Day 206 to 221 Auckland to Chile Chico (via Los Angeles)
27.06.2011 - 10.07.2011 7 °C
No. of volcanoes in Chile = over 3000
Height of Vulcan Villarica = 2847m
No. of meals eaten in one day = 7 (technically 48 hours since we crossed the international date line!)
No. of meals in Chile without bread = 2 out of 34
Hours taken to cut and shave beard using swiss army knife and lady shave = 2
Beard length prior to cut = 2 inches
Total no. of dogs in Santiago = 1.25 million
No. of stray dogs = 260,000
Percentage photographed by Pauline = 70!
The far reaching ash cloud from the angry Vulcan Puyehue didn´t cause too much of a delay for us. We got 3 extra days to explore futher north of auckland and, thanks to Qantas´ very generous approach to expenses, got to stay in a posh hotel and have our meals paid for while we were inconvenienced. To top it off, we then got re-routed via Los Angeles, adding about 20 hours to our juorney but giving us the opportunitiy to pop out to Santa Monica Beach to stretch our legs!
A pretty cool detour we thought. Oh and I nearly forgot, Qantas felt so bad about our delay that they upgraded us to Business Class for our trans-pacific flight. Needless to say we took full advantage of the complimentry drinks and lunch in the lounge before boarding, having just devoured a substantial buffet breakfast. The flight was an experience to remember for two grungy looking backpackers, lets just say we didn´t exactly ´blend in!´. We are still trying to get our heads around the time travel too. Our flights from Auckland to LAX then from LAX to Santiago both departed at 1pm on Monday 27th June. Weird indeed.
So we embarked on a new continent thoroughly refreshed. Santiago, although a little grey and rainy, was a good starting point. Especially since we met two Mexican friends in the hostel and toured the city together.
We are all travelling together now and it´s great that they can help us with our Spanish. Our walking tour was rained off but our first taste of the South American favourite ´Pisco Sour´in a cosy pub was a welcome alternative.
For the few soggy hours that we wandered around with our very animated guide, we picked up a few good snippets of info. Strange the things that stick in your head though. My favourite being the´Cafes con Piernas´ that were popular until very recently, kind of tame(ish) strip club for the businessmen of Santiago where they could get a coffee before work and stare at the waitresses legs! Apparently it´s died out now but I reckon there were some pretty shifty looking bankers around there!
The first thing you notice in Santiago are the street dogs, thousands of them. Friendly though and most in fairly good nick all things considered. I spent most of the time taking pictures of them which I will upload and name accrdingly, much to Richard´s disgust I imagine. He has softened slightly though.
On one occassion when I got particularly upset at the sight of a very old and weary looking dog crossing the road Richard suggested we buy him some ham (along with some for himself!). Great, we can´t help them all but lets at least make this dog happy for a few hours. Ham in hand off we set to stalk him. We had just about given up and were nearing our cosy hostel when we spotted him limping off down a side road. We got his attention and dropped the ham right in front of him, he gave it a thorough sniff then buggered off! Not interested. You can lead a dog to ham.....
The plan was to head south to Patagonia so after the capital we went to Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. The former is a higgldy piggldy port town with loads of colourfully painted houses adorning the hillsides.
I imagine it´s usually a fairly tranquil place but our timing coincided with the huge student protests that are taking Chile by storm. Mostly friendly we are told but we kept our distance anyway. Our only mistake was to go back to the bus terminal shortly after they had dispersed the crowds with tear gas. Strong stuff, it lingered for a while. Viña del Mar is a popular summer holiday spot for the Chileans, we found it a bit deserted being winter now and headed to the casino to mingle with the old ladies and Carlos & Abiel (our Mexican pals). You´ll all be surprised to learn that we didn´t gamble a single peso, the machines were too confusing!
An overnight bus brought us south to beautiful Pucon. The Villarica volcano dominates the scenery here and after fresh snow fall the previous day it was looking its best for us.
I can´t say it was looking too inviting the next morning when we set off with our tour group to climb it. Richard, a freakishly fit German girl and two other men made it to the top, some of us didn´t quite make it and I managed to get seperated so had my own prersonal guide called Jorge. Richard got some amazing pics from the crater edge and later confessed to making some yellow snow (Biggest loo in the world?) as there was nowhere else to go. I hope it doesn´t trigger another eruption. It is actually still an active volcano but we were told it was pretty safe. The last major eruption was 1984 and it only flattened a few nearby towns.
From Pucon we spent a couple of days in Puerto Varras, similar scenery to Pucon with the even bigger Osorno volcano hogging the limelight. There is also a very pretty lakeside view and old German style buildings, apparently there was a big German settlement here in the 1950s. Now we find ourselves a little further south in Chile Chico (a border town with Argentina). Back on solid ground after our Navimag ferry adventure from Puerto Montt to Puerto Chacabuco. During our 1 night voyage through the Chilean fjords we were invited to visit the bridge and by some freak timing coincidence, a blue whale popped up to say hello, twice! That was pretty spectacular, Richard enjoyed it nearly as much as the free buffet breakfast.
We will pass through Chile again further south but Richard insisted on giving it a humourous send-off at this point by overshooting his hotdog and squirting half a bottle of Chilli sauce all over his pants! A trek through Argentina to come and the jury is still out on how far we´ll get, especially as there is new snow every day and the roads have seen better days, about 100 years ago i´d say. Still it´s great to be making progress towards the furthest south that roads go in the world. More on that soon. Hasta Luego!
There´s loads more photos in our album so make sure you check them out!