Happy Valentine’s Day, all!
Today finds us at Puerto Montt, Chile. This village markes the offical end of the Lake District of Southern Chile. Although founded in 1853, it wasn’t until 1912, when it was connected by rail, that it became the contact point for the rest of the south. It has been known for years as “the end of the line,” whether traveling by railway, dirt road or highway. For the most part, it remains so to the present day. Puerto Mont is also the starting point for the many tourists that arrive to visit the famous Lake Llanquihue to the north (we didn’t go there), one of the most visited sites in all of Chile.
The Lake District’s unofficial boundary is the Bio Bio River. South of the river, earth and water form a series of blue lakes that reflect ice capped volcanoes and ancient trees. The Andes tower above it all, and leave no question why Mapuche fought Inca and Spaniard to defend it. The district is named for its 12 largest glacially carved lakes, but it also has dozens of smaller lakes as well. Rivers and streams link to some of Chile’s richest freshwater fishing grounds. Six volcanoes line the district’s center, with Villarica, it’s highest, reaching more than 9000 feet in height. To the east there are four passes leading across the Andes into Argentina.
Puerto Montt is the region’s capital and largest city. It is the terminus for the railway and continental portion of the Pan American highway, which is a series of national scenic highways that stretch more than 16,000 miles from Alaska to the southern tip of Chiloe Island. The city itself was founded on February 12, 1853, after government-sponsored immigration from Germany that began in 1848 populated the region and integrated it politically to the rest of the country. It was named after Manuel Montt, President of Chile, Puerto Montt has a large German community, as the colonists first arrived in 1852. With a presence of about 130,000 people, their influence is seen in the architecture within the city. The redwood cathedral built on the main plaza is the oldest building in the town, dating to 1856.
The facade of Puerto Montt is quite appealing, especially from the sea. Unfortunately, when you arrive in town, you are overwhelmed by a sense of oldness, tiredness, and disrepair. The newer, consumer focused buildings are modern and bright, but the historic architecture is in disrepair, and a shadow of what they must have been earlier in time. Blessedly, the most breathtaking part of the view - the Andes mountains, some of which you can see above, is unmarred from this distance, and unaffected by any air pollution. As we walked along the jetty front, there was an exercise park which was actively being used by many people, a number of statue parks that were overcome by graffiti, and a railway memorial consisting of a steam engine and caboose, along with a mock train station. We spent two hours walking around the city, but were glad to make our way back to the ship.
One more day at sea, and then we disembark, headed to Machu Picchu. I’m relatively positive we will be off line those days, so do not expect to hear from us until we arrive in Houston on the 22nd!