I did make it back the the U.S. (baggage claim was super easy 🙂 )
*End of Spoilers*
But I have decided to keep posting in bite-size pieces. So, here ya go:
After Valparaiso we drove 10 hours south to the ‘Lake District’ of Chile. This region is completely different from the dry, almost desert-like terrain surrounding Santiago. The Lake District feels slightly mystical with dense forests in the shadow of volcanic mountains. One in particular held our interest as it is the most active volcano in South America and could be climbed as a day trip. Needless to say, I thought Mount Villarrica was pretty sweet…
During the entire climb I keep thinking how similar Villarrica was to Mount Nguaruhoe in New Zealand. A bit of a deja vu moment, to be sure. A day later, this feeling of similarity continued at the amazing Salto de Claro (stay tuned – next post 🙂 )
One difference between the New Zealand Volcano and Villarrica are the required guides on the South American volcano. New Zealand has a ‘no worries’ approach to the outdoors – they aren’t worried if you aren’t.
South American is safer – who would have thought?!?
After hiking about three hours, a very deep, rhythmic sound could be heard from the crater. Smoke rose from the pit and small bits of lava would occasionally be flung from below. The rocks in the crater were tinted a very unusual green, which is evidently the due to the gasses from the volcano. If the smoke turns rocks green, I wonder what it does to people…
I am convinced some of the best things in life are associated with food. Case in point – Sam. We met Sam while eating lunch while hiking in Parque Nacional Huerquehue. He walked by, we struck up a conversation and offered to give our new friend a ride back to town. Little did he know that he would be traveling with us for the next five days. (Lesson of the day – don’t talk with strangers unless you want to be with them for the next week).
Sam continued to prove my food-best-things theory by introducing me to the completo. (North) America – listen up! This is everything that a hot dog is not. Fresh-ish bread for a bun, some sort of ‘meat’, avocado, ketchup, and mayonnaise. Get the combo meal (just adds a drink…fritas are extra) for under 1,000clp ($1.40). Not bad.
It was in Huerquehue that I saw the ‘Monkey Puzzle Tree’, which only grows in south-central Chile, in volcanic soil about 3,000 feet. They are pretty neat trees, but Sam saw them as a way to save a buck (actually a pound – He is English…). Sam had heard the pinones (seed-things) of these tree could be cooked and eaten, so he collected a sackful and attempted to cook them at the hostel. They are edible, but there is a reason the trend has not caught on… (One of my last actions in Chile was to ‘forget’ the bag in the rental car)
Unfortunately, Sam was as elusive as he was thrifty, so I only have a picture of his elbow. (Later in the trip I did manage to sneak a picture, but the lighting was poor…)
Next post – waterfalls and such.