Review of Tinquilco Refugio, Huerquehue National Park, Lake District, Chile

March 7-9, 2018

Tinquilco Refugio

Located in a private area of the Huerquehue National Park the Tinquilco Refugio makes a great base for exploring the park’s two great trails. See Cerro San Sebastián and Los Lagos for a full report of the trails.

Tinquilco RefugioTinquilco Refugio

Located on a pretty wooded site, the refugio has a very pleasant outdoor patio, perfect for hanging out on warm summer afternoons. Don’t expect spectacular views, more a charming spot to chill.

Tinquilco Refugio

The lodge sleeps about 16 in 4 double rooms and 2 bunk rooms that sleep 4 each. We had one of the double rooms with a shared bathroom. While called a king room It barely holds a queen bed with not much room to spare. The bed, however, is more comfortable than most in this price category and is topped with a down comforter.

The shared bath is small but adequate with an extra sink in the entry way to the bathroom. The shower is showing its age and is in need of an update. The hot water is extremely difficult to regulate, oscillating from scalding hot to freezing cold. However the hot water, such as it is, is available 24 hours.

Tinquilco RefugioTinquilco Refugio

The refugio is set up nicely for guests with a reading nook upstairs and a lounge area downstairs in the open concept dining room/ kitchen/ lounge area. The kitchen is divided into an area for guests to cook their own meals and one where the host, Patricio, cooks for you.

Tinquilco Refugio

Patricio, the owner and host, is a charming character and an excellent cook and is what really makes this place special. Dining here is like visiting a friend’s house with great conversation, food and wine. One of our most treasured experiences in Chile.

The refugio is not staffed before 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, so breakfast is laid out the night before. A simple affair of quality products including homemade whole grain bread, butter, and a variety of homemade preserves. French press coffee is available.

Tinquilco Refugio

Dinner the first night was prepared by staff as Patricio had a business meeting and was not available to cook dinner.

Tinquilco Refugio

The vegetarian meal included of two excellent salads followed by porotos granados, a typical Chilean dish, consisting of beans and corn prepared in the summer when the beans and corn are fresh. Everything was beautifully executed. We were eight guests at the dinner table. Six German speakers and us, though most of the Germans spoke excellent English.

On our second evening Patricio cooked. He had been to Pucón earlier that day and found fresh seafood, caught just that morning on the coast. He explained that in Chile you are never very far from the sea.

Tinquilco Refugio

Dinner started with a mariscos soup, his grandmother’s recipe. Excellent seafood, nicely cooked in a flavorful broth.

Tinquilco Refugio

The main dish was a local trout served with a potato and avocado puree with a dash of nutmeg, an ingredient he now has difficulty getting in Chile. It has been used by drug smugglers to confuse the police dogs and is no longer available in the whole form in Chile. Everything was beautifully prepared. At the table were four guests, us, an Australian couple, and two friends of Patricio. A fabulous evening.

Planning your stay a bit off high season is much nicer as I think the facility would feel crowded at full capacity. Also watch the weather. We had great summer weather for hiking. I’m not sure how the refugio would feel in bad weather.

Driving to the Refugio

Whether we could drive to the refugio or not was a concern for us as we had a Peugot 2007 and not a 4-wheel drive with high clearance. The CONAF park ranger recommended that we leave the car at the park entrance parking lot a good 1.7K from the refugio. We had read that other guests had successfully made it to the refugio in regular cars, so with the good weather and dry roads we made the drive. Not once but twice. One tough spot was particularly high and we had to keep up speed to get over it but otherwise the road wasn’t too much of a problem. They regraded the road during our stay, so the drive out on the last day was a breeze.

Advertisements
Posted in Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged | Leave a comment

Hike to Los Lagos, Huerquehue National Park, Lake District, Chile

March 8, 2018

Los Lagos Hike

This scenic hike around the lakes has a shorter option and a longer option that includes a couple of more lakes. We did the longer circuit but in late summer these two outer lagunas were dryer and not as pretty as the lakes on the short circuit. The forest on both routes is a combination of open forest with huge trees and more closed in forest with considerable underbrush.

Staying at the Refugio Tinquilco (see the following post) just at the start of the Los Lagos hike is a definite advantage for those who want to stay ahead of the crowds. This is a very popular hike, but starting out from the refugio at 9:30 we were ahead of most everyone. We only saw one guy and one couple until later in the day when we were heading back down. A real luxury on such a beautiful late summer day.

The trail is steep. Not as steep as the trail up Cerro San Sebatián, but still the long circuit has a total ascent of over 1000 meters, the short circuit over 700 meters. These are not easy hikes for those who are not used to steep trails.

Los Lagos Hike

It’s a 1.7k hike up the road from the CONAF parking area to the Tinquilco Refugio where we started the hike. From here it’s about 2k up a wide trail to the control point for the Los Lagos trail. The trail gets prettier as you leave civilization behind and enter the old growth forest. The climb for the most part is well graded.

Los Lagos Hike

Past the control point the climb becomes steeper, some of it aided by stairways and a plank path with foot holds.

Los Lagos Hike

Along the ascent there are two detours to visit waterfalls. Both go down, down, down to the falls. We only went to the first falls, Nido de Aguila. Pretty but for me not worth the descent and climb back up. The falls are probably more impressive earlier in the year when there is more water running.

Los Lagos Hike

There are also two viewpoints with views of Lake Tinquilco and the Villarrica Volcano.

Los Lagos Hike

Trail markers note the distance and time to Lago Verde. It took us about 2 hours from the refugio with frequent photo stops, about what the signs said.

Los Lagos Hike

Once up the ridge and down a bit the trail levels off somewhat around the lakes. Lago Chico is the first. A scenic spot to snap a view photos. The trail runs along Lago Chico and then on to Lago Verde, A beautiful deep lake.

Los Lagos Hike

Lago Verde

From here you have a choice to go Lago Toro for the short circuit or up to Lagos Pato and Huerquehue.

Los Lagos Hike

The trail climbs to Lago Pato, a brown dry pond of not much interest but with a great stand of Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria araucana).

Los Lagos Hike

This is near the high point of the trail but not the last of the steep sections. The trail continues through the forest and then a long descent to Lake Huerquehue, another brown dry pond of even less interest.

Los Lagos HikeLos Lagos Hike

From Lago Huerquehue the trail continues mostly down to Lago Toro, a pretty lake with a grassy shore, before climbing again.

Los Lagos Hike

Walking along the ridge with views of the lake between the trees was my favorite section of the trail. The track descends and climbs a couple of more times before you hit the short cutoff trail that connects to the trail leading back down.

Los Lagos Hike

From the refugio it took us 6 hours with a short lunch at Lago Huerquehue. Overall it’s a beautiful walk through an old growth forest with lake views.

 

For more information, the Travel Aid website has detailed trail descriptions and maps for a number of hikes around Pucón.

Posted in Hiking, Hiking Chile, Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Hike to Cerro San Sebastián, Huerquehue National Park, Lake District, Chile

March 7. 2018

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

Huerquehue National Park, about an hour from Pucón, has really just two main trails, the climb up Cerro San Sebatián and Los Lagos (See the following post for Los Lagos).  With the rain coming maybe tomorrow afternoon we thought we would do the more clear-sky –dependent  trek today and the hike around the lakes the following day.

The trail starts a short way up the road from the CONAF parking area. Most of the trail is steep, 1200 meter gain in elevation over 12K.

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

The first part of the trail is steep switch backs through a dense, rather unattractive forest. I was beginning to wonder why we were doing this trail

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

but about 45 minutes, up at the first viewpoint, the forest opens up with beautiful old growth trees that unfortunately block the view of the lake.

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

View of Villarrica Volcano

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

The trail continues to climb steadily until you reach a clearing with the first views of the top.

Cerro San Sebastián HikeCerro San Sebastián HikeCerro San Sebastián Hike

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

Found this guy on the forest trail.

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

Across the clearing where the trail dips down onto a ridge was my favorite part of the trail. Here the track passes through a lovely forest of the crazy Monkey Puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana).  The conical evergreen is native to this area and has thick leaves that hug the branches resulting in something that resembles spiny green snakes suspended out from a main trunk, the largest of which are gigantic and have a bark 6 inches thick.

Cerro San Sebastián HikeCerro San Sebastián Hike

From the ridge there are views overlooking the valley and the volcanos in the distance.

Cerro San Sebastián HikeCerro San Sebastián Hike

Nearing the end of the forested section the trail climbs more steeply. There are two stretches of dirt path through high shrubs where the thick branches and root structure aid your climb, otherwise the bare dirt is quite slippery. I can’t imagine what it would be like when wet. The first of the two is steeper and harder than the second.

Cerro San Sebastián HikeCerro San Sebastián Hike

Once through the shrubs the trail is exposed for the rest of the climb, often scrambling over boulders. It’s only very steep in short sections and you can see the end point at the end of the ridge.

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

The top was busy on this beautiful day, with lots of people picnicking on the rocks. I imagine it is worse in the height of the summer season.

Cerro San Sebastián Hike

Cerro San Sebastian (11 of 21).jpg

From the top there are 360° views of lakes and volcanoes, including into Argentina.

Took us 3 and half hours up and 3 hours down.

San Sebastian Map

Map from the Travel Aid website

For more information, the Travel Aid website has detailed trail descriptions and maps for a number of hikes around Pucón.

Posted in Hiking, Hiking Chile, Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Waterfalls near Pucón, Lake District, Chile

Salto El Leon

March 6, 2018

Salto El Leon

Being the end of summer with lower water levels, we didn’t know if the El Leon waterfall would be worth the drive – about 45 minutes from Pucón, the last 10K is on a passable dirt road. Well it is. On a beautiful warm day it was a great afternoon outing. There were very few people at the falls.

Salto El Leon

A short path through a pretty, mature forest leads to the falls. A steep 2,500CLP($4USD)/person admission charge.

Salto El Leonnear Salto El Leon

Along the dirt road to the Salto El Leon there are other waterfalls and opportunities to view the river.

 

Los Ojos del Caburgua

March 9, 2018

Los Ojos del Caburgua

Located between Pucón and Huerquehue National Park, Los Ojos del Caburgua is an easy stop on the way to or from the park.

On a rainy morning there was no one at the falls.

Los Ojos del CaburguaLos Ojos del Caburgua

With extensive walkways around the pool and falls the area looks like it get lots of visitors in better weather. We were short on time and just took a quick photo tour.

Los Ojos del Caburgua

Posted in Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged , | Leave a comment

A Day with Mario’s Fishing Zone, Pucón, Lake District, Chile

March 6, 2018

Mario's Fishing Zone

Wanting a taste of fishing in the Lake District we stopped by Mario’s Fishing Zone our first afternoon in Pucón hoping to arrange a trip for the following morning. As the shop was closed at 3PM on a Monday with no hours posted on the door we called Mario and he met us at 4. He speaks just enough English to arrange a trip so a little Spanish goes a long way. We really didn’t know what we wanted to do and went with his suggestion of a half day on the Liucura River. Mario assured us that our guide would speak good English and had us say hello to him when he called him to confirm the trip with the guide.

Francisco and his brother Pablo picked us up in front of the shop at 7:45AM. The pickup had been scheduled for 7:30 but they were running behind due to traffic. School was back in session and there was a lot of traffic coming into Pucón.

Mario's Fishing Zone

The drive out to the river is about 30 minutes. We stopped by their house to get the boat, a zodiac outfitted for two fisher persons and the rower. They set up all the gear for us, both spinning and fly rods.

Mario's Fishing Zone

We would be drift fishing with the fly rods for trout; and in the deeper pools trolling with spinners for chinook salmon. The coho arrive in another couple of weeks in later March.

Mario's Fishing Zone

It was a beautiful morning with no other boats and very few people on the water. The pretty river was running fast. Headed down stream Francisco mostly rows backwards to keep tension on the lines.

Mario's Fishing ZoneMario's Fishing Zone

The water is clear with views of the Villarrica Volcano around certain bends.

Mario's Fishing Zone

So if I’m talking about the how beautiful the river is then the fishing isn’t that good. True. We caught lots of tiny salmon and a couple of small trout, the biggest one maybe five inches. According to Francisco this river is overfished for trout. Limits aren’t observed and they don’t stock it. It would be better to time your trip with the salmon runs.

Mario's Fishing Zone

The chinook aren’t as aggressive – we saw a great pool of them but none biting – and the coho weren’t running yet.

Francisco speaks pretty good English, certainly well enough to communicate what he needs too. He says he is still working on it. He’s very friendly, professional and helpful when you wanted him to be.

A fun day, but you could find better fishing experiences.

Posted in Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged | Leave a comment

Sleeping and Dining in Pucón, Lake District, Chile

March 5-7, 2018

Pucón

Pucón, on the banks of Lake Villarrica with views of the Villarrica Volcano, is one of the top tourist destinations in the Lake District and great for organizing outdoor activities such as hiking, rafting, volcano climbing and fishing.

Pucón

Popular with Chileans as well as the international crowd its streets, restaurants, and beach along the lake are packed in February. By the first week in March the horde has greatly diminished and the town becomes a pleasant place to enjoy a nice meal on a late summer’s evening.

Hotel O. Gudenschwager

Located on a quiet corner just a block or two from the marina on one side, the main beach on the other and with the main restaurant drag an easy 5 minute walk, plus volcano views, the location is ideal.

Hotel O. Gudenschwager

View from our room

The spacious old German-style building has wide hallways with worn carpets in need of replacing. Rooms and bathrooms are on the small side but not too small. The décor could be considered quaint for those who like an old-fashioned look with high ceilings and wood wainscoting. While the sheets were soft the mattress was old and not great for my tired back. Amenities are minimal – no safe, hair dryer or even bath soap or shampoo. Also our room had an issue with light pouring in from the hall through the widow in the door until the wee hours of the morning.

hotel O. Gudenschwager

Service is very friendly and amiable. The old gentleman that is up early in the morning was very kind and got us breakfast both mornings before the usual breakfast hours. At that hour only instant coffee is available but he did have hot milk for me. The rest of the buffet is rather skimpy – one kind of cereal, yogurt, one kind of cheese and one kind of cold cut, two kinds of bread, no fruit but a dessert tart.

Those who find charm in old buildings and like family run establishments may like it here. Certainly the location is worth a lot.

Dinner at Fiorentini

We had an 8PM reservation on a Monday evening in early March which was completely unnecessary. Tourism drops way off in even in early March and none of the restaurants were very full.

Restaurant Fiorentini

The modern, open dining room with a casual yet put together vibe is priced like a tourist restaurant. Many of the restaurants in Pucón are more expensive than in other towns, but overall the food was quite good.

Restaurant Fiorentini

We started with the two-for-one Pisco sour special. They tasted like a cheap two-for-one special, but the meal only improved from here.

Restaurant Fiorentini

Before the appetizer they serve a paper sack full of warm bread with olive oil and pickled eggplant. We ordered the deer carpaccio, topped with pistachio and dried fruit – a generous portion for two to share as an appetizer. The toppings were a tad too sweet but the good quality meat had great flavor.

Restaurant Fiorentini

For mains we tried the pasta rossa e nera, a seafood combination with two colors of pasta. Great flavor and the seafood was nicely cooked.

Restaurant Fiorentini

Don ordered the deer ravioli in a tomato sauce. Again nicely done. The meat was ground very fine and the dish had a bit of heat to it.

Hestia & Bacco

We chose this place at random because of their pleasant sidewalk patio. On such a beautiful warm evening sitting outside was first priority.

The menu overall is a bit more expensive than at some other restaurants but the setting is a little more upscale as well. We were hoping the food would follow.

We started with Pisco sours. Tart and nicely done but they were missing the bitters garnish we’ve grown to love.

Hestia & Bacco

For the appetizer we split the octopus in olive oil. The generous portion was easily enough for two or even three and had a good amount of octopus mixed with vegetables and topped with a purple sauce. Tasty and well done.

Hestia & Bacco

Beef tongue

For my main I made an ordering error. I should have known the nut sauce on my beef tongue would be creamy. It was very creamy. While the dish was well done and had good flavor I did not care for such a rich sauce on an already rich meat which was, by the way, very tender and not in need of the cream sauce.

Hestia & Bacco

Don’s grilled congrio (Conger eel) with satuéed vegetables over fettucine had a similar issue. Way too creamy. For those who like cream sauces it was well executed and the congrio morsels nicely cooked.

Service was friendly and attentive on a quiet Tuesday evening.

Drive to Pucon from Puerto Varas

From Puerto Varas the first part of the drive up Route 5 is fast and easy. We turned off at Los Lagos hoping for a scenic drive through the back country. While pretty farmland, the landscape is not that interesting or worth the hassle of driving through Panguipulli.

Drive to Pucón

Around Lake Calafquen the road was rough in spots, most likely under construction as the other side looked new.

Drive to Pucón

The landscape becomes more picturesque with volcano views over the lakes as you climb higher in the mountains. Nearing Villarrica there was heavy traffic on a Monday in early March. I can’t imagine what it must be like in January and February.

 

Posted in Restaurants, Travel, Travel Chile, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Alerces Trail, Petrohué, Lake District, Chile

March 13, 2018

Lago Todos los Santos

On a cloudy day with some drizzle we opted not to do a boat trip. Instead we tried the Alerces trail from Petrohué village in Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park. The track first runs through the open brush and then loops around along the lake back to town.

Alerces Trail (1 of 1)-2

The trailhead is a little difficult to find. The CONAF office is located on a road behind the Pioneers Museum. They prefer you to sign in and sign out when doing the trails in this region, however there is no fee. For the trailhead follow the signs to the free parking – estacionamiento gratis– and the camping ground beyond.

Los Alerces TrailLos Alerces Trail

Los Alerces Trail

Here you will find a trailhead with a map of the trails. Paso Desolación heads to a point on the Osorno Volcano, or you can do a loop that runs up towards the volcano and the cuts over towards the lake and back down the beach. Though we tried to do the later, we did not find the right track over to the lake.

Los Alerces Trail

Los Alerces Trail

Chaura Berries

Los Alerces Trail

Our big mistake was using the local dogs as a guide. At a wide open space with a sign that warns of forest fires there is a well-used trail that heads in the direction of the lake. We took this track towards the lake and think that this was our mistake. We should have continued further up the trail towards Osorno.

Los Alerces Trail

The track we took towards the lake forked and we used the dogs to help us choose which direction. This was a bigger mistake as we ended up in a thick jungle. We realized our error too late as we were too far in to head back. We really needed a machete to get through the tangle of vegetation.

Los Alerces TrailLos Alerces Trail

We though we were saved when we hit a wash heading down to the lake but soon we were faced with a steep drop off that we couldn’t pass. The slopes on either side were very steep and thick with vegetation. Finally, after trying several different ways, we found a path someone had used before that ran along the steep side of the wash and finally down to the sandy bank of the lake. Certainly a route I would not recommend.

Los Alerces Trail

Los Alerces Trail

The way back to town along the lake shore was easy to follow.

Los Alerces Trail

In clearer weather the trail would have good mountain, volcano and lake views. On a cloudy day like today I focused on the flora and got some good pics of the local flowers and berries. It was an enjoyable walk despite the jungle experience.

Los Alerces Trail

Posted in Hiking, Hiking Chile, Travel, Travel Chile | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment