Posted by: robinson2000 | June 20, 2011

The Chilean Lake District

16th – 19th June

Moving south of Santiago, I was venturing into Chile’s Lake District, one of Chile’s most beautiful regions. There are some 12 great lakes of varying sizes, as well as imposing waterfalls and snow-capped volcanoes covering the entire region. I choose to stay along of the shore of Lake Villarrica, in a small town called Pucon that sits in the impressive shadow of the active Volcano Villarrica (2840 metres). Fortunately, this region has been unaffected by the volcano activity happening just a short distance south-east of here, as the winds are blowing eastwards and pushing all the ash onto the Argentinian side to the delight of the Chileans. Apparently the ash cloud will be flying over this area today as it will have travelled around the world, disrupting every airport in its path.

I arrived on a cold Thursday morning after a comfortable night on the bus and found a nice but expensive place to stay for the first night. It was just over £10, which for a backpacker is crazy money, so after the first night I downgraded to a really welcoming family run hostel for half the price. It also boasted a kitchen that I could use, which is another great money saving tip for travelling in Chile, it’s really costly to eat out. Being low season coupled with the freezing temperatures, the town was really quiet and I barely saw another traveller throughout my stay. In fact it is the quietest 6 weeks of the year as the summer season has just finished and its 6 weeks before the ski lifts open for the ski season.

I spent a lot of my time in Pucon trying to stay warm, but the town had a nice high street full of outdoor shops to occupy some of my time. Strangely, being an expensive and wealthy place, Pucon had a huge number of stray dogs roaming the streets. After a visit to the supermarket, I took pity on a sweet looking mutt and gave him a biscuit and a stroke. Obviously these poor dogs don’t get much attention so after a little petting we were best buddies. It also meant that the rest of his dog gang latched onto me, so for the rest of my time in town I had a posy of 6 large dogs following my every footstep. We even enacted the famous cover photo of Abbey Road at one point across an intersection. For the majority of the time it rained in Pucon but I did hire a bicycle for a day and head out to a waterfall some 20 miles out of town. The ride was terrific and I didn’t see a soul for miles until I reached the falls.

Due to dire weather, the highlight of Pucon was the hospitality shown by the family that I stayed with. They were lovely people who welcomed me into the family as if one of their own. The only problem was my lack of Spanish, which left us with very little to talk about and left me feeling like a baby in a nappy sometimes, but it was fun anyway. They were also extremely supportive and caring as a nursed a nasty hangover one morning.

Finally on my last day in Pucon the rain relented and I was able to leave the hostel and head out to a thermal spring. The Los Pozones thermal springs were only an hour away by bus and were virtually void of any life. The thermal pools were amazingly warm considering the temperature so it was a welcome relief to get out of the cold and spent a few hours soaking in the heat. Unfortunately the journey back was not as pleasurable as it was a Sunday bus service, which meant a near two hour wait for a bus home. I huddled in the bus shelter wearing everything that I had brought out with me as darkness descended and the temperature plummeted. I was glad to finally get back to the family and they warmed me up with cups of tea and freshly made buns.

Pucon is a lovely place to visit and the people here are some of the friendliest that I have met in South America. If you’re not an outdoor type then there’s very little to do, but in the summer Pucon would make an excellent visit. Next is a quick stop in Valdivia and then to the Navimag ferry that departs on Wednesday for Patagonia.

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  1. Hi backpaker,
    Didn’t you invite charlotte along?. Seems a shame not to have someone to enjoy all the sights with.I’m sure you’ve visited parts even Michael Palin hasn’t been to!!
    Keep up the blogs, we really enjoy reading about your travels from a rain soaked UK.
    Take care,
    M & S xx

    • Hi M & S
      Most travellers are heading north to warmer pastures, whereas muggings here is going to the cold place at the coldest time of the year, the idiot. Thanks for reading.

  2. Am loving the Chilean stuff. I write about the country’s wine industy all the time and my managing editor is trying to buy a vineyard there. Would like to visit myself, one day!

    • Yeah the wine here is fantastic and its so cheap compared to UK. My favourite has become the Casa Del Diablo wines which only cost a couple of quid to buy in a supermarket. I’m in an area that has a lot of German influence and theres a couple of micro-breweries that produce some excellent black beers. Its definately worth a vist but wait till its warmer.

  3. Looks like the weather’s turning. You won’t be warm now until at least Buenos Aires 😉

  4. Hi Ben, sounds like it was cold but good. I have this mental picture of you and the stray dogs strung out in a line behind you, lol 🙂 Thanks for the great pictures you paint of the places you visit. xx Carolyn & Colin

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