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Published: July 18th 2010
Santiago is quite a nice city to explore, with lots of different neighbourhoods all within walking distance of each other. There are plenty of historical parks in the city with little treks leading up to beautiful views over the snow capped Andean peaks. We strolled around countless craft stalls and watched football matches in the plazas, soaked up the atmosphere around Barrio Bella vista, where all the young people hang out in cafes and bars before returning back to the small cobble stoned street to our hostel. We enjoyed the time we spent in Santiago, but seen as neither of us are all that keen on big cities, we were quite content to move on to Pucon, a little village south of Santiago.
World cup fever was well and truly heating up at this stage and the atmosphere around town the day of the Chile v Spain match was incredible. Flags were hung from every window, people were dressed in the red, blue and white colours of their country and had Chilean flags painted on their faces. It didn't seem to bother the fans that their team lost the match and faced Brazil in the next round; they had passed the
group stages. We have no idea where all of the crowds came from, we didn't think there were that many people living in Pucon, but a street party followed the match and the police were called out to keep things at bay!
Not far from Pucon is the smoking, lava spitting cater of Volcano Villarica. It was covered in snow and just calling out to be climbed. We set off early in the morning and hiked up through the snow as far as the glacier, where we stopped to put our crampons on. The hike up was amazing; we were in awe of everything around us. The smoke puffed out of the perfect cone shaped volcano ahead. As we got closer to the summit, the clouds started to roll in however and the snow fell heavier. The visibility was so poor that our guide deemed it too dangerous to continue with the climb. It was disappointing having to turn back when we had come so close but we had a lot of fun on the way down. We decided to lose the crampons and slide down the volcano on our rears. Our legs were tired after the steep climb and
we thought we'd earned the break. Sliding down the snow on your bum really doesn't sound like too technical an operation but believe me it was! Apparently there is a knack to it, that Paulo immediately got the hang of, whereas I was left stuck in the snow, trying to push myself down with my ice axe. After numerous attempts I decided to stand up and walk. This is when I learned the reason we had been wearing crampons. They are not for show, not to make us look cool or like snow climbing pros, they are for safety. I had barely taken a step when the feet went from under me and I was skidding down the side of the volcano (not very gracefully) at the speed of lightening. I caught up with Paulo in no time.
We had so much fun in the snow that we thought we'd continue on south and try out some snow boarding in Bariloche, Argentina. It took us over ten hours to get there by bus and not a very pleasant ten hours at that. Between the horrible smells coming from the toilet behind us and the little infant projectile vomiting to our
left, it is one journey we'll be happy to forget.
Bariloche is a fabulous city, sitting on the shores of a beautiful lake with snow-covered mountains all around. The city centre is small and bustles with both tourists and locals going about their business. There are chocolate shops on every corner and more steak houses than you could shake a stick at. We stayed in a really homely hostel with a big screen in the basement for the world cup games. Unfortunately it was while we were here (with our Spanish friends) that Portugal got knocked out by Spain.
The ski season in Bariloche had just begun, with the ski-lifts open a week already when we arrived. Snowboarding was one sport both of us were keen to try out and signed up for lessons in the ski resort close by our hostel. Although the rain poured down for most of the day, we loved every single second of our time on the slopes. Paulo took to it like a duck to water but as usual it took me a little longer to get the hang of things. We stayed on practicing after our class had finished, like two big kids
not wanting to leave. We eventually called it a day when our clothes were so wet they were dripping off us and we were soaked right through to the bone. With aching muscles, we headed out for more fun the following day, this time with the sun shining down from clear blue skies. We started out on the slopes alone but soon realised that we were a little out of our depth after many painful falls. Although Paulo was happy out trying new things and trying to teach himself, I was in need of some direction so we headed back to get a personal instructor for the rest of the day. This was the best decision we could have made. Santi, our instructor, was incredible. He made everything seem so simple and we had yet another fun-filled day in the snow.
When the time came for the slopes to close, a huge gust of wind blew in, broke one of the ski-lifts and forced them to close. We were quite high up in the mountain at this point, but left with no other options, we started to snowboard our way down the blue and red slopes to the bottom. Paulo
was in his element, loving getting away from the green beginner runs, whereas I was a little more concerned at the idea of tackling them without Santi! Thankfully we made it down in one piece and had fun in the process.
Paulo has become quite the chef in the past eleven months and that evening he cooked us up a delicious steak for dinner which we enjoyed with a nice bottle of Malbec.
The rest of the time we spent snowboarding together, without any more classes, trying out lots of different slopes again before realising we just weren’t ready and returned back to the green and blue ones. This is one of the many activities we’ve tried since coming away that we’d both definitely like to do again. We had so much fun in Bariloche, one of the highlights of South America so far!
Tot: 2.501s; Tpl: 0.057s; cc: 8; qc: 52; dbt: 0.0448s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.3mb