Friday March 10, 2017

A happy “Hola!” from the wild, island-studded, fjord-littered coast of Chile!

We woke yesterday to find ourselves in the Lake District – famous for its picturesque waterways, eucalyptus and pine forests, snow-splattered peaks, smoking volcanoes and charming Bavarian hamlets – and we dropped anchor out from the sizeable town of Puerto Montt, founded by German settlers in the 1850s, and hemmed in by mountains that lend the place an alpine air.

After being ferried ashore by tender (lifeboat), we drove out of the city alongside Lake Llanquihue (the Ll pronounced J as in Jacque – so Jan-kee-way), through lush green countryside that looked awfully like New Zealand. We then enjoyed a wet 45-minute boat trip across Lake Todos los Santost (described by Theodore Roosevelt as “the most beautiful lake I have ever seen”), before footing it in the rain to the gushing Petrohue Rapids – surrounded by weird volcanic rock formations, and set against a backdrop of mountains, including the awesome, cone-shaped Osorno Volcano, hidden for the most part behind cloud. (Bummer!)

Finally, leaving this natural wilderness, we drove to the lakeside resort of Puerto Varas – where some of us shopped for handicrafts while the more cultured amongst us watched a talented Indian on a pan flute. Then it was back to the ship for another world-class feed plus a world-class song & dance show under the lights fantastic.

This morning, while we chowed down our breakfast, we were treated to the sight of more lush green bush with the Andes looming in the background – plus, tucked at the end of a long fjord, the sleepy port of Puerto Chacabuco. This small township of around 1800 people (founded 1927) consists of one main road, a fish-processing plant, and a pier. We tendered ashore, walked up the pier, grabbed seats on an old bus with a massively cracked windscreen, met our lovely Chilean guide Paulina, and headed out on that one main road (the legendary Carretera Austral), following the Simpson River towards Coyhaique (Coy-yay-kee) – capital city of this region, pop 55,000.

The landscape was vast and remote … the road was long and windy … and the sheer mountains, waterfalls, and plunging canyons reminded us that we were entering one of our planet’s last frontiers!

Coyhaique appeared almost by magic at the far end of a long and beautiful valley, and, if it wasn’t raining (again!) we would’ve stopped at a lookout for some better pix. After a brief wander around town, we began our return trip (down that same one-and-only road) to Chacabuco – with a midway food-stop, where we enjoyed a selection of traditional empanadas (deep-fried pastries) washed down with pisco-sour (a potent local liquor).

PEOPLE NEWS: Two more oink-oink-oinking pink pigs have been awarded to hapless victims:

  • Catherine & Helen (on the same afternoon) both took home our ‘Banos (toilet) Awards’, for getting spotted during rush-hour in a male-only zone – restaurant loos clearly signposted ‘Hombres!’

FIND THE PHOTO: Go on – try and find the photo to fit these captions:

  • Prayer-time on the tender.
  • Aha – we have a stowaway!

TOMORROW: Unless you fancy a long, freeze-your-butt-off swim, cruising is the only way to see Chile’s remarkable fjords and glaciers – rated by many travellers as more spectacular than those in Norway or Alaska. So keep your fingers crossed for a sunny blue sky, and come aboard early to claim your place by the rails.

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

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