We love Chile. You might think by now that we just love everywhere, but that isn’t exactly true, since we didn’t love the Yucatan very much at all. Anyway, back to the positive: we love Chile. It is home to a grand variety of landscapes, and after spending a month in the forbidding Patagonia on rough gravel roads we were ready for a bit of a break. We planned a route through the famous Lakes and Rivers Regions, and hopped among huge inland lakes for most of a week.
We finally discovered some of Chile’s famous fresh produce, and we rode gentle hills through bucolic farmland. We also got kind of bored from how easy it was, and for that reason we have taken a turn towards the Andes where we are once again bouncing along the gravel backroads and climbing among mountains. We’ll talk about these latest mountains in the next post though. For now we’ll focus on the giant sparkling lakes and the volcanoes that tower above them.
Our first big lake was called Lago Llanquihue, which is quite a tongue twister. This lake’s perimeter is quite developed for tourism, and it was a hopping place for vacationing Chileans. A neat aspect of the tourism here is that they are actively promoting cycling, so there was a designated bicycle path along the road for many miles. The nearly perfectly conical volcano overlooking the vast lake provided a perfect backdrop too!
After that came Lago Puyehue after yet another stretch of bumpy gravel road. We had expected gravel for about 45 miles, but after a mere 20 there was a sudden, wonderful section of brand new pavement. We call this unexpected treat ‘bonus pavement’. We got more bonus pavement on the way to the next lake, Lago Ranco.
In Lago Ranco we stayed in a funny campground where the owner met us wearing teeny tiny black shorts and nothing else. The place was crammed with kids and dogs and barbecues. We snagged the very last site crammed between a young family and the playground. We were in for a long night, especially since the town fireworks show unexpectedly began at 11:30 pm.
We started to see fields of wheat, blueberries, and corn. Fruit and vegetable stores are found in every little town, and at night we often have so many veggies in our dinner that we can barely eat it all. We even discovered a brand new fruit: the sweet cucumber. Inside it has thick flesh that tastes like a fragrant sweet melon.
The weather started to get hot – in the 80s or even 90s. Because of this heat we decided to take a rest day in the small tourist town of Lican Ray on the banks of yet another large lake. This one was situated beneath the Volcan Villarica, and was home to a black sand beach that was packed with Chilean tourists. We found a backyard campground at the edge of town and settled in. Rest days are full of chores and very little rest. There are blogs to update, clothes to wash, families to contact, routes to plan, shopping to do, bicycles to repair / clean. On this day I (Daisy) had work to do on a statistics manuscript as well.
One more day of riding brought us to the edge of the mountains again, although we spent one more day camping on a lake. We had tried to stay at a cheap campground away from the shore, but the power was bizarrely out and it was closed down. Instead we stayed at a much pricier place, but it had a bonus kitten that happily drank the milk we offered and settled in for a nap on my lap. Bike touring certainly has its advantages!
Next up, we hit the mountains again on one-lane gravel roads. Spoiler alert: we found a giant beetle and a Chilean tarantula!