What a whirlwind first week in Chile this has been. Marc and I headed off on the 5th of Feb for a 18 hour journey to Santiago Chile. We arrived safe and sound in the city, though a little folded up from our long plane ride. We spent the first few days in Santiago getting money changed, checking out the sites, heading to the local market of course, and planning our next leg of the journey.
2 Nights in the big city was enough for us. We had been planning to head to Santa Cruz, the wine growing region in Chile, but last minute I found what I thought would be a better option. After learning the first lesson of the trip, don´t have too much wine the night before a bus trip day, we headed on a bus to Talca (Just 3 hours south of Santiago), then a local bus to a guesthouse called Biota Maule. It is just 200 meters from a biologocal reserve called Reserva Alto Lircay. We spent 4 nights and 3 days getting our butts in shape for the hiking to come. On our first day we hoofed over 26km up mountain sides to reach the most beautiful Laguna Alta. (high lake). As we trekked up the mountain with just our daypack (which the gallant Marc carried the whole way), we passed groups of kids who were apparantly part of a scout troup. They were heading to the same destination as us, but they were carrying full bags with pots and pans attached to the backs of them. Big bottles of water, and one poor kid had a full sized shovel strapped to the back of his pack. The whole bunch was wearing jeans and sneakers and looked like they were having the most miserable time. We met them on our way back down, and they got so happy when we told them that they only had another 15 or 20 minutes to go.
At the Laguna Alta, is where we learned the second lesson of the trip (I already knew this one but had to learn it again apparantly). South American sun is HOT! The ozone here is very thin so after a quick dip in the lake, Marc and I sat in the sun for maybe 15 or 20 minutes to dry off. When we finally slogged it home from hiking and had showers, we realized that we would be sore from more than just the exertion. You could see exactly where our hands had missed with the sunscreen. My butt where my bathing suit line was was bright red, and Marc´s back and calves got the worst of it. Lesson learned.
We were just knackered after our first day of hiking so went on a smaller adventure on day 2. We hiked down to the river in the park (4 k or so away) and spent the day playing in the cold clear water, rock jumping, Marc took photos, and we watched the humming birds dive around us to enjoy the fushia flowers hanging down by the river. At the cottage that night we got to witness 2 male carpintero negros (big black woodpeckers with bright red heads) squaking at each other. They made such funny laughing noises. Back to our place for an early night (which was thwarted by some very noisy small children who are staying at the same place we are), as the next morning would be an early one too.
Day 3. Up to be at the administration of the part (2 k away) at opening time. We got to hike in the cool morning which was great as we were heading a full 30 km this day. We passed several camping sights, and headed up up up before we turned a corner to see a huge plateau in front of us with snow capped mountains in the background. We climbed up onto a HUGE plateau (some believe this flat spot is a UFO landing site). It was made up of massive rocks that look like paving stones, but when you get to the edge of the plateau and see where these rocks have tumbled down, they are 5 to 8 feet deep. Very cool. We got to sit up there, have a bite to eat, and be mesmerized by the incredible views. A green valley below with a river running in it, backed by a huge range of massive mountains. Marc went snap happy while I poked around the rocks to see how many lizzards I could find. I found a lot. Back to our cottage for the final night in this beautiful place.
Friday morning we headed out early for Talca, booked the LAST 2 seats on a bus to Valdivia, and booked what seemed to be the last 2 beds in the town as well. We´ll be spending the next 3 nights here planning, laundering, and sightseeing before we head down to the island of Chiloe.
Marc´s Spanish is improving every day. It´s so great that he´s not shy at all about giving it a try. And everyone here is so friendly and encouraging.
I´ll try to be more regular in these postings now.
Hugs to all
Erin and Marc