Part 2: Apple Crumble for Breakfast
Yes, before anyone says it, we are about 3 months behind on blogging (notes have been made, but it is surprisingly hard to find an afternoon free for typing them up on our way around)… Oops! We are resolved to be back on track in the next couple of weeks anyway!
Sooo… where were we… Aaaah yes…
On our last evening in Santiago Andy and I wanted to thank Kati (hostess with the mostess in Santiago) for all her help, friendship and hospitality. Initially we had visions of a full roast beef dinner- however; amongst trip planning, finishing Spanish school, present shopping and Andy spending an afternoon learning Physio moves to help his creaky shoulder (thanks Lawrence); it became unfeasible fairly quickly. Instead we fashioned a giant apple crumble and fresh custard (from scratch, with egg yolks, vanilla and everything!)- thank you BBC recipes!
Kati was completely taken with both (especially custard- which she hadn´t even heard of before). Left-overs were refrigerated resurfaced at breakfast on our last day with her. Andy and I couldn´t face up to that amount of sugar so early (even after getting used to the non-EU standard sugar content of breakfast cereals in South America), but Kati gobbled down most of the remaining crumble the now solidified custard- perhaps it’s a mum thing.
Alter that we visited Santiago Cemetery for the day (some photos of which were included in the last section). It was scorchingly hot but bustling with family members paying their respects at graves. Chile has an interesting way of ‘burying’ it’d dead- it’s not so much burying as being entombed in a family mausoleum (if you’re wealthy), or having your ashes/ coffin enter a kind of multi-storey body-park (if you´re not so wealthy). These structures are not too dissimilar to a Japanese pod hotel, and are often at least 8 ‘burials’ high and dozens long, each with a plaque to commemorate the individual’s remain that it houses and often a photo of the person too. Most of the graves, even those from the 70s and earlier, have recently placed flowers too- which is a testament to the commitment of Chilean family members to remember their ancestors.
Multi-storey ‘burials’ in Santiago Cemetery.
We bid our sad farewells to Kati and Sol that evening and then we were away from our ‘daily routine’ and onto some proper travelling. That night we took a 10 hour bus ride south to a beautiful town in the volcano/ lake district of Chile, called Pucon. The town isn’t quite overshadowed by the active volcano Mt Villarrica (approximately 22km between the two), but it would certainly not be your first choice of location should an eruption occur. We stayed 3 nights in a hostel with only one bathroom (!), irritating for morning toilet use when someone was in the shower!
Day 1 we climbed the volcano, with a guide and group (it’s not possible to climb it on your own). We struggled up the lower scree section, rather than taking the rickety ski lift up to the half way point. We scampered up the powdery surface directly underneath the chair lift, which was literally just benches hanging from a wire (no hint of a safety bar/ any form of restraint other than arse-seat friction). After some of the group had already used the lift our guide told us that the lack of safety bars was actually because with them the chairs would be too heavy for the cable (!). Definitely una buena decision to walk then… Gotta love South American Health and Safety.
After the steep two steps forward, one step back beginning to the climb we were relieved to enter the snowy section, all the way to the peak. We zigged and zagged every 20m or so and were quite tired when we reached the summit (2860m above sea level).
Double zoomed in version of trekkers up Villarrica from Pucon (22km away!)
Since this escapade Andrew has begun plans to scale Cotopaxi near Quito, Ecuador, 5897 m above sea level- a trek which commences at 1am, where you are tied together in small groups and reach the summit at 6am (to avoid quickly melting snow causing avalanches), all the while you are passing other groups vomiting with altitude sickness and exhaustion. Needless to say, I think I’ll pass on that one.
We spent about 30 minutes at the summit of Villarrica, circling around the enormous entrance into the earth, sitting like a gargantuan Sarlacc (© Star Wars) belching out sulphurous fumes and steam that stings the nostrils and lightens the head!
The volcano itself is active, but the green triangle next to its name (as opposed to red or orange), as listed on the Chilean Meteorological department website definitely appeased me.
Sitting atop my first volcano (Mt Doom in NZ beat me before I got halfway up) was great but by far the highlight of the outing was the descent. We bum-boarded down the steep sides of the near perfect cone-mountain for what must have been at least 2km, until we ran out of snow. We then sulked about the inferiority of walking for the final bit. Pretty sure if bum-boarding were to appear in the next winter Olympics Andrew would be capable of qualifying for team GB- his need for speed (in most things) was definitely satisfied here!
Andrew speeding down the steep, well-carved slopes.
Day 2 in Pucon was spent mountain biking through some beautiful countryside to an idyllic waterfall- I enjoyed the ride; mostly, but there was a definite tantrum when I had to skid-stop a couple of times in a row… maybe the death road in Bolivia is not such a good idea!
Lovely waterfall after biking tantrum…
Next day we made for Chiloe- South America’s largest island, perhaps 3/5s of the way down Chile’s ginormous coastline. Here we felt our first South American raindrops and the sky was somewhat overcast for the whole short trip. Chilean’s had all spoken so highly of Chiloe and its charms/ natural beauty- which it definitely has, but less of the jaw-flooring, smack in the face stunning you might expect in South America and more of the quaint charm and sleepy pace of a Northumberland seaside town, or perhaps Anglesey- yes I wouldn’t have been surprised if Chiloe actually was Anglesey.
Chiloe boasts some lovely unique sites: 13 wooden churches (some clad in garishly painted corrugated iron to stand up to the often damp conditions), a giant blue whale skeleton at the main museum and Palafitoes. Palafitoes are basically wooden houses which front onto a normal coastal road but back onto ‘extremely’ tidal estuary land. The way they survive the daily onslaught of Pacific waters is by being on stilts around 12m high from the beach/ sea floor- depending on time of viewing- a great feat of engineering which must be pretty heavy on the maintenance costs. The Chilean government recently gave all palafito owners a sizeable wad of pesos each to maintain their unusual abodes and look after their tourist attracting site.
Blue whale Skeleton, Castro Museum.
We stayed in one such palafito (Palafito Sur), run by the absolutely charming Claudio who used to work for LAN airlines and lived in Crouch End for several years before retiring to the somewhat slower-paced Chiloe.
Our main day out from Chiloe was a boat trip to some neighbouring small islands to see penguins, cormorants and sea otters, as well as a solitary sea goose (whose official name escapes me). The otter kept surfacing with a crab in its clutches and we watched it struggle to prize its way into the tough shell for its lunch.
Random sea goose chills with penguin homies.
Otter having lunch.
Best food so far alert: Curanto- which is sort of the best mixed grill ever with a few ladles of delicious soupiness thrown over the top. Traditionally cooked in the ground ‘al hoy’, ours was the less exciting pot version but still delicious. It contained a pork steak, chicken leg, sausage, mussels and cockles, a dumpling and 2 x whole potatoes. Amazing- we both soldiered through and finished the whole lot.
Upon returning to the mainland we stopped for one night in Puerto Montt (a.k.a Blond-ville- lots of descendents from German settlers here). It’s a very boring stop-off town for reaching Patagonia via boat, plane or Argentina. Options for southward travel are: 1. A 2300km bus journey on the Argentinean side, 2. A twice weekly 4 day boat ride (Navimag) through the fiords which we were keen to do but it was booked out when we wanted to leave, 3. A crazy long trek, 4. A 2 hour flight. We opted for number 4 and flew South to Punta Arenas- Chile’s southernmost city to begin out Patagonian adventure. It seems ridiculous that it’s feasible to take a 10 hour bus, followed by a 5 hour bus, followed by a 2 hour flight (all almost due south) and still be in the same country!