Volcanos and Prehistoric Trees

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November 2nd 2006
Published: November 2nd 2006
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Its going to be a long one!!
We left Santiago at a reasonable hour, the bike now shod with a new rear. Our first days riding in 4 was a gentle re-introduction to 2-wheel travel with a mere 125 mile (200km) jaunt to Curicó, a small but, apparently, pleasant town. We arrived and soon found that virtually all accommodation was being used by migrant workers employed in the vineyards, so we saddled up again for another 40 miles (60km) to reach Talca: a town supposed to benefit from a big city attitude. We rode through and on our second attempt found lodging in a seemingly pleasant hostel, rode the bike down the drive to park it up and settled down to a restful night of snacks, cointreau and cable TV (Channel AXN is the BEST: loads of US drama series like Alias, Invasion, Lost, etc and with english soundtrack!!). Or so we thought... Unbeknown to us, we shared our lodgings with a most fiendish tenant: The elderly lady away with her healthy living club buddies, all of whom are full of over the top exuberance, energy and forgetfulness. I now affectionately refer to these individuals collectively as "Las Gritas" (loosely
More tea, Vicar?More tea, Vicar?More tea, Vicar?

These 7 "Tea Cups" who give their name to the National Park are truely spectacular!
translated as The Screams) Let me explain:

The Forgetfullness: I am here with about 50 go-get-'em gals and I just love being active. In fact, I have to make sure that I am the most active one: can't let any of them out do me!! In order to do this I must be the one to get everyone going: life and soul of the party etc. So what do I do? I knock on their windows and say stuff like "come on Girls, party time!!" Aren't I fun?
In short, no she is not because, despite her vitamin diet and matching tracksuit, she still has no recollection of which rooms her pals are residing in, despite that only two others are not being used by the party in question. Hence, why Nick had to run out into the night to find an empty landing, wearing just a towel, after some cretin had knocked on the window at 22.30.... (first chink in the armour)

Over the Top Exuberance and Energy: Given the fact that they owned most of the hotel and had either forgotten (see above) or chosen to ignore the fact that others also had paid money for
No animals were hurt during the production of this blog!No animals were hurt during the production of this blog!No animals were hurt during the production of this blog!

The size 10 (44 EU) boot is there for scale, not because we almost squashed it!
a place to rest, these specimens got up at 07.30 and immediately started doing what they did best: screaming to one another across an expanse of at least 2 metres and knocking on random windows (see above), hoping one of their buddies was inside donning their tracksuit of power.

Kris and I did not benefit from our planned uninterrupted lie-in, but instead had to listen to the 08.00 Aerobics class they insisted on conducting in the courtyard below us. (two steps left, two steps right, turn to the right, two steps left, two steps right, clap...repeat unto the ending of time...or 08.45, whichever comes first).

Point of Interest: It has come to my painful attention that wherever an establishment has a comfortable bed, one can be sure that circumstances will conspire to ensure one does not enjoy it for long. Vinuña: comfy bed, but creaky floorboards and residents coming back every 30 min till 07.00. La Serena: Comfy bed, but one bloke trying to get in at 06.17 pressed doorbell for 2 min stretches: with no success. Santiago: comfy bed, but unexplained 30 second buzzer every 5 mins from 07.30. Talca: Comfy bed, but see above.

Our first camp fireOur first camp fireOur first camp fire

It lit first time, thanks largely to some good, beer-punctuated advice from my own personal, Ray Mears/Lofty Wiseman...you know who you are!!
we finally woke up, we drove out for 20 minutes in order to arrive at the Casa Donoso vineyard, where we were given a tour after playing with the guard dogs for an hour: very big and very playful.. and they slept in old wine barrrels: life is hard!! Once the visit was over we bought a couple of bottles and arranged to collect them in a few days. The next day, we got up early, especially, and I made a point of warming up the bike by bouncing it off the rev-limiter for the benefit of our fellow guests. The acoustics of the parking bay were great: enjoy ladies!!
We rode back North for a bit and entered the town of Molina, where staring is second to godliness: and as such, everyone living there was deserving of canonisation. After lunch, we continued through an eyeball cross-fire and left town following signs for Las 7 Tazas (the 7 Tea-cups). The tarmac finished far earlier than I had hoped and we started on was to be 2.5 hours and 40 miles of off-road. The first 30 were gravel, followed by dust and then some packed earth, then back to gravel etc.
The Hunter-Gatherer in actionThe Hunter-Gatherer in actionThe Hunter-Gatherer in action

Nick scorns the trappings of the taps and sinks, 100 meters away, and goes wild!
The final 10 however, were all of the above interspersed with bloody big rocks sticking out for the ground, all set on a road made of steep climbs and steep descents with flooded stretches and streams added for good measure. A Patient Kristina and a Wrecked Nervous-System Nick finally arrived at the national park. Tired, we found ourselves a camping spot in El Rio camping site, that is run by the CONAF (National Park association). It was beautiful: shady trees, sunny spaces and the constant roar of the cascading river down in the gorge, 20 mtrs away. This same river gave us drinking water when I lived up to my Wild Forest Man image by braving the surging 6 meter deep ( we later calculated) waters by throwing in our plastic water jerry can attached to a length of paracord: 10 litres of fresh glacial melt water: Free of Charge. To finish of the day we rode (walking seemed like too much effort) back for 2 miles (3km) to the 7 Tazas. I would like to point out that the demanding ascents that we ploughed up to reach the camping site turn into jaw dropping, sphincter-clenching descents, going the other way. One was a 1:3-1:4 slope that I went down mostly with my back wheel locked up, dragging gravel.....Laugh?! I nearly did!!
The 7 Tazas are 7 blue, crystal clear, consecutive pools each feeding the next by a waterfall and are absolutely beautiful. The walk round the edge of the gorge and down its face, was fantastic. It was well worth the toil up the road. It was even worth almost stepping on the first (and later the second) ever free living tarrantula spider either of us had ever seen. Both seemed to be irrate examples of the species that disliked a digital lens shoved at their body segments, set to a privacy-breaching macro-mode! Still, we did not touch and they left us alone too. To be sure, if you found this in your bath, you would calmly shut the door, and start plans for building a new bathroom elsewhere. This did mean that, later at the campsite I practiced good camping technique and put socks on the ends of my boots over night. And then put socks on the socks!!
A campfire, moonlight, food, beer and cointreau out of a tin cup soon calmed us down and we enjoyed
Nick performs a fiery ritual...Nick performs a fiery ritual...Nick performs a fiery ritual...

...to the pagan god of upright motorcyclists in preparation for the next day's ride.
our best night's camping yet. The next day, as we had decided we remained in the camping, lazed at the gorge's base watching the river surge passed, followed by a walk up the mountain. That evening proved as pleasant. And chilly too, as we learned that the temperature had dropped on both nights to about 2-3 celsius. Tents, bags and thermal undies all worked as they should. I had been dreading the ride back down the road to Molina, but, perhaps as I had done it once, something seemed to click and the going was good. Not a breeze, but I just felt that I simply got on with the job instead of being scared witless. And so we shaved 40 min of the journey time!! Still only an average of 23 miles an hour, though!!
Once back on the road we started South and covered 170 miles to the town of Chillan and booked into a chalet type motel for convenience. We soon wished we had checked first as the chalet turned out to be a cross between a mosquito nest, petri-dish and crime scene. The first two points need no explanation, but the dried blood stains in various
It may not look it...It may not look it...It may not look it...

...but it was a steep, rocky, rutty and generally very anti-social track
places clarified the latter and meant we slept in our sleeping bags, on top of the bed, never set bare foot on the floor and finally, made very generous use of the alcohol disinfectant gel through-out. The next morning we left as soon as our aseptic technique would allow and continued south covering a respectable (for a change) 230 miles (370km) to arrive at Villarica, a nice town on the lake of the same name with the Volcano of (you guessed it) the same name on the opposite shore, awaiting our closer inspection!!

Leaving Santiago
We left The Capital on Friday, 27 October and on the way got a faint flashback of life back at home: a traffic jam. Inhaling the once so familiar exhaust gases, putting up with bullying taxi drivers, our ears were sore from the never-ending beeping and shouting. Huh! Being back on the grey carpet of the Panamerican Highway that took us away from the ant-nest of people was a real bliss! This time, it took us to a town called Talca: a network of one-way streets called Sur (South) 1, Sur 2, Sur 3 etc - no need here to train your brain
The dusty travellers, and the Bride's Veil!The dusty travellers, and the Bride's Veil!The dusty travellers, and the Bride's Veil!

If we had not got the water in our can, it would have gone over this drop, about 30 min after passing our camp!
on the names of the Spanish liberators, as normally! We negotiated our way through the North and South facing streets and landed in quite a nice little hotel. It was a lovely evening, sun setting slowly behind us as we were sipping cold beer on our terrace. To top it all up, the American satellite company treated us with a good movie until the early hours of Saturday. But as all good things, it would not last forever… At around 7:25am we were woken up with a loud knock on our door. Too sleepy/confused to understand what was going on, we were soon punished for our lazyiness. Yes, the group of activist-grannies who had arrived the night before were gathering in the alcove in front of our room and, clapping and shouting loudly to keep the rhythm, started practicing some aerobics steps… I’m not sure how long it lasted but it sure felt like an eternity. I can only blame the elderly for us sleeping for another 4 hours and wasting most of the Saturday!!! At midday, tired but determined, we decided to visit a local bodega (winery) called Casa Donoso. It was a lovely vineyard, run by a group
"El Hades" would have been more appropriate"El Hades" would have been more appropriate"El Hades" would have been more appropriate

retrosepctively, we should have expected Police Tape barring the entrance
of very rich French guys as a “hobby” (one of the owners owns the biggest black pearl nursery in the world!). We did not do the degustation as Nick was riding and I felt it would not have been fair to “steal” the red wine glasses from him (he has a particular liking to reds) - we did, however, buy a few bottles that we’d love to share with our good friends back at home!

The Seven Teacups
My guide book described the road to the park as “60+km of steep and rough dirt”; the guy in the Conaf office however ensured that the first 40km would be asphalt and only the last 20km gravel - Nick’s biggest dislike SA. Once we were on the way it was clear that my book had been right… Nevertheless, apart from some hefty swear words, Nick was doing really well! We had everything, from dirt to loose gravel, big cobble stones, mud, streams, sand, steep hills and descents! Good for the quads, I would say! Or otherwise your bum is badly beaten by the saddle 😊 I must confess that I actually quite like the old dirt roads… Simply because tarmac opens
No, its not too hot,No, its not too hot,No, its not too hot,

we jst walked up to the waterfall's base!
too many doors to too many people. A bit of “ripio” scares off the “modern” travellers with their shiny 4x4s and this leads to less people at the destination.
Finally, we arrived in Parque Ingles - a Nacional Reserve preserving some of the most spectacular sceneries in Chile. The dusty and sweaty 3 hours on the road had been definately worth it! I had almost forgotten that it is still early spring here: up at 1100m above sea level it was all there - every shade of green you can think of, small and large - the “right” colours but “wrong” shapes to us, europeans. The ground was covered with a fresh carpet of delicate mountain flowers: yellow, purple, white, and the air was hot when in the sunlight and chilly in the shade. Perfect!
Still dizzy and tired of the steep ascent we found a lovely camping site on the banks of a fast-flowing river with cristal clear water - Rio Claro. Nick kindly put up the tent when I fixed us a bite to eat. It was 4pm - we had escaped from the crazy grannies 7 hours ago.
My joints had been particularily bad that day and
This is what happens when...This is what happens when...This is what happens when...

...the tourism board does not research annual flood levels when building the new path to the water falls
I was not up to the 1.5hr hike to the Las Siete Tazas waterfalls. Nick, lovely and caring as always, offered to ride there instead. It had been less than 1hr since he had slowly (read: rapidly) lost his mind trying to negotiate the challenging terraine! And ungrateful as I am, I still accepted his offer… Without the luggage this time, we headed back to the road and Nick did some fantastic stunts when riding through little rivers whilst standing up on the pegs! He confessed later that he actually quite enjoyed the ride, especially when the bike was half the load and easier to control (which made me feels less quilty about my cheekyness). The “teacups” are 7 laggoons on Rio Claro, linked with little waterfalls- beautiful! A few hundred meters later there was a bigger waterfall called Salto de Leone (the Lion’s Jump) - also very beautiful! And between the waterfalls, on the track, was the biggest spider we had ever seen - alive and very alert, ready to shower us with his little bum-hairs as a defence! No sight for an arachnophobe, but still really fascinating in a spooky way. It was about 5-6cm long (with its
Finally, some serious miles.Finally, some serious miles.Finally, some serious miles.

After faffing around for a few days we finally make some god distances to Villarica
legs bent), covered with a thick layer of hair and had an orange “collar”. Nothing that you’d like to see staring at you in the ceiling of your room… However, I think the poor thing was more scared of us than anything… 😊 That’s what I call real wildlife for city rats like us!
Nick has already described the relaxing camping atmosphere that we experienced on the following few days. Thank you, Lea, for training Nick on survival techniques! I was facinated to see him, tied up on a rock with the green rope you gave us, fishing out a big white water cannister from a VERY fast-flowing mountain river. Successfully! And the taste of the water reminded me of my childhood, it tasted like icicles!

Unfortunately, time was pressing us as always and yet again we had to leave the place that we really liked. After a lousy night in "sunny" Chillán - in a filthy cabaña called "Heaven" that made me itch, we have arrived in Villarica and are curious to see what hot magma looks like.
But there will be another blog to tell you about that.


2nd November 2006

Hi guys, It all looks like so much fun! Nick, you have a colony of bird eating spiders nesting on you face! I will, however, forgive you, as your fire was such a profesional job.... My God, the man listened to me!!!!!
2nd November 2006

Hi guys so sorry the Westerman house hold has been so rubbish in keeping in touch! Dave has been away almost as much as you it seems, working at the NEC and very hard on various work projects and it just seems to have been manic - bet you are really missing that feeling!!! Thank you very much for my Birthday wishes and happy very very belated birthday wishes to you Mr Marsh. We love reading your blogs they are very entertaining and I'm not jealous at all now that it is dark by 4.30pm and it was bloody freezing this morning!! Take care and keep on enjoying yourselves Loads of love Lynnie and Dave xxxxxxx
2nd November 2006

Guys, I was beginning to worry about you, as there was such a long silence. Keep writing, always an enjoyable read. Trev

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