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Local fish market in Osorno

One of the small fishing villages we visited.

Windy roads lined with seaweed drying in the sun.

Chilean horseman along the way.

Standing at the base of volcano Osorno

Diving for oysters.

Volcano Villarrica adjacent to the Lago (lake) Villarrica.

The only white sands, a beach on Caburgua lake. All the other beaches are volcanic black sand and not as popular!

As we climb, I frame colour, texture and form.

At the top of the pass, just before the border crossing.

The different faces of the mestizos people at a local fish market. That's dried seaweed on the right, more in the food section when I get arround to it!

Our next update will take you back into Argentina for final leg of this trip.

Southern CHILE

27/1/05

Just a short stay in Southern Chile in lagos and volcanes patagonia and Chiloe then we will ride over the Andes again and back into Argentina.

We have a booking in a Home stay at Orsono (map- 6), an inexpensive alternative here in Chile and it is clean and the owner friendly. You always get to meet other travellers at these places and sometimes we think we're doing it tough but there are a Dutch couple here, about our age and they are doing a similar trip to us - on bicycles. We've seen quite a few bicycles on our tour and a bit like the motorcycles, more around Ushuaia. That same magnet must draw them too but I can't imagine how they deal with the winds.

28/1/05

Off to explore the Chilean lake district today but alas, it's raining. We checked the forecasts on the internet and they all say it's going to rain today but fine up tomorrow. What the heck, we're not wimps but we're also not in a hurry so we take the easy option and stay another day. All that scenery will have to wait for a clear day.

A chance to walk around the market stalls of Orsono and for lunch at a local café we sampled Cazuela Vacuna, a meat and vegetable stew which is a typical Chilean dish. Spent the rest of the day just taking it easy - almost like being on holiday!

Met up with Sonia (horizonsunlimited community member) later in the afternoon and she took us back to her place for some empanadas, fine wine and a good chat. Sonia and her husband run "Motoraventura" a motorcycle hire and tour company that seems to be very popular and busy. Ricardo her husband was in Ushuaia at this time with a tour group. Seems to me like a great way to make a living.

29/1/05

Still cloudy this morning but with a few bright spots as we leave Osorno for Puerto Montt (map- 7), yes a change of plan, Dianne has revised our route and we head south not north. Puerto Montt is a busy fishing town and also the place where the Navimag ferry departs once a week on it's voyage through the Chilean islands to Puerto Natales. A good option, that we considered, very picturesque and you do not have to face the winds twice, there and back again! It is usually a very rough three day passage so we decided some time ago to give it a miss as my "seaman's legs" would not hack it.

Taking a scenic route we arrived about lunch time fairly chilled and stopped in the Centre Mall for lunch. Argentina is famous for it's beef and Chile is famous for it's fish so we ordered a traditional spicy fish soup for lunch and thoroughly enjoyed it.

I've never known a place to have such changeable weather and within 10 minutes it would change from windy to rainy to sunny then calm. Then it would do it all again.

30/1/05

Crystal clear blue skies greeted us this morning for our day on Chiloe Island (map- 8) and the weather seems to have stabilised thank goodness. A 60km ride then a 30 minute ferry and we were on the island, unique because it was influenced by isolation and dependance on the sea and also the people, a mixture of early Spanish settlers and Mapuche indians.

Chiloe Island is quite different to the mainland and we enjoyed the change in scenery and quaint fishing villages. We shared an excellent salmon steak for lunch at a local restaurant and just took some time out basking in the sun. Riding on narrow winding roads we sometimes had to dodge the seaweed drying in the sun on the roadside, harvested here apparently for the Japanese market.

A very enjoyable day visiting small fishing villages along the way and we even sampled the local oysters before returning to Puerto Montt for the night. They were delicious and we think this has cured our "thing" about fresh Oysters. Haven't touched them since Vancouver Island in Canada on my birthday.

31/1/05

Leaving Puerto Montt we now rode west alongside the bay and then up to the shores of Largo Llanquihue and a short dirt road to the small town of Petohou and Largo Todos los Santos. With clear blue skies we were able to clearly see the magnificent Volcano Orsono as it dominated the landscape. On the way up it was obscured by low cloud but today we could see the cone shaped snow capped volcano perfectly.

Largo Todos los Santos – impressive stuff.

Stayed in the same hostel in Osorno tonight.

1/2/05

Time to head north, this time to Villarrica and Pucon and again we have perfect weather conditions. After some of the tough days we've endured recently we certainly appreciate good weather.

Turned off the excellent Pan American highway to Valdiva (map- 9) an interesting place located on the convergence of 3 rivers and a popular German settlement. Continued on towards the coast at Niebla and watched fishermen diving for oysters.

Continuing north we again turned off the main highway to Villarrica and Pucon, both popular holiday destinations for the Chileans and located in the shadow of the magnificent Volcano Villarrica (2800m) and adjacent to the Lago (lake) Villarrica.

We can enjoy riding with snow capped mountains in the distance anytime it seems, but how many times do you get the opportunity to ride along on a perfect day towards a spectacular cone shaped volcano. How about making it snow capped and an active one to boot spewing smoke and ash into the sky. Wow!!

Found an inexpensive home stay and have decided to stay for 3 nights.

2-3/2/05

Quiet days just taking in the sights around Pucon (map- 10). This holiday destination seems very much like the USA with mostly wealthy Chileans having a good time.

4/2/05

We head north to Temuca today then west alongside Conguillio National Park and up over the Andes yet again to Paso Pino Hachado. On the way, overcast skies turn to crystal blue and several snow capped volcanoes are visible on both sides of the road.

The route we have selected to pass back into Argentina should take us through the longest tunnel in South America (4800m) as it passes through the Sierra Nevada peaks. Whenever Dianne selects a route she checks thoroughly to make sure the road is good as many roads in South America turn bad. Everyone she has spoken to assures her that the road is good and it is, except that the tunnel is closed for major repairs. After getting this far the only way over the 2500m Sierra Nevada is via a winding dirt road. Just what we need, another challenge when life was getting dull. As it turned out the road wasn't too bad and the scenery certainly made up for it.

The dirt diversion takes us over the mountain and past volcanoes, slopes covered with the very different Araucaria trees – scenery we're glad not to have missed.

Our ride has taken us through some stunning scenery in Chile but as we pass through the border we are not sad to say goodbye to this country as we feel its culture is very American based and it doesn't appear to have much original tradition or character of its own.

Chile is certainly the most prosperous country we have visited in South America and the infrastructure is well developed. Unfortunately for us, it seems the people are too materialistic compared with their neighbours. I'm not sure they're any happier either. Perhaps we'll have to re-visit sometime in the future but they will have to do something about their coffee before then!! Instant just isn't good enough.

This extract from the World Book summs it up.

Today, mestizos make up about 65 percent of Chile's population. About 25 percent of the people are of unmixed European descent, chiefly Spanish.
Social classes in Chile are based chiefly on wealth, not ancestry. But nearly all members of the small, rich upper class are of European descent. Mestizos make up most of the middle class. The lower class consists mainly of poor mestizos and most of Chile's Indians.
Wealthy city dwellers in Chile live in luxurious high-rise apartment buildings or spacious houses with fenced-in lawns and gardens. Many middle-class city dwellers live in apartments or comfortable single-family houses. Working-class city dwellers with low-paying jobs live in run-down buildings in older neighborhoods. Some build their own homes out of discarded materials.
Chileans dress much as people do in the United States and Canada. For rodeos and other special events, Chilean cowboys, called huasos, wear big flat-topped hats, ponchos, colorful sashes, fringed leather leggings, and boots with spurs. The clothing of the Mapuche women of south-central Chile includes brightly colored shawls and heavy silver jewelry.

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©Haydn and Dianne Durnell 200