Back in Lima

It was a 4.5 hour flight to Lima and I was lucky for a change. Off the aircraft at 10.35pm and quickly through immigration, bags arrived immediately and driver waiting. After breakneck drive which last time took two hours arrived at hotel at 11.30  !

Even luckier was my choice of hotel, part of a relatively new Peruvian group called Terra Viva. Super clean, friendly staff, biggest bed I have ever had (not just on this trip…ever) and as I discovered the next morning a fantastic breakfast taken on 8th floor terrace.

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Decided to venture downtown to the historic centre. The buildings were striking with obvious Spanish and Moorish influences.

But away from the main squares, where one could breath a bit, it was run down, humid, stifling hot and smelly in places.

After walking through the old town I arrived at the old railway terminus building seen at the end of the road past the Andean lady selling her wares. imageThis marks the end of the main town but wander beyond the station and you can see the hillside settlement, I guess like the favellas in Rio.

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It seems so distant from the relative comforts of Miraflores where I am staying. After a beer and a cigar and some photoshots I decided to head back.

I had already been stung by the taxi on the way down, there are no meters so you have to negotiate before you set off. Impossible without Spanish or the knowledge of roughly  what the fare should be. Decided to give Uber a go. Worked a treat, pre agreed price paid via PayPal, good quality car and aircon for one third of the first trip!!

Back to my haven, write blog, and nap before setting off on my evening treat.

4. Puerto Frias to Puerto Alegre

This was the shortest boat trip through Lago Frias and we were the last through so the Argentine officials closed up shop and joined us on board in order to get back to Bariloche.

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Although short it was another beautiful gorge like spot and once completed we were quickly back back on another bus to take us the ten minutes to the final boat.

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3. Peulla to Puerto Frias

Probably the most interesting of the sections given that we had to clear Chilean border control, drive in a sturdier heavy terrain bus and climb high over an Andes pass, and finally clear Argentine immigration and customs

imageWithin a few hundred metres of setting of from Peulla we arrived at the Chilean shed. We had to wait before a previous coach cleared but then only with passports and exit docs we filed through and we on our way.

We slowly climbed through a jungle like territory as the unpaved road steepened and finally turned into hairpin  bends. We passed waterfalls and also viewed the mighty Cerro Tronador, before reaching the border between Chile and Argentina.

image.jpegIt would be another 4 kms before we reached Puerto Frias and the Argentine immigration office. This system was explained clearly by our guide Judith. We had to take all of our kit off of the bus and the Argentine customs would pick some suitcases at random which we hadn’t seen since Puerto Varas. If our luggage was picked we had to pass through immigration and then have luggage inspected at customs (a few feet away). I, of course, was one of the lucky eight who were picked…but I passed through after a cursory glance at my underware by a fierce female officer.

After the inevitable delay of everyone being checked and the luggage loaded onto the next boat we were on our way for a short crossing of Lago Frias

2. Petrohue to Peulla

At Petrohue our modern catamaran with cafe, wc etc is waiting for us and after the obligatory sitting down for take-off we are allowed to roam on the various decks for the 1 hour 45  minute voyage.

imageThis takes us through the Lago Todos de Los Santos which is entirely within a national park. It is pristine.

Apart from the noise of the engine all is quiet around and for the whole journey no other people or boats are seen.

Orsorno appears at its biggest before slowly disappearing behind us. The mood changes as everyone settles to the slower pace and just enjoys the icreduble scenery.

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Finally we reach Peulla, a small hamlet, which seems to have had three hotels, only one now open. During our trip across the lake we could decide whether ot not to opt for one of three excursions during our three hour sojourn at Peulla; 4×4 trucking, canopy zip-wire, horse-riding.

 I chose the zip-wire but before I went to register they were overbooked so it was a lazy lunch and wander around Peulla, which looks like THIS.

1. Puerto Varas to Petrohue

I woke at 7am and my host was preparing my preordered breakfast. After packing and abluting I walked the ten minutes down to the tourist office where our first bus was waiting. With relief I discovered it was a large coach with all the “facilities”.

There was an early morning haze, already starting to clear, as we headed off along the coast road, around Lago Llanquihue, in the direction of the Orsono Volcano.

Our first stop was at Saltos de Petrohue, (the waterfalls of the Rio Petrohue).

imageHere one had to pay an entrance fee, walk passed vendors etc and my heart sank. We are only an our into the journey and this is not what I had expected. However loos were available and it was an easy way for the group to ease into a long day. I needn’t have had any concerns about artesan vendors as it was the last we came across. Judith the bi-lingual guide was excellent and diligently went through here spiel in Spanish and then again in English for the three of us out of a coachload.

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The low sun now devoid of haze provided great photo ops for the evercloser Orsorno. and then after almost 1.5 hours we reached our first catamaran.

Across the Andes to Bariloche

When I planned my itinerary the CruceAndino was one of the things top of my list. But there was a problem, a single journey either has to start in Chile, and once there I would have to somehow return to Argentina. To fly to BA from Puerto Montt one has to fly via Santiago and there are very flew flights from Puerto Montt into other Argentine cities.  My solution was the irregular, and as it turned out, twin otter flight from Ushuaia to Puerto Montt and then re-enter Argentina at a crossing point, by road high in the Andes.

CruceAndino provides a bus, boat, bus, boat, bus, boat, bus service tha sets off from Purto Varas at 8.30am and supposedly arrives at Bariloche 12 hours later but in my case almost not until 10pm.

I was lucky. During the day I did not see a single cloud and the organisation of getting one on and off of vehicles, taking care of luggage through until the final destination and stopping en route on single track dirt roads for all for to take pictures

Because of the length of time, the change in scenery and the amount of imagery captured I will dedicate one blog per sector.

 

 

 

Hello Puerto Varas

My sojourn in Puerto Varas was planned as a quick stopover prior to taking the journey in the morning by boat and bus across the Andes. In hindsight an extra day here and one less in Punta Arenas would have been preferential.

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It has been a glorious day. On the flight sat next to two ladies of a certain age, from Wiltshire, returning from a five day Antarctic cruise, sans husbands. Lovely conversation that meant that the two hour flight whizzed by, as almost did the Andean ice fields that we flew over.

Picked up at airport by a sweet English speaking girl who drove me the 25 minutes to Puerto Varas. What a shock. You could have been in England. Green  pasture fields, rolling countryside, cows grazing and overcast sky. Pueto Varas itself doesn’t seem like a port at all. Not in the sense that Punta Arenas was. It is set in a delightful bay with a beach and the buildings are all clad in clapboard or wood shingle tiles.

I checked in and wandered down the hill and along the front when I heard what iI thought was a rock gig. It was in fact a blind busker belting out some good tunes and playing a mean harmonica. Listen HERE.

My host suggested I ate at an Italian restaurant which also made artesan beer so at 7.30 I returned to town where the busker was continuing to strut his stuff. When I left the restaurant he was stiil going and as the sun set and there was an evening stillness I could see clearly, for the first time, one of the reason for coming here. The majestic Orsono Volcano across the lake.

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Farewell Punta Arenas

It was good to have a more relaxed three days in one place as I move towards the halfway point of my trip.

imageYesterday evening I walked around the town and saw a few more of the old mansions one of which, Sara Braun’s home, is now a hotel and the Union Club. In its basement is a bar called La Taberna where I took a pre dinner margarita in solitude.

On the way to the restaurant La Marmita, which I had enjoyed on my first night, I passed the British School founded in 1904 and the Anglican church next door. Delightful little buildings and a reminder again of the links with Chile whose people today are so friendly and helpful.

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This morning I am at Punta Arenas airport waiting to fly to Puerto Montt and as I was checking in I saw another group on their way to Antarctica. I still forget how far south I am and that Punta Arenas remains a staging post for explorers, geographers and now tourists.

I am looking forward to some warmer and less windy weather in the Chilean and Argentine lake district.

Cemeterios Punta Arenas

After dropping off my laundry I took a walk several blocks away and found the cemetery. An odd tourist attraction you may think but, in its way, more attractive than Punta Arenas itself.

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Its manicured cypress tree avenues a contrast to the white and grey stone of the tombs, monuments and mausoleums. A considerable number of Scots, English and Croat are buried here as they form much of the early immigration.

The cemetery land was donated by wealthy sheep farming scion, Sara Braun, and when she died she stipulated that after she entered the door of the cemetery it should be locked and never again opened. Entrance is now through a side door!

Amongst the monuments is one to the memory of all those lost on HMS Doterel a Royal                                         Navy sloop that blew up, due to a coal dust explosion, whilst at anchor off of Punta Arenas. Another commemorates those British living in the Magallanes region who died in the two world wars.

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Finally, Sir Walter Baldwin Spencer, the anthropologist, is buried here. The guide translation says his death “surprised him”. Really !!