Under the araucarias

I spent the second half of November in southern Chile, traveling with my partner, Zachary, and two of our friends. We drove up and down the Ruta Panamericana and were based successively in Puerto Varas, Castro (on Chiloe Island), Villarrica, and, for the final two nights, Valdivia.

I loved everything about this part of Chile: the volcanoes, lakes, national parks, and fjords at the gateway to Patagonia; the convivial people; the good seafood and wine. I hope to return someday. Sadly, this trip was marred to some extent by a bad cold passed among the four of us. It didn’t keep us from doing things, but in my case it precluded full energy and enjoyment.

One highlight of the trip was the day I drove us up and up a gorgeous valley, past blue mountain lakes and ever-changing vistas of the line of peaks, to the border with Argentina high in a pass of the Andes. Near there we walked for an hour in the shadow of snowy Volcan Lanin, under a canopy of huge, ancient Araucaria araucana trees. It was glorious. Also, there were penguins on Chiloe–Humboldts and Magellanics. Our first time seeing wild penguins.

I achieved the goal of packing for 16 days of variable weather using carryon luggage: my TLS Motherlode Convertible backpack, with a Rick Steves shoulderbag/daypack as my personal item. Thanks to quick-drying poly knits and performance fabrics, a bit of quick sink laundry every third evening was all it took. As always, though, the binocs and bird guide, chargers and electronics and toiletries, and the spare pair of shoes took up as much space as the clothing.