We wake up to a direct view of Lago Llanquihue. I hardly have to lift my head from the soft pillows to enjoy the view. The lake is enormous, more like a small sea than a lake according to the books. The only boat I can see is the anchored two-mast oddity slightly over to the left of our hotel. It has a fake construction on the stern to make it appear like a galleon, but it looks silly. It is completely covered up, from which I take it that a lake-trip is out of the question. It is low season here too. Breakfast is in a room overlooking the lake. Earlier I had gone downstairs to pick up our new grey-white “bash-mobile” delivered by Hertz. The plan is to follow one of the tours/circuits described in our new, Spanish, guidebook covering the southern part of Chile. The tour will take us along the southern shore of the lake to Ensenada, then north-east to Lago Todos los Santos, to a small place called Petrohue, in the Vicente Perez-Rosales national park.
Ness drives as I still have sore bum from the horse-riding, and new Basher seems to have less leg-room. The drive is scenic without being spectacular, with grand views over the lake to our left, passing wooden buildings in German styles, churches, farms, more recent houses and cabañas. It’s a long drive, which gives us a better appreciation for the scale of the lake. There doesn’t seem to be anything at Ensenada, just a few houses and a school. The road to Petrohue becomes ripio after a while, black rocky sand, following the river on our right. The Rio Petrohue is fast-flowing, with white water sections here and there, running towards us, i.e. emptying into Lago Llanquihue behind us.
At Petrohue itself there is a small collection of buildings, a café, tour operator, artesianales, shop (which does not sell the local trekking map), navy. Navy? Yes, there is a small building operated by the Chilean Armada. It is even identified as the Petrohue Section. It is hard to take seriously but I have just realised that this is in fact a border post with Argentina. Petrohue is the place people cross to from Puerto Blest, where we were last year! Peulla is the “port” at the other end of the lake, and I check with a local boatman – he wants to charge us US$110 to get across!
After a few false starts we start to walk towards Paso Desolación. We have now changed into trekking gear and have taken our own rucksacks. I discover later that Ness has chocolate and biscuits and water in hers. My contribution is the flask of pisco sour, and various assorted essential items for a picnic – unfortunately food had not figured on my list of essentials so I’m pleased that Ness has brought some snacks along! The walk starts by following the flattened path left by a massive flow of melt-water. It has buried the trees in black volcanic rocks and sand. We follow this flow, gradually climbing, with woods on either side, until the plain widens. We’re hit by a short by heavy bout of rain, but after this the sunshine lights up Volcano Osorno, except for its crater which remains hidden in the clouds.
The slopes are beautiful, covered in all sorts of green, black rock higher up, and the top third is covered in snow. Our walk takes us in the general direction. We pick up a path on the right of the flow. It takes us through beautiful green scenery, mostly small shrubs, including the colourful yellow one (name?) and occasional splashes of [what I took for] red coïgue, Chile’s national flower. The path crosses a few more melt-water flows and some forested sections. From the path we get views of the lake below us. We have gradually been climbing (good, makes the way back easier!) To our left is Osorno, to our right more mountains, and the Andes are ahead, towards the Argentinean border. We walk slowly, stopping a few times for agua y chocolate and to admire the view, but still cover a good distance. After about an hour and a half, at another melt-water flow with a small stream running through it (where I “make my mark” in customary fashion), we turn round and head back. It’s not all downhill though. The weather is constantly changing from rainy to sunny spells and back, making for a pleasant walk. The air is fresh and we hum “bring me sunshine”. It’s great to be outdoors and walking. I would like to go faster and can feel that my legs want to stretch out but Ness is a bit slower. We’re both feeling good thanks to the clean fresh air. We follow the wrong path on our way back down the large melt-water flow, taking the “scenic” route, but it soon rejoins the main flow.
Now we feel like finding a pleasant spot for kaffee und kuchen to spend time catching up on our diaries, but agree that the café at Petrohue does not feel like the best spot. Instead we get in the car and start driving towards Puerto Varas. From the guidebook I identify Puerto Octay, on the north shore of the lake, as a good place to aim for. The book says it is a small Germany village typical of the 19th/20th German immigration era. The drive is a lot farther than I thought. After driving on ruta 5, the motorway, up the western side of the lake, we turn off on the road to Puerto Octay. The countryside here is very European, with rolling green hills dotted with houses and farms, which are starting to look more “typically German” the closer we get to Puerto Octay. Puerto Octay is tiny, with not an awful lot to be seen, but we do get another Bernie! Our only options for coffee are the hotel Centila and the Case de Té “Tante Valy”. We go for the hotel. This is devoid of guests. We have “coffee” (hot chocolate and tea) and kuchen in the restaurant, with background music reminiscent of the Love Boat theme tune, and then head off again. So far this holiday we have been friends and have been avoiding getting on each others nerves other than the odd disagreement. Here too we soon patch up after sulking for a few minutes. I can’t remember the argument though.
It’s good to be travelling together, keeping each others spirits up. Ness is feeling pain in her right leg, a combination of horse-riding yesterday and today’s walk. I still have a sore bum and blisters which make driving uncomfortable. What a pair! Oh, and I’m still doing peeling bits of skin everywhere (sunburnt), lovely.
Back at the hotel we order “room service”, aah!, and have time catching up on diaries and reading, accompanied by a fine Undurraga Cabernet Pinot, £3.30/bottle in the bar!, and picadas with ají. Eventually we manage to stop and go for dinner in town before it gets too late. We pick up a friend on our way out of the hotel, a very thing stray dog who follows us all around town, poor thing. The Club Aleman looks hopeful, with a restaurant on the first floor. Outside it is dark and raining, inside it is gemütlich. The German influence is only superficial/historic. Ness has longaniza a lo pobre, wurst mit spiegeleier und zwiebeln, and I have Kassler again, with ají and mustard. The music consists of French chansons. After dinner we’re both too tired for coffee and head back to the hotel. On our way back to the hotel we pass the casino. Most of the town seems to be here, playing the slot-machines. It prompts a thought about the loss of community life and its substitution with modern entertainment which robs people of their few pesos. It’s a full moon, appearing from the north. We leave the lights off in our room and have a grandstand view of the moonlit lake. A few clouds pass but then it’s clear again. I have a go at taking a picture but my photography skills are limited to random fiddling with the settings, I doubt the pictures will come out.