Peaks and pools of Chile


April 11, 1999|By Dan Schmidt | Dan Schmidt,Special to the Sun


At the end of a year's assignment in Chile, my wife and I received from friends a weekend stay at La Hosteria de la Colina, a wonderful B & B in Villarrica. While Sue and I had traveled a few hours north and east of Santiago, we had never been to the south.

Many who come to live and work in Chile from overseas manage to head south to camp or tour at some point, and so we had heard a great deal about this area. Some of our Chilean friends made treks there as well. That made us eager for the experience, and we welcomed this gift with real delight.

After 90 minutes on a jet, and another hour in a van, we arrived at the hosteria. Glen and Bev Aldrich, retired from teaching in various international schools to run this establishment, greeted us warmly. They had lived in Villarrica for years, and so knew the area thoroughly. They described fishing, kayaking and hiking opportunities that were ours for the asking and just minutes away. But as our friends had warned us, their hospitality, complete with a full kitchen that served terrific food followed by Glen's homemade blueberry ice cream, kept us from going anywhere that first day.

We went to sleep with the sound of the lodge's fountain outside our window, breathing air that was gloriously free of Santiago's notorious pollution. The sky was packed full of bright stars forming constellations we had never seen north of the equator. It was a sky we'd come to love, even though it was different from what we'd grown up with.

We did venture out the next morning for a guided tour in Chile's Lake District. One of these, Lago Azul, was as blue as an Easter egg. Other lakes were fed by spectacular waterfalls; at one stop, we ambled through a local farmer's property to see the Tres Saltas. Just behind his land, three different waterfalls, each distinctive, crashed into tiny pools. Dominating the entire region is the Osorno volcano, a snow-capped peak that still puffs smoke. Tours can take explorers to the top where, with protective gear, they can peer over the lip. We opted for a less intense day, and lounged in nearby thermal pools instead. Leisurely drives to lakes and walks along their shores, stops in the resort towns of Pucon and Lican Rey, and pleasant conversation on the decks of the Hosteria made this a standout trip for us.

Because of good friends, we have a lasting memory of our time in Chile.

Dan Schmidt lives in Laurel.


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