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Published: March 29th 2009
So, the time came again to explore another country in South America, other than my homeland (Brazil).
I have always been curious about Chile, the “skinny” (120 miles wide) country squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. Latin American country said to be organized, polite, punctual, unlike its neighbors, internationally heard of for years through its famous dictator Pinochet, but more recently for its good wine and sea food.
As I parked my car at the “Park Bark & Fly” by the Orlando airport, I thought: “Humm, I parked; I will fly, but I definately won't BARK!” Kind of a /silly name, but at the start of a trip, silliness is always good, right?
2 hours drive to Orlando, 38 minute flight to Miami, an overnight flight heading south, and I wake up in SANTIAGO, Chile’s capital.
The anticipated first view of the Andes Cordillera was hid behind a curtain of smog! Not an exciting first sight!
Dropped the bags at the hotel, and a new local friend picked me up to get a taste of the city.
The plans to kick off my trip by going to Parque Metropolitano, to climb the San Cristobal Hill
and take a look of Pablo Neruda’s home derailed, as my new Chilean contact had other plans for me. I got a feel of the city and ended the day savoring a fancy and very late dinner (9pm to mid-night, as the locals do). The fresh Chilean seafood, papaya desert and pisco sour (alcoholic beverage of fermented grapes and lime) were delicious.
Just a day in Santiago as planned, as big cities rarely attract my attention. Most visitors explore the wine country but that isn’t my thing.
I planned this short trip to focus in one area of southern Chile, THE LAKE DISTRICT. It appealed to me for its Volcanoes, 12 glacial large Lakes, lush forests, hikes, hot springs, and cooler weather.
John and I took an early 1.5 hour flight which landed us in TEMUCO, homeland to the indigenous Mapuche people, “conquered” by the Spaniards colonists in 1598. They fought for 300 years against the Spanish colonist and Chilean powers. There are 200,000 Mapuche left today, most of their land taken, and I read that there has been a resurgence of pride, peaceful and militant, fighting for their land and survival of their culture.
a car and headed to VILLARRICA, a small town by a beautiful lake. Most restaurants were closed since this is low season, so we got a lousy meal and headed to our destination, the Chilean capital of outdoors adventure, trendy PUCON.
The colorful pretty wooden flowers being sold at the entrance of town offered a festive welcoming. Lodges in old-world Bavarian style are for rent everywhere, but we headed to ours lent to us but John's friend.
The blue lake was beautiful but it was the sight of the majestic snow capped, 9320 feet high VILLARRICA VOLCANO which kept me spellbound. Chile part of the Ring of Fire and it has 2085 volcanoes. 55 of these volcanoes are active, and Villarrica is on of them, with smoke, ash and lava coming out of its crate. Volcanic activity is posted around town. Green means normal activity: steam with sulfuric odors and low-level rumblings. I had the privilege to enjoy the stunning views of the volcano even during my private time, as I could see it seating at my own toilet (see picture, not of me, of course, but the view from the window).
First day I got a
cold, so just hang around town exploring the tastes of the land. I am always very curious and eager to try the different fruits and other specialties of the countries I visit. We stopped at fruit stands by the road and got "multa, pinones, fruta pepino, rosa mosqueta, and tuna fruit", all new treats for me to savor. back in town we found ¨queso fresco¨(fresh cheese), interesting yogurts, fruit flavores honey and for dinner Mirian, the cook, made us the local dish "Pastel de Choclo" and "Humittas", both delicious corn dishes.
Day 2 we headed to the PARQUE NACIONAL HUERQUEHUE for a serious, steep, 5-hour hike up the densely forested hills. There we several alpine lakes tucked away among the hills. One of the native trees was the unique Monkey Puzzle Trees (Araucaria), which take 500 years to mature and can live for more than 1,200 years.
This wasn’t an easy hike, as my sore muscles reminded me, but the spectacular views, the wild blackberries eaten along the trails and the exercise were all so rewarding.
Day 3 was reserved for the climb, but since it was cloudy, very windy and thevolcano couldn't even been seen, we drove
The chicken seems to know where to go.
south. It was a beautiful drive, thru towns, another large lake and than, on well mantained dirty road we passed thru small farms on our was to one of Chiles's 280 HOT SPRINGS, TERMAS GEOMETRICAS. Wow! The freezing water falls, the lush ferns, the steaming spring water trapped in 17 small pools. It was an amazing setting to soak and relax our sore muscles. We relaxed for a couple of hours, than enjoyed a delicious squash soup and apple pie by the fire at the therma's lodge.
The last day arrived, and we still hadn't climbed "the giant". To sumit it takes about 4 hours, and another hour to get there. We didn't have much time before our departure time, so we settled for climbing only half way up. It was super windy and cold, but it felt great to huff and puff our way up the tough climb. The view was superb.
Chile was a great country to visit. The Chilean People are very friendly, the roads are well maintained, the fruits delicious, the scenery marvelous. Only the cuisine didn't meet our expectation. It was okay, but nothing spetacular, and it was interesting to find out that
Chileans don't eat much fish at all. It gets mostly exported!
Hope you enjoy the blog, or at least the pictures.
tchau for now.
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