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February 21, 2006 at 7:52 am #30091
I highly recommend the Alerce Lodge outside Puerto Montt in the Chilean lakes region. I also highly recommend that this is not for everyone. This small (24-person max), luxurious mountain lodge is accessible only via 4xwhell drive vehicle, about an hour total drive from the rather overbuilt Pto. Montt. (Sidenote: Pto. Montt’s harbor views are increasingly disrupted by large buildings, including a wide, multi-story shopping mall that blocks harbor views from the eastern half of the city.) The Alerce Lodge is located in the middle of the last remaining forest of alerce trees, a prehistory variety of larch, many of which date back 2,000 years or more.
The lodge itself is very well-constructed of native woods, with shorter wood-planked hiking trails among the various outbuildings (cabins for varying numbers of guests) and the main lodge, containing the dining area, the jacuzzis, the saunas…(Hmmm, sounds like much more than some rustic scout camps!) At the same time, the trails through the forest itself are minimally improved, meaning that they are easy to follow, and include some cunningly-cut hand-holds and steps, but do require moderate exercise to hike through the trees and the waterfalls, over one of which is neatly built a suspension bridge. There are about a dozen horses of varying
temperaments and energy levels for riding. Inside the lodge, one wears Chilean slippers rather than shoes or boots, provided at the entrance, and the staff will likewise cushion your stay in a pampering way. The staff is small but excellent; the chef, for instance, could easily cook in a five-star restaurant. The tone is set by one of the more attentive and interesting management teams I have encountered, Gary James (English expatriate) and his wife Sandra Rodriguez (Spanish expatriate). Rates as of early spring 2001 (“shoulder season”) were about USD150.00/person/night, but I was paying single supplement plus taking advantage of a special discount, so I don’t know the standard high-season prices, to be honest.
Overall, the Alerce Lodge is neither for muddy-faced EarthFirsters, as it is too luxurious for them (and definitely non-vegetarian, although those meals are available and will be offered), nor for the worldly jetters who need their CNN (no TV’s on premises, communication is via short-wave radio). Remember that the lodge is in a temperate rain-forest, so the weather is very changeable, including possible heavy rains in the shoulder seasons.
If nothing else, make a day trip in early spring from Pto. Montt, in advance of the high season but in time for the first lamb dinner of the season, just to marvel at the Lagoon of Reflections. It really is the most perfectly reflecting body of water I have ever seen.February 21, 2006 at 7:53 am #30949
Thanks for the great tip on the lodging and your detailed descriptions. That sounds like a beautiful place to stay for a while! A friend and I are in the initial stages of planning a trip to Argentina and Chile in 2 years – we are planning a summit attempt of Aconcaugua and then want to spend a couple of weeks touring the Andes and visiting small villages.
Thanks again for posting.
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