Pachamama By Bus...and a little bit of luxury
Trip Start Nov 15, 2012
25Trip End Jul 10, 2013
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world was made, there was a little bit of everything left over and that pieces of deserts, lakes, rivers and glaciers were put together in order to make Chile. New Zealand is beautiful and we thought we would never see beauty like that again. However, Chile is frigging OUTSTANDINGLY SPECTACULAR...and we've not even seen half of it yet.
Woke up early Thursday morning and met the peeps who would be joining us on our tour down south. There were only 10 of us, including the tour guide and bus driver, and of the 8 people who were travellers, only one man - Chris! Very unfortunately for him, fortunately for me, none of them were gorgeous enough to look at for any length of time.
However, lets just say, that I've no doubt he will be dedicating some time to a particular piece on his "experiences" of spending five days travelling by bus (small bus, nothing like previous one to Mendoza) with 9 females and a bus driver who could only speak Spanish...I will say, thank god he is fluent in Spanish, himself and the bus driver bonded...perhaps beyond what they normally would have under other circumstances lol.
All ill say is that we travelled with the following: 2xGerman chemical engineering students, 1xAmerican Geological Engineer, 1xCanadian Respiratory Nurse, 1xAustralian 60odd year old ex teacher and 1xSlovakian nanny...need I say more on this matter ;-) our guide Tanya was incredible though and we hope to see her again soon along the way.
So, off we went down south, first stop: Pomaire, meaning Cave of Refugees in Quechua language. A sleepy town, just waking up as we arrived, offering us coffee and a wee squiz around their ancient "Village of Indians", with Inca origins. Here they practice traditions and customs which are maintained in their clay handicrafts. Loads of little clay objects on sale here and for cheap!
We headed then to Rapel Dam which is a hydro-electrical complex n stalled in a concrete dam that collects the water of the rivers Cachapoal and Tinguiririca. It sounds pretty random to visit a dam wall or hydro-electrical complex but it was a pretty spectacular view so worth the quick 15min stop.
Our first over night stop was in Pichilemu, meaning small forest. Weird name considering its a well know and very popular surfing town, with the likes of Quicksilver competitions and the beautiful Kelly Slater frequenting it. It being Autumn now, it wasn't quite the "happening" place to be. We did witness a stunning sunset that evening in Punto le Lobos, which is just 6km south from Pichilemu - an impressive rocky peninsula with cliffs and a point break. We were also treated to a delicious dinner of fish and rice (pesco con roso) by our little hostel.
On the road again the following morning, early, due to the long drive to Pucon,about 700km further south. Stopping in Santa Cruz along the way and checking out the amazing Museo de Colchagua. This is the country's biggest private museum, built in 1995 by an obscure millionaire, Carlos Cardoen. Carlos made his fortune dealing with weapons. For many years he was in the top ten list of the most wanted criminals by the US government. After an amnesty he now can't leave Chile without risking imprisonment. I reckon he should be given an award of some sort as its the most awesome museum that has everything from Inca to Mapuche artefacts, shrunken heads (I know, strange but fascinating), weapons used during the Spanish Inquisition, pianos played and carriages drawn by the Chilean nobility, some of the oldest trains...you name it. Totally worth a visit should you ever be down this way.
We finally arrived in Pucon around 8pm, after about 12 hours of travelling, and according to our guide Tanya, in record time...perhaps due to the "standard" of our group hehe. Pucon, meaning Entrance to the Mountain, is Chile's southern tourist capital. Embedded in the Andean foothills, right beside the Villarrica Vilcano. This place looks nothing like the rest of Chile (from what we have seen), but rather like its been picked up out of a Swiss Alps village and planted here. It has wooden cabins all over the place where people either live, have their summer/winter (depending on their sport of choice) or run shops out of. It makes you want to sit in one of the little coffee shops sip hot chocolate and watch the world go by, expecting any minute for somebody to walk out in ski gear.
The main attraction in Pucon is the Villarrica Volcano. It's 2847m high, with a 200m wide crater. It's an active volcano, the most active in South America, and holds a lake of lava which reaches temperatures of 1250 degrees celsius! The thing to do when in Pucon, is climb the volcano. Unfortunately for us the weather was quite bad and all activities were called off for the day and night we were there. Instead we took advantage of the weather and indulged in a few luxuries, like massage and good meals. We also made our way to the natural hot springs in the evening, Los Pozones, a nice change from the smelly ones in Rotorua.
Through the Seven Lake Route, down to Valdivia (our next overnight stop)...oh my word, this drive is gobsmackingly beautiful. Valdivia is apparently one of the most beautiful cities in Chile...we beg to differ but each to their own. Being spoilt by the beauty of Pucon and our drive here we decided to take this one off the bucket list. Had a good meal of quesadillas in an Irish pub called The Clover...Tanya referred to it as the fake Irish club due it being called clover and not shamrock! The highlights in Valdivia were happening upon a group of massive sea lions as we took a walk along the harbour. I've never seen anything like it, they were huge and stank! And the other thing was stopping off at a traditional Chilean food market for lunch...tried out some empanadas, some meat sticks and some kuntsmann beer...delicious.
Interesting fact though re Valdivia: they had an earthquake in 1960 or there about, and it was and still is the biggest earthquake in the world. Measuring 9.6 on the Richter scale and causing tsunamis in Hawaii, Australia and Asia...scary!
Happy to be leaving Valdivia, back on the Panamericana Highway and 200km later we arrived in Puerto Mont. Puerto Mont has spectacular views of the Osorno and Calbuco Volcanos. Had a nice group lunch right on the harbour - Chris had some strange looking sea potato and mussels and I tried out ceviche for the first time...mmm to so sure about it. Walked around the handicraft markets for a couple of hours and made our way in the bus to Puerto Varas...the gateway to Patagonia...eeek
Puerto Varas is very like Pucon, created by German settlers, we have a fallen a little inlove with it. It's our jump off destination...Pachamama bus being a hop on/hop off type vibe. We have been here three days and we leave tomorrow for Bariloche - Argentine Patagonia. Or final evening with our crew, two nights ago,was spent eating pizza, reading a book out loud called "Dirty Spanish" and partying until the wee hours of the morning with a few locals who Tanya knows and they had invited us to their house party! Last night was chilled, today was spent practicing for the Inca Trail - this entails walking up and down hills, not something either of our bodies are quite used to...could get interesting.
Tomorrow morning and the next couple of days we are fortunate enough to be experiencing a little bit of luxury. We are embarking on a two day trip of ferry cruising and bus rides through the fjords and Andes mountains, destination Bariloche. We stay in a beautiful hotel tomorrow night...a hotel f******ck I'm exited...and continue on Friday through to Bariloche. From here our intention is to chill for a few days in the chocolate town of Bariloche, HELLO! And then head further south to Porito Moreno...one of the famous glaciers.
We need to be back in Puerto Varas by 26th March in order to catch our bus back up to Santiago again...between now and then, many an adventure will be had, many a moment experienced and I've no doubt our hearts will again be touched by the beauty of this continent, that which is South America...