From Lake to Sea: Lago Ranco and Niebla

Another quick post about travels to the southern Chile… There are just so many beautiful places to see!

Lake Ranco

Behold: Lago RancoAnother breathtaking place to hit up is Chile’s fourth largest lake, Lago Ranco.  I’m going to mostly let the pictures speak for this one.

Mermaids in Lago RancoWe entered on the Futrono side and rented a kayak for a very reasonable couple thousand pesos (1,000 pesos ≈ 2.00 dollars). Meanwhile, my mother-in-law and her sister enjoyed pretending to be mermaids.

Niebla and the Ruta del Mar

Niebla... from the car window.Niebla is a coastal town in Chile’s Los Ríos Region.  This town of two to three thousand people hosts many visitorsand tourists that clamor to see its beautiful beaches, eat exquisite seafood at its local folk markets, and explore the somewhat recent “Ruta del Mar” – Route of the Sea.  Our stay in Niebla itself was short—we were there just long enough to walk along the beach and head to the marketplace, where we were greeted with live folk music (what up, cueca!), assorted empanadas, and some fresh chicha de manzana (which is a softly fermented apple cider).

Once we had eaten our fill of empanadas, we took a long drive along the coastline.Niebla cow don't care.  I have to admit that I was not completely gung-ho about the drive—something about the incredibly narrow dirt roads with belligerent cows that hardly allowed any space to pass… something about how our little truck kept climbing, smugly sniffing at the plunging cliffs that proved to be the only barrier between its four wheels and the ocean below… yeah, something about that made me uneasy.  But as you can see (in the video below), it was worth it.  Because we didn’t die.

If you have the chance to check out the Ruta del Mar, it is a great way to get to know this region and some of the things that makes Chile special.  For example, 6 out of 10 Valdivian species are endemic.  How cool is that?  The route includes paths from Valdivia to Niebla and some of the coastal islands.  Signs along the path give you more information about the area and are written in Spanish, English, and braille.  The route and its connection to the Alerce National Park constitute about three hundred square miles of the Valdivian forest.

Saltos del Laja

This is one tourist spot that I wasn’t thrilled about and could even suggest that you skip.  Apparently, it’s very touristy and iconic; some call it the gate to tourism in southern Chile.  Maybe that’s why I wasn’t so excited about it: it was basically a bunch of tourists taking pictures in front of a waterfall.  There is also a lot of sun involved.   Here’s the expectation:Expectation

Here’s the reality:Quick! Take a picture!

Don’t we look thrilled?

 

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Bierfest in the Pearl of the South

Ah, Valdivia, la perla del sur, Chile’s land of forestry, beer, and Germans.  Located in what used to be the Los Lagos Region of Chile, Valdivia became the capital of the newly created Los Ríos Region in October 2007.

When I first came to Chile, I remember being told that my home state, Vermont, sounded like el sur, the South of Chile.  I denied this possibility and continued to praise Vermont’s beautiful green landscapes, her rivers and lakes, her overcast skies and loving rains; I constantly ranted about the wonderful cheese back home, the delicious desserts and chocolates that Chileans simply don’t know how to replicate, our signature maple syrup, and, for you beer lovers out there… well, thanks for rating us the best in the world

Anyhow, on my first trip to Valdivia and the surrounding areas in 2010, I experienced none of this except cold, trees, and rain.  (Check out the post!)  This time around, I finally was able to see what people were talking about.  It still wasn’t as good as Vermont, but I can see why tourists flock to Valdivia to get away from the Santiago smog.  Namely, because of …

Bierfest

As I mentioned, German heritage is really important in Valdivia and the surrounding areas.  (My partner was named after his great-grandfather Eduvin—go figure.)  And what better way to celebrate this heritage than with a bierfest, complete with dirndl and lederhosen, dancing and accordions, lumberjacking, and all the wonderful things that German heritage represents.  Right? We headed to the Kunstmann Bierfest, an annual festival put on by one of the most recognizable Chilean beer companies.JUMP!

I’m not really sure what the show jumping was about, but we sat and watched a lot of horses jump over a lot of poles.

After that, Edwin and I were glad to pay about ten bucks to get into the biergarten, where we bought tickets to trade in for Kunstmann beer.  Nothing that really tickled my fancy—the Kunstmann Honig Ale was like a spoonful of honey, so that weirded me out a bit.  But I got a little Bavarian hat out of it, so I can’t complain.  I think the best that they had to offer was the Gran Torobayo, which is one of the better beers you’ll find in Chile.  Meaning… Chileans don’t really like hops.  And I do.

In ze biergarten

Chile, me decepcionas

I’ve been complaining for months about the cheese in Chile.  I’ve been homesick for the beautiful green of Vermont.  (I LIVE HERE!)  I’ve been craving some delicious Lake Champlain Chocolates.  So Edwin convinced me to take a trip to the South of Chile, near Valdivia.

I found the bus ride to be long but worthwhile.  Chile has an amazingly diverse landscape, and it is wonderful to see it change over the course of eight hours.  By the time we reached the Región de los ríos, there were trees, cows, and rolling hills—it almost felt like driving through New England.  Unlike quaint New England houses, however, we passed homes with obtuse tin roofs and brighter colors than quiet New Englanders may feel comfortable with.

View from the bus...

We got off the bus and tried to gather our bearings.  Luckily, a carabinero was on the lookout for suspicious-looking gringos—and Edwin fit the mold.  After discovering that Edwin was, in fact, Chilean, he led us to the Chocolatería Entrelagos that everyone seems to esteem so highly.  It was mediocre, but the workers were in costume.  What did I expect?

Reumén

We hopped another bus and ended up in Reumén.  Edwin’s grandfather’s house is next to the town plaza, and from in front of the house, we could see the town limits in each direction where the houses give way to fields or forest.Reumén

There isn’t really a system of approaching houses that is anything like what we have in the US, as all houses have iron fences around them.  Sometimes, there’s a doorbell or an intercom system.  When there isn’t, you simply have to holler, whistle, or find some other means of getting the attention of the residents.  So while Edwin was in front of the house, whistling, the neighbor stuck his head out of the second-story window to tell us that “Don Tilo” had gone shopping.  Sure enough, as soon as the neighbor popped his head back into the house, a van came around the corner and out hopped Papi Tilo with his rib-high pleated trousers and his fedora.  After he greeted us and handed Edwin the keys, he hopped back into the van and was gone.

And that was the most excitement we experienced in Reumén.

20100627@121046 - DSC-S750The next morning was a Sunday.  We had heard about termas in Valdivia, beautiful hot springs that could chase the winter chill out of our bones.  So we decided to take a bus to the termas aguas calientes in the Puyehue National Park.  Oh, wait… it’s Sunday.  Nobody comes to Reumén on Sunday. It was at about this moment that Edwin established a new mantra: Chile, me decepcionas, or Chile, you disappoint me.  Although when he says it, it smacks of such betrayal that it produces a feeling of metaphysical disillusionment.  The only plausible solution was to hitch hike.  In a Savory truck used for transporting huge quantities of milk.  Awesome.

It also turns out that the “hot springs” we intended to see were actually just hot tubs and warm outdoor pools.  So we took a hike, which was just as relaxing, albeit colder.  After an all-you-can eat buffet where I could essentially only eat wilted lettuce, we called it a day and headed back.

Hiking!

Valdivia, Take 2

One of the islands on the River Calle Calle

I CAN HAZ CHEEZ??? So, we had a long weekend.  Monday was a holiday.  Which allowed us to travel.  It also meant that everything in Valdivia was closed except for Jumbo, the huge supermarket.  It also meant that I had to stare at the praiseworthy cheese I’d been told so much about through a locked glass case.

We wandered around the foggy streets, making our way down to the river, where we decided to take a boat tour.  And captain the boat.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—

I don’t know which island we ended up on, but the rivers are truly beautiful in Valdivia, and I really enjoyed the views while I could… that is, until the encroaching fog slowly engulfed my body…

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”