On our way out of Niebla, we visited one of the old forts that used to protect the city of Valdivia nearly 400 years ago. The museum contained all sorts of cannon balls and weaponry, so it was a big hit with Bode. Our favorite tidbit was the ‘red hot ball’ – a Polish method of heating the cannon balls until they are red hot – used to set ships on fire. Cool stuff.
Next we headed to Lago Ranco. We were following signs to an off-the-beaten path camp site on the eastern side of the lake when we noticed a small mirador in the middle of the forest. We hoped out to take a look, and were stunned to see this beautiful waterfall and blue pool behind all the trees. Not really marked nor visible from anywhere other than this small landing. Totally incredible.
We made it to the campsite, where Jason and Bode ran off to swim in the lake. I stayed behind to set up camp, but 10 minutes later Bode ran back up to me and told me I HAD to come see something cool. We were running down to the lake when I saw Jason neck deep in what we had thought was a sandbar in the lake. Mud? Nope, floating volcanic rocks. They’d come down the river from Volcan Puyehue (the volcano blowing ash into Argentina and cutting short our lake district trip there). They ranged in size, the largest about baked potato sized, the smallest you could break in half with your hands. Swimming in it felt like a sort of spa-treatment. And later, when the wind picked up, the clacking of rocks sounded as if we were listening to waves at the ocean.
Later, three guys pulled in and started setting up their tent at the other side of the campground. Bode ran over to ‘show them the coolest thing in the world’. Turns out they were all English speakers (a Brit, American and Canadian) here studying the volcano. They are geologists and had gotten funding to fly to Chile and hike up volcanoes. So, to Sam, my nephew studying Geology at UT–keep it up. What a cool job.
The giant biting flies had been swarming us – not fun at all. The fire I lit to smoke them out wasn’t really working. So we had already decided to leave the next morning. too bad, as this is a really interesting area and there seem to be some interesting possibilities for exploring around nearby lakes and volcanoes.
Finally, the wind shifted and sealed the deal. By morning, white ash covered everything outside and we had a bit of difficulty breathing. You could feel grit in your throat. So we headed south to see if we could get away from it. They volcano guys, well, they decided to hike up the volcano again.