After breakfast at the casino we checked out and made our way north to the ferry, and then drove another couple of hours landing ourselves in Puerto Varas, our landing spot for the next couple of nights.
Our B&B room promised a nice view of one of the two nearby volcanoes across the lake except for the fact that the heavy clouds obscured both completely. Undeterred we jumped in the car and made the journey east about an hour to the foot of the volcano. Having skipped lunch we decided to make a quick stop along the way and see if we could get some food in us.
Our waiter took good care of us describing the days special which we translated to mean lambs feet. Deciding it was probably not the feet but something like a lamb shank we ordered it along with potatoes, Pisco sours and some wine. Our host explained to us that the gray ash covering the property and parking lot was the result of an April eruption of the nearby volcano. Apparently it destroyed many homes and businesses and parts of the road, and damaged quite a few more.
Another half an hour down a long dirt road landed us inside the national Park. We drove to the lake front through deep sandy ash and parked in the deserted parking lot.
The trail map indicated a 23 km eight hour hike in and out. We decided that was more than we were up for at 7:00 PM after dinner and drinks. We chose instead a shorter 10 km hike that made a gentle traverse up the side of the volcano and then finished along the lake.
The entire trail and do the surrounding areas were blanketed in a very uniform deep gray sand - actually volcanic ash. This made for some heavy walking. Fortunately it was made a bit easier by the intermittent showers which dampened the surface, firming it up.
We got glimpses of the snow covered side of the volcano but never saw due to the thick low clouds. Still it was a great little high and well worth the effort. We never encountered another soul the whole way.
Starting a point was right here in national Park Lodge which looked quite inviting. It was by then 930 or so at night and we decided to stop in and have a postprandial drink before making the hour Drive home.
A nice Carmenere wine was an offer as well as hot tea, so we settled into a deep sofa in front of the fire and enjoyed the remaining light of the evening sipping wine and looking across the lake.
The next day and greeted us with rain which was settled and studying and not going anywhere. We decided to jump in the car and make a brief rundown the Carretera Austral, the famous road through Patagonia. This is a beautiful rough road through the wilderness. An article said it was built in the 80s by a government interested in tying together the various regions of this narrow but long country. It's also a fantasy road for moto adventure riders from around the world, who ride it South until the land ends and the next stop is Antarctica. We haven't seen many bikes at all on this trip; and none on the road today. I have to say I was not feeling cheated by traveling in our dry, stable 4WD instead of on two wheels today.
Our original plan was just to go as far as Cochamo and turn around. We stopped for a look around, took the requisite church picture (with Philippa's new friend, "doggie"), and had a cup of coffee by the sound.
Since it was still early afternoon, and the road wasn't that bad we decided to continue on and do the loop back to Pto Varas via the ferry to La Arena.
This landed us in the town of Puelo, hungry and looking around for options to eat. Not finding much, we checked out the grocery store, which was pretty sparely stocked with basics and not a lot else. The woman there did suggest that we try the lunch spot just behind the market. It looked like a house, but did say something about food - sounded good to us.
Turns out hospedaje residencial are traditional eating spots set up in someone's home. This one offered a couple types of soup, fresh bread and fruit juice. The wood burning stove that cooked our lunch made the dining room cozy and we had a great steaming bowl of seafood stew. `
We drove around 70 KMs on the road until the small town of Puelche, where we boarded a ferry for a 40 minute crossing of the bay we had been driving along. This picked up the road back to Pto Montt and on to Pto Varas. Great loop and perfect adventure for the day.
Next stop: Frutillar, en route to Pucon