Chile; The Road South (1)


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South America » Chile » O Higgins » Pichilemu
January 30th 2007
Published: February 2nd 2007
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Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

Sunset from the rocks at Puntu De Lobos near Pichilemu.
Thursday 25th January to Saturday 27th January, 2007.

Mario woke me as requested at 8.45am, three hours after hitting the sack, and I then spent an age waiting for the tourbus which was forty five minutes late, time I would have just loved to have spent horizontal in my bed. I met my guide, Tonia and driver Sergio then climbed aboard barely looking down the bus at my new friends with whom I´d be spending the next five days and nights. For some bizarre reason the only seat vacant was the one at the very front, the one with unlimited leg room and it was all mine. I was happy.

After an hour we stopped at the small village of Pomaire, known for it´s hand crafted pottery, an ancient village of ´Indians´ with Inca origins. I departed the bus and walked on down the street. It was still too early for mingling and introductions. When I returned I chatted to two of the waiting punters, Chris a pleasant young Aussie who´d lived in Brighton for the last three years and whose accent had metamorphisised into something resembling David Gower and Anth, whose eyes, probably like mine were still bloodshot
Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

The Casino at the small village Pomaire.
fom his previous night´s excesses. Later that afternoon we stopped at Rapel Dam before finally reaching our first night sleepover town of Pichilemu, the seaside town recommended to me by Elizah.

En route I had plugged my ipod into the buses hi-fi and everyone, including Sergio and Tonia seemed happy with my selection of Faithless but disaster struck after just two songs when the damned thing packed in again. I was horrified and all attempts to resuscitate it failed.

Tonia had asked if any of us wished to participate in either of two activities when we arrived in Pichilemu, surfing or horse riding and I decided why not ? I chose the latter. I really didn´t know what to expect as I walked to the beach with Anth, the guy I´d met earlier who was by now in a sober state and his girlfriend Vicky, horse riding can mean a lot of things. It was only a short walk and the makeshift stables soon came into view making one thing immediately apparent. These weren´t no Blackpool beach donkeys but real horses.

I was given the ropes to a black and white piebald stallion with a shorn mane
Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

He reminded me of Zach from ´The Secret Life of Bee´s´
that stood up like a mohican, the one that I´d pointed to when I said to the other two "I want him" and discovered his name to be ´Ovaru´.

I haven´t been on horseback since I was a small boy so felt a certain sense of achievement at selecting the correct leg to insert into the stirrup prior to mounting which, with one swift action, went without hitch. I patted ´Ovaru´ on the kneck, he grunted in reply and we were off. Vicky, Anth, me and a talented young gaucho from the stables.

After a couple of minutes walking Vicky was raring to go, already bored with the walking pace although I was quietly happy thank you very much. It was all right for her, she´d owned her own horse the last ten years and could safely say she knew what she was doing. Suddenly she jabbed a quick stab of her heels into her steeds ribcage sending it into a light jog and, unfortunately for me ´Ovaru´ followed.

The walking pace was easy, just a gentle swaying motion was all that was required to look and feel that you were born in the saddle but by
Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

I found another friend in Pomaire.
increasing his pace only ever so slightly ´Ovaru´ sent me into convulsions not helped by the sound of Anth wetting himself with laughter at my predicament. Each time ´Ovaru´s´ back reached it´s lowest point I had been bounced up and down on his saddle at the speed of an out of control jackhammer cutting through solid concrete. I laughed uncontrollably too and that, allied to my acute lack of rythm was putting me in severe danger of being thrown to the ground. "Thank God I only booked the hour" I said to the others when I had finally managed to bring ´Ovaru´ back to a stroll but Vicky assured me it got easier the faster you went. I was going to take some convincing. We went through some thick woods where regular ducking was the only way of avoiding a repeat of the Bondi Beach bus incident until we re-emerged onto the huge expanse of black sand.

By this time Anth was raring to go too, the Gaucho had returned to the stables from whence he came, and suddenly I was hit by a wave bravado. "Sod it" I said "go for it". Walk changed to trot changed to
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Ducks battle with the fish by the dam at Rapel Dam.
canter and she was right, it did get easier. However, she´d neglected to tell me that in South America horses are trained to go faster when the rider leans back, a position I was finding far more comfortable and easier to maintain balance in which in turn, unbeknown to me was just encouraging ´Ovaru´ to put the pedal to the metal. I was galloping along the shoreline holding on for grimlife with one hand to the saddle and the other to the rope. I was totally out of control. Anth, another complete novice was matching me stride for stride in the shallows, drenching himself in the process. He later told me he wasn´t but to me he looked equally out of control.

When I finally managed to bring my mount to slow down to a walk again I caught my breath, pulled myself together and realised, just like a ride at Alton Towers, that I wanted more and I took him for three more gallops along the beach. Brilliant.

Tonia had arranged a sit down bbq with the hostel owner and at 9.45pm, after a trip watch to the sunset at the nearby Puntu de Lobos we all
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The huge dam at Rapel.
sat down for a feast of meat, salad and red wine and basically got to know each other a bit better. The next five days were going to be just fine.

In my room, which unusually for a hostel featured real beds were Chris, the young, quiet and polite David Gower sound alike I´d spoke to earlier and another Chris, a 35 year old Candian lawyer who´d packed in his job to travel. The rest of the party consisted of Anth and Vicky, both 26, pals Harriet 23 and her foul mouthed friend Catherine whose travelling agenda was almost similar to mine, two very quiet Canadian girls, Dave, 33 from Southampton, Daniel from Sweden, the miserable as sin Ben from Aus who by the end of the day I still hadn´t conversed with, a young German girl Katrin and Sergio and Tonia, the girl with the sexiest accent in the world.

We all knew day two was going to be tough. It consisted of a 707km drive south to Pucon with just a mid-morning stop at a Santa Cruz museum and when I sat down for breakfast at 8am I knew it was going to be even tougher
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Three Amigos; Anth, Vicky and me about to get saddle sore.
for me. My hour spent imitating a basketball in Ovura´s saddle the previous day had rendered my buttocks tenderer than a slab of the finest argentinian fillet. My back was suffering too and Anth and Vicky were in similar condition.

We were on the road by 8.45 and stopped at The Museum de Colhaqua in Santa Cruz by 10.30. Everything in the museum is owned by multi millionaire snr Carlos Cardoen who earned his money selling arms to the Iranians and who for many years was on the top ten wanted list of the US Government. It took over an hour to view the exhibits which ranged from vintage cars, pots and bones to paintings, coins and steam engines, all with a connection with Chilean history. I may consider taking up weapon dealing when I get home. Anyone want to buy an air pistol ?

I spent the rest of the journey in my seat at the front chatting to Tonia whilst the rest of the bus familiarised themselves with each other. By now I´d become accepted as the bus DJ and as Tonia´s CD collection was much to my liking it was rock most of the way.
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´Ovaru´ tucks in.
She also tried patiently to instill some Spanish into my head albeit unfortunately to no avail.

We finally arrived in the lakeside town of Pucon after striking a bet about arrtival time. I won. It was 9.16pm and we went straight to get ourselves kitted out for tommorow´s adventure. Boots, Leggings, jaclet, helmet, ice pick. We were going to climb an active volcano.

After meeting up for dinner a few of us retired to a local bar where Tonia introduced me to Mojita, a delicious mix of rum, lemon juice and mint leaves, and where I chatted to Harriet. Her mother couldn´t have named her better, the name was made for her. Five feet ten in bare feet we found we had quite a few things in common and, with a 6.30am rise the following morning accompanied each other back to the hostel we were sharing with Cath and Aussie Chris at 1.45.

Of the things we shared in common a love of the same music, humour and the inability to retain infomation were three. Consequently, when we arrived in the viccinity of our hostel, situated in a row of attached houses, neither of us had any idea which door it was. We rang a bell we thought might be ours, an upstairs door opened and a man in purple pyjamas buttoned to the neck emerged onto the balcony. He looked down and said something in very rapid Spanish. He was obviously the owner but neither of us recognised the guy and a split second later it simultaneously dawned on us both that neither of us were in any position to enter into a conversation with him. How do you say "Excuse me mate, our room mate is in bed and he has the key to our room. Any chance you could let us in?" in Spanish. we looked at each other and collapsed in fits of helpless giggles.

I took the responsibility for the alarm and jumped out of bed at six thirty am, switched on the light and ordered Harriett and Chris to get up. "C´mon, it´s six thirty". Harriett picked her watch up, looked at it and announced " no it´s not, it´s five thirty" placed it down and closed her eyes again. I´d set the clock to the wrong hour. I then noticed Catharine wasn´t even in her bed. Dirty stop out.
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Waiting for the sundown at Puntu De Lobos.


When the real six thirty eventually arrived no sleep later I ventured outside and came across a poncho clad Catherine wandering the streets. She too had forgotten which house our hostel was in. We were picked up at seven and headed off to Mount Villarica, a spectacular 2,800 metre high active volcano. We were going to climb it. From the town it looked mightily impressive but from it´s base it was simply awesome. Crumbly, volcanic rock rising sharply to snow covered peak.

We walked the 500 metres or so to the ski lift, a feat in itself at such an early hour and as we were queuing Harriet sidled up to me and told me she needed a lift partner and that I was it. This would be fun I thought and with neither of us being skiiers we studied hard at the mounting techniques of those before us and when our turn eventually arrived we somehow managed to get airborne amid howls and squeals of laughter before we realised that the dismounting was still to come.

We trudged single file behind our guide, concentrating hard on matching the footprints he was making with his slow stabbing
Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

What a place to be laid to rest.
walk as though he was trying to get shit off his shoes and as we got higher the incline got steeper, at times it seemed not far off the vertical, and I have to say that at times if you stopped and looked back it was pretty frightening. At one point Harriet and I stopped and turned to admire the view simultaneously and, anxious not to lose balance in a forward direction both toppled backwards in perfect unison like a couple of synchronised swimmers and lay howling in the snow.

Our guide lead us to a flat peak and informed us we´d stop for lunch. It was 10:15am. We´d been walking for two hours and weren´t even half way. What ? I´d developed a blister on the sole of my foot right next to my old verucca which had suddenly sprung back to life with a vengeance and the thought of two more hours filled me with dread. Strangely, it didn´t look too far from where we dined until you noticed the tiniest of dots against the whiteness and realised they were other climbers.

At 12:30 we took our last steps to the summit and were immediately met
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A piano at The Museum de Colhaqua.
by a big cloud of dense sulphuric smoke followed by a huge rumbling noise. The beast was awake.

The view was amazing and on a par with all New Zealand had to offer. Argentina 90km away to the east and the lake at Pucon the other way with the Andes all around us. We spent an hour resting and eating the remainder of our tuck in then dressed ready for the descent. I´d gone up in jeans and a sweatshirt but now everything went on including a wraparound plastic sheet that was strapped to your backside. I had noticed several channels gouged into the snow on the way up and thought of them as nothing more than some of nature´s more meaningless works but they were actually man created for the sole purpose of creating a speedy descent for shattered walkers, a mini cresta run with us as the bob´s.

We were shown the method of using the ice picks to control your speed if out of control and were off. Wow ! It took us 20 minutes to get to the cable car before painfully walking the rest of the way to the van. I immediately removed
Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)

Also home to this lovely Packard.
my boot and it felt like a pressure cooker being released. My back, thighs and arse, still tender from the beach gallop were in bulk and we thankfully returned to the hostel for a much needed rest.

At 8:30 we were on the go again, this time for the 45 minute drive to the hot springs at Los Pozones stopping for beer on the way courtesy of the tour company. With reputed healing properties I sank into the 45 degree celcius water praying for my aches to subside and thankfully they did. We didn´t return to Pucon until 1.15am and adjourned to a bar, another five o´clocker.

By now, after three days together, the group was much more close knit other than the two Canadian girls who kept themselves to themselves and Katrin the German. At the pools I asked Tonia to take a picture of me with Harriet and Chris and she asked why ? "Because other than you they´re my favourites" I replied.

All the others had their good points and were easy to get along with, Chris the Canadian straight and square but interesting, he read ¨The Secret Life Of Bees¨ in one day
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Dem Bones, Dem Bones....
on the bus, Dave from Southampton, later to become my sole travelling companion, with his great country bumpkin accent and stammer, Anth the heavy smoking beer drinker with the filthy laugh and his girl Vicky who looked after him like a mother, regularily smearing him with lotions for his eczema and Catharine, still foul mouthed but bubbly and lively. Finally there was Sergio, a 57 seven year old with a great laugh and Tonia. All my time spent together with Tonia at the front of the bus had lead her, I think, to look upon me as her favourite. Either that or the fact that I was at least a decade older than any of the others but we enjoyed each others company and had built a special relationship on many of the same passions, rock music and trees to name but two.





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Chile; The Road South (1)Chile; The Road South (1)
Chile; The Road South (1)

Our first sighting of the active volcano at Mount Villarica.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

Receiving my prize from Tonia.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

Supper with the crowd in Pucon. L-R; Segio, Chris, Harriet, Daniel, me, Vicky, Anth, The Canadian girls, Ben and Tonia.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

A chill early morning in Pucon ready to set off for our ´walk´ up Mount Villarica.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

Harriet on board the ski lift. She was just as you´d expect a Harriet to be.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

The lift ride over the real work is about to begin.
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Chile; The Road South (1)

Katrin the German girl at our 10:15am lunch stop.


2nd February 2007

Hola matt, i just finished read your blog and like i imagined you write everything, every detail, i love that!!! I´m looking forward to read the rest of your history in "The south trip" in Chile. Great pictures of Santiago and the sunset, beautiful!!!! Great times!!!!
2nd February 2007

Great stuff and good photos.Are you falling in love Matty Boy?
7th February 2007

What happen with the rest of the trip!!!! we are waiting for read it and more pics, please;-)

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