January 16, 2003

Chile flagOkay, today’s the day for a hike. We are going to Petrohué regardless of the weather. Petrohué is in Vicente Pérez Rosales national park, and there are supposed to be hiking trails there. When we woke up the skies looked promising, but on closer inspection the volcano was still covered in clouds.

We finished our usual breakfast of buns with ham or jam and then made lunches. On the way to the bus it started to rain, but there were blue patches in the sky so we hoped for the best. We had been told there were buses to Petrohué and that they went along Calle Del Salvador, so we stood where we thought it should stop. After a few minutes we walked to the other corner so that we could catch it even if it was going to turn the corner. After we had waited for about 15 minutes, an InterLagos bus came along with a “Petrohué” sign in the front. We hopped on board for the 66-kilometre trip. According to a sign in the bus we could get return trip tickets for the discounted price of 2500 pesos each, so we opted for that even though we would have to return with the same bus company.

The road went through Puerto Chico, which is really just an eastward extension of Puerto Varas, and along the southern shore of Lago Llanquihue. If it had been clear, the views of the volcano would have been spectacular, but instead we just saw glimpses of it. One of our guidebooks had said the road was twisty and slow, but our bus sped along it with no problem. In under an hour we were at Petrohué. It is at one end of Lago Todos los Santos, which is surrounded by high mountains. Today the mountains were mostly in cloud. There are a lot of boats that do tours of the lake, plus a Chilean Navy station staffed by a single midshipman.

There was also a notice about the famous “tabanos”, which are biting flies that infest the area in summer. Well, there didn’t seem to be any here today, even though it was momentarily sunny. Then Rosemary said, “Is that a tabano by your head?” “No,” Paul said, “it looks like a bee.” But it wasn’t a bee, it was a big horsefly with a bright orange body and green eyes. A tabano. And before long they were all around us.

Tabanos are said to prefer blue, and sure enough they swarmed around Paul in his blue Gore-Tex coat. It attracted about three times as many as Rosemary’s yellow coat. But they didn’t try too hard to bite. We tried to eat our lunch down at the beach but the tabanos were so annoying that we gave up and ate on the go.

Lago Todos los Santos is a pretty green colour but today only a few sections of it were emerald. The view towards the eastern end of the lake was visible even though the mountains were somewhat covered in clouds. We could see Isla Margarita and then snowy mountains like Cerro Puntiagudo and Cerro Techado in the distance.

After some wandering around we found the park administration building and asked about trails. The guardaparque was very enthusiastic about explaining the trails, speaking reasonably slowly in Spanish and showing us on the topo map where they were. We decided to walk along the trail called Paso Desolacion, which runs for about 12 kilometres along and up the slopes of Volcán Osorno. Because of the uncooperative weather we decided to follow this trail for a while, then down another one and back on the Rincon del Osorno trail.

We headed up the trail through the woods, and the tabanos stayed behind. The volcano was in cloud, so we could only see the bottom of its snowcap. Before long we were out of the trees and crossing volcanic plains and what appeared to be old riverbeds, with low bushes and moss on the ground. From time to time there were rains showers, so we put on our jackets. The trail was easy walking along an old road, with not much elevation gain, and after an hour it started to climb. But by now it was raining steadily and there were no views, so we decided to turn back.

We couldn’t find the cutoff trail down to Rincon del Osorno, so by the time we headed back the rain was really coming down, with strong winds. By 3:45 pm when we got back to Petrohué we were soaked. We dried off somewhat while waiting for the bus, but the return trip seemed very long as we were still wet. And Rosemary’s boots were leaking from lack of waterproofing so her socks were soaked too.

Upon our arrival in Puerto Varas we found the sun shining, what a pleasant surprise! We changed and had showers to warm us up. After a while we went out to look for a restaurant. We checked the menus of almost everywhere in town and ended up at Restaurant Anibal, a fairly cheap place with an Argentinian waitress who wanted to practice English. Paul had barbecued salmon with fries and Rosemary had barbecued chicken with fries. We met another couple there who are also staying at Casa Azul. They were from Michigan and had just started on a 6-month holiday travelling all over the world. After our dinner we went up the street to buy ice creams.

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