On New Year's Day, we flew about 1000km south from Santiago to Puerto Montt. We enjoyed great views of the Andes, including some of Chile's 200 volcanoes (!) during our flight.
Puerto Montt's main industry is salmon, with Chile being the second largest exporter of salmon worldwide. Most visitors (including us) stay in neighbouring Puerto Varas, a pretty little town on the shore of Lake Llanquihue. There are views across the lake to the perfect conical shape of the 2600m high Osorno volcano. When Osorno last erupted in 1926, it was seen by Darwin who was sailing along the coast of Chile. Darwin considered that he was 'lucky' as he saw three volcano eruptions during his visit to Chile.
We did the scenic lake crossing from Puerto Varas, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina. This was a 10 hour trip that involved 3 boat trips across lakes, interspersed by 4 bus trips across the first national park in Chile, established in 1926. Theodore Roosevelt visited the area and was so impressed with its beauty that he suggested to the Chilean president the establishment of this national park. The gravel road that is the actual border crossing on this trip is also famous as it was driven by Che Guevara during his motorcycle journey. The lake crossings were very beautiful, as we saw many volcanoes and, in the distance, some glaciers. Curiously, they actually co-exist. Tronador volcano has about 7 glaciers on its slopes.
We have three nights in Bariloche, which is sometimes called the Switzerland of South America, partly due to the lakes and mountains, but particularly because it has many Swiss style chalets and dozens of chocolate shops. When we first arrived in Bariloche, it was quite late in the evening. However, the chocolate shops (and most other shops) were still open (they close for a four hour siesta from about 1-5pm). So, we visited Mamuschka, one of the best chocolate shops and sat drinking tea and eating handmade chocolates at 9 in the evening.
Apparently, Bariloche used to be small and charming, but in recent years it has spawned too many high rise buildings and shops, so it is much more commercialised. However, we are fortunate as our hotel is directly on the lake, a few streets away from the downtown shops, with our room looking directly over the water.
John took a chairlift ride up a mountain called Cerro Companario to get some spectacular views of the lakes this morning, while I shopped. Tomorrow, we are going on the 'seven lakes' drive.