A day trip to see penguins and eat traditional food before moving on to Peuerto Varas, stunning volcanoes and a spectacular crossing of Todos Los Santos Lake in the beautiful Lake District of Patagonia.
When we arrived in Puerto Montt, a thousand kilometres to the south of Santiago from where we flew, it was raining - not altogether surprising as it rains two out of every three days in this region. For the first part of the flight we got great views of the mountains but gradually it became cloudier.
We were met by our guide Patrizia and driver Claudio who did their very best to make a rainy day interesting. We drove straight to the ferry for Chiloe Island. We saw sea lions in the water as we crossed the Pargua Straits.
The rain had stopped by the time we docked and we drove on via Ancud, though it was very overcast. Ancud was established in 1767 as a Spanish fort, the first port of call for ships after rounding the treacherous seas of Cape Horn.
We arrived at Punihuil just as a motor boat was preparing to go out to the penguin colony so we quickly got dressed in waterproof gear and climbed aboard. The rain was still holding off as we approached a few small islands close to shore. We saw maybe twenty Magellanic and Humboldt penguins, some quite stationary, others waddling along the cliff top. One I saw jump out of a small cave and slither down the rock face - very cute and funny. This is the only place in the world where they breed alongside each other.
We motored between the islands, which are formed of volcanic rock, in the relatively calm waters and also saw lots of other seabirds including coal-black cormorants and bandurrias. It was a nice little trip though quite tricky to take photographs because of the movement of the boat and low light levels.
Fun though it was to see the penguins, this isn't an Antarctic scene of hundreds of birds tumbling into the sea - we'll have to go elsewhere to see that!
Back on shore we were taken to see a traditional way of cooking called curanto: a large hole on the ground is filled with hot rocks and shellfish of all varieties, meat, sausages, dumplings and vegetables. It is covered with piles of nalca leaves which look very like huge rhubarb, and then turf and left to cook.
The curanto in Chiloe is said to be the best and most authentic! We had a chance to find out in a beachside restaurant and it was quite an experience.
After lunch we were given various options and chose to go to the new market in Ancud.
We left for the ferry and drive to Puerto Varas on the southern shore of Lake Llanquihue which was to be our base for the next few days. We were staying at Estancia 440 and were exhausted when we arrived, too tired to go out for a meal. The wonderful manager, Rebeca, made us tea and toast with ham, cheese, jams and beautiful fresh strawberries - really excellent service.
We had a corner room with a terrific view of the Calbuco volcano.
The following day we were due to cross Todos Los Santos Lake to Peulla and were very apprehensive that the weather would not be good. We were so lucky to wake the next morning to almost totally clear skies.
The Lake District of Patagonia is a vast area of glacial lakes, lush forests mountains and extinct volcanoes, one of the most beautiful regions of Patagonia.
We were picked up at eight and transferred into the town where we boarded a coach to take us to Petrohué at the west end of Todos Los Santos Lake. This was quite a long journey along the southern shore of Lake Llanquihue but through some lovely scenery.
We stopped at Petrohué Falls, where we had very good views of Volcan Osorno which lies between the two lakes, before continuing to Petrohué.
Volcanoes being one of my favourite landscape phenomena I was very excited to be doing this trip.
Todos Los Santos Lake extends approximately 30km from Petrohué on its western shore to Peulla on the east.
Peulla lies at the easternmost point of Todos Los Santos Lake. Crossing the lake took about two hours to reach this very small place, there is a large hotel here and not much else as far as we could see. But it is in a beautiful location, surrounded by mountains, and we had a decent lunch at the Hotel Natura Patagonia sitting at a window table with great mountain views. After lunch we went for a walk before it was time to return to the catamaran for the crossing back to Petrohué.
Osorno was looking even more spectacular as we approached from the east.
German-speaking Europeans were inviited to come and settle in this part of northern Patagonia during the nineteenth century and the region retains a strong Germanic character. Thus it wasn't totally bizarre to come across a full-blown Oktoberfest going on - even if it was November! A large tent had been set up near the lake and was full of food and beer stalls, German flags everywhere and a very loud oompah band.
There's much German architecture in the town, notably the Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús. For us, however, the main attraction was the lake and stunning views of Volcán Osorno.
We did come across a rather quirky little museum full of an eclectic array of artefacts (and not a little junk!), the Museo Pablo Fierro. Pablo Fierro is an artist and some of his works can be seen and purchased at the museum - it's well worth a visit.
We were only in Puerto Varas for a couple of days but in that time we saw Orsano in clear weather and under beautiful cloud layers. It was very hard to choose photographs!