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Part 5: Puerto Varas to Valdivia

On Jan. 9th, we left our cabins by the penguins and headed inland.  Unfortunately, it was rainy when we left so it was too ugly to be outside when crossing over to the mainland on the ferry.  We first went to Puerto Varas, along Lago Llanquehue, to give Del and Ilene a taste of the little towns in this area.  Puerto Varas has a population of about 22 000 people and is becoming more and more of a base for adventure tourism in the south of Chile, just after Pucon.  During our stop, we saw people participating in an open-water sports competition.  They were swimming in a relay, kayaking and there was lots pumping music coming through the speakers.  :)  We stopped by the summer handicraft market to see what was on offer.  We ended up buying a few prints from a local artist to get framed to remind us of our favourite parts of Chile and a mask of a Selk’nam or Onas aboriginal (from the very south of Chile).  We also went to see one of the well-preserved houses of the German immigrants that arrived in this area in the 1800s, the Casa Kuschel, built in 1915 in the Baroque Bavarian style.  It is now owned by Doug Tompkins, the American millionaire who bought up land in southern Chile and created a national park out of it in order to preserve the forest of the area.

Countryside between Puerto Varas and Frutillar:


Next, we went to Frutillar, where we enjoyed some yummy food and delicious kuchen from the same family-run restaurant where Der and I went two years ago when we were here, Café de Los Colonos.  We were hoping to be able to do a hike at the Edmundo Winkler Forest Reserve but it was too rainy.  We spent too much time wandering to get to the Colonial German Museum in Frutillar but it looks really interesting. 

Typical architecture in Frutillar:


Then we headed to Valdivia, our favourite city in Chile.  We love the rolling hills, all the different types of trees and plants in the area and the rivers.  Even though it has a reputation for lots of rain, it still has won my heart.  We found a cabin pretty quickly and then went to Saval Park.  Last time we were here, there was a horse-jumping competition at the park; this time, there was a chocolate festival – right up my alley!  We went for a walk around the Lotus Pond and saw some people zipping across the pond on a zip-line (they call it “canopy” here).  Aidan thought it was the coolest thing ever and Papa thought about trying it out.  Maybe in Villarrica.  :)  There was a big playground area so we spent some time there so Kirsi and Aidan could enjoy some running and playing time.  Then I headed in to the chocolate area.  It was Saturday evening and it was packed!  It was hard to see everything but it was neat to see everything on sale.  Kirsi spotted some big lollipops so we got her one.

Our next day started out foggy and cool but it burnt off and it turned out to be a gorgeous day.  We started off at the riverside fish market.  We saw the fishermen (and women) unloading the fish and seafood and opening up shop.  We saw all kinds of fish – merluza (hake), salmon (for $5 a kilo), sierra (not sure what kind it is in English but it’s long and thin and has a really pointy snout), congrio (white-meat fish, similar to cod, that’s very popular here).  And lots and lots of seafood – clams, razor clams, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers, oysters, and much more.  On the other side of the market were fresh fruits and vegetables.  And it’s soooooo good here!  We picked up apricots, nectarines, peaches, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers.  There was also seaweed bundled up in square packages for sale too.  The sea lions, cormorants and sea gulls were all flocking around, waiting for any treats from the fishmongers.

We wandered around the downtown to see the architecture, the plaza and the cathedral.  Then we checked out the handicraft market that’s right across from the fish market.  Der found a very cool Indiana Jones hat so he was really happy with that purchase.  :)  There is tons on offer there – woolen and knitted sweaters, hats, gloves and ponchos; wooden items; and a bit of jewellery. 

We wanted to show Del and Ilene the botanical gardens at the Universidad Austral de Chile so we headed that way.  Just like last time, we had a tough time finding the gardens, but finally made it there.  And it was well worth the hunt.  They have trees from different parts of the world and it’s just beautiful.  After going along some paths through the trees, we headed to the river and wetlands and marshes, my favourite part of the walk.  I could spend the whole day in these gardens – there’s something so peaceful about wandering through them. 


We finished off the day with a 3-hour boat tour.  We headed west on the Valdivia River to see some parts of the modern city, the oldest yacht club in Chile and the different cargo ships along the river.  Then we headed back up the river towards the city.  We saw Isla Teja, where we were staying, and the Cau Cau River and then went past lots of paddleboats, rowboats, kayaks and even rowers on the river.  We saw the Calle Calle River (which I *think* starts in Argentina and flows down to the Pacific Ocean) and then went up the Cruces River to the Carlos Andwanter Nature Reserve.  This area was created after the big earthquake of 1960, which registered 9.5 on the Richter Scale and lasted for 4 minutes.  There was a tidal wave that was 4 metres high because at the time that the water rose the land also sank.  It was this tidal wave that caused the marshlands that are now protected in the nature reserve (UNESCO recognized the importance of the area in 1981 and a year later the Chilean government made it a protected area).  It is a breeding ground and resting spot for 90+ species of migrating birds.  We saw a few herons and many, many black-necked swans.  Our guide told us that these swans keep the same partners for life and if one of the mates dies, the other will stop eating and die also.  We stopped at Punucapa, a Huilliche village of 200 residents, to see the church and have our once, the Chilean equivalent of Britain’s teatime.   The church was called the Santuario de la Candelaria and it was built in 1883.  Every February 2nd, hundreds of worshippers come to celebrate the parish festival.  There are some villagers that make homemade apple cider and chichi, though we didn’t sample any.  We enjoyed different types of kuchen for our once and then headed back to Valdivia.  It was a great time – seeing the city and countryside from the river rather than the car and getting out to see the little village. 


Our last day in Valdivia was rainy so we didn’t get the horseride at the Fundo Teja Norte, which we were really wanting to do.  That was where Kirsi had her first horse ride two years ago so it would have been fun to do it again.  Instead, we drove out to Niebla, the Spanish fort, to get some pictures but didn’t visit the fort because it was so chilly.  We decided to go to the Mauricio Van de Maele Historical and Anthropological Museum, which is in the historical Carlos Anwandter house.  It is a good example of German architecture of the 19th century and is very well maintained.  The museum was excellent.  The artifacts were from some of the early German settlers in the area, as well as a room dedicated to Lord Cochrane, a British naval commander that the Chileans paid to help them defeat the Spanish Navy.  He managed to help the Chilean navy take over the forts in the Niebla/Corral area in 1820, giving Chile control of Valdivia.  More than 700 Spaniards were defeated with the loss of seven Chileans.  There were also displays of Mapuche silver jewellery, ceramics and other artifacts showing their culture. 


For lunch, we headed out to the Kuntsmann beer brewery.  We had some fabulous German cuisine – spaetzle, smoked pork chops and sour kraut.  They don’t do tours of the brewery during the summer so we weren’t able to learn anything about the process but it was neat nonetheless.  They had a little museum showing the evolution of the brewery to what it is today.  Kuntsmann beer is known all throughout Chile and it was started by a German immigrant.  He was a pharmacist who decided to start a brewery of German beer as a sideline.  A few years later, he was serving the Valdivia area with 12 000 bottles a year.  When his sons got involved in the business, they expanded the business to Valparaiso and Santiago.  At the peak of the business they were selling 12 million bottles a year.  That afternoon, we chilled out.  We all had a good, long nap at the cabins and then headed out for a picnic along the Valdivia River. 


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