ENTRE NATURALEZA Y ARQUITECTURA: EL PAISAJE CULTURAL EN TORNO AL LAGO LLANQUIHUE
Moderate slopes, colonial architecture, views of Lake Llanquihue and the infrastructure of lodging all within the possibilities of a wide range of budgets transform the journey around the Lake into a peaceful route suitable for lovers of cycling and Chile’s southern landscapes.
The cycle route of Lake Llanquihue is at first a bit of a challenge for its physical demands, but it fulfills that inevitable desire to connect with nature and the history of the territory, the landmarks and the narratives that are revealed along the route. This route circles the lake completely and is part of the longest cycle route project in Chile. It covers 186 kilometers, crossing the towns of Puerto Varas, Ensenada, Cascadas, Puerto Octay, Frutillar and Llanquihue, and is divided into six sections. This series of places has a level of urbanization and services along the route that make the circuit adaptable to different time frames and physical conditions thus expanding the spectrum of possible users.
A popular strategy among cyclists is to divide the circuit into 3 or 4 days of pedaling. The first section starts in Puerto Varas, where there are several bicycle rental businesses and wide competition. The route begins traveling 51.3 kilometers towards the north and with a view of the Calbuco Volcano all the way until arriving to Puerto Octay. Section two, overlooking the Osorno Volcano at its beginning, ends at Las Cascadas after 35.1 kilometers. The third day is a much shorter trip that allows for resting or taking some of the trekking routes around the area. This section is 19.7 kilometers to Ensenada where the last section of 42 kilometers of pedaling brings the circuit to a completion in Puerto Varas.
The attraction of this circuit is based on the recognizable cultural landscape of the area, thanks to the fact that the Llanquihue lake basin has been populated by three distinct cultural groups throughout its history: the original peoples, the Spanish settlers, and finally − currently − the Germans. These latter were the main builders of the imposing architectonic legacy present along the route. The landscape of the area is determined by two aesthetic values of different orders: the “natural” associated with the geography of the basin on which the waters of Lake Llanquihue rest − the second largest lake in Chile; and the “built” associated with the architectural legacy of the Germans who arrived in 1850 to the south of Chile as a result of the Law of Colonization enacted in 1845 during the government of Manuel Bulnes (1). The Law promoted the settlement of foreign professionals and artisans to develop the sector and ensure sovereignty.
(1) On the Transformation of the Southern Landscape: German Colonization in Valdivia and Llanquihue (1850-1910) in <memoriachilena.cl>
The passage of time has been responsible for merging both the “natural” and the “built” into an attractive landscape for curious cyclists and for those looking for outdoor exercise. German-style houses, barns and lovely front gardens give the route a narrative that intensifies thanks to the agile but relaxed speed of the bicycle. The rhythm of the pedaling allows the sculptural-like objects that rest upon the landscape to be appreciated, their facades distinguishable along with their material textures. The pauses − sometimes forced upon the cyclist − help the traveller to appreciate the influence of climate and time upon the buildings. The scenery takes on a dynamic and nostalgic dimension, when observing the wooden tiles covered with striking yellow lichens, a fungus that clings to the architectural legacy with the natural forces of the entire basin. Without doubt on the bicycle, unlike in a car, the experience allows constant contact with the natural elements that make up this landscape, constantly amazing us with the chromatic distinctions between greens, yellows and intense blues; we might get soaked with the rains that start from one second to the next and be delighted with the penetrating sun that breaks in at times, marking the rhythm of the weather during the spring months.
The landscape around the shore of the lake is a route between volcanoes, hills covered with vegetation that grows spontaneously, water, pastures, fields and gardens. It is a spectacle that is not only attractive as an image, but also as an experience easily accessible and that combines natural beauties of the lake’s landscape with the architectonic cultural legacy, which is a product of consolidating the sovereign limits of the country.