Tales from today, preserved for tomorrow.

Volviendo a Chile

Time had run out on my short trip to Brazil and I was on a flight back to Chile. It was early morning on the 15th of February, my 47th day in South America. Though I had 2 weeks until I officially started volunteering at the Valle Chacabuco and future Patagonia National Park, I wanted to get there a week early to do some exploring around this relatively untouched area of Patagonia.

Kevin C had told me about this little town in Chile called Pucón that, though touristy, is a great center for outdoor activities. Seemed like a perfect place to spend a few days before I had to head south to Aysén.

Santiago – Part Tres

I caught the first bus (6am) from the Santiago airport to downtown. At the Alameda terminal I was able to buy a ticket to Pucón, though it wouldn’t leave until 11:30pm which allowed me to sleep through the 10 hour drive.

Since I had ~16 hours to kill in Santiago, I made plans to do as much touristy stuff as I could to keep busy. Unfortunately Santiago is not the best place to kill time as a tourist, and on top of that the only two museums I had an interest in seeing were closed for repairs that were long overdue from the 2010 earthquake. Despite visiting a few different parks, markets, museums, I hardly made a dent in the 16 hour day. I decided to see a movie at a downtown theater, El Arbol de la Vida. I thought it would be a good chance to practice listening to español, but was disappointed to find it was in English with Spanish subtitles. Weird movie.

 

I found a Peruvian joint for dinner, mostly to get a fix of Inca Kola. Not the best soft drink I’ve ever had but its reminiscent of my trip to Peru two years before. After dinner I made my way back to the Alameda terminal via the bus, picked up my big bag and boarded the bus to Pucón.

Pucón

The first thing I did after arriving late morning was find a hostel. I struck out twice but hit on the third swing, though in an Israeli hostel. The thing about Israelis is they certainly stick together when they travel so if you end up in an Israeli hostel, you are greatly outnumbered. Fortunately they’re all friendly and the accommodations, from what I’ve seen, are usually nice but inexpensive.

I set out on the town to find food and some entertainment for the next few days. At this point I had settled for climbing Volcán Villarrica via the sheep herding route. I looked around for the cheapest trip but found that the weather forecast was glum and it didn’t look like anyone would actually be going up during the time of my stay.

So what do you do when it looks like its going to rain for 3 days? Book a kayaking tour. I had wanted to do this anyway but it seemed like a good opportunity to learn some more tricks in a whitewater kayak from a guide. I found a perfect tour that spent 2 hours on the lake practicing rolls, and then after lunch goes down a river with Class III rapids (turns out they were Class II, oh well).

Rio Liucura

After a good night sleep and a hearty breakfast, I returned to the kayak shop and met the guide and group I would be with. The guide was lanky but ripped and would kick my ass in a bar fight. By the way, her name was Esther and she was from Australia. Among the clients were a local business owner from San Francisco and his son who was visiting, and an Israeli named Dolev who was eager to learn rolling like me.

After suiting up we got to the lake and started paddling. Esther could quickly tell that she wouldn’t have to teach us how to use a paddle so she reluctantly started to teach us rolling. She constantly kept telling us that you can’t learn rolling in a day, trying to make sure we weren’t disappointed in her services. However I feel like we did pretty good and each got some rolls in though it was ugly. Dolev was greatly persistent and was getting damn close at perfecting it.

After a decent lunch back at the shop, we were off to the lower Rio Liucura. The river was much more tame than Dolev and I were hoping but it was pretty and gave us some good practice of the basics in whitewater kayaking: ferrying, getting in and out of eddies, bracing, turns, etc. Half way down the river, the rain came as forecasted, but since we were already drenched we all loved it.

At the end of our trip we loaded the ‘yaks back onto the trailer that was waiting for us. It was a wet, long day but well worth the time and money.

Termas Los Pozones

The following day I was invited to tag along on a trip to the Los Pozones hot springs by Iris and Marev, two girls from, you guessed it, Israel. Most of the Israelis I had met were younger than I, having just finished their service in the army. Iris and Marev were my age and like me, just taking time off from work. I had ruled out visiting hot springs because they didn’t seem easy to get to without a rental car, but my concerns vanished when they told me they had one. I packed a small bag and off we went.

The pools weren’t exactly natural, however the hot water being piped into them was straight out of the mountain. The nice thing about this setup is they can control the temperature of the pools based on how they mix in the hot and cold water (from the creek nearby). Some were too hot for my liking, some too cold. However in general I found myself starting hot and moving to the colder pools as I started getting overheated. After an hour or two the crowds were gathering and our patience thinning. We dried off and returned to Pucón.

Pucón to Aysén

I picked up my bags from the hostel and left for the bus station. The 5 hour bus ride put me into Puerto Montt late at night. Heeding several warnings from various people earlier in the trip about crime in Puerto Montt, I didn’t spend a ton of time looking for budget hostels. I tried ~3 hostels and they were all full, so I just went to the Costa del Mar hotel and dropped USD$50 on a room. I try to be as flexible as I can while traveling, but in my experience not having a well thought out itinerary often means having to spend more money in situations like this.

After a nice breakfast at the hotel, I was picked up by a taxi and taken to the Puerto Montt airport for my flight to Balmaceda. The vagabond lifestyle I had been living for 2 months was finally over. From this point on I would be volunteering with Conservacion Patagonica and then returning to the Estados Unidos.

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