for a look over the coastline. it's a great view of the islands off shore.

We drive back to see the sunset but a mist envelopes the island and we see nothing !

Wednesday 23rd

A slow morning and looking out all we can see is mist. We decide to leave our bags in the hostel and drive to Castro about an hour away. At least it would have been if it hadn't taken us 15 mins to get out of the one way system. The journey's uneventful and we arrive around 11.

It's another shabby looking place on an inlet. We park up and I use my best sign language to ask the meter man for 4 hours parking.

We then have a walk into the centre of town. There's a big church covered in bright yellow and purple tin and looking a bit worst for wear, however inside the timber framework and panelling look wonderful. The island has lots of these style churches but most are on smaller islands and difficult to reach.

We then walk down to the waterside and see a number of very old timber houses built on timber pilings in the estuary. There used to be a lot more but they were destroyed in a tsunami in 1960. Looking at them it doesn't look as they will survive much longer due to lack of repair. The same could be said of most buildings we've seen !

We then find the artisans market. A lot of stalls all selling the same tourist souvenirs. We manage to avoid buying anything.

For lunch we find a small restaurant in town and have the menu of the day. Chicken and salad followed by dessert. We're not sure what desert is but think it's cold ground rice topped with plum jelly. Anyway it's only £3.50 each for the lot.

We find nothing else of interest so decide to drive back for an early afternoon rest after several hectic weeks.

Thursday 24th

We wake to find a heavy mist and cloud all around. Our drive back to the ferry goes smoothly although we can't see anything of the scenery. It's much the same on the boat although we do manage to see a dolphin swim nearby.

The drive back to Puerto Varas is uneventful and when we arrive we decide to drive around Lake Llanquihue. It's huge and on the way round, the cloud lifts for a few minutes and we get great views of Volcano Osorno sticking through them.

The drive's much longer than we thought but after the volcano there's not much else to see. Around 2.30 we get back to Puerto Varas and stop for a late lunch break before taking the car back. We're early with the car and the hirer reduces the price !

We check in at the hostel and make a start on getting ready for the journey back to Santiago tomorrow evening.

Friday 25th

We're in no hurry to get up and on pulling the curtains back all we can see is dense mist. It's going to be another grey day.

We leave the bags in the hostel, fully chained up !

We take a walk around town and then along the edge of the lake but we can't see a thing. There's two huge volcanoes out there somewhere ! We do see two metal sculptures on the water front of a horse and a damsel. They look good and a bit out of place.

After a couple of hours we return to the hostel as it's too cold and misty to hang around outside.

We're fully packed and ready to leave tonight on the overnight bus back to Santiago. It's a 13 hour ride and gets in at 9.15 in the morning. We've got reclining seats but it remains to be seen how much sleep we get.

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