We just left Bariloche, Argentina and crossed over into Chile. During the ride, we were able to observe the incredible amount of volanic ash scattered around the surrounding mountains of the lake district. It looked like grey snow that covered absolutely everything. Some people live and work in these mountains and it must horrible to breath this air 24-7. It really is a big ash tray on top of a mountain that is subject to winds blowing this ash everywhere. However, goodbye Milanesa, spoiled peppers, pasta, pizza, and an overwhelming amount of cheese and hello Chile!
Upon crossing into Chile, we drove passed a few fruit and vegetable stands and even from within the bus, I could tell that the quality of the food was light years beyond what we experienced in Argentina for the past month. We arrived in the city of Valdivia in the late afternoon and decided to take it easy for it was a long day of travelling
. However, curious like cats, we wanted to see what type of produce we could find at the local supermarket. WE WERE IN HEAVEN!. It was like two children in a candy store! I found tortillas, salsa, great peppers, healthy avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips, all the necessary ingredients to make a meal of fajitas. You know, you really don't know how good you have things until you lose them. Living in California, we took for granted all the great produce that is available at all times. Argentina has repeatedly surpised me with the type of produce that they are willing to sell, I've seen rotten tomatoes, brown peppers, fruit fly infested products, worms crawling on some veggies, and brown broccoli to name a few. Although Chile and Argentina are neighbors, it was like night and day when it comes to produce. For the next few days, Kristen and I just enjoyed cooking meals here because whatever we wanted to buy....we could buy it here.
Valdivia was a chill little city that is situated along a river. Apparantly it has a similar environment to San Francisco, where most of the time it is overcast, but temperate. However, while we were here, it was really warm and pleasant. The locals did not like the hot weather, but we didn't mind. The highlights of this area was the local fish market and the Kunstmann Brewing Company. The local fish market is situated along the river where all sorts of scavengers for fish scraps arrive on a daily basis, seals, pelicans, seagulls, and other wildlife
. It's interesting to watch the interaction of all these animals because they are all here for the same reason, "to eat some free food." We got some great shots of these animals and the flurry of entertainment they provide when the fisherman clean the fish and throw the scraps over the fence. It was also a pleasant surprise to find out that there is a German brewing company here in Valdivia called Kunstmann. Their slogan is "Das Gute Bier" or "that's good beer". We checked out their museum room (just sad) for like 5 minutes and then got to business with a tasting. We were able to taste all their beers on tap for 5 bucks. Kristen does not drink beer, so she had ice cream instead. However, luckily, I had my new friend Adam from Vancouver to join me for some beers. It was just enough beer for a mid day fade. Our favorite beer was an interesting blueberry beer. Don't knock it until you try it. However, I think you may need to make it down to Chile to do so.
After a few days in Valdivia, we took yet another bus over to Pucon, which is known as the extreme sports capital of Chile. You can do anything here, from rafting, skydiving, and climbing a volcano. We decided that we already did rafting in Bariloche and climbing a volcano seemed like the right thing to do. It was a spontaneous decision because the best climbing conditions were the day after we arrived. We booked the tour with Politour with a deposit of 4 dollars and were off
. The next day we would be climbing Volcan Villarica. Crazy! The day started with getting up at 5:30 am and got picked up at 6:30. Got our gear on and drove up to the ascent point. It's recommended to take the chairlift in the beginning because of the arduous climb of the volcano, it is good to preserve your energy. We are not professionals at this, so it was the right thing to do. We were also able to enjoy the ride up with all the views of the volcano. Some hardcore people charged the hill on foot, we definitely glad we decided to preserve our energy. The ascent was pretty difficult. This would be the second time I climbed with crampons on. Only this time, this was a serious ascent, at times a good 45 degree angle. Luckily, Politour provided some good equipment for us, which included crampons, boots, walking stick, and pick axe. We ascended with our wonderful guide, Ricardo, who decided to climb on our own route rather than joining the ant trail of the other tours. He called those tours "Lazy". I'm glad we went this route because we were able to go at our own pace and enjoy the amazing lake district views without obstruction. We climbed for a good 2 hours plus and luckily none of our group was affected by the altitude. One lady within our original group, had to turn around because she felt nauseous. Our group of 5 broke off of the original 10 people and finished first at the top. It was awesome at the top and we felt like we really accomplished something special. Ricardo said "guys, this is why you come to Pucon, to see this view" pointing at the view at the summit
. We enjoyed lunch at the summit with our group with the backdrop of the lake district as our entertainment.
Unsure of how the descent would be like, we were informed that we would slide down on the snow with a sled and using our ice pick as our braking device. This was the most fun part of the tour, we just slid down the volcano at our own discretion. It was exhilarating and we got down to the bottom in no time. There were times we just slid on our butts and times that we used our favorite device called "plastico" (plastic sled device). We arrived at the bottom with a sense of a great accomplishment. Tired from our long day, we relaxed our tired muscles at the hot springs of Las Pozones under the stars.
Our final days in Pucon were mixed with relaxing, hikes at National Park Huerquehue, and cruising along Lake Villarica. See pictures. I was wondering how the lake district of Chile would be like and I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the magnificent landscapes it has to offer. This is definitely a place I would come back to and rediscover. We will be taking off for Vina Del Mar in Northern Chile soon and will make an update there soon. All the best!