January 15, 2003

Chile flagThis was the first morning we had actually had a chance to sleep in, so we took advantage of that. But we woke to the sound of rain, so decided not to go ahead with our planned trip to Petrohué. Instead, we had a leisurely breakfast of buns with ham or blackberry jam, plums, and orange juice. Then we hopped on the minibus for Puerto Montt, to do some shopping.

There are several bus companies running that route, so if you take them all together there is a bus about every three minutes. And when you see the bus you want, you just flag it down and the driver stops to let you on. And it costs only 600 pesos for the 20-kilometre ride. The system works very well.

The docks area of Puerto Montt is full of markets: vegetable markets, fish markets, and craft markets. We concentrated on the craft market stalls, of which there seemed to be hundreds. Most were very similar, selling alpaca sweaters, shells, woolen hats, and all sorts of carved wooden items. The prices were very good. We paid 7000 pesos for an alpaca sweater, 6000 pesos for a vest, 1500 pesos for a woolen hat, and 1500 pesos for a scarf. Quite the bargains.

After leaving the craft markets we continued along, passing the Navimag dock. At the end of the road there was an open-air market selling fresh fish, shellfish, and vegetables. By this time it was almost 1 pm so we decided to head back to the town centre to have lunch. We ended up sitting on a concrete wall beside the water near the bus terminal. After finishing our buns (with ham and tomato) and some fruit we checked out the cormorants. And what should we find near them but our first penguin, a Humboldt. And our first Peruvian Pelican, too!

After lunch we decided to bus it up to Frutillar, which is supposed to be the most expensive of the Lake District resorts. It was pretty small and also pretty empty, given that this was supposed to be the height of the tourist season. Almost every place had a “For Rent” sign in its window. We wandered around the town stopping in numerous craft shops where Paul bought an ocarina (1000 pesos). Men were working on the lakeside theatre but from the amount of rebar still sticking up into the air, we couldn’t see how it would be ready for the music festival less than two weeks away.

As the skies still weren’t clearing up, we headed back to Puerto Varas again. The bus dropped us off and we walked up the hill to Casa Azul. We decided to have dinner before doing anything more. Dinner was the same as last night, spaghetti bows with tomato sauce. Tonight there were two other couples in the eating area.

After cleaning up our dishes, we headed back down the hill to the town. Last night we had seen a topo map of Torres del Paine so we decided to buy it, so we would at least have a chance to look over it before arriving in Puerto Natales. We also went back to the artisan market to buy the woven bag with the penguins on it, but we couldn’t find it. Either somebody had bought it, or the vendor was not there. We didn’t see any other bags like it, so probably the vendor was not working that night.

Tonight we did our grocery shopping at a different supermarket. We bought more buns, deli meat, and fruit. For a treat we also bought chips, cookies, and tea bags. Down at the waterfront, Volcán Osorno was basically invisible, wreathed in clouds. Good thing we had taken a picture earlier, when it was sort of visible. On the way back to Casa Azul we took a side trip to look at the original Casa Azul. The new one is much larger, but the old one is actually blue. We saw what we thought was a hawk, but careful paging through the bird book proved it to be a Chimango Caracara. Caracaras are related to hawks, but they eat carrion instead of killing their food. This explains why it appeared very tame and was walking around the front yard of a house, and why it didn’t fly away when we approached. They are very common; we saw three of them tonight.

Back at the B&B we made tea and wrote our journals. Tomorrow we’ll try the trip to Petrohué.

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