Saturday 18th January 2014
We arrived in Santiago at about 6.00pm on Friday, approximately 6-7 hours late. We never found out why the flight was delayed but it was quite smooth and the crew were very pleasant. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel in the centre of the city. The hotel was quite old with no air conditioning and very basic. Santiago is quite busy with many people shopping late on Friday. We went out to a restaurant and had a quarter chicken, chips and salad, then home to bed around 11.00pm. Up quite late on Saturday morning (around 9.30am) – we then went to breakfast in the hotel, after which we went for a long walk in the city central district (Centro). Unfortunately we just missed being able to walk through the Palace building – we saw people going in but walked to the exit by mistake and by the time we walked back round to the entrance it had closed. However, in the park at the back there was a mysterious construction that appeared to be a scientific experiment – it was a bit like something out of an old sci-fi movie with a large metal construction covered in plants and small windmills. We were uncertain whether the plants were providing energy to work the windmills or vice versa. On the ground were more plant beds, some with springs ‘springing’ via batteries and some with ear trumpets connected to a man reading into the trumpet – obviously talking to the plants. Unfortunately our Spanish skills did not permit any understanding. We continued walking but most of the main squares appeared to be closed and boarded up (reason unknown again). Had empanadas for lunch in a basic family oriented restaurant and then visited the Cerro San Lucia, which is quite attractive although somewhat weird and was full of families on outings, being a weekend day. The park was very interesting, built on a hill with lots of paths leading onwards and upwards. At the top it was almost like a castle with many lookouts over the city. At the foot of the hill was a beautiful ornate fountain. Back to the hotel for a rest and then we had to attend the group meeting for the start of the trip, then out to dinner by ourselves (no welcome dinner with this company) and then home to bed at around 11pm. Weather fine and warm – up to about 30C today.
Sunday 19th January 2014
Santiago to Pucon, Chile
Very little sleep overnight and up at 5am for a 6am start. We set off through the empty Santiago streets and drove in our yellow truck south from the city on the freeway. There are 34 people in the group from young to retired. Each two hours we stopped for a toilet break at a service station, then we stopped at a famous waterfall Salto del Laja (near the road) and had lunch. The waterfall area was serious Wally World stuff with many stalls selling every trinket imaginable and hundreds of Chilean families enjoying a day out and even having pony rides. We took photographs of the 47m falls and then continued on our journey south. After driving about 780km, we arrived in Pucon, reputedly the adventure capital of Chile, where we set up camp in the campground about two blocks from town. There is a very famous volcano near here (obscured by cloud today) that you can climb but apparently the weather will not be good enough while we are here to climb. Other options for adventure include white water rafting, horse riding and walking in the national park. A couple of people were going to do white water rafting and others were disappointed that they couldn’t climb the volcano (that has a smoking top and an ice field near the peak – not for the faint hearted obviously). We then walked into town for a briefing on the activities available after which we went out for dinner (by ourselves) and then walked back to the camp about 10-15 minutes away. Today was warm in the early part of the day and cool in the evening – about 16c by the night time. First night camping tonight, it was dry and cool, but pretty comfy in our tent with mats and sleeping bag.
Monday 20th January 2014
Up late today and stood around chatting with other members of the group whilst we had breakfast. We had learned there was a town walk which you could join (free + tip) so walked into the town and joined the walk with about a dozen other interested people. We learnt about the history, geography and culture of the area as well as the indigenous influence of the Mapuche Indians who lived in this area before the Spanish came (they are supposedly the only people who fought the Spanish) – we also looked at the hotels facing the beach on the lake, some were historic and some were not. The beach consists of small pieces of black volcanic rock. Volcano Villarrica is said to be the most active in South America, although the last eruption was something like 1886, and is capped with ice. Lake Villarrica is about 170-180sq.km fed by a wild river (where you can do white water rafting) with the larger town of Villarrica on the other side of the lake. The lake is surrounded by hills and is quite a pretty area and this town is fairly upmarket due to the tourist influence in this district. Pucon looks like a ski resort – cafes, restaurants, lots of adventure clothes shops, lots of chocolate and ice cream shops – but next to a lake instead of ski slopes. After our walk we went back to the camp for lunch then strolled back to the town to buy some supplies. Dinner is in the camp tonight and is being cooked by one of the cook groups. Weather today is cool and a few showers, only about 17-18C – still, better than winter when it apparently is about 1C and rains almost every day.
Tuesday 21st January 2014
It rained overnight but had stopped by morning. We were pleased to find our tent hadn’t leaked as we had problems with the fly. Today was overcast and chilly with fairly strong winds. After breakfast, we walked along to the end of the black sand beach and into the forest a couple of kilometres then back again. A friendly stray dog (there are quite a lot in this town) accompanied us on our walk….the weather is changeable here (one minute sunny, next minute showery). We returned to the campsite for lunch and afterwards went out shopping for dinner for the group with Enid and carried all the groceries back.