Monday, October 18, 2010

EL SUR (The South!)

This year Chile celebrated 200 years of independence on the 18th of September: El Bicentenario.  There was sooo much hype leading up to the day, and lots of celebrations before and after... You couldn't walk down the street without seeing the evidence of Chilean pride, with huge flags, decorations, and advertisements in the markets, streets, and homes.  So, to celebrate, seven of us decided to take a six-day vacation to the south of Chile.  We explored Pucón, Villarrica, the beautiful island of Chiloé, Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas.  It was exactly what I needed: a break from the city life and classes (which began at the beginning of August, isn't that supposed to be summer break?! Not here:)), fresh air, lots of laughs, and perfect scenery.  What better way to document parts of our adventure than through photos?

After a 10 hour, over-night bus ride from Santiago, we arrived in paradise!  Pucón!  It's quite the adventure-lovers' town, with lots of German influence and an international/touristy feel.  Our hostel was the cutest thing in the world, with the nicest family running it.  It warmed our hearts right from the beginning, and is known for their VEGETARIAN FOOD, which is almost impossible to find in Chile.  Like I said, a slice of heaven.

école, our hostel!

Our plan for Pucón was to climb Volcano Villarrica!  We set everything up when we arrived in Pucón for climbing the next day, getting sized for all the equipment we'd need, then set off for exploring the town.  We went to Lake Caragua, and on the advice of our bus driver we walked in search of a white beach, which apparently led to a path that would bring us to beautiful water falls.  Well, we didn't find said path, but still got to play on the banks of the lake, got chased by some angry sheep, and encountered some interesting hippies playing drums. 

Granola lunch

Lago Caragua

sheep chasing us

On our way back to town, we found the waterfalls: Ojos de Caragua and the "blue lagoon."

The next day, we got up bright & early for our full day of hiking the volcano, got all prepared with our equipment and headed out for the base of the volcano.  Welp, the conditions ended up being a tad rough for hiking, so our hiking guides didn't want to risk it.  Why were the conditions bad?  It was pretty tough to navigate through the snow storm. So, we played in the snow instead!

happy to be in the snow; sad that we can't climb, right mary?

Since the volcano was a no-go, we traveled to Villarrica for the day instead.  Villarrica is less touristy but with lots of southern-Chile culture.  We took in the view of the volcanos from the banks of Lake Villarrica, and with no real idea of how we'd fill up our free day, we set off walking around the town.  That's when the fun began.  We went to the municipality building, thinking we'd get more info about the town, hoping to visit a farm that we'd read about in our guide books.  We randomly met a woman there who told us she had a friend who owned a farm, then called him up and told him about us wanting to visit.  She said we could come to her house, leave our big backpacks with her, and be picked up by her farmer friend.  While we were a bit nervous about this (we have been so paranoid about being robbed in Chile.. it's much more common here!), but she seemed so so genuine and sweet, so we thought, why not!  After her friend picked us up, we all piled into the back of his little truck and away we went.  He showed us all around his beautiful farm & philosophized about life (he was quite the deep thinker) & brought us to a Mapuche woman's house where she made cheese!  Pretty much AMAZING.

In the trunk :)

Mapuche women & her cheese

Then, we got to tour a micro brewery!  The owner showed us around and told us all about the process of making the beer... and all on machines that HE built, reallly impressive.  He is Chilean, but his grandparents were from Belgium, and his grandfather had his own micro brewery and passed on the tradition.  

Crater Beer = Delicious

After our random/spontaneous day in Villarrica, we traveled to the beautiful island of Chiloé.

We started in Ancud, Chiloé and went to see some penguins!  It's not peak time for penguins, but we did see several and the views on the drive there & from the beach were amazing.

Our taxi drove us right up on the beach, hah
Show us those penguins!
There's one!

San Antonio Fort, Ancud
we thought we'd be blown away by the swift breeze ;)

Next, we traveled to the capital of Chiloé, CASTRO, for the big day: EL BICENTENARIO!

Celebratory Parade 

Cueca Dancers - The Cueca is Chile's national dance

Chilean Pride

After the parade, we visited a church made completely of wood and hopped on a bus to check out a neighboring town, Achao.

 Iglesia San Francisco (Castro)

Rainbow :) Achao.

On Sunday, our last full vacation day, we explored Puerto Varas, another town with some German heritage. We walked along Lake Llanquihue and around the town, and came across a party/festival type get-together, full of Chilean food and great vibes.

Lake Llanquihue
Cool Museum

On the festival stage - showing some Chile Love 

AND, after sleeping in Puerto Montt, we took a 15 HOUR bus ride back to Santiago. Amazing scenery; long ride.  We got back to our chilean homes tired after a great journey, with warm & happy hearts. :)

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