Puerto Varas is usually a town bustling with backpackers, known as a hot spot for quick access to hiking, canoeing, and other adventures along the lakes and volcanos it lies between. When we finally arrived, however, it was a ghost town. Since the explosion of Volcan Calbuco, most of the towns were evacuated and all activities shut down. When the border crossing opened and the towns were okay to travel to, Chase and I set off. The rumors we had heard about there not being much to do were more than true. We arrived around 8 at night due to the bus schedules. We try to avoid situations like this when we go to new cities, especially since our hostel did not allow for online booking. A combination of all of these factors started our time in Puerto Varas off with a bang!
First off, the bus drive decided that going to the bus station to drop us off was too big of a hassle. He pulled in to the outskirts of town, stopped on a dark street with no street lamps, and yelled “Puerto Varas!!!”
As we got off the bus, he tossed us our bags, got back on his bus, and boogied right out of there. I looked around and noticed that the businesses were all closed except for a little fishing/hunting shop we were standing outside of. On top of it all, it was pouring rain. Good thing I love the rain, huh? 😉 We huddled under the door of the shop to get all of our rain gear on our bags and grab our map. Luckily, our phones have a GPS system with a program we downloaded that allows us to get directions and maps of all of Chile and Argentina without any network. We put in the address of our hostel and set off confidently. As we were walking, we hit a turn in to a dark street next to what appeared to be an abandoned building! The GPS said, “You have reached you destination”.
Obviously, technology had failed us. No more map app for us! We were on the right street at least, but everything was dark, and there didn’t appear to be a downtown anywhere in sight. We walked up the street the opposite direction to get the street names and figure out where we were. Chase, I must say, is a champion with maps. He found where we were located, and (unlike the GPS) was able to take us where we needed to be. As it turns out, the street our hostel is located on ends for about a mile, then starts up again on the other side of town! Computers, cell phones, and GPS systems can only do so much, and when they aren’t up to date in a tiny foreign town, they are no help at all! Thank goodness we were raised with common sense, because that and a good old fashioned map was what led us the right way. At this point in the night, it was 9 pm, very dark, and we were finally in the hostel. It was cozy and wonderful! Naturally, after such an eventful evening, it was time for some food. The owner of the hostel gave us the location and another map to his favorite restaurant, Donde El Gordito. We arrived, and it was exactly what we were looking for. It was a few streets away from downtown and in a tiny room in a makeshift alley. There were about 7-8 tables in the entire room, and we were the only tourists in the place. The older couple who owned it gave us our menus and sat at a nearby table and simply watched us. As we ate, as we talked, as we paid, they were always watching us curiously. The meal they made for us was the best dinner I have had on the entire trip! Because they were watching, they saw how happy we were with it as well. Chase got a local fish dish and I got a pork dish. I have never been so impressed with a meal and the quality. As I ate the leftovers for lunch the next day, they were equally as good. Mmmm, I will never forget that dinner!
Aside from the dinner we went to, Chase and I stayed inside for most of the 4 days we were in Puerto Varas. I was still really sick and much to my dismay, I had to lay around, rest, and simply do nothing. On a trip like this, it drives me crazy to lay around and waste a day, let alone three. However, it was quite necessary. At least it rained the entire trip, right? From our window, we had a view of the lake and the dock. Had it been sunny, we would have been able to see Volcan Calbuco from our window! It was nice to have the sound and smell of the rain with a cracked window as we went about our days. On the third day there, the rain let up for about 30 minutes during the morning. We took this opportunity to walk around and see the sights. While there wasn’t much to see, it was quite entertaining! The rain and winds had been so strong, that they blew a boat and it’s anchor in to the shore! It was swaying back and forth, sitting in about 6-10 inches of water with the anchor laying almost completely on the beach.
Aside from the boat incident, it was a pleasant walk. We got to visit the dock, see the local art, and watch a pack of stray dogs run and play in the ocean, chasing birds. Puerto Varas is a very pleasant, quaint town. Had it not been for the volcano eruption, I am sure we could have done quite a few fun activities like hiking up Calbuco. However, after 4 days of rain, our time was up and we headed out on a bus to Valparaiso.
From somewhere new, Jess