20/2 Saturday: a much earlier start to the day and a very productive morning’s work uploading photos and videos as well as ensuring we had content ready for the next week. I’m not sure how much Internet access we’ll have over the next few days.
Some new couchsurfers arrived from Zaragosa and we went with them, Maria Paz and family, and Moroni for lunch in Bellavista; a fun bohemian neighbourjood.
Leaving them, we headed out to Renca, where we met Moroni’s mother and father and ate with them before heading back to the central bus station for a long overnight ride to Temuco.
21/2 Sunday: We arrived in Temuco before 7 and caught a taxi to Moroni’s aunt’s house, where we also met two of his cousins, Pati and Mackarena. After breakfast — and a nap –we headed into town with Pati to explore the large food market, Mapouche craft gallery and and artisan market. We also dropped into a small local art gallery with some excellent works. We returned to the house for an excellent lunch then did a puzzle with the family while we waited for our couchsurfing contact to finish work. We met him, Felipe, around 5 and bussed to his house in an outlying suburb. He told us this was his first couchsurfing experience … And that his Mum didn’t know we were coming! All was well and we had an excellent night talking and downing Carmenere.
22/2 Monday: We made a reasonable start and caught the bus to Villarica, a small town focussed on the resort trade. We found the main street and walked down it to the lake front, the beautiful view terminating in the impressive sight of Volcano Pucon in the distance.
Then it was back into town for lunch, coffee and a look in the small but high quality market then on to the bus around the lake to Pucon.
Pucon is a real backpacker town, somewhat reminiscent of Queenstown, New Zealand. The adventure sport market focussed on the national park, the natural hot pools, the lake and, primarily, the Volcano. We didn’t stick around to do any of the tours though. We shopped for jewelery in the market and waded on the lake shore with a few hundred of our closest friends before jumping back on the bus to Temuco.
Felipe came to meet us in town and guide us back to his house where the girls started to prepare a thank you feast while Moroni and I were driven up to the station to buy tickets for tomorrow’s journey and also our final jump back up to Santiago.
The meal was a hit and we had another late night of eating, drinking and talking the night away with Felipe’s family. Not to mention celebrating his Mum’s birthday!
Our couchsurfing hosts have all been so kind, hospitable and generous to us; it’s been amazing and we’re loving it. The warmth of this small family was so precious and it was a real honour to be able to share it.
23/2 Tuesday: after a quick breakfast, Felipe drove us to the station and so started another long day on the bus. There were some good views along the road to Valdivia. There’s a strong German influence and we made the most of that with a visit to Kunstmann brewery and a tasting platter of 8 beers. That’s to be recommended, although food prices were a little high we indulged in the best layer cake I’ve ever had: Torte de ojas. (sp?)
The fish markets in Valdivia can be smelled before they are seen, but the family of sea lions who live and play in the river behind the markets definitely make the nasal assault worthwhile. and we finally bought ourselves some churros from a roadside stall. Finally!
Another longish bus trip — after our first long wait for a bus — and we arrived in Osorno to be collected by Tony, a Kiwi friend of a friend who is farming in Chile as part of a New Zealand sharemilking company. We talked expat life and farming politics late into the night with him and Tina while their two kids kept us entertained. The next morning we caught a taxi into town, looked around and spent some time online before the long bus trip to the island of Chiloe and its capital, Castro.
The trip highlight was the ferry crossing between mainland chile and Chiloe. Being able to get off the bus and stretch our legs combining with the blue sea and sky was really refreshing.
In Castro we were staying in a private guesthouse recommended on Twitter (Hospitaje Juana Barrientos, (65) 635 031, Spanish needed) and were collected by car at the bus station. It was still light enough to walk around for an hour or two. At the recommendation of our amiable hosts, we took the long way into town to get panoramic views of the township and waterways.
Plaza del Armas was interesting, with buskers and a few street vendors selling jewellery. We were caught by the church made from corrugated iron next to the shingled Fanciscan monestary (which we later found had been turned into tourist-focussed craft markets). We headed to the water and our first look at palafinos which are shanty houses built on piles over the water – a speciality of local architecture along with the predominance of shingled buildings.
24/2 Thursday: a morning of wandering town with highlights being the small museum, more palafinos, the waterside markets and lunch in a palafinos right next door. We ordered a local speciality: cuarao which is cooked in an earth oven simiIar to those found right through the Pacific. Our dish was mainly mussels and cockles washed down with a nice Sauv Blanc.
I spent the afternoon drinking the best coffee I’ve so far found in Chile (Caffe Ristretto) and working online while the others explored. In the evening all four of us recorded the podcast and Janine and I played our first game of the Settlers of Catan card game. (And yes, I won.)
25/2 Friday: We headed to the bus station for our short jaunt to Ancud, the biggest town in Chiloe. (note: Cruz del Sur is the cheapest bus company to travel to Chiloe with as they own the ferries. However, it’s cheaper to use the local busses on the island.) there wasn’t really much to see and an hour later we jumped on the bus back to the mainland and to Puerto Montt. Unfortunately, Puerto Montt didn’t offer much either. We found an OK restaurant in this sprawling port town before investigating the markets, which were the dullest and most commercial we’ve seen. Maybe I was just grumpy after a night disturbed by yapping dogs, but I wasn’t a fan.
Puerto Varas, just 15 minutes away, was another story: a beautiful lakeside town reminiscent of Wanaka … Nice restaurants on the water, a relaxed, affluent feel and lots of good bars and cafes with a vibrant small town friendliness. This is where we’re staying tomorrow until we head to Santiago again in the evening. We went for a late night photo walk before bed.
Note: This was written on an iPod touch and only nominally spell- and grammar-checked. Unlike other Indie Travel Podcast articles, it hasn’t bene comprehensively fact checked either.