This post could also be titled the day we accidentally went mountain bike racing. We’ll get to that story in a minute…
After our departure from Castro (where I was legitimately sorry to leave our lovely hosts) we made the quick 4hr drive (& 1 ferry ride…no pingüinos this time though :-( ) across to Ensenada. A little adventure town surrounded by five volcanos, four active, & while not resorty there’s no shortage outdoor activities here to make a case for its own REI destination. Hiking, rafting, horseback riding, biking…lots of “ing”s abound in this ski town vibeish locale - in fact a ski run exists atop Osorno in the winter months.
In addition to a ski run, Osorno boasts a large glacier at its peak. Quite literally fire & ice together it is the most well-known of the five, with various legends surrounding its origins & eruptions throughout its history. While you can drive far up the volcano on your own, guided tours & hikes allow visitors to trek even further through the ice towards the ultimate peak.
For our next day, we were looking to partake in one of adventure outings Ensenada provided & settled on renting bikes to take in the other local sites - it would be fun we figured. Early in the morning we hopped on our rental bikes & headed out to Petrohue, a small lake area about 16km from our B&B (easy ride we were assured).
Roughly 10km in, you reach Petrohue Falls that, albeit is a bit of a tourist trap later in the day, hosts gorgeous waterfalls, shaded strolls & picturesque views of Osorno - worth the crowds & price of admission (just go early before the buses…)
Continuing onto Petrohue lake is where our story turns interesting. The remaining journey only being 6km how hard could it be? Well what everyone in town seemed to forget that due to heavy rains/flooding in December the entire rest of the road had been damaged…it was now only a (tediously) slow uphill death climb up volcanic sands / dirt roads. And this thing was bumpy, my fingers ached from gripping the handlebars. Not only was the road barely in existence but it was very very busy & heavily traveled by cars, trucks & large tourist buses alike. Gone were the well-marked bike lanes that had graced the first part of our trip now the unsteady volcanic sands & dirt was also thrown into our faces. Oh & the GIANT flies that swarm the area in January while we were visiting & they seemed to love Ben for whatever reason, lucky us.
So how did we end up in a race? Well on the way up the one sign we happened to notice while battling bugs & faces full of dirt advertised “Conquer the Volcano”. It was so late in the afternoon once we grabbed a bite to eat at the lake (below) & worked up the grit to head back down the mountain we didn’t really think much of it & never expected a race to still be going on. We were very wrong.
No sooner had I worked up my will to hop back on the dirt road then scores of bikers started racing past us in packs. Groups of 3, 4, 5+ would seemingly come up on us out of nowhere, pushing past us at impressive speed. It would go quiet for a few minutes, to which I kept assuming the majority were well beyond us & then packs more would just show up. So, if you are keeping track we have: volcanic sand, dirt, large pothole downhill, trucks/cars/buses (apparently stopping traffic for said race was not a priority either) & now semi-pro(?) mountain bike racers. Not what I had signed up for but it was certainly an experience. Towards the bottom (& back on pavement thank goodness) a woman and her daughter cheered us on as part of the group J lol & there was even a wicked wipe out a few feet in front of me (to be clear not my fault & everyone was ok).
Personally, I believe we deserved some sort of trophy or at least a t-shirt for participating in the race, we settled for crashing (figuratively) on the shores of Llanquihué & vowed not to get on a bike for as long as I could make Ben hold out.
This small but quaint adventure town outside Puerto Varas, is worth the visit. The area is much akin to Pucon, the areas more touristy big brother, but without the major summer crowds. With all the outdoorsy things to do here, you could satisfy your adventure thirst for weeks. Several things we did not visit here such as fjords & hot springs that would-be worth the time & while we only drove through it, the cool town of Puerto Varas also warrants a night or two stay.
Overall the lakes region of Chile is absolutely beautiful and we again find ourselves sad to leave. However we must as our next adventures awaits...off to Patagonia!! Stay tuned :-)