|Cunard Queen Victoria's Exotic Voyage 2018
Discovering South America Part 8
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Puerto Montt is a tender port and the day was spent on the Cunard tour "Volcano, Waterfall and Lake". Puerto Montt is the capital of the Lakes District and is a commercial and transportation hub for tourists. It is not itself a tourist destination and cruise ships visit so that tours can go north to volcanoes, waterfalls and lakes. In the early morning the town was deserted. The houses were generally small, wooden and single storey, usually roofed and faced with shingles from a tree which is now conserved so the shingles are often reused and resplit or petrified trees are used.. There had been an earthquake in 1960 and some buildings had not survived. In contrast, Puerta Varas is just 23 kms away on the shores of pretty Lake Llanquihue, overlooked by the volcanoes of Calbuco and Osorno. Driving along the lake front road there is often a view of the snowy peak of Osorno above the clouds. It is 2652 metres whereas Calbuco is only 2015 metres. Calbuco is very active and the tour guide showed pictures taken from his house when it erupted last in March 2015. It is only 49kms from Puerto Veras and is the same type of volcano as Vesuvius.
The town of Petrohue is on the Lago Todos Los Santos and only 20 minutes from the eastern corner of Lake Llanquihue. The Saltos Rio Petrohue is 6 kms before the town and is a scenic wide waterfall which rushes through a narrow volcanic rock canyon and overflows scuptured lava pools alongside. In February the flow of water was medium but it was clear that it would be a spectacular torrent in the winter. It and the sculptured pools at Dawson Falls in New Zealand. The path to the falls is good, but the final rock scramble to the last viewing point could be slippery in damper weather. The tourist shops sold a good selection of woollen alpaca jumpers and capes, as well as smaller souvenirs. The jumper was 12,000, about 20US$.
Having seen the Volcan Osorno previously it was a disappointment that the mountain was covered in cloud when we arrived at the Volcan Osorno Cafeteria Mirador with its chairlifts. Petrohue Falls and the volcanoes of Calbuco and Osorno are all in the Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales which includes the Monte Tronador (3491 metres) on the border with Argentina. This was Chile's first nationl park and is open for visitors all year. Only the first of the two chair lifts for sightseeing was working, but the limited visibility meant that no one was interested in buying a ticket. It was just clear enough to follow the rough path upwards and we surprised a mountain fox in the clouds. The path is good and after 15 minutes we reached a platform and could see the remains of some structure below us, as well as the first stage chairlift below which was now moving. This was a rare glimpse of the views and the cloud came down again quickly. As we joined the bus there was a short glimpse of part of the mountain and the disappearing chair lifts before the clouds came down and covered everything again.
The views down towards the Petrohue valley were better below cloudbase at the mirador. Lunch was at 1330 at a nice restaurant on the beach of Lake Llanquihue. We were the only bus there and all the others had gone to the town of Puerta Veras. The pisco sour aperitif was cold, the chardonnay and carmenera wines from Chile were good and the lunch of cheese empenada, soup, salmon and a raspberry meringue cream dessert were better than most Cunard tours. There were good views of Volcan Calbuco on the drive along the lake to Puerta Veras, and then enough time in the town to walk along the lakeside and into the shopping centre, but not to climb up to visit the colourful church of Sagrado Corazon. Puerto Veras has its German colonial architecture, its parks and waterfront. At the end of the day there was no time left to explore Puerto Montt but the pier and the promenade with its large statues were busy. The Volcan Osorno had lost its clouds as we departed. .
Northern Patagonia has spectacular scenery. After an overnight passage along the coast we turned to the east along the Canal Darwin, named after Charles Darwin who had visited here on one of his expeditions. This seemed a narrow canal from our map but it was similar in size to those previously traveled in Southern Patagonia. This year the cloud was low and we did not have such good views of volcanos such as the Volcan Maca. In the north the weather is warmer and there is salmon farming and lots of wildlife. It is possible to get bored of sealions when there are so many and everywhere there are southern beech trees. The area is more busy with small ferries, isolated houses and boats. There were only the occasional glimpses of mountains topped with snow in the Andes. Most of the pictures here are from 2017
The original berth for Santiago had been at Valparaiso, a nice city with historic elevators where the docks were on the edge of the town. We had been there in 2017 and were looking forward to a second visit. Unfortunately Cunard decided to go to San Antonio instead, which is well south of Valparaiso. Valparaiso was 120 kms northwest of Santiago and it is a similar distance between San Antonio and Santiago but from San Antonio to Valparaiso is about 80 kms and a significant drive on tour. Both Valparaiso and Santiago are too far for a day trip from San Antonio because half of the time for the tour would be spent travelling.
San Antonio is a fishing town and its port is said to be the busiest on the western coast of South America. Although travel books ignore San Antonio the local information office has produced a Map Informativo and showed us where to find the relocated Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Arqueologia which is a 5 km taxi ride from the port. Leaving the port on foot and in the opposite direction there is a wide pedestrian promenade which first passes an old fishing boat which is now a memorial to drowned fishermen and then passes the coal crane now Monument Grua 82 "La Abuela de la Bahia" and then continues above the line of working fishing boats and tourist pirate trips. The town was full of families and tour buses which seemed unusual mid-week. It has a line of tourist food and souvenir shops which were doing good business and stalls continued to the Mercado del Mar fish market. Just before the market there was a large group of reclining sea lions, and on the roof of the market a large flock of pelicans. There were more pavement stalls with rolls of sea kelp next to cheap cotton socks, piles of old computer stuff and secondhand clothes. It is a town where the shops are for local people, not only for the tourists.
The next small bay had the statue of San Pedro Pescador, the patron saint of fishermen, by Domingo Garcia Huidobro. Here there were a few more sea lions resting, and more swimming in the water. This was the limit of our walk along the promenade. There was a shopping mall opposite with a supermarket downstairs which was airconditioned. It also had the chardonnay and carmenera wine from our lunch in Puerto Veras at £3 per bottle. Although tempted by the stalls of smoked fish it seemed a better idea to go back for afternoon tea.
The Museo de Ciencias Naturales y Arqueologia and its nearby Mirador Cristo del Maipo will have to wait for another visit. As the QV departed we passed the Panul lighthouse whose tower is 8.8metres high. This is another place possible to visit but too far to walk from the port on a hot day.
The next part will continue at Coquimbo in Chile
|Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 5th March, 2018