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I’ve been promising an update for a while now since I returned from my trip to Puerto Varas and Chiloe in the more southern reaches of the country, but the start of classes distracted my attention away from writing. This was not because there is any actual class work that needed to be done, but rather effort put into figuring out which classes to take and maneuvering through the ‘intercambio’ student registration process which is a different process all together than what the average Chilean student goes through.

 

Regardless, this last trip was a weekend excursion on the last long weekend before classes started. Our group of 9 adventurous whippersnappers set out on an overnight, 13 hour bus ride in the thankfully comfortable “semi-cama” class of coach buses which offers a foot rest and, get this, a whole 5 more degrees of lean back! Okay, so maybe it’s not that exciting on paper, but believe me, it sure pays dividends in the form of some sweet shut eye. Our destination was the area surrounding Lago Llanquihue (pronounced yawn – key – way), a lake surrounded by volcanoes and fairly dense forested areas. The most prominent volcano being Osorno, an 8,700 foot masterpiece whose eastern half lies in a National Park Rosales, while the wester half is outside of the park’s boundaries. The volcano is especially remarkable because of its entirely symmetric cone shape, especially when contrasted to the shattered cone of Calbuco, which is about 2,000 feet shorter than it’s younger brother. This height difference is the result of a massive eruption that blew off the top 1,500 feet of the volcano’s summit.

 

There are a number of cities and towns that surround Lago Llanquihue, including Puerto Varas, Ensanada, Frutillar, Puerto Oscuro (Dark Port), and Puerto Octay. Because of the short length of our trip, we were only able to explore one of these cities, and it was the picturesque Puerto Varas. This town is great because it is not too touristy, especially when contrasted with Pucon, where you can find rich Chileans abound with their fuel burning SUV’s and cold attitudes. Okay, well maybe their not so bad, I just find it hard to respect someone driving a car that big in a beautiful town that only takes 15 minutes to walk from end to end. It seems that they prefer to avoid contact with anyone that they do not have special social business with.

Anyway, needless to say, Puerto Varas offered up a chill atmosphere and we found a great hostel just a block off of the water and right in the heart of the resort town. Our first day in town we made the short hike up to Parque Philippi, which provided great views of the city below as well as of Volcano Osorno. This place also had a couple beautiful species of flowers that you can check out in my photos, here at my Picasa Web Albums in the Puerto Varas Album. We also spent time on the volcanic black sand beaches and also got to go out fishing on the lake in a small outfit (one guy and his puny motor boat) and caught ourselves dinner which including three fresh salmon and one trout (you can see us preparing the fish in one of the photographs.) The highlight of our stay in Puerto Varas was Canyoning – an adventure tourist’s dream: 3 solid hours of jumping off high rock formations into icy pools of fresh, impeccably clean mountain spring water, sliding through natural rock water slides, and repelling down a 90 foot waterfall (stopping 30 feet from the bottom to jump off, of course.) We wore wetsuits to stave off hypothermia of course, and adorned helmets, gloves, and the like to prevent any little injuries. However, nothing could stop the rush of water up my nose and into my brain as I leaped off of 20 rocks into relatively shallow water. Do not fret though, you worriers, you. We had guides that scoped it all out for us before hand and who somehow manage to conjure up the energy to complete this exhausting aquatic tour 5 times a week, with each session being about 7 hours in total including transportation. As one would guess, I didn’t have a camera along with me tucked into my wetsuit, so you will not find any photos in my Picasa Web Albums, but we did pick up some DVD’s that contain about 10-12 minutes of action packed footage from the trip, so I’ll make sure to put that up (possibly on Vimeo.com/, a great video website, check it out) when I get my hands on it. After this day of adventure, we of course had to unwind with some drinks in the hostel, getting to know our fellow travelers staying at the hostel.

 

Our second destination on the trip was Chiloe (supposed to have an accent on the ‘e’ but I haven’t figured out how to do so in Open Office, if any one knows how, feel free to let me know) which is an enchanted archipelago just a few miles off the coast, about 4 hours drive south of Puerto Varas. The bus ride included a stretch where our bus boarded a large ferry that brought us across the channel separating Chiloe from the mainland of Chile. Since my photographs really do not do the island justice, you can be assured of its beauty by the fact that National Geographic has it rated as the number 3 most beautiful island in the world (check it out here) (the pdf  is more descriptive.)  Chiloe is a mysterious archipelago and is a very unique place in comparison to the rest of Chile, mainly because it feels and looks like what I had imagined the Irish or Norwegian countryside to look like: “rolling hills, covered in patchwork fields and thicker forests that provides a lasting sense of rural calm” (from my Footprint guidebook). In addition, the place is famous for its legends and rich mythology. Featuring such mischief makers as El Trauco, a short, fat, and ugly man who carries a hatchet and specializes in seducing virgins using his magic powers to give them erotic dreams while they are asleep. When they wake they go look for him in the forest and are seduced by his eyes. Despite his ugliness, he is irresistible and the girl throws herself on the ground. You should be careful not to disturb the Traco while he is thus occupied: those who do so are immediately deformed beyond recognition and sentenced to die within 12 months. There are other legends of the island and the various mythical inhabitants that are said to live within its confines, but I will not describe them all. The Trauco is my favorite anyways, and I bought a little plaque that has the Trauco on it, adorning his hatchet. Apparently before the Spanish came to Chiloe, these mythical figures were seen as positive spirits, and were said to provide protection. However, after colonialism began, the role of these figures changed into a more negative light. There is also said to be a ghost ship called El Calueche that patrols the harbors around Chiloe whisking away ship wrecked sailors as it builds its crew of ghost men.

 

However, none of these figures or ghost ships crossed our path during our short stay on the island, but I’m certain that if we stayed another day we probably could have seen one. Hehe, oh legends. While we were there, though, we did get to see some great wildlife including multiple colonies of Humboldt Penguins that live on the large rocks right off the north western shore. There were also a number of different kinds of bird species here including a couple of large colorful varieties of ducks. The water was very cold around the island, as it is around the vast majority of the Chilean coast; this is caused by the presence of the Humboldt Current which carries very cold arctic waters up the western coast of South America.

 

While we were on the archipelago we also sampled some of the local cuisine which included a seafood and shellfish dish called Curanto (a photo can be found at the end of the Puerto Varas album) which consists of a heap of clams and mussels on top of potatoes, ribs, chicken, and a corn like substance resembling the maza found in tamales. We ordered 4 of them for our group of 7 and we all were able to eat to our hearts’ content.

 

Well, hopefully this entry has given a bit of fodder for you to read, and I will be making another entry soon describing my experiences thus far on campus here in Santiago, as well as giving you introductions to my new housemates. The house is all new, with multiple moving in and multiple people moving out.

Picasa Web Albums

 

Until then,

Cheers,

Ian J

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