Around Lago Ranco, Los Ríos in Chile
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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] .
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.
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.