From Pucon we bussed six hours down to Puerto Varas, one of the last major towns before the Pan American Highway stops in Chiloe. Puerto Varas, like Pucon is on a beautiful blue lake that stretches into the distance and is dotted with volcanoes.
Dragging our worldly possessions, we spent a few days taking advantage of the great seafood and locale!
Spent a little down time after the traveling, enjoying a few local cafes during the day after hiking around the Puerto Varas.
Brought in 2010 with an awesome dinner at a lake-side restaurant, watched fireworks over the lake, and danced our feet off with the locals in a smoky discoteca.
The road stops in Puerto Montt, so the only transport to the next stretch of habitation is boats that resemble WWII landing craft. We left at midnight after all the trailers full of cows had been loaded and slept in pseudo-reclining seats during the 8-hour motor to Chaiten, the next tiny town south.
We must have missed the part about Chaiten being destroyed completely by the nearby volcano last year. We pulled into Chaiten and were met by Nicolas, a Canadian/Chilean who lived and breathed to get the tiny town back up and running. Unfortunately, the whole place was under a good 4 feet of ash.
No water or power, not much help from the Chilean government. I suppose they don't want to put too much funding into a town that might get blown up again. Some people were sticking it out, and we stayed with them. If you're in Puerto Montt, go see Chaiten! It's humbling and beautiful in its disarray, the people are overly welcoming, and the salmon is great!
We trod through the ashen streets finding relics of lives left behind... The population was evacuated by the Chilean navy... Check out a little YouTube video of the eruption at:
Video: Chaiten Eruption
Our friend Nico brought us into the park where the volcano still smolders. The blast filled the river with huge, burned timbers that diverted the nearby river through the town of Chaiten, washing houses out into the sea.
The only road heading north out of town was washed away, leaving boat the only form of transport towards Santiago.
Needless to say, the busses didn't often run to Chaiten, so we were 'stuck' for a day. The bad thing about volcanically active zones is that they sometimes blow up your towns. The good thing about them is that they have tons of thermal springs! So we spent our 'stuck' day soaking our weary bones in beautiful hot springs in the mountains. All thanks to our friend Nico.
We made some lemonade out of our lemons. It goes to show that there is beauty to be found even when the outlook is grim.