Escape to Chile and Patagonia: Pablo Neruda, Cabernet Sauvignon, Snow-covered Volcanoes, and Lakes

“[Travel] takes us out of ourselves and brings us back again—full circle—a circumnavigation of self.” From Voice of a Voyage by me.

As a poet, of course I was interested in Pablo Neruda. I have read much of his poetry, the autobiography of his third wife, and various articles about him. I thought he would be revered in Chile, and certainly he is, sort of. I knew that he had been slow to repudiate Stalin, and that Jorge Luis Borges, the famous Argentinean author and poet, broke with Neruda because of that, although they hadn’t been close friends before that. It seems, at least among some Chileans, they have not forgotten that either. We visited his home on Isla Negra with a view across the Pacific only ended by the tilt of the Earth. As much as he liked looking at the ocean he did like being on it. He had a sailboat on land, that he would sit in to have drinks with friends, but he was not a sailor, although he enjoyed nautical artifacts. Actually he enjoyed artifacts of all kinds from historic to kitschy as his house, which rambles on, is filled with them!

Neruda’s landlocked sailboat, for sitting and looking at the ocean only.

Part of Neruda’s rambling home at Isla Negra.

An example of Neruda’s collecting habit in one of his rooms.

Wayne and I are wine drinkers, usually red, and usually Cabernet Sauvignon. How could we be in Chile and not visit at least one of the many wine valleys? I had chosen the Colchagua Valley, known for its Cabs, but also on our way from Isla Negra to the Lake District. We stayed at the lovely Bellavista de Colchagua B and B, although unless you are driving and have GPS that works in Chile, I don’t think you would ever find it! They recommended a wonderful restaurant, where it turned out we had our best meal in Chile with a perfect Cab. I happen to be away at the moment I’m writing this so I can’t look up the name, but some other time I’ll include a list of recommendations for those who might be heading to the southern part of South America.

Wayne enjoying our excellent dinner and wine in Chile.

On to the Lake District! We spent time at 3 different lakes: Lago Villarrica, Lago Ranco, and Lago nnn. In retrospect we could have spent less time there, although certainly an attractive area, they are fairly similar. We liked Lago Ranco best, because it was the least touristy. In fact, a couple of Chilean teenagers came up to ask how we had decided to come there. They were rather surprised to see visitors from the US. We met a Chilean couple from Santiago also vacationing there and spent the day with them visiting an island in the lake via ferry.

One of the volcanoes and lakes.

Classic lake scene.

On the little ferry with our new-found Chilean friends.

Historically, the Incas didn’t get too far into what is now Chile, mainly because the Mapuche indigenous people were so fierce, as the Spanish also discovered. In fact from the Lake District south it took the Spanish 300 years (yes, years) to conquer the Mapuche and bring those lands under what was then Chilean rule. An interesting historical novel about the Spanish settlement of Santiago, the “beginning” of what became Chile, and the Mapuche wars is Isabel Allende’s “Inés of my Soul.” I asked several Chileans if they knew about Inés Suárez and her contribution to Chile, but few did. One woman told me, “They only teach about the men in school.”

Example of Mapuche dwelling and statues of them.

Next the Navimag Ferry from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales: fjords, whales, Puerto Eden, glaciers, and waterfalls.


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