JSIS Bad Boys Reunite! Recorriendo el Sur de Chile
At the beginning of this month, I received my first visitor from the outside world to experience and get a taste of life down in the Chilean jungle. Together with Ashley, one of the other Quilpue volunteers, Kamran and I set out on an exploratory trek through the beautiful, cold, RAINY, wet, naturally lush, German ancestry-having, mate-sipping, mystical and folkloric Chilean South.
Our first stop on the tour was Valdivia, one of the bigger cities in the Los Lagos region of Chile, and well-known for its bohemian, student vibe, boasting a wide array of bars, pubs, and the like, the Rio Calle Calle which runs through the city and extends miles and miles westward, eventually filtering into the Pacific, as well as it’s title as home base for the Kuntsmann brewery. Upon getting off the bus, the three of us immediately took note of something else: we were no longer in the mild, breezy July of the 5th region, but had just descended into the depths of the true, unadulterated Chilean winter. In any case, we thoroughly managed to enjoy ourselves! Highlights of Valdivia include stumbling upon a very unassuming, hidden gem of a hostel, touring the Kuntsmann cerveceria and trying the immaculately brewed and limitedly available Torobayo Sin Filtrado, going on an impromptu nature walk through the marsh surrounding la Isla Niebla, and soaking up the sights and sounds of the central fish market, fully-equipped with seafood of every imaginable variation and surrounded by gigantic seals.
Next up, we hopped on a bus and headed south to Puerto Varas. The largest city among those that lay on the banks of Lake Llanquihue, the town is essentially the Chilean equivalent of the Whistler Village in Canada. Lined with designer outdoor boutiques, café’s, restaurants, and adventure sports agencies, it serves as an ideal home base for those looking to trek, ski, mountain-climb, or do anything of the sort involving the massive, hard-to-miss, snow-capped (and active) volcano perched on the other side of the lake. Unfortunately for us, we were quickly informed that in the winter months, most of the aforementioned activities were just about impossible. So, in lieu of getting our action sports fix, we decided to explore the offerings of downtown Puerto Varas. We dropped off our things at a hostel recommended to us by Ashley’s former Spanish teacher, a neat log cabin located a few blocks away from the center. The owner, a German expat who immigrated from Munich a decade ago, informed us what we already knew, that it was low season; as a result, this not startling information effectively gave us the whole hostel to ourselves. After getting settled, we headed into town and stopped at the Puerto Varas Casino. It was a strange realization for me that, despite being eligible for the last 5 years, I had not yet stepped foot into a casino or gambled in a proper venue until this particular day; and, even more so, that my first time doing so would be in another country, speaking another language. Crazy shit. Anyways, nearly an hour later on the blackjack tables, Kamran and I managed to come away with a bit more money than we put in; after a quick bout on the slots, the three of us celebrated accordingly back at the hostel with vino and snacks.
The next day, we decided to take in the landscape and indulge our gastronomic side in another little town along the lake, Frutillar. Known for being one of the first cities to receive the large swaths of German immigrants arriving in Chile starting in the late 1800’s, it takes very little time to note the very pronounced German influence in the city, from the Bavarian style facades on the houses to the notion of there being a German History Museum. We spent the afternoon taking in the beautiful views, most of which could hardly be fully captured with my point-and-shoot camera, strolling along the beach, treating ourselves to some delicious seafood, local beer, and copious amounts of my now-favorite pastry, the delectable and very German, Kuchen. To top off this seamless afternoon, we stopped by the Teatro del Lago, which hosts some of the biggest names in music throughout the world to its concert hall, and for good reason: it’s absolutely beautiful. We grabbed some coffee and checked out an art exhibition before heading back to Puerto Varas. Once back, we all realized that it was a rather important day back up in Gringolandia, July 4th. Accordingly, we went to the market and picked up some sausages and Lays, and had ourselves a nice little Chilean/American style feast to celebrate the day we gave it to those redcoats!
The next day, and last leg of our trip, we hopped on a bus and went a half hour south to Puerto Montt, the regional administrative center and fishing port. In the days leading up to the trip, particularly during the stint in Puerto Varas, several folks were telling me that Puerto Montt was negligible at best as a place to visit in Chile. Although it was painstakingly cold, and seemingly wetter than our three previous stops, I must say that it now sits high on my list of favorite places visited so far in Chile. We headed over to Angel Montt, a block which encompasses numerous artisanal good shops and one of the two seafood markets in the city. After stuffing our mouths with salmon and crab empanadas and purchasing some artisanal trinkets, we grabbed some beers and boxed wine and sat on the edge of the bay looking at the ships roll in. If only Otis had made it to Chile…
*(Included also in the photo gallery are a few pics from the dunes in Con Con, huge mounds of sand on the coast overlooking Valpo and Vina to one side, Con Con and the Andes on the other, and surrounded by sweeping views of the Pacific)