Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chilling in Chiloé

Hey everyone,
    Sorry, it's getting harder and harder to find good internet connections, and therefore harder to keep you all updated. I'll try my best but will have to cut some stories short just to get this out on the interwebs. (I know it's been almost a month though!) There are many good stories, but I will try to keep my narrative linear :-)

    Last I updated, I thought I was going hang gliding, but as the instructors took us to the top of the hill (enigmatically only saying a few sentences to us the whole time) it became clear that we were actually going paragliding. I was fine with either, as I just wanted to be high up in the air; it didn't matter to me how I got there, but it was a little surprising to see the giant parachute be splayed out in front of me (FYI, Carl has many more details of this trip, including pictures! go check out this blog to find out more). The wind was very rough, and the instructors thought we might not be able to go, but suddenly the wind started up and he yelled for me to run down the mountain! I jumped to and before I knew it we were gliding right off the ground and I was looking down at forests hundreds of feet below us. The views of the mountains, lakes, and islands in Bariloche were an incredible sight. I was surprised I wasn't at all afraid of being so high up in the air; I actually wanted to go higher. The winds were too rough to stay up for very long, but the experience was fantastic, and I knew I would want to do it again and soon.

    After coming down we were taken back to our hostel where we lazed about, finally not having too much to do for awhile. We decided it was high time we got out of the lake district to see some other parts of South America. We booked a bus for Chile tomorrow morning and spent the rest of the evening relaxing with other people in the dorm (we also met a hilarious kid from Buenos Aires who insisted we use our English to send amorous texts to his 'special friend', which he kept referring to her as... we ended up sending quotes from Gunther songs, go figure). Although the hostel had promised us breakfast early so we could catch our bus, we find only a cold refrigerated metal can of coffee waiting for us, which we both unfortunately drank. Later on the bus with no food and only the coffee to keep us going for the next 10 hours, our stomachs were none to happy with us. After a fairly docile border crossing we made our way to a rainy Chile. We decided to get out of boring Puerto Montt right away and head to the Island of Chiloé,  which we had heard many good things about.

   Although not nearly as exciting as other places we have visited, Chiloé was by far the most unique, and I had an excellent time exploring this quaint, and slightly mysterious collection of isles. Across the countryside we saw many incredibly built wooden churches (like nothing I've ever seen), which had sculptures that combined christian symbols with the Island's own unique mythology. We started our side trip in Ancund, right at the northern coast of the Island where we had an excellent time exploring the beaches and interacting with the locals. We befriended the other people in the hostel (two girls from Copenhagen and one from Germany... both had been in South America for quite awhile though) and decided to make a seafood banquet. We went to the market and got amazingly cheap mussels (about 50 cents for 2 lbs.!) and made crab cakes as well. It was incredibly delicious and by far the best meal I have had the whole trip.
     After Ancund we rushed ourselves over to Parque Nacional Chiloé (two VERY local buses... one actually helped a family take three huge tree trunks to the park...they had to place it on the center of the aisle). We got to the park with only a few hours to spare, and we were still not interested in camping, so instead took a quick walk over to the Pacific Ocean. It was great to be near the ocean; you could hear the waves all the way from the town at the edge of the park. It was too cold to hang out on the beach for very long, but I always love being near the ocean and enjoyed the view immensely.

    While we tried to get back to Castro, the capital of Chiloé, to stay the night, we ran into an interesting problem. We had left our backpacks with the park ranger, and returned from the walk only to find the door was locked and no ranger was in sight. The last bus was leaving in 15 minutes so we had to get him quick. After searching through most of the park we eventually found him out, and after a confusing conversation (he was a very fast Spanish speaker) we realized that he had locked himself out of his own office! We spent the next few minutes trying to pry open all the windows in the house, but with no luck. Eventually we found a wedge and managed to break the frame of the window, but only to leave us running with our bags after the last bus speeding off. In the end we found a small unheated cottage near the park to stay the night, which of course was more expensive than anything we could have gotten in Castro. The place had no heat and no hot water... and no dinner. We decided to head back to a cabin in the middle of the park, which the ranger had said would be open for the night. There were no lights on the road and the hut was about a mile away, we got our flashlights and headed into the darkness.

    After an exciting walk on the empty road (many a stray dog barking their lungs out at us) we made it to the house. This turned out to be an excellent choice for the night, delicious food, malt wine, and dozens of board games we could play the night away with, all at a reasonable price. The couple who ran the place were very friendly, and couldn't get over how they were getting tourists from the US on their little Island. After failing at playing a Chilean ripoff of Monopoly we headed back to our hut.

    The next morning we were doomed to miss the next bus (it seems I've become attenuated to my watch alarm... it's gotten me into trouble a few times now). We wandered through the park a little more and had to wait through some wind and rain before the next bus came. Finally we made it back to Castro where nothing of particular interesting happened, except for seeing a beautiful wooden church (it was quite impressive, especially considering how close the building was to the water.)

     The next morning we decided as the rain continued to come down and the weather showed no signs of stopping, that we would quit the lake district for this trip and head up straight to Santiago. We bough a cheap ticket overnight to the capital (about 14 hours) and wasted the day away in a fake western saloon in Puerto Montt, complete with bad 80s music videos on screens everywhere.... overall a very good time!

I don't know when I'll be able to update you all next, but let me assure you that Santiago, Valparaiso, and everything in between have been an excellent and most adventerous time. At the moment we'll be leaving Santiago and heading up to the Atacama desert, but more on that when it actually happens!

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