Puerto Varas

The highway to Puerto Varas was pretty good quality bitumen, and the bike felt stable on the repaired tyre.

It was interesting to note the amount and extent of the ravages of bushfires along this route, and also down on Chiloe Island. There were burnt patches of trees(some in plantations) everywhere, and other patches of shrubs and the notorious import from Scotland - gorse.  Gorse is the bane of farmers and landowners all over the island of Tasmania (including on my property), as it is a real pest in colder climates, fastgrowing and spreading voraciously even in substandard soil conditions, and difficult - almost impossible - to eradicate.  And it burns with an intense heat, leaping from bush to bush so quickly it almost creates a fireball of heat.  There was gorse growing along most of the roads down in this area, and a fair proportion had been burnt, some still smouldering as I passed, and the whole area was overlaid with the rank stench of acrid smoke.  I'd been told by a local that most of the fires had been the result of the extreme temperatures the area had suffered in recent weeks.

Checked into a nice hotel overlooking the city and the lake, after being unable to get a room at the Hostal Casa Azul, previously recommended by other bikers. As it was only  a couple of blocks from the main centre, I took to walking everywhere, despite the steep hill on the return journey.  It was pleasant weather, with little wind, so I wandered all over town and visited the little craft market on the foreshore, but was unable to bring myself to buy any trinkets, however appealing they might be.  They take up space on the bike, and let's be honest, most are really only "dust-collectors" once they're brought home.  I'm not a knick-knack collector, and prefer practical, useful items, like the embroidered hardcover notebook I eventually purchased as a souvenir of Chile.

It was restful and quiet at the hotel up on the hill.  Breakfast views of the lake were marred by the arms of giant cranes, constructing more hotels down on the waterfront below.  These cranes brought back memories of the day the tyre went flat in Pargua.  In the initial minutes after the carabineros arrived to help, they flagged down a covered truck and asked the driver to take the bike "somewhere".  I wasn't overly enthused - who'd lift it on and off the truck???  Then there appeared a larger flatbed truck, complete with onboard crane/hoist.  They flagged it down and spoke to the driver.  I was inwardly cringing, picturing the bike being hauled up on the hoist and dumped on the tray! Lord only knows what damage it would have sustained.  Then the driver hung his head, resting it on the steering wheel.  Nope, he didn't think much of the idea, either, apparently!  So we gave the idea of truck carriage away, and took the bike to the carabinero garage.

The town itself was very nice, unlike its better known near neighbour, Puerto Montt, which I found to be a gritty, noisy, large and busy city of a kind that I don't particularly like. Puerto Varas, being smaller, had much more charm and character, and being off the beaten track, was far quieter, without through traffic at all hours of the night.  Plenty of trees shading the many benches and seats in the large town square.  Over the main street, there is a cover, a large curved roof, for a distance of about 100 metres or so.  Shops and restaurants abound along one side, the road goes through the middle, and in the centre of the other side is set an enclosed bandstand/stage, jutting back out into the town square.  What a marvellous utility area for public gatherings in times of inclement weather.