Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dan and Dana´s Excellent Adventure Part 1: Santiago and Puerto Varas

Dana and I are three days into our trip together, and we´re having a great time.

On Thursday we were in Santiago, and it was a relaxing day.  After lounging around in the morning, we stopped by the Grants office so I could drop off paperwork and walked through downtown a bit.  We got some lunch at El Aji Seco, a Peruvian restaurant that I like to visit from time to time.  The sun was shining and it was about 75 out, so we went for a stroll through Bellas Artes and enjoyed some ice cream while sitting in the sun.  (OK, so I enjoyed some ice cream while Dana had self restraint).  We walked from Bellas Artes to Patio Bellavista, and we checked out the restaurants and souvenier shops there.  After that it was off to the fountains at Salvador, and we snapped some pictures.

a random protest in downtown

Lunch, nom nom

By the time we got back to my place it was about 4:30.  I told Dana we should leave around 7:30 to catch our bus at 9:15 that night.  I thought that we would have time for a nap, but we spent time packing and making plans for tours down in Puerto Varas and for when we came back and didn´t have that much time after all.  We´re both the type of people that like to plan things in advance, so knowing that we had a tour set up for when we arrived in Puerto Varas on Friday as well as two activities planned for back in Santiago made us feel accomplished and excited.

I thought that we were going to hit a lot of traffic going to the bus station, but we arrived by 8:15.  After getting a seat I decided to buy some snacks and double check our bus information, and I´m glad I did.  It turns out that they changed the departure time of our bus from 9:15 to 10:05 and I needed to go and get a new ticket for us.  When I went to do so I asked about the possibility of getting on the 9:05 bus instead, but it was full.  We just hung out, and Dana showed me pictures from her trip to South Africa on her I phone and also gave me tips on using my new I pod touch.

We got on the bus at about 9:50, and we promptly pulled out at 10:05.  The only problem is so many other buses were leaving at the same time that we spent about 25 minutes waiting just to get out of the bus station. Once we got out our bus driver took a side street and got us on the road as quickly as possible.

We got seats on the second floor in the front!

Our bus seats were comfortable for sitting but not that comfortable for sleeping,  Despite that, we managed to sleep some.  It ended up being about a 12 hour ride, but for the cost of only about $50 it was worth it compared to flying.

By the time we got into our hostel it was about 10:40, and we had scheduled a tour to start at 11.  It turns out they don´t offer their breakfasts year round, so I asked if we could push the tour back a bit so I could run out and get some milk to at least grab a bowl of cereal before we left.  (We packed cereal and some food to bring with us, but no milk).  Luckily the hostel owner was understanding and told us we could leave at 11:30.

Our tour took us to see the alerces trees and a fish market.  The alerces trees are famous because of their resistence to water, and they are used as shingles in many houses here in the south.  The area we visited is actually a private area in a condominium and it´s protected by CONAF (a Chilean form of a wildlife reserve type thing), and so the hostel owner calls someone who controls the gate to get in and out of the area.  Apparently the trees are so valuable that they have had problems with people getting into the area, cutting down trees in the middle of the night, and then taking them to sell for a profit.

It was amazing walking through the area and see such towering trees and so much green.  Some of the trees are over 1,000 years old, and with the rain it really made you appreciate nature that much more.

After that it was off to the fish market.  All of the fish were laid out and in plain view, and it was cool seeing such a variety of fish and shellfish.  In addition to that, there were some people selling veggies, fruit, and even a few cheese vendors.  Dana bought a big piece of cheese that we´re going to have to work through eating for the next week or so.

Then we got some lunch at an authentic restaurant next to the sea.  I´m not much of a seafood person but there weren´t any options without it, so I ordered some curanto, which is a mixture of seafood, shellfish, chicken, sausage, and potatoes.  The plate was piled high with food, but unfortunately most of it was shellfish.  I wasn´t in much of an adventurous mood (I figure I´m already fishy enough), so I let Dana and the hostel owner enjoy the fish.

We got home from the tour at around 4 in the afternoon, and we took a much needed nap.  It ended up being about 3 hours, and after taking a shower I felt much more relaxed.  That night we went into town to buy some groceries for breakfast tomorrow, and we also decided to make sandwiches for the tour we took today.

I suggested getting to the grocery store first so we got there before they closed and we could go out to dinner afterwards, but when we saw fresh chicken prepared and ready to take home and eat, we decided on getting that for dinner and just staying in.

By 10:00 we had eaten and were feeling lazy, so we turned in for the night.

Today was another tour.  This time we went to see the Osorno Volcano, The Petrohue River and Waterfalls, and the Lago Todos Los Santos.

We left at 9, and it was raining pretty heavily.   The hostel owner told us we´d have to see how the weather was, as it seemed that almost no one was going on a tour today with the heavy rain.

You would think that with the amount of traveling that I would have put two and two together regarding a volcano, high altitude, and rain.  But of course this escaped me and I was totally unprepared for the snow that we saw up top.  I had worn a sweatshirt and my windbreaker since it has a hood to cover the rain I was expecting, and I didn´t have any gloves with me.  (They were back in the hostel along with my heavier coat). So once getting out of the jeep, we snapped some pictures and enjoyed a bit of the snow scene, and then we headed into the ski lodge and got some hot chocolate.

Unfortunately it was too overcast to see much of the volcano, but we were satisfied with having made it up there and having snapped some pictures.

On our way down, the hostel owner asked if we wanted to take a detour and do some walking.  We agreed, and so he drove off the beaten path and parked near the river.  We then got out, took some pictures, and proceeded along the path that he showed us.  It took us through to some rocks right up along the river, and the view was amazing.  It was only the three of us there, and you felt like you were in the middle of nature and a thousand miles away from everything else in the world.

After that, we were off to see some waterfalls.  By the time we descended it was barely raining.  We walked through the area and got to see some great views of the waterfalls, rocks, and river against the lush green backdrop of the trees along the mountains.  On our way back we enjoyed our sandwiches and some more hot chocolate as well as a visit from a stray dog that was hungry.  Dana gave him a bit of turkey from her sandwich.

Our last stop on the tour was the Lago Todos Los Santos.  (The All Saints Lake)  We took a motorboat ride through it, and we had a great 360 degree view.  The Chlean flag waved proudly from tbe back of the boat despite the light rain and cold weather, and the snow-capped Osorno volcano looked majestic from where we were.  After about a half hour ride we were back on the shore and had an impromptu photo session along the shore.

We´re now back relaxing at the hostel, enjoying some down time before going out to explore downtown and get dinner tonight.  Tomorrow we´re taking a tour of Lago Llanquihue, so keep reading for more news about our adventures.


  1. Looks super fun! I love your photos!

  2. Thanks! Just saw your comment now! Are you planning on going down that way?