Strange Auracania trees, volcano danger zones, tranquil blue lakes, sunshine and first tastes of subtropical Chilean fruit. This was our reward for staying strong in the tempermental and rainy Patagonian Andes.
Our improved moods may have had to do with the fact we were excited for our upcoming visitors- Todd’s parents! We knew this would be an arduous journey for them (Chile is more than 10 hours of flying from Seattle) but we were so excited to have the opportunity to share the amazing experience of Overlanding with them. But we still had 3 weeks to play around in the Lakes District before they arrived.
We started out by visiting 6 of the 10 lakes in this region. Llanquihue, Puyehue, Ranco, Rinihue, Panguipulli, and Calafquen.
There I found copious apple trees that needed picking.There were also chestnuts that needed gathering, but these were on private property so I showed some restraint.
Heading inland we were excited to climb some volcanoes. It’s impressive how quickly weather changes when you head inland, we got to see lizards in the Auracania forests.
We decided to embark on a bit of a grueling hike (mainly due to the sun) but very rewarding with a melting glacier on top at Parque Nacional Villarica. It felt as though it is rarely visited because the road going there wasn’t the best. After our experience of getting stuck at dusk in Parque Pumalin, this was easy peasy- we were traveling in the daylight after all! The drive in was just fine but the steep hike up to the glacier was tough. I definitely wanted to give up, the heat is not my friend-but wherever Todd goes, I will attempt.
Then came Missisipi (short one s and one p). Bet you didn’t know there was a Missisipi in Chile! We thought it was a joke. But in fact, its a really good hidden secret, its a good fishing inlet with beautiful cliffs and views of the Pacific.
In anticipation of the oven we would have at our AirBnBs for Todd’s parents’ visit, I started practicing my baking. Apple empanada?
Since we were already on the coast, we visited the riverside city of Valdivia, which has a fascinating history. The Spanish, after initially claiming the area in 1544 and establish the city, were defeated and kicked out by the indigenous Mapuche and Huilliches people 1599. The Mapuche were tough people and well organized. They are known for being the only indigenous people to defend their land agains the mighty Inca Empire. Ultimately the Spanish came back and took possession of the area again.
After several attempts of capture by pirates, several elaborate forts were established, and later strengthened in 1645 to protect them from invasions by the British, French, and Dutch. The city itself lies 15km (9 miles) up a large river and was established by Pedro de Valdivia in 1552, relatively shortly after Santiago (1541). This is an impressive fact considering how isolated the region is from other ports and major Chilean cities. The city was an important port located between two rivers, rich farmland plains, and healthy sea life.
Many Germans came to this area in 1848, which has left a distinct German flair. We took this opportunity to enjoy the varied food and beer scene within this quaint estuary city, which also has a university and an awesome fish market surrounded by very blubbery fish scrap seeking sea lions.
After visiting town we made our way out to the coast and the extensive fort network.
In 1820, the one and only time the fort network saw action, it was captured by Lord Cochrane’s flotilla to declare Chilean independence. Cochrane, a valiant and daring British Naval Admiral, was critical in helping Chile get its independence from Spain. He inspired Todd’s favorite historical fiction maritime series: Horatio Hornblower (pretty much books about dirty sailors who died horrible deaths and were enslaved to their ships-Todd loves it). Dismissed by the Royal Navy due to stock market fraud, Cochrane worked as an “independent contractor” helping Chile, Brazil, and Peru get their independence from Spain. He was later re-instated by the Royal Navy…guess they thought he wasn’t so bad after all!
Our fortunate travels brought us through Parque Nacional Conguillo, another haven of Auracania trees, on the way to touristy Pucon. The very active Llaima Volcano (one of the most active Chilean Volcanoes) and Sierra Nevada Volcano ridden landscape was pretty surreal, especially since we had just enjoyed the lush lakes and oceansides of this region of Chile.
We traveled from Puerto Montt through the Lakes District, PN Villarica, Valdivia, PN Conguillo and ending in Pucon from March 10th thru March 31st.