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Part 6: Villarrica

On Jan. 12th we left Valdivia and headed east.  Our first stop was at Panguipulli to see the neat church.  It was built by the Capuchins and was modeled on chapels around Berne, Switzerland.  There are similar churches throughout the Lakes District and they were built like this one.  This little town has a pretty plaza with many roses.  It’s actually known as the town of roses.  The countryside around Panguipulli is gorgeous – rolling green pastureland with cows, sheep and horses dotting the landscape. 




We got in to Villarrica to the Hosteria de la Colina early in the afternoon.  The Hosteria is great – Glen and Bev make you feel so welcome and are so helpful in everything.  We got unpacked and explored the grounds at the Hosteria.  They have a greenhouse behind the inn and it is beautiful.  There are so many neat plants and flowers throughout the grounds here.  The kids were starving early on so they ordered – Kirsi ate a whole barbecued chicken leg and Aidan devoured a huge piece of lasagna. 

The next day, we decided to go to the Termas Geometricas in the morning because it was still overcast and we didn’t want to risk hiking in rain.

Countryside on the way up to the hotsprings:



 

We saw this wild boar and her babies:

 

They were a little pricey - $23.00 per person – but they were absolutely stunning scenery-wise.  They have a wooden platform that leads to all the different pools, ranging in temperatures from 35C to 39C.  The coolest one was just perfect for the kids so we spent most of our time there.  I tried one pool that was a bit warmer and it was heavenly but I couldn’t have stayed there the whole time.  All of us loved our time there – we all felt so relaxed and our muscles were so happy after our soak.  The kids had a blast playing in the pool – Kirsi could stand up everywhere and Aidan could stand in places and loved sitting on the steps too.  What a perfect morning!

 

 

That afternoon we decided to visit Pucon since we hadn’t stopped there the last time we were in the area.  Pucon is the Mecca for adventure sports travellers in Chile.  It’s extremely touristy and developed, which isn’t really our style.  They have plenty of good restaurants, lots of places to stay and a ton of tour companies which will arrange outings.  We ate our supper here and then headed back to the Hosteria. 

The next morning, we enjoyed another fabulous breakfast – pancakes for the kids, pancakes and bacon for Der and eggs and bacon for me – and then headed off to Cafalquen Lake.  This is the warmest lake in the region so we thought we’d get some beach time in here.  We first went to the peninsula at Lican Ray and did an easy hike.  We did it two years ago when Kirsi was 22 months old and liked it so much that we did it again.  Both kids enjoyed throwing stones in the lake, watching Papa and Daddy skip rocks and hiking in the woods.  It was so quiet and peaceful – a perfect way to spend a morning.  We got some pictures in the same spot as we did last time, this time with Kirsi and then with Aidan.  It’ll be neat to see how they turn out. 

 

Since we didn’t get our horseback riding in at Valdivia, we made sure to do it here.  We decided to check out a little place in between Lican Ray and Villarrica where they took you through the meadows and woods.  Der took Kirsi and Papa went too, as it was his first time riding a horse in a saddle!  Kirsi’s horse was naughty and didn’t want to listen but eventually Der got it under control.  Not very reassuring but we were happy that it didn’t make Kirsi scared of horses.  It was a beautiful setting and they had a great ride.  Aidan, meanwhile, enjoyed “driving” the van the whole time they were gone.

 

Later that afternoon, we decided to go to the beach at the Playa Grande in Lican Ray.  Since it was late in the day, the beach was quite full but not too bad.  It’s a beautiful beach with black lava sands and relatively warm water.  The kids had a great time playing in the sand and water.  Kirsi made a house, a garden and a mountain.  Aidan loved bringing water from the lake to the sand – he could have done that for hours.  As hard as she tried, Kirsi couldn’t make a river near her mountain; the sand kept absorbing the water no matter how much they poured into the “river”.

The following day, we decided to head east again, this time towards Caburga Lake.  We first stopped at the Ojos del Caburga, which are a group of pools in the middle of a beautiful forest.  The water that feeds these pools comes underground from Caburga Lake and other streams.  There are some pretty rapids and waterfalls and it’s a nice walk around. 

 
View of Villarrica Volcano from the Ojos:
 
 
 
Then we headed to Caburga Lake, since we hadn’t been there before.  We went to Playa Blanca because it was recommended to us.  What a beautiful setting!  The lake is surrounded by hills, two of which were volcanoes which created Caburga Lake, and the sand is white and fine.  The water is quite warm because of the thermal upwelling at the bottom of the lake and it was really calm.  Kirsi loved that, though she had gotten used to the waves at the other beach.  Aidan thoroughly enjoyed throwing a stick in the water and getting Papa to retrieve it and Kirsi made new friends, two girls who were vacationing there from Concepcion.  It was so neat to see her approach the little girl and ask if she could play with her (the first time she’s done that).  We ran into some friends who were camping there – what a coincidence!

 

After a few hours at the beach, we visited a couple waterfalls in the area.  We first went to the Salto de la China.  The walk to get to the waterfall is among bamboo, which then leads you to the base of a narrow, 73-metre high waterfall. 

Just past the China waterfall was the Salto El Leon.  We walked along a path through the woods and saw the remnants of a sawmill in the area.  The waterfall is 68 metres high and is in two successive falls.  There’s a path to the base of one waterfall but it’s not well maintained.  The boards are coming loose and there are places where there are no boards but rocks instead.  With the spray of the waterfall, the path is quite slippery and I ended up falling when I stepped on a clump of wet grass.  I was carrying Aidan so the only thing that went through my mind was how I could fall without hurting him.  Thankfully he didn’t get hurt at all and Papa was in front of us so he took Aidan while I picked myself up.  My butt was covered in mud and I cracked my knee a good one but nothing more than that.

 

Our last night at the Hosteria so we indulged and had one of the fabulous meals there.  We all enjoyed our stay so much.  Glen and Bev are wonderful hosts and their staff is fantastic too.  They do what they can to accommodate guests and they make you feel so at home.  The lace of one of my hiking shoes broke and it’s a special kind so I couldn’t get just any kind of lace to fix it.  The night watchman, who we met last year and chatted with and who is so friendly, was able to replicate the lace exactly.  Little things like that make the whole difference.  When we headed out the next morning, I started crying as I knew it was my last time to the south of Chile for many, many years.  I really do love the region and it makes me sad to think that I won’t be back.

On the Saturday morning, we decided to head east close to the Argentinean border on a hike recommended to us by my sister and Glen.  There are several hiking trails and walking paths in the Puesco section of Villarrica National Park.  The road to get there was in pretty bad condition and there was a lot of construction on it.  We got part way in to the sector before we decided to turn around.  With the history of our wheel, we didn’t want to continue on the bad road and risk wrecking it again.  Instead, we enjoyed the scenery.  We stopped at the lookout to the huge waterfall and took in the beauty.  We were also able to spot Lanin Volcano, which straddles the Chilean-Argentinean border.  At 3773 metres, it is the highest volcano in the south and is snow-covered year round.  We saw many mountain meadows, which cows, sheep and horses grazing.  It’s so pretty to see pastureland with mountains in the background.

 


 We had considered staying at Kila Leufu, a house in the country run by a Mapuche family.  We had stopped in the day before to see what it was like and it was really neat.  They offer a true farm experience – organic, at that – where they raise their own animals, grow their own vegetables and make their own cheese and bread.  It sounded like it would be a great experience.  However, we decided that it was time to head home.  We’d been on the road for 20 days and we just wanted to be back in our own beds.  So, we stopped in Pucon for lunch and headed out to the Ruta 5.  We trucked it north until we got home, with only a few stops at the gas stations along the way.

The kids were amazing travellers the whole time.  They were great in the van and only fussed when they’d been sitting for too long and needed a break.  They did some long driving days and managed it with hardly any problems.  They are great little hikers and loved being outside exploring.  Nana and Papa were excellent entertainers, which really helped the trip go smoothly.  It was a great time for Kirsi and Aidan to bond with Nana and Papa and we had a great trip as a family.




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