Today, we’re heading up the western shore of the lake to Frutillar and then to Puerto Octay for lunch. The day starts out cloudy and chilly. I don’t mind though because cooler temperatures are always better for running. It’s amazing just how much heat the human body can generate even at a much less than marathon pace.
After my run I convince Antun to come with me to the heated pool on the top floor of the hotel. The pool is small—really more like a gigantic hot tub— but the big windows, providing amazing views of the lake regardless of the weather, more than compensate for its smallness. Resting our forearms on the deck we gaze out over the shifting layers of gray. It would be quite easy to fall asleep here, but the little clocks in the back of our heads are keeping time. It’s time to go least we be late for our rendezvous with the rest of the tribe.
Our plan is to drive over to Frutillar via the highway. There we’ll meet our friends Desi and Jorge and they will guide us to Puerto Octay and the restaurant, Espantapajaros, over a gravel road that follows the shoreline of lake.
I remember staying in Frutillar in February 1979. We took a room at a hostería run by a German lady. She wasn’t really German, she was Chilean by birth, but that hadn’t helped her Spanish any. Certainly a descendent of the colonos, she easily grew up in the region without much need for the Spanish language, but given our five-word German vocabulary, it certainly made our conversations with her brief and to the point. On the other hand, who needs to talk when being plied every morning with kaffee mit milch and the most delicious cherry kuchen I have ever eaten.
The village hasn’t changed much in thirty years except for one striking new thing: El Teatro del Lago. The theater juts out over the lake like a giant palafito housing several performing spaces. Recently the main performance hall has been completely redone to perfect its acoustics and allow for larger productions.
We meet Desi and Jorge at the café in the theater. Jorge, a native of Frutillar, asks us if we would like a tour of the theater. “Yes, of course,” we reply. He instantly disappears and shortly reappears. “Let’s go. They are starting now.” The younger generation, ravenous from sleeping in that morning, bow out telling us they will meet us at the restaurant. Haydee and Desi have also disappeared leaving three of us, Antun, Jorge, and I for the tour.
A man in a corduroy jacket and chinos greets us. “We don’t usually give tours but I am the architect of the new concert hall and I’d be happy to give you a short impromptu tour,” he announces. We nod our heads in approval. He’s charming, speaks impeccable Spanish with a funny accent, (Later we learn this is because although a German he has made his home in Chile for over sixteen years.) explains what has been done and why and even takes us backstage where work is underway on the scenery for an opera soon to open.
Time flies. Our lunch reservation is at two o’clock and it is already close to that now. We pull onto the gravel road; it winds around hiding the lake, then revealing it. I try hard to enjoy the sights as Jorge points out this house built by his father and that one built by his grandfather. But, I can’t. Stones fly, blind curves throw out oncoming locals going at breakneck speeds, steep hills send us hurtling down as though gravity has gone crazy. Finally, the road softens and bends away from the lake. At the intersection we turn right onto the asphalt for a couple of kilometers. Off to the right we see the sign Espantapajaros and pull into the driveway.
Inside Luci, Pancho, Nico, and Maria are already seated at a window table with potential views of the still hidden-behind-clouds Osorno. Although hungry, they haven’t already served themselves at the buffet but have ordered drinks to stave off their hunger. The Espantapajaros isn’t for everyone. The format is buffet and the specialty is wild bore but vegetarians will especially enjoy their braised red cabbage and salad selection. Good, simple food, friends, family, and a menagerie of animals–baby llamas and ostriches—in the backyard, and, then, suddenly sunshine, the clouds vaporizing, and the perfectly sublime Volcán Osorno comes into view on a late summer afternoon.
A perfect day.
All original content copyright 2011 Mary E. Slocum