Chile’s Lake District offers many outdoor activities. We had thought that river rafting or a mountain bike ride would be in our plans for the day, but cool temperatures, heavy overcast, and a persistent drizzle dampened our enthusiasm in the morning. As the day progressed, the weather improved but it was too late for any serious adventures. Consequently, after a walk about and lunch in touristy Puerto Varas, we took our small rental Peugeot out for a drive around Lago Llanquihue (pronounced, oddly enough, “Yankee way”) towards the symmetrical, glacier capped cone of 2660 meter high Volcano Osorno
Past Ensenada, our route started to climb up the side of the volcano. Initially, the slope is gentle through forested land. Higher up, the road turns steeper. As the Peugeot struggled with the gradient, views opened up in the gaps in the vegetation where old lahars and lava flows had
passed. Closer to the base area of the ski resort, the highest point we could reach in the car, the road ran almost entirely through relatively recent, on the geological scale at least, lava flows and fields of volcanic cinders. The drive up Osorno was very reminiscent of our recent visit to Mt. Etna in Sicily.
We couldn’t help thinking that a road bike climb on the lightly traveled, smooth road up to the ski area base on Volcano Osorno would be epic. With the length, the gradient, and the altitude gain, it seemed to be every bit as hard, if not harder than Mt. Ventoux in Provence. We’ll put that on the list for the next trip. OK, maybe we will put it on someone else’s list, instead!
The ski area base on Volcano Osorno was built of bright blue and orange colored buildings on the top an old cinder field. From the parking lot, two extinct volcanic cones could be seen in the distance—Volcano Calbuco near the lake and Volcano Tronador on the border with Argentina. There were few cars in the lot of the ski area when we arrived, but the lift was running. Becky found that for around 15,000 pesos each (about $25 USD which is expensive on the Chilean scale) we could take the two lifts up to the top of the ski resort and back. Apparently, you could also hike up for free, but we were pressed for time and exhausted from thinking of riding a bike up the road to the resort, so we opted for the lift ride.
From the top of the upper lift, we hiked through the cinder field along a ridge where we got a view of the glacier carving a steep valley through the upper reaches of the volcano. The black and red rock from the volcano starkly contrasted the volcanic sand dusted white of the glacier. At our backs was a panoramic view of the Lago Llanquihue and Volcano Calbuco.
Back down the ski lifts and we were in the car and coasting back down to Ensenada. In Ensenada we turned away from Lago Llanquihue towards Lago Todos los Santos taking a road that followed the Petrohue River. Lago Todos los Santos itself was not particularly impressive. The river, however, transits a lava flow in a series of waterfalls each with multiple twisting veins through the black rock. It was impressive enough, but with a higher water level it must be amazing.
As the Sun set, our drive back to the room was under a darkening, now clear sky. The near full moon rose over Osorno, with the white of the peak and the moon both reflecting off the lake. Tomorrow we leave the Lake District and head still further south in Patagonia.