Katy solos South America

Joined January 2017
  • Day61

    Santiago round 2

    March 10, 2017 in Chile

    So I return to Santiago minus a cold and hopefully with more exploration.

    The first day was spent trying to find a police station to get a new tourist card. When you enter Chile they give you a receipt which lots of people bin immediately. However this flimsy receipt you must keep for the whole of your trip and show when you leave, otherwise they don't let you out of Chile. Wonderful. Despite having spoken to lots of people who have lost theirs and being warned about this, of course I still lost mine. So the whole of the first day involved me failing to find a police station which was slightly improved by the policeman thinking I was Brazilian because I 'speak Spanish with a Brazilian accent' which absolutely cannot be true. I bought an empanada for lunch from a little corner shop slash cafe and everybody in there got weirdly excited that i speak English and hustled round me to try and practice. I had one man explain to me what an empanada was and the various options for fillings that are possible in the entirity of the world.

    The hostel I'm in does free dinners!!!!!!!!!!!! It's very basic- a slop of spaghetti and a tiny bit of sauce- but as the hostel is only about £7 a night and also includes breakfast it save loads of money. It's also pretty social as everyone sits down together to eat.

    This morning I headed off to the human rights museum which is an excellent free museum that documents and describes the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile from 1973-1990. This is really interesting because I'd never even heard about it. Pinochet was a senior in the army who organised a (likely US backed) coup of the Marxist president Allende in 1973 then went on to declare a 17 year curfew and torture and murder 30,000 people. The dictatorship only ended in 1990. The museum was really really well done apart from not mentioning the US and I had a good audio guide. Definitely important to know about this as I've been in Chile for so long! I went with two Danish girls and a French girl from my hostel who I had met over breakfast. They are all really lovely. The two Danish girls are quite young as they're doing a gap year, blonde and very chatty and friendly. They're also super stylish and put me to shame.

    I had to dash off early to try and sort out this stupid Chile tourist receipt thing.

    Afterwards I headed off to the free walking tour (love me a free tour, it's like being spoon fed information when you can't be bothered to Google) and heard about 'coffee with legs'. Some business types set up some coffee cafes before the Pinochet dictatorship, but as (apparently) tea is more popular in Santiago they bombed. So the businessmen made them into cafes with strippers inside and they are now really popular. Go figure. He also told us himself about the dictatorship and showed us the presidential house which was blown up in the coup, where Allende either committed suicide or was shot by the military. We had to go round introducing ourselves at the start and I met a construction worker from Leeds called Taylor, who speaks at 100 miles an hour and loves football but from a political and social POV. Interesting slant! He told me about Argentina winning the world cup possibly in exchange for freeing Peruvian prisoners, and about how political prisoners were driven around the football stadiums to taunt them that nobody cared about them while the football was on. Afterwards we went for 'one drink' with two others, English Eve and Canadian Matt, friends from work in London, at a fancy wine tasting bar. One drink at 6pm evolved into a tasting, three bottles of wine, Pad Thai, a change of bar and two pisco sours, missing the hostel BBQ, and falling out of a taxi at 2am with the promise to meet up again in England.

    We were also told more about the importance of the stray dogs in Santiago. Apparently it was all the rage to have dogs a while ago so everyone bought some but they didn't have them spayed and let them roam wild and free so they all obviously had baby dogs. The pups are lovely because theyre not your usual mongrels, instead they are nice glossy crossbreed types. They're further made glamorous by the fact that locals all feed the stray dogs that hang around their neighbourhoods and take almost joint ownership of them. The government tried a programme where they went round picking up the strays in vans, but the locals hated this and ended up going to pick up the dogs, pretending they were the owners, and then setting them free again. Now the government realises their plan was futile and have built little kennels around the city for the dogs to sleep in at night.

    The next day I went to H&M (cultural) to buy some short shorts as all my dresses have shrunk to inappropriate levels from using various launderettes, then met with Eve and Matt again for a walk up Cerro San Cristobal. Eve was looking lovely in flip flops and a long dress but this did mean Matt had to carry her over-the-threshold stylee over some mud. Was definitely concerned for a dramatic fall as it was pretty slippery. Luckily I had completely OTT footwear on in the form of my hiking boots (for a mostly paved track!). It was hot and sunny and we got to the top fairly quickly where there is a virgin Mary statue thing waving its arms about. Eve had a stone massage thing and the man talked about aligning her chakras. She asked why she kept jumping when he pushed the stone into one particular part of her back and he said it was because all the anxiety was jumping out of that particular part of her back. LOL. Wtf is a chakra anyway. The best bit was when he woke her up by banging a metal bowl above her head, much to the amusement of Matt and I who were watching creepily from a few feet away.

    The walk back was a lot longer and involved a lot more complaining and a cafe pit stop for survival purposes.

    I had an early night, ate Oreo Milka and watched Ratatouille. Unfortunately as I started trying to sleep the Argentinian woman in my room started having a rant about her card being declined which then developed into this full blown shouting rage about the quality of the hostel etc, directed at me although I think not about me. It was so bewildering. I actually ended up putting my headphones in but she was still going. I think if you have such huge issues about people waking you up by moving around in the morning then you should probably fork out the extra cash and upgrade from the dorm!

    Off to Colombia.
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  • Day55

    Atacama

    March 4, 2017 in Chile

    Woke up very early (3:15am ew) to get my flight to San Pedro de Atacama. Once I arrived I tried to get my head around all the possible tours, booked one slightly randomly for this evening and headed off for a well deserved 3 course meal for 5500 pesos.

    San Pedro is fun because it's super dusty and has insane mountains in the backdrop minus any trees so they have loads of impact. It's weird seeing dust and desert and also snow on top of the mountains. Sadly I was too busy sleeping to see the views from the plane window.

    I'm writing this from my loner table in the restaurant eating a bright orange wobbly desert of some sort. I'm torn between socialising with the gaggle of Brits in my hostel and having a pre tour nap. Decisions!

    I had a pre tour nap and it was good. Then off I marched to my first tour: the Valle de la Luna
    (the valley of the moon). The guide was insane and constantly chewing Coca leaves which he claimed both relaxed and simulated him. I met a girl from Norway who was a boss and only a baby at 19 but was actually hilarious. We shuttled about in our mini bus to various parts of the valley. They were all great. We licked some of the salt from the ground which scattered over the rock and dunes to look like snow, which began with my new friend waving a rock at me and demanding 'Lick it!!'. It's hard to explain what it looked like because there were so many shapes in the ground and these jagged shapes were interspersed with long smooth swooping dunes. We had to do a bit of walking up to ridges and because I am extremely useless I felt the altitude at 2700m and had to go suuuuper slowly. The view from one of the ridges, which totally lacked tourists, was absolutely amazing; 360 degrees of spikey bits, lumpy bits, etc. with volcanoes in the background. Our guide took his shoes off for the walk for no apparent reason and then nearly left them behind. He also told us nothing about the scenery and when asked just replied with 'I don't know, I'm not a geologist'.

    We drove to a viewpoint to watch the sunset which was rammed with other people doing the same thing; it was pretty but we had to be back too soon to the bus so we missed the best colours- the problem with tours.

    I had a delicious pasta dinner (it actually was delicious) back at the hostel and met a trio of a nurse from bham, her brother and her brother's girlfriend and then went out for a glass of vino with them. We exchanged nice stories of how one of them was nearly stabbed by a random man in Bogota, but the random man was chased away by a second guy with a knife. Good. This and the fact that I read a blog post about how Bogota is like Manchester made me decide to spend minimal time there when I head to Colombia!

    The next day I basically did nothing apart from wander around San Pedro and book a star tour in the evening (and have another evening three course meal, oops). The star tour was great. It started at 11pm and we were driven to a house about 20 mins away from San Pedro where they had telescopes set up with chairs and blankets which everyone immediately put on like lord of the rings cloaks. We were split into two groups and our group was given wine and a lady with a laser pointer told us about what we could see, constellations, Jupiter, a red giant etc. Some of the constellations are dubious at best. There is one she called 'small dog' which was two stars. Apparently one is the head and one the body. I was a teacher's pet and kept answering all the questions smugly and often wrongly. The stars were so clear and you could easily see the milky way and at least one other galaxy as a smudgey cloud type thing. It was great. We then got fed hot chocolate and some neon coloured rice puff sweets then used the enormous telescopes to look at the moon, Jupiter, and some star clusters more closely. Jupiter has 60-something moons and we saw 4! Apparently they got the biggest telescope off eBay (!) for a bargainous 8000 USD. Back by 1:45 and off to bed.

    Hilarious day. Woke up late after star tour and chilled for a bit before heading off for an enthusiastic and apparently short bike ride with two very hungover Brits who I would then shadow for the next two days, Chris and Henry, and one less hungover motorcycling American who nobody knew the name of and so is now referred to as Doug. The plan was to go to .... but after renting the bikes we discovered that these places were closed following recent rain (I thought this was a desert). Thus our bike ride extended and we headed off semi- enthusiastically to Valle de la Luna (round 2). It was much better at own pace and cycling, and a lot less busy cos it was furingtje day. It was pretty hot and there was a large hill which I was stubborn enough to make it up (Doug didn't, not that it matters, but I did beat him). Doug had to leave early as he had a bus to catch but distributed cereal bars to us before he left like a kind of hairy mum.

    While we were waiting for Henry to have a nature toilet trip, Chris and I discovered a puncture in my bike which of course none of us knew how to fix. A pair of more competent cyclists came by and told us we didn't have the right sized inner tube to fix it. Joys. This in addition to Chris' helmet being about 100 sizes too big shows the dubiousness of the bike rental guy.

    The three of us had a look up the nice ridge and a contemplative moment, during which Henry announced the low quality of Chilean empanadas and how he would not be eating any in Chile as protest. We began the rigourous task of cycling back, stopping every 2 minutes to repump my tyre which everyone valiantly took in turns. I was too enthusiastic going downhill and hit a sandy patch then fell off and got an obligatory Katy Does The Outdoors scrape. The tyre on the bike completely fell apart at this point and we started carrying the bloody thing along a sandy road in the baking heat, running out of water supplies and imagining mirages of the ranger gate in the distance. The whole thing was actually completely hilarious so I spent most of the time LOLing. We made a genius contraption where we put the broken bike on top of the non broken one and the boys pushed it while I just laughed helpfully. We made up a story about Doug sabotaging us because we had all made it to the top of the hill on the bikes and he hadn't.

    Once at the ranger gate we immediately bought and gulped down loads of fizzy drinks like we'd not drunk for the last week. Chris bought an empanada and Henry threw his earlier morals aside and ate at least half.

    After a bit of me repeatedly stating that my bike was roto, I got a lift back from the park ranger, phew.

    That evening we had a team cycling dinner of a massive delicious salad with everything imaginable in it, even a homemade viniagrette! It stands as the healthiest thing I've eaten in a hostel so far and basically had every vegetable in it, avocado and the powerful combination of raw onion and raw garlic. It was very civilised with place settings on the outside table and beer.

    The next day I woke up nice and early for my tour as I was being picked up at 5-5:30am. Horrifying. As I sat eating my cereal and worrying about the upcoming altitude there was a knock on the door which I assumed would be the tour, but instead in burst a drunk Henry with a stray dog he'd picked up from the street. The dog had become so attached during the walk home that it began scratching and throwing itself at the door of the hostel to be let in.

    My tour was to the Tatio Geysers which is the third biggest geyser field in the world and has a cheeky hot spring. The geysers were quite cool but a bit crowded and the hot spring literally (not actually literally) burned my foot it was so hot! Apparently a woman was taking a selfie last year and fell into a geyser and died. Yikes. The guide made us breakfast of coffee, coca tea, scrambled eggs, avocados and cake! He was infinitely more knowledgeable than my last guide. On the way back we stopped at a wetland which was the most beautiful place I've seen so far on my whole trip as the colours were genuinely spectacular and the landscape was so swooping. We saw some kind of llama camel type thing with long legs. We also stopped at a random village which seems to exist for the church and to sell llama kebabs to tourists. It was tasty. I was living it large at the back of the bus and ended up in a complex conversation with a Chilean who only spoke Spanish, a French woman who spoke slightly improvised Spanish and a bit of English, and a German who spoke no Spanish.

    I got back and immediately went out again with da lads to book a salty lake tour. I was weirdly determined to have a floaty dead-sea-style experience. I had a coffee and an ice cream from the corner shop to wake up before we headed off (great call).

    We were very chirpy on the long drive to the lake with a long conversation about children's names in which C&H showed their St Andrews roots with names like Roland and Elspeth. The driver was insane and as we were at the back again it was the bumpiest experience ever, leading Chris to throw water in his face while trying to drink water with a totally non-sympathetic laughing fit following from me. I got taught the banter song.

    The lake lived up to my hopes and dreams because it was SO FLOATY. It was great! Apparently 60-70% salt. Our guide was hilarious. He didn't seem to know much about the lake and claimed it would cost 30,000 USD to get to the Dead Sea from Chile so this trip was far superior, basically ignored our questions by talking about other things, and said I was loco because 'she always screaming'. He told us about his ex girlfriend who also works at the Lagos. He then said I was the perfect woman which is obviously accurate but then was leery towards a Brazilian girl who knew no English, and i had to try and awkwardly translate and defend her. He then called Henry 'fatty', but all in all he was pretty entertaining.

    We drove to a spot somewhere in the desert with a nice view, with Chris becoming mardy becsusnehe thought we were just being driven back to San Pedro to watch the sunset (which wouldn't have been surprising given the quality of the tour so far). We had a cute picnic of olives, sultanas, pringles and pisco sours which was almost entirely eaten by us three. We sat on a rock and watched the sunset which was super nice.

    Afterwards there's no rest for the wicked so we bought more pisco, washed the salt off, ate fajitas (which were really kindly made for us by some of the other guests of the hostel... I had a 'this is so nice' moment when I saw the place settings...I really enjoy cooking with people and formal settings when I'm away because they remind me of home), made a small campfire in the hostel grounds, and headed out for a desert party with a Norwegian guy whose name I forget.

    Apparently it's illegal to dance in San Pedro so the locals party in the desert. I can't remember dancing but there was a fire, lots of people and men selling beers from coolers, and I did not one but two desert wees where I drunkenly tried not to pee on my trainers. It's all fairly blurry until the police came and broke the party up which led to some mild panic running away from everyone and a lot of gushing from me and the boys about what a great crew we are as we walked home.

    The next day our entire room was up at 7am for various tours and I had to say bye to mah boiz as they were off to Uyuni. Sad moment. So my two and a half hours sleep plus hangover plus 7:30am-6pm bus tour of the Atacama desert began. Luckily I'm a boss and cracked on. A few of the people from the geysers tour were also on this one, including a completely adorable couple from Switzerland. The guy loves photography and so kept taking photos of everyone in an endearing and comedic paparazzi style. I later discovered that he is a trainee orthopaedic surgeon and she an anaesthetist! We took about 100000 photos of extremely nice scenery and us jumping around in it, and there was a fair amount of group bonding as it was such a long tour. Personal highlights were the piedras Rojas, can't describe it but will attach photo, and a trip to see flamingoes in the Atacama salt flats type place. So many flamingoes. All they did was put their beaks in the water. Apparently they feed for 16hrs a day! They were beauts. That evening I had a great time watching TV, eating and going to bed early.
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  • Day54

    A post about loneliness

    March 3, 2017 in Chile

    So something that is good about travelling alone is that you can choose exactly what you want to do and when you want to do it. It's great to just decide completely based on what you want or feel like doing that day.

    Recently I've been relatively demotivated when it comes to discovering the place I am in. This has coincided with having a bit of a monster cold which came at the same time as I had my Spanish lessons in Santiago, meaning the only part of Santiago that I actually saw in the entire three days I was there was the street between the hostel and the Spanish school. I also think that not having a permanent buddy to force me out contributed to this a bit though.

    In the last week or so I have definitely missed having a permanent travel buddy. You meet new people a lot, but I tend not to meet large groups of solo travellers anymore, mainly solo people or couples, or groups of people who don't speak English. Even though I have in the last 24 hours met and spoken properly with 6 people, it is not the same as having someone that you are really comfortable with and travelling around with them. I suppose I haven't been alone but I do currently feel lonely.

    Cue feeling homesick...But I don't want to come home yet...So I will call it familiarity sick.
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  • Day53

    Tengo un resfrio

    March 2, 2017 in Chile

    Santiago can be summed up very easily:

    - nice hostel, fancy neighbourhood, old but big house, I want to buy it, me Andy and Jack all stayed there
    - met a German motorcycling across SA all sponsored in exchange for a few meagre blog posts
    - insane hostel dog who will stop at nothing to eat everything, including plastic bottles and tissues
    - tuve un resfrio
    - Spanish lessons where I started learning past tense (see above), hurrah!
    - watched a film about aliens
    - literally did not explore Santiago in any way
    - barbecue, dog spent half an hour licking the grill BEFORE we used it
    - a mosquito bit me on the chin. You will understand the huge potential for temporary disfigurement this gives me.

    Simples! Off to San Pedro.
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  • Day48

    Valpo

    February 25, 2017 in Chile

    Yesterday I arrived in Valparaiso on a fun overnight bus during which I actually managed to sleep 7 hours with frequent wake ups to un-deaden a limb.

    Valparaiso is actually apparently the third most populated city in Chile. It has been billed to me as:

    -Dirty
    -Gritty
    -Arty
    -Bohemian
    -Supercool
    -Boring
    -Horrible
    -Beautiful

    So I wasn't really sure what to expect! But so far I love it.

    The town centre is by a port on the flat and then the rest of the housing and shops/bars rise up on .... Hills, with various staircases and elevators and funiculars, plus buses and teams, to try and ease the pain of getting back up to your house once you are down. Apparently the Valparaisians only go down into town once a day and if they forget something they just put it off until tomorrow because it's such a painful task. There is a lot of street art absolutely everywhere and the houses are really colourful. Some are UNESCO protected. Apparently locals used to take half empty discarded tins of paint from the docks to paint their houses and they were always bright colours so that the boats could be seen, which means the houses can be seen as well.

    My first task was shopping and I found out the joy of matching up hundreds of steps in the blazing heat with a backpack full of food trying to stop people from being able to see up my skirt.

    I then saw Andy from BA who is in my hostel here which is nice (fwend) and went off to a free walking tour that afternoon with a girl from the hostel. The tour was good and involved free wine, explanations of the graffiti and a bit about the area, and a free Alfajor following us awkwardly having to crowd around a door like school kids and shout 'buenos tardes senior' at a man who sells them. Gimmicky!

    Afterwards a different girl from the tour and I bought some earrings and went on a fishing boat which loads up with tourists and takes you on a jaunt around the port for 3000 pesos. We went past sealions and between the orange lifejackets of all the people on our clearly overloaded boat you could also see warships and cargo boats being loaded up as we passed. It was ace. You also got an idea of the size of Valparaiso. One of the boat guys stood at the front chattering away in Spanish and hugely entertaining the other tourists as everyone kept bursting into random laughter.

    Valp used to be a massive major port but then the Panama canal opened and this stopped that.

    That evening the girls I had met on the tour were off to have a BBQ then a night out. I felt a sense of duty towards the other people at my own hostel so headed back for dinner. Afterwards Andy, a really lovely girl from the US who had been at the hostel for something like 10 days already, a funny Irish couple and I all sat on the terrace drinking wine. The Irish couple were absolutely storming through their box and Andy had to go and buy us another couple of bottles so the three of us could​ try to match them. We decided to go out but the Irish couple decided to stay behind which was definitely for the best as the girl almost fell over saying goodbye to us. They were comedy gold. Off we marched with a couple of the people from the hostel to a club by the cargo ship loading dock. The club had an open area at the top and you could look across to them loading up the cargo ships. It was hard to get an idea of the scale of this until we saw a lorry pootling alongside it all, a full sized lorry that looked minute in comparison to the ship and its enormous containers. The night was an electronic night and was average save for the fact that i met someone who went to Challoners and lived in Amersham, which is strange considering we are in Chile.

    The next day was a hangover day but I managed to get myself out of the hostel by 2 to have an amble about. The good thing about cities is that you can still have good lazy days! There is so much wall art here. Every turn I take I come across more and more painted on the walls, steps, coloured glass and tiles embedded into the pavement, a park covered in mosaic patterns. I walked up to the cultural centre at the top of one of the many hills. The cultural centre used to be a political prison where Pinochet's government tortured many people deemed to be against Pinochet. It is now a cultural centre with spaces for meetings and theatre, surrounding a park where people meet for various activities or to chill in the day. When i was there it looked like some kind of new baby club was going on, lots of parents with small.babies gathered around stands of bananas and a woman with a microphone saying things i didn't understand.

    In the evening I watched about 100 episodes of TV in bed and it was excellent.

    The next day I felt like I was settling into the hostel more (it usually takes a couple of nights and as my last hostel was so good it was a bit harder to settle here than usual). Having said that the hostel is only £9 a night with an enormous rooftop terrace with a 270 degree view, a free to use washing machine and a 'buy 3 nights get one free' policy, so it's hard not to like.

    I went for a walk with a mission to see sea lions. It was super sunny and quite a long walk but worth it to see the blobby roar slugs that were the sea lions. They were all hanging out on a kind of concrete pontoon and you could clamber across the rocks to see them from not too far off. There were loads all crammed on, occasionally one would fall off and another would leap on quite impressively up a slanted concrete side. There were frequent roar fights between the huge males who would wave their heads at each other as the ladies lazed about. I then continued along the coastline to a super full beach with a stinky fish market and crashing waves. On the way back to the hostel i stopped to queue for what i had been told was one of the best ice creams ever. My tiramisu ice cream was worth the queue and frantic translating via phone app of the various flavours. It was totally delish.

    That evening the guy from Amersham (Jack) who I had met on the night out moved to our hostel at the recommendation of Lisa, who had left.

    After a tasty meal of scrambled-egg-with-all-sorts-of-additions, me, Andy, Jack and Jessica headed out a to a bar where we drank wine and watched a man dressed as a clown leaving a car and dancing around and some people longboarding. We then had a really long serious wine induced chat about palliative care, death and the American healthcare system. Cheerful!

    The next day Andy and I headed to Concon, a beach town near Valparaiso, known for having some dunes which you can sandboard down. We rattled our way through Vina del Mar, which is like Valpo's shiny cousin (white buildings, very clean, no graffiti) on the little collectivo bus which you flag down anywhere you want and takes you wherever for a fixed price of 1600. The dunes at Concon were cool but super random as they were right next to the main road. Luckily you could sandboard in the opposite direction towards the sea to avoid squishy by cars. The sandboards were ridiculously cheap and marching up to the top of the dunes was seriously hard work, especially in the heat, as the sand completely filled my canvas plimsolls and began to burn my feet. However it was worth it as the sandboarding itself was so fun! I was relatively controlled and if i went too fast would just fall off purposely but Andy had a few face plant wipe outs into the sand, the most spectacular being on the way back down at the end where he was trying to show off and nearly broke himself slamming into the ground. I did a thumbs up from the top of the dune to check he was ok and it took a good few minutes to receive a reply. We were totally covered in sand by the end, including it plastered over our faces and eyebrows, so we handed back our boards and went for a long walk to the sea with crashing waves where we washing machined the sand off, then a cafe for waffles, fruit salad, ice cream and pisco sours.

    When we got back we grabbed Jack and headed off down the hills to the supermarket where we productively divided into a serious BBQ food buying team then sweated our way back up the hill. Jess joined and the four of us cooked a great steak meal which was added to by everybody's weird food leftovers: half an onion, a bell pepper, a teeny tiny avocado. I got food preparation love of the gang joy. Andy and I did a good sauce exchange/compromise for our steak sauce. Jack was in charge of the barbecue and had angst over whether the meat would poison us all. I felt super glee. We set out our amazing meal on the terrace with red wine and beer. We had good conversation and the steak was excellent.

    The next day I headed off to Santiago.
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  • Day43

    Pucon

    February 20, 2017 in Chile

    The next day was a Beach Day with Jen and an English girl we met on the lakeside black 'sand' beach of Pucon (read: tiny hurty stones). Had a swim and when I looked back to the beach I realised how rammed the beach was! After this I sat in the bar with a beer and watched the sunset over the lake with my hostel pals.

    The kitchen here is great because it's clean (ha shock). It's nice because there's a little separate cabin with some dorms in and we have our own separate kitchen away from the hostel riff raff. Its like having a little family kitchen as not many of us use it. I've actually started making an effort with my food now. Breakfast every day is porridge with apple and banana, and some of Greg's delicious jam.

    The next day was the much awaited volcano. There had been quite a bit of hype and hanging around from hostel buddies waiting to do the volcano which meant I actually had lost some enthusiasm for it strangely. However all my grumping was in error cos it was excellent.

    We woke up really early (5am bleurgh!) to meet the guides in the courtyard of the hostel and faff around with kit. They give you a soggy canvas backpack filled with random items to be used later and also you have to wear the boots they provide, as they're more solid and better for walking on snow and ice with. This led to quite a bit of faffing to work out sizes, particularly from me as queen of faff. Then we hopped into a minibus which was cracking out some absolute tunes and whizzed up to the volcano, reaching our start point (which is already pretty high up) just in time for sunrise. It was beautiful and you could see so far, to the lake of Pucon and a number of other tall peaks and volcanoes, clouds and amazing morning colours.

    The group had the option to take a chairlift partway up, for the first hour of walking, so we divided into two. Obviously I wasn't a wimp and did the extra walking. It wasn't especially far. My group contained Grey, the American guy who I went hydrospeeding with; a guy from Norway who is Alastair's twin as he is really tall and skinny and possibly gay, and who found me really amusing (understandable), a German couple and a couple from England who I had actually first met in the hostel in Torres Del Paine and had randomly turned up at my hostel in Pucon. We were a good crew.

    I really enjoy goal achieving in the outdoors in a group and this fulfilled all those criteria. Halfway up the volcano we got to the glacier which was quite snowy rather than icy thankfully, and the guides showed us how to walk using the ice picks and how to ram them into the ice if we were to fall and slide away. We decided we didn't need a break as we are team awesome and to crack on, but unfortunately a combination of the heat and lack of water break and altitude made us all very regretful and whiney quite quickly. The guides decided to call me Inglaterra or England rather than use my actual name for some reason, my usual blind enthusiasm amusing them.

    Anyway we got to the top after a little bit of altitude wooziness and immediately forgot about our complaints. I had no prior expectations of the volcano top because a guy from the hostel, Hussain, who had done it a few days prior, told me not to look at any photos. It was so cool! The colour of the crater rock was really interesting and apparently created by the sulphur billowing out of the pinhole that was the volcano. The gas was so cool and i didn't realise that the volcano would be belching so much of this thick, hot, rippling and nose burning gas out. We even got some spitting of lava. Everyone took dorky selfies with gas masks on (which did basically nothing useful). The view was also excellent of all the other volcanoes and nearly 360 degrees of the whole area.

    The fun wasn't over yet! We scrambled down from the crater and ate our lunches sat in the snow. I'd brought so much food as I'd learned from Kili that the way to beat altitude is food and water to excess. We combined again with the chairlift half of our team and all kitted up with the gear in our bags, sort of like fisherman's protective gear with a plastic circular sled thing. We looked great. We then literally slid down the volcano in the snow either on our bums or on the sleds in grooves that had been hollowed out. We went past a chairlift which had been destroyed in the 1970s by an eruption and just left as a huge concrete structure halfway up the volcano. The last part of the walk involved kind of skiing down the volcanic ash to the bottom, again similar terrain to kili. We were all desperate for a pee when we got down and when we got back to the hostel all had a beer.

    It was absolutely awesome.

    I had a huge burger out and got on my 12h bus to Valparaiso... and was so tired I slept for 7 hours! Winner.

    1- Lisa in stylish gear
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  • Day43

    Pucon

    February 20, 2017 in Chile

    I've divided up Pucon as I did quite a lot and also have some good pics (more than the 6 allowed per post).

    I arrived in Pucon after a 4.5 hour bus journey and many episodes of Crazy Ex Girlfriend to the 'number 1 best hostel' in South America. It was a bit manic when I first arrived, it seemed very busy and I wasn't especially in the mood to socialise so I made dinner and hopped around the 3 kitchen/eating areas to find wi-fi. I conceded to a small amount of socialising which then evolved into drinking games with one of the groups I was talking to, at which point I pretended I was going to get my wine but instead went to hide in an optimal wi-fi corner and went to bed. Wild!

    The next morning I enjoyed my first bowl of cereal in a while as breakfast is not included here, and met the Greg, who is Austrian and works with hotels, and is a great personality because he comes across as fairly serious and introspective but then you realise that actually hes a secret sweetie.

    I went to a welcome meeting from the hostel owner to explain all the things to do in Pucon, which is basically an outdoors centre masquerading as a town. I became overwhelmed with all the excellent sounding options and immediately booked another night and accepted that I would be haemorrhaging money here.

    One thing that everyone in my hostel was very keen to do was climb the volcano that dominates the sky over the town. It last erupted in 2015 and is South America's most active volcano. Unfortunately it had not actually been seen for the last few days because of cloud cover and rain. We would have to wait. Luckily waiting here is easy. I went about spending my cash.

    My first activity was the same day- hydrospeeding. I was a bit concerned this might be a shit version of kayaking but at 100,000 pesos I was struggling to justify spending the money on kayaking and this would get me at least splashed in the face for 20,000 instead. The rain had made some bouncy rapids and off we went at 6pm, concerned about being cold until we were squeezed into our ridiculously thick wetsuits and started flapping around like seals holding foam boards. Carmen was staying in another cheaper hostel and joined me, a German girl called Heike and a pair of brothers from South Carolina. It was actually pretty fun even when I got calf cramp halfway down a rapid and a sexy rash from the wetsuit.

    That evening the hydrospeeding gang minus Carmen but plus an awesome girl from Colorado called Jen went to a bar and I sampled my first and maybe last Terremoto.

    'TERREMOTO - Pipeño (a type of sweet fermented wine) with pineapple ice-cream. Terremoto literally translates as 'Earthquake' since you are left with the ground (and legs) feeling very shaky.'

    It was the sweetest thing ever.

    The next day Jen, Heike and I went hiking to a waterfall, or 'salto'. This was billed by the hostel as a bit of a special secret waterfall and they had made an artistic homemade map for us to follow to find it. The first half of the walk was along main roads and the second part up a very steep dusty non scenic road. We managed to get bits and bobs of lifts from locals and Chilean holiday makers. Jen had decided she could do the walk in flip flops and white shorts. We wandered into some woods and promptly got very lost.

    I later found out that everyone in the hostel who had done this walk had done exactly the same thing as us. Doh!

    So we literally slid down this ridiculous path that retrospectively was NOT a path, just the wrong way that had been forged by many others before us. It was unbelievably steep and muddy from all the rain over the previous days. We got wrapped in vines. We had to bum slide to avoid death by falling. Jen's white shorts met their end and she ended up barefoot as there was no chance for her flip flops. Heike cracked on at the front and earned the nickname 'sturdy German'. We made it down to the river, tried to walk along it to get to the waterfall but then had to turn back and go back up the whole way because there was no chance. At the top we quickly found a pretty obvious correct route.

    The waterfall was luckily very pretty once we actually found it, and satisfyingly tall. One of the cars that had given us a lift took pity on us as we were so muddy and by this point I had a scrape from a tree on my leg that was bleeding and adding to the general patheticness. Good adventure.

    The next day I went horse riding for basically the first time ever. I have a suspicious relationship with horses normally as they're a bit kicky and toothy. I also fell off one when i was about 7 and ended up sat in the mud which I (wrongly or rightly) blame the horse for. We were allocated our horses and initially mine, Sombra (meaning shadow, because she is black I guess) didn't listen to me at all and just did what she wanted...eating grass, randomly speeding up, mini jumping over streams. Despite me kicking and generally trying to boss her about she completely ignored me. She also had a problem with one of the other horses in the group following a previous tiff over a male horse, so she couldn't walk ahead or behind of this horse in case they kicked off at each other. One of the other horses in the group was a bit angsty too and needed to be in front at all times. Sombra tried to overtake him at one point which led to a scuffle and me being a bit freaked out when Sombra legged it sideways into a tree. However after a while we eased into a fairly sensible relationship of at least understanding if not mutual respect. She even nuzzled my hand at the end. We walked with the horses through the countryside, up and down the hills, getting my first view of the picture perfect volcano. Previously I'd done a lot of pointing at various small slopes and questioning whether these were the volcano. I realised how wrong I'd been as now i was seeing the volcano I was realising it was CLASSIC volcano.

    It was interesting learning to trust the footing of the horses and realising that they may slide in the mud but they are still way more controlled than we would be on our feet.

    1- hydrospeeding (l-r Heike, carmen, me, grey and will)
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  • Day38

    Puerto Varas

    February 15, 2017 in Chile

    After Chiloe I headed to Puerto Varas, a town from which you can go walking etc. around the Chilean Lakes District. The forecast was rain rain and also rain. Joyous.

    I decided to say 'fuck you weather' and crack on with my plans regardless, which led to a near-drowning experience on a rental bike when I ended up lost in a monsoon. It was raining so heavily that I couldn't use my mobile to look at a map, because the screen thought that the raindrops were fingers typing commands. My waterproof trousers and jacket became saturated and from then on served only as fashion items. I was cycling round the edge of the lake to Frutillar, a town created by German settlers which has lots of German style architecture and signs for Kuchen. The first part of the route was a bumpy stone road which was so muddy but satisfying because I had a mountain bike that just bounced over the stones without major issue. I was originally only going to cycle halfway to Frutillar, but the weather changed to normal-level rain and then the rain actually stopped so I thought I better carry on if only to dry off a bit. The whole trip was about 60km and I spent a very quick hour in Frutillar because I had to get the bike back for a certain time. I had cake and coffee and legged it around the town, the most notable things being the unusual architecture and a nice pier into the lake.

    Back at the hostel I met an Israeli girl who was very nice but spent half an hour talking to me about how people have masculine and feminine energies and we must listen to the feminine energies and eat certain foods at certain points in our menstrual cycle, etc. I did lots of vacant nodding.

    I was very upset to find that I had been moved from the ultimate travellers' goal of the coveted bottom bunk to a top one where the ceiling was 1 foot from my face and I had to do yoga-esque poses to get into it without knocking the ceiling light. The girl opposite me hit her head 3 times in the half an hour that we were reading in bed!

    The next day I met up with none other than Carmen, who had disorganisedly made her way to Puerto Varas from El Bolson the previous night without booking a hostel and ended up spending loads of money on an emergency airbnb. Classic Carmen. I met with her and two friends she had made in El Bolson, a French girl and a Swiss German guy, and we went on an adventure to the national park...in the rain. Our first stop off was a waterfall which was quite cool and powerful but super touristy. We wandered around the area and found some lagoons and bits of river which were much quieter and much nicer because of it. The water was really clear and all the lush greenery surrounding the pools, even the rain, made it really atmospheric and led to lots of group selfies and mini videos of us jumping, throwing large rocks into the water in an attempt to take arty pictures of the splash, etc. The lagoons were the archetypal fairy glen.

    Afterwards we accidentally hitchhiked to the next place just down the road, which was a large lake and beach area, by this point it was monsoon-level-rain again. Stefano had done a joke effort to hitchhike with a comedy lunge which had worked immediately, though I think the driver thought it was just him, but he coped well with four of us and crammed us all into three seats of his little truck and then had to put his friend in the boot (who he was picking up later). We spent quite a long time in a cafe waiting for the rain to stop then decided to just go for it and had a brief amble around the beach, chatting to an Argentinian guy and trying to take more arty photos of each other on a wonky pontoon over the lake. The lake probably was absolutely insanely beautiful in nice weather and was pretty beautiful in bad weather, with turquoise blue water and jagged, toothy, tree covered hills that looked like they should be in South East Asia.

    When 'chatting' to the Argentinian guy I remembered how much easier it is to understand people from Argentina compared to Chile. In Chile everyone shortens words, uses slang and speaks at 100 miles an hour. I met someone from Madrid who said he cannot understand Chileans. However, people from Buenos Aires have a weird dialect where they pronounce 'll' and 'y' as a 'sh' noise. So normally galleta (biscuit) is pronounced gayeta in Spanish but people from Buenos Aires say gasheta. Muy complicado!

    Our journey back was eventful as our little local bus began spewing out black smoke from the gearbox area and we had to evacuate into the pissing rain as everyone was choking. Everyone immediately started smoking which didn't seem the best idea to me, and the driver began pouring everyone's bottles of water into the area the smoke was coming from. Stefano took a selfie with every passenger and the smokey bus and then we hitchhiked back before everyone else got the same idea.

    That evening I practiced my Spanish with a Chilean guy on the sofa in the hostel and watched Into the Wild. My Spanish practice basically involved me monologuing and then not understanding his replies/questions.

    The next day was a lovely rest morning where I wandered around the town and went to a great museum slash art gallery. It is owned by Pablo Fierro who seems to paint pictures of houses and birds. The house is really interesting with lots of wonky ceilings and odd staircases. The artist has put lots of random items all over the house and stuck postcards on which people had written comments for him all over the walls and ceiling. The artist himself was upstairs painting something. I tried to take a photo without him noticing and looked like a creepy stalker hiding behind things.

    Off I went to Pucon.

    1- soggy lake on trip out with Carmen and co, and attempt at new pose (defo works)
    2- museum
    3- ridiculous bed
    4- wet bike ride
    5- pier in Frutillar
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  • Day36

    Isla Grande de Chiloe

    February 13, 2017 in Chile

    So now I have come to Isla de Grande Chiloe, which is very different from Patagonia!

    Firstly it has been warm and sunny.

    So Chiloe is Chile's second largest island and is on the west coast. It's considered to have quite a different culture to the rest of Chile and a different type of countryside as it rains much more here than in the rest of Chile. It has a strong mythological history which draws on influences from the Hulliche people who lived on the island. One of the gods that Chiloe historically believes in is a female God who lives in the sea and seduces cows. Of course.

    As I was crossing on the ferry to Ancud, my first stop, and the sun was shining, I was reminded of crossing to the Isle of Wight on the passenger ferry! Strange. This was accentuated when the bus drove past fields and trees on the way to Ancud from the ferry port, very English scenery greeting me- apart from the sunshine and occasional colourful house.

    The hostel I stayed at in Ancud was called Los 13 Lunas and was super nice, massive beds, all wooden interior, a terrace looking out to the sea, a garden with hammocks and a slack line, and a barbecue area! For the first evening I wandered around Ancud a little bit, bought some food. I walked along the sea front and watched the sun set. It was beautiful and really peaceful. I felt super relaxed and like I was on a holiday.

    The next day I decided I wanted company for the day as I had spent a lot of Punta Arenas alone, and basically surprised a random girl at breakfast into joining me in my exploring. Her name is Paulina from Berlin and she was great. We went to a church museum which shows all the different churches as little models and how they are joined together, and a museum of Ancud which was in Spanish but still very good. There are somethig like 14 churches in Chiloe that are UNESCO protected, all made of wood slotted together in various ways. It's actually super impressive.

    We then wandered around to a beach, up to a fort that isn't a fort, and I got interviewed for some kind of local TV show, requested to be in English (phew). Paulina threw me at them when they asked for the interview and pretended she didn't speak English despite being fluent. Great. It was a bit cringe. I imagine I am now famous in Chiloe and everyone will be asking me to sign their underwear etc.

    I spent some time lazing in the hammock and then had a terrible dinner of chicken sausages (I have literally no idea why I bought these) and pasta, its terribleness accentuated by a group cooking an entire sea bass stuffed with exciting things next to me.

    Some people barbecued downstairs and ate macaroni cheese really late while I joined them, stealing bits to make up for my chicken sausage nightmare earlier. We went out to a club playing the dreaded reggaeton music. This is the music that is played everywhere in Argentina and Chile and is impossible to explain but is basically awful. A notable part of the evening was when Paulina tried to find the club whilst in the club- because she's from Berlin she thought we must be in just the bar and surely the club must be upstairs or something.

    The next day I won at hangovers. I got the bus to Castro with the monster bag after reading on the sea front for a bit waiting for it. After checking into the hostel I wandered around the town, ate some super oily and good churros filled with dulce de leche, gained 5kg immediately, checked out the main square and UNESCO wooden church- which was super cool inside and a cheerful yellow on the outside- and went to look at the palifitos and have a coffee in one of them. It reminded me even more of the Isle of Wight, looking out of the windows onto the water. The cafe was tiny and cool with lots of random cacti in the windows and a big sofa. I had my new fave thing, a cortado, and felt fancy as I flicked through a book on Van Gogh.

    The day after I went to a local festival/fete in Nutoco. This was so great as it was basically all locals or people visiting from other parts of Chile on their holidays. They had stalls selling the classic Chilote 'artesan' items which are all made of wool, stalls selling traditional and local foods, a little stage where they played the accordion and performed traditional dances and dragged the audience up to dance in pairs on stage, and a games area filled with old wooden games like stilts and skipping. Me and a French girl called Marine from the hostel ate Curanto (a ridiculous pile of clams/chicken/pork/mussels), a type of bread (made by mashing up potato, flattening it and spinning it on a huge rolling pin above a fire), and I had 'mote con huesillo' which was peach juice and grains drank/eaten with a spoon and was completely up my street food/drink wise.

    We watched an apple squisher make apple juice with an insane enormous wooden contraption. Afterwards we went to check out the local town, Conchi, which was nice enough.

    The next day I headed on my tod to Achao, a town on an island off the island of Chiloe :P It was pretty small and by the sea. My first issue was how insanely desperate I was for the loo and I accidentally saw most of the town in the first ten minutes while I frantically looked for a toilet. The Spanish words for left and straight ahead are basically the same, which meant I couldn't find a bathroom for aaages and considered a classic behind-a-tree pee...but luckily didn't have to resort to this.

    I wandered around the beach for a bit looking at the fishing boats and accidentally fed a small stray dog some cheese from my lunch. It then became my dog buddy for the next half hour. You don't need to own a dog in South America because all the dogs are your dog.

    I then got back on the bus to Dalcahue. It is still a mystery to me how you pronounce this. I saw a sign for a garlic festival which further cemented in my mind that this is the Chilean Isle of Wight. The town is nice with lots of artesanaries and sun and boats on the sea. I went into a coffee shop and one of the people I'd met in the Ancud hostel was in there! We had coffee and I stole his cake. Fwends!

    My last night was a bit weird. I had this idea to camp in the national park and do a long walk one day and visit Las Amuellos, which is basically a wooden pier that everyone seems to go mad for, the next. After I got to the park, set up the tent and set off I was absolutely exhausted- serious fatigue set in. I got to an epic beach about 1k from the tent with huge crashing waves and a long desolate shore. I then lay down and slept for an hour. Then I got kind of randomly annoyed and booked a hostel in Puerto Varas for the next night. That evening was lovely as I ate dinner on a pontoon looking out onto a lake, and wandered through easy paths in the trees for an hour and a half or so. They were peaceful as the groups from the daytrips had all gone home.

    My plan to go to Los Amuellos also failed as I just could not get up. Its TOTM so maybe I am bleeding out all my energy (sorry). Anyway I guess I will have another little amble about and then get the bus back. Not been a total failure but not exactly what I planned!

    1- Ancud
    2- melodramatic Jesus
    3- church in Castro
    4- palafitos in Castro
    5- Dalcahue
    6- a pile of wood and puppies in Dalcahue
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  • Day30

    Lazy days and penguins

    February 7, 2017 in Chile

    So I spent the whole of Monday having an official...
    LAZY DAY

    It was excellent. I stayed in PJs until 12, video called people, ate and watched Netflix, only venturing out to buy the food and once for about 5 minutes to look at the crazy beautiful colours of the clouds and sky.

    When I first got back to Kiooshtem after the trek someone was hovering around behind me at reception, I turned around and it was Brian, a Swiss guy who I first met in Rayuela hostel in BA! Such random coincidence, was really nice to see him again.

    After the lazy day and a yummy hostel breakfast during which an Israeli guy told Brian and I a dramatic story about his heart being broken by a girl he had met on the plane two weeks prior, with a grave warning to Brian never to fall for Israeli girls because they are beautiful but evil inside, I said goodbye and headed off to Punta Arenas.

    Punta Arenas has very little to do but was basically where I would be getting a plane out of Patagonia, and to fill the time I paid lots of money to go and see some penguins, and went to a terrible museum with stuffed animals and hundreds of unexplained knicknacks. The penguin island was cool as there are a ridiculous number there, the island is called Magallen island and the penguins are magallenic penguins (of course). The moment when the ferry ramp fell down to reveal about 500 penguins was pretty cool and made me temporarily into an excitable child. The ferry there, however, was loooong and boring. I ate a whole packet of biscuits and the sugar buzz was so dramatic that I didn't fall asleep that night until 2:30am. I met a French guy who was working as a Patissiere in Puerto Natales to get some more travel funds, despite no experience (he's an engineer); perhaps the fact he is French and thus assumed to be a patisserie expert landed him the job?! I wonder what I would be hired for. Possibly weather woman.

    I realised I've lost lots of my clothes in all my hostel shuffling. Sad.

    Now another day of travel to less expensive areas I hope. Off to Isla de grande Chiloe today.

    1,2- penguins
    3- stuffed fox
    4- Empanada behind the bus terminal in Puerto Montt waiting for my bus to Chiloe
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