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Published: February 17th 2008
I disco across the countries!
Half of that mountain is in Chile, the other half, Argentina!
As of February the 8th, I officially have the disease! Travel Fever, Mile High Addict, Perpetual Motion Sickness, call it what you want....I have it! I had a very early morning flight from BA to Santiago, Chile and when I landed a too few two hours later, I had absolutely no idea how I wanted to spend my 7 days in Chile. I knew that i had to come back to Santiago at the end of my trip (in order to fly back to LA) so my only idea was....go north or south. I glanced through the Chilean guidebook at the airport and knew that my two options involved 13+ hour bus rides, which did not sound too exciting....especially given that I only had a few days! So I did what any other person with Perpetual Motion Sickness would do....I got off the plane, cleared immigration, then went back upstairs to the Departures area, found a ticket sales counter, and asked the lady....what is the next flight on your airline with availability? Wow, that was fun! She got me a flight in one hour to Puerto Montt, which is billed as the "gateway to Patagonia!" Awesome, since I dont think I
will get time on this trip to get down there, the gateway should serve me well!
I spent the next hour trying to come up with a plan for when I arrived. Would I try and get a tour down to Patagonia? Explore the region (which is known for its volcanoes and lakes?) Catch a ferry to the largest island in Chile? I decided my usual....go where the wind blows....because its always blowing the in the right direction! I arrived in Puerto Montt in the midst of a slew of forest and farmland fires, so the entire town smelled like forestfire and much of the beautiful horizons were hidden behind the smoke. But my first encounters of the persons of this region were impressive! My taxi driver and the small hotel owner were both so friendly and kind (and patient with my spanish!) and afterwards I realized I had just had two very long conversations with them, entirely in spanish, and I actually knew what we talked about and also felt very welcome! As I wandered the streets, I found myself grinning time after time. First I found the main square speckled with these groups of Indian bands...dressed very
much like the Native Indians of North America, and playing really impressive catchy music while dancing around, hooting and hollering, and spinning like theres no tomorrow! the waterfront and streets were absolutely packed with people, families, couples, locals just shopping, eating, enjoying the town, it was awesome! I stumbled into a pedestrian mall that had so many awesome colorful things for sale, and many funny things to watch! There was the Barney show...who knows why and where the money making was in that one, there was the dwarf pony and llama dressed up, a clown doing balloons with a buddy magician, and of course another Indian band! And this was all in two blocks! then I starting noticing that most of the stores were dark already...and it was only about 6pm! I thought, wow, how environmentally aware of them...I guess they try and conserve energy and operate without their lights on! But then when i tried to get dinner over the next two hours, I was turned down place after place because the POWER was OUT in the whole city! had to have a crazy cone of french fries with a hot dog in the middle from a street stand
(obviously deep frying on generator power!)
The next day I took a minibus about 20 min north to another small town called Puerto Varas. This is supposedly the second adventure captial of Chile and had travel agencies on every corner selling rafting, kayaking, canyoning, you name it! It is a small town that rests on the largest lake in Chile, Lago Llanquihue or something like that. Across the lake are two AMAZING sites...perfectly pyramidal snow capped volcanoes, which of course makes for black beaches! Awesome! I have to say, after being on 4 continents and 18 countries, it takes quite a bit to be something NEW! But volcanoes and black beaches? New and CAPTIVATING! I spent almost the entire day near the lake, drinking, eating, reading, shopping for jewelry at the local artists market, and staring at those magnificent pyramids on the other side of the lake! I knew I couldnt spend 5 days staring at volcanoes, well I could, but I only have 10 weeks left and that would be a waste! So I was VERY excited to find out that a company offered a tour through the andes called the Cruce de Lagos. It was a one
or two day trip via bus and ferry (and another bus and ferry and bus and ferry and bus and then a ferry and then one more bus!) through the volcano and lake regions of Chile, then over to Argentina, ending in the town of Bariloche! Now, Bariloche was a town that ALL the travelers in Argentina had been raving about and it was at the top of my "places to visit next time" list! So to find out that I had an opportunity to get over there NOW was sooooo AWESOME! Thank goodness they had room for me to join to tour the next day, and I decided to take a two day option, spending a night in the unbelivable remote and breathtaking town of Puella!
We started with an early morning bus around the lake and in between the two impressive volcanoes. We stopped a national park and took a 20 minute hike to a waterfall and rapids in the shadows of one of the volcanoes....again...i´m spoiled....and hard to impress these days....but WOW. I was enamored! A completely different kind of rock formation result from the lava flows and therefore, the waterfalls have a very unique appearance!
The water was a glowing blue and the rocks, a real, solid, black in patterns of, well, lava flow! Of course since I was on a tour, there were mostly busses of old people and Asians around me, and of COURSE about 3 different Americans picked me out of the crowd to start up a conversation. 😊 I have to say, i´ve met many Americans traveling SA, so I guess thats the most popular international destination these days! Next we got on the ferry and cruised for about 90 minutes with that awesome picture perfect volcano as the backdrop. I just sat on the top deck and stared in awe the entire time! We pulled into the small town of Puella at about noon and this is where most of the people went on to Bariloche, and about 50 of us stayed in town for the night. I set off on a hike up the mountain, but didnt realize it was actually going to be Up The Mountain! Holy COW! It was about a 45 degree angle THE ENTIRE TIME up up up up up up never ending switchbacks with absolutely no reprieve! I finally reached a waterfall after about
an hour (felt like 3 hours) and took a MUCH needed break. At this point, my 1L of water was almost halfway gone, so even though I wanted to push on.....I´ve seen too many I Shouldn´t Be Alives and didn´t want to end up puma dinner and stuck halfway up this mountain! So I went back into town and relaxed by the lake, did some yoga in the valley, and enjoyed the sounds of silence (Electronica-Dance shuffle on my Ipod.) the next day, more bus and ferry action, and crossed the border back into Argentina! Didn´t think Id be back here so soon! The best part is that at all the immigration stations, they have to call out everyones name, always last names, Rodriguez, Parillo, Consanchez, I always know its my turn when they pause. Make a funny face. Then say, Estephanie?
My last ferry ride through Argentina I met two very fun nice girls from Brazil, who spoke NO English. Unbelievably I talked to them for over an hour! Although my input is limited to traveling, food, nationalities, and weather, they chatted on and on for a very long time and I totally knew what they were talking
about, even though I could only repsond by laughing and saying Si alot! I finally arrived in Bariloche that evening, and we had another bus ride to the bus station. My introduction to the town was amazing, all I saw was chocolate factories and mountains! Awesome! Wéll save the chocolate indulgences for the next blog....
Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!
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