Valdivia and Puerto Varas

It´s been raining like crazy, perhaps two inches per day.  Haven´t seen the sun for a week, but have enjoyed hearing the rain on the roof at night.  I hiked up to a lake in the rios region, a reserve called Huilo Huilo, but was told I couldn´t enter the reserve because they require a guide and will only allow 2 people minimum to obtain a guide.  I took many photos of the cafe and building with shop and displays of the reserve and animals that live there.  Someone has made small fairies with felt and branches, very cute.  There was a  lovely waterfall on the river, which I visited.  I decided to hike towards Puerto Fuy, a small town at one end of a lake that spans two countries, Chile and Argentina.  On the other shore is San Martin de los Andes, a lovely European town with a Swiss influence. I’m not sure I´ll make it there.  We have been staying with a couchsurfing host in Valdivia.  He is a rowing champion and won recently won third place in South America, and currently teaches physical education at the university.

I have been roaming every day to the coast and gone on several trips.  I did see the sun briefly on an hour boat trip in the river nearby, we saw many native forests as well as a lot of eucalyptus that they turn into wood chips for heating and paper pulp.  There has been a lot of logging of non-native trees.  I went to a lovely museum today at the fort in Niebla where they explained the history of this area.  A nice curator who was studying English asked me to translate some of the signs.  It was nice to know that I understand more Spanish than I think.  Now I´m having a hard time remembering English.

I took the micro to the coast, about 15 miles away, and explored an old fort turned museum.  One of the curators was studying English and asked me to translate a number of signs and displays.  I was happy that my Spanish had improved enough to do that.  The old canons were beautiful, and I loved the old sandstone blocks that were quarried locally to build the barracks.  They were built in the late 1700s and the bay was the site of a great naval battle between Lord Cochrane who was hired by England to defeat the Spanish and help Chile in the war of liberation. Valdivia was a great port where gold from nearby mines was exported and treasures from the far east and around the horn of the straits of Magellan were imported. It was the greatest port in South America at the time, and had four forts, several towers, and other defensive structures in place to take out potential enemies. All the rain adds to its mystique.  I spent the day translating technical military terms into English and listening to the raindrops pelt the roof.  Later, I walked a mile or two along the coast road, caught another bus, and ended up at a beautiful beach with a waterfall dropping into the ocean.  I spied a couple gathering slate stones and asked if they needed help.  They said yes, and we collected two armfuls of stepping stones for their garden and walked them up the steep cliff.  They offered me a ride back to Valdivia.  It turns out they are financiers and live a bit south in Rio Allegre. I enjoyed their company and it was a good opportunity to practice my Spanish, both comprehension and conversation.  I enjoyed the botanical garden in Valdivia, part of the University of Chile Austral.  The garden is huge and hosts trees native to the local forests, as well as those of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. It even had sequoia sempivirens and metasequoias from China.  I was heartened to see my tree friends again, and took the opportunity to hug new friends from this part of the world.  Trees give me such a sense of grounding and deep happiness.  I explored the arboretum and animal husbandry section of the campus, as well as the Park Saval, a beautiful treelined park with a large lagoon and black necked swans.  I loved the forest on the hill above the lagoon and walked back and forth through the trees imagining that I was in a dark forest in the depths of Eastern Europe. There are seals and sea lions that wait on the pier for fish entrails from the local fish market, and kelp seaweed cakes, shellfish with lemon and cilantro, smoked fish including salmon, ahi, the local hot picante paprika like seasoning, and other delicacies.  I hope to return one day.

From there, I took a long bus ride from Puerto Varas on Lake Llanquihue.  It is 45 km to Petrohue and takes about 1 hour because the bus goes about 40 miles an hour and stops frequently.  It is not only slow but also infrequent and unreliable.  I was told that I should come back at 4.30PM in case the last bus at 6pm didn´t arrive.  It helps to have a car, or to hitch hike, although in remote places there´s no guarantee that anyone will be on the road.  I tried to take photos from the bus, which is a challenge because the windows are covered in soot even though it rains constantly here.  There are some nice wooden churches on the lakefront, more in Chiloe.  Very Germanic here.  Many Germans left their homeland in the 1850s to settle here, frustrated with the government.  After WWII, many pro Nazi sympathizers fled Germany and persecution to countries sympathetic to fascism like Chile and Argentina, including Maria Braun who settled in Puerto Varas.   I met a guy on the bus from Paris who studied geography and works in the park next to Lago de todos santos.  I met his boss, Mario, a biologist who studies among other things the population changes of the otters in the lake and river.  He told me a bit about it in Spanish, and I took several videos of the falls of Petrohue, a very beautiful set of falls.  It rained most of the day and I walked to another beautiful site, a deep lagoon in volcanic rock next to the large lake.  It is deep green due to the depth and also the bacterial content.  I walked from the lagoon along several trails and took more videos of the lagoon.


5 responses to “Valdivia and Puerto Varas

  1. Wow! Night day difference from the big city life. Glad you found the beauty and new friends. I can picture the lands as you describe them, biologists playground. Sounds like you found connection in your explorations as I denote we, being said in your posts. Good journey scamp.


  2. HOLAA, como estas gracias por la ayuda con las rocas quedaron bonitas en el jardin.
    que te valla bonito en tus siguientes viajes Saludos.


  3. Great that your spanish is improving so much so quickly! I’m impressed. Don’t remember how much spanish you said you already had.


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