After leaving the rainy island of Chiloe (ironically under a very nice and pleasant sun) a few things changed for us. First of all, we saw a highway! Never since wet left Buenos Aires had we witness such wide roads. Not much of highways in Patagonia. Then, our bus got caught in some traffic jam while crossing the big city of Puerto Montt. That is also something we had almost forgot about, even though to be fair we had been blocked behind cows and sheep a couple of times in Patagonia. Finally, we reached our destination in the afternoon: Puerto Varas, a pleasant and popular city on the side of a quiet lake.
From the bus we could feel that something was different: The house style was very different from what we saw so far; no small and very humble wooden houses like in Patagonia, no special cladding or shingles, nor any colours like in Chiloe. Instead it was much bigger houses, several floors and most of it they had a very German alpine chalet look!
The signs pointing out to hotels or restaurants were using some very gothic character font and it seems that everywhere in town it was possible to buy some kuchens. Furthermore, we saw a Vila Alemana, a Colegio Aleman and so on and so forth, you start to get the picture. We just landed in the Alps, during a nice and warm autumn day! As we arrived Friday, it seems that many Chilenos did the same as us. They were here to enjoy their long 1st May week-end.
Puerto Varas is a nice charming little city, it seems that many people that work in the big town of Puerto Montt just 15 min away, prefer to live in Puerto Varas, and it is easy to understand why. The lakeshore is nice, and there is one thing that is not present in your everyday-lakeshore here: a volcano! Actually, it is several volcanos that you can see from town, across the lake on a clear day. But one of them, the Osorno volcano is The Volcano, in the sense that if you ask any kid in the world to draw a volcano, it will look like the Osorno. It has an almost perfect conical shape. Its top is snow-capped so it is very photogenic, as well as very silly. On our first day, even though we knew the volcano was here, and we knew where to look, it was just impossible to see. Too much clouds. Impossible also to see another famous volcano very close, the Cabuco volcano. This one is mostly famous because it awoke two years ago and created a huge mess in the region by doing so. It is also classified as the third most dangerous of the Chileans volcanos!
After checking in in the late afternoon in our hostel we did something very Chilean and went in town to have a Once. It is very similar to the Swedish fika, it is something to eat and drink between the meals in the afternoon. So, we did just that, and by 18:00 we ordered a Once. Coffee, huge slices of Tiramisu and raspberry kuchen, and a warm cheese toast! It was a lighter version of the official Once that also contains bread, ham and cheese. Needless to say, that was not our best move, so much food, so late in the afternoon that for dinner Merima had an apple, and Fred a couple of bruschetta and a yogurt.
Next morning, we are up early and determined to go do some hiking! Our plan is to walk the Paso Desolación that goes around the Osorno volcano. After one hour ride in a bumpy minibus we reach the start of the hike. We are so early (09:00am) that the national park rangers are not awake, or at least not manning the post where every hiker is supposed to sign in order to have a record of the number of people out close to the volcano area. Feeling super safe that if the volcano starts to blow up nobody will find our burnt bodies, we start the hike. And as it will be during most of the day, the path is actually a mix of black sand and ashes, that are the remains of previous volcanic activities: eruptions, or lava flurries. And we did not like that. Hiking or walking on soft surface demands twice the amount of energy as the ground is not as responsive as a hard surface. It is annoying on a flat path, when it is starting to go very steep, it just feels frustrating and painful as for every four steps you make you only climb one or two. And this path did go high and steep for some time. We reached a first lookout point, where a nice sign was here to indicate us all the numerous volcanoes surrounding us. But it required a lot of imagination from us for seeing them because lucky as we are, it was too much clouds to see anything.
We could see the beginning of the conical shape of the Osorno volcano, but definitely not the top, and none of the other ones in the area. At this point, having lost five kilos of body water in sweat during the climb up to the mirador, Fred wanted to return down to the valley. Merima insisted to keep going, so we did. And for another half an hour, we went up in the sand. At some point the path reached a less steep upper valley, and the views from up there were very nice. We crossed several old lava flurries that were very wide. It is not hard to imagine that what now looks like an empty river bed, was actually formed by liquid lava river escaping from the volcano to go down the valley, taking away all vegetation with it, leaving big scars on the sides of the volcano.
Probably the name Paso Desolación comes from this landscape, but at the time to reach the end of the path, it was more our legs and knees that felt desolated! And now we had to go down back to the starting point, some 12 kilometres away. But it must be said, that the good part with the sand/ash dunes we escalated, is that it is very fun and fast to go downward! Nonetheless we were tired when we reached the end of the day, and we got there just in time to catch the minibus back to Puerto Varas. We were disappointed not to be able to enjoy fully the views from the top, but at least we had walked and crossed (old and cold) lava rivers! And that is something cool to say.
The following day we felt a bit more lazy in the morning and took our time to finally decide to head back towards the volcano area so we could see the main touristic attraction that we missed the day before. Some waterfalls close to the volcano. And because our trip seems to be full of irony, today was a wonderful and sunny day, and we could see the perfect entire volcano for the first time! And it looked wonderful.
During one hour of the bus ride we could admire it and get closer to it, and only regret the weather the day before. But we were not to complain, for seeing the sun and feeling warm is also something we learned to appreciate! The waterfall area was very nice. It is very often that in general waterfalls are nice, but if in the background you place this perfectly shaped volcano, well it feels even nicer!
Unfortunately (or fortunately for our legs), it was very little walk to reach the waterfalls, so we were soon back in town to chill out by the side of the lake, and eat some huge dulce de leche ice creams! It was nice to just walk around the lakeside and to see the sunset from the shoreAnd we also did a bit of shopping for the following day, 1st of May when every single shop observes the holiday day and remain closed.
That is the day we decided to travel to Pucón, in the Lake and Rivers district for more adventures!