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Published: January 21st 2020
Volcan Villarica, Pucon
I think there is probably a general feeling, because I misunderstood this before I came down here, that the working culture in South America is let’s say, a bit more casual…more days off, less hours, etc. This is a misconception as I quickly discovered by a quick search of Chilean work culture before I came down here (uh-oh, spaghetti-o!). Workweeks are actually a standard 45 hours, and the standard hours in the office 8 to 6 every day. Time-off is generally pretty limited, with standard contracts having three weeks, with very little flexibility to negotiate further (although I did, heh-heh)…I should mention that Steph is on an expat contract, while little ol’ me, well I’m on a Chilean contract, so I am part of the system – Pension (AFP), Health (Isapre), time-off, etc, and also a clause that once the contract is over, they’re paying for a one-way ticket back to Vancouver…so while I would say, depending on the exchange rate, which has currently swung about 20% against the Peso in the last month or two, so on a per hour basis perhaps I am probably earning less than when I was in Canada, where a standard week was 37.5 hours
Hiding from the Hail
Seeking cover from a flash hail storm at Ojos de Carbaruga
in BC, and people in Canada have the mindset that it was about getting the work done…and not necessarily being there for the hours. The one difference is that here, in certain years, there are one or two very long weekends in Chile…Dieciocho in September, and All Saints in October/November, so we always get the comment “Another long weekend…oh boy you sure have a lot of stat holidays down there”…well kind of, except that when those days land on the weekend, they don’t move, you just lose them. So some years you benefit, some years you don’t
Basically, what I want to say is…slow your roll Canadians with your time-off comments about us down here, you have it pretty good.
Speaking of long weekends however, the days fell correctly in 2019 for the November four day weekend, so we took the kids to go to Pucon in Southern Chile. And all I have to say is…the place is stunningly beautiful. We landed in the midst of a rainy day, and it was green, oh so green, and the air was humid, just like when you step off the plane when you get to Vancouver or Victoria. Humid, clean
Salto La China
A nice backyard water feature
air fills your nostrils, and giant dry boogers and nosebleeds become a thing of the past (Santiago after all is very arid). The area is so idyllic, with all the mountains and little farms with cows, sheep, and horses, and it reminded me a lot of a combination of the foothills in Alberta, Vancouver Island, and the coast mountains…plus of course a giant, snow capped smoking Volcano (Volcan Villarica which towers over the town of Pucon and Lago Villarica). The town itself, which because of the beautiful surroundings attracts quite a well to do crowd, and it’s a summer vacation hub for many well to do Chileans (known lovingly, or spitefully, as Cuicos here in Chile) is really charming, like you’ve been dropped in the middle of a town in the Swiss Alps. Despite the trip getting off to a bit of a weird start, as we had planned to take our Nana as Steph and I (speaking of Cuicos!) had made some plans to go to a few things that would be more challenging with kids, that didn’t actually happen, as a paperwork snafu prevented her from boarding the plane, with a Whatsapp conversation that was something like this:
Zoe Shaw Falls?
(2 hours before flight)
Nana: Got to the airport, see you at the gate
(10 minutes before boarding)
Nana: I’m in immigration, don’t know if I’ll make the flight, I’m missing a document.
Spoiler alert…she didn’t make it. Now don’t get me wrong, as she is great and amazing with the kids, but some days it is like having another child…although in her defense, she is in the middle of getting her Chilean citizenship (she’s from Peru) and the process here is so opaque and confusing, that I’m not surprised this happened…we were able to fortunately get a refund on her flight due to a bit of a stroke of luck. Anyway, while we left Santiago a bit annoyed, the weekend itself could not have gone better. We stayed in a beautiful apartment on the lake, and spent the time with the kids hiking, discovering waterfalls, and enjoying the town. Within about an hour of town, there are an incredible amount of waterfalls (the place gets lots of rain as we discovered during the first day, including dodging a hail storm), and you basically drive into someone’s yard, park,
and then hike/walk a little bit and there were these incredible waterfalls. We visited two, Ojos de Carbaruga, and Salto La China and based on the number of signs could have visited about a twenty more without driving much further than an hour out of town. Salto La China was really cool, as it was probably about 120 feet high and you just had this massive spray covering you as you looked. After a wet and cloudy day one, the second day broke sunny and revealed Volcan Villarica towering over the town, and we drove up to a hike a few kms below it. The kids were a bit slow off the start, and Zoe was nervous as we crossed these huge lava paths (Daddy, I see some smoke, I think the volcano is going to explode), but as we progressed we moved into this beautiful bamboo forest. Zoe especially loved it, as she thought it was like a “secret passage” and we ran through until we were stopped by deep snow that obscured the path. While we didn’t quite make it to the lookout, we still did get beautiful views of the lake and valley below. The town itself had some great restaurants, our favourite probably being a Uruguayan steak place called “La Maga” – our children are true Chileans as they sure do love steak. The area is also blessed with an incredible number of hot springs, and on our last full day we visited one called Termas Indomita on the road to Lago Carbaruga, which we basically had to ourselves for the first few hours (despite an 11am arrival…we call that a “Chilean start”). It was another beautiful and sunny day and after about a four hour long stretch there, we headed back into town feeling pretty rested and relaxed.
Anyway, for all our traveling down here thus far, I have to say that Pucon certainly ranks near the top, and we will definitely get back to explore some more. As we went there about 10 days after the social crisis started in Chile, it was a great break, and it was like being in a different world after a week of protests and looting and seeing Army in the streets…you would have had no idea what was happening in the rest of the country. The other part too, was the kids absolutely loved it, and that never hurts.
One last funny story, and I know I’m going long on these things, but just because these are the little things that I want to remember (so selfishly it’s for myself, no need to read), was the final night before we left back to Santiago. At home, we still have Maelle in a crib, so she is like a little jailbird in there, and is not used to sleeping in a bed and having some freedom of movement. At our departamento she had a bed…for the first night at least, I’m not sure she really understood that she could just leave the room. On the second night I think she got up and then crawled into bed with us for a bit more sleep in the morning. So on the last night, we put her to bed exhausted, but for whatever reason she woke up after about 15 minutes, and Maelle, with her new found flexibility and thinking she was refreshed after a long night’s sleep, slowly opened the door to our room and said “had a nice sleep time for milk”…uh well nope...so I brought an angry and confused Maelle back to her room, got her back to sleep and left…only for the same scene to play over 15 minutes later, with an even angrier and more confused Maelle being put back to bed…and fortunately this time she did go to bed for the night.
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