Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Christmas 2016 in Peulla

(Click on any photo to enlarge it.)
An all time favorite place to visit in southern Chile is Peulla, tucked away in the mountains of northern Patagonia. Not a village, Peulla is a community of people who serve tourists traveling between the Chilean town of Puerto Varas and Bariloche in Argentina. Some work on the farm that provisions the luxury Hotel Natura.

From Puerto Varas, a pretty town on Llanquihue Lake, the only way to arrive is by bus that enters the spectacular Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park, created in 1926. Arriving at Petrohue at the west end of Todos los Santos Lake, tourists and locals board the daily catamaran which crosses the lake to Peulla, a trip of about two hours, passing by the impressive Osorno Volcano and Puntiagudo. A cloudy day hides the snow-capped mountains on this trip, so here is Puntiagudo (sharp peak) in a photo I took exactly 50 years ago while working as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Todos Los Santos Lake was used by Jesuit missionaries from 1636 to cross from Argentina to Chile to bring Christianity to the indigenous people. The locals were not very happy about this and were antagonistic to those efforts. The first tourists arrived in 1907, led by Ricardo Roth, from a Swiss family. Six years later, Roth created the company that survives today. A hotel receives tourists, serving lunch daily to 200-300 people throughout the year. Most continue on to their destination. I prefer to stay a few days and soak up the beauty and tranquility in abundance here. I have had long conversations with Don Alberto Schirmer, a descendant of the family who still runs the hotel.

Arriving at the dock in Peulla, it is a half-mile walk along the valley to the hotel. A vehicle is available also, which delivers the luggage. I prefer the walk. The hotel is about in the center of the photo above.

Few travelers are here for the holidays this year. I am impressed that many of the employees recognize me from a visit two years ago, and greet me as an old friend. A pisco sour is perfect for a cocktail on Christmas Eve.

The school in Peulla had five students last term. A sixth is expected when school reopens in March for the fall term.

I have read complaints from some tourists that there is nothing to do here. They obviously lack imagination. The tranquility of this place is wonderful. The scenery is spectacular, inviting one to take long walks in the valley or up the mountain, read a book, and my favorite, a short horse ride led by the gaucho Pablo.

My horse was steady and energetic, good for crossing the fast moving Peulla River. Here I am, flanked by two Brazilian tourists.

I was invited to join some of the employees of the hotel to witness Bike Park Peulla, a downhill track that is steep and dangerous, perfect for these young aficionados. They have been developing the track over the past four years or so, and they love to let off steam after work. Eliana led me up the muddy trail to view their run. We passed a sign warning of the riders.

And here they come, shouting like banshees. Click here to view Eliana's video.

Peulla is among my top recommendations to visit in southern Chile, at the northern boundary of the legendary Patagonia.