Still on our cruise around Cape Horn, we visit Patagonia.
But when you’re on a cruise ship, you stop at destinations and you usually only get to spend a day there. Not to state the obvious, but it would be hard to see much of Patagonia in 1 day.
So, I’ve taken several day trips and put them into 1 section. What you’re about to read is made up of day visits to Puerto Montt, Puerto Chacacabuco and Ushuaia (Tierra del fuego). I’ve also included the Amalia Glacier, cruising around Cape Horne and a catamaran trip through the Beagle Chanel.
We had been deliberating a 1-day trip to Antarctica that they offered for £3000 each from Punta Arenas. In the end we decided not too. Not only expense, but I really want to see Antarctica, and when I do it will be for at least a week, so its on the special AHP (after house paid for) list.
As it was, it worked out for the best, as we didn’t visit Punta Arena due to bad weather.
In Puerto Montt, we signed up for an official tour, organised by Princess Cruises. They are expensive (comparatively) but the argument is always made that on an official tour, if something goes wrong, the cruise ship will wait. We found later, that this is flawed for 2 reasons.
1. Independent tours, know how important it is to be back on time, they’ve been doing this for years, have backup vehicles etc so the odds of getting stuck are pretty slight.
2. The idea that a cruise ship with 3000 guests and 1000 crew will wait in port and pay 100’s of thousands of pounds to delay the trip and stay overnight for a coach with 40 people on it is a fallacy (the staff told us this). If the coach breaks down, they’ll just put you on a plane to the next destination anyway.
We did both official and independent tours and found them all to be informative, interesting and very professionally run.
Our first stop is to visit the Petrohue waterfalls. We arrive at the Vicente Peres Rosales National Park and are taken to a sort of museum. You could book canoeing trips and treks. They also sold souvenirs, but best of all coffee, so I had a look around and drank some coffee.
We head outside to explore the park.
They have obviously staggered coach parties so for about half an hour, there were only our group there.
There were lots of well-worn trails to explore.
Once out of the trees I got to see the kind of beautiful untouched wilderness that makes Patagonia so popular as an adventure travel destination.
We cross a bridge and getter a better view of the canyon and the Petrohue river.
And the main thing we’ve come to see, the Petrohue waterfall.
Nothing like as powerful as the things I’ve seen in Iceland but impressive all the same.
The other thing that needs to be said is how clean the water was. If you’re good enough at bushcraft, you could live out here indefinitely.
Heading to Osorno Volcano, up the V-613 highway we see this sort of bar/restaurant with a space age feel to it (and unfortunately closed).
Considering your driving up a mountain, the journey is very comfortable.
A sort of Ski resort at the top.
And then the big reveal. Were not actually going to visit Volcano Osorno.
We’re going to visit Mnt. Calbuco, which offers the optimal viewing point of Volcano Osorno.
You have the option to walk to the cable car and stand on the top of Calbuco, but with the time we had, that didn’t seem a good idea
Instead, we wandered around exploring. The peaceful country air and the mountain silence were a welcome change from a busy cruise ship shared with thousands of people.
After an hour, we’ve still got 45 minutes, so we head to the restaurant and have some glasses of Chilean Merlot while looking at the view.
The view. Across a sea of clouds, Osorno volcano. A spectacular sight.
The final stop on our trip, Puerto Varas on the shores of lake Llanquihue.
Puerto Varas was colonized by German settlers and is known for it’s German traditions, beer, seafood, natural scenery and luxurious hotels.
We’d seen a talk the previous day on Puerto Varas and been told about this fire station.
Now disused, it’s the oldest building in the town.
Much had been made of traditional German beer, and I was looking forward to trying some, but the town was full with coach parties so at that moment, every pub was packed.
I managed to find somewhere with free space at the bar. I couldn’t really relax in a pub that busy, so I only stayed 10 minutes. I still can’t remember which beer I had, but it was very nice.
Nikki wanted some coffee, and we found that the coach station sold café and it practically empty.
I took this picture of the waiting room. In these times, when everyone throws things away, they had re-used old coach seats as waiting room benches!.
From the shore of the lake, the perfect cone of Osorno Volcano and the snow-capped peak of Mnt. Calbuco
Back to our boat, another day of exploring complete.
Our next destination – Puerto Chacabuco on the Aysen Fyord.
This time we’d chosen an independent trip and glad we did. It was nice to meet the local people and know that we’d contributed in some small way to their livelihood.
The port was busy and noisy (as I suppose ports are) so we decided explore.
We were told to walk up the hill and meet our tour group at the “white domes”. Although they look like they’re for farming or suchlike, they are put there by the town council and stalls inside sell local arts and crafts. It was still an hour before the tour was due to start, so we went in search of refreshments.
There is only 1 hotel in Puerto Chacabuco (and it’s 5 star !). The Loberias Del Sur is where a lot of science and research expeditions begin and end. Nothing so “David Attenborough” for us, we had some coffee and bagels.
Our tour begins (2 comfortable mini-buses) and we visit the town of Puerto Aysen.
We stop at the town. We told to have a look inside the visitors centre and it’s possible to get a free map.
I have a look around the visitors centre and collect my map (picture above) and then we just drive off. To this day, I’m unsure what the point of that exercise actually was.
As we drive along, we get this incredible view of the Simpson River.
A highlight of the day was the Cascada Velo La Nova waterfall.
The great thing was, with 2 minibuses we were able to stop in a lot of places where a coach couldn’t.
We disembark and have an hour wildlife trek in the Parque Alken del sur by the Simpson river.
The Presidente Ibáñez Bridge. At 210 metres, it’s the longest suspension bridge in Chile.
It’s getting to late afternoon. To see how the locals actually live, we visit this working farm (where they grow all their own vegetables).
We all sit down for our Pangal lunch. The atmosphere is amazing and all the food is grown on the farm or localy sourced.
It’s 1 bottle of delicious Chilean Merlot between 2. But once it’s gone, a replacement is only £5 a bottle !.
The pork barbecue in the outhouse, where our food was cooked (although there was lots of other stuff and vegetarian options).
Traditional Chilean Huasos dancing performed by a farmer and his daughter.
Huasos are Chilean cowboys. I’m not normally big on traditional dancing, but it was a really relaxing environment and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
After 2 hours of fun, we head outside to see the Lama farm.
Not at all what I’d expected, but an amazing day when I got to experience what it would be like to live in Puerto Chacabuco.