After Christmas we went down south and visited Temuco, and Villa La Angostura in Argentina with Camila’s family.  We left on the 26th in the afternoon from Cami’s house in La Reina to head south in two cars: Cami and I in the red bullet, and the rest of the family in the SUV.  As we packed our things, Camila’s dad was so enthusiastic that he was running around the house pretending to be a “choo choo” train – all of our spirits were high.  It took about 6 hours to get to Temuco which actually seemed short since Camila and I got to be on our own in the car and decide our own schedule.  Some of the funny street and place names that we saw along the way were “Tinguiririca”(just fun to say) “Al Río” (to the river), “Peor es Nada” (This is better than having nothing!), Roma (Rome), Polonia (Poland) and Charquicán (a typical Chilean food).  I also took a picture with one of the guys that fills up your gas tank for you since I think it’s a funny contrast to the US.  Normally I think of us as being the laziest in all aspects of life, but not getting out of your car to fill up your tank is another level I think; although it creates a steady stream of jobs so I guess it has its upsides.

In Temuco we visited Camila’s uncle Ernesto and his family for a relaxed and fun dinner.  It was in a country house a little bit outside of the city on a hill with a great view of the low lying plains as the sun went down.  We played soccer outside and Camila attempted a brave header which amounted to her hitting the ball with her face.  Good fun and laughs for all (except Cami and her glasses).  We ate quiche of a few different varieties which were all very good, along with wine and Christmas cookies.  After dinner we hung out with their three kids Paloma, Nachito and Martín; played with an iPad and looked at Jupiter through a telescope that they had set up in the living room.  The grandparents Fernando and Angelita were also there and were charming.

We stayed at a really nice hostel called Hostal Porvenir (Future Hostel) which I thought was a bit funny since we were there with three couples, two of them young.  Julia and Andrés and Camila and I were the young and growing couples staying with the experienced parents in a hostel that is all about the future.  These thoughts ran through my head as I nodded off to sleep beside Camila.  Breakfast was tasty and adequate; everyone in the family seemed to get a kick out of the Lazy Susan that was at the center of the table since they had never heard of that name before.  I also learned that there is a tool, like a wire cutter, that is called a “Napoleon” here and that if you walked into a hardware store asking for a Napoleon they would know exactly what you’re looking for.  What a quirky place Chile can be.

That next day we drove our way south and then east through the pass in the Andes that leads towards Bariloche, Argentina.  Our destination lay slightly before Bariloche in a valley – the small touristy village of Villa La Angostura.  The route to our lake side cabins was a long and windy one which had us asking for directions nearly every block as we inched our way towards our final point of arrival.  The wiggly roads were well worth the trouble since the cabins were absolutely gorgeous, made of mostly wood with a style reminiscent of northern Minnesota log cabins.  The views out onto the lake were beyond belief and made for a great ambiance at all times of the day.

We celebrated New Year’s Eve with an asado (bar-b-que) out in the back yard of the cabin near the lake.  It was a delicious and lengthy event lasting until about one in the morning with plenty of wine (a Spanish bottle called “Sangre de Toro” which was delectable despite the crude name).  The day times were mostly spent relaxing or doing shopping in Villa La Angostura; the restaurants were tasty and cheap: Cami and I went to the nicest looking Italian place we could find and I ordered the most expensive steak on the menu; price: $15.  Can’t complain about that, especially since it was two steaks that arrived on my plate along side an entire liter of Stella Artois.

After feeling mildly buzzed from the steak and beer we decided that it was time for me to get an Argentinian haircut, which some Chileans travel all the way across the border to have.  Photos are to come later since we used a different camera in the salon, but it was a hilarious and inefficient experience.  Camila laughed as the barbers talked to customers coming in, chatting to their spouses and kids who came to visit and watched the news about gas prices – all of this while I sat with a wet head waiting to get my trim.  This was anything but American efficiency and my gringo insides squirming with impatience.  Camila assured me that this was all part of the process and that it was nothing personal.  However, after five minutes of waiting (what felt like fifteen) I decided to put my American foot down and ask for service.  With a grin and a spring in his step, the barber finally began snipping away at my unruly bush of hair.  Afterwards I was more clean cut and had a better appreciation for the Argentinean model of customer service.  It wasn’t all bad, though, as we got to sip on maté and took photos with the hairdressers afterwards.

In the center while in a grocery store we experienced two brief power outages which reminded me yet again that I was outside of the overly industrialized and hyper-connected US.

A bit of adventure followed as we took a day to explore the Argentinean forests surrounding the village.  We went by boat out to the end of a peninsula to check out a forest called Bosque de los Arrayanes which was overrated in Alfonso’s opinion.  Those are the photos with the tall, light brown trees and the terraced walkway.  Afterwards we headed back to the village on bicycle via a relatively arduous path that was designed much more for walking rather than biking.  About 10% of the way on the 12 km trail, we had a major bike malfunction and Andrés had to carry his now useless metal companion the remaining 10 km.  Along with this and Camila’s mild heart condition, the trip was slow going but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

The next chapter of our adventure was Valdivia when Camila and I split off from the main pack and headed northwest to Valdivia which will be in the next entry.

Cheers to all and a big abrazo from Chile,