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Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Goodbye Santiago (Part Deux)!

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

For the second time on this trip to South America, it’s time to say goodbye to Santiago. The night bus from Puc贸n arrived early in the morning at around 7am, and from there I dropped my bags at the Casa Grande Mini Hotel (where Greg, Tiff, and I stayed when we were in Santiago for New Years).

My last day in Santiago consisted of a large walking tour of the city to visit some of my favorite places and explore some new places in the process. First I returned to Parque Metropolitano for the early morning view of the city from top near the Virgen de la Inmaculada Concepci贸n. After that, I headed to the Central Market for brunch: a seafood feast consisting of the Chilean fish Reineta, mussels, shrimp, etc. I then headed to La Moneda Palace, the seat of Chile’s president. Finally, I returned to visit Marcos at his apartment for a few hours before grabbing my bags and catching a bus to the airport for the flight home.

The past three weeks in Chile and Argentina have been amazing, and as I said earlier, it’s hard to believe all that has happened in that time. Thanks to everyone who has helped to make it a huge success of a trip – until next time, enjoy some wine and a lomito completo for me. 馃槈

Words of Wisdom from Expert Travelers

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

During our stay in Mendoza, it was clear to me that Teri and Oscar (our gracious hosts) are expert travelers. One night during dinner, I jotted down some quotes from Teri:

Traveling in your country and other countries opens your mind.

The money spent traveling is not an expense but an investment.

They [Big Oil] will make you think that you cannot live without it [oil].

The quote on Big Oil was in response to our surprise of how few people in South America have (or even need) cars. With plentiful inexpensive taxis, impressive intercity bus networks, and an efficient metro in Santiago, traveling around Chile and Argentina was a breath of fresh air (literally) when it comes to inexpensive, reliable, and sustainable transportation.

Finally, Teri introduced us to the concept of a traveler’s “honeypot” when Tiff, Greg, and I were talking about tracking shared expenses (i.e., who paid for lunch, the taxi ride, bus tickets, etc.). When paying for most things by cash as we were, consider having everyone who shares expenses to chip in the same amount to a honeypot, and pay for shared expenses from that bucket of cash. When the honeypot is dry, simply have everyone add the same amount more. We began using this tactic after Mendoza, and it worked great.

Goodbye Puc贸n!

Monday, January 16th, 2012

In a few hours I begin the trip home from this tour of South America with a 10-hour bus ride on a night bus. Then it’s a quick rendezvous with Marcos in Santiago before catching the long flight home.

Puc贸n has been fun and it clearly lives up to its reputation as a town for fast-paced adventure tourism; it’s worthy of a return someday for extended trips into the nearby National Parks, which look very picturesque.

Termas Los Pozones

Monday, January 16th, 2012

After climbing Volc谩n Villarrica yesterday, I decided to cross the last item off my Puc贸n todo list: soaking in one of the many local “termas,” or hot springs.

I ended up booking transportation through Aguaventura with another Volc谩n climber, and we left to the hot springs at 8pm. The drive was scenic and took us through the farming countryside, with Volc谩n Villarrica looming in the distance. We met two other friendly travelers on the shuttle, so we made a group of four once we arrived to the hot springs, Los Pozones, at around 9pm; we had two hours to soak in one of the five or so pools.

I’ll try to upload pictures once I can connect my camera to a computer, but the area was very well maintained, and the hot springs were clean, not too crowded, and quite soothing (especially after a day of hiking). The three pools that we tried all varied in temperature, from being just a bit too hot, just a bit too cool, and just right. We spent about half of our time in the pool that was just right, wishing that we could have some more time here… Next time!

Climbing Volc谩n Villarrica

Monday, January 16th, 2012

The most popular activity when it comes to adventure tourism in Puc贸n is easily climbing Volc谩n Villarrica with an elevation of 9,341 feet. There are certainly no shortage of operators that are willing to take you there, and I went with the reputable Aguaventura.

Our day began at 6:45am with a 45 minute drive to the volcano. We were provided with all of the hiking gear that we’d need for the day: helmet to protect from the falling rocks, ice axe for hiking through snow/ice, and all equipment required to slide down through the snow.

The moderately strenuous hike to the top took about 4 hours, with rests every 45 minutes or so. There were many people climbing the volcano, but as some of the first for the day, we were less prone to getting hit by falling rocks loosened by parties above.

Upon reaching the summit, the first thing I did was walk to the edge of the pit to see what this volcano was all about. We couldn’t see lava, but we could hear it – it sounded like small jet engine. Mainly, the volcano was belching smoke and toxic gases, which the wind was thankfully blowing in the opposite direction from us. When we did smell the gas, though, it smelled of chlorine and made you cough.

After about an hour enjoying the view from the summit, we put on the gear that we carried to the top that would allow us to descend in an hour by sledding through snow chutes. This was quite fun, and you could really gain some speed when you sat on the small piece of plastic! Before we knew it, we were back to the beginning of the snow line and hiked the remainder back to the shuttles. Overall, a great day with lots of sun and stunning views, and I can now see why this is such a popular activity for Puc贸n.