Volcanoes, Lakes, Patagonia & More

Old Feb 23rd, 2018, 02:31 PM
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Pucon

Day 6
We flew LAN to Temuco and picked up a Peugeot from Budget and drove an hour to Pucon where we gasped at the first sight of the huge perfect cone of Volcan Villarica.

One of my joys of travel is staying in atmospheric hotels and Hotel Antumalal fit that bill. The hotel is spectacularly sited on a rocky promontory overlooking Lago Villarrica a few miles outside Pucon. Itís ďmodernĒ (50í s version) and organic in decor with an abundance of stone, rock and wood. Our room #14 on the second floor has a wall of windows offering a panoramic view of the lake over the roof of the dining room, a pot bellied stove with firewood (too hot for that), a bath/shower that always was lukewarm at night, hot in the morning. You canít see the volcano from here but other mountains are in view. From outside, there are beautiful views toward Pucon and an abundance of blue flowering hydrangeas. I walked down to the pool/spa area with a jacuzzi and sauna but it was crowded with kids. Even a further walk down is a beach and dock,

We ate dinner outside on the terrace, which was lovely and the sun didnít set until 9:15 pm. However, the food was disappointing. A very chewy, tough filet of beef and a dry, grilled corvina.

Day 7
Next morning, I started sneezing a lot and wondered if it was from the firewood stored in our room, but think it was just the beginning of a cold. Breakfast was very good.

Our trek this morning was to Parque Nacional Huerquehue where we intended to go on an easy hike. Hereís where we learned that Google Maps clearly doesnít understand the difference between an unpaved and a paved road. (Hint: if you have limited international data, always download the map and directions in your hotel where you have wi-fi, and then enroute you can follow your moving gps dot and make sure its following the route....it just wonít update it. )

So, weíre following the route on a good paved road only to discover weíre not on it anymore. Turn around to follow the recommended route which turned out to be along a horribly rutted, dusty, unpaved road....for two hours! The only bright side was that we came across Ojos del Carbugua, a beautiful forest setting of aquamarine rock pools at the bottom of three cascading waterfalls. A short walk to the Falls helped DH unclench his stiff neck muscles from dodging axle-breaking potholes. By the time we reached the park, which twisted and climbed up the mountain for about 10 miles, we just went on a short hike from the Visitors Center but did get a taste of the 2,000 year old araucaria forest with views to Lago Tinquilco. Took the other road back which was much better and paved.

Stopped in Pucon for two huge and expensive pieces of delicious cakes and lattes at Cassis. Pucon has been described as very touristy but we found it attractive. I popped into a couple of cute but expensive boutiques, but started to feel poorly and just wanted to get back to Hotel. I wanted to go in the jacuzzi but we had a problem with getting boarding passes for our next flights on Sky Airlines, thanks from me booking them through a third party, E-dreams, because I bought them so far in advance that they werenít offered on Skyís website and definitely overpaid. Avoid E-dreams. Beatriz, at the front desk, was an angel and finally got it resolved. We had reservations to eat in Pucon, but I didnít feel like going out again so we took a chance on eating in the hotel again. This time the food was good, crab pasta and sautťed hake.

Day 8
Todayís drive took us to Termes Geometricas, another two hour drive, half being on another rough, unpaved road. Here, 17 thermal pools are nestled into a forest ravine up the mountain. It resembles a civilized Jurassic Park with oversized vegetation tumbling into this series of bathing pools of temperatures ranging from upper 90ís to 112 F all connected by wooden boardwalks with changing lockers at each pool. I liked the smallest, hottest one best. The place was packed with families enjoying the hot and sunny day, although some reviewers say itís best on a cool, rainy day. A cafe had surprisingly good food and we shared a wood-fired pizza.

Once more, we cancelled our town dinner reservations for the convenience of eating at the hotel and it was good.

Tomorrow we fly to another town in the Volcanic Lake region, Puerto Varas.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2018, 03:30 PM
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Lago Villarrica from Hotel Antumalal


Ojos Del Carbagua


Volcan Villarrica from Pucon marina


Termas Geometrica


Beach below Hotel Antumalal
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Old Feb 24th, 2018, 06:38 AM
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Waterfall at end of Termas Geometricas


Hiking trail at Huerqehue
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 09:04 AM
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We’re headed to that area next January. Can’t wait to read the rest (and see more pix).
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 09:22 AM
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Thanks Sf! I hope to do next installment soon. January is a great time to go.
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 01:38 PM
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Puerto Varas

Day 9
Today weíre driving about 3 1/2 hours, mostly along very good Ruta 5 (the Pan American Highway)to Puerto Varas, on the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue. By the way, gas stations are extremely rare in Chile, so take advantage of the servicios you find on the highway. We stop for a late lunch in Porto Octay at El Fogon de Anita and share an excellent grilled steak. Also make a quick stop in Frutillar for a view of awesome Volcan Osorno across the lake.

Our not so trusty Google Maps fails us again and winds us up a slummy looking area of the city that I know the upscale Los Caiquenes Hotel is not going to be found in. It takes awhile to find; the address merely states 9.5km on Ruta to Ensenada and the road sign is faded so we donít arrive until 7pm. I got a bad impression of the woman working there right away. She didnít speak any English (I know, itís her country) but she knew we didnít speak Spanish and kept rattling on at breakneck speed. When I asked if they had made the restaurant reservation Iíd requested weeks earlier and had been told they would closer to the date, she didnít know anything about it. It eventually got resolved after a push back from us, but was the first of several incidents....she was a bit of a flake.

Our second floor room overlooking the lake, partially obscured by trees, was a different story. Quite large and decorated with soothing creams and neutrals with a large wardrobe and desk and the most comfortable bed with fine linens of our whole trip. The bathroom was also large with a wonderful bath and shower.

Dinner was at Casa Valdez, about a 15 minute drive along the waterfront to the far side of town. Enjoyed an appetizer clams with Parmesan after the fish I wanted was gone and DH had a tasty crab pasta dish. Happy to get in since it was a Friday night and this is a very popular place.

Day 10
The hotel is perched on top of a residential hill overlooking the lake and has a large lawn area (no Volcano view)with outdoor furniture, an unheated pool and a wood fired hot tub. The dining area is cute with colorful placemats and wooden furniture that looks into the great room and fireplace. We enjoyed the breakfast of scrambled eggs, home made Kuchen, great fruit, yogurt, and breads. They also will prepare dinner for you with advance notice.

It was cloudy, drizzly and much cooler than Pucon so we didnít want to go to the park. Since we missed out on shopping so far, decided to go into Puerto Varas to check out the town. Another aside, wherever you park on a street, a guy will come up to you to hand you a time slip of when you arrived. This is legit. When you return, heíll find you to collect whatís owed.

We did find some things in one of their outdoor clothing stores but not impressed with the rest of the shops. I liked Pucon a lot better than Puerto Varas both from a scenic and shopping standpoint which contradicted what I had read. Since there was nothing else to do in town, we headed back to Frutillar to visit their Open Air German Museum and park grounds. Lovely setting with that view of Volcan Osorno but the rest was just OK. We walked along the long beachfront promenade watching all the families at play on the black sand beach to the Teatro Cultural Center where we grabbed a late lunch at an Italian bistro.

Back late again (why donít I build in time to relax?!) and had to turn around to drive back to town for dinner at Le Jardineria. DH had the best pistachio crusted salmon with shrimp risotto and I had beef short ribs and mashed potatoes that were tender but not rich in taste . Weíre appreciative of the late sunsets close to 9:30 now.

Day 11
It took awhile for the clouds to pass as we drove toward Ensenada and entered Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales to first visit the beautiful waterfalls of Salto de Petrohue that run off emerald colored Lago Todos de Saltos passing through a narrow, black lava canyon. We got there early so were able to enjoy this view and short hiking paths before the hordes arrived. Lovely and would have been even more remarkable had it been sunny. Thereís also a great crafts gift shop there but just bought a jar of Murta jam made from a local fruit. Continued on to Petrohue and had a good lunch at the Lodge.

We had planned to go out on gorgeous, glacial Lago Todos de Saltos on one of the local short boat excursions, but the wind was pretty fierce by then. Even a short walk along the beach was difficult from the pelting black volcanic dust. Instead, decided to add a scenic drive to Cochamo, tucked into a beautiful Andean valley that looks out onto Reloncavi Estuary, the northernmost fjord. This small village has a 100 year old Catholic Church in the Chilote style of shingled alerce wood that sits just up from the beach. The wind hadnít abated and we watched some hardy kids frolicking in the chilly waters. To recover from the driving strain of yet another unpaved road, DH demanded a coffee and kuchen stop at a small local restaurant. This was a pretty spot, but hereís where an early return back to our hotel for a restful time on the lawn would have better served us.

We got back about 6:30 and since we were trying dinner in the Hotel tonight at 8:30, thought weíd have time to soak in the outdoor hot tub....well, it was more like a body temperature warm tub. Since we got back in room at 7:45, DH asked if we could move back our reservation to 8:45. She told us Ďnoí it would have to be 9:45 since there were too many tables at once. Told her to leave it as it is....Iíd just go down with wet hair. Also, she wanted us to place our order before coming down. When we get there, thereís one other couple seated. Food comes out immediately. My pasta with shrimp was OK but few shrimp and nothing else in sauce. Lucky I also ordered vegetables of the season, which were great. DHís fish was excellent with roasted potatoes. But, they had told him it was salmon when ordering and this was merluzza (hake) which luckily he likes. In 45 minutes we were out of there, even with dessert and only one other couple had joined us. Strange dinner experience....but convenient.

So, this was such a lovely accommodation but we were so often annoyed by its caretaker that we didnít have a good feeling about the place. The lack of English meant we couldnít ask for help in planning what to do or what activities might be going on. I realized we hadnít asked them to print our boarding passes but I didnít want to go through the hassle of dealing with her again so late st night.

In hindsight, I shouldíve replaced Puerto Varas with Chilote.

Next: Torres del Paine

I
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 02:21 PM
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Did you mean Chiloe? I did stay on the island and was not especially impressed, while I just loved the views from Puerto Varas and Frutillar. Agree that the town is not much, though.
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 03:12 PM
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Oops, yes Imeant Chiloe.
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 03:14 PM
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Volcan Osorno from Frutillar
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 03:18 PM
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The second photo is of Salto de Petrohue. Did these come out too large again? My technique for making them smaller didnít seem to work so I didnít want to post more.
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 06:40 PM
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They're fine on my iPad, but I can only see half at a time on my desktop. Bizarre.
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Old Feb 25th, 2018, 07:53 PM
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Technology! It has a mind of its own. For some teason when I sent them from my photo library to Mail, it wouldnít give me the size option like before.
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Old Feb 26th, 2018, 06:26 AM
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Cochamů


Lago Llanquihue


Lago Todos del Salto
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Old Feb 26th, 2018, 01:52 PM
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Torres del Paine National Park: Patagonia

Day 12
Itís not easy to get to Patagonia. But then, this was the reason we made the trip to Chile.

Drove to Puerto Montt, flew Sky Airlines to Punta Arenas, picked up a VW Bora car from Hertz, an upgrade after the first car had a flat tire in their parking lot. Much nicer than our previous car BUT the gas gauge seems to be broken, which drove DH nuts during our 3 Days here. The concern, as anyone who comes to the park learns, is that there are NO gas stations in this humongous park. So, first you drive about 4 hours to Puerto Natales, (again, you need to fuel both your car and your bellies in Punta Arenas...nothing along way) then you fill your tank there and drive another 2 hours into the park. So, if youíre spending days driving around the park, you still need enough gas to drive back to Puerto Natales. There are some flights to PN in summer but only on a few days of the week. However, that diesel car was very efficient so we were a long way from running out of gas.

At PN, the scenery became amazing. Itís location on a fjord with the mountains in the background foretold more magnificent sights to come. So, it was a beautiful drive to the park with craggy mountains draped with clouds, mostly sunny and temps in the 50ís. The roads were half bad...the unpaved ones had huge potholes which made for slow going. We finally arrived as dusk approached at the main gate from which several roads veered off. Chile is stingy with their road signage, especially in the TdP. So, when DH was told which one to take to Hotel Los Torres, it sure looked wrong ...it was in such bad shape and crossed a rickety single lane bridge. Unfortunately, our preloaded map to the hotel disappeared for some reason and there was No Service to check again. So, we returned, it was confirmed, and we set off again....driving a very long time it seemed with no signage or signs of life as the skies darkened. Just as Iím beginning to fear weíre lost in this wilderness, we see some lights and itís the security gate to the Hotel. 8 km on a bad unpaved road seems like forever especially when you donít see any other cars.

Finally arrive at 9pm, still dusk thank God, and see the sprawling Hotel dwarfed by snow capped Monte Almirante Nieto behind it. Our hotel room is on the second floor with a great view to this mountain and down to the many horses that come to graze at night. Our hotel room is basic like a standard motel, but comfortable...the carpeting doesnít look too new or clean and I get a sliver from someoneís burr left behind. You are definitely paying for the location which is superb. We grab a late dinner in their attractive bar...a great salad and a bad burger. The common areas are nice and the staff was helpful. No elevator but bellman carried bags up.

Day 13
Woke to sunshine and that amazing Mountain View. The breakfast is at one end of this sprawling ranch in a detached, western style building. The breakfast buffet was the largest and one of the best weíve had.

Hotel Las Torres offers either an all-inclusive option with one full or two half excursions per day and all meals/wine or a bed and breakfast option. You can sign up for excursions and pay a la carte. I thought the all inclusive option seemed too expensive, so chose B&B, for which I was very thankful we did after I developed that foot problem and wouldnít have been able to keep up. I also had thought I didnít want to be committed to excursions if it was bad weather or we were ill.

We decided to start with a short hike nearby and a staffer suggested walking down to Lago Nordenskjold in the distance. We set off across the valley where horses roamed freely, watching groups of hikers on their way to more challenging hikes. Crossed a small stream on rocks and a larger snow-melt river by bridge enjoying the mild, sunny weather and variety of mountain views. After 45 minutes we were still far from lake and my feet were protesting so turned around to go back. This made me realize I couldnít handle one of the hotelís excursions that were about 12 hours total. Even the boat trip to Lago Grey included hiking and as we were going to glacier country next, didnít think we needed to see this glacier too. So, weíre on our own. I recommend anyone driving buy a detailed map of the park before you leave home as the one they give you doesnít show all the roads and the park is rather complicated. We bought one from Amazon: Torres del Paine trekking map by Zagier & Urruty, waterproof & tear resistant.

Weíre off to Lago Azul, the blue lagoon. Again, the drive takes longer than told but we see lots of cute guanacos, Rhea birds similar to an emu, condors soaring and cascades of Rio Paine and small waterfalls....breathtaking. Finally we reach the lake and descend to sit and admire the views of Las Torres playing peek a boo with the passing clouds fronted by the lakeís remarkable turquoise hue.

But, Happy Hour beckons so we prepare to say goodby to the guanacos perched on the ridge behind us. Wait, whatís that noise? Oh no, we have a pancake flat tire here in the middle of nowhere?!!! Thereís no Chilean AAA to call...with No Service thereís no one we could call. Even cars are a rarity. Thank God thereís a spare tire with air in it...and a jack...and that DH remembers how to change a tire after 50 years!...and just had a friend remark how the shorter tire irons let you use your foot to stand on the lug nuts to loosen & tighten. And, weíre thankful that this didnít happen on the typical TdP road where thereís no shoulder but a drop off....and that it wasnít dark. When our overlooking guanacos suddenly took off in a mad dash, it did give DH pause to scan for a possible puma...not sure a tire iron would be a sufficient weapon.

We make it safely back with no stops and limited to 80 km/hour, which is not really a problem with these unpaved roads. Relief!

Our big decision now is what to do about the tire. Do we limp back to Punta Arenas handicapped by that slower speed? Do we try to get it repaired in Puerto Natales? Do we risk driving around the park without a spare tire? As we asked the front desk girl for help in calling the PA Hertz office to translate our dilemma (they said we could have it fixed at their PN office when we drove through in 2 days) she offered her own solution. Los Torres has a maintenance garage and they could check to see if the tire could be repaired tomorrow. Great!!!

We thought the dinner menu sounded like too much food and at $50 per person, we preferred the atmosphere of eating in the charming bar each evening. Tonight had an excellent roasted leg of lamb (best on our trip) and quinoa salad....love the Carmenere wine and helados (ice cream).

Day 14
The resort feels like a ski lodge and Iím a bit jealous of the groups assembling with their poles ready to go out on that bus and tackle the slopes. DH takes the car to the garage and is back in just over an hour with a repaired tire....for just $20! He enjoyed watching the young man repair this the old fashioned way by patching it and he added air to the spare. Yay! We are safe to explore.

Today we felt the strength of the wind this area is noted for. Took a scenic drive over to Salto Grande Rio Paine past beautiful views of lakes and mountains and rivers and waterfalls....words and photos can not do this justice. We did see the Cuernos del Paine (Horns of Paine) for the first time. Our goal was to hike a bit on the path to Mirador Cuenos but as we started out and almost got blown over, we fled back to the comfort of the car. How do those hikers doing the W manage? Instead, we drove on to beautiful Lago Pehoe and crossed the wooden bridge to island-sited Hosteria Pehoe for a good lunch.

I had a much needed massage scheduled for later at Los Torres. While I thought the masseuse knew what she was doing, I never had such a painful massage and had to ask for to lighten up. Not very relaxing.

Tomorrow we head back to Punta Arenas for one night before boarding our Ventus Australis Cruise around the southern fjords and Cape Horn.
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Old Feb 26th, 2018, 02:59 PM
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Leaving Puerto Natales


On the road to Torres del Paine National Park


MysticalTorres del Paine National Park in sight.
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Old Feb 26th, 2018, 07:07 PM
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Hotel Las Torres


Herd of guanaco and rhea bird


Sorry, but these are ugliest sheep weíve seen


Flat tire


Lago Azul & Torres del Paine


Guanaco watching DH change tire
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Old Feb 27th, 2018, 05:29 AM
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The Horns, Cuernos, of Torres del Paine


Hosteria Pehoe


Guanaco


The bar at Hotel Las Torres
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Old Feb 27th, 2018, 10:05 AM
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Thanks your photos bring back some good memories. Maybe you could have taken the Catamaran? But you still had some good views of the Cuernos.
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Old Feb 27th, 2018, 10:50 AM
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Thanks mglb, the day we could have taken that was so windy, I doubt it went. We go on to visit Perito Moreno and the glaciers south of Punta Arenas so we do get our fill of glaciers.
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Old Feb 27th, 2018, 11:40 AM
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I wonder if it's possible to get seasick on the catamaran? I definitely experienced that wind but we were lucky that it was down the day we arrived from P Natales so were able to walk on that gravel spit to the iceberg/ Glacier Grey Mirador...even without the wind probably not good for your bad foot!
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