Picturesque Puerto Varas. A sort of quintessential town in the south of Chile, it embodies much of what people expect when they think of this part of the country. A small community with wooden houses, lots of trees, a frigid but beautiful alpine lake, and of course, a majestic, snow-capped volcano looming on the not-so-distant horizon. There are many towns like Puerto Varas in southern Chile, but few manage to lure as many tourists. Perhaps because this one has reached a critical mass of tourism, which brings in enough consistent revenue to pay for more infrastructure for tourists, who come in greater numbers and bring more money. So it has gone over the years, leading Puerto Varas to become something like a Vail, Colorado of South America.
Incidentally, the thousands of German settlers in the area have had an important effect on Chilean culture up and down the length of the country. From the ubiquitous schop (draft beer) to be found in any given bar in any town or city in Chile, through the tasty chucrut (sauerkraut) they put on their hot dogs, all the way to the kuchen (cakes) served for dessert, one of the best ways to experience German influence here is with your belly. Another significant result of all of this is the Chilean ability to actually spell my last name right.
We continued our fancy-free tour around town, enjoying our liberating form of transportation, until we got back downtown, when some piece in the drive train happened to snap off. The steering wheel was locked in place, and the front wheels were stuck turned a few degrees to the left. Fortunately, we were less than a block from the rental shop, and we were able to muscle our vehicle back to where it came from without drawing too much attention to ourselves. We weren't sure how the girl would feel about us breaking two of her bikes, but she seemed to feel like it was her fault and looked embarrassed. She even offered to let us use a third bike if we were interested, but we decided not to push our luck any further.