A Travellerspoint blog

´Mucho mejor perspectivo´ on top of Volcano Villarica

sunny 25 °C

6.45am, 1400m half way up a volcano donning a helmet, gaiters and ice pick I watched the firery red glow of dawn tear back the night. It was worth getting up at 5.30 just to witness day breaking over the lake district of southern Chile. A traveller oasis half way between the chaos of Santiago and the stark pristine glaciers of Patagonia, the quaint apline-esque town of Pucon is just what was needed after the ransid robbery experience.

With the sky brightening and spreading a different red-pink pattern every minute we set off zig-zagging up loose volcanic ash to the summit of Volcano Villarica. She was hard work for the first two hours - steep rocks and brown-black dust. Then we hit the edge of the glacier; after a quick lesson in crampons and ice-climbing the ascent continued, this time taking care to grip each icy step, stay single file and avoid the deep crevases, which appeared out of nowhere in the white landscape.

By mid morning the sun beamed on us like a spotlight in cloudless turquiose sky.

Desite the burning quads, dripping sweat and breathlessness, the greatest challenge was taking enough time to glance away from my feet and appreciate the panoramic perfection all around us. With civilization burried beneath the cloud blanket far below we were in another world made up only of mountain and volcanic peaks jutting up into fresh clear sky for as far and one could see. Snow caps, smoking crators and mountain lakes dotted the skyline - south america was slowly becoming my friend again.

Another two hours and the third part of the ascent invited us to clamber, climb and scramble our way up shaky and crazily steep terrain with rocks and small boulders (no exaggeration!) falling and rolling past us at quite a speed to warning shouts of ´rocka rocka´ from our guides - a bit like dodgeball on a ski slope. Whenever I find myself in these somewhat risk-que situations I remember how suffocating and stuffy health and safety regulations of the world´s ´leading economies´ are - Villarica would definitely not be the same with safety ropes, harnesses, lifts, netting to stop falilng debris or refreshment kiosks.

After four and a half heart-racing hours my chilean guide, ´Oscar´, delivered pure delight in the form of a high-five and a big grin - we´d reached our destination - 2800km of pure volcano and a crator raw from it´s last erruption 5 years ago still smoking sulphur.
(Oscar by the way had just completed his 2,400th something climb!)

For an hour I literally stood on top of the world looking over Chile and to Argentina in the East. I took several long deep breaths of doubly fresh perspective. This is what the world is about - my appreciation even richer for the effort expended in getting to the top.

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Just as eventful and non health&safety-fied we descended Villarica on our bottoms (!) wearing strapped on ´diapers´ (yes, their word for plastic /cloth pads strapped around our thighs)...40+ adults with little orange helmets bombing down a glacier face with only an ice pick for a break - imagine´Lemmings´ crossed with ´Cool Runnings´. Significantly quicker y muy divertido!

Back on terra firma in Pucon I emptied my pockets of ash and my pants of ice and savoured my best shower in weeks at the gloriously cute ápres-ski´feel Hostel Refugio. What a little gem combining rustic, wooden chalet-type ambience with a touch of bohemian beauty and the warmest of welcomes.

Lounging in the rope hammock in the cosy living room with a cerveza,´negro´the dog and other wind swept glowing faces, my day was complete. Perspective doesn´t get much fresher than this. Mucho mejor, gracias Pucon!

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Posted by namirem 07:48 Archived in Chile Tagged volcano Comments (1)

Daylight robbery gives fresh perspective

The less finer things in life

all seasons in one day -50 °C

Sipping Malbec, Tempranillo and Syrah blends to a backdrop of the mighty Andes, cycling from vineyard to cellor door, I felt the freshness and freedom of travelling once more.

And fresh it indeed was when less than a day later I fell victim to my own faith in humanity. What a change of fate a few seconds makes, a glance in the wrong direction, a lapse of concentration, perhaps a moment of blaze-ness and there I was $700 lighter! My bag was literally taken from under my nose. The sickness rose up inside as I realised I´d never see that dirty washing, used soap or last 10cm of dental floss again - make no mistake about the needs of a long term traveller.

Then the shakes came and my cheeks started to flush as I mentally went through each pocket of my bag - camera and tripod, cash dollars in three different currencies, diary from the last 15 months - argh (!)... heart started beating faster... 100 dive logs, credit card.... mild nausea increased to quite serious pain.... photos, favourite sarong, personal details... then faintness turned to anger as I strode around the bus terminal expecting to catch the bastard red handed; what I was going to do when I found him I¨m not sure - though am donning pretty good biceps at the moment from my recent Ozzie yoga obsession - oh to be back on Bondi right now and have this day all over again just so I can resist getting scammed!

Respect to SA criminals, these guys are pro - nearest bank, withdrawals, online access, less than an hour - you can join up the dots.... I´m now about ready to rip someone´s head off but instead have to simmer and sit through a 7 hour bus journey on max load adrenaline.

...

Hours passed and after getting through to a rather gentry oxbridge-sounding soul at London´s own British Embassy my heart started to beat at a more normal pace and I started to reach for a bit of sensibility through the reddness inbetween my eyes. Yep, it was time to ponder the karma of it all...it was time for a chin up, move on, be strong and all that crap, be a bigger person moment.

I hope you´re reading my diary Mr Robber and I hope you feel like the shit you are. What are you going to do with my dirty socks? I´d shove them up your nose until your brain bleeds if I didn´t totally need them for the next 10 weeks. Yep, you go right ahead and bin it all, all for the sake for some black market cash.

Phew... I may have slipped back into traveller mode rather too easily last week but I´m ready to face this crafty continent and now I´m doing it 10kg lighter - bonus!

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I can say all this 24hrs on, sitting on the edge of the bluest deserted mountain lake in Southern Chile, away from anything ´bus´ or ´terminal´ like. I am able to appreciate the world and all its glory (of which there is endless supply) and remember what the bigger picture really is (no not shoulder slamming a greasy robber)... I am alive and unscathed - angry but definitely alive and breathing the fresh air and real perspective I came here for. This was perspective dished up on a spit roast. You taught me a lesson Argentina...don´t leave my dirty washing lying around... now off for a swim.

Posted by namirem 18:02 Archived in Argentina Tagged robbed Comments (2)

...might have killed a cat?

Argy-bargy

sunny 25 °C

As night buses go this really was luxurious - reclining seat, snacks, blankets and pillows (it´s obviously not 1999 anymore!) but there´s still something inately wrong about waking up in another country on the top deck of a bus at 6 in the morning not knowing which way is north, what currency you need and how to get it, never mind what time it may or may not be, where your bags are or where the next meal is coming from. Oh and may have run over a cat in the night (less of a bump than the cow we ran over a few years ago on a similiar journey but still... road kill does get a bad deal!)

With body clock still very much dazed and confused, we managed to find tranquility and satisfaction strolling through the thoroughly beautiful city of Mendoza which bustles inbetween the foothills of Aconcagua and surrounding Andes peaks. Navigated the local ´mercado´and rustled up some special ´sheltz spanol´for empanadas lunch specialities at 20p a pop; nodded off in a street cafe (proper head bobbing... nice), sampled our first Argentinian red and lapped up some evening sun before well needed horizontal sleep. All in a day´s travels... bienvenidos a Argentina!

Posted by namirem 16:14 Archived in Argentina Tagged animals Comments (2)

p.s did I mention...

apparently Chile is a hot bed for earthquakes!

.... being woken to a 4.5 tremor shaking my bunk bed was a headboard banging experience I'm less familiar with. Then a 7.5 swirling down the west coast yesterday was apparently enough to issue a Tsunami warning! Suppose there are better ways to leave this world... I do like the sea (!) but am still glad to be on solid (well kind of solid) ground for now... http://www.news24.com/World/News/No-deaths-14-injured-in-Chile-quake-20120326

Posted by namirem 15:26 Archived in Chile Tagged earthquake Comments (0)

Swapping Oz for Latino life

Santiago for starters

sunny 24 °C

Jetlagged to the point of mild concussion (that's what it felt like crossing the date line somewhere mid Pacific travelling back in time - one eye catching a cheap laugh from The Hangover part 2 on the seat in front, while the other willing my exhausted mind to sleep), then finally the decent into Santiago became apparent as mountains grew up either side of the plane - the mighty Andes introduced themselves, gold-brown in the mid morning South American sun, some caps still high enough for snow. And what an exciting city awaited... winding streets, buildings steeped in Latino religion and history, ancient art and tradition woven into its impressive, inventive architecture, residences, conversations and just daily life. Religious sculptures and shrines seem the norm on most street corners, any excuse for a monument sees Santa Maria or Lucia rising up from the ground preaching to their populous. Latinos lovers caress each other on street corners fulfilling the cliche and clearly an important part of life in this romantic, open air and intriguing city. After strolling round the famous fish market (flip flops not recommend for future reference), soaking up some peace and sanctity in the bustling cathedral, learning about the liberation of Chile from Pinochet, experiencing the obvious Brazil influence and devouring my first taste of full bodied Chilean vino tinto, I felt I'd really arrived in Sur d'America! Backpacker life returns...P1000023.jpgP1000022.jpgIMAG0178.jpg

Posted by namirem 14:55 Archived in Chile Comments (2)

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