Chile 5: Araucaria trees, Valdivia and the Lakes around Puerto Varas

For our first trip to South America, we were reaching the final stage in Chile. Our aim was to travel down into the lakes region before crossing the Andes into Argentina. Exploring the southern tip had to wait until we return later in 2017.

Die Jahreszeiten fingen an, unsere Route zu bestimmen. Es wurde langsam aber sicher zu spät im Jahr, noch an den südlichen Zipfel Südamerikas zu denken. So wollten wir in dieser Runde noch bis an die Seen Region in Chile vorstossen, um dann die Anden nochmals zu überqueren und durch Argentinien dann in Uruguay zu enden, wo der Wagen für ein paar Monate abgestellt werden könnte.

After returning to Molina we travelled down Ruta 5 again, passed Talca and turned off eastwards at Chillán to stay at Camp Extremo 19km away from the town. Caution: Do not jump head first into their pool –it is only  1m deep everywhere. Nevertheless it was pleasant to cool down on this 34°C day. We found a quiet camping spot under large trees and had a pleasant night,albeit windy.

Next day we continued further down the Pan Americana, turned to Nacimiento, close to Los Angeles along the Rio Bio Bio, then up to Coronel and past Curanilahue, Tres Pinos, on to Cañete, where we turned off towards P.N. Nahuelbua 47km away. As we came closer, the planted Eukalyptus forests gave way to the old Araucaria forests and other indigenous trees like the Coigües, Robles and Lengas. The park had various hiking trails and we hiked up to the Mirador Piedra del Aguila, a round trip of approx. 9km. On this trail we saw the ancient Araucaria Milenia, a 2000 year old specimen – wow!

From the mirador we could look across the entire country –from the Argentinian border to the coast. We also saw two elusive Magellanic Woodpeckers with their bright red hood and black bodies.

After the walk we took a cold shower in the rather dilapidated ablutions. It again reminded us how good the parks in Southern Africa actually are.

During the afternoon the light changed due to the forest fires and the next morning we realized everybody had left –including the rangers. As ash was trickling down we decided to rather move on, although this park begged to stay for longer.

From the park we continued down the P70, passed Tirúa and Puerto Saavedra and stopped on lago Budi at a private and friendly site called Camping Boca Budi.

From here we drove along lago Budi then along the coast with black beaches, lots of seabirds, passed Nueva Tolten and stopped at Bahia Queule, a small fishing village with its Black Crowned Night Herons sporting their white feather on the head.

For the night we reached the city of Valdivia and camped on Complejo Turistico on Isla Teja amidst a plantation of fruit trees. What a luxury getting a private ducha with hot water allocated for each camp site.

Valdivia experienced an earthquake in 2010 but has been rebuilt and we spend hours wandering around, enjoying Kunstmann beer that is brewed locally and admired some of the buildings with old German architecture.

A day trip along the coast was worthwhile, driving via Curñanco to Pilolcura, scenic coastal landscape ending where we could observe many breeding red-legged cormorants.

We proceeded south to Osorno, we turned off inland and reached Lago Puyehue (after a supper at Cerveceria Armin Schmidt, an artisanal beer brewer next to the road and worth a visit)  to camp at Cabañas y Camping Los Copihues with views of the vulcanoes Osorno and Casablanca with their peaks covered in snow. The lake was clear and inviting, the camping site quiet and pleasant despite the many holiday makers.

Next day we continued via Entre Lagos, past Lago Rupanco, via Puerto Klocker, passed the Osorno volcano and then stumbled across a very good restaurant close to Rincon Alemana run by a German couple – a place worth having a good meal at.

We continued along Lago Llanquihue to Puerto Varas – at the entry of which is a German school and next to it a Jumbo Supermercado with a fine selection of delicatessen that we by now were craving for. Puerto Varas is a quaint and clean town that could be in the Black forest area of Germany. We found a good camping spot a few km outside the town at Camping Hermosa, on the lake, we swam and enjoyed the view of Volcano Osorno. Here we should have met our friends Caro and Vincente from Argentina, but they ended having vehicle problems.

In order to meet them we continue back north to Osorno, Lago Ranco, Futruno and camped just before Los Lago at Camping Los Suizo where at last we then met up with our friends.

We all departed to Temuco – our friends to buy spares (currently much cheaper than Argentina) and we used the opportunity to get an oil change done, brakes checked and looked for an airfilter at the garage of Edgar Schneider who was very helpful. The airfilter we had to order from Toyota ex Santiago which would take 2 days. 35km East of Temuco we camped at Estero Cobulto with owners Elly and Werner – all clean and a quiet setting among trees, good ablutions.

Then we returned to Temuco to get the filter, but were unlucky with regard to wheel alignment we wanted to get done, as no company could lift the heavy Landcruiser (4tons) – so we left it for now and carried on towards Villarica where the Volcano Villarica is still active ( 2840m).

On the route to the border along Lago Calafquen we again camped on a farm-like site run by an elderly indigenous couple – a pleasant and clean camping site among some fruit trees, named Camping La Ruca de la Teo.

From here we drove past a few Termas towards the border – a small road through Coñaripe, through forests and on to the Chilean border post –nobody was interested to check the vehicle this time as we were leaving Chile to Argentina and not visa versa.

This post covers 21st Jan – 2nd Feb 2017

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and photographer with an urge to share the beauty of our planet.

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