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No Worries 'Mas o Menos' 2 years on the road, travelling South East Asia, China, South & Central America and who knows where after that... Photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/

Fear and Loathing in Valparasio

CHILE | Friday, 23 April 2010 | Views [2754] | Comments [1]

We arrived in Pucon as if by magic! Well, actually we arrived by our usual form of transportation after crossing the Andes, I just don’t want to start another blog writing about another bus journey :)


Volcan Villarrica stands at 2,840 meters (9318 feet) above sea level and dominates the skyline around Pucon and can be seen from all around town, when it isn’t surrounded by cloud.

It was dark when we arrived at our hostel so we weren’t able to see it at all, but we heard from other guests that the volcano was ‘lavaring’ for the first time in 3 years. As Villarrica is one of only four volcanoes worldwide known to have an active lava lake within its crater, we wandered into town the next morning and made sure to take a note of the evacuation signs and procedures and to familiarise ourselves with the light warning system in case of an eruption.

Pucon also has a black lava sand beach beside a lake, which only reminded us of past eruptions. Should we be getting nervous?

In the evening I had the most horrendous experience of our whole trip, when I could not buy a beer for love nor money!! In both Argentina and Chile they have a bottle return policy to encourage recycling. If you don’t have an empty to return they charge you $1 extra for your beer. It’s a good policy, although rather than carry beer bottles around with us between locations we start the process again in each new town. When buying our dinner I picked up a beer, however, it turns out that the beer that I was trying to buy did not come in a recyclable bottle so the cashier would not sell it to me. You’ll just have to imagine my sarcastic tone, that they would stock it and refrigerate it, but would not sell it! That is if I could even begin to convey any of that in Spanish :)

To make matters worse on our way back to the hostel we passed a bottle shop, so I decided I would not be thwarted. However, they wouldn’t sell me anything as I didn’t have a bottle to return. So I returned to the hostel with my tail between my legs, where thankfully the owner had an empty bottle I could use to exchange to get myself a hard earned beer. I only had one beer but I think I would have had more luck pronouncing the name of our next destination if I i’d had a few more! In Spanish H’s aren’t pronounced and QU is said as K and we were headed to...

Parque Nacional Huerquehue

We’ve been spoilt with both destination and weather recently and although Huerquehue was nice it wasn’t in the same league as Parque National Los Glaciares. The weather was overcast, which meant that the main attraction, its four lakes, didn’t look as good as they might on a clear day and Volcan Villarica didn’t reflect in their waters as it was shrouded in cloud. However, we were able to get close up to the monkey puzzle trees within the park and it was good to get the lungs working again as we decided to race back to the entrance to catch an earlier bus back to town.

Having done Thorong La pass and been ice trekking, what could we do to increase our trekking status? Climb a ‘lavaring’ volcano of course! Troubled by a cold Jo decided that she would sit this one out, a wise decision as it turns out. Having climbed vertically for an hour our group took a rest, had something to eat as well as taking pictures of the view.

However, despite the weather looking calm and being the clearest day so far, when we started the climb the wind at the top of the volcano had picked up and we were told that to get to the top we would have to deal with strong cold winds and sulphur, so we aborted our attempt, leaving our trekking status at just Ice Trekkers.

Santiago de Chile

Rather than attempt the climb the next day we continued with out plans to head to the capital. We arrived early in the morning and immediately felt that something had changed, and it didn’t take long to realise that we had that ‘big city’ feel again. In the five weeks since leaving Buenos Aires we had spent our time in relatively small locations, but now it was back to the hustle and bustle of big city life (without the work, of course!) and we were both looking forward to the change. Perhaps it would have been better experiencing the metro system outside of rush hour, although i’m sure the other passengers felt that way about our huge backpacks too.

After checking into a nice hostel with a cute dog named Pepe,

we dropped our backpacks off and went out to explore the city which turned out to be a good size for walking around and was particularly colourful.

We climbed Santa Lucia hill with it’s ornate facades, staircases, and fountains for a birds eye view of the capital. It’s a shame that the city was so ‘cloudy’ and that we couldn’t see the Andes as clearly as we had hoped. It seems Santiago has a smog problem similar to Chengdu's.

After the thirsty work of climbing Jo decided to treat herself to a drink and feeling adventurous she opted for a 'Rico Mote Con Huesillos' that we had seen advertised about town, which turned out to contain dried prunes and barley oats, it wasn’t quite the refreshing drink she was expecting, but apparently still quite nice.

We also took time to explore the museum of precolumbian history, which was a good introduction to all the civilisations of the continent and not just those from Chile and the Andes region.

We didn’t have any trouble finding the museum, but if we had we could have always asked the helpful tourist information guide in the Plaza de Armas, who scoots around on a Segway!

Santiago was also the scene of my first seismic experience when I was awoken early one morning by a shaking, or maybe it was just Jo prodding me to tell me she had felt an earthquake. There was nothing in the news about it so it must have been a regular occurrence for Chileans due to Chile's proximity to the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, two of the fastest converging plates in the world. However, after the magnitude 8.8 quake that hit Conception on the 27th February we were a little concerned.


Ah Valparasio, where do I begin? My mother always told me if I didn’t have anything nice to say then I shouldn’t say anything at all. That wouldn’t make for much of a blog though, so here we go........

The guide book describes Valparasio as a photographers dream, with its colourful mix of houses and hilly surroundings along with an aging hillside lift system, if not a little rough around the edges. A more appropriate description would be a giant smelly flea market of a town with paint peeling houses piled unsightly on the hillsides, with rusting lifts dotted around, with a feel of La Boca meets a Rio favela, which you wouldn’t want to photograph even if you didn’t feel too scared to get your camera out, unless from the safety of your hostel.

Valparasio was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 2003, it just doesn’t look like anyone has bothered to clean anywhere since, or maybe nobody ever came here and they awarded the status based solely on the translation of the cities name, Valley of Paradise!

I’m not a dog person (unless it’s Pepe) and in Valpo they seem to be as sacred as cows in India. Dogs are free to roam, sleep and do as they please. The city offers a beach area that is meant to be pleasant to stroll along, but all we found was a dirty dock area that had us choking on it’s mini dust storms. Often in city parks we get to see locals playing various games, but in Valpo we got to witness two bare chested homeless men thrashing each other with their belt buckles, gladiator style, to the entertainment of more people than I care to mention.

The cities main attraction is a 30 minute boat ride around the port, where they cram the boat full just so people can get up close to the container ships and docks, while making sure not to photograph navy vessels. Thanks but I think we'll pass!

As the city is the countries major port and naval base you would expect it to have a bit of an underbelly, but we just never felt safe and can safely say that we’re glad to be moving on next to somewhere hopefully much much nicer.

More on that next time.

Ryan y Jo

Photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dojo77/collections/72157623648048574/

Tags: huerquehue, pucon, santiago de chile, valparasio, volcan villarrica




I know you put that wine up top to hurt me....

Off to Iran tomorrow - shriaz shriaz everywhere but not a drop to drink!

dodd 'THFC 4 CL' dodd

  forest is no chance May 4, 2010 9:02 PM

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