My first foray to South America, took us to the southern reaches of Chile, a country stretched out to the west of the continent. Via the capital Santiago, we started at Puerto Varas to explore the area known as the Lake District.
Our first day avoided the Trans American highway using a short section next to the railway, before following tracks to Llanquihue. Through agricultural land to a lunch stop at the coastal resort of Frutillar Bajo. This lakeside town is worth a look especially its magnificent concert hall that goes into the lake. Climbing out of town we headed North East towards Puerto Oclay with magnificent views of Osorno Volcano to the right. Descending into Porto Oclay we stay at a hotel built in 1894 which is full of character.
Heading for the centre of the Lake District saw our first true gravel road which will took us into Argentina. With the Petrohue River on the right there are several opportunities to admire its waterfalls before the port at Petrohue where the ferry took us for the 90 minute journey to the small settlement of Peulla surrounded by the towering Andes. The afternoon is free to go for a helicopter trips, zip line through the trees or explore the local area.
Quite some day ahead as we took to the gravel again through the centre of the National Park and quite some climb before descending to the first of two ferries that would take us to Bariloche where we would split again to white water raft, take a ski lift for the views or chase the trout in mountain streams
San Martin de Les Andes is reached by taking the scenically beautiful Seven Lakes Road. The next day we took a brief loop of town before heading uphill along gravel. The viewpoint is purpose built and provides a great view along Lake Lacar and the surrounding mountains. Following a descent back to the main road, we started a second climb which is prettier than the first and with less ascent. This is followed by a lovely long zig zagged descent back to the lake where there was time for lunch before taking the ferry back to the town.
Starting at the Chilean border the route heads back into Chile and definitely down. The first half of the ride is extremely attractive as we passed a lake on the right and then descend quicker with mountains on the right. As the road flattens we entered the small town of Curarrhue, strung out along the road. This is more of a typical Chilean town, not touristy. After this the road flattens as it runs next to the river on the right and as the end of the day looms, Villarica Volcano appears on the left and at 2840 metres is snow topped, something that a few chose to explore on our rest day at Pucon
Setting out from Pucon, we headed to Villarrica. The towns beach front has been redone with a cyclepath along the edge of the lake. Inland and north through farming country, we start 16km of gravel roads which initially climbs steeply before flattening out and undulating before dropping quite steeply. Downhill to enter Los Laureles and the road is flat now as we followed the electric pylons through Las Hertencias and onto the outskirts of Cunco where we stopped for the night.
Our final days riding took us into the shadow of Llaima Volcano and a fantastic night at an ecolodge for a BBQ and a night of star filled skies. A fabulous place and a lovely tour.