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Chile Lake Country – Images by Lee Foster

By Lee Foster

Three Chilean adventures are especially pleasing in the pristine Lake Country, a mountain and lake area about two hours by air south from Santiago to Puerto Montt, then beyond to Peulla.

The first pleasure is known as canopying, which amounts to sliding down a mountainside through the canopy of the temperate rain forest, moving from one tree platform to the next, on a steel line, sometimes called a zip-line.

The second treat to be savored is horseback riding at Peulla, traveling through the grassy valley adjacent to the Rio Negro, with views of the high Andes and a likelihood that one will sight a condor.

The third delight is the drama of getting to the final destination, the 120-inhabitant town of Peulla, by taking a leisurely two-hour catamaran trip from Petrohue to Peulla across huge Lake Todos Los Santos. During most of the trip one is in sight of the perfect conical shape of the Orsono Volcano, one of the natural wonders of Chile.

I arranged my tour through the experienced Chilean operator Sportstours. They took care of transportation, lodging, and booking my outings. There were several people in my small group, and we were ably led by local guides.

Scene while touring the Rio Negro near Peulla in Lake Country, Chile
Scene while touring the Rio Negro near Peulla in Lake Country, Chile

Canopying at Peulla

Canopying at Peulla requires that a visitor overcome a fear of falling from a considerable height into the forest. The Chileans use the word “canopying” because this steel-line sport occurs in a rain forest canopy of trees. For about 240 days of the year there is rain in Peulla, so the forest is especially lush.

I was strapped into a harness around my waist. The harness had a pulley device that could be appended to the steel cable line. Then I would lean back and ease off the platform, moving by gravity to the next platform, passing waterfalls and the high branches of the trees. Wearing leather gloves, I held on with my left hand to the pulley device and rested my right hand behind me on the steel wire. That right glove had an extra thick padding of leather. My right hand was the brake, gripping the wire. I could slow myself down to prevent crashing into the next platform.

Though the sport is quite safe, it is somewhat unnerving until you get comfortable with it. First, there is the confidence required to launch yourself into the air, perhaps a hundred feet off the ground, with only a cable wire for support. The thought occurs that the steel cable wire might break. Second, standing on a platform, which resembles a badly constructed tree house without sides, you look down to the rocky forest floor below with some trepidation. There were five canopy enthusiasts and two guides in my small group that day. One guide preceded the group to the next platform. Then we all launched, one by one. Then the second guide followed. While on the platforms, we all had safety latches attached to a separate cable wire that ran around the tree. Latching and unlatching was a deliberate and methodical ritual, performed entirely by the guides. Our canopy ride at Peulla consisted of eight launches between nine platforms, about 2,600 feet of wire-cable travel in all. At the end we did a rappelling maneuver from the final platform to reach the ground.

Horseback Riding at Peulla

A horseback ride with the towering snow-capped Andes on each side of me, along the Rio Negro, was an activity to savor.

The freshness of the October springtime during my visit lent a sparkle to all activities. This was the spring month in the Southern Hemisphere reversal of seasons. October through February are good times to travel to Chile for spring-summer activities.

Our group of three riders started from a small farm near Peulla, trotting first across the pastures in the early morning, with the grass luminously green and still dewy. Looking up at the cliffs, we saw two Andean condors circling the higher rocky outcroppings. The horses were spirited and lovely animals, not the head to tail drones of some horseback riding experiences in my past. They were aching for an opportunity to canter over the meadows. We gave in to their desire. We decided to get a drone after reading this syma x5sc review.

During the ride we were surrounded by a symphony of bird sounds, all identified upon request by our guide, Jorge Soto. I saw southern crested caracaras and black-faced ibises. Several small hawks were present in large numbers. Then we followed a path through the dense temperate rain forest adjacent to the Rio Negro. Later we rode on a part of a jarring gravel road, which is the “international highway 225” from Puella, Chile to Bariloche, Argentina. We stopped at Los Mellizas, the “twins” waterfall, to watch the spring melt cascading down from the snowfields above.

Volcano Viewing Petrohue to Puella

A two-hour catamaran ride across immense Lake Todos Los Santos was the charmed entry and exit experience for my visit. It was a thrill crossing one of the larger lakes in the so-called Lake Country. During the leisurely boat ride I savored an ever-unfolding view of the perfect, conical symmetry of the Osorno Volcano. The entire area is part of Chile’s first national park, established in 1926. This is the Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosales.

Chile is a dramatic landscape of dizzying Andean peaks and volcanic upheaval. The volcanic wonders can have jagged tops or the careful balance of Osorno, depending on ancient pyrotechnic events.

In Puella I stayed at the Hotel Natura, which offered pleasing wood-paneled lodging and fine dining. Outside my window each morning I could gaze at two major peaks, Techado and Bochemo. The spring air was so inviting that I slept with the windows open all night.

Anyone looking for outdoor exploration in a fresh and new territory might consider the Lake Country of Chile, where my adventures enumerated are only a teasing taste of the many possibilities.

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Chile’s Lake Country: If You Go

The overall tourism site for Chile is www.visitchile.com.

Information on Sportstours, the tour company, is at www.sportstour.cl.

Lonely Planet’s guidebook Chile and Easter Island is quite informative.

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