Thankfully no disco last night so everyone got a good nights sleep and walked a few km to the market after breakfast. Pity it didn’t really get going until 11 am, our agreed departure time but the weather was superb so nobody was complaining. There didn’t appear to be any interesting alternatives so we headed directly south on Ruta 5 tollway. The countryside around our overnight destination, Puerto Varas, was settled by German immigrants in the 1840s and it wasn’t hard to see why they were attracted to this area. Today it looks just like parts of Germany with rolling hills, beautiful lakes and neatly cultivated farms. Even the timber houses look Bavarian. This will be the last serious town before we head into the National Park area so we splash out on dinner at Casa Valdes right on the lake. A huge choice of fish with perfectly cooked sea bass getting the vote as the best meal yet.
A free day so we head for Puerto Octay which was recommended as a typical German village with caffe and kuchen as the speciality. The coffee and cake was a bit of a disappointment but the cemetry overlooking Lake Llanquihue made up for it – must have been a healthy place because most of the residents had survived into their 80s with one seeing out their 105th birthday.
We continued driving around the lake with its dozens of small beaches and camping spots to Volcano Osorno on the opposite side. By this time the drizzle had set in but we took the beautifully surfaced road to the parking area well above the tree line – it would have made a superb 10 km special stage. No views down to the lake through the mist but the moonscape of lava flows from the 2800 m peak were pretty spectacular.
Tomorrow we head into the National Park area with its myriad inlets and islands confirming Chile’s claim as the country with the longest coastline in the world. Puerto Varas is on the 42nd parallel, roughly the same as Hobart, and we will end the southward leg at the 55th parallel so we have along way to go in some of the most remote regions in the world. According to a backpacking couple we met today who had recently travelled along the roads we will take there are long stretches of roadworks with large rocks everywhere so it could be a slow trip and we aren’t sure where the next internet will be – possibly Coyhaique on 18th Jan. Should be a testing time for cars and drivers…