Sunday, March 11, 2018

Anniversary Road Trip - Lakes and Rivers

[Kyle]To get me up to Santiago for my flight, we decided to rent a car and make a mini vacation out of the journey. We had wanted to take a few days to rent a car and explore some of the country anyway, so the flight gave us at least one point in our itinerary. Also, our fifteenth anniversary was coming up and we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion.

The fog soon cleared as we pass along the scenic back roads
Los Lagos, Lake Rinihui, Lake Panguipulli

Lake Callofquen (SW end)

Lake Callofquen (N end at Licanray)

We started the first day with a drive up into the Lake District, Region de Los Lagos. Our route took us up into the foothills to an area with rolling hills of golden grasses interspersed with groves of tall trees. The road followed a series of riverbanks to their headwaters at giant alpine lakes. We passed by several and finally stopped at Villarrica.

Villarrica, a small town of 50,000 people, surprised us with how busy it was considering how sparse the roads had been on the drive up. The town sits on the western shore of a lake several miles across with the same name. The view from there is painfully pretty, looking across pine tufted islets to a view of the high Andes. Standing sentinel over the scene is Volcan Vollarrica, it's glaciers running down to fill the lake. From the waterside, the two adjacent volcanoes can also be seen.

So many great views of Lake Villarrica, even our hotel room looked over the lake

We were hungry from a long day of hiking and driving, but we hadn't yet booked anywhere to stay. A quick trip to the tourist office turned up two recommendations just steps away. One was a nice high rise hotel, the other was a somewhat dilapidated looking hostel. I was for going to the big hotel, seeing how it was a special occasion and all. Maryanne was less enthusiastic about forking over a bunch of dough and wanted to at least look at the hostel first.

We went inside and found the owner eating in the dining room with his family. On the inside, the place seemed clean and well kept. We asked to see a room and he showed us up endearingly creaky stairs to a small dormer room of golden wood gleaming brightly with many layers of shiny varnish. It was small, but clean and it had a great balcony overlooking the lake. I asked to look at a different room. He showed me two others, but we both agreed we like the first one best. We decided to skip the big hotel check in for the night here. Only when we had finished did I notice that there was no signs of any other guests. It was early, so I figured they must be showing up soon.

We dropped our bags and went out to find a nice restaurant with just the right romantic atmosphere. After a bit of searching, we found one that looked just perfect, except that it was closed. It must be one of those restaurants that closes between lunch and dinner. We did some more searching and found another, which was also closed. We carried on with our hunger increasing each minute. We found places to eat. There were a couple of fast food stalls and some snack bars, but none with the particular environment that I wanted.

One of the restaurants that Kyle rejected - too purple?

Eventually, we spent so much time searching that we found our way back to where we started. The place was still closed. Not just closed, but the lights were off and all of the chairs were on the tables. We checked our watches. According to the board outside on the sidewalk, it was the middle of Happy Hour - AND it was Saturday night. What the hell? We found several more like that, before we came upon a nice Italian restaurant that seemed to be doing a reasonable business. Well, of course they would be. They're the only one's open! It turned out to be very good and we got the atmosphere we had been looking for. We even got the bonus of a table by a roaring fire.

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