October 4th- Yesterday after leaving Termas de Chillan we flew from Concepcion to Valdivia and spent the night in this nice coastal city. Renting a small crew cab Nissan in the morning got us underway on our own for the first time this trip. It was nice to have our own wheels and we drove south on the Pan American Highway to Osorno where we turned east on 215 and the road to Argentina. We stopped about 20 miles short in the temperate rainforests of Puyehue and the Parc Nacional there. We took a short walk to a beautiful Golgol River waterfall on a trail dripping with mist and rain passing huge trees and stumps of greater ones. After this short walk we backtracked to our hotel for the night at Termas de Puyehue on the road to Volcan Casablanca and the village of Antillanca. With rain clouds continuing to pour down we checked in and headed straight for the thermal pools which were clear and hot. The girls were in heaven here.
In this short trip south from Chillan we have passed into a different climate entirely. The lakes district is definitely more wet, lower elevation and greener than further north. We have only driven by Lago Puyehue but found it beautiful framed by the easterrn rise of the Andes and the clouds above obscuring the peaks where snow still lingers. Tomorrow I plan to drive to Antillanca early to see the higher elevations. The weather forecast is for more clouds and rain making me doubt a successful attempt on the Volcan Casablanca. Tomorrow we continue driving on to Chiloe on the coast passed Puerto Montt, the final city in southern Chile. Hopefully we will get some kind of weather break next week when we return to the mountains around Lago Llanquihue and the PN at Lago Todos Santos. In the meantime life on the coast in Chiloe will proceed rain or shine.
October 12- We have made our tour of the south and will begin travelling north of Santiago on the 14th. Chiloe was a beautiful island of pastoral hill country. Ancud is a nice town and we stayed in a hostal recommended by a friend overlooking the bay next to the old Spanish fort cannons. A day spent at the Penguin Islands seeing two species, humboldt and magellanic as well as sea otters, and cormorants. We picniced on the Pacific beach there and drove ten miles of sand there passing the clam divers and enjoying the smooth beach, running and shell collecting. Another day was spent on the bay side of the island at the artesan market and driving the rural coast with extensive views of the bay and cordillera to the east alongwith many potholls and side trips to the ends of the road. We were trying to figure out a way to catch a ferry to Chaiten and the Futaleufu Valley but with weekend only ferries and an extensive drive up through Argentina we chose less driving and based in Ensenada for four nights a beautiful lakeside, volcanoside village on the way to Lago Todo Santos. We drove up to the ski area, southside of the Volcan Osorno the first evening to a beautiful sunset and an attempt by me to get permission to climb the volcano alone. None given but a really nice Conaf ranger. The girls ran back down the road for a couple miles through the lava flows under a beautiful sunset looking down on Lago Llanquihue about the size of Flathead Lake. We did homeschool the next day followed up by a trip to the termas de Ralun an undeveloped hotsprings on the Rio Petrohue. Following a rowboat trip across the river Cree and I walked the quarter mile downstream to the riverside springs which were just warm enough to enjoy soaking in on a cool overcast day. Kestrel and Jenny stayed on the far shore building fairy leantos and a campsite. We drove on from there to the Cochamo Valley where we checked out a horse riding outfit for the next day which had favorable weather in the forescast. We tried hard that evening to convince Kestrel to go to their backcountry camp at la Junta but she declined interest rathering a day only in the saddle. We returned the next day for a day ride up the Cochamo valley and had a great bunch of horses, a good warm up for next weeks three day ride and a great day off the roads on the trails of the huaso. The road gave way to a rough trail gouged deep in to the soil from years of abuse. It was muddy, steep rocky and scary and Kestrel and I walked a bunch of it. We crossed the final creek on a typical crappy bridge of an enhanced log. Fabian our guide for the day was great and we returned to the riverside Fogon for dinner and some relaxing before retuning to Ensenada and our cabana. The next morning had me up at 430 and heading out the door for an attempt on Volcan Osorno despite not gaining permission. I approachedd via the La Picada road on the north side and was able to drive to about 3000 feet before snow blocked the route. Another 500 feet of scrub forest had me at the toe of the alpine slopes and the slog up the 25-40 degree slopes lasted about 4 hours total under perfect blue sky and flawless windfree conditions. I summited at 1130 and enjoyed taking pictures and the panoramic view for 20 minutes before clicking into the skis and starting what became my best ski descent in Chile. With a flawless, planar surface of perfect corn for 5000 plus vertical I whooped my way down the north side with fantastic views of the volcanos, lakes and sierra of the border. After returning to the cabana by 200 we headed up the rio Petrohue to Lago Todo Santos and the Saltos de Ninos--an incredible waterfall in the basalt of the volcano--enroute for a great afternoon of family touring. Ensenada captured our soul with its proximity to the Lake, views of Volcan Osorno and Calbuco, Rivers, and beaches. This would be a place to call home for a month or more especially this time of year with snow, no tourists and cool weather. We had to leave Ensenada today to head back for Valdivia where we have out flight back to Santiago tomorrow. It was easier due to the low clouds and we headed out via La Cascadas a gorgeous beachside town of neat clean homes and volcano side dairy farms.