Heading south about a week ago in our new (used) Suzuki Gran Vitara 4-wheel drive vehicle, we recounted many of the ways in which our new friend, Helen Williams (daughter of dear friends in Colorado Springs, Ric and Dorry Bradley) has made our transition from the U.S. to Chile relatively easy. She has introduced us to her neighbors in her rural Santa Catalina community (as described in previous blog entries), acted as translator when the Chilean Castellano comes too fast and furiously, introduced us to the charming city of Valdivia where she lived for many years, shared her bountiful garden produce with us (Leslie accepted the “Zucchini Challenge” and made bread, veggie lasagna and curried soup), gave us a canine fix with Miti and Olivia, helped us (along with neighbor, Javier, and our son, Scott, in Seattle) with complicated logistics regarding buying a car here in Chile, and provided amiable companionship for three weeks after our week in Santiago. What a wonderful way to begin our exploration of Sur Chico (as opposed to Patigonia, which is further south and will come later)!
Helen’s new house, which faces a beautiful lagoon with lots of birds (our new alarm clock is the noisy Treile )
We reported previously on the re-enactment of a battle scene near Valdivia, but didn’t mention a lovely visit with Helen as tour guide of this capital city in Chile’s newest region, Los Rios. It has a marvelous setting at the confluence of three rivers, and one can walk for miles along the rivers, and even across Puente Pedro de Valdivia to Isla Teja, where Universidad Austral de Chile (UACH) is located. We tracked down friendly Francisco there and hoped to meet Rodrigo Hueke-Gaete, a blue whale scientist, but he was out at sea during research. There still may be a volunteer opportunity with Rodrigo, and we have several other contacts regarding volunteer conservation work on the island of Chiloe. More on that later….
Valdivia is a very picturesque city. We met a friend of Helen’s at the Museo Historico y Antropologico, which is set above Rio Valdivia and across from the colorful Feria Fluvial, or city market. The fish vendors there were doing a booming business, and fresh produce and flowers were beautifully displayed for locals and tourists alike. We viewed huge sea lions patiently waiting for handouts from the fish vendors, and later watched them basking in the sun on a float in the river. We closed the day by splurging at Entrelagos, a classic tea house , starting with tall ice cream concoctions, and concluding with tasty little sandwiches. Backwards, yes, but then we didn’t realize how tired and hungry we were after walking all over the city.
Traveling by car has been so much more efficient than taking public transportation, although the cost of gas is truly amazing (approx. 40,000 pesos, or $80 to fill up the tank of our small car!). Luckily, we’ve only had to do that twice so far. Traveling south through the Lakes District we began to see, especially in the architecture and food, the influence of German immigrants who settled this area. We stopped in serene Frutillar and ended up spending the night and going to a concert at noon the following day. We really liked this charming town on Lago Llanquihue; it seemed quiet and serene, even with its annual international music festival going on. The Semana Musical de Frutillar includes a variety of musical styles, and we listened to a theatrical baritone from Ecuador, accompanied by an expressive Ukranian pianist. Our concert was housed in a small, 200-seat amphitheater overlooking the lake, but unfortunately we couldn’t view the volcanoes from our seats because of the cloudy weather. The Teatro del Lago is a truly impressive building with its rich exterior of multi-colored woods.