Choose Chile!

Solange Hando rev­els in the beauty of the be­witch­ing lands of South Amer­ica.

The People's Friend Special - - CONTENTS -

Solange Hando rev­els in the beauty of South Amer­ica

WE were promised a spec­tac­u­lar flight over the An­des but what was this? For over an hour, we flew co­cooned in a thick blan­ket of cloud, noth­ing but driz­zle on the win­dow.

Then sud­denly, Mount Osorno rose above it all, its mas­sive vol­canic cone bathed in sun­light, the snow so bright I could barely keep my eyes open. I hoped the cam­era would cap­ture the scene. It was pure magic.

Min­utes later, Puerto Montt greeted us with a gor­geous bay stud­ded with is­lands, framed by rolling pas­tures and ever­green forests. We were of­fi­cially in south­ern Chile, a world away from the bustling streets of San­ti­ago, the cap­i­tal, in a pris­tine land of na­tional parks, moun­tains and lakes spread­ing across the bor­der into Ar­gentina.

It was only a short drive to Puerto Varas, the “city of roses” glis­ten­ing on the shores of Llan­qui­hue, the sec­ond­largest lake in Chile. Osorno fol­lowed us, peep­ing in and out of the clouds, but on the ridge of Cal­buco, snow fields and glaciers were just a stone’s throw away.

We strolled along the prom­e­nade lined with dark sand, bought An­dean pon­chos to keep warm and ex­plored the lanes where Alpine chalets stood fes­tooned in flow­ers and man­i­cured lawns.

A red and white church with fairy-tale spires kept watch on the hill while the last roses of the sea­son left their scent in the air. A nos­tal­gic galleon dropped an­chor in the bay and when night came, thou­sands of lights twin­kled around the lake.

Next morn­ing, we woke to the sound of waves crash­ing on the shore and boats pitch­ing and rolling. Noth­ing un­usual, the lo­cals said, only another storm brought by high winds from the Pa­cific.

The moun­tains van­ished, the rain made a re­gal ap­pear­ance but soon a pink glow ap­peared in the east as we set off along the road through the Vin­cente Pérez Ros­ales Na­tional Park, home to around 100 species of trees and ex­otic birds and plants like the gi­ant Chilean rhubarb.

We gazed in awe at the rush­ing wa­ters of Petro­hué, a river rich in trout and salmon, and boarded a small cata­ma­ran to sail across To­dos los San­tos, the All Saints’ Lake.

That was an aus­pi­cious name and there were rain­bows and emer­ald wa­ters and trees speck­led in au­tumn gold.

Peaks drifted eerily through the dark­est clouds, crys­talline wa­ter­falls tum­bled down pre­cip­i­tous slopes and here and there, a re­mote ham­let nes­tled in the cusp of the hills.

Some­times our driver stopped to col­lect the post or de­liver sup­plies, for deep in the Lake Dis­trict, this is the only link to the out­side world.

Athe far end of the lake, Peulla, mean­ing “spring blos­som” held us spell­bound. It was a bu­colic vil­lage with tra­di­tional wooden houses doz­ing in the mead­ows, ringed by forested slopes and dra­matic peaks.

Now, the sky was blue, the air crys­tal clear and reeds wa­vered in the breeze, green, rus­set and gold. Clouds came and went, trail­ing

An in­quis­i­tive fel­low! A painted Bar­iloche villa.

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