Before we even spotted our first lake, Andrea and I both commented how much this area reminded us of Oregon: gorgeous vistas, fern-covered mountains, snow-capped volcanoes, rocky beaches, frigid waters, and a general sense that someone wants to sell you weed (we did get offered once). The architecture is also very Oregon-esque, though perhaps that’s because every tenth building or so is named Oregon Something. Brand reinforcement, I suppose.
We’ve romanticized this town ever since we saw a House Hunters International prior to taking this trip. It seemingly had everything we could ever want in a town: hiking, mountain biking, skiing, craft shops and breweries, all snuggled around a cozy, pretty lake. It was high on our Must Stop Here and Put the Kids in School so We Parents Can Retain Our Sanity list.
And it didn’t disappoint. But didn’t fully appoint itself atop the list either. While it possessed everything discussed in the paragraph above, it was, at least the town itself, a bit ritzier than we’d prefer. You sniff the airs of Aspen, Colorado more than McCall, Idaho here. It’s expensive. And the Spanish is tough to understand.
Chile is the most expensive country we’ve traveled through. As expensive if not more (Andrea thinks more) than the US. Our dollar isn’t elastic here — thanks Trump! We set a campground cost record at $33 USD/night shortly after crossing the border, a record that only lasted a week or so. We paid over $50 USD/night for a very basic campground in Pucón (for comparison’s sake, we usually paid $20 to $25 USD/night for excellent campgrounds in Oregon). Gas to get to these places is between $4 and $5 per gallon.
We’d been told by Chileans before taking this trip (in Oceanside, CA), during this trip (in Baja California, Mexico), and in Puerto Varas, Chile (by a mechanic) to not learn Spanish in Chile. That it’s bad.
It’s not that it’s bad. I’m sure it sounds fine to Chileans. It’s just difficult. Darn near impossible to decipher. They drop the ends of words, don’t pronounce Ds, aspirate Ss, and sprinkle in a slew of idioms and esoterica. Even our Argentinians friends — whom share the world’s third longest border with Chile — told us they struggle to understand Chileans. Whatever Spanish gains we’ve made, felt quickly eradicated here….
That Head Honcho DEA Agent we met in Cartagena, Colombia told us we’d love this city and would want to move here. He was correct. We did love it, and we would like to move here.
Frutillar was established by German settlers in the mid 1800s — as was much of this region. And it’s retained its German influence, from the architecture to schools (bilingual in Chilean Spanish and German) and the kuchens, all surrounded by the clearest lake we’ve seen in South America and two quintessential-looking volcanoes.
Frutillar has been crowned (by Chile presumably) Chile’s “City of Music”. It certainly has a musical vibe. Treble clefs are painted on the bus stops. Signs are shaped like bass clefs. Musical art adorns the town. Kids roam the streets with cases strapped to their backs. And it hosts Chile’s largest and South America’s best acoustical theatre, jutting off the land on a pier into Lake Llanquihe. It’s a fetching feature. Unfortunately for us, the next concerts were weeks away.
You’ll wanna absorb the sites and sounds in this town if you venture to this region.
We spent four nights here — two more than we originally anticipated — camped inside a mechanic’s shop. We wanted to replace our brakes and rear shocks before we hit the notoriously gnarly roads in southern Patagonia. They let us camp inside. Even left the grime-coated bathroom open for us.
Puerto Varas is Ashland, Oregon, with a lake instead of an ocean.
Someone once told us that they thought the west coast of South America was the inverse of the west coast of North America. They’re not wrong. Right even. This area, as mentioned, reminded us of Oregon. Just south of here, Washington. Slightly inland, Idaho. Further south, Canada.
We spent our days in
Ashland Varas wandering the streets. Seeing as much as we could see (though we visited the same coffee shop thrice and restaurant twice). It’s a, relatively compared to Pucón, chill town. Replete with sweeping views on every street and stunning nature just outside the streets. You could have a comfortable, quaint life here. Or just a cool vacation.
Nostalgia and Narcissism
Patagonia (both north, where this region is location, and south, where we just left) has been my favorite region on this trip. It feels, sort of, both nostalgic and narcissistic to type this. Like, perhaps, why it’s my favorite is because I miss home and I like myself. Or at least I like what I’m accustomed to. While other areas have certainly offered unique sights and extremes, this areas offers visual familiarly with cultural unfamiliarity. If not for the cost and Spanish reasons discussed above, we could easily live here. Still considering it in fact.