Chile is the world's longest north-to-south country, and it's one of the most expensive, the most developed, and the most westernised of all the countries in South America. The north of Chile consists mainly of the Atacama desert, which is statistically the driest place on Earth. In the middle lies the capital, Santiago; while to the south lie the prime trekking spots of Torres Del Paine, and Tierra Del Fuego. I crossed into Chile for the first time from Bolivia, and seeing these two countries in one day was like seeing two different and completely alien worlds.
My second visit to Chile on this trip has come to an end: and like my first visit, to northern Chile back in July, it was really short (barely a week). Unlike the barren and slightly Peru-ish Chile of the north, however, this time I saw the real heartland of Chile: the capital, Santiago; and the country's beloved Lake District. Chile's a beautiful country, and once again I've had a great time here: but really, as far as I'm concerned, a week is more than enough. Even for the all-important central regions. Chile has simply become too Western for my liking: it's missing those hard-to-pinpoint but all-important things that make its neighbours so definitively South American.
Today was a day of bus trips, and not much else. From Pucón, this morning I hopped on a bus, and rode the 4-hour trip to the town of Osorno, a bit further to the south (but still in the Chilean Lake District). There's really not much to see in Osorno: just another town in a very long country, and one that has very little open on a Saturday, at that. The main reason for stopping in Osorno (and the reason why I came here today), is because it's where the road begins that goes over the Andean mountains, and straight into Argentina. Anyway, I had to wait about 3 hours in Osorno, before I could grab a bus for the rest of today's trip: over the border, and to San Carlos de Bariloche.
After my random friend Chisco, and his stoned mates, stumbled home to their beds for the afternoon, I enjoyed a nice relaxing afternoon of reading in the town's lakeside park. Couldn't be bothered to do much else today, as I was fairly buggered after yesterday's climb up the volcano. The lakeside in Pucón is the perfect place to chill and unwind for an afternoon: what with the divine weather, the chirping of the birds, and the still blue waters, there's definitely so much serenity there, it's just not funny. Haven't stopped and inhaled the palpable beauty of a place this much, since my stop at a very beautiful place in Mexico, once upon a time.
I was up for a nice, quiet day of relaxing and reading today, after yesterday's adventure on the volcano. So I'm walking down the street in Pucón, heading to the lakeside with a good book, when this guy comes up to me and invites me to join his friends on the grass. His name was Francisco, or "Chisco": and like his friends hanging out on the grass, he was completely trashed. It was the middle of the day, and they were all downing beers and smoking weed. "Do you wanna be boring, or do you wanna have fun, maaan?" Chisco demanded.
If there's a better, a quicker, a crazier, or a more unbelievably fun way to get down a mountain, I'd be very surprised. From the summit of Volcán Villarrica this afternoon, it was back down the mountain feet first, on our bums! Nuh-uh, I ain't kidding: we put on our "nappies" (a protective kind of harness that we strapped around our waists and backsides), we sat on the steep and snowy slopes, and down we hurtled. Sure as hell beats walking all the way back down, and is arguably more fun even than skiing it! Check out a video of us going down.
Two young English girls, that I ended up climbing Volcán Villarrica with today. They're actually travelling with one other English girl, but their friend couldn't make it today, as she was a bit sick. Great sports, and (like me), looking forward to plenty more travelling and advnturing for the rest of the coming year.
It seems that everyone else around here is doing it, so I thought I might as well give it a shot too. Today I set off with a little group — two English girls, Helen and Amy, and our guide Victor (from Sierra Nevada, the same tour company that I went cycling with yesterday) — to go and climb Volcán Villarrica, the enormous snow-covered volcano that looms over Pucón. At a mere 2,847m asl — and with such a good path, and such good snow-cover, that we didn't even need to use crampons — today's climb was really a walk in the park for me, compared to last week's Cotopaxi climb. Especially since we had a much more fun way of getting down than plain old walking.
When I got back to El Refugio this evening, after my afternoon bike ride, I met an Israeli guy called Erez, who's staying in my dorm at the hostel. Erez convinced me (without much difficulty) to come with him on a tour of the nearby hot springs this evening. So, after a bite of dinner, and after grabbing some swimmers and a towl, off we went. Perfect way to end the day, and perfect way to relax after a good 'ol bike ride. No better combination in all the world like steaming hot water, rich red wine, and drunk Brazilian girls.
This afternoon, for my first day here in Pucón, I decided to go on a bike ride over to the nearby Lago Caburgua ("Caburgua Lake"). I had wanted to leave a bit earlier, and to get some supplies (e.g. backpack, sunnies, water) — but since I couldn't get into my hostel, I couldn't get those things, and I got delayed and didn't set off until about 3pm. Despite those hiccups, however, it was a lovely ride, and I made it back in time to avoid the onset of night.
Had a bit of an annoying experience this afternoon: got locked out my my hostel, El Refugio! The owner, Peter, gave me a key to the front door when I arrived this morning; but when I tried to get back inside, after going down the road for some lunch, the key wouldn't work. I could feel the lock trying to open, but it just wouldn't. After trying to open the daym door for about an hour, I gave up and went for a bike ride. Anyway, when I got back this evening, Peter said that he hadn't been able to open the door either, this evening. Apparently, the problem has now been fixed, courtesy of a large amount of WD-40.