We are finally “back on the road again”, something Anne sings from time to time when she is happy to be back on the motorbike. We spend two half days riding down ‘Route 5’ which is the main dual highway road spine of Chile. Easy riding, but the tolls every 50km or so are a pain to pay the 1400 pesos for two bikes – fumbling with notes and coins in gloves is not the easiest. I have resorted to small envelopes pre-packed with one 1000 peso note and four 100 peso coins. Apart from this minor irritant, weather is good, not too hot, traffic is light and follows road rules, something we have not been used to for quite a while. Our first destination is Talca, a town some 250km south of Santiago, we overnight and then push on to Temuco, our jumping off point for the Chilean Lake District, our first area to explore in our southward meander. Temuco has an unusual statue in the town’s main square which is dedicated to all the peoples, including indigenous Mapuche, who contributed to the area’s development.
We are slowly adjusting to the the local timings, such as late breakfast, lunch and dinner. Here this pizza restaurant was open at 7pm, with one member of staff when we arrived, we were the only customers. I think we had finished dinner before all the staff arrived!
In Temuco, we visit the railway museum, which while they have retained some impressive buildings such as the coaling tower and roundhouse for locomotives, the level of carriage and engine maintenance is non existent with rusty coaches and deteriorating steam engines, a pity really as it could be a wonderful historic tourist attraction. We travelled parallel to a railway line down route 5 and while bridges and other infastructure appeared intact the track, catenary and signalling had a disused air about it, plus we saw no trains running. It appears some sections are no longer in use, probably due to the highway running parallel to the railway offering faster transportation options for people and goods.
We turn west heading for lago or lake Villarrica, traffic is heavy coming back as it is the end of the school holidays, every property we pass seems to offer Cabañas or camping of various quality. As we start to skirt the lake, we get our first glimpse of Mt Villarrica as we head towards Pucón.
Mt Villarrica dominates that landscape at 2,840m with a wisp of smoke coming from the top, we understand that the last volcanic activity started in December 2014 and has not finished yet! Each day at 12:00 they test the emergency alarm, which covers volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis on the coast. Warning signs give evacuation routes for the volcanic activity, we will be happy to avoid such potential excitement.
Pucón is a charming, if somewhat touristy, village at the eastern edge of Lake Villarrica under the watchful gaze of Mt Villarrica, seems everything is named after the volcano. We spend a relaxing afternoon and enjoy the long summer twilight, which lasts till about 9:30pm even at this time of the year.
South brings us to lake Calafquen in search of hot springs, mentionned in other travel blogs which can be a good source of current information. Our chosen hot springs destination is Termas Geometricas some 20 kilometers towards the Villarrica volcano, which I presume is the source of the warming waters. This beautifully developed hot springs is laid out above the stream that cuts through a verdant green gorge. We spend a relaxing afternoon testing various pools, which range between 36 and 45 degrees (and make us wonder how hot a couple of pools closed for being too hot were) and take a walk in the forest above the hot springs before returning to our campground in Coñaripe, on the edge of Calafquen lake.
Anne is excited at camping again.