The Germans in Chile

Posted on February 18, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Hello hello! Sorry to have taken so long to get back to you all with our Chilean adventures! We've been relaxing in Buenos Aires, and travelling around Argentina in some dodgy weather, so finding decent internet cafés has taken a back seat…but we'll get onto all of that later. To bring you up to speed: our previous trip to Chile had been quite short, and a little disappointing. It wasn't that we hadn't enjoyed ourselves – because we had – but rather that some of our expectations (especially of Valparaiso) hadn't really been met. However, the people had been amazingly friendly, and we were looking forward to sampling the South. As we mentioned in our previous post, this is a hugely long country. So we wouldn't spend our days traveling by bus getting to the Lakes District we caught a connecting flight in Santiago to Puerto Montt, the last big town on the Chilean mainland before Patagonia. On our way through the domestic portion of Santiago airport, we stumbled across some odd art, which helped to relieve the pain of a 3 hour wait between our flight from Lima and our flight to Puerto Montt.

From PM airport, we made our way to Puerto Varas, on the shores of the large Lake Llanquihue. Puerto Varas is one of a string of towns in the region initially settled by Germans in the 19th century, and it shows. Many of the original houses are still in good nick, and look well, like they were a lot of work to build:


Our hostel

The hostel we stayed in, like many of the other houses has been declared a national monument, but it seems that the Chilean translation for national monument is more 'thing or place of vague national interest', since many of the so called monuments we encountered in this part of the country weren't particularly monumental.

On the pavement outside our guesthouse was a concrete slab with the world 'circuito' and a little arrow. Following the arrows takes you around various national monument houses in town, and up to a shrine on a nearby hilltop. Unfortunately, the path wasn't always clear and after walking past this church:

we didn't encounter the next monument until we'd walked down to the next town along the lake shore. Realising our mistake, we turned around and walked along the lakeshore road, revelling in the sight of Volcán Osorno in the distance.

Apart from this hiccough, Puerto Varas treated us well, and we were sad to leave on our third day, on a bus from the Cruz del Sur terminal. We arrived a few hours later in Valdivia, one of the oldest towns in Southern Chile. Unlike Varas, it is a major town and is surrounded on three sides by rivers. There has been a settlement on the spot since the 16th century, and it was also a major place for German immigration at the beginning of the Chilean Republic. The land around the city is stunning – the rivers flow around large islands and through wide valleys before eventually emptying out into the Pacific, about 15 kilometers downstream of Valdivia town. We spent the first day walking around the city, avoiding the Kuntsmann Beer Festival, hanging out with the local sea lions and sampling the local fish (supremely fresh and incredibly cheap).

For our second day, we hopped on some local transport and headed to the rivermouth on the Pacific shore. Old Spanish fortifications here used to cover the entrance from both sides, and although the fort at Niebla was closed, we headed over to Corral and had a look around. There had been a re-enactment taking place at the fort, which we just missed, but you can see the actors relaxing here.

The most sobering thing was the 'tsunami zone' signs, put in place because of the previous earthquake (more on this later). On the battlements, there's a sign to show how high the waves reached on that day in May..it's amazing anything survived.

We darted back onto the last boat back to Niebla (dodging men selling 'helado-helado-helado' – or ice cream to you and me), and caught a collectivo back into town.

Our final day in town we organised a river kayak trip with Pueblitos Expedicions. Jorge was our guide, and he took a single kayak whilst Rachel and I shared a tandem. The last time I had been in a kayak was heading down a white water river, and this time we were heading upstream. It was pretty tough going, but the scenery was incredible. After an hour and a half we turned onto the Río Cruces, which is almost a kilometer across in places. As we paddled around large reed beds we saw something strange:

It turns out that this kilometer wide river had once been only 100 meters wide. On the 22nd of May 1960, the largest earthquake ever recorded – a 9.5 on the MMS (the new Richter scale) – and devestated southern Chile. The soil around the river sank, and these are the remains of trees. They will eventually rot away, but looking at them now is incredible. We had chosen a cultural kayak trip – to have less paddling! All the way up the river we had been passed by passenger boats from Valdivia (full), which were returning to town (empty). This was because it was the 2nd of February, and in Punucapa they famously celebrate the Virgen de la Candelaria. It was like a church fete – families around barbeques and selling pastries and cakes, with a celebratory atmosphere.

We hopped back on the kayaks and sped downstream (so much easier!), passed some sealions and hopped out onto the concrete. The next day, our arms were killing us, but that's alright, because all we needed to do was to hop on a bus and go back south again, past Puerto Varas, to the intrigiuing island of Chiloé.

Phew..hopefully it won't be so long until nex time! Until then then,

James

Posted via email from dreadpiratesarcas

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