Tag Archives: Lakes District

Pucón, Chile – Impressions

Ninety minutes by bus north of Osorno in the Lakes District of Northern Patagonia is the town of Pucón.  Nestled between the shores of Laguna Villarrica and the imposing cone of Volcán Villarrica, the large town has the reputation as somewhat of a party town. Like the rest of Patagonia, the tourism industry here is rather rife based around climbing the volcano in summer or skiing it in winter.

DSCN2271

I had come in Pucón with the intention of hiking the Villarrica Traverse, a 6-day trek around the bases of Volcánes Villarrica and Quetrupillán, but the weather hadn’t looked so good. The forecast had spoken of some rain followed by a week of sunshine, not surprising for the end of autumn, so I decided to wait it out.

The first hostel I stayed in was El Refugio and had a couple of kiwi guys working there. The good thing about it was that it was right next to the bus terminals. The bad thing about it was that it was right next to the bus terminals. There was nothing wrong with the hostel beyond it being the busiest one in town, even in the low season. To accommodate that fact, they’d built a pair of large dome tents in the back yard that slept 6 in bunks. Because it had been so busy, I only stayed a couple of days before moving to another hostel, Paradise Pucón, this one owned by a kiwi guy.

DSCN2294

Paradise Pucón had a reputation as being a party hostel in high season. But as it was low season, the parties had mostly died down.

wpid-dscn2295-2013-05-10-19-08.jpg

Unfortunately, the rain didn’t let up with no sign of respite, so I took advantage of it by catching up with my writing. Long term travelling works best when you take long breaks between periods of movement. I located a nice cafe in the centre of town that made good coffee and scrambled eggs – Cafe Agora – and got to work. I also found an awesome restaurant for dinner run by an American couple which had the best burgers and a nightly happy hour. Latitude 39 is a must visit if in Pucón.

wpid-dscn2292-2013-05-10-19-08.jpg

There are numerous hot springs near Pucón and one night the hostel owner drove a group of us guys to one.  Bringing plenty of beer we sat in a pool about the size of a regular spa pool drinking and enjoying the heat.  Then after a while, as a group, we climbed down to the river and threw ourselves in, before climbing back into the hot pool. A great night!

The next day Pucón hosted the annual chocolate festival – chocolate production being very big in this area of Patagonia. There were many tables for tasting and buying different chocolates, and in the corner of the tent there was even a chocolate volcano.  The volcano proved popular with the kids as at the end of the festival it was broken into pieces and handed out.

wpid-dscn2269-2013-05-10-19-08.jpg

The party life in Pucón is pretty good, I was taken out by the owner and one of his workers – another kiwi guy – to a couple of the local clubs. Three kiwi guys on the party… Gringos are treated highly in clubs in South America and this being the first one I’d been in, I felt everyone’s eyes on us. Being the only three gringos in the club, we were also getting great drink deals. 6 drinks for the price of 2! It turned out to be a great night, even though I couldn’t talk to many people.

wpid-dscn2270-2013-05-10-19-08.jpg

Then, after being in town 12 days, I decided to give up on the traverse and just climb Volcán Villarrica, a popular day activity.

Overall, Pucón was a lovely place to spend a couple of weeks, I made some friends and caught up with my writing. Next, I crossed the border into Argentina to the Chocolate capital of South America, Bariloche.

Things to do in Pucón:

  • Climb Villarrica Volcano
  • Hike the 6-day Villarrica Traverse
  • White water raft in Trancura River
  • Ride horses in Lancura Valley
  • Visit the thermal springs, of which there are many

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Advertisements

Osorno, Chile – Impressions

Just an hour by bus north of Puerto Montt is Osorno, a small city in the Lakes District of Northern Patagonia. Osorno sits under the volcanic cone of Volcán Osorno, is home of the National Cattle Ranch of Chile and has a heavy german influence.

wpid-montaje_de_osorno-2013-05-2-14-59.jpg
Collage courtesy of Wikipedia

Osorno is typical Chilean city with some very spanish markets, far too many stray dogs and cheap beer. I stayed at Hostal Vermont, 10 minutes walk from the bus terminal in the city centre. The main streets and shopping malls are characteristic of larger cities with many bustling shops and people.

I came to Osorno for one reason, a hike in the neighbouring Parque Nacional Puyehue called ‘Baños del Caulle’. The hike climbs the side of Volcán Puyehue to the rim, walks around the side and down to a set of hot springs, the ‘baños’. This had originally a 4-day hike but I discovered that two years earlier, an eruption on the baños side of the volcano had destroyed the hot springs. I decided to do the hike anyway, climbing to the volcanic crater and camping further down.

As I prepared for the hike, the hostel owner informed me that one of her previous guests hadn’t returned from the hike. Three other’s had seen him there and had returned, but he had not. This didn’t worry me, and it turned out two other guests at the hostel would be doing the hike also.

To get to the national park in low season I had to catch a bus to a point about 20km from the trailhead and hitchhike the rest of the way. I was finally picked up after walking 12km and dropped off at the hike’s registration point where I could see the cone rising into the clear blue sky. On arrival I was told the police had closed the hiking trails as they were conducting a manhunt for the missing man.

That night I stayed at a small hotel next to the National Park called Anticura.  Close by was the river and several waterfalls.

DSCN2253

By morning, they still hadn’t located the missing hiker and park was still closed  as they were continuing the search. The weather had also turned, so I decided to head back. I flagged down a bus heading from Bariloche, Argentina to Osorno and an hour later was back in town.

The next day, I boarded a bus to Pucón, the party capital of Chilean Patagonia, where I was planning a 6-day hike around a pair of volcanoes.

The missing walker did eventually turn up on day three of the man hunt.  He’d gotten lost on the route.

Things to do in and around Osorno:

  • Visit Lago Puyehue
  • Climb Cerro Pantoja
  • Relax in the Termas Aguas Callientes – Hot Springs

The Lone Trail Wanderer

Puerto Montt, Chile – Impressions

Puerto Montt is a large port city in the Lakes District of northern Patagonia, in Chile.  It’s also the northern port for the Navimag Ferry, on which I arrived in the city.

wpid-dscn2239-2013-05-2-14-57.jpg

Puerto Montt is large and bustling compared to Patagonia and stretches around the top of the harbour. On a clear day, rising above the city to the north is Volcán Osorno, but as it’s late autumn, clear days are rare. Here’s what I would’ve seen at a different time, thanks to the magic of Wikipedia:

800px-Puerto_Montt_2009

I arrived at the ferry terminal and collected my bags before heading up the hill towards the hospedaje. A hospedaje (pronounced: os-pe-da-hey) is someone’s home that’s been converted into a hostel or Bed & Breakfast. They have a more homely feel, but being run by local families, they can struggle as much with english as I do with spanish. On this occasion, we got by with a mix of both. This was also the first double bed I’d slept in for some time, so it felt divine.

I was only in Puerto Montt for a couple of days, so I only explored the city centre. Ten minutes from the hospedaje is the main road and after spending so much time in small towns, small cities or at sea, I was a little unnerved by the sheer number of people crowding the street. In fairness, it was market day and the footpaths were filled with street vendors and local shoppers. Civilisation can be intense when you’ve been away from it for so long.  In comparison, Patagonia was very quiet.

wpid-dscn2243-2013-05-2-14-57.jpg

This above only shows the beginning of it. I walked through the masses and eventually, near the other end of the long main road, I found the first western fast food restaurants I’d seen in South America: McDonalds and KFC, of course! After months of cooking in hostels or eating local cuisine, I couldn’t resist but found that KFC doesn’t have that same KFC taste in Chile. At the very end of the main road I found a large shopping mall, another symbol of my return to civilisation.

DSCN2248

…and from the same spot, taken of the harbour…

DSCN2245

While I didn’t do a lot of exploring, here are a few things you can do out of Puerto Montt:

  • Climb Osorno Volcano
  • Walk around Parque Nacional Alerce Andino
  • Take a scenic drive along Seno de Reloncavi

After my couple of days, I caught a bus north to the city of Osorno.

The Lone Trail Wanderer