Around Lago Ranco, Los Ríos in Chile

Beautiful iron clad building Rio Bueno

Beautiful iron clad building Rio Bueno

We left Valdivia and drove towards Lago Ranco. Our first destination was Rio Bueno, which I’d heard of when reading a carton of Colun milk! On first appearance it is just a small, country town but it is the centre of production of Colun dairy products in Chile, many of which we prefer to other brands. Our plan had been to drive through, but we came to a town square that looked inviting – it was shady from mature trees and the day was hot. So we stopped, and went in search of ice-cream. The first place we found though was Colun Agencia Comercial , which had a shop selling all of their products at reduced prices. We stocked up on yoghurt, cheese and butter, and then went in search of ice-cream. Rio Bueno isn’t a particularly interesting or beautiful town, but it does have some of those old buildings that we love.

What's left of the formerly stately Casa Furniel in Rio Bueno

What’s left of the formerly stately Casa Furniel in Rio Bueno

It also has the remains of a burnt-out building that looked as if it must have been very grand. We had its name – Casa Furniel – and did some internet research . It was certainly the most beautiful building in Rio Bueno until it was destroyed by fire in November 2014.

A cute mixed business store in Rio Bueno

A cute mixed business store in Rio Bueno; they sold everything: wheel barrows, spaghetti machines, normal pots and pans, fencing wire, kettles and buckets (hanging from the ceiling), old fashioned kitchen stoves, modern kitchen appliances, pvc flooring, paint and hardware, gas heaters…

A very "modern" hair dresser in Rio Bueno

A very “modern” hair dresser in Rio Bueno. Actually almost all signs in town were in a similar style; it seems there’s only one sign writer in town…

 

From Rio Bueno it is about 50km to Lago Ranco, which is the first major town on the lake of the same name. We had hoped to find a place to sleep along the way. The countryside along this road is pure rural, the majority of which are dairy farms with signs showing that they produce milk for Colun. It does seem a shame that most of the river or lake frontage is taken up with farms, allowing no public access. There were no places to stop and the road was very good, so before too long we found ourselves in Lago Ranco. We drove down to the lakeside and almost immediately found a lovely grassy place to park. We set ourselves up for the night. Juergen unpacked our table and chairs for the first time, and we ate dinner outside, under a shady tree. It was so lovely we decided to stay another day. Slowing down is slowly becoming a reality.

For once a nice GRASSY camping spot at Lago Ranco

For once a nice GRASSY camping spot at Lago Ranco

Mostly we just stayed around the camper and relaxed, although we did walk into town one day to buy bread and vegies. We had good mobile reception for internet, so we caught up on reading and updating posts, washed a few clothes and then recycled the water by washing some dust and sea mist from Berta’s cab. There were people around enjoying the lake, but it had a rocky beach so neither of us was tempted to put our feet in the water. We also had the suspicion that it would be quite cold. We stayed 3 days. On our last evening we had a visit from a woman who lived across the road. She came with her teenage granddaughter and they were both very friendly and interested in what we were doing. While they were there a German man, who had stopped to chat on our first night, arrived with his Chilean wife. He works in a German school in Temuco, and they have a holiday house on the lake. They invited us to their house for the evening and we spent a pleasant time with the two of them.

The next afternoon we left town and drove on around the lake. The woman from across the road had told us that the road was paved all the way around the lake. Well, that is certainly the intention, and in places it is being worked on, but it is not yet a fact. We hit ripio after about 10 km, and from then on it was roadwork all the way to Riñinahue. The last bit was driven on a newly tarred road but there were no edges completed so it was slow going, especially as it went also a bit steeply up and down.

When we arrived in Riñinahue, just 25km from Lago Ranco, we took a road signposted to the Playa. It was a very good, wide road with no low branches or wires, even though it was also ripio. But then we passed a school and it deteriorated very quickly. 4-wheel drive was necessary, and the steep down- and up-hill parts were so heavily corrugated it was very slow going. But we arrived at the lake and found a reasonably good spot to park.

Beautiful sunset at Playa Riñinahue, Lago Ranco

Beautiful sunset at Playa Riñinahue, Lago Ranco

We relaxed and had dinner then went to the beach to watch the sunset. The beach is covered with volcanic rock in the form of small to very tiny pebbles – it almost looks like black sand in places but it isn’t that fine. As the sun set and the sky lit up, the few people who were on the beach gradually left, until we were alone. Once again we had found a very beautiful place – we stayed 2 nights!

During these 5 days of rest, relaxation and generally slowing down, we decided that we would not go further north through the lakes of Chile, but instead turn our direction towards Argentina. The German we met in Lago Ranco encouraged us in this. He had told us that the road to the border, which originates in Osorno, comes out in Argentina at the south end of the 7 lakes drive, which was exactly where we wanted to be. So when we left this second idyllic place, we drove on around the lake to return to Rio Bueno. But there were still some gems to discover on this drive.

First trees in autumn colours (late January) at Llifen, Lago Ranco

First trees in autumn colours (late January) at Llifen, Lago Ranco

The drive out from the lake was as slow and bumpy as the drive in, but once we reached the pavement again, it was great. (This pavement continues all the way around the lake.) The scenery is lovely – lake views, mountains and cliffs, everywhere green, except where one particular tree species is already taking on autumn colours. We arrived in Llifén for lunch but first needed to buy bread. Bread is sometimes a problem, but in this little town we really lucked-out with great bread rolls. We drove down to the lake to find a place to park and eat. It was relatively busy but everyone else wanted to park their car in the shade so there was a Berta-sized spot left in the sun. She doesn’t mind that. The view was spectacular. The lake is so beautiful there. The day had started out cloudy and grey, but by the time we stopped for lunch the cloud had lifted and the sky was a brilliant blue, making everything look even more beautiful.

View across Lago Ranco from Llifen

View across Lago Ranco from Llifen

After lunch we were off to continue our circle of Lago Ranco. The next major town is Futrona. We were going to drive directly through, but the main street was closed to traffic and had a display of some very nice old cars. Juergen quickly found a park – this is one of his real interests and we just happened upon it. It was great to wander around, get a good look, and also take some photos [our gallery post showing more] .

Historic car meet in Futrona, Chile

Historic car meet in Futrona, Chile

When we left Futrona, we were seriously looking for somewhere to sleep but at all the access points to the lake there were crowds of people parked, which didn’t make it inviting to find a place to stop, so we drove on. We stopped and checked out the map again, and noticed that there should be a road through to Lago Ranco (the town) which would be much shorter than the drive to Rio Bueno, and it would be possible to spend one more night in the place we enjoyed so much there. The turn into the road was there but then, a few kilometres in, there was break in the road at a river (which, incidentally, the GPS had tried to warn us about). The ferry wasn’t operating, and the bridge was under construction, but we couldn’t wait for it to be finished!

So, another change of plans: Juergen turned the truck around and we headed back to the main road and on towards Rio Bueno. The closer we got, the more dairy farms there were. The pasture looked lush and the cows looked really healthy. And both were fenced in securely, so no possibility to find a place to sleep. We arrived in Rio Bueno and started looking around town. We found a lot of no-go areas and finally ended up on some vacant land in the middle of a subdivision with new ‘little boxes’. No one came to complain so we set up for the evening.

overnight spot in a subdivision of little boxy houses in Rio Bueno

overnight spot in a subdivision of little boxy houses in Rio Bueno

We weren’t sorry to return to Rio Bueno – it gave us the opportunity to visit the Colun shop again and also to stock up before heading to Argentina. We had decided not to go to Osorno (remember our motto – avoid big cities if at all possible), and take a road directly from Rio Bueno to Entre Lagos, where we would meet the road to Argentina.

Yasha

dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

20 Responses

  1. Shelley says:

    How wonderful to find a lovely spot by a lake, with a shady tree, and be able to park Berta and spend an extra day or two. There are advantages to slow travel!

    • Yasha says:

      Slow travel is definitely the way for us to go. It’s why we explain to people that we are not on holiday – this is our life!

  2. You never know where your next great travel plan will come from — even a carton of milk! Good idea to stock up on dairy products in Rio Bueno. This portion of your road trip looks great — the lakes are beautiful and I could totally imagine your dinner outside at Lago Ranco. Interesting to read about the people you’ve been meeting along the way, too.

    • Yasha says:

      That camping spot is still in both of our minds as the ideal spot. Since then grass has been in short supply everywhere we have been.

  3. Anita says:

    Thanks for sharing your enjoyment of travels at a leisurely pace, and a part of South America that is new to me. I do have fond memories of Argentina, though, just over the mountains from your latest post, and am looking forward to chasing over the pass with you, whenever you make the crossing!

    • Yasha says:

      Hi Anita, welcome to our blog. This post is actually from earlier this year, and when we left Lago Ranco we went over the pass to that part of Argentina and loved it – there are 4 posts on our blog about it with some amazing photos. Hope you will come and enjoy them too.

  4. I love it when you happen upon something unexpected like an antique car display etc… it keeps things interesting.

  5. Nancie says:

    There are so many good things to say about having your own camper van. Freedom is the first thing that springs up in my mind. I love your view of the beach, and the fact that people were so friendly. All of the goodies that you bought sound delicious!

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks Nancie, I’m glad you enjoyed this post. We just love travelling this way and are sometimes surprised when people say, “enjoy your holiday” because for us this is our life and at the moment we have no desire for anything else.

  6. Loved being the third passenger along for the pleasant ride through the cities and countryside. Your photos of the scenery are beautiful and I love the fact that your view from your front door changes as often as you want it to. Slowing down and enjoying what each day brings really is wonderful, isn’t it?

    • Yasha says:

      Oh it is. Much as I loved teaching in Santiago last year, as soon as Juergen and Berta arrived in May, I was torn. I just wanted to hop in and go somewhere. So, sometimes we need to stop a bit. At the moment our view is not changing as we wait in Valle de Elqui to see if the high pass to Argentina is going to open again. There has been a very severe weather event in Chile causing lots of floods and landslides – one of which is blocking access to the pass. But, then we accept and just stay where we are for a while – usually with more energy reserves when we move on.

  7. I enjoy that you guys get so out there. Keep on truckin’! I await my fix next week.

    • Yasha says:

      Thanks for that Carole. We enjoy doing what we do and we love it when others like to share the ride, however vicariously! Yes, there is more excitement to come and there are plenty of posts on our website that haven’t made it to Boomer’s.

  8. Not driving through Osorno was probably a good move. We have done it twice, on the Pan-American Highway, and it looked confusing and uninviting – although you never know for sure. Both times we had to find the turn off toward Argentina. It isn’t marked with a sign toward Argentina because, I think, the Argentinians and Chileans don’t exactly like each other. If it had not been for the detailed directions of the lovely owners of the hotel we were staying in in Puerto Varas the first time, lots of studying of the map by me and a rather dodgy GPS we would have missed it entirely. I do enjoy your blog. We have travelled extensively in Argentina and Chile. It is a shame more Australians don’t appreciate how easy to travel in this area of Sth America is.

    • Yasha says:

      I agree – it is easy to travel here. I guess that’s why we came back! We managed to avoid Ruta 5 – the Pan-American – almost all the way from Santiago down to this lake and then the border. We have the advantage of having our own vehicle, of course. And we would never have seen this much of Lago Ranco without it.
      I think that for a lot of people South America is a bit too daunting. From Australia it is a long and expensive trip for a few weeks annual holiday. This prompted our decision in 2005 to find a way to travel it in our own vehicle and for as long as we wanted to, and led to our first trip of just over 3 years through the Americas.
      And then we discovered that the almost 18 months in South America really wasn’t enough time, so we’re back. Always more to see.

  9. You keep adding to my must see and do things in Chile. Stunning lake and I love the old cars

    • Yasha says:

      The old cars were certainly an unexpected bonus – especially for Juergen. I hope you found the link to the gallery post with more photos.

  10. Don’t you love the fact that you can meander at your own pace? And modify the plan if something looks more interesting and fun! Love this true freedom. What beautiful scenery. The summer is very short in this region, isn’t it. Can’t wait to see the rest of the vintage cars.

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