susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Rather old news from the lakes

Lake Llanquique - that's the name of the enormous lake on which Puerto Varas sits. In the mornings it was so foggy, we could hardly see the pirate boat anchored in the bay. I'll post a photo R took. We booked a tour of the surrounding sights, and our guide, when we booked, said he was called Felipe. By the following day, he had rechristened himself Carlos. Consequently, we didnt call him anything to his face for that whole day. R and I and a honeymoon couple (aaaahh) made up the tour.

But first came the problem of lunch. We all decided a picnic lunch was the preferred option. After an hour and a half trying to sort out the order and pickup of five empanadas (a sort of giant Cornish pasty), during which time Carlos-Felipe shuttled us 1) up a hill to visit a spa 2) up another hill to visit a high wire for adventurous sorts to hurl themselves down the hillside 3) a photo opportunity in front of the view from the hillside and 4) at least four visits to the gas station in front of the empananda emporium, I was quite tired of the sound of empanadas, to the extent I can pronounce empanadas indistinguishably from a chilena. I wished we'd chosen the cute little restaurant option somewhere out in the hills. But hey-ho, once embarked on the empanada quest, and once we had at last left PV for the lakes, when we finally came to eat them about half an hour later (very early lunch), they were, in fact delicious.

And what were the sights around PV? The area is remarkably like the English countryside, on a larger scale - rolling hills, woody groves, llamas - oops, maybe not llamas. C-F promised African Oysters which got me quite excited, but something had gone missing in between his and my versions of Stranglish, and they turned out to be ostriches. We saw a 2000 year old tree, and I have no reason to disbelieve this. It looked very ordinary - surely if you were going to spin a tale, you'd choose something more venerable and hoary? So - it must be true.

And all the time, no matter how the road wound round, we had this stupendous view of Volcan Osorno, snowy peak shining in the sun.

We visited Petrohue, for the cascades, where the river hurtles through, down and over ancient magma, carving steep crevasses through the once-molten rock. I asked if kayakers came down that way - 'Yes, professionals only" said C-F. He'd obviously heard of my Antarctic prowess (see earlier bit of blog).

Then, onto a track winding back and forth up the steep sides of the volcano. They ski in winter - how cool would that be, to ski on a volcano! As we climbed, I could feel teeth shaking loose, eyes blurring from the vibration, ears popping from the altitude. At each lurch, the car door jumped in its frame. And so to the snowline - well, not far off - and coffee in the cafe by the cable car. This time, we were gods viewing the lake from on high. Very insignificant gods in all this immensity.

Coming down the mountain, C-F told us the story of the Princess Licarayen, whose head and liver (neatly wrapped in a sheep's stomach) were dropped by an eagle into an erupting volcano, so the people could live a bit more safely. What a thoughtful girl.

Next stop, a trip on All Saints Lake (I translate here). Summer houses, reached only by boat, peeped through the pine trees - very picturesque. But then, we had unexpected sun all day, and the summer crowds had gone. Lucky for us!

And finally, C-F asked R and I if we wanted to see Frutillar, a small town a few miles out of CV, where the honeymooners were staying. C-F had to deliver them back there, so we took advantage of this, as we were trying to readjust our first impression of Frutillar to match that in the guide book. We'd seen a pretty shacky sort of village, nothing much to pull the tourist - the book said how pretty, not shacky, it actually is. So we opened our minds, said yes to the visit, and were jolly pleased we did. C-F, it turns out, isn't just a guide - he's a founding father and director of an opera house, currently being built on the lake shore, and although only part-built so far, is nevertheless open for business. There was a cute exhibition of models of churches on the island of Chiloe (further south), and famous for its churches. There was a very smart crush bar (think Opera House, Covent Garden), with sheet music for lampshades and comfy sofas and more coffee. and a very steep amphitheatre of chairs round a stage, windows floor to high ceiling, overlooking the lake and volcano beyond. It's an ambitious project, the Teatro del Lago, in a small town in southern Chile, but if C-F's enthusiasm is anything to go by, it should be very successful. When you visit - you MUST go there!

Lower Frutillar on the lakeside, by the way, is extremely stylish and Germanic. And talking of Germany - they have been flocking to this area for nearly a hundred years - the landscape, with its mountains, is Bavarian, and many of the houses in PV are Swiss style, like chalets made larger. And, though I'm no political expert, right-wing Chileans and right-wing Germans apparently have a great deal in common. R and I were in a cafe in PV, and at the next door table were 4 obvious Germans (speaking Spanish), while opposite were a couple of Chileans (speaking Spanish) - so, all local, from different parts of the world.

This is getting a bit long, so I'll stop for the moment. Post your comments if you want to!!


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