Day 4 |
Nov 17, 2011

Puerto Montt, Chile 

By Liz Bradfield, Naturalist

Co-ordinates: 41 31.50 S, 72 55.31 W
Weather: Overcast with light rain
Air Temperature: 10.5C / 51.1F
Pressure: 1012 hPa
Wind: 10 km/h

It was lovely to wake to calm seas and silvery light this morning, with Puerto Montt visible in the near distance. After a quick breakfast in the Observation Lounge while watching the colorful town come into closer view, I set out with the Expedition Team to check out the landing for our day ashore. Today, we left the Silver Explorer behind and ventured inland to see some of the lakes and mountains that this rugged coastline has to offer.

Puerto Montt sits at the northern end of Patagonia and the edge of Chile’s lake region. Our buses took us inland, and we curved along the shore of Llanquihue Lake, which our local guide told us was a very popular swimming spot for locals during the short summer. The land became wilder as we progressed, and I was fascinated to see the temperate rainforest. Having grown up in the damp, evergreen Pacific Northwest of North America, I’d long wondered what the other hemisphere’s equivalent might feel like. In a word: different.

Black-faced ibis winged up through the nothofagus trees and the red-blooming firebush, and there was hardly a conifer to be seen. Yet the deep green, the mist clinging to steep mountainsides, and the sense of wilderness stretching out beyond felt familiar.

At Lake Todos los Santos (also known as Emerald Lake) in Vicente Perez Rosales National Park, we swapped out our buses for a boat. The clouds clung to Orsorno Volcano, which rises iconically and conically from the hills, but we still could get a sense of it looming above us as we cruised through the placid waters. It beckoned… and we heeded the call and headed for Osorno.

As we climbed into the mountains, the trees shrank and became sparse, fog-loving lichens festooned the low branches, the road itself twisted like a snake, and we arrived at La Burbuja, a ski area 1,200 meters above sea level. The snow was, for the most part, gone, it being summer. But I think perhaps it’s better to see Orsorno like this, bare of its coverings.

The raw, volcanic stones shaded from black to deep red, and the clouds moved around the hills, revealing and hiding the view. It was incredibly dramatic. Some of us enjoyed the shifting light from the café, while others set off on foot. One of the surprise discoveries of the day was a huge bumblebee tucked under a melon-sized stone, no doubt waiting for the sun to come out and warm it for flight again. It was fuzzy, orange, and incredibly patient with all of us as we crouched down and snapped photo after photo.

The day continued with a stop for lunch—our buses visited two different mountainside hotels, both charming and both with delicious fare. Then we visited the torrential falls of the Petrohue River. The river’s turquoise water cuts through black rock, and with light rain deepening the colors of the stone and vegetation, it’s hard to describe the beauty. As if that wasn’t enough, many people (not me, alas!) saw a Patagonian gray fox stuttering at the edge of the woods. Did she have kits tucked away? Was she habituated to the generosity of visitors here? It is impossible to say, but she was an unexpected treat.

Time to head home… damp from the rain, but thrilled with the sights, we moved back down the mountain toward the Silver Explorer. Crew on board greeted us with hot towels and delicious beverages, and we shared stories of the day over a great meal.