Episode 187 – Volcanos, and Waterfalls, and Germans – Oh, My!

February 4, 2022. 65°F/18°C

#myvikingstory

We discovered during our time in San Antonio Texas at the beginning of 2020 that “Germans are everywhere”. Well, they certainly are in our house (me).

Today began at the city and commune of Puerto Montt. The city was founded on February 12, 1853, and named after Manuel Montt, who set in motion government-sponsored immigration from Germany beginning in 1848 to populate the region. Modern day Chile still has around half a million people (out of a total population of just over 19 million) directly descended from those early German immigrants. Prior to being settled, this region was called Llanquihue, which is the name of the large lake here, and was mostly uninhabited forest. (Uninhabited because the Mapuche people, after successfully fighting off the Spanish for almost 300 years, couldn’t fight Mother Nature, and moved out of the area after the huge volcanic eruption of 1835 impacted their livelihoods as livestock farmers.) Puerto Montt now has around 250,000 inhabitants, only about 20% of whom belong to one of 9 different indigenous groups, Mapuche being by far the most prevalent.

It’s a small and fairly shallow port, but we were fortunate to be able to dock instead of anchoring offshore, since there were no container ships making deliveries.

You can see how shallow the water was at low tide when we arrived, yet the pilot boat was able to guide us in BACKWARDS right up against the pier.

From the port we travelled 90 minutes by bus to a crater called “The Bubble” at about 4000 ft above sea level on the side of the Osorno Volcano, then to Petrohué Falls, and lastly into Puerto Varas for lunch and independent exploration.

This area is the northern part of Chilean Patagonia, and is incredibly lush. Here there is the same kind of evergreen forest found in British Columbia and in New Zealand, made possible by 260-280 days a year of rain. We were incredibly lucky to have a sunny day! On the other side of the Andes, In Argentina, lies the very dry Patagonian Desert.

Our first glimpse of the Osorno volcano from a vantage point across the lake. This glacier fed lake has a surface area of about 330 square miles/860 square km and is 1040 feet/317metres deep at its centre.

The Osorno volcano is considered one of the most active volcanoes of the Chilean Andes, but the last eruption was way back in 1869, so we’re certainly in no imminent danger visiting it – it is currently classified as “dormant”. Those younger, fitter, and braver than we are can hire a local guide and climb from the Bubble Crater (our destination, which is also the ski centre) to the top, using crampons and ice-hiking gear.

The top of the volcano is covered in snow and glacial ice, but note the left hand side of the volcano’s peak. The area that now appears black used to be consistently white, but over the last 20 years climate change is melting the glaciers at a faster than normal rate.

Despite being sunny at sea level, once we reached The Bubble we were shrouded inside a cloud. Sadly, no panoramic views from there. We were, however, able to see the ground, which is a mixture of volcanic ash, pumice, and basalt.

Leaving the Osorno volcano down steep switchback roads, still in the cloud, we emerged into brilliant sunshine just in time to see the Petrohué Valley below.

What an absolutely perfect day to be at Petrohué Falls and rapids.

The walkway and short trail to Petrohué Falls was busy with tourists, since this is summer vacation time in Chile, but we still had plenty of opportunity for photos. We’d been told that the waters here were emerald green, due to being glacial runoff, but were nonetheless amazed by their brilliant colour.

The colour of the water is particularly magnificent since it flows over smooth black volcanic rocks.
In the bottom photo you can see why the river got its name.
Petrohué means “misty place”

After our stop at the falls, we headed for Yankee Way Lodge, a clever play on Llanquihue (pronounced Jang-kee-way) lake’s name by the American owner of this fishing resort. There we were greeted with Pisco Sours, Chile’s national drink, followed by a lunch of pumpkin soup, Chilean salmon, Chilean wines, and a dessert featuring berry and mango coulis with a panna cotta style pudding. This part of Chile is famous for coho, chinook and Atlantic (farmed) salmon, as well as brown and rainbow trout and hake. The climate is also perfect for growing berries, so the meal featured all the best produce of the region. The next time I buy Chilean blueberries in a Canadian grocery store, I’ll be reminded of today.

The view across Llanquihue Lake to the Osorno volcano from the lodge was breathtaking!

Before heading back to our ship, we had some free time in Puerto Varas, the “city of roses” on the southwest shore of Lake Llanquihue, where German heritage is still evident in the traditional red-roofed wooden architecture and prevalence of Alpine-style A-frame houses. Here amid forested hills, sparkling lakes, and within sight of the snowcapped Andes, it is easy to imagine you’re in Europe instead of South America.

The wood used for shingles is endemic to this part of Patagonia and is uniquely weather and termite resistant.
The large German school in Puerto Varas, where the language is being kept alive, alongside Spanish of course.
Along the waterfront in Puerto Varas was an art installation of metal sculptures that looked decidedly Steampunk.

When we arrived back at the dock, we were greeted by music, Pisco Sour shots, and our stateroom stewards out on the pier to welcome us back. It was a real treat to see “our” Albert off the ship, if only for a few minutes, since the crew has not been allowed to leave the ship since signing on for their contracts, due to Covid protocols.

Top: the amazing Yoyo, who unfailingly keeps me in spicy Bloody Marys, ensuring that I got a Pisco Sour “welcome home” shot. Bottom left: the welcoming committee. Bottom right: Albert!

Although we really weren’t hungry after our late lunch, we had reservations with another couple at the Chef’s Table, and were looking forward to our social time together, so we headed down for dinner as planned. None of us really did justice to the food though.

Tonight’s theme was Gastronomy Through The Ages, with courses designed to take us from Roman times through to the 21st century.

Top left: Amuse bouche. Roman Empire delicacies: crunchy cucumber and romaine gelée topped with goat cheese mousse and hazelnuts.
Top right: First course. Gallic oxtail consommé poured over shredded oxtail and julienned vegetables.
Bottom left: Main course. Renaissance style lamb filet over sweet potato mash, with glazed heirloom carrots and lamb jus.
Bottom right: Dessert. 21st century pecan and walnut brownie with chocolate mirror glaze, spun sugar spiral and pistachio ice cream.

After dinner, we heard that one of the day’s other big excursions, to Emerald Lake, had run into a snag. Because it had taken longer than expected to dock this morning, the morning lake cruise portion of that excursion couldn’t happen (the boats involved wouldn’t have been able to operate their afternoon cruises). The rest of the day – visiting the falls, lunch, and touring Puerto Varas, went on as planned. Viking, ever cognizant of making passengers’ experiences perfect, refunded everyone not 50%, but 100% of the excursion price! They continue to impress us with their customer service every day.

We have 2 sea days coming up before we reach Punta Arenas (and penguins!!!) on February 7th. En route, we’ll be cruising past the Amalia Glacier. I’m looking forward to that experience, and Ted’s photos.

8 comments

  1. Just wanted to tell you how much I look forward to your blog each day! Today’s post was especially interesting since due to weather Puerto Montt was skipped on our 2019 South America/Antarctica cruise. Your narrative and photos did a magnificent job of showcasing this port. I am looking forward to your posts in the coming days since I’m sure they will bring back lovely memories of our time sailing through Patagonia!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just want to say thank you! I’m enjoying a Willamette Valley Sauvignon Blanc — delicious (Compton Vineyards) and know that Chile would be the perfect cruise for me from the wine standpoint — so fun to accompany it with your descriptions and photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. If you’re taking the slower ferry over to see the penguins you should know there’s only about 15 or so really comfortable seats and they’re on the upper deck. I’m not one to rush onto any mode of transportation but I wish I would have in 2018 when we took that excursion.

    Like

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