A Travellerspoint blog

Log Fires

stuck in a moment..

rain 3 °C
View Walk This Way on Simpler's travel map.

The Brazillians in my hostel were all around 20-30 years old. A mix of boys and girls, who had met each other en-route to Pucon. It fascinates me how single travellers pair up and gather a small group before disbanding. Two of the 6 Brazillians, both men had known each other for only 2 days and one of them was leaving his friend of 18 years to go traveeling with his new companion.
One of them told me that apparently in Brazil - people make friend like this easily. Not just in Brazil amigo, I thought. But around the world. When people go away, perhaps they discover some form of traveller's mo-jo that just makes them more open and more attractive to other people.

Nothing to do with where you're from. Everything to do with where you're at.

Whilst I was with them, they were good enough not to speak in Portugese. They liked me, and I liked them. Not enough to pick a travelling buddy though. Often, I felt they had formed a little Brazillian clique, but one that was open to outsiders. I was appreciative, but didn't fully share their need for waiting in Pucon for the rain to clear so that they might attempt the ascent to the top of Volcano. I looked out the window. Villarica was barely visible through the clouds.

Instead, I managed to persuade Marissa - another Brazillian to come along for a tour. In fact it required no persuassion really. It seemed she was just bored. The tour at Pucon involved some trekking, visits to some really powerful rapids, which I have tried to capture on camera.

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A note about the weather. It has been pretty miserable, painful, dull. Insert adjective of choice. Average temperatures around 2-4 C. Bucketing it outside. Absolutely buckets. And not the kind of fat lazy rain that makes you realise you're somewhere exotic. Just the dreary, spitting, slanting and more often than not driving rain that creates puddles at your feet in seconds.

And a note about log fires.
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When the weather is like this, these small stoves (see pic) are a godsend. In fact I am alsmost certain that much of the pollution in Pucon can be blamed on the numerous log fires that are lit in a 'fuck off' to the rain. If you go outside, the entire town smells like a campsite. That soft wood burning smell reaches out and seeps into your clothing. It's nice. And makes you want to stay in and have another espresso. It's just too much effort to wander out.

Watch the wood crackle,
Watch the rain fall,
Witness Chile in winter and be grateful.

It's not a sight many people will see, smell or taste.

Posted by Simpler 14:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Winter in Pucon

Pucon - 12th July 2008

rain 4 °C

when...a goatied (is that even a word?) man came up to me saying he had a hostel where I could stay. He seemed friendly enough, so deciding to trust my judgement I clamboured aboard his Toyota pick up.

No blood on the seats. No discarded spliff on the car floor. Just some muddy treadmarks from some previous passengers. 3 mins later, we were at his hostel called "Donde German". I went inside. Most of the other backpackers were from Brazil. Very nice! Log fire! I decided to stay. I was happy to be somewhere other than Santiago for the time being.

I keep knocking Santiago - it's not really fair. I was only there for 5 minutes and just before I left, I had an incredibly nice fish stew. It's just that there's more to see. So much more. I hoped Pucon would satisfy.

Pucon is delightful. A road called O'Higgins runs 50m wide and 1km long through this tiny town. If I were able to run, it would take me under 5 mins to complete the entire strip. However, a dodgy ankle means the journey down is a bit more leisurely. But anyway, the point is; that's how small it is. However alongside that stretch of road there are numerous bars, cafe's restaurants and at least a dozen of tour operators offering everything from:

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  • Kayaking
  • White Water Rafting
  • Canopying
  • Canyoning
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Volcano Climbing
  • Horseback Riding
  • Trekking

I wojuld have been up for doing at least half these activities. However, the wind that gathers its strength from the Argentinian Pampas and blows forcefully across through Pucon meant a lot of the water based activities were closed due to swollen rivers. Furthermore, some very low lying clouds made it impossible to satiate the desire of many that arrive in Pucon to climb the volcano.
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I wandered into one of these tour agencies that explained that winter in Chile was not a very nice experience. I didn't mind but imagine that winter in Chile was probably not a nice experience if you were in business! They also said that winter in Pucon particularly was not for the faint of heart. Oh well. Still the low lying clouds, rain and mist made for some very cool photographs.

Whilst in that agency, I made a connection with an irish girl called Sinead. We both began chatting, not realising until a goood half an hour later, that the other could speak English perfectly well.

Happy to have some English speaking company, we ended up having dinner in a pizza restaurant, where we carried on talking about various experiences. Turns out, she had been on the road for 7 months travelling alone through Argentina and now Chile. Despite being ony 25, she had a maturity and resilience that she admitted travelling had taught her.

After dinner, we parted company, and I walked back in the dark back to my hostel, except I got lost on the way. After an hour of walking around occassionally lit side-streets, I started to feel a bit cold and a bit stupid. The rain was pelting down as it would incessantly for the next 2 days. My jeans were soaked through and the cold I thought I'd recovered from before I left to come out here was presenting its ugly self once again. After asking a few people, I managed to find the hostel. In daylight, I hadn't realised how secluded and badly signposted it was. At night, it was easily missable.

I drifted off around 11pm whilst listening to a combination of my MP3 player and echoes of conversation being held in Portugese by the Brazillians in the living room below.

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Posted by Simpler 07:49 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Remind me Where I am again?

Santiago - 11th July 2008

overcast 7 °C

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The more I lost myself in the surrounding streets, the more I looked around. The city was nice. Neat. Orderly. And commercial. Every type of business from banks to pharmacies, to bookshops, so many bookshops, large supermarkets were all around me. And they were all big. With glass fronts, modern interiors.

Santiago is familiar on first impressions and second impressions.

And if you’re from Europe, you really do occasionally wonder where exactly in Europe you’ve just landed. Only the names of the shops were different. Replace M&S with El-Tit (I’m serious!). Replace Carrefour in mainland Europe with a chain called Jumbo in Chile.

Thankfully I didn’t see a Starbucks. God is good. He didn’t put one in my way that first day which was nice of him.

In the next few hours, I bought one of my favourite books called “The Alchemist” in Spanish. The lead character in the book, funnily enough is called Santiago. Every time I read Paulo Cohello’s 205 page masterpiece, I always find something different. It’s like it was written especially for me. It’s a magic book. I do believe this!
Anyway, I managed to haggle the price down from 7,500 pesos to 6,800 pesos (around £6.80). I also spent some time chatting in Spanish to shopkeepers who clearly had great pride in their city. As is normal, wherever I travel, they were ar more interested in my origins than the fact that I was born in London. Whenever I told anyone, my ancestry is Indian, I try to judge their response.

In Spain, more often than not, I get an “aaah si? Me encanta India” followed by how much they would love to go....
In Chile, the reaction I got thus far is of mild interest but is not met with anything like the enthusiasm there is in Spain. Instead the reaction is one of bemusement. It is probably unusual for the everyday Chilean to be met with an Indian speaking his language.

Next I tried the Metro system. It's very impressive. Far more impressive than the London Underground. The trains were are really clean, modern and quick. Ticketing works through a card called BIP. It's the Oyster system basically. 5,000 pesos bought me 10 single journeys which is 50p per trip. Not bad eh?

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I made 2 observations about El Metro
1) Its always busy. At 3.30pm or 11pm at night.
2) Its almost identical to Barcelona's Metro system. From the way the lines are labelled to the design of the station layout. You could I'm pretty sure lift the Barcelona Metro system and transplant it into Santiago and few would immediately notice.

Its uncanny. Anyway it's a damn good metro and I'm sure I'll use up my "diez viajes" before my time is up.

All these similarities with a European city were starting to take their toll on myneed to experience something diferent. I had to get out of Santiago which was certainly not my intention before I arrived, but seeing as I would return in a few days, it made a lot of sense.

I took my rucksack, unopened from my bed and hopped on to a bus headed south towards a volcanic town called Pucon.

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My Lonely Planet guide (I am at the end of the day - a tourist) told me Pucon is famous for 2 things - A volcano (Volcan Villaricca) and some very nice natural lakes. I was also informed that "neighbouring" Pucon was only 11 hours away! That's like driving to Norway from London! Madness. Its times like this that you either appreciate or are dismayed at the size of the UK. It really is tiny compared to other countries. 12-20 hour train/bus rides are commonplace here, as they are in India, the US, Australia etc.

I left Santiago happily at 10pm and arrived in Pucon the next day at around 9am when...

Posted by Simpler 04:39 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Santiago/Arturo-Merino Benitez Airport

11th July 2008

Ok.ok. This account is becoming a little long winded already! I collected my bags. Said goodbye to my little companion and she was really tiny and headed off to the Hotel Riviera in Santiago.

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First impressions last and my first impressions of Santiago including the airport was how modern and clean everything was. But above all how everything was. More specifically how Spanish everything was.

If not a different continent, I wanted to feel like I was in a different country at least! Driving out of the airport, I noticed motorway signs with white text on blue backgrounds. “A” roads with green backgrounds. Playing fields away to my left, hotels called Mirador, Hilton and Ramada ganged up on my right.

A Mercedes Benz S-class zoomed past, racing under a “Welcome to Santiago” sign sponsored by a mobile phone company. If this impression was anything to go by, then the world is really beginning to look the same. I look up and the skies are grey. All that seems to be missing is an A40 sign to Uxbridge. Even the bus is playing 80s music.
I settled back for the rest of the journey, awarding myself points for spotting things that were at least different from home.

I scored 2.
1) A wilted palm tree that had seen better days
2) Some decent graffiti next to the University.

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As we entered the city, I was amazed by its modernity. Steel and glass buildings everywhere pointed up to the sky, signalling Chile’s eminence as the economical super power of Latin America.

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Despite a long plane ride, I wasn’t feeling tired and after checking in, I ventured out into the city to do some basics. Change some money, get a local sim card etc.

I won’t say orientate myself. As anybody that knows me even a little will contest, orientation is not my strong point. As long as I’m walking in a straight line – I’m ok. However throw me a turning left or right and I’m pretty lost.

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Some people have an in-built compass. The are somehow intuitively alive to hard solid facts like if they take a left, followed by a right, they will end up roughly where they need to. I simply don’t share this type of spatial geometry. And the older I get, the less I care. The less I envy people that have great directional sense. I know I don’t possess it. And what’s more – I enjoy getting lost in unfamiliar places. It forces me to ask others for directions which can sometimes lead to conversation. Which for me, at least, is far more enjoyable!

Posted by Simpler 04:12 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Madrid - Barajas Airport

11th July 2008

Smitty had presented me with a gift before I left. I decided to open it at Barrajas Airport in Madrid and do so with her on the phone in the UK, so that she was able to hear my reaction. Ths gift was a remarkable photographic scrapbook of our story since getting engaged. It was created to give me company on my journey. If that was the intention, not only did it succeed, it also served to spill a huge tear down my cheek. I was really moved. It’s so cool. I love it! And to think of the effort she must have gone to. Once again, I’m left wondering what the hell I’ve done in previous lives to deserve this beautiful woman.

Back on the plane
My great fortune to sit next to a Spanish speaker for the 14 hour…yes 14 hour flight to Santiago. Her name was Francisca. Our conversation was limited, stilted, but it did begin to remove the dust and rust off my Spanish.

Posted by Simpler 03:15 Archived in Spain Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

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