Chile - Auraucania - Active Volcanoes and Lakes
There is more to discover than just Patagonia. It’s our first time here in Chile, and we already felt in love with the beautiful country and landscape. To be prepared for the gravel and rough roads we had chosen a Toyota Hilux which turned out to be a good decision.
Our first destination was Chiloe Island south of Puerto Montt. Ferry transport is offered 24/7. We came here to spot the Humboldt and Magellan Penguins at different spots. Punihuil is the only place in the world where you can observe both species together. They look very similar. The only difference between them is the horizontal strips along their neck. The main reason for Chiloe was a 20 km hike to the remotely located penguin colony of Ahuenco. Getting to the trailhead requires a 20 minutes boat ride downstream on Rio Chepu. It’s a beautiful hike passing several streams, through old growth forest, along the coast and empty beaches until Ahuenco, the northern part of the Chiloe National Park. The trail is often muddy sometimes detours can be found. Most important is the timing. You get to the penguins at Ahuenco around low tide only. Otherwise, you can’t pass a huge rock which blocks the path to the island and observation point.
All of our next destinations were located along the “Red Interlagos” route, several spectacular volcanos. Part of the National Parks is often old growth forest and araucarias. We had flown above the Villarrica, hiked up at the Llaima as far as it is allowed without a permit, drove on the ash of the volcano Lonquimay, and hiked along the Osorno which was covered in clouds most of the time. The surrounding virgin forests consist of old lenga and in higher elevation impressive 400-600 years old and up to 45 meters high araucarias also known as “monkey puzzle trees”.
The volcanos here are still active. The last eruption of the Villarrica was in March 2015, the Llaima in 2008 and of the Calbuco opposite of the Osorno in May 2015. One night we experienced a slight activity. There were light tremors which are called tremblors here in Chile. The residents are used to it; for us an utterly scary experience. Close to the volcanos are myriad glacial lakes the reason that it's called Lakes District. The water is utterly clear, and the lakes were warmer than expected. We even went swimming in Lake Villarrica.
Alerce Andino our last National Park here in Chile covered with larch forest and famous for 3000 to 4000 years old conifers became one of our highlights. The trunk grows only 1 cm every 15 to 20 years, and the conifers can grow up to 50 meters height. The hike through this lush rainforest to an immense waterfall was mind-blowing. Unfortunately, the trail didn’t continue to different lakes. The bridge above the river was destroyed.
Back in Puerto Montt, we enjoyed the restaurant of Cristobal “El Bosque Cocina & Bar” several times for the lunch menu. It is located close to the city center, and we had the best food and coffee in Chile here.