I actually slept! Whoop. Well worth paying £10 more for a ETM premium seat. It was almost completely flat and for the 13 hour journey from Santiago to Puerto Varas it was totally worth it. If you get the ETM bus, they go from a car park effectively and they have a little glass office. Can be quite tricky to find. My taxi driver was very confused but luckily I spotted the logo on the side of the glass. So just a heads up.
I arrived in Puerto Varas in the pouring rain. I had only just woken up so I hadn’t seen any of the landscape around, plus it was so cloudy you couldn’t see anything. My little hostel was perfect, really cute, very cosy and Carolina who owns it is the perfect host. Really friendly, fantastic English ( ex English teacher, that would be why!) and excellent red wine drinking companion. Having not really drunk anything on this trip, I have got to Chile and have most definitely been helping their wine economy haha. Anyways the hostel, stay there – Casa Viejo and Camping hostel. It only opened in January so FYI taxi’s and tour companies get lost if they are picking you up.
When I first arrived, a bit dazed from my night bus I thought I’d arrived in Bavaria, Germany. I already knew the area was settled by Germans in the 1800s but I was not expecting the similarity. It’s quite bizarre, especially considering I started my Chilean journey in San Pedro in the desert. Puerto Varas, was rainy and cold and it felt just like home. Real November.
The first day I arrived, I explored, booked my tours for the best two days of weather ( well, forecasted weather), had a coffee, tried to find strudel but it appeared to have all run out and sheltered from the pouring rain at my hostel. The world famous view of the volcano across the lake did not appear to me that day, or the next, or the next but in my last morning! Finally.
Day two in Puerto Varas I decided to do a tour out to the Volcano Osorno and the Petrohue falls. I met an 18 year old German girl in my dorm room so we went together, even if she did make me feel really old. That day we came across pretty much every weather condition possible – first sun, then rain, then a bit of both with serious wind and finally snow!!! The waterfalls were really beautiful and with the backdrop of the volcano really special. I’ve never seen water that incredible colour – without a filter!!!!
Afterwards we headed up to Volcano Osorno, the further we got up the volcano the more I realised I most definitely wasn’t dressed for the occasion! The cable car was running, even though it was really windy and looked like it had been built in the 50s! We jumped on, and I tried to cover as much skin as possible, my ankles were bloody freezing by the time we got to the top and they were about to get colder…… snoooooow! First time I’d seen snow in Latin America and it was awesome. Alisha thought I was so funny slipping and sliding around in my trainers ( definitely appropriate for now – breathable nikes!) that she kept taking videos of me for her Instagram – all involving the silly British girl ha! The cheek. She had a point though, I was slipping and sliding all over the place. Like bambi on ice! Potentially with less grace 😂
We walked up to the volcano peak to see the view and by the time got there the clouds had completely covered the lake and we couldn’t see anything! On the way up we saw the lake sort of ( pic below)
On the way back down it started to snow and honestly I’m not sure I’ve been that cold in a loooooooong time! Luckily there was an incredible hot chocolate waiting for me at the bottom.
That night after our strenuous day ( not that strenuous) we ate a tonne of pasta, drank rather a large amount of wine and sat by the electric heater to warm my feet! Puerto Varas has been a serious shock to the system after 2 weeks in 30 degree heat.
I’ve done countless buses since I started in August so to explore the lakes I hired a car and it was awesome! £25 for the day and petrol is really cheap. It didn’t matter that most of the day it rained, we could barely see anything and the view point was mainly a cloud point as I was so ecstatic to be driving and able to sing out loud! Poor Alisha, I think she thought I was crazy haha . We drove around the lake stopping off at the little towns around the shore and it was so like Bavaria it was unreal. I kept forgetting where I was, especially driving around with a German!
My last day in Puerto Varas I went to Chiloe which is an archipelago of the coast of Southern Chile famous for its houses on stilts.
In Castro these houses line the shore around the town, they are really pretty and look unusual for their surroundings.
Chiloe is a strange mixture of Dartmoor, the coast of Cornwall and Canada. Again so different to other parts of Chile I’d been too and I loved it. The little inlets and fishing boats that line the coast are just like Cornwall. So pretty and quaint. I visited Castro, Dalcahue and Ancud, only a tiny proportion of the archipelago but really pretty. I also wanted to go to the penguin island but sadly I didn’t have enough time! However, on the ferry on the way back to the mainland we saw penguins!!!!! Which apparently doesn’t happen so I was really lucky. They were just playing in the waves behind the ferry. We also saw dolphins, seals and lots of cormorants.
Sadly on this trip I don’t have time for/can’t afford to go to the end of the world but don’t you worry I will be back and it’s something I know one day I will do. I only saw a tiny bit, the most northern part of the Patagonian region but the tiny part I did see was only the tip of the ice berg so to speak ( especially for Sara-Jane that was!) -well at least I make myself laugh I suppose.
Next stop is Bariloche, in Argentina. I’ve always wanted to go to Argentina – it has everything I love; red wine, world famous steak, and tall dark handsome…. you get the picture.
The bus across the Andes was stunning, and I left Puerto Varas on the nicest day so far (typical) but it meant the views were incredible. I can highly highly recommend NOT losing your tourist card ( receipt/ piece of paper they give you when you enter chile), it makes getting out very difficult. The gentleman did not want to let me leave and tried to get me to go back to Osorno which was 50 miles back. I managed eventually after he had most definitely made me sweat, to get him to let me leave but only as I wasn’t coming back anytime soon. So watch out people. It’s difficult to get out.
The Argentinian border was the complete opposite and could not have been more different if it tried. The guy at immigration told me I was beautiful, that he thought he was in love with me 😂and took my bags through for me and left everyone else waiting. I was the only gringo on the bus so I’m pretty sure from all the looks I was getting they thought I’d asked him to help me. I did not! I just smiled awkwardly and kept saying Gracias.
So back on the bus after my adventurous last hour, I was super relieved to be allowed out of the county and into Argentina. I managed to actually enjoy the last two hours of the bus ride. Phew!
Arriving in Bariloche, the sun was shining and it looked beautiful as we drove around and approached the town. I decided that I could walk from the bus station to my hostel, it only took me 40 minutes but it did feel quite a long way with all my stuff. Plus when I got to the town it was a bank holiday so nothing was open. So I had a McDonalds for dinner 🙈although it was freee as my transaction didn’t go through properly but I still got the food! Whoop. Small win as a backpacker on a budget.
From first look Bariloche looked like a Swiss skiing village in summer, again, not really what I was expecting. The town is much bigger than I thought and more built up but still stunning on the lake looking over the Andes. Everywhere you look you can see snow capped mountains. I don’t think I’ll ever get over being excited by snow. Maybe that’s a British thing as we barely get any!
In order to see a panoramic view of the whole region the next day I got the cable car up Cerro Otto. It’s pretty expensive at about £17 but the view was worth it and the bus was free to and from the mountain.
As views go, it wasn’t bad (to put it mildly) plus it had a revolving restaurant where I grabbed a delicious hot chocolate to warm my hands. Man I miss Santiago’s heat. The wind was bitter. That night I met an English girl in my hostel and we decided to go to an Italian restaurant for dinner and we walked along the lake for 40 mins just for it to be closed. So aways check that! Instead we went to a Spanish restaurant which was nice, all in all I’d say the food in Bariloche isn’t brilliant but then again I did get a free McDonald’s the night before.
On my last day before Buenos Aires I did a tour out to Mount Tronador and the Black Glacier. I had really wanted to visit the glacier but my hostel quoted a ridiculous price – about £45 in Spanish and £85 in English. I managed to walk into town and find it for £60 in English but even so, Bariloche is expensive on a backpacker budget. So if you are going make sure you account for that. I hadn’t really appreciated the price difference from Chile to Argentina.
Anyways to more important things than money – the glacier! Driving to Mount Tronador you can see all the glaciers from a far but as you get to close you can see the black glacier. A lot of people if they didn’t know it was there would think it was just rock but actually it’s a glacier. A glacier that is sadly shrinking by 50cms a year. The guide showed us photos of it 40 years ago and it’s sad to see how much it’s shrunk. Still beautiful and still unusual as it’s a mix of black sediment and ice and it’s a mountain glacier not a sea moving glacier.
The mountain itself is pretty impressive and the highest in this part of the Andes. It’s shared by Chile and Argentina and has had a disputed history between the two countries, not to mention the stunning lakes on the drive there
I’d really recommend Bariloche but you only need a couple of days, a windproof jacket ( I lost mine there grrr) and walking boots.
Next stop – Buenos Aires!