Zigzagging through the Lake District 

We spent five days exploring Chile’s lake district and, unusually for us, went by car, one per couple, really the only way to see as much as we did.Our first stop was in Pucon where we slept, very well, in yurts on the beach beside a lake. Despite the cold we were very cosy inside.

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Controversially our planned volcano hike was cancelled due to uncertain weather. We questioned the decision as the morning was bright and other groups were heading out.Instead we spent half a day at thermal baths, Los Diagonales, where the temperature of some of the pools reached 43C. Lovely in the water, outside it was chilly and started to rain, so moving about and getting changed was a lot less fun. We warmed ourselves up with hot soup beside the roaring fire in the cafeteria.

Pucon is a pleasant town dedicated to the needs of tourists. Every brand of trekking and climbing gear is available there as in all the other lakeside towns. We were more interested in the more traditional merchandise in the local shops.

Our next stop was outside Puyehue in a very remote spot where the hotel, El Taique, is run by a French family. The weather was misty and damp but we headed out to the national park at Aguas Calientes where a forest trail soon turned into an endurance test which we all survived. This area is famous for the trees which appear to grow straight out of boulders. After a damp, cloudy day the sky cleared so that we could all sit outside to enjoy the sunset – and Pisco sour served in many varieties here.

We enjoyed driving on beside the lakes and volcanoes despite being delayed by a major cycle race. We stopped in Puerto Octay, a quaint old town, for coffee, shopped in Frutillar and had a picnic beside a lake on our way to the final stop at Puerto Varas.

From there we took a trip out to another national park while Sarah and Alan spent their day exploring the lakeside and town.

Our route took us through Puerto Montt on Golfo Ancud on the Pacific coast where we encountered further diversions due to a running race. After several circuits of the town we continued up the coast to Piedra Azul, a coastal village, for coffee which turned into a early lunch of empanadas containing locally caught seafood – delicious. We watched fishing boats unloading their catch of hake which was for sale on stalls beside the beach.

At Alerce Andino national park we followed a 4 kilometre trail to a waterfall then on to a tree said to be 3000 years old. It was very quiet walking up but on our way down we met lots of families and groups enjoying a Sunday afternoon expedition.

We then had to hurry back to Puerto Varas as the car was due back by 6pm! There we were rewarded by stunning views of volcanoes we hadn’t seen the previous day.

They were just a taste of what was to come on our journey on through the lakes into Argentina.

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