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Memories of my travels between 1972 and 1982

Monday, 14 February 2011

February 14th: Peulla in the Chilean Lake District

On February 14th 1976 I was in Peulla in south central Chile.  I was on my way from Puerto Varas across the Andes to Bariloche in Argentina.

There was very little in Peulla, just a hotel and some houses owned by the tourism company.  There was a road to Argentina but not back into Chile: there was only a water link across Lake Todos Los Santos to the road from Puerto Varas.  It was as quiet a place as you could imagine and it had seemed wrong to pass straight through even if it meant spending  a few nights there, until I could find transport on.  A bus went to and fro from Argentina two or three times a week and that was really the only transport onwards.  I was put up in one of the wooden company houses by a middle-aged couple, who supplemented their income in this way, although there were few tourists at this time.  The señor told me he had worked for the company for 18 years and also had a house in Puerto Montt; he gave me a little photo of Volcan Osorno, and discussed whether there would be a coup in Argentina.  The señora gave me good simple food three times a day, but on Sunday cooked a splendid roast pork for lunch.

You could not walk far away from the lake, as there were no obvious trails.  There was a famous waterfall and open grassy areas beyond where I sat and read, surrounded by wild flowers, fuchsias everywhere and cane-grass.  On paths there were foxgloves, of yellow and pink and blue, and thistles, daisies and all sorts of yellow things; there were large insects, red-bellied horse-flies and grey horse-flies, blue and yellow dragonflies and huge rich-brown bees.  At the lake I could sit on an old stone jetty and admire the snow-topped mountains, volcanoes mostly, the rocky wooded hills rising steeply with occasional pastures, but houses very rare.  Everyone went to the quay to meet two boats coming in but only 3 or 4 passengers got off.

The journey from Puerto Varas was unusual.  There was no normal bus service along this road, only a tourist coach owned by the company which took paying passengers as well.  There was a young woman to give us loudspeaker commentary, telling us that there was a wheat-field on the right or that the lake was so many square kilometres, and there was a young man to help the women to clamber down the two steps off the coach to the ground.  The route started along Lake Llaquihue with fine views of the perfect cone of Volcan Osorno, which Charles Darwin saw erupting from the coast on the night of 18th January 1835.  Later we stopped at the Saltos de Petrohue, very pretty in a wild wooded valley and with clear water in the waterfall; we made a good long stop for people to take photographs.  Finally we crossed Lake Todos Los Santos by boat and came to Peulla.

After a few days the bus arrived from Argentina, and I was able to continue.  We crossed the pass to Puerto Frias, an outstanding trip.  The vegetation kept thick all the way, even at the top of the pass.  It was a little road at first by a river then over the winding pass through the temperate rain-forest with views of the white peak of Tronador.  In the thick trees one type of creeper had red flowers, there was moss with red flowers, red fuchsias, and then ferns and creepers and wild flowers and cane.  On the Argentine side, Lago Frias was small and emerald  coloured like Todos Los Santos, but the banks were even steeper.  Further on, Lake Nahual Huapi was turquoise and large, steep sided and deeply wooded, but getting less wooded as we reached Bariloche.

In Bariloche there was a general strike and this  made finding a hotel difficult.  It brought me back to the political situation there.  I'd already spent a couple of weeks in Argentina, so I was used to the politics there: hyperinflation, police checks on public transport, people arrested and groups of youths strutting ominously on the streets.

Peulla:  Picture by Luciana Carpinelli, CC
Lake Todos Los Santos, Picture by Andrew Dennes, CC

The picture given to me at Peulla

View peulla in a larger map

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