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Published: January 13th 2007
New Years Eve 8AM
Francisco, Mikey, The 3rd Richest Son in Chile and the Best Moustache in Chile.
Hola Familia, Amigos and Amigas,
I apologise for the delay in this long awaited entry but it is here now, so you can stop your bloody whingeing.
For those of you who are too busy or cannot be bothered reading this whole entry, here is the summary of my trip to this point in time;
I started in Santiago, met a guy who looked like A.L.F, partied, headed North West to Cochagua for New Years Eve, partied, partied on New Years Eve at the house of the 3rd richest man in Chile, headed back to Santiago and toured through the city, partied, headed to the 2nd largest city in Chile, Valparaiso and the most popular beach in Chile, vina del Mar, partied, headed to Francisco’s farm and went horse riding and then began our road trip of 12 to the South of Chile, stopping in Pucon for fishing, a volcano tour, hot springs and more partying. Yesterday we stopped by the famous historical town of Valdivia exploring its famous fort and touring the Kunstmann brewery. We then stayed in the town of Lago (Lake) Ranco at Francisco’s Godmother’s lakehouse, kayaked, swam and partied before heading to Argentina yesterday
The New Years Eve Stolen Car Guy
The Stolen Car Guy with my hand on his head Addams Family Style for an unknown reason (Note the hat which only a drunk man would wear).
(you have to read this story), and we are now in the town of Bariloche. This trip has been nothing short of incredible and I am amazed daily at how beautiful Chile is and how much fun we are having.
Now for those of you who are bored, procrastinating or would like more details of my holiday, this is the best part.
Tony and I enjoyed the best of Aerolineas Argentinas hospitality after our flight was delayed about 4 hours, but alas we arrived in Santiago in one piece and were instantly thrown into the language barrier at a supermarket where we dodgily negotiated the grocery experience with our piss poor Spanish skills. We were then promptly escorted to Francisco’s house and headed out to dinner for sandwiches, sampling Chile’s finest cerveza (beer) and amazed at the 360 degree panoramic views of the Andes that Santiago boasts. The evening’s festivities saw us meet all of Francisco´s mates including a guy who looked EXACTLY like popular 80´s television star A.L.F and headed to what Australians would consider a typical South American fiesta, with the Aussie lads enjoying their first dose of Chilean pisco (a spirit which EVERYONE drinks here)
and Chilean women. And yes ladies and gents, there was even crazy South American dancing, a congo line and the limbo. A baptism by fire indeed. Sore heads then awoke in the morning to welcome our Japanese tour mate ‘Sushi’ before shopping up a storm and Francisco, his mate Rodrigo, Muhli, Tony, Sushi and myself headed 1.5 hours NW to a town called Maitencillo for New Years Eve, driving over the spectacular Andes. On the way we stopped at an amazing little town called Horcon for a typical Chilean meal of machas empanadas (like a South American meat pie with seafood in them), a famous local beer called ¨Barba Rocha¨ and a very ‘local’ Chilean experience. In typical South American fashion, we hadn’t booked accommodation in one of the busiest beach towns in Chile during its peak period, but as we have constantly found is the case, EVERYTHING ALWAYS WORKS OUT FOR THE BEST IN SOUTH AMERICA and all fell into place and we scored a great place for our NYE jaunt. That night we ‘hair of the dogged’ our hangovers at the beach house of Francisco’s brother, Patricio and piscoed it up some more with a BBQ and many
The Travelling Dozen
The next day was New Years Eve and we awoke to a typical South American breakfast of toast with Palta (avocado), the flavour of which can not be described adequately in words. It literally has to be tasted to be believed. Our afternoon saw us visiting one of Pancho’s friends for some Chilean hospitality and a life threatening walk along the Cochagua coastline to Las Cujas, as we were taken aback by the incredible scenery and walk along the rocks for a few beers and some awesome photos of the Las Cuchas beach and Penguin Island. Special special times. We then cooked a typical Chilean dinner i.e. a BBQ, feasting on the most tender of all meat (Lomo Vetrado), local salads and enjoying a box seat view of the Cochagua midnight fireworks with champagne to boot. It was a perfect way to see in the New Year and the party hadn’t even begun. Our evening saw us head to the house of the 3rd richest man in Chile and 200th richest man in the world in Zapallar, for a ridiculously great party at a spectacular venue, complete with too many piscos, more amazing Chilean women and some top
Mikey and Jamie Dury
Dead Ringer for Jamie Dury (Right hand side, not left)
Chilean blokes. After a truly memorable drunken sunrise, at around 7AM, we decided to go on a drunken walk along the beach, the highlights including ‘stealing’ a car the owner had left the keys in and moving it down the beach, having an altercation with the owner of the car who Francisco talked into not calling the police (EVERYTHING ALWAYS WORKS OUT FOR THE BEST IN SOUTH AMERICA) and a photo with the eventual jovial owner to prove it before heading back to our beachhouse, undergoing Francisco´s sleep deprivation classes, having another BBQ and display of South American juggling before hitting the hay at around 1PM. As one could imagine, New Years Day was more or less a complete write off, but we still managed to eat some of Chile’s finest seafood at one of the area’s finest restaurants in Zapallar, our night ending at a small market and amusement park for Chilean bingo and target shooting before enjoying Chile’s finest television network, Channel 542 and heading to sleep at a decent hour for once.
The time had come to say farewell to our amazing beach home, and after relaxing on the beach at Zapanyar with a couple of cervezas, we encountered our old man car owner again in a moment of pure hilarity. We then made our way back to Santiago, and caught up with Cristian, visiting a Santiagan micro-brewery and enjoying a night full of many laughs. The next day began by welcoming two Mexican mates of the Chileans, Alan and Alfredo (an absolute dead ringer for Jamie Dury and favourite with the Mums) before heading to Santiago for a day of sightseeing. Highlights included ‘La Moneda’, the Government building where Augusto Pinochet took power in 1973 and the then president of Chile, Allende, committed suicide, the famous Plaza de Armas and Santiago Cathedral and a walk up the national monument where Chile was declared a nation (‘Cerreo San Lucia’). That night we had a low key barbeque with some of Franciso’s friends and caught up with an American friend of our own Genevieve, who was in Chile for Christmas and New Years.
Our rampage of sightseeing continued the following day, as the crew headed to Valparaiso, Chile 2nd largest city and built on the side of hill which by Australian standards is definitely too steep to build on. We visited the house of famous poet, Nobel Prize winner and hero of Daniel Bazley, ‘Pablo Neruda’, and looked in awe at how much of a pimp this man was. Our afternoon was spent walking the labyrinth-like streets of the city, with its amazing little houses, street art and impressive little shops. It was one of those days which photos just couldn’t justify. That evening, we headed to the most popular beach in Chile, Vina Del Mar, which must also be the largest collection of amazingly hot women I have seen in my nigh on 23 years of life. When you think of a South American beach, this is the image you have in your head and dreamed you may one day witness. After a couple of hours of birdwatching, an encounter with a female fan of Jamie Dury who asked Alfredo for an autograph (a magic moment especially given that Alfredo accidently signed the autograph 'Davy Dury´ and the fan was a man!) and a couple of cold showers later, we headed 1 hour South of Santiago to Francisco’s farm. And to this day I can’t remember been so blown away by a house in my life. Whilst we expected we would be heading to a nice, humble little South American farm, we were very very wrong, arriving at a farm with its own swimming pool, tennis court, soccer field and one of the most amazing views of the mountains one could imagine. It was such an awesome experience, accompanied by equally awesome food, wine (from the farm itself) and company in Francisco’s very welcoming family. I think Tony summed it up best with the quote “Francisco, could I marry you one day?” Says it all really.
Just when we thought that Chile couldn’t get better (as we have thought nearly every day), we spent the next day touring the farm in true rural style, as we saw the impressive vegetable garden (the farm is self sufficient), avocado laden hills, vineyard and mountain vistas, having a relaxing swim and preparing for a horse ride up into the mountains. There could simply be no better way to see the mountains or the farm then by horseback and as the group of us headed up into the mountains, what we were met with at the top was probably the greatest surprise of all. Francisco had arranged a BBQ lunch complete with wine and beer for us at the top which saw us enjoy a ¨delightful¨ (Baker, 2006) afternoon and a perfect way to enjoy the beautiful scenery and food from the farm. After returning back down the mountain and taking a moment to enjoy the breathtaking view, we had an epic game of soccer with our latest arrivals, a Mexican called Alfredo and two Colombians, Felipe and David. For all Australian participants in the Soccer game, the words 'slow moving train disaster´ come to mind, as we were taught a lesson in ‘futbol’ and somehow my goalkeeping skills managed to see our team reign victorious. That night we enjoyed more amazing home cooked food, local wine and great company.
Saturday the 6th of January 2007 will always be a day that somehow disappeared. I vaguely remember some sort of party of around 80 people occurring at the farm, many drinks being consumed and a hell of a lot of dancing and attempted Spanish occurring. That is really all that I have to report about this day and I consequently feel moving on to the next day may be a good idea at this point.
We awoke on Sunday, remarkably free of deserved hangovers (canas), and met our bus driver ‘Mauricio’ (or Nifty Nev as he has been nicknamed due to his Australian appearance) as the 12 of us embarked on our two week holiday to the South of Chile. It was to be an 8 hour bus drive South, but as always, the Chilean fellas had a surprise in store as we stopped at the Chilean rodeo, like nothing we had ever seen before. Basically, the sport goes like this. Two men on horses attempt to trap a cow between them which is running around an arena. At designated spots in the arena, they must combine their efforts to ram the cow into the barrier. If the rump hits square onto the side, it is worth 4 points, the shoulders 3 points, the neck 2 points and the head 1 point. It is an absolute institution in Chile, and we all enjoyed the display of ridiculous violence towards cattle which we could possibly be eating in the coming weeks. As Muhli so aptly put, “no wonder the beef is so tender here” (huh huh huh, oh dear). Even funnier coming from a Hindu… That night we arrived at Francisco’s aunty’s lake house in Pucon where we would stay for 3 nights.
The day began with a walk around the beautiful little touristy town of Pucon, situated on a lake and beneath an active volcano, which last erupted in 1998. The town is very quaint and its population increases from 20,000 to around 100,000 in peak season. The town has a distinct German influence and is renowned for its plethora of outdoor activites. After wandering the town and its lakeside beaches, we returned to our lake house for sunbaking, swimming in the lake and lazing around the pool, a much needed rest after our ever-so-stressful couple of weeks (lol). That night we cooked up a storm with yet another Chilean barbeque with the obligatory avocado (I’m averaging 2-3 per day) and salad selection. We hit the sack early as we had a 7AM rise the next day.
7AM saw us heading to the nearby town of Villarica, for a morning of fishing. While we expected a big boat to take us all out, we were surprised to be met by 6 boats, each with a Chilean driver to row two of us around. It was a fishing frenzy out there, with our boat catching around 10 trout (with this budding Rex Hunt catching 7), and the beautiful river and surrounding bushland setting the scene for a most relaxing experience. How’s the serenity? So much serenity. We then stopped off on the side of the river for beers and a BBQ as we cooked our fish up for muy rico (very tasty) lunch. That afternoon we drove up to the volcano, touring the caves created in 1960 by a river of lava and grabbed some amazing photos. That night we had a low key dinner and headed north to some spectacular natural hot springs to relieve all of our stress (ha!), having a ‘very natural’ swim and topping off a truly phenomenal day.
Wednesday came and we sadly had to bid the amazing town of Pucon farewell. But as has been the case all holiday, this trip somehow got better. We headed 2 hours South to the city of Valdivia, a very important city in the history of Chile. We were made aware of this at Fort Niebla, where we took a tour of one of Chile’s most famous military strongpoints. Built in the 1600’s, Fort Niebla is where the world’s first naval land battle and one of the most famous battles in South American history occurred, as Lord Cochrane’s Chilean army defeated the Spanish, an event which saw Chile grow geographically into the country that it is today. Nifty’s bus then headed into town as we enjoyed a traditional Chilean lunch, and one of the biggest meals that I can remember having with empanadas, a plethora of seafood, pies and soups complete with local beers. Truly living la vida local. A tour of the famous Kunstmann brewery followed, as we sampled many of its finest beers and Francisco managed to talk his way (surprise surprise) into the area where they literally brew and bottle the beer (EVERYTHING ALWAYS WORKS OUT FOR THE BEST IN SOUTH AMERICA). But let’s be honest, we were all there for one reason and that was to sink a few lagers which we certainly did. Nifty literally paid for himself that afternoon.
Nighttime came as we were welcome by amazing hospitality at the house of Francisco´s Godmother, Lorretto as we were made welcome by her family and Francisco´s mum at their house on Lake Ranco. They even had gifts for us and our mothers, handcrafted wooden spoons and boats, the importance of which will become even more apparent later on. Needless to say, it was a lovely gesture and a pretty emotional moment for the touring dozen. After a hearty mum-cooked meal and a much needed sleep in, the following day was spent swimming and kayaking in one of those moments which makes you realise what holidays are all about. Kayaking around this lake, surrounded by 13 islands was truly a spiritual experience. The afternoon saw us go on a walk at the top of the surrounding mountains for a magnificent lakeside view, through the village of Lake Ranco and that night, we attended a neighbourhood party where Cyclone Michael hit Lake Ranco´s dancefloors, women and piscos. An absolute corker of a night was had by all.
Some days you wake up and have one of those days which you could never predict to occur. The day started in a pretty standard way. Breakfast, photos and a sad departure from our Chilean home away from home. We drove East, en route to Argentina, but the border is where the fun really happened. Old Nifty Nev our bus driver had neglected to obtain the necessary permits to enter Argentina and our predicament was dire. Nifty would not be let in to Argentina and we were forced to grab our bags and start walking to Argentina in the hope of somehow salvaging a form of transport to our next stop, let alone for the rest of our holiday. But you would be a stupid man to doubt our friend Francisco, oh yes you would. After talking to the customs officials, he brought Sushi in to play the international card, making Sushi give him one of the wooden spoons we received in Lake Ranco from Francisco´s Mum. Francisco then noticed the man was smoking, so offered him cigars and some wine in the hope that something could be arranged. Eventually the man found a bus for us to get over the border which we gladly travelled on, watching Jim Carrey movies dubbed in Spanish and all in overall good spirits. As we alighted the bus, confusion ensued as Nifty pulled in behind us, minibus and all. Francisco appeared out of nowhere, handing us each our first Argentine beer and all was fine once again. A ridiculous series of events and a great story for the blog. As has been said time and time again, EVERYTHING ALWAYS WORKS OUT FOR THE BEST IN SOUTH AMERICA. We will never be able to thank Francisco enough.
And so that brings me to now, sitting in an internet cafe in Bariloche, the most popular ski town in South America, wasting time that I could be spending seeing other things (joking). I would love to say that I am missing Australia but I really can’t at the moment. The holiday to date has grossly exceeded all of my expectations and I marvel every day at what we are seeing, doing and learning. The value of doing this sort of holiday with locals is incredible and we literally can’t thank Francisco and Cristian enough for all the effort they have put into giving us such a special experience and for their negotiation/bribery skills! One of the great things about this trip is that the boys aren’t even telling us where we are heading to next, so my future plans are a mystery to both you and me. So until next time, which will hopefully be soon, look after yourself and thank you for reading this far down.
Much love and jar bless,
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