She’s going to blow…

image

 

After a 12 hour night bus I made it to Pucon, home of adventure activities and the volcano Villarrica that erupted 10 months ago. I arrived to an email to say they were climbing the volcano on the 11th due to bad weather predicted for the 12th ūüė¶ As I had only just arrived and it was 2pm there was no chance. Next good day was Saturday and maybe Friday. I paid a visit to the office and booked on and got measured up for my gear. I’m ready to go!

I spent the day looking around the town and walking around the lake. As I had no reservation I was placed in the Harry Potter room……basically a bunk bed wedged under the stairs. It was fine for one night and then moved to a shared room with a bottom bunk. WIN! It’s amazing how excited you get about having this luxury. The hostel was great with a good kitchen and spacious rooms with lake view and also of the volcano. The staff were also great.

image

In an attempt to save money due to the cost of the Volcano hike I opted for cheap meals that I cooked and cheaper activities such as the national park. With a 5am wake up call I got my bag and walks to the office of summit Chile for my volcano adventure. Friday 13th turned out not to be so lucky as the clutch on the van broke and we were turned round due to cloud cover and wind conditions on top of the volcano. With a speed run back to the hostel to grab my money I mad it to the 8.30am bus to the national park where I met up with a bunch from the hostel including Ned, a tree surgeon from Milton Keynes.

The park was stunning with great views of the lakes which I later saw from the top of the volcano. The clouds clears and a great day had preparing my legs for the volcano climb the following day. More pasta and another trip to the shops to re stock on my day supplies and an early night. I did enjoy my audition for Peter pan though.

image
Huerquehue National Park (Spanish pronunciation: [werňąkewe]) is located in the foothills of the Andes, in the Valdivian temperate rainforest of the La Araucan√≠a region in southern Chile. The park encompasses 125 square kilometres (12,500 Ha) of mountainous terrain east of Caburgua Lake, and has an elevation range of 720 to 2,000 m asl.

Huerquehue is a Mapudungun word (the language of the Mapuche people) that means “the messenger‚Äôs place”. One of the most noteworthy features of Huerquehue National Park are its ancient Araucaria (Araucaria araucana) forests, the tree commonly known as “monkey puzzle”. These are the backdrop for the clear lakes and lagoons that dot the park, including Tinquilco Lake, which lies in the lower portion of this protected area.

imageimageimage

Saturday was clear and sunny so we started our 5?hour hike up the volcano with strict instructions on how to lock our knees for resting steps, walk sideways and use our ice axe for support if we fall down the volcano. We had several after and fuel stops but the top never got any closer although it looked as if it as so obtainable. The views were stunning and as we reached the top the clouds covered the base of the volcano ¬†like a duvet making the active smoking volcano even more impressive and imposing over Pucon below. There were moments when I just could not look at the view as the climb was soo steep it seemed to turn the world upside down and made me feel quite dizzy. I don’t have a fear for heights but I do when all there is below is a cloud and white snow as far as you can see.

we reached the crater and it was just awesome to be on the edge smelling the fumes that literally took your breath away. As the fumes passed across with the wind every ounce of breath was taken from you and I could only imagine this is what it would be like to be taken by the dementours in Harry Potter. Fitting as I was living under the stairs!

image image image

Villarrica is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes. It is also known as Rucapill√°n, a Mapuche word meaning “House of the Pill√°n” or “House of the spirit”. It is the westernmost of three large stratovolcanoes that trend perpendicular to the Andean chain along the Gastre Fault. Villarrica, along with Quetrupill√°n and the Chilean portion of Lan√≠n, are protected within Villarrica National Park.

We witnessed lava flows from the eruption in 1971 and the chair lift that was totally destroyed. I humbling sight of the power of Mother Nature. Then again I am in the worlds most active country for earthquakes and volcano. That is how the Andes was formed so makes sense I guess.

image

We made our return via our bums. Yep we got kitten up in our trousers, bum protectors and ice picks and were given a tutorial of how to control our speed. And we were off…zooming down the 2850m volcano pretty much down 1500 meters to where the snow stops. 5 hrs up and 1 hour down whoohoo. The climb was worth it just for the slide down. I loved every minute of it.

image

I returned to the hostel where there were talks of a BBQ so we jumped I a car got communal bread, salad etc ohh and wine and had a feast using all the left overs as I headed off the following day. One thing lead to another and I found my self in a bar drinking piscola, pisco of and cola in a club where we danced the night away until 4pm.

10.10am was a harsh wake up call as needed to check out at 10.30am. Good job most of the hostel staff were there too so no worries. I packed my bag had a leisurely morning burning off ¬†hang over and chatting to my mum and then went for a stroll along the black beach before getting my night bus to Valparaiso. I’ve heard so much but not sure what to expect from the city.

 

 

Advertisements

Bring on the Volcano…

image

The weather¬†had started to turn in Chiloe so I skipped the national park and made my way back to Peurto Montt and then took the 20 minute bus journey to Peurto Veras for the sum of 800 peso (80p). Peurto Varas couldn’t be further removed from the down trodden port Montt. Blue lakes( Llanquihue) volcano views (Osorno) and snow capped peaks of Calubuco and Tronador and an oddly very German feel. The architecture is German and the area is well known for its German cakes. To be honest you could be in Germany if it wasn’t for the Spanish language and volcano surroundings.

image

The city of Puerto Varas dates back to 1853 and is named after Antonio Varas, the Minister of the Interior at the time. It was founded by German immigrants who settled the shores of Lake Llanquihue as part of a government colonization project during the presidency of Manuel Montt. Puerto Varas is the southernmost of a string of towns on the western shore of Llanquihue Lake, which is the second largest lake in Chile and includes Frutillar, Llanquihue and Puerto Octay.

I took a day trip to the national park and walked the base of a volcano in preparation for my climb later in the week. It was a hard walk as most of it was black sand and rocks from the lava flows. I met with a guy from NZ and we had a good chat about travel and moving away from home. Later that night we enjoyed the local brew.

imageimageimage

The next day I took a trip to Frutillar and walked the beaches and arboretum with the help of my guide dog.

image

I then booked my bus to Pucon where I had learnt that they had reopened Volcano Villarica which had erupted just 10 months ago. A quick email to the organisers and off I go in hope to climb the volcano on the 12th November. Wish me luck

imageimage

 

 

 

Chiloe in Chile

image

I jumped on a bus and made my way to Chiloe, the second largest island in Chile, after the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and the fifth largest in South America. I hadn’t booked any accommodation as was thinking of staying in P.¬†Montt but decided against it. Having joined up with German girls from the boat on the bus ride over, I tried my luck at their hostel. Good news…there was space and we were greeted by the friendliest…if not over friendly host. We shared a 3 bed room (no bunk beds) in a lovely Wooden house with log burners keeping us warm along with the 7 blankets on our bed. It was like staying in my nans house when I was a kid with the weight of the blankets being almost so much it would stop you from moving. We did love the choice of bed sheets though!

image image

She informed us about her ‘walking’ and how we have to do the walking and how she had a plan and route for the walking and more info on the walking. So we did the walking and followed the plan. She was right and the walking was lovely with great views. The island is 190 km (118 mi) from north to south, and averages 55‚Äď65 km (34‚Äď40 mi) wide. The capital is Castro, on the east side of the island; the second largest town is Ancud, at the island’s northwest corner, and there are several smaller port towns on the east side of the island, such as Quell√≥n, Dalcahue and Conchi. We stayed in Ancud and made day trips from there to visit the penguin colony and several of the wooden churches scattered around the towns and islands of Chiloe as well as houses on stilts which locals historically would help each other to move.

image

image

In the 17th Century Jesuit missionaries to Chiloé Island were charged with the evangelization of the local population and built a number of chapels throughout the archipelago. By 1767 there were already 79 and today more than 150 wooden churches built in traditional style can be found on the islands, many of these declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Following the expulsion of the Jesuits in 1767, the Franciscans assumed responsibility for the religious mission to Chiloé from 1771. Built only of wood and standing only on stones it is incredible so many of these still stand.

image image image image

Chiloe is steeped in culture and folk law some stories which can be found here and worth a read. Especially the one about the Traucho which can be seen everywhere.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chilota_mythology

The food here is predominantly sea food which I love and some special dishes which include Curranto which is prepared by being buried in a hole in the ground with stones heated in a bonfire, then covered in leaves and left to cook for several hours. As far as the ingredients go, curanto is a mix of all the Chiloé essentials: shellfish, pork sausage, potatoes and different kinds of potato bread and dumplings. Another is Paila marina, a shellfish soup containing different kinds of cooked fish and seasoned with herbs and Caldillo de Congrio (conger eel soup). We sampled some these dishes at one of the local Sunday food markets where everybody gathered to share in eating great food for next to nothing. Fish soup containing everything under the sun including salmon and urchins £2.50. Salmon is a big business in Chile but has undergone some tough times leading to some unfortunate practises but you can read about that elsewhere. For now we enjoyed the food and great atmosphere whilst it continued to rain all day. A good day for churches and eating hot food!

image image

 

 

All aboard the good ship Navimag

 

image

I got it…….the boat that is! It worked out an absolute treat. I had sat having lunch with a German girl (Catherine) in El Chalten who I briefly spoke to about my plans to take the boat. Due to not being able to get a bus ticket to P. Natales from El Calafate until the following day I booked into the hostel for another night. Catherine had returned to the same hostel where she explained she was going to try and get the boat to but had booked a bus for 5.30 am so as to catch the office before it closed at 1pm. Dammmm….it didnt know this and had my bus booked so it arrived on Monday at 2pm, the boat check-in being at 8.45pm. Ticket prices had gone up due to the beginning of the high season but I had been told I could get a discount for a last minute booking. I had also heard that you may be able to get a discount through YHA but wasn¬īt 100% sure. To cut a long story short, Catherine got to the Navimag boat terminal and managed to book me on having taken my details. She also managed to wangle a 15% discount. BONUS! Jim and Rob (two english life guards I¬īd met in El Chalten) having heard this managed to get an upgraded room so we went in for a second try and got upgraded to a double cabin with window. All aboard!

image

We rocked up at 8.45pm to board the boat to be told it could not dock due to high winds. After a bit of waiting we were told it would be 12pm before we could board as they had to get passengers off and clean before we got on. Naturally we went to the pub and bonded over some drinks. In total there was about 40 of us on the boat which holds 150 plus so a last minute ticket would not have ben an issue even though I was told there was only a 15% chance. We boarded the boat having been taken to the port in a mini bus and awaited our 6am sail time. We woke in the morning for breakfast and our briefing but we were still in the port. 10am came and went and eventually we had a briefing to say we would set sail at 5pm due to the restrictions for boats to pass a narrow passage which required day light and the correct water levels. Percy or Parsley as he became know, due to Catherine miss hearing, was our on board life coach who gave the safety briefing, buffet opening times as well as the famous talks on the flora and fauna of the area. A Chilean food engineer, second generation German, bird fanatic and general legend. A TV series could be made based on Percy who was larger than life in his enthusiasm for the area and nature. As for ‘The a General’ from Canada: he knew all there was to kno about everything. You know the type!

” I was talking to my boss and I turn around and say look at that shit…..It was incredible”- Percy telling us about an erupting volcano.

“Yes the boat sank….I was on it and 9 others of your crew. We had no time for the lifeboats so we waited for the local boats……We had time so we took selfies….It was very good for the Insurance” Percy telling us of the Navimag ferry that sank.

“And now we play Titanic”-Percy telling us we are about to navigate “with the eyes” through some icebergs.

image

“I went on a trip to the remote islands in Chiloe and it is true……insest is a big issue. One girl was pregnant from her grandfather. She was 15. This is why we make up stories that they have a troll in woods who gets girls pregnant” Percy on the ins and outs of Chiloe folk law.

No wifi and no alcohol (technically) for 4 days. Bliss! We sneaked alcohol on like naughty school kids and spent the next few days admiring the views of the Patagonian fjords past glaciers and snow capped mountains. The views were incredible, the people great and it was nice not having to think what was I going to eat and where was I going to stay. We saw dolphins, seals lots of sea birds that I can¬īt remember the names of (I think one of them was Jonathan) and the highlight was he spotting of the worlds largest mammal, a blue whale!

The boat was also a cargo ferry which became obvious when we entered the open ocean and the cows mooed with each rock of the boat like one of those kids toys. The weather varied from scorching hot to incredibly strong winds that would support your entire body weight but being out on deck was the place to be, either reading chatting or drinking grape juice (hummm)

image image image

We passed Villa Puerto Eden which has a population of 176¬†and¬†is considered one Chile’s most isolated inhabited places together with Easter Island.¬†The village is also known for being the home of the last Kaw√©shkar people. Owing to the large tidal glaciers¬†caused by the region‚Äôs super-high precipitation, it is only accessible by sea, on the¬†ferry. A young boy and his mother was on the boat who lived on Eden. It was interesting to her that he had no bike as there are no roads just wooden bridges connecting place to place.¬†A weekly transport boat takes local fish and shellfish products to markets.

image

An incredible experience that I¬īm really glad I did. I also met Doris and Annette who I went to Chiloe with. We arrived in Peurto Montt where I checked out the fish market which was really interesting with all sorts of seafood I have never seen but was to experience later in Chiloe. Peurto Montt doesn’t have a lot to offer and was destroyed in an earthquake so it was on a bus to the second largest Island in south America with its folk law and wooden houses. See you in a few hours Chiloe…

image image image image

 

Hot Ice….The end of the world and Gods ploughs

 

image

It works out that it is as cheap to fly in Argentina as it is to take a bus but with the advantage of saving days of time so off I went to the End of the World. Ushuaia is the southern most city in the world only recently gaining city status. Ushuaia is located in a wide bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego (land of fire) bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range, and on the south by the Beagle channel. The British ship HMS Beagle, under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy, first reached the channel on January 29, 1833, during its maiden voyage surveying Tierra del Fuego. The city was originally named by early British missionaries who to be honest caused the native Yamana to become extinct as they provided clothes which caused them to stay cold and not dry out. Disease spread and the population largely died out. Darwin described them as the missing link between man and ape. Obviously not true but just adapted to the environment in which they lived. It was incredible to stand on Bridges Island in one of the circular plots where they would have created their huts feasting on clams and penguins looking out onto the Beagle channel.

image

The wildlife was stunning with seal ions albatross and colonies of cormorants. It has a really special feel knowing you are only 30 hours on a boat to the white continent Antartica. Needless to say the wind blows strong and it is pretty cold. I loved the fact that it was sunny and cold but didn’t get dark until 8.30-9pm. On the first afternoon I visited the prison which opened in¬†1896 mainly for re-offenders and dangerous prisoners transferred from Buenos Aires, but also some political prisoners. A separate military prison opened in 1903 at the nearby Puerto Golondrina but they merged in 1910. The city centered around the prison built by the Argentine government to increase the Argentine population and to ensure Argentine sovereignty over Tierra del Fuego. The prison population became forced colonists and spent much of their time building the town with timber from the forest around the prison. They also built a railway to the settlement now a tourist attraction known as the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), the southernmost railway in the world.

The prison operated until 1947, when President Juan Perón closed it by executive order in response to the many reports of abuse and unsafe practices. There were some pretty interesting tales of people who stayed there from young serial killers to poets and authors. It is now the maritime and prison museum and a navel base.

image

The following day I walked to the Base of the Martial Glacier to a lovely little tea house where we indulged in a tea and coffee. It was ok but the view was great. The start of much walking with my new found friends from the Antartic hostel which provided good breakfast including fresh eggs. It was almost an awkward moment when I went to crack what I thought was a hard boiled egg which I was informed was raw (just in time) Oops. Anyway free eggs meant free egg sandwiches that we ate for the next few days. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth right….free food and Argentina ain’t cheap and neither are the activities. Later in the afternoon I took a boat trip around the seaweed laden islands of the Beagle channel. I just loved being at one with nature and soaking it all in. Big ships are not able to navigate between the islands due to the seaweed so it was great to be able to walk on one of the islands and learn about the fauna and flora of the area as well as the wildlife. We finished the day by splashing out on Beagle Trout and King Crab. Delicious!

image image

Day 3 was the national park. Tierra del Fuego National Park is studded with mountains, lakes and rivers, which form deep valleys. It is bounded on the west by the Chilean border, on the north by Lago Fagnano, and on the south by the Beagle Channel, which forms the shoreline. It encompasses an area of 63,000 hectares (160,000 acres) and represents two ecoregions: the Altos Andes and the Patagonian Forest. While the former ecoregion is made up of hill ranges and slopes, the latter has high and jagged mountains, glacier valleys and semi-deciduous forests. We packed our egg sandwiches and walked along stunning lakes and through amazing forests spotting woodpeckers, foxes which we named after the German guy who spotted it (Lucas) and a beaver along with a host of other bird species such as upland geese etc. We stopped at the end of the lake on the boarder with chile (you shall not pass) created a zen garden with pebbles and sticks and ate our sandwiches. We then walked around the various other treks around the park. We thought the bus would pick us up at 5pm but works out we may have been in the wrong spot so walked the long road back to where we were dropped off ready for the 7pm bus back. We had walked over 15miles that day so we got to the bus pick up spot and sinked a much needed beer. Interesting fact that there are no amphibians in this region.

 

image image image

So I managed to loose my towel again. I don’t know how but think somebody must have taken it as they provided free towels in the hostel. More to the point though who took the Moomoo. This is an orange nightshirt¬†with white dots and lace neck. Hard to miss I hear you say. Well somebody took my friends moomoo and it didn’t turn up. Saddened by the loss we had chocolate liqueur for Sunday breakfast. I had it in coffee whilst Lucas had it on his cereal. Yummy. Unfortunately one of the ladies who was travelling with her friend developed chicken pox and was unable to take her trip to Antartica. She waved goodbye to her friend to only be reunited with her on Monday. The ship had set sail and developed a fire on board causing it to return. The friends were reunited and we kept our fingers crossed that the chicken pox had improved enough for the doctor to allow her on the ship. A real emotional roller coaster for them both. I really hope they made their trip of a lifetime together.

On Monday I arranged my flights to El Calafate the hub for¬†Perito Moreno located in the Los Glaciers National Park in southwest Santa Cruz Province. I arrived in the town at 4pm and booked onto a tour the following day which took a different route through the mountains and farmland where we saw condors etc. The Glacier was awesome¬†250 km2 (97 sq mi) ice formation, and 30 km (19 mi) in length, is one of 48 glaciers fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field located in the Andes. This ice field is the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water.The glacier is¬†named after the explorer Francisco Moreno, a pioneer who studied the region in the 19th century and played a major role in defending the territory of Argentina in the conflict surrounding the international border dispute with Chile. The Glaciarium does a great job of explaining the science behind the glaciers and the explorers to whom we owe our gratitude.

The things that I took away from the day was the experience of hearing the glacier face carve and seeing it up close falling into the water. It was like a thunder clap creating huge waves. I was on the boat when a whole piece of the glacier carved off into the water. Imagine a 20 storey building made of ice just crumbling into the water. Just awesome! The colours were also incredible created from the blue wavelengths having more energy and penetrating the ice causing them to look like they are painted with blue poster paint.

image

I then took the 3 he bus to El Chalten¬†a small mountain village located in the riverside of Rio de las Vueltas, within the Los Glaciares National Park at the base of Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitz Roy mountains. The village was named Argentina’s Trekking Capital or Capital Nacional del Trekking. It was built in 1985 to help secure the disputed border with Chile. Today the sole reason for its existence is tourism. A blessing I think as it is free to get in the walks are clearly marked and they are incredibly careful about the environment and protection of the park and it’s crystal clear glacial waters. It was a,aging to be able to fill your water bottle from the streams and natural pools.

I arrived at 11 to a beautiful view of Mount Fitzroy and decided to do a 3 hr hike to Leguna Torres. Stunning and was blessed to see a Huemel deer which are nearly extinct with only 16 known in the park. I got to the end of the hike to a beautiful view of the Laguna and sheltered from the wind to eat my boiled eggs I had done the day before and a pastry type bread I had purchased from the local bakery. To my delight the eggs were soft boiled and oozed over my bread as I watched a yellow¬†headed caracara try to stay in the sky against the blustery winds. I don’t think I could have had a better day for my 1 month travel anniversary. The following day I woke to wind, snow and rain so reported my deer spot and booked my bus back for the following day as I had an open ticket. By this time the sky’s had cleared and I started my trip towards FitzRoy on the Leguna Torres tres trek. The last part is a bit of rock scrabble for an hour but well worth the view where I found the Laguna to be covered in snow from the night before. I went the long way back resulting in clocking up 55km over two days. Stunning scenery.

image

image image

I caught the 1pm bus back to El Calafate following route 40 with stunning views all around me dozing off every now and again in the afternoon sun. On my return I decided to try and book my bus to Puerto Natales (Chile) as I plan to get a boat through the fjords of the ice fields up to Puerto Montt. Unable to get the bus on Sunday as it was full I’ve opted to get it at 8am on Monday. I’ve not booked the boat as I’ve been trying to get my discount from hosteling¬†international but not with much luck. I will therefore wing it and try and get on last minute¬†or alternatively spend some more walking time in Torres del Paine before getting it the following week. Yep it takes 4 days and goes once a week. Wish me luck!