Chile, including Chiloe Island: Penguins, rain, and more rain.

We needed to renew our Argentina visas (which only last 90 d) so we headed over to Chile for a week or so, retracing some of my steps from long ago (1983) when I first saw the Chilean lake district and fell in love with Patagonia.  Our first night was in Puerto Montt, where we visited Angelmo to sample the famous seafood “curantos” dish I remembered from my first trip.  It was good this time but in 1983 it had a giant barnacle as a centerpiece!  We had intended to go first to Pumalin Park to the southeast but learned that the ferry you need to take was fully booked and not available for another five days.

So, we changed our plans and headed to Chiloe Island (visited by Darwin during his voyage of the Beagle), taking a short car ferry.  We spent two nights at the Chepu River Ecolodge, which was really great.  The rain let up long enough for what turned out to be the highlight of the entire Chile trip, a spectacular (but muddy) hike along the coast to the small penguin colony at  Ahuenco.  Along the way we passed a shipwreck along the beach.  It began to rain at the end of the hike and continued heavily for at least another 15 hours.  (Video from this hike later, I hope)  We had hoped to do some kayaking but instead just headed out to the town of Castro where we stayed in a very cool hotel (Palafitos 1326) which is in a restored “palafitos” (house on stilts, for which Chiloe is famous but most palafitos were destroyd by a tidal wave several decades ago).   The pictures show the famous Castro church, which is kind of a wreck on the outside but hand-crafted gorgeous alerce woodwork inside.  The next day we headed to Chiloe National Park to try a hike.  It was raining so we only had a short one.

After some more seafood dinners we had a second night at 1326 and then headed back towards the mainland, stopping at the charming town of Quemchi with its colorful boats.  Our destination was Puerto Varas, on the shores of Lake Lllanquihue.  I remembered this location vividly from my previous trip as it has spectacular views of the Osorno Volcano and the Calbuco Volcano.  That is, when it’s not raining.  Clouds prevented us seeing any of the volcanoes but we had a nice walk around town including the quirky museum of Pablo Fierro, who we met and from whom we bought a painting.  We celebrated Thanksgiving with a curantos (no turkey but it did have chicken!).  The next day it was raining but we headed for a drive around the lake, reaching Lago Todos de Santos and the amazing Salto (rapids) de Osorno; the volcano peeked out of the clouds for a few minutes.  We also had a damp walk up to La Cascada.

After a final night at P Varas hoping the clouds would lift (they didn’t), we headed back to Argentina over the Samone Pass, passing close to the Puyahue Volcano and the impacts (ongoing) of the Cordon Caulle eruption.  This included a view of Lake Puyahue itself (with huge amounts of floating pumice), a waterfall with massive amounts of ash and pumice, some small lakes 100% covered with pumice, and then a good overlook of our study lake, Lake Espejo.  All in all, a nice but damp trip.  We will be through Puerto Montt/Puerto Varas several times more (coming and going from USA and coming and going to Torres del Paine) so we still have hope of seeing the beautiful scenery.


Magellanic penguins on Chiloe Island


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