From Valparaiso we headed, via Santiago, to the Chilean Lake District and the picturesque town of Pucon.
Pucon was clean and pretty and was what I had imagined Patagonian towns to be like, though it is very northern Patagonia and is usually thought of as the ‘lake district’ more than true Patagonia which is usually considered to be the more southerly regions of Chile and Argentina.
Sure enough, Pucon was perched on the edge of a lake, Lago Villarica and the views from the lake side were impressive, with pointed snowy volcanoes and mountain tops standing proudly on the horizon. The town itself had an alpine feel – the town is a base for skiing in winter – with pretty buildings featuring wooden facades.
We stayed at Nativo Hostel, a small guesthouse which felt more like a homestay. The place seemed to be managed by a young German girl who had shacked up with the middle-aged owner after volunteering there a few years back. She was accompanied by two shy/awkward volunteers (also German) who hung around the living room all day.
We spent the first day relaxing after the long bus from Santiago. The next day we headed to the Huerquehue National Park, close by to Pucon.
The park was an amazing place to spend the day and get some much-needed hiking practice done ahead of the W Trek at Torres del Paine.
The woodland trails were beautiful and unlike the high-altitude environments we had got used to hiking earlier on in our travels; lower altitude and more lush and green.
We crossed streams on small bridges, passed through dense, almost European-looking, forests and sat and admired the blue waters and fantastic views of the surrounding volcanoes.
There were waterfalls, quiet bright blue pools to rest by and it was impossible not to enjoy every step of the walk.
Not a bad place to have a tuna butty!
Having gained a blister from the Vans high top trainers I was wearing, it was apparent that I would need to invest in some proper walking boots for Torres del Paine – Ashleigh too.
The next day we looked round the shops and Ashleigh bought a pair of waterproof Jack Wolfskin boots, I had a pair of Gore-tex North Face boots ordered to the Puerto Varas store as the Pucon branch didn’t have my size. We also managed to find a pair of waterproof trousers each for a few quid from a thrift shop, where I also bought a hawaiin shirt and Ashleigh bought a ski suit!
The Chilean people were proving to generally be friendlier than Argentineans and Pucon was a nice place to have a massively overpriced slice of cake and a craft beer.
One regret we had was not doing the tour of the Villarica volcana, where for $90 you can don a set of crampons and climb up the snowy slopes and slide down on a sledge!
We’d already booked bus tickets to – and a hostel in – Bariloche, however, so there was no time for the tour. Pucon, though, had proven to be one of our favourite destinations of the whole trip.