May 31, 2011

Sailing the Andes

One of my favorite trips getting from one place to another was Cruce de Lagos in South America. We were in Puerto Montt in the south of Chile and wanted to travel to Bariloche, Argentina. The quickest way would have been by air but then we would have missed the beautiful scenery crossing the Andes. From Puerto Montt we took a cab to Puerto Varas where we spent the night. Both Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas have a strong German ambiance. It was a picture-perfect setting with beautiful Lake Llanquihue and the classic-shaped Orsono Volcano in the background.

The next morning it was off to Cruce de Lagos, “Cruise the Lakes,” where buses connect to boats to get across the Andes. The trip follows the same route used 400 years ago by the indigenous people of Southern Chile, and later by the Jesuits. A bus took us along Lake Llanquihue and Lake Petrohue with incredible views Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes. We stopped at Vicente Perez Rosales Park, where a short hike on a nature trail led to the Petrohue Rapids, which tumbled and coursed over the rocks. At the Petrohue wharf we boarded a catamaran. Again the views were inspiring as we sailed along Lake Todos Los Santos for two hours never tiring of looking at the volcanoes.

When we arrived in Peulla it was lunchtime. Wisely, we chose to do the trip in two days. After lunch some of our fellow travelers opted for the zip line and others went rafting. When the group left a wonderful silence descended on this quiet little niche in the forest. There were very few guests in the old hotel with floors that creaked and groaned with every step. We passed on the opportunity to try out a zip line instead we took a short hike to Novia Waterfalls. After a quiet dinner we returned to our room for a quiet evening of reading. Some people we met during the trip said, “Why did you stay there? There’s nothing to do there.” That’s the whole point. With such beauty there is no need to do anything but enjoy the peace and beauty.

In the morning we awoke to the sounds of birds outside our window and the fresh mountain air stirring the curtains. Too soon it was time to get on the bus for the short ride to the Chilean border where we completed border procedures. Back on the bus we bounced along a dirt road to the Argentine border and completed their custom requirements. We met only one vehicle during the two-hour ride, “A traffic jam!” quipped the guide. We boarded another boat to cross Lago Frias. Then a short bus ride took us to Puerto Blest. It was time for a lunch break. After lunch a boat took us across the lake to a series of steps that led to a waterfall. The operative word is “steps.”

As we motored along Lake Nahuel Huapi to Puerto Panuelo I knew the adventure was coming to an end. We began to see houses and other watercraft. At our last port of call, we were bused to our hotel in Bariloche, arriving about 4 PM.

Puerto Montt, Puero Varas, and Bariloche are excellent destinations but it is not the destination so much as the journey – a journey that included five buses and four boats and beautiful scenery.