06.02.2016 - 09.02.2016
I hadn't really planned much of my journey through Chile. I just knew I had three weeks to get from Bariloche, Argentina into Santiago de Chile, and that I wanted to travel up the Chilean side.
I took recommendations from my new Chilean friends and other travellers and ended up loving my stops on the way. My first stop across the border was Puerto Varas.
I had been advised to stay here rather than bigger Puerto Montt (the port to pick up a Patagonia cruise that takes you to the end of the world!). It was a pretty town, full of Chileans on holiday, which felt like a seaside town, although the beaches were on lakes, not the sea. The lake is the perfect spot to catch the beautiful view of the snow capped Osorno volcano.
I stayed for two nights in a small family run hostel called Compass del Sur. On the first evening I wandered into town following my dinner and ended up at the main plaza where there was a free concert for the Feria de las Rosas.
Now I didn't know who was playing, but it seemed as though the whole of Puerto Varas had come out to see this free concert, and they clearly knew the artists since men, women, boys and girls were singing along, the only ones present but not joining in were tourists (that would be me) and the babies in their parents' arms, headphones on.
I later found out it was Nene Malo on stage, an Argentinian singer, famous all around Latin America.
I also went rafting in Puerto Varas (it was much cheaper than in Bariloche). We went in two rafts down a grade 3/4 river. We were unable to go the full way that the company used to go since the roads are still blocked from a volcanic eruption last year. If we had continued as before, apparently we'd have to raft for 8 hours more to reach a point where the roads were accessible again. So instead, we stopped for a chance to jump into the river.
Now I'm not particularly scared of heights, but jumping off them into fast moving water is rather contrary to my nature so I initially chickened out of jumping. I did eventually pluck up the courage to take the plunge, and it was actually pretty fun, and not that high up. As a well done treat I did purchase an ice cream back in Puerto Varas, from a place recommended by the hostel, guide books and the long long queue of people.
I was planning to skip Valdivia altogether but the friends I made in Bariloche suggested I really should stop if I could. I'm really pleased I stopped in, although I was only there for 24 hours, I really liked the vibe in this city.
I stayed in the cool hostel my friends recommended called Aires Buenos. Although it was a Monday when I arrived, and most state run museums are closed on Mondays, I decided to visit the various islands there. First I went to see the fort, then walked back to the port to catch the ferry over to Isla Corral. By this point is was getting a little late and chilly so I just visited the old fort, watched the historical reenactment and hopped back on the ferry. It's a shame I didn't explore more, but I do think I got a good taste of what's there.
I met fun people at the hostel and a small group of us went for a nighttime stroll to some recommended bars. Being a Monday night, it was not a crazy evening, but it was nice to meet some interesting characters and exchange travel stories, tips and tricks.
The next day I had a few life admin missions to complete before I went exploring further. I had realised as I left Puerto Varas that I no longer had my raincoat. I'm still not 100% sure where I left it, but I have a feeling it ended up somewhere in no man's land between the Argentinian and Chilean borders. Chilean border control check absolutely every piece of luggage so it likely got lost in the moving of bags.
So the next morning I set off to find a new rain coat. It turns out, that whilst Chile is cheaper than the UK in many aspects, food, transport, adventure activities and more, it is not cheaper for clothes, especially not outdoorsy clothes. There is an abundance of shops with rain coats costing a mere £80 or so, so I landed up purchasing a fetching fluorescent yellow get up that was on sale!
My second big task was to find somewhere to fix my hiking boots. It seems that landed both feet in a river is not so good for hiking boots - see the post named 'Hiking the W at Torres del Paine' for more details on that incident! After a fair bit of asking around, I found a small little shoe repairs place who charged me only £4 to sew the sole back to the boot, which seemed like a much better plan than £90-£200 on a new pair!
After that I was able to go for a wander, back onto one of the islands for a trip to the botanical gardens which is on the university campus. I also visited the museum of contemporary art for a bit of culture. I didn't spend much time in the city, but I liked this environmentally-aware, cool, student city that felt like people lived and grew up there, rather than being there simply for work.