Well it's not subtle but it's fun and comfortable traveling in 'Frank" the bright yellow giant-size Tucan overland truck (Mercedes-Benz). Plenty of space for my starting group of 11 from Santiago, plus a Tucan guide and driver. Then we picked up 6 more along the way in Bariloche, the next town across the border in Argentina, but Frank seats at least 30 and we even have a car fridge and library. On the long trips we stop for picnic 'truck lunch' along the way - it's great to make our own sandwiches with lots of salad and so far we've had pleasant scenic stops. Check out the attached photos - if you haven't already worked it out, a double click on the image will enlarge it for you.
Now the trip is about wonderful scenery and optional activities, like climbing volcanos, soaking in hot springs and kayaking on the lake that I'm doing this afternoon. The two towns so far (Pucon in Chile and Bariloche in Argentina) have been holiday alpine-style centres for skiing in winter and hiking in summer. Full of wooden chalet-style buildings, chocolate shops and views of lakes and snow-capped mountains including gently-smoking volcanos. We're now in the land of 'parilla' meaning grilled meat restaurants abound. It's also the centre for Mapuche people, an indigenous group whose ancestors held back the Incas, the Spanish and are still struggling for autonomy and land rights. It's been an issue in the Chilean elections where they voted in Michelle Bachelet just yesterday as their new president.
Signing off for now to take advantage of the good wifi in this hotel. Not sure if that will continue as we travel further south into Patagonia.
Wishing you all the best for Christmas and New Year. I expect to be camping with this group in Torres Del Paine National Park, back in Chile, for Christmas Day - it's supposed to be spectacular, so I'm excited about that.