Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Boats, Volcanoes, Lakes, and Friends! (aka Southern Chile)

I know, I know, we've fallen way behind on posting again. We have just had a spate of super-full days, endless bus hauls, and computer problems (Google decided not to let us upload pictures for a week, boo!) which have kept us from updating. So even though we're in a whole new country now (Peru!), I'll do my best to start catching you up on Chile.

When we last encountered our heroes, Andy and Tara, they were about to board this three-night Navimag ferry from Puerto Natales in southern Chile to Puerto Montt in...well, slightly less southern Chile. Here is the boat:

There are no roads connecting these two parts of the country, so our options were to spend a couple of days on the bus winding our way back through Argentina, to fly, or to go by boat...which was the slowest and most expensive option, but we had heard good things from people who had done it and decided to embrace the open sea!

The boat went mostly through coastal inlets, which were very calm and beautiful to look at, speckled with little green islands and backed by mountains on the mainland. Our first night aboard offered some lovely sunset views.

The boat was not a luxury cruise by any means, but the food on board was very good (I did relinquish my vegetarian ways, however), we made a lot of lovely new friends (strangely, there were about three times as many Irish people on board as Americans--we haven't really met Irish tourists anywhere else in our travels!) and I pulled a great coup by telling the lady when we checked in that we were on our honeymoon, so if she had any private cabins...and we ended up with a four-person cabin to ourselves.

Our room:

If that sounds romantic, well, you weren't there on our second night on board, which is when we crossed into the open ocean for about 12 hours. The boat turned into one giant rocking chair, and I'll just let you guess which one of us lost his/her lunch...and dinner...and breakfast...eurgh. (Though the other one of us did take very good care of the sickie one while s/he was being sick!)

One of the other interesting sites we saw from the boat was this shipwreck, which has been moored out in the straits off of Chile since the 1960s.

OK, so, a couple of pounds lighter and with the world still spinning a bit, we finally landed in Puerto Montt and set off right away for Puerto Varas, a cute town and tourist base for the southern lakes region of Chile. Here is the church in Puerto Varas:
The weather our first day was gray and cold, and I have to say that we spent our most miserable night so far on our trip at a hospedadje there, where the owner did not turn the heat on at night even though we had asked her to and she said she would. We woke up the next morning and it was 47 degrees Fahreinheit in our room, no joke. We thought about chewing her out in the morning, but luckily we heard another guest already doing so over the heat in far better Spanish than we could muster, so we simply left as quickly as we could in disgust.

Anyway, the day before, we did an afternoon trip to a national park not far from Puerto Varas, I forget the name. It was overcast so we didn't see much, but Andy was enchanted by the extremely blue water in the lake and river there. We nicknamed it the park of 10,000 flushes.

The next day, we stopped over for a few hours in Valdivia, a university town set on a lovely river. One of the fun things there is that they have sea lions lounging on the river docks.

And that night we arrived in Pucon, another lakeside touristy town in the shadow of the impressive Villarica volcano. We took a walk the next morning and had some great views--check out the snow-capped cone with steam flowing out!

A lot of people go to Pucon to climb the volcano, but I decided that that was way too hardcore for us and insisted that we instead go soak in the nearby hot springs, Las Pozones. I think this was a very good call.

The hot pools were set in natural rocks and were very relaxing...

Of course, Andy had to take a dip in the freezing river next to the hot springs. He only shrieked a little at how cold it was.
We spotted some wildlife, too. There were lizards everywhere...

...and I found a snake!
In the three months we have been traveling now, we have made a lot of lovely new friends on the road, but we haven't seen a single face from home. Or we hadn't, until we arrived in Temuco where my college friend (and fellow Fusion Dance Ensemble-ite!) Maribel now lives with her husband, Jose. They invited us to stay at their apartment, and could not have been more gracious hosts to us, especially considering that Jose is in the thick of a congressional campaign. (Yes, he is running for the Chilean parliament! We heard some incredible stories about life on the trail in his district.)

Here are the four of us together. The clean ones are Maribel and Jose.
Maribel cooked us a delicious welcome dinner of chicken with mushrooms, rice with veggies, and a Chilean salad of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and Jose introduced us to "tuna," which in Chile is not a fish, but a fruit that looks sort of like prickly pear fruit. (Pictures to come in our next foods post.)

It was SO nice to spend a couple of evenings with friends. We got to ask all sorts of silly questions about Chile, like "What does this road sign mean?"
(Apparently, it has something to do with a handicrafts market, but we prefer our original interpretation of "Frosty the snowman lives that way.")

So, as usual, we only had one full day in the area, and our hosts convinced us that we needed to get out to see Conguillio National Park, home of the Llaima volcano, a couple of hours east of Temuco. We are SO glad they did, because it was incredibly beautiful, right up there with Torres del Paine.

Here is the Llaima volcano, which we photographed from many angles. As with Villarica volcano, we could see the steam coming out of the top!

The park was dotted with beautiful lakes of amazingly clear water.

Conguillio is also famous for its araucaria trees. We had never heard of this kind of tree before--it's an evergreen with these crazy twisty branches. Some of the trees in the park were 1,000 years old and humungous.

Close-up of the tough, twisty branches.

I think this mountain looks like an orca.
Other than our driver and his grandaughter, who came along for the ride, we were literally the only people visiting the park.

The lakes district in Southern Chile was absolutely gorgeous and, as with many places we've been, I wish we'd had more time there. But the few days we were able to spend were lovely and relaxing and we are very glad we passed through. After returning to Temuco from the park and having another great meal with Maribel and Jose, we set off to Santiago, Chile's capital, on an overnight bus. Tales of our adventures there should be up tomorrow!

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