Fresh off our epic journey from Bariloche to Puerto Varas by boat and by bus, my travel companions were in no great hurry to start the day. And so, I lay there in bed, with just a sliver of light penetrating the window's heavy drapes, listening to the hum of my stepdad's CPAP machine and my little sister's heavy breathing.
After what seemed like an eternity, the two finally began to stir, and once I had confirmed signs of life from my roommates, I excitedly flung open the curtains for my first glimpse of the mighty Osorno Volcano in full daylight, only to discover that the view to the lake was completely blotted out by a dense fog.
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I stared out the massive plate glass window into an impenetrable wall of white as I sat in the hotel's breakfast room, trying to visualize the snow-capped volcano I had glimpsed last evening. As I lamented the lack of a view, our server provided consolation, noting that as the sun rose higher, the fog would burn off, revealing the shimmering waters of the lake and the two volcanoes along its shores.
Having filled our bellies at the breakfast buffet, we consulted with a helpful young woman at the hotel reception desk regarding our plans for the rest of the morning. Armed with a hand-drawn map, we set off on foot across town to the Puerto Varas bus station to secure seats for our trip back to Bariloche.
The city of Puerto Varas lies on the shores of Chile's second largest lake, Lago Llanquihue, the product of glacial activity evident throughout Patagonia. We skirted the lake along a pathway for some 15 minutes, and then we hung a left and continued our hike uphill through town to the bus station.
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With three bus fares in hand, we took our time walking back to the hotel, exploring the side streets and loosely following the trail leading to a number of Puerto Varas' historic homes built by the first German immigrants who arrived in the mid-1800s.
Settled by German-speaking peoples from Austria, Switzerland, the Alsace region of France, and Germany, Puerto Varas – and much of Southern Chile – reflects the heritage of its founders through its architecture and gastronomic offerings.
We also had the opportunity to admire the Parroquia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (Sacred Heart of Jesus Church). Built between 1915 and 1918, the church is styled after the famed Marienkirche in the Black Forest region of Germany. The church sits perched on a high point overlooking the downtown area and the lake, with Volcán Osorno towering in the distance.
[Parroquia Sagrado Corazón de Jesús]
By the time we had meandered back to our hotel, the dense fog had all but disappeared, save for a thin blanket that hovered at the base of the Osorno Volcano.
The neighboring Calbuco Volcano made itself visible as well, having thrown off its cloak of mist.
Both Osorno and Calbuco are active volcanoes, but thankfully, the two remained quiet for the duration of our brief visit. Nonetheless, volcanic and seismic activity occurs frequently in Chile, as evidenced by the Chaitén eruption in 2008 and the 8.8 magnitude Bio-Bio earthquake that occurred just last year.
Unfortunately, our time in this picturesque city was cut short, as we had an early afternoon bus to catch for the six-hour ride from Puerto Varas back to Bariloche.
On board the bus, the hours passed quickly, as the extraordinary scenery provided by the dense forests and towering mountains of the cordillera kept us entertained for the length of the trip.
And just to spice things up, there were even a few moments that got my blood pumping, what with the bus careening down winding Andean roads at speeds that felt just a bit too daring, as big rigs lumbered up the mountainside in the opposing lane.
We stopped briefly in the town of Osorno at the bustling bus station, where my sister and I were assaulted by a gaggle of Chilean ladies trying to sell us sandwiches and some sorry-looking empanadas for the road. And of course, we were obligated to hop off the bus at the border crossing in the middle of nowhere to be uneventfully stamped out of Chile and into Argentina by stern-faced border officials.
But before we knew it, we'd returned to Bariloche, where our odyssey began just the day before.
Next up: Bariloche: Cerro Otto