A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

My first stop in the Chilean Lake District

Puerto Varas and its surroundings

overcast 18 °C
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Puerto Varas is a small, but pretty town on lake Llanquihue In the Chilean Lake District. I stayed in a very good hostel there where I met a nice bunch of people. They also had the best equipped hostel kitchen I have ever seen and their breakfast was amazing!

The town of Puerto Varas itself is very nice, and the surrounding area is very good for day trips to some beautiful places. A walk by the lake or around the town to look at old German colonial houses is a relaxing activity for a sunny day.
Puerto Varas 1

Puerto Varas 1

Puerto Varas 2

Puerto Varas 2

Old German colonial house in Puerto Varas

Old German colonial house in Puerto Varas


From Puerto Varas you can very easily get a bus to Frutillar Bajo, a very small and quiet, but lovely place. Normally you can see the volcano Osorno across the lake. Unfortunately, when I was there it was very cloudy and I could not see the volcano. The lake was still very pretty though. The town was home to many German colonists. Therefore, there are still many colonial houses and everything has a German touch to it. Most shops, cafés, restaurants etc. have German names, the speciality of the many little cafés is german ‘Kuchen’ (they even call it that).
Kuchenladen in Frutillar Bajo

Kuchenladen in Frutillar Bajo


There is also an interesting German colonial museum, which is an open-air museum where you can find old colonial houses, a watermill, a smithy (where an elderly German blacksmith is still working and offering to engrave a horseshoe with your name for a certain fee) and a farm building where old farm equipment is on display). In Frutillar you can also find the Teatro del Lago which is a very new and modern building that you can enter with a guide. The architecture of the building is really cool, both outside and inside.
Teatro del Lago in Frutillar Bajo

Teatro del Lago in Frutillar Bajo


On Friday, I went to Lago Todos Los Santos. This is a beautiful narrow lake from the shore of which you can see 3 volcanoes.
Lago Todos Los Santos

Lago Todos Los Santos


In the area there are many hiking trails, but I only had time to follow the one leaving from the lake for about 1 hour. It led into the woods, where I was almost all alone, and offered great views of the volcano Osorno.
View of volcano Osorno from lake Petrohué

View of volcano Osorno from lake Petrohué


From there, I also went to see the waterfalls ‘Saltos del Petrohué’ The waterfalls are not very high, but the current is very strong and the water gets smashed from one wall of rocks to the other which makes the view quite spectacular.
Saltos del Petrohué

Saltos del Petrohué

Posted by sarahm_lux 18:52 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Chiloé

Too much rain and too much food…but a very nice island

rain 14 °C
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Together with 2 Swiss people from the ferry, I travelled down to Chiloé island after getting off the boat. We went to Ancud in the North of the island and then to Castro, the island’s capital.
Both towns were nice, but quiet now that tourist season is over. In Ancud, a woman working at the hostel gave us a ride in her car around the town. She took us to the ruins of the old fortress and a very nice beach, which must be a great place to spend time in the summer (unfortunately, it is only warm enough to bathe during 1 month each year).
Fuerte San Antonio

Fuerte San Antonio

Arena Gruesa

Arena Gruesa


In the center of town are many pretty colourful houses and the walk along the waterside is very nice and we could watch many birds including some condors there.
Ancud 1

Ancud 1

Ancud 2

Ancud 2


The main attractions in Castro are the ‘palafitos’, houses built on stilts in the water, and the church. The palafitos were really a great view. It was a sunny day and it felt like the best thing to do would be to have a barbecue on the balcony above the water of one of those houses.
Castro

Castro

Palafitos 1

Palafitos 1

Palafitos 2

Palafitos 2


The Iglesia San Francisco de Castro is built in the typical Chilote style. Unfortunately, the church has been covered in iron sheet for protection and the paint is peeling off badly. Inside, the church is impressive. Like all of the typical churches on Chiloé, it is built completely in wood which gives it a very different look from most traditional churches.
Iglesia San Francisco de Castro 1

Iglesia San Francisco de Castro 1

Iglesia San Francisco de Castro 2

Iglesia San Francisco de Castro 2


Even if it rains a lot on Chiloé, there is one thing you can always do: eat. The food, especially the seafood, is very good and not expensive. The speciality of the island is curanto, a dish traditionally prepared in a hole in the ground. It contains different types of meats, seafood and potatoes. Although it is prepared in an oven in most restaurants nowadays, it is a very tasty dish. I especially liked that there were loads of mussels in ours!
Curanto

Curanto

Posted by sarahm_lux 20:35 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

The ride on the Navimag ferry

3 days and 4 nights on the boat from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt

all seasons in one day 12 °C
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On the evening of 15th March, I boarded the Navimag ferry in Puerto Natales to start the 3-day. 4-night boat ride up to Puerto Montt, through the Patagonian channels and fjords of Chile.

We drove through narrow channels, saw a glacier and an old shipwreck and had a rough night on the open sea. Altogether it were 3 nice days on the boat together with a good groups of people. Contrary to what many of us had heard, the food was good and enough. The rumours about the 12 hours spent in the Golfo de Penas and afterwards on the Pacific ocean were right though. Although we were lucky to have ‘good weather’, meaning waves of only up to 3m, many people got seasick and spent a very unpleasant night. I preventatively took seasickness pills and I did not feel very well for a while, but I was alright in the end and managed to get a lot of sleep. I do not want to imagine what it is like on the boat when the sea is a bit rougher.
Navimag 1

Navimag 1

Navimag 2

Navimag 2

Navimag 3

Navimag 3

Navimag 4

Navimag 4

Glacier

Glacier

Puerto Eden

Puerto Eden

shipwreck Capitán Leonidas

shipwreck Capitán Leonidas


The third and last night, we played bingo and had a party. During bingo, you had to dance in front of everybody when you said bingo or when you said bingo when you did not have it (they tricked us into saying it once, so that I had to dance too although I did not win anything…) which was embarrassing, but created a fun atmosphere and, together with the wine, got us in the party mood. So when the bingo was over, the music started - only Latin American music was allowed - and we danced and danced and danced… Anyway, it was a fun night and a good end to the trip.
Party time on the ferry

Party time on the ferry


The next morning, we had our last breakfast (at 7 in the morning :-S) and then disembarked.

Posted by sarahm_lux 20:03 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Punta Arenas & Puerto Natales

Lazy days in the South of Chile

overcast
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Puerto Natales is a town which lives mainly of the tourists who come to the town to use it as a base for going to the Torres Del Paine National Park. There are many hostels, restaurants and shops selling and renting out camping and outdoors equipment. When I got to Puerto Natales for the first time, this was also my goal: get everything prepared for the hike in Torres Del Paine.
However, since I had booked a ticket for the Navimag ferry (which leaves only once a week) for 16th March, I had some spare time in this part of Chile when I came out of the park. This is why I decided to spend some extra time in Puerto Natales and go down to Punta Arenas for a short trip.
Punta Arenas has an interesting history, but is nowadays not an especially beautiful town. There are not very many tourist activities either. Most people use it as a stop over in between Ushuaia and Puerto Natales or go on an excursion to see penguin colonies in the area. Since I had already seen Magellanic penguins in the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia I decided not to spend my money on another penguin watching trip, but to stay in the town of Punta Arenas.
Punta Arenas 1

Punta Arenas 1

Punta Arenas 2

Punta Arenas 2

Punta Arenas 3

Punta Arenas 3


On my first afternoon there, I decided to go to Zona France, a big duty free shopping area. Of course I did not want to do much shopping, but I did want to see what this place is like. Many people go there to get cheaper outdoors equipment for their hikes in Patagonia. However, there are shops and supermarkets selling about everything. From beer to baby clothes you can get everything you are looking for and it is all cheaper than in town.

The next day I went to see the main sights of the city. The Museo Regional Salesiano Mayorino Borgatello shows all the animals in the region and tells a lot about the indigenous people from the area and the missions that were set up here. The exhibition was very interesting and informative.

The cemetery of Punta Arenas is a special sight. It has many tall mausoleums and the big walls full with graves were impressive.
El cementerio de Punta Arenas 1

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 1

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 2

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 2

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 3

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 3

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 4

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 4

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 5

El cementerio de Punta Arenas 5


I then also went to the main Square, Plaza Muñoz Gamero, which is quite a nice place and which had a small crafts market on, where people sold their products from these wooden train wagons:
Punta Arenas - Plaza Muñoz Gamero 2

Punta Arenas - Plaza Muñoz Gamero 2

Punta Arenas - Plaza Muñoz Gamero 1

Punta Arenas - Plaza Muñoz Gamero 1


Unfortunately, it was a Sunday and most things in town were closed. Even the majority of restaurants and bars would not open on Sundays and the Museo de Historia Regional Braun Menéndez was also closed in the afternoon, so that I missed out on this apparently beautifully and luxuriously decorated mansion.
I went down to the waterside and up to the Mirador Cerro de la Cruz to have a good view over the whole city.
Punta Arenas 8

Punta Arenas 8


As I mentioned, the town is not very beautiful. However, in between there are many pretty houses which are very colourful and sometimes special in their architecture. I enjoyed finding these buildings in between the normal houses and walked around the town for a while looking for more of them.
Punta Arenas 9

Punta Arenas 9

Punta Arenas 4

Punta Arenas 4

Punta Arenas 7

Punta Arenas 7


When I got back to Puerto Natales, I had some time to see more of this town too. I had already been twice to a really good restaurant called La Pica de Carlitos, which serves very good meat and fish dishes at an alright price. I had their roasted chicken and the conger with seafood sauce. Both were delicious!

I now walked along the waterside, where you have nice views of the mountains behind and went to some artisan shops, where I also bought my first alpaca wool jumper :-). I discovered a really long wall covered in these paintings about the life of the indigenous people too.
Puerto Natales 5

Puerto Natales 5

Puerto Natales 6

Puerto Natales 6

Puerto Natales 7

Puerto Natales 7


Puerto Natales is generally a pretty town where you can easily have a lazy day or two, enjoying the quiet atmosphere and eating huge ice creams ;-)
Puerto Natales 1

Puerto Natales 1

Puerto Natales 2

Puerto Natales 2

Puerto Natales 3

Puerto Natales 3

Puerto Natales 4

Puerto Natales 4

Posted by sarahm_lux 14:54 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Torres del Paine

5 days hiking in the National Park

all seasons in one day
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From 6th until 10th March I was in Torres del Paine National Park, hiking and camping. On 6th of March I started with the ‘tail of the Q’, a 5-hour walk from Administración to the Refugio Paine Grande, and from 7th to 10th March I did the ‘W’ hike. I went on the hike together with an Australian couple and a Spanish guy who I met on he bus from Ushuaia to Puerto Natales, the Chilean town you start the trip to the park from.
The day before we left we collected all the advice we could get from the hostel staff, other travellers and a daily information meeting held in another hostel in town. We then bought all the food necessary and rented/bought our equipment.
The food we rationed carefully so as to have enough for the 5-day hike without carrying around any superfluous weight.
The first day of the hike was a beautiful and relatively easy walk towards the mountains. It was tiring however because it was our first day of carrying the heavy backpacks and we had a very strong wind against us.
Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1

Torres del Paine - Day 1


So we were happy to get to our first campsite, the Refugio Paine Grande, where we set up our tent, had a (hot!) shower and then sat in the (closed!) shelter preparing and eating our dinner and playing cards.
Torres del Paine - Refugio Paine Grande

Torres del Paine - Refugio Paine Grande

Torres del Paine - our tent

Torres del Paine - our tent


During the next days, we hiked many hours each day through the beautiful national park. We got some incredible views and had a great time!
On the second day, we hiked for 9 hours. We walked up to Campamento Guardas from where we had great views of Glacier Grey!
Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2


On the way back, we also walked down to a bay where the ice that had broken off the glacier accumulated, where we picked some pieces out of the water, played around with them, ate some of the ice and took funny photos :-) Fun with the glacier!
Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2

Torres del Paine - Day 2


We spent that night at Refugio Paine Grande again, so that we were able to leave our big backpacks at the campsite and hiked that day only with small packs containing food for the day and some other necessities. This made the relatively steep hike much easier.

On our third day, we packed up our tents and our other belongings and made our way to Campamento Italiano, where we left the heavy stuff again to hike up to the Mirador above Campamento Británico in the Valle Francés.
Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3


On the way up and down, we had a good look at Glaciar Francés which is located on the side of a very steep mountain and from which we could see some pieces coming off and falling down as a kind of avalanches. What a sight and sound!
Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3


When we got to the Mirador, we were surrounded by amazing mountains of which we got great views because, just when we arrived there, the clouds cleared away and the blue sky behind appeared!
Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3

Torres del Paine - Day 3


When we got back to Campamento Italiano, we picked up our bags and hiked for 2 more hours to Refugio Los Cuernos. This campsite was not as ‘luxurious’ as Refugio Paine Grande; there were hot showers, but there was no shelter to cook in/underneath. It was a long day again, we had been out hiking ofr about 10 hours. After dinner, we decided to sit in the Refugio’s café/bar/restaurant, where we drank some wine and played cards to heat ourselves up a bit.

The fourth day of hiking was not as spectacular because it was mainly about walking from one campsite to the other to get to a good position for the next morning, to see the Torres del Paine. It was therefore not too bad that it rained for a lot of that day.
Torres del Paine - Day 4

Torres del Paine - Day 4


We did have some dry hours in the afternoon though, during which we got some nice views of the big lake along which many of the campsites and trails are located. When we got to the Refugio Chileno, we were wet and hungry and since we realised that we had a lot of time left that day before having to get to our destination to set up our tent (we were much faster than the time indications on the map), we stopped at the Refugio for about 2 hours, eating our lunch, drinking some hot drinks and drink and enjoying the heat of the fireplace.
Torres del Paine - Day 4

Torres del Paine - Day 4


We then walked another hour to Campamento Las Torres, our last campsite and the first free one we stayed at. It was very basic with just one toilet, two rangers and no showers, but at least there was a basic shelter, under which we were able to prepare our dinner and stay dry. It was really cold that night, so after dinner, we decided to sit in one of our tents with some wine and play cards (again ;-) ). It was a tight fit (4 people in a 2-person tent), but it was fun nevertheless and kept us out of the cold outside.

The next morning, we had planned to get up early and climb up to the Mirador Las Torres to see the sunrise. However, when we woke up, it was raining slightly and then the rain suddenly turned into snow, so we decided to sleep a bit longer and walk up to the Mirador later. When we finally got up and left our tents, it was still snowing slightly. We grabbed our small backpacks and started our walk up the mountain. The higher up we got though, the more it was snowing and by the time we had almost reached the top the snow was really heavy and the wind was strong.
Torres del Paine - Day 5

Torres del Paine - Day 5


Two of us decided to not go on because the climb was getting quite dangerous and we expected that the view was hidden by the clouds and snow anyway. The other two decided to continue the climb up, so we waited for them. When they came down, they confirmed that there was no view at all; the Torres were completed hidden behind clouds and snow. What a shame :-(

From there, we made our way back down to the campsite, packed up our tents and had breakfast and walked down to the Hotel Las Torres, from where we got a shuttle and then the bus back into town.
Torres del Paine - Day 5

Torres del Paine - Day 5


We made it out of the park tired, but in good shape considering we had been hiking for 5 days. Strangely, my legs were not sore, my feet were not hurting and my backpack did not feel that heavy after getting used to carrying it on the first day. Although we had not seen the Torres dee Paine, the most famous part of the park, I enjoyed my time in the National Park very much. The views we had were incredible and I am glad I decided to do this hike and also to camp, which is much more fun than staying in the shelters. It is a great adventure and I recommend it to everyone coming to this part of the world!

Posted by sarahm_lux 13:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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