Pucon - like a home away from home

Trip Start Jul 13, 2006
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Trip End Dec 22, 2006


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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hey everyone...
Sorry to take so long to write a new blog. It's actually great to be harassed by people to write a new one. I've been avoiding writing a new entry because I was feeling really annoyed with this site. I still haven't been able to get the rest of my Peru pics up yet, but that is most likely because of the computer we have at the apartment in Santiago.
Anyway, this weekend I was in Pucon, which is a 10 hour bus ride south from Santiago. I met up with my friends Florian (German) and Anna (Danish) at the bus station early on Friday morning, though I almost missed it because I had been out the night before with my roommates and some friends. It was a good night...
The bus trip was fine. For a while we had this compilation disc of music videos playing and it was all classics. It was hilarious...We were rocking out for the first few hours. Later, I became ill from my hangover and that pretty much put me out until we arrived in Pucon.
We checked into our hostel and it was great, though a little expensive. We were all starving after the bus ride so we decided to head out to this Uruguayan Parilla (Steakhouse). The old lonely planet said it was the best steak in Chile! Unfortunately, the place was priced accordingly and we decided to go to the Argentinean place next door. We got a 2 person platter but it was enough for all three of us. IT WAS THE BEST MEAT EVER. The guys were cooking it on the massive parilla (grill) outside and then they bring it to your table on a mini grill so it keeps it warm, or you can let it keep cooking. The meat was so good. Ribs, steak, skewers, chorizos, and morcilla (black pudding - sick). We devoured it and then went back to the hostel for a great nights sleep.
On Saturday morning we met Timmo (also from Germany) who had just arrived and we decided to change hostels. We went to this amazing place right on the lake and had our own 4 person room! It was way cheaper too!
After that, we rented some mountain bikes and headed off. I guess I should explain what Pucon is like. Its a lot like Whistler, except Villarica (the mountain) is a smoldering volcano! The countryside is spectacular and a lot of the people in the area are of German descent, so the whole place has a very Alpen feel, with chalet-type buildings and lots of coffee shops serving Kuchen (my German friends were in heaven). Anyway, we rode around on our bikes for a while taking in the scenery. It was a really sunny day too, which made everything perfect. That evening we had a great meal at an Italian place. I had tortellini stuffed with ricotta, chicken and walnuts in an alfredo sauce! It was great...After that we headed back to the hotel to get to bed because we had made arrangements to hike the volcano the following morning.
We woke up on Sunday to find that the weather had turned and we couldn't hike the volcano! BOO! We were all a bit pissed, but decided to make the most of being up at 630 and headed out to Parque Nacional Huerquehue. It turned out to be a really great day of hiking. The place was really beautiful, though the mud made it difficult at times and there was snow at the top, which we hadn't planned on. Make sure you check out the pics, because they are great.
After a few falls, some makeshift banana-chocolate sandwiches, and lots of laughs we ended up back down at the bottom and headed to a little refugio to dry off by the fire and have some warm tea and food. It was perfect. So weird though as well because I couldn't help thinking I was at home. The scenery was so similar...
For dinner that evening we joined up with a group of three Spanish people who were also staying at the hostel and headed out to a middle eastern place. Since it was the off season, the owners were really happy to have a group of seven people come in, and they treated us really well. We ordered two platters to start, with falafel, stuffed peppers and chillies, dolmades, skewers, and lots of other things. For my main course I had shish kebab with hummus and tabouleh!! I loved it! I'm in hummus withdrawal here in Chile...so much so that I actually made a huge vat of it about two weeks ago.
On monday the weather was still a bit iffy so we couldn't climb Villarica. Anna, Florian and I decided to go to the natural hot springs instead. We got picked up at the hostel, stopped off to get beers and snacks on the way, then headed out about an hour out of town to this amazing valley with a river running through it. Alongside the river were about 6 pools, all of varying temperatures. This one, called Los Pozones, is apparently the best one to visit because it is in the best setting. The others in the area have pools built, but this one is more attractive because it is 'natural' - hehe. It was very relaxing - we hung out there for 3 hours, enjoying the beers. We were really tired from the past two days activities, so it was exactly what we needed.
That night, Anna and Timmo had to come back to Santiago so Florian, myself and the owner of the hostel went back to the Argentinean steakhouse. Since it was thanksgiving I wanted to have something nice and I ordered the salmon. It was pretty good, but nothing like home. I have really become a wild salmon snob and really don't enjoy (or like the idea of) farmed salmon. Anyway, it was cool to get into the thanksgiving mood...I explained a bit about it to my friends who wanted to hear more about Canada. It was a good night.
The following day we woke up to a clear sky with the sun blazing in through the window. Finally! We thought we could climb the volcano. We scarfed down our breakfast and headed to the equipment shop to put on our boots and headed out in a four wheel drive to the base. Unfortunately in the time it took us to get there the weather went to shit and we got completely fogged in. We decided not to do it even though other groups were going up. This is mostly because if it starts raining the guides make you head back immediately and you don't get your money back. Also, with so many clouds, it would be just like hiking up some snow...not much fun if you don't get to see the crater. So we headed back to town.
On a whim, Florian and I decided to head to Valdivia, which is 3 hours south-west of Pucon. It is a really nice place, supposedly the nicest town in southern Chile actually, and there are a lot of Germans there. We spent the day walking around. We headed to the fish market and then grabbed some lunch. We finally got reasonably priced food, now that we were out of the tourist town. I had Merluza, or Hake. It was so good!!! Afterwards we headed to the museo Historico. It was pretty good, with lots of info on the German settlement in the area. There were also lots of old maps, as well as items found in the area that are related to the Mapuche culture in the area.
For dinner we headed to the Kunstmann Brewery, just outside of town. Kunstmann is a brewery that was founded by Germans, and probably makes the best beer on the continent. They also have a German-style restaurant with REAL GERMAN FOOD! FINALLY! I was pretty damn excited.
The place was hilarious. It was like being at Oktoberfest. They had mannequins with lederhosen, Um Pa Pa music, and lots of German paraphernalia as well as a small museum. We were mostly there for the food. To start we were brought a sample selection of the six beers they have on tap there. We decided on the Torobayo (pale ale) and ordered a 2.5 litre column and ordered an appetizer of Wurst and fries. So good. For my main course I ordered Kassler (pork back medallions) with ApfelMusse (apple sauce) and Rot Kraut (red cabbage). I also ordered a side of spatzle (German style pasta) because it is ridiculously delicious. We also ordered another column of the beer. By the end of it all I was more full than ever, but extremely satisfied. We quickly headed back to town to catch out bus and I immediately fell asleep.
Ahhh....What an amazing long weekend! One of the best for sure. Anyway, now I am back in Santiago and the weather is shite. Hopefully it will get better soon, though I suppose its convenient because I have lots of work to do this weekend.
Take care!
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