Friday, March 16, 2012


Well after our week in Cocholgue we spent one day in Concepcion at Veronica's apartment again and then around midnight caught a bus to Pucon (Poo-cone), Chile. I hate overnight traveling! I'm an unfortunately NOT one of those people that can sleep anywhere so I end up grumpy and frustrated. Sorry Luis!

We arrived in Pucon around 6am to rainy and the coldest weather yet, which was around 60 degrees, terrible right? It also got much warmer during the day. After hunting down a taxi to take us to our Hostal where everyone was asleep except for some Swedish guy (who woke up the owners to let us in) we fell into bed and slept for the next 4 hours. 
Our hostal had a bidete (butt washer)... and a comfy bed. All you need in life right? ;)

Once I started acting like a normal person again Luis agreed to take me out into the town ;)... We walked out of our hostel and froze (it was pitch black when we arrived), this is what we saw.

Gorgeous! Huge mountains surrounding us, lakes, a river, and a few volcanoes made up the area. As we started walking around the town I was having serious deja vu, the town of Pucon is extremely similar to the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Both towns are meccas for adrenalin junkies and people who just like being outdoors. But the similarities didn't stop there, a small town with buildings in log cabin style, smell of campfires, everyone very friendly, people sharing advice and stories... It's a pretty amazing place and somewhere I felt completely comfortable in especially since most people there spoke english! 

So while walking around we decided what to do for the next 4 days we were there. We signed up to go whitewater rafting the next day and then walked to Lago Villarrica (Lake Vee-ya-ree-ka), a huge lake that has black sand. Sadly it was cold and rainy so we just took a few pictures and then left. 

The next day we walked around the artisan areas and small stores in the morning and then headed to the company we chose to go rafting with!  Oh, p.s. before we went rafting we decided to get a GoPro Helmet Camera to take with us on the trip, we rented it for 20 bucks and got a free DVD afterwards. So rafting was a blast!! The only thing that sucked was we had to skip the two Class V rapids because the rain made them un-runnable. Too big and scary apparently. The guides outfitted us with wetsuits, jackets, and helmets. I was honestly expecting the water to be freezing and I don't know why but the water did not seem cold at all which was wonderful since it was another cloudy and rainy day.

 I think one of the best parts about rafting was that even though the guides were speaking spanish, Luis didn't have to translate. In fact, when they were going over safety rules and tips I was telling Luis what they were saying because he didn't understand some of the words. Just by their actions (and past experience) I could tell what they were talking about. Great moment for me!

One of our first rapids. You could tell our boat by Luis's red helmet with the camera!
 The biggest rapid we did that day, believe it was called El Pescador, The Fisherman....
                                        1.                                                                       2.
                                        3.                                                                       4.

                                        5.                                                                       6.

                                        7.                                                                       8.

After rafting we returned the camera to a different company and decided (on a whim) to climb the volcano the next day, Volcano Villarrica 2,847 meters, 8,634 feet. We of course did not climb from sea level to top, we started at 7,280 feet after taking a bus and then a ski lift to a certain point. We were outfitted with hiking boots, snow pants, crampons, icepick, jacket, helmet, mittens, gas mask, and a back pack to stuff it all in. We had to bring 2 liters of water, lunch, and snacks as well. Oh, did I mention this volcano is active? And that on certain windy days you have to use your gas mask once you reach the top because the volcano is always spewing toxic smoke? Yeah, pretty cool :). So Luis and I first thought of this trip so we could avoid winter, well despite all our efforts we found ourselves in cold weather with snow included! But it was definitely worth it. We didn't expect Luis's ankle (that he broke back in August) to give us many problems but we wanted to be cautious so took it slower than the rest of the group. One guide stuck with us and we made it a little over 3 quarters of the way up before the weather got too bad and we had to turn around. We could see the top and we weren't very far from the crater! But we were only a little bummed we didn't make it to the crater on top, no one else made it up that day either. The views from where we were, were absolutely gorgeous! We could see 3 other volcanoes in the distance, 4 or 5 lakes, snow and greenery. Truly astounding sights!

                                                   An ice crevasse.                                         The crater of the volcano
                                                                                                                          behind us! Before the
                                                                                                                          clouds rolled in.

                                                                                                                        Us with our guide Vicente.

Also on a very sad note, we found out later that 2 people got hurt, one person died, and one other person got lost the same day we went up. Those people were with other companies than the one we went with. When the weather is unsafe usually the guides take everyone back down again but some groups decided to keep on going. And this is when accidents happen. The snow gets to be pure ice and the clouds make visibility almost impossible. So even though we didn't make it to the top we were very grateful to our guide who read the signs and took us back down before we were on the list of injured. All the guides went back up again that day and the next two days to try to find the person that was lost. By the time they found him he had died of assumed hypothermia. Amazingly, there had been no injuries or fatalities in the past 10 years up on the volcano so we felt very lucky but very sad for the families that lost someone that day. Please send your prayers and love to those families.

After a tough day of climbing we decided to take it easy the next day. We did a tour of the town of Pucon, we saw waterfalls, the rapids we were supposed to do on the river, and spent 2 hours in natural hot springs. 

                                            One of the Class V rapids.                           Waterfall known as Ojos de                          
                                            we were supposed to do.                                             Caburgua

Our guide for the day stopped by a pasture and started yelling, "RICARDO!" Next thing we know a black Alpaca llama comes running. We fed him some carrots and oddly enough he reminded me of Max! Still a funny experience, a llama who knows his own name!

                                                     Ojos de Caburgua, waterfall fed         Laguna Azul, The Blue Lagoon!
                                                        by 2 underwater rivers!  
The hot springs, which didn't look so natural but were very nice on sore muscles!
The view from the hot springs.
The next day we decided our last adventure would be a horseback riding trip. Luis had never been on horses and I like going horseback riding so we went! And holy cow! Our guide spoke only Spanish and was actually a native Mapuche, the indigenous people of Chile. Through Luis's translations he told us how to stop, turn, and get the horse to go fast, that's it. Next thing we know we're climbing up a steep cliff with a huge drop on one side! Despite going about 1 mile an hour on these horses the ride was extremely thrilling. I've never been on a trail like that and it was amazing that the horses actually responded to our commands. We walked through a river and up 1,000 feet on these horses. The view from the top was once again exquisit and we felt so lucky to be there! 

Our horses personalities were opposite extremes. My horse was the fast one. It hated being behind anyone and always had to be in front. At one point it started to gallop, now, I've never been on a galloping horse before and our guide neglected to tell us how to sit on a galloping horse. So I'm trying to stop the horse, my water bottle went flying, sunglasses went in another direction, and I'm doing all I can to NOT fall off and break my pride. I ALMOST fell but luckily got the horse to stop, that or the horse decided to stop on its own since riding with a sack of potatoes (me) probably wasn't pleasant. The guide then says in Spanish, "She's excited to get home, good thing you didn't fall." That's it! Sheesh... 

Now Luis's horse was the most stubborn and slow one of the bunch. He was always last in line and hardly listened to Luis. If the guide turned his head around Luis's horse would start trotting, but as soon as the guide looked away the horse immediately slowed down. Needless to say, Luis and I were hardly near each other during the 3 hour trip! Despite that it was truly one of the best horseback riding adventures I have ever done. And Luis said he's never going again unless we're in Chile. After getting back to the place we started we were provided with a Mapuche lunch. Native food which consisted of cheese and meat empanadas, mashed greenbean ball thingies, sopaipillas (soh-pie-pee-yas), and tortillas. All of it made over a fire in a hut where the guides mother lived. Food never tasted better! 

We were so lucky to end our visit to Pucon this way and our only regret is that we had to leave! But we left, especially since our next and last adventure would take us to Easter Island! 

Sunday, March 4, 2012


I think I will have no way possible to become a responsible adult again after this trip. Our month of living 10 feet from beaches has ruined me for an honest life. I will now only amount to becoming a beach bum. I LOVE the BEACH! 

Wow, Veronica's cabin by the beach is adorable and is even closer to the beach than her apartment in ViƱa del Mar. We are basically 30 feet from the ocean but sitting up on a hill so it seems a little bit farther. It takes 5 minutes to walk to the beach though and that was something we did every day :). We were so close we fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. 

We literally spent most days waking up late, eating lunch, going down to the beach, getting the nerve to jump in the absolutely frigid cold water (and when I say cold I mean colder than any New England beach!), walking along the shore collecting seashells, playing paletas (a tennis-like game on the beach), taking pictures, and all that jazz. 

We drove around the area a few times and visited the town that suffered the most damage from the tsunami after the earthquake. We learned that after the earthquake (an 8.8 on the Richter scale) no one was warned about the tsunami. In fact, officials told people to go back to their homes which made the loss and devastation much worse than it should have been. Chile is a high risk area for tsunami's after earthquakes and apparently officials were warned about the tsunami from U.S. officials and Chile said thanks but there is no tsunami! Very sad, those people that said there wasn't a tsunami are now going on trial for their actions. We drove by skeleton after skeleton of homes with a spray painted "Familia de Lopez" or other names. Each area claimed by families that survived the tsunami. The 2 year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami was today (February 26th) so there has been a lot of coverage about the event on TV. 

Luis eating a Completos Hotdog.

Moving on to happier things like... FOOD!! One of the famous yummy things Chile is known for is empanadas, so you can say we've had tons of empanadas. For those who don't know what they are, it is basically a meat pie. The usual one consists of dough stuffed with meat, onions, boiled eggs, and an olive or two. You can also find cheese empanadas, seafood empanadas, chicken, sweet empanadas, etc. The list can go on. They are really delicious! Another food native to Chile, well the food isn't native but the way you eat it is, is Completos Hotdogs... You have your hotdog, the bun, then you poor on diced tomatoes, guacamole, mayo, ketchup, sauerkraut, and mustard. It sounds crazy but is absolutely delicious! Another native and delicious plate is Hometas (oo-mee-tas). It is made from grinding down corn and onions. You then wrap it back up in corn leaves and cook it in a pot of boiling water. Open it up steaming hot and eat it. You can add diced tomatoes or other seasonings but it is really delicious! I've been getting recipes left and right in hopes to make some of the stuff we've been eating but I don't think it'll ever taste this good again! In Chile and Guatemala the fruit and vegetables have been so fresh and delicious. I didn't used to like guacamole but avocados here are divine. You cut them open and dip your spoon in and it's like slicing into soft butter. Many things I've never enjoyed I actually have begun to love. Who knew? I'm going to miss the food a lot when we come back. 

The last couple days in Cocholgue I spent it teaching and making those string bracelets for everyone. Who knew what I learned in girls camp way back when would come in handy in teaching Luis' family in Chile!

We also finally got brave enough to jump in the water! Talk about fuh-reeezing water! There was this one area right behind a huge rock that was deep, I couldn't touch, and huge waves would crash over the rock drenching everyone who wasn't already wet. It kind of acted like a waterfall, you'd get pushed down under the water for a second but then come right back up. Rejuvinatingly, refreshingly, crazilly, awesome!

 The stray dogs in Chile do not look like stray dogs. They look like someone left their pet behind at their summer home and will walk up to strangers to play and bet pet. These are just two of the dogs on the beach that we made friends with. Breaks my heart and I wish I could take them ALL home with me! 

 Went to see a few different places around Concepcion, an old mining place and a Peruvian boat that the Chileans conquered during the 1800's. We got pulled across the water on a little ferry by sailors to see the boat.

 The last couple weeks in Chile we will officially be on our own for the very first time this whole entire trip! We get to go to Pucon, which is a mecca for outdoor sports. We'll be there for 5 days enjoying hiking, horseback riding, and RAFTING!  and then we go to Easter Island!! Cannot believe it! We'll be coming home March 12th, I can't believe our trip is almost over! I'm using a lot of exclamation points! Oh well... Things are very exciting in our life right now :)

                                               Luis ripped 2 pairs of jeans     Luis and Max enjoying
                                               and this pair he ripped the               the view :)
                                                    front AND back!!

Eating dinner and hanging out with Berenice, Roger (brother to Berenice), Isidora, Luis #2, and Veronica.