24 January 2016
We left Castro on
Saturday, driving north through Chiloé to the town of Chacao, where we caught
the car ferry back to the mainland. Chacao
looks like a picturesque little town, but there’s never enough time to see
everything and go everywhere.
So we got drove
onto the ferry, and made our way to the top deck. It was a beautifully sunny day, bright and
clear, with an amazing view of the Andes to the east.
I saw a few of the
little black dolphins, though they didn’t come by to race the ferry. There were also sea lions torpedoing their
way through the water, stopping to look at us passing by.
But my favorite was
this little Humboldt penguin bravely swimming away from the boat, furiously
pumping his little webbed feet and waggling his little penguin tail as he
hurried to get far enough away. So cute,
and such a surprise to see him there!
As we headed up
Ruta 5, we decided to head to the lake district. We had talked about several options, but I
suggested the town of Frutillar. Because the word “frutilla” is the Chilean
word for strawberry. Because we could
see Volcan Osorno in the distance, and the volcano is just across the lake from
Frutillar. And, well, why not,
So we drove to
Frutillar, a charming little town on Lago Llanquihue (which I think is
pronounced yan-KEE-whey). The town itself was first settled in 1856, so
there are various old homes mixed in with more modern buildings. Definitely kind of touristy, but it’s Chilean
touristy, so it doesn’t seem as kitschy as, well, the kind of touristy we’re
Just a few facts –
Llanquihue Lake has a surface area of 332 square miles (860 sq km) and is the
second largest lake in Chile. The
dimensions are roughly 22 miles long and 25 miles wide (35 km by 40 km). The perimeter is about 116 miles, or 186
kilometers. The depth is as much as
5,000 feet (1,500 meters) – wow, almost a mile deep, or one and a half
kilometers!!! THAT is a deep lake!
Volcan Osorno is a
gorgeous conical volcano, almost a perfect triangle, and is a stratovolcano
(meaning it’s built up by many layers or strata of volcanic material). Osorno sits on top of a 250,000 year old
eroded stratovolcano, La Picada, with a 3.7 miles wide (6 km) caldera
(crater). It’s 8,701 feet tall (2,652
meters). We chatted with a café owner
and Osorno erupted last May! He was
telling us that there was a huge amount of ash and smoke, but it mostly blew
across the border into Argentina. Osorno
is considered to be one of the most active volcanoes in the southern Chilean
Andes, with twelve eruptions recorded since 1575! Despite the numerous eruptions, the top of the
volcano is covered in glaciers.
As you can tell, Volcan Osorno dominates the landscape!
are a lot of German immigrants who settled here in Frutillar. (One wonders when they arrived, and the
political affiliations.) I was told that
many of the Germans have farms in the area, and yes, grow the
strawberries. The Germans have also
brought pastry to this part of Chile – there are signs for kuchen and strudel
at many shops and bakeries, and specialized kuchen stores here. (Kuchen is a German cake, usually with a thick
bottom crust and some kind of fruit, sometimes with cream or custard, and often
with crumbs on top. It can also be a
somewhat flat cake, again with fruit in it.
We usually encountered kuchen with mixed berries. In Castro, our hotel served the flattish buns
and kuchen or strudel for breakfast every day.
Really, the flat bun, a glass of juice, a cup of tea or coffee, and either
apple strudel or berry coffee-cake type of kuchen!)
seems to be a popular food item, we’ve found several chocolate shops. On our first day, we tried several hotels,
hostals, cabañas, and hospedajes (all different names for the varying sizes of
hotel-type accommodations), all to no avail.
Summer weekend by the lake, everything seemed to be full with Chilean
and Argentinian tourists. (We’re only
about 150 km, or 90 miles, from the Argentinian border here.)
We finally stopped
in The Café Chocolate, hoping we’d get some help. The owner was wonderful, told me her mother
had a place and offered to call. Turned
out her mother’s place was full. She
then called a friend, who had a cabaña available, and held it for us while we
drove over. This place is perfect! We’re right across the street from the lake,
with a view of Volcan Osorno from our window and the lawn. The place is surrounded by gorgeous
gardens. The owner has one long low
building divided into three rooms, all very nicely furnished and fixed up, one
of the nicest places we’ve been in while touring around Chile. In fact, we like this spot so much we decided
to stay two nights! (She also has rooms
to rent inside the main house. The place
is called Vista Hermosa Hospedaje, at the far end of Frutillar Bajo, Lower
Frutillar, right on the lake. This is a
quieter end of the lake, and we’d definitely recommend this as a place to stay
if you ever find yourself in Frutillar.)
And yes, we had
kuchen at breakfast, along with the usual Chilean sliced ham and cheese. Though with sliced bread, rather than the
funny flat buns.
The town has a
huge theatre right on the lake; there are performances here, and a few shops
and restaurants. The building is covered
in planks stained in a variety of colors, with no apparent pattern as they were
attached to the structure. Makes for a
very interesting appearance, sort of rustic and über modern at the same
time. With an amazing view of the lake
and the volcanoes in the distance.
Today we awoke to
pouring rain, serious constant rain!
Just one more reason to stay here and not trying driving around. By the afternoon, however, the day cleared up
and it actually was nice, so we went out walking. There are all kinds of odd and funny
sculptures along the lakefront walkway – the first, a music stand, was fairly
normal. Then there was a little gazebo
(or a pergola?) with a wonderful mural on the ceiling; it appeared to be mostly
agricultural scenes, connected with, incongruously, parts of musical instruments. Really, cello necks and swirling piano
keyboards! So, of course, our next
sculpture was a piano – minus some essential parts.
I’m not sure if
these sculptures are related to the College of Arts that we saw in town, or
somehow part of the theatre.
There was also a
very romantic rose arbor. I have no idea
how the roses grew only at the top of the structure, but that’s the way it
was. Today, there were two young musicians
performing under the arbor. I sat and
enjoyed this impromptu concert, a violin and a cello, playing a series of
classical hits. Really, most of the music
we heard in 8th grade music appreciation class!
There are flowers everywhere, and I can never resist a good flower photo.
Tomorrow we’ll try
to drive around a few more lakes before heading back to Ruta 5 and going
north. We have six more days to travel
about 980-something kilometers (610 miles), so we’re fairly confident we can
enjoy the trip north. Maybe stop at a
winery, stay an extra day if we really like someplace, our usual travel style.
And for my family
yes, the hat enjoyed seeing the volcano! Plus the faux tumbolo - the little connecting spit from the shore to the island, however enhanced.