Category Archives: Chile

San Pedro To Uyuni in a 4×4

Day 1 Leaving San Pedro

The driver that takes us in the minibus to the border is Oscar and he’s very jolly and as mad as a brush. Playing Johnny Cash and Ray Charles for us along the way as well as singing along. He’s 60 if he’s a day! Once we’ve all been through the Chilean border,  we get back in the bus to head for the Bolivian entry point and the minibus keeps cutting out – good start!! It just didn’t like reverse it seems as when the minibus in front drives off we’re able to go forwards.

At the bolivian border which is some 40 mins away and a further 2000m higher (San Pedro being at ~2200m) we have a table brought out to our minibus for our 2nd part of brekkie (as we got in the minibus we got an orange juice and a packet of princess biscuits!!) which thankfully was a bit more substantial, cheese and ham rolls and tea/coffee.

Here we met Quintin, our 4×4 driver for the next three days. According to Oscar, the best! Oh did we forgot to mention our co passengers are Dan (who you know already, sky diver from Chicago), Alexi and Nick, an English couple touring South America and learning Spanish as part or for their degree back home, and lastly Mateus a geologist from Brazil doing the trip to learn more about the amazing landscapes as much as for vacation.

While at the border having brekkie and getting our passports stamped there’s a wrecked old bus lying nearby that serves as the toilets for us all. Very fresh too.

When we set off our 1st two stops are some amazing lakes (or are they lagoons?) Lagos blanco which Quintin tells us is mostly potassium and is iced on top, proven by the birds walking on top as we drive away; Lagos Verde which is green due to the copper oxide it contains.

On the way to the hot springs (Aquas Caliente) we briefly stop at the Dali Rocks, a bunch of weird looking pretty impressive rocks just jutting up out of the sand/gravel.

The hot springs were indeed hot and luckily we got there before the crowds starting arriving and were able to get in when there were only a few others there. Within say 30 mins at most it was heaving with all the others doing the trip with different companies and time to get out. Lunch was served in a building nearby and the quality was definitely dependent on which company you were with. But ours was edible and went down well. Luckily too we had no one ill with altitude sickness as yet so all was good.

That said as we got back in the wagon Quintin dished out coco leaves to everyone as we were about to go even higher.

Next stop was the geysers, Sol de Manaña – Sulphur springs which were pretty smelly and quite small really. It was a fun packed day for sure and as we drove from sight to sight the scenery was breathtaking. It was also very cold up here. We finished the day off with possibly the most spectacular – Lagos Colorada which is bright red and full of flamingoes. The red colour we hear is from the mineral gypsum. On top of the water there are lots of white deposits of borax. You had to be there we really don’t think the photo’s will do it justice. On the banks of this lake was our nights accommodation. Which Quintin seemed none to pleased with. It looked like it was 1st come 1st served and by the time we arrived the other tour companies had got the better option and we were left with the last cookie in the jar. That’ll teach us for taking so many photo’s all day long.

It’s very very basic, 7 bunks huddled closely into one very dilapidated room with a table squeezed in the centre. Our toilet was in an adjoining room, It was a toilet pan but no flush, we had to empty buckets of water in after use. Still we’d had a good day and there were at least plenty of blankets on each bed to keep us warm. They’d warned us temperatures would be as low as 4deg inside and as low as -25deg outside over night!

After emptying the wagon and depositing our gear into our adequate accommodation we went for a further walk along the side of the lake. Having said none of us were suffering from altitude sickness the walk took it’s toll.

We walked around bit of the lake and were all well out of breath and after dinner most of us had headaches to varying degrees.

Day 2 Rocky road to Alota

Quintin told us to be up and ready for 0730 so Huw set an alarm and we were all up dressed and packed for bang on 0730. But there was no sign of Quintin … In fact he didn’t show for at least another 40 mins, we thought he’d slept in and meanwhile we were all getting cold as the sun wasn’t up yet. It was nearly 0830 before brekkie arrived and going on 0845 before we left. To top that all the other wagons had gone well before we even got up, so we were wondering why the late start and why Quintin was so laid back about it… till we were on our way and it all became clear when he asked the time. Then told us the time!! We’d all forgotten we were now on Bolivian time it was an hour earlier than we thought. We’d got up and ready at 0630. Doh!

The days sights started with Arbol de Piedra – or rock tree. This was an area of rocks standing tall in the sand, and one in particular that looked a bit tree like….time for some silly climbing photos 🙂

Next was a series of lakes of different colours. Lagoon Honda or blue lake which was only 1/2 m deep, and again contained mineral deposits of potassium & borax. Lagoon Hedionda or black lake, containing potassium and sulphur. We got great reflection photos from this one. A random lunch spot was thrown in, where we spotted some viscachas, crazy rabbit/kangaroo looking animals before moving onto Lagoon Cañapa, the green lake, containing sulphur and potassium (it seemed like the same minerals were present in most of the lakes but in different quantities).

Our last spot for the day was the valley of the rocks. Again really hard to do this justice with words, if you can imagine miles and miles, as far as the eye can see, huge rocks just standing in the sand. Some with holes in, some resembling shapes of animals or people … they just appeared out of no where and stopped just abruptly. It was like a huge unfinished sculpture park where the sculptor had got bored on one piece, left it and moved on to the next.

As we left here Quintin suddenly stopped the wagon and got out to talk to what appeared to be a family sitting about 20m off the road. He came back with two cooked potatoes, he’d bought four, ate two and gave us the others to try. They were very random and also very tasty.

Further on down the road the landscape continually changing, we stop for some photos of a herd of llamas by the side of the road. They are very funny looking animals.

Finally we stop at Alota for the night, not San Cristobal as we were expecting and in fact we have no idea where Alota is in relation to San Cristobal. The hostel is called Hospedaje Los Andes, it’s nice with separate twin rooms and hot shower oh and toilets that flush! We take a walk through village supposedly to a river but we can’t find it and are surprisingly tired from having sat still most of the day, the altitude can’t be under estimated. The village is cute and described as authentic, there are lots of llamas roaming free and we find a map along the central road so we are able to orientate ourselves. One thing is for sure, we are going to have to get used to ducking in doorways pretty quickly in Bolivia. It’s certainly quieter here as all of the other tour operators have gone somewhere else for the night!

Day 3 Salar de Uyuni

As instructed and after synchronising watches we all make it to brekkie at 7.15 and are on the road just after 8am. We’d discovered from the map yesterday that San Cristobal was the 2nd village further along the road and we stop briefly there on our way through to look around and take photo’s. It’s bigger than Alota and not quiet as nice.

Then it was onto Uyuni where we stop at the Atacama Mistica office to fill out forms and leave big bags before heading onto the Salar.

On the way we stop at an artesanal market where Mateus sees his friends again and finds out that a jeep was in an accident yesterday on the road we were on and the driver and 2 tourists died 🙁

The Salar is absolutely amazing, an expanse of over 12,000km salt, white as far as the eye can see. We drive through the water for a bit and stop at first to take some photo’s where they are harvesting the salt, piling it high for collection, and then drive a bit further on to the original salt hotel (there’s quite a few replicas now) where we take more photos and have lunch. If you turn up later in the year the tour stops overnight at a salt hotel like this one but it needs rebuilding / not accessible following the rainy season.

Another brilliant day had by all and as we leave Dan copies everyones photo’s so we all have a copy of group ones taken along the trip as we head back into town for our final stop – the train cemetery – the idea that 20 or 30 trains have just been left here to rot since the mid fifties is pretty astounding. Mostly old steam trains too, enthusiasts in the UK would throw a track, quite literally!!! A sad but fascinating sight.

Back at Uyuni the girl in the Atacama Mistica office books the bus to Potosi tomorrow for us all, Mateus is going on to Sucre but she’s managed to get us all on the same bus.

The next job is finding accommodation for tonight, the journey to Potosi is about 6 hours so there is no point trying to do it today as we’d arrive there at midnight with no hostel to go to. Plus it’s doubtful there’s even a bus now. So tomorrow it is with a stopover here in Uyuni. Nick and Alexi have a room booked so we check their hostel out first (well Bernice does while the boys have a beer). There’s only one bed available but the guy is able to recommend another. Better that than doing a pot luck door to door job.

Bernice checks this out and the owner, Gustavo, offers us a private two man room (each with 4 beds in) and kitchen and bathroom. For oh a meat £4 each the night.

Reporting back to the boys and having forgot to ask about wifi we agree to check the two places opposite out too. They’re much more expensive and still no wifi so we go back to Gustavo.

Meeting the guys later for pizza finishes the day off nicely. We could have looked for local food but every other shop is a pizza house. Worryingly we’re paying ~£1.40 a litre of beer which on the face of it is a bargain. But when you compare it to £3.50 for the bus to go 6 hours across country you can’t help thinking you’re being swindled somehow!!!

eenie meenie miny moe

It´s easy to say, but harder for you the reader to fully grasp, that everywhere we´ve visited here in South America till now have felt pretty similar, maybe El Chalten or Puerto Natales broke the mould a bit being really small towns in the middle of nowhere, but really and truly this is the 1st town really to have a completely different look and feel to it. It is in the middle of nowhere, but more than that,  all the buildings are single story, all the walls are either red mud or whitewashed, the mud roads which are ubiquitous  are treated with something to keep the dust down but to leave them authentic looking. All in all this small town of San Pedro de Atacama is the closest to walking into a real cowboy/western movie set we´ve ever come…. Until that is you take a closer look. Its quirky and authentic looking at 1st sight but then you see nothing but tourist trap tatt shops, tour agencies, bureau de change offices and restaurants with touts outside. All in all it is a bit of a tourist hell, but who can blame these people or the town. Most people come here to go on day trips – to the volcanoes, to the hot springs, to the sand dunes to sand board, to the salt flats, to the moon valley, to the valley of death…. Some (like us) even come to go on a three day 4×4 trip across the border into Bolivia via lakes, via hot springs, via  rock formations, via the world´s largest salt lake…

All that said the town is compelling and you can´t help but want to slow down, relax here. It doesn´t make it easy for you to choose, granted, as there are a dozen or more operators for us to choose from for every activity, with lots of varied prices, and with wildly differing reviews online. It´s worse than trying to choose a hostel, because once you commit to this choice your life is in their hands for 3 days on the dirt roads, you can´t just walk away.

So information collected, we went away to decide who the lucky company were going to be. It was, and hopefully vindicated, a no brainer we think, one operator we were speaking to, when some girls arrived off of one of their trips, so we were able to get their opinion straight up and they seemed pretty happy with them. With our fingers crossed, we go back later in the evening and put our money down. The guy to be fair was the only one out of 5 to tell us anything about what to expect regarding altitude sickness (we´re at ~2500m here and on the 1st day of the trip we drive up to 4500m and then descend to ~4000m to stay the night) and what food/drink to avoid 24 hours before we start. So we were likely to choose him anyway. Let´s just hope the driver we get lives up to our expectations!

The 3 day trip starts on Monday morning and Dan and Huw were going to go cycling Sunday afternoon – see the sun go down, Bernice wasn´t feeling up to it – but when we got up and got into town to do the few jobs we had to do, we ended up going for a short walk that was recommend by the guy who sold us the 3 day trip after lunch pre the cycle ride.  It turned into a 3 hour trek from the town to a local archaeological site: ”Pukara de Quitor” which was an old town ruin on a hillside and a mirador looking back at the whole beautiful landscape of the desert, the town, the volcanoes, amazing! We would definitely recommend that anyone coming to San Pedro do this walk to get orientated before signing up to any tours.

Needless to say the bike ride didn´t happen when we got back, just a little chilling before a hot shower to wash all the dust off before dinner. It´s an early night tonight as we (a) can´t have a beer (b) set off at 8am tomorrow.

Oh yeah, and you might have noticed, we do have wifi here, we didn´t expect it.

El punto seguramente tienen el punto

We have to say “The Singing Lamb” you were good, you were very good, but the top spot has just been updated – El Punto – is now the top dog hostel thus far on our trip.

The only negative is that there are no kitchen facilities available for use, but the rooms, the communal spaces, the cleanliness, and the friendliness of the staff is such that you don’t really mind! Yes really!

We would certainly stay longer than our planned and pre-booked 2 nights if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re hungry for a new country. We’re so close to leaving Chile, and as sad as that is, we’re so excited about moving onto Bolivia that we just want to get north now to San Pedro where we can begin the next phase of our trip.

Yesterday and today we haven’t done a great deal physically, seen a bit of town and squeezed in some socialising … with a couple of Scottish girls (Alison and Joanna) a German and a Dutch (Sanne) girl. Had a great evening last night chatting and teaching Lars some Scottish slang.

Before we catch our bus to San Pedro later today Bernice is going to go and learn how to make her own leather flip-flops while Huw looks at install some new features on our blog.

The flip-flop experience was fantastic. Best value 2 hours without a doubt and highly recommended. Bernice is now the proud owner of a great pair of leather flip-flops she made herself right down to the pattern on the leather and the colour. The only bit of the process she didn’t do herself was using the lathe and the final trim of the rubber sole. Which incidentally uses old tyres. All for about £13. Genius! As soon as she got back we high tailed it down to the bus station for our next 16 hour journey!!!

While she was away Huw made a fair bit of progress today to with the blog. Working out how to link our updates on the blog to Facebook and Twitter. As well as investigating a new map option – the one we have just now isn’t joined up you’ll have noticed and is pretty annoying because you the reader have no real concept of the order we’ve visited places in when you look at it. So watch this space for a new souped up map page coming to you’re viewing soon.

The next hostel we’re booked into doesn’t have wifi so this might be the last update till we get settled in Bolivia in about a weeks time. Oh and by then the time difference between us and you guys back home will be 5 hours!!

The Pisco trail

Arriving in La Serena around 0530 we were both a bit frazzled but Dan (who left us in Valparaiso and arrived here ahead of us) has hired a car for today with another guy Lars (Norwegian) for us all to go up the Elqui valley for the day. Obviously we couldn’t pass up the chance to go out for a great day sightseeing especially when it would save us a heap of money – not having to go on one of the official tours. Plus we’re not very well behaved sheep!

A few naps in the back of the car helped us through the day and we even went to the observatory in the evening, thanks to Lars being happy to take on the driving all day. Lars has been travelling for a few months now; he stayed in La Paz for a month or more and bought a motorbike there that he’s now using to get around.

The scenery once again is stunning but very different to what we’ve experienced so far. It’s certainly getting drier and rather than trees there are just tons and tons of giant cacti everywhere. We stopped at a dam where there was a large metal sculpture that hummed in the wind like a huge viola! Really cool! Then we had lunch in the town or Vicuna while we booked the Observatory tour before going on to the end of the road (quite literally) and taking in a Pisco distillery tour on the way back. Pisco is claimed by Chile and also Peru to be their national drink (usually as Pisco Sour) – a little bit of a war going on there, a bit like Devon and Cornwall on who 1st came up with the Cornish pasty!!

Also, included in the itinerary for the day was a trip to the top of a mirador via, the route we drove took us by a stinky rubbish tip, so we knew we´d took a wrong turn. Our perseverance paid off as the view was amazing.

The visit to the Observatory gained mixed reviews. Huw really enjoyed it; Lars thought the one he´d gone to in San Pedro (where we´re headed next) was better; Bernice and Dan thought the telescoped would be bigger although Dan was happy he go a photo of Saturn´s rings…..

Lista de Correros

Santiago here we come. Though not as early as we hoped 😕 a bit of a slow start. Packing and organising ourselves this morning took a tad longer…. Oh well not to worry, we have a list of missions to accomplish when we arrive and after 2 hours on the bus it’s about 230pm by the time onward bus tickets are purchased and our rucsacs are deposited in left luggage for the day. Not too bad.

1st mission – the post office – success!! We have finally caught up with each other, the package is here, although once we bought bus tickets for tonight we did wonder what we’d do if the parcel wasn’t here yet. Have faith that’s what we kept repeating on the way….
We accomplished pretty much everything on our list, including tracking down TiGi hair products (that’s for both of us, not just Bernice!!) which unfortunately they stung us hard for.

Back at the bus station (we were booked on the 1030pm bus due to arrive in La Serena around 530am) we had some dinner and only had about 40 mins sitting waiting for the bus in the end. Perfect timing.
In case we haven’t said, mostly we get overnight buses so we have a nights accommodation thrown in!!

W´ot a day

Matt and Kirsty, the guys we did the W with, are in town! They arrived late last night from Pucon so our day ahead is a mixture of squeezing in the last sight seeing we want to do along with acting as tour guide for them 😉

It’s off to the laundrette first and with an arranged meeting at the fountain in the plaza there we head to the coffee shop we visited on our 1st day – Subtereano – and chat up for an hour or so.

They left us in Puerto Natales and have visited El Chalten, Bariloche (their route 40 trip was incident free) …. Everyone we meet are either going the same direction as us but at different speeds or going in the opposite direction. Such is the way of back packing.

Anyway, Matt and Kirsty also visited San Martin on their way across the Andean pass to Pucon and are intending spending a couple of nights here in Valparaiso before going back across the border to Mendoza (Argentina’s wine district). We’ve ruled this out, mostly because it would mean border hopping back and forth to take in the observatory in La Serena too and it would be too expensive going to the wine district, for us anyhow or no fun!

It seems like the guys met loads of people from the ‘W’ route walking in El Chalten/Bariloche. It’s such a small world.

Today we suggest to them to take in the cemetery and the artillery ascensor that we haven’t been to yet. They’re up for this. Not only do we get great views but we’re able to point things out in town and around from our vantage point for them to check out tomorrow when we’ve gone.

The cemetery is a lot like Recoleta in Buenos Aires if on a much smaller scale. There are actually three, 1,3 housed the catholics and 2 housed the Dissenters (Protestants) but this one wasn’t open while we were there.

Unfortunately the ascensor was closed for maintenance but we’d had a good stroll to it taking more pictures of the architecture and graffiti along route. Instead we decided to take the metro to the sea lions and also go to the bus station to check out tickets. After we’d had our fill of sea lions and ice cream we made our way back to town. They were being particularly rowdy today, lots of fighting and lots being pushed off the parapet into the drink only to fight to get back on again. Lots of hierarchy rules evident amongst the pride.

On the way we finally tracked down (turned out we’d walked past it a few times already) the statue to Cochrane, the scottish admiral (oh and he’s from Hamilton, which is ~5 miles from where Bernice grew up) who’d had his knighthood revoked due to some Stock Market scandal back in 1818 and had moved to valparaiso, become vice admiral to the Chilean navy and kicked the Spanish out of what is now Peru.,_10th_Earl_of_Dundonald

A group decision was made to buy and cook dinner at our apartment where we swapped more stories and photo’s. A nice day had by all, looks like they’ll be a few days behind us going into Bolivia.

Out of Action

Forgive us readers for we have lapsed. It has been a week since our last blog…

Bernice´s cold as been pretty bad and after a night in a hostel in Valparaiso we managed to find an apartment for a week. It has meant some well-earned privacy but more importantly just now, we haven´t become public enemy no. 1 with Bernice coughing all night. Again it hasn´t cost much more than a private room at a hostel would be so no real extravagance, just out own space with a little bedroom, kitchen area, and a bathroom. (What we´ve been doing is alternating dorm and private as we travel where the price is good) It has an outdoor space but no real view.

Which is a shame really as the views across the town are amazing – the whole town is a designated UNESCO site. There are about a dozen Ascensors (lifts/funicular railways), most really old, which enable everyone to get up and down the steep hills. There are some buildings made of stone, especially down edging the sea where the flat area is, but on the hills most buildings are made of wriggly tin (corrugated iron), colourfully painted wriggly tin at that.

The first day or so we didn´t do much, Bernice was resting and trying to shake off the cold, the first time we did venture out together, on the 2nd day we bumped into a couple we´d seen at the hostel – Joe and Eli. It turns out they´re from UK, Joe from Angel London, his dad´s bound to know Kevin – he runs taxi´s there, and Eli is from Dorchester, but they both lived in Reading whilst at Uni there…. Small small world.! Yes we did discuss Sweeney´s.

Chris had arrived about an hour after us the first morning and with Dan following on the 2nd day we made a right little sight-seeing entourage with Joe and Eli as well. Oh and Coco a Dutch girl we got chatting to over dinner. Once we´d moved all our kit to our apartment we visited the main tourist attraction in town, that being the house of a local poet laureate “Pablo Neruda”.

Dan and Chris seem to know a fair bit of Spanish and Coco did a month or more intensive learning in Buenos Aires, and yet none of us are managing to understand the locals. We asked at least half a dozen times what the “menu del dia” was… nobody got the whole thing!!! Bonkers dialect!

One day Dan walked (probably reluctantly as he probably thought we were taking the train) with us to the neighbouring town of “Viña del Mar” the posh neighbour! It turned out to be quite an adventure and maybe even the highlight of our week here. The start of the walk was pretty yuk, walking along the side of the main road until we could cross the rail line and get to the start of the promenade. Then we saw loads of sea lions fighting each other to stay on an old concrete platform not far from shore. Then we came across an art exhibition, one we´d seen part of from the bus the day we arrived – 5 or so brightly coloured cars (yes cars) pinned up on a line by huge oversized clothes pegs – but alas it wasn´t open till later. The next thing, the best thing, we come across is an old burnt out train, a couple of carriages, hardly any window panes left, certainly no paint on the wagons and as Bernice stopped to photograph it an old boy popped his head out the window. She thought she was going to get told to sling her hook, but no, we were invited in, it was just opening, it was a coffee shop! Probably they were homeless, probably they were squatting there, probably it was a crazy thing to do, but we were all curious so we accepted and ventured up the end steps of the carriage and into the train. It was spotless, if a bit bedraggled. A woman was busy finishing setting things up and the old boy who´d shouted out the window came through to welcome us on board. There were lots of tables and chairs (not original though) in the carriage and a piano, which once we had our tea in front of us the old guy sat down and began to play. It was like being in a time warp!! Amazing!

Further along our walk we came across the fish market and again saw a lot of sea lions and loads of huge pelicans, not at all afraid to let us get near them. We also spectated some local lads playing footie (while we took another refreshment stop, it was a long walk) until a stray dog ran off with their ball!

As the week has passed we´ve said our goodbyes to the troops fully expecting we might bump into all or some of them again somewhere further north. Chris and Dan got ´treated´ to a steak dinner on their last night followed up with some much needed shithead practice!!

We got Bernice a bottle of cough mixture and thought she was fixed but come Saturday she had a bit of a relapse and we had to go buy another. This one is stronger, she´s only allowed to take it at 8 hour intervals; in fact the packet infers she should only have been prescribed it by a doctor!

There was a day trip to Santiago on the cards too but that got canned, we´ll go via there as we leave on Tuesday, leave our bags in left luggage for the day and have a look at the town. Seems a bit odd but other than it being a big city (the capital of Chile) no one has really given us any incentive to go. We need to go to the post office where, hopefully, the parcel is waiting on us that eventually turned up at The Singing Lamb, and Bernice also wants to take in the Art Gallery. We´re trying to be disciplined (yep we know, it´ll be a 1st) and get to Bolivia as quickly as we can – where it’s reportedly much cheaper – without missing too much of Chile out. We have two more planned stops here. La Serena to see the huge observatories and San Pedro de Atacama where we´ll see the Chilean salt flats before taking a 4×4 across the border (4-5 day expedition) into Bolivia and to its salt flats – Uyuni, the largest in the world. Bring it on…. 🙂

Real Chips

We were warned the power was going to be down today, in the whole town, till 1300. When we´re packed up we wander into town in the hope the bus companies can still issue tickets and we can book our overnight bus to our next destination – Valparaiso. We´re in luck and seem to have secured the last two seats together.

Bernice also seems to have developed a cold and it’s not letting up, she thought it was hayfever at first. For lunch we find a great burger joint called “Volcanburger” and they even have hot salsa as we know it, and real chips.

The rest of the day is spent lazing about in the hostel garden chatting to fellow backpackers – Fiona, Carly, and Leia. At some point the owners start filling the pool and as we´d read in the reviews the dogs jumped right in there…

Our bus leaves at 2030, Chris wasn´t sure what he was doing but has since bought a ticket to Valparaiso too, on a bus leaving an hour after us. Dan is staying another night or so to catch up with Peter. We´d asked about food this time and were told we´d only get brekkie in the morning so we should sort our own dinner out. As we had such a lovely big lunch at the burger place we just made some sandwiches up to eat before boarding. As it turned out we got two boxes on the bus. One in the evening – a juice, some salted nibbles and a packet of hose pink wafer biscuits you used get as a kid – and one for brekkie – a juice and some pink biscuits. Not sure why they bothered the box-packaging would have cost more than the contents they gave us.

We probably weren´t very popular on the bus as Bernice was sneezing and coughing all though the night.


So Dan says he´d watched this US TV show where the wife is asked by her husband for another word for ´selfish´ she comes back with ´independent´. HHhmmm well Huw and Bernice are both being well and truly independent today. Huw is off with Dan and Chris to climb the Villarica Volcano, while Bernice spends the day in Pucon chilling in cafés drinking coffee and blog writing/surfing the net. Oh and watching the rugby, the England game that is, forgot it was on till a Facebook reminder came up. Appalling effort guys!

The volcano trip involves taking a minibus to the out of season ski centre and catching a somewhat dated chair lift to the start of the trek. It is then a couple of hour of solid uphill work initially on lava rock and dust and then on snow and ice using ice axes (no need for crampons as there was a recent now fall). At the top it is a fairly brief look into the crater and take in the views until the sulphuric fumes drives us of again. The way down is great fun – tobogganing down on your bum – woo hoo!!

When Huw gets back they´ve had an awesome day and really rate the guide. We´ve heard some horror stories about attitude and poor equipment but the guy that the hostel uses (has all his gear at the hostel for you to try) Guido, was really good at keeping the group together, knew about the mountain, allowed for fun without it getting dangerous, and the equipment was good. A plus for the hostel (Entico) and let´s face it they need another one cause the dorms are pretty crummy, the 2 bathrooms both disgusting and inadequate, filthy carpet everywhere and the kitchen is in a real mess. The only positives it’s really got are the large garden with pool (closed for cleaning/winter while we were there) and the friendly staff. It needs closing for a week and gutting!

After the boys have showered and Dan´s sky diving mate Peter arrives we head off to a pizza restaurant Peter recommends (his friend runs it, looks like he knows everyone in town really). It didn´t disappoint so that was good.


The thing is when you know you need to wake up and get a move on you manage it, regardless of how tired and hungover you might be especially when there´s food involved. Such is the hardship of the backpacker – you´ve paid for brekkie and you ain´t gonna miss it!

So 1025 and there we all are, in body if not in spirit, at the table drinking coffee and eating toast. Five minutes to spare and its all good, the Paddy hats are still where we left them when we got back which at least we remember, Chris can´t even remember coming back!

Checkout is supposed to be 11am but it’s actually nearer 12 when we´ve all paid up and ready to move out. We discover there´s a bus to Pucon at 1225 so that’s the one we aim to get, having snapped and booked a hostel over brekkie (looked like loads were full tonight, probably the weekend and the good weather). The journey is only a couple of hours, a walk in the park. Bernice is still adamant she doesn´t want to climb the volcano, figuring it´ll be just one big slog and the prospect of crampons, ice axe and then sledging off the top really don´t appeal, for Huw and the boys on the other hand….

The hostel is ok, a way out of the centre and pretty busy. Feels like a hippie commune and whoever thought having carpets in a hostel was a good idea needs to be shot – they stink! Almost as much as the two big Newfoundland’s living in the garden!! They are cute though, the dogs, not the carpets 🙂

We offer to cook dinner for the lads, they usually eat out or take away so thought it´d be a change for them. Chilli is on the menu, with the usual challenge of finding all the ingredients – you´d have thought being in Chile you´d be able to make chilli quite easily! Nope! They don´t sell kidney/chilli beans for a start, or any kind of tinned beans for that matter, so we have to settle for dried beans and soak them instead. As for chillies or chilli powder….

We manage to make something edible anyway and it goes down well. We had a good walk around town when we arrived and it seems pretty empty so the idea that all the hostels are full tonight doesn´t seem feasible, or they´re all on the mountain, which could be the answer as it’s a lovely clear blue sky, and the temperature does seem a degree or to higher, northwards we go!