January 14, 2003

Chile flagTime to leave Santiago and fly south to Puerto Montt. We got up about 8 am—what a luxury after the last few days! Scott arranged a taxi for us to the airport, for 6000 pesos. The driver was actually cautious, instead of the usual Santiago driving method. He took us through all sorts of side streets, but since the fare was pre-arranged he wasn’t running up the meter.

At the airport we went to the sales desk, rather than waiting in the check-in line to find if there was a problem with our tickets. To our complete surprise the agent told us that a “robot” had actually cancelled the Lan Chile portion of our trip on January 9. How we had managed to get to Santiago remains a mystery. The agent rebooked all of our flights, charging us a re-issue fee. (Later, by e-mail, our travel agent told us that was wrong. She had received a notice that we were no-shows at Santiago, and this must have been from the reservation that the agent said had been cancelled.)

The hour-and-a-half flight to Puerto Montt was uneventful. We unfortunately didn’t get a window seat so we couldn’t take pictures of the Andes out of the window. The mountains were very spectacular, but somewhat hidden by clouds the further along we got. When we arrived and picked up our bags we took the airport bus to Puerto Montt (half an hour, 1000 pesos each) and then the local bus to Puerto Varas (600 pesos each). The weather was quite humid and overcast, but we could see Volcán Osorno.

The bus dropped up at the edge of Lago Llanquihue in the pretty resort town of Puerto Varas. Paul went to the tourist information centre to get directions to Casa Azul. We had a booking there but didn’t know where it was. The walk to the hostel was about six blocks, of which two were up a steep hill. Casa Azul is a beautiful newly built place, all natural wood and very tidy and clean (the owner, Andreas, is Swiss). The house itself isn’t blue, as its Spanish name suggests, but almost everything in it is—toilets, sheets, wood stove, you name it. It has a beautiful kitchen, eating area, and sitting room available for our use. Internet access is also free, which is useful, but it’s Andreas’s old laptop so we have a German keyboard to figure out.

After the obligatory lecture on how to use the kitchen and bathroom, we set out to do some sightseeing and some grocery shopping. The town centre is not that big, maybe five blocks square. Wandering around the supermarket was interesting; when you buy anything in bulk, like buns or deli meat, you went to a counter and had it weighed. We bought food for dinner and the following day there. We looked in a couple of craft shops as well, but we were both hungry so we decided to go back to Casa Azul to make dinner. (We can’t wait until 8 pm to eat dinner, as the Chileans do.) This must have been the first proper meal we had eaten since arriving in Chile.

The kitchen at Casa Azul was exceptionally clean, and we had it to ourselves. We needed help lighting the gas stove as the automatic lighter didn’t work, but otherwise there were no problems. After dinner we walked along the beachfront for a while, then up the hill in Parque Phillipi at the end of the town. It had a metal cross on it that is illuminated at night and a decent view of the town. But no view of the lake. The big mountain, Volcán Osorno, was dimly visible through clouds across the lake, so we hoped for better views another day.

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