The summary of Chile

Trip Start Feb 14, 2006
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Trip End Dec 15, 2006


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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Hi everyone.

Anyway, as most of you know I have recently left Australia for a year long transcontinental tour of the world with my girlfriend Louise.

So, after having been on the road for just over a week things were sailing pretty smoothly. As my first entry noted, things did not start that well but after a week of jet-lagged sleep, angry bus drivers, crazy roads and complete oblivion as to the complexities of the Spanish language, we were having the time of our lives.

We started heading South from Santiago down the West Coast of Chile. This took us through the Andean mountain ranges and into the top of Patagonia, an area famous for harsh landscapes, ruthless weather and amazing hiking.


Our first main port of call was in Pucon. This is a beautiful little town just south of Santiago that is famous for its incredible volcano and adventure activities. The town itself was incredibly touristy (in a rustic ski-village type way) and had lots to offer the adventurous. We heard there were some great waterfalls nearby so Louise and I decided to try our luck hiring some mountain bikes and riding there. This was a very big mistake. We quickly learned that an 'easy' mountain bike trail is infact an incedibly difficult and hard exercise in pain and suffering. We eventually made it to the waterfalls (after walking our bikes up most of the hills) only to realise that the ride back was even harder than the one there. Half way back we collapsed on the side of the road and had to hitch-hike the rest of the distance. There is not much more humiliating than a man with a bike trying to hitch hike. It demonstrates ones lack of fitness in an incredibly visceral way. What was worse was that the next day we were both so tired we decided trying to climb the volcano was just TOO HARD. This was a real shame as apparently at the top you can look into the crater and see lava bubbling. We decided after a few days of ridiculous prices that we needed to move and made the wonderful decision to head to Barlioche.

Barlioche is a little mountain village on the Argentinian side of the Andes. It doubles as a ski-resort in the winter and, much like the rest of the world, the prices reflect this. The lakes, however, are beautiful and blue, the Andean backdrop spectacular and the chocolate (this place has a reputation for it) is really, really good.

We managed to find ourselves renting a little apartment outside of town run by a soundly stoned-out hippie who was waiting for the next Woodstock. I had brought a small guitar with me on this trip (A martin-backpacker actually, so small that it fits in your pocket but sounds somewhat like a Banjo). When Mr. Marajuana saw me playing it he told me I had to visit his father. Although I was initially worried that my playing was so bad he was going to take me into the woods and kill me, I decided to go with him. That night we took a bus to this tiny little ramshackle house that was like a movie-set. If anyone remembers the scene in 'Meet-the-Parents' when Owen Wilson claims he ''carved a Gazeebo out of a single piece of wood'' you will have an idea of what this house looked like. The owner (I thought of him as the 'Maestro') was a charming old man who literally had wood-in-his-veins. He was an incredibly obsessed carpenter and instrument maker. Every nook and crany of his house had been worked, sculpted, shaved or modified. He had built the entire thing by hand and had been slowly working on it for over 40years. The highlight was when we got to visit his 'workshop' out the back. On every wall was an instrument of a different description - many were guitars but I had never seen most of them. There were lutes, violas and other pieces so complex they were difficult to describe. His passion was researching forgotten instruments and then creating them. He showed me, for example, the sort of lute that would have been played in the court of Henry the VIII. When he created a guitar for someone it would usually take him 6 or so months due to his perfectionism. We had a wonderful night drinking red wine and playing some of the most superb and beautiful instruments I have ever touched. He created pieces such as Asturias, La Catedral and Recuerdos for us. Magical.

The night would have been even better if we knew what he was talking about. Our spanish is still up and down. We ask for 2 nights accomodation and end up with a piece of fruit. It doesn't matter, we are starting to live the life we wanted and are starting to have fun.

Hope everyone is happy and well

Hasta La Vista, baby

James
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