Although we stayed in Llanquihue, we really enjoyed a day in the town of Frullilar further north along the lake. A resort town with a German flair.
The beach was popular but a glass fronted theatre on the water drew our attention. Modern in design, its construction made use of different types of wood and colours of stain. Very attractive.
The theatre was hosting a concert series and after many questions at the ticket office we decided to buy midrange seats for the evening entertainment, a rock pop Chilean band called Los Tres. Even the parking attendants said they were a good band. Well, they were great. Infusing country twang and accordian with hard rock energy, they stomped the stage. Effectively, they would pause in silence, then start with another fast tune, and just when you thought the song had changed, they were back to the original again. The audience was given a chance to sing often, and they belted out the lyrics. Hooting and hollering in approval, it was a great evening full of excellent musicianship.
Our final destination with Krys and Merv took us to Chile’s west coast. Initially we had decided on Valdivia but after an hour or so in the city we decided to give it a miss, and drove on to the smaller resort town of Niebla.
It was Friday and this resort town is popular on the weekends. Searching for a cabana was frustrating. We probably stopped at a dozen and were told “We are full” and a dozen more with signs “No disponible “ (not available). But eventually Merv saved us from sleeping in the van by finding a cabana called La Tortuga. With a kitchen, living room, and two bedrooms, it had a patio out front for lounging. Perfect at 40,000 pesos (approx $65 Cdn) per night for the four of us. We stayed 3 nights.
Valdivia sits at the confluence of 3 rivers, 9 km inland from Niebla on the Bahía de Corral. Between the 1500s and 1800s, the Spanish built a system of forts along these waters, which primarily protected the city from attack. We walked around the Fort area at Niebla and through a small museum displaying artifacts and historical information.
Continuing our stroll through Niebla, by chance we ended up at a Costumbrista. The entertainment covered a large area near the ocean, entirely free. Full of food kiosks, local artisans, and a live stage with an hourly lineup.
The kids games consisted of hanging on to the back of a fake bull while it tried to throw you, punching out your brother in a blow up boxing ring, or ducking a padded arm as it swung around and threatened to knock stars into your head.
The food área was fascinating. We watched while small round bread was baked in hot sand, then the sand was scraped from each piece, pieces were shoved into small paper bags and sold, still warm.
At another stall, a woman was pulling curanto from the ground oven. A stew of shellfish, meat and potatoes, it is wrapped in leaves and baked over coals in a pit. We didn’t try that here, but instead we ate papas rellenas, which tasted like Shepherds pie.
We topped that off with shared plates of grilled lamb, having watched it roast on spits all day, the rotisserie turned by faithful sweaty men. Who beamed when we told them it was fantastic, because it was.
Before we left for the evening, we watched a traditional group on stage. Two acoustic guitars, an accordian, women in wide skirts for vocals, and a drum that looked like a folding camp table.
A long haired skinny young man from the audience sitting in front of the stage asked me to dance. He was so enthusiastic that I obliged. No one else was dancing. Just me and him. He jumped around, I tried to follow and the audience was provided with a little extra entertainment.
The next day the four of us went for a drive up the coast. Along the way we stopped in the fishing village of Los Molinos. Lots of small boats in the water, and men on the dock. Very picturesque.
There were piles of fresh sea food for sale. And locals were lined up along a cement wall eating cooked crab. I didn’t get past there as the guy selling it showed me how to crack it open, throw away bits, and eat the rest. So I bought four for supper. Merv wandered around and bought a kilo of mussels.
Krys found ceviche in little cups. She and Bob ate it while sitting on the wall.
Another hour along the coast we came to the Curinanco Reserve. We had to wait at the locked gate to be let in, and were told, that even though it was a 2 hour hike, no backpacks were allowed on the trail. We walked up through dense rainforest to an old stand of Olivilla trees which are native to Chile and Argentina.
Then back along the ridge with spectacular panoramas of the wild coast. Beautiful blue water, waves breaking in white lines over beach and huge black rock.
That night we ate the crab. It was good but hard to crack open all the shells, and who likes bits of shell in the teeth. Then Bob and Merv made mussels in wine and garlic served with French bread. To die for. After that Krys fried up pieces of white fish, served with Bob’s quinoa salad. Very nice.
On Monday we dropped our friends off at the Valdivia airport. After we found it. Because it isn’t in Valdivia. At first we ended up at a military base. Krys and Merv had tickets to Santiago where they will rent a car for a week. We had a great time with them. It’s so much fun to share travel with friends. We missed them as soon as we drove away.
Since Chile is pencil thin, it does not take long to drive from west to east. In a matter of hours Bob and I were camped at Hans camp just east of Pucón, only 36 km from the Argentinian border. That evening Bob attempted to restick the rear view mirror to the windshield. It had fallen off again somewhere in Chile.
In Puerto Montt I had run into a parts store and managed to buy the wrong kit. Windshield repair instead of Mirror adhesive. Arghh. So on our drive from the coast, we had stopped at another parts store near Pucón. Again I went in because I speak more Spanish. Usually not enough though. When I told the guy that our mirror fell off he didn’t believe it. “Really?” “Yes and I need to fix it.” “It fell off?” “Yes.” Meanwhile his son reached up and picked out a package. Written in English was Rearview mirror adhesive. The dad was still in disbelief. “Which is your vehicle”, he asked. I pointed to Vanna through the window and said, “If you want, you can go look.” So I paid and he walked out with me to the van. Yes he agreed, I had made the correct purchase.
So that evening, Bob diligently cleaned the glass and the back of the metal holder using the cleaner in the kit. Then he opened the tube of glue. It was dry. Not a drop of glue. Arghhh.
It was a gorgeous mountain drive up to the border. We parked between a volcano and a park like building made of log and stone. People were lined up outside the building. But it was orderly and moved along quickly. We stamped out of Chile, then got in the Aduana line. They asked a few questions, took Vanna’s permit, and said we could go. Another kilometre down the road, we parked at the Argentina customs. This should be just as easy.
But it wasn’t.
At migration the official asked where we were staying in Argentina. This is policy. I was prepared though. I showed her a picture and address of a gorgeous pricey hotel in some nearby town, that we are NOT staying at. She typed it in and we moved on to the Aduana line. For Vanna’s permit.
Registration? Yes. Other documents? We don’t have any other documents. Did you buy the car in Chile? No in Canada. Did you rent it in Chile? No we bought it in Canada. Where is your document? We had one but the officer in Chile customs kept it.
“You have to go back and get it.”
Now a year ago we might have listened, but we have hardened up a bit. “No”, we said. “Not going back.” I had visions of driving back and forth repeatedly, on that 1 km stretch of no mans land between countries. The lady standing in line behind us showed us her paper. Another woman who spoke English approached. We talked to her in English, she talked to the officer in Spanish. Everyone agreed. We had to return to the Chilean customs. Finally an English speaking officer replaced the other guy. In a very gentle manner, he said to us, “I can’t let you into Argentina without that paper. You have to go get it.”
All this time Bob had been interjecting. It’s a Canadian vehicle. We only had a temporary permit in Chile. Not the same document. About the fourth time Bob said this, the new officer stopped and looked at him. “It’s a Canadian vehicle?”
Silence. Typing. More typing. Printer grinding.
”Here’s your document. You can go to Argentina now.”
Next and last was the van inspection. Expecting a thorough van search, we pulled into the drive through and stepped out of the vehicle. The guy asked us where we were headed. I replied incorrectly, that we were going to San Martín de los Altos. He clasped his hands behind his back, widened his stance, thrust out his chest and said, “San Marteeen de looos Aaandeeees.” Pleased with this correction, he put his head inside the door for 2 seconds, and said, “You can go”. Gracious señor.