Friday, 21 December 2012

Feliz Navidad from Villarrica, Chile

Merry Christmas to one and all from lovely Villarricca!!!!

We are now in our little cabana for Christmas and the weather has improved, we have had beautiful sunshine today. The lake and the volcanoes look stunning. This is much less touristy than Pucon and the lake is much closer to town. Walked along the shore at 8am this morning and the light was ethereal. 

One thing that is wonderful about being somewhere else is there is no Christmas craziness.........the supermarkets, shops etc have a few decorations and a bit of Christmas music but no huge queues, no trolleys piled with enough food to feed an army, no drunken hordes. 

We have got our plans in place, Christmas breakfast of fizz, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs...........hopefully eaten on the terrace and then in the evening we will have some fillet steak, roast veggies and then some of the fabulous local raspberries and then local cheese. Oh and washed down with some Chilean wine................

The cathedral is just round the corner and it has a mass at 9.30 on Christmas eve and then we hope to go out for food, as this is when the Chileans celebrate.

Last Saturday we cycled 18k -which is not far but on the ripio road is painful you know where -it was lovely and peaceful and we ended up on the far side of the lake to Pucon. We then had a lovely couple of days at the farm, we shared a cabin one night and then the second night had it to ourselves. The horse riding on Sunday was great we were out for 4 hours and even managed to trot.....Chris managed a gallop. This time Chris had a sane horse called 38, mine was a mare called Polca and she like to go at a sedate pace, which suited me fine. The weather was beautiful and the scenery stunning. 

Our second ride didn't happen as it poured down on Tuesday, but the farm was lovely and we walked on Monday-quite an active three days but good fun.

We spent 2 days in Pucon and it rained most of the time but things look better today. Chris is going fishing tomorrow and I am being positive that he will come back with a fish........we will see.

Somehow the decorations didn't help .......another day another bus station

Christmas Chile style

Looking remarkably cheerful considering he was suffering from "man flu""

Thankfully the cake shop next door is closed till January!!

Ojos de Caburgua, the water behind comes from an underground spring

View from the entrance to the cabanas
For New Year we will be back in Santiago, and from our 33rd floor terrace we should be able to see the fireworks. Then on 3rd January we have a flight booked to Iqueque on the coast about 2-3 hours from the border with Peru........after which we will head north into Peru. Plans still to be sorted, but time is wizzing by and once it is 2013 it will be no time till we are on that Easyjet flight from Barcelona to Newcastle.

Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy and peaceful 2013.

Christmas blessings

Norma xx

Friday, 14 December 2012

Penultimate blog 2012

Hello everyone and greetings from Pucon in central Chile, an area of lakes , mountains and volcanoes  This morning it looks like the English Lake District  low cloud, cool and we have had rain in the night!!

Yesterday was beautiful sunshine and Villarica, the snow-capped volcano looked magnificent  although apparently not so good on the surface, too icy and slippery for people to climb to the top..........not us we were searching for accommodation for Christmas.

We left Santiago , after a lovely week, in what has become  one of my favourite cities, It has a bit of everything, culture, classic architecture  parks and green spaces, vibrant food markets and a good travel infrastructure. We soon got the hang of the metro and used our Bip cards like the locals.......saves queuing for tickets each time. 

We left on Saturday morning and got the train to Chillan, not a bad journey but the buses are more comfortable!! Chris was decidely unwell after beers, Chinese food and red wine........he looked like death and got little sympathy. We planned to overnight in Chillan but what a strange place, just a small town and it either had grubby hostels or expensive empty hotels and no concept that lowering the price might get some guests. In the end we found an okay hostel  with a shared bathroom, but only one other guest and we ate some more Chinese food and hit the sack.

We were up bright and early Sunday for our bus to Temoco, but first had a fried ham and egg sandwich in the cafe next to the bus station.........I just imagined it was bacon...... It was full of locals some of whom were just coming back from a night out and were having their sandwiches and chips!! We swopped bus terminals in Temoco and got a little minibus to Pucon. Chile doesn't have one terminal for all of the buses together, each company had their own, makes for more difficult travelling but we managed.  

We had booked a hostel and it was 2 streets away. Its a lovely homely place, the staff are great and there is a big shared kitchen. It is really helping keep our costs down and allowing us to eat the food we like to cook rather than limited or very expensive restaurant choices. Villarica volcano looms above town and the lakeside is very pretty but sadly there is no place to sit and watch the sunset with a cocktail!! After our travelling we ate out on Sunday night and pigged out on another plate of was delicious, tastier than Argentina!!

We have been out and about on the local buses, we walked about 8 k the other day, visited a village closer to the Argentinian border. Wednesday and yesterday we spent looking around Lago Clafequen,south of here for somewhere for Christmas. Pucon is nice but it is very busy and very touristy. We went to Conaripe and Lican Ray and liked both , we found a good place in Lican Ray but yesterday when we went back to book the guy put the price up by 10,000 pesos a night........We also found a lovely hostel in Villarica and thought we would treat ourselves for a couple of night, it was spotless ( run by a German woman) with views of the lake and lovely little balconies. However eventually we found a place in Villarica, right near the lake and it was a bit more than we wanted to pay so the treat has gone out of the window.

We are here in Pucon till Sunday and then at 1 pm are being picked up to go and stay on a farm for 2 nights and do some horse riding. It is only about 12k from Pucon but in a lovely setting............our little hire car didn't really like the road.......its a little Suzuki alto but it was cheap and has got us around. We have a room in a shared cabin, but at the minute no one else is booked. We will ride Sunday and then see how we feel about another session.

Then Tuesday we are back in Pucon for two nights before our 10 days in Villarica for Christmas and then on 30th December we will probably get a night bus back to Santiago to start our trek north and into Peru. When we were in Santiago there were loads of market stalls and cheap shops with Christmas decorations in but here in Pucon it is like Keswick in the lakes a bit posh, but must find something to make our Villarica place look festive. It has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a kitchen living area, wi-fi and cable TV and an outside space for when the sun is shining............hopefully on Christmas day.......

Hope you are all well and looking forward to a family time at Christmas and my next blog will be a special Christmas edition!!! 

Best wishes to everyone

Sunshine and smiles in Santiago.......

The blue lagoon.......not sure the picture does it justice

The volcano from the lounge window of the hostal

Lunch at Lake Caburgua
Norma xx

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

And so to Chile...........

Greetings from sunny Santiago, the capital of Chile. 

This is five borders we have crossed now and each time they have let us in , with the minimum of hassle!! Our last few days in Mendoza were fine, the horse-riding didn't come off so I did a city tour instead!! Not quite the same. We pigged out one night on an Argentinian parilla.........meat!! Mendoza was an okay city but for the wine capital of Argentina we were unimpressed, the wine was not cheap, nor was it readily available-several cafes near the main Plaza only served beer!! I was served white wine at room was 30 C........come on!! It was very green, lots of open space, loads of trees and had a very French feel. Massive city park, which was lovely to walk round.

But we left Argentina on Saturday morning and the 6 hour journey was fabulous. We climbed up from Mendoza and past the highest peak in South America (partly hidden by cloud) and Chris missed most of it as he was asleep!!

We crossed the border at Los Liberatadores, passport control was easy but the bags were X-rayed and sniffed by a cuddly bag from our bus was searched ..........he had contraband onions in his bag.......Chile doesn't allow any fresh food to cross its border. Then down the other side round 29 hairpin bends...........and we arrived in Santiago.

Our apartment was easy to find but when we got here it had not been cleaned and the considerable debris from the previous renters was here for all to see.After much telephoning etc, and a very helpful lady who was on reception, we spoke to the owner Francisco who apologized and said he would be round to clean and change beds etc. We went out for some food, and happened across one of the many "little Peru" areas in the city and had Peruvian style lunch ..........complete with aji ( chili sauce). I found the food in Argentina a bit bland. 

The apartment was sorted and we have made ourselves a little "home" for a week. Yesterday we moved the furniture as the flat had the TV in the bedroom and not in the lounge area- luckily it was easy to do and cable was connected on Monday so we now have BBC news!!Santiago is very westernised, the flat is immaculate, on the 19th floor-we can see the snow-capped Andes. 

It has been good to re-charge our batteries and we have the next stage of the plan sorted. Santiago is a nice city, not as busy and noisy as some. We shopped in the local market for fruit and veg and fish on Sunday, and queued forever in the supermarket-which was belting out Christmas songs. 

Yesterday we had a lovely day , first at the National Museum which detailed the history of Chile but skated over the Pinochet/Allende eras!! Then we went to an area to the north called Belle Artes where there is a fabulous pair of art galleries in French inspired buildings. The art was an eclectic mix and the Templo de Polve (temple of dust) was a pile of dust!! There was also a room with a collection of dried out tea-bags!!! The peace and tranquility was shattered first by a big group of badly behaved Chilean schoolchildren and then a very loud group of American tourists.......they certainly know how to make their presence felt!!  We then tried to find "Chinatown" but failed and came back to the apartment out of the heat of the afternoon sun. We have used the underground and have our Bip card which saves queuing for tickets.

The sun is shining again today and I am going out for a shopping morning, this is the last civilized place for some time and I need some bits and pieces. I am cooking tonight and found some satay sauce so am making an oriental meal with noodles.........yummy

Our plan now is to go down and enjoy the Chilean Lake district-we leave on Saturday and have booked a train to Chillan, and then we will make our way by bus to Pucon. Although accommodation here is a bit more than Peru and Bolivia other things are not bad, travel is cheap and eating out isn't bad. In Argentina it cost 4-5 pesos just to sit down and the main courses came without accompaniments and they were 18-20 which made eating out expensive. (7.5 pesos to £1)

A little bit of home, gates forged in Scotland adorning Mendoza

Huge modern church that was strangely intimate!! 

Front seats in the bus .........that's Chile in front

The train station Christmas tree.........bit different to Newcastle central palm trees!!

Belle Artes
We have booked a week there and we will hire a car or a bike for 2 days and check out a place for Christmas and possibly New Year. It looks a lovely area with lakes, snow-capped mountains...........plenty of walking etc which will be good after a week in the city. We have also sorted the end of the trip, we have to be in Lima on 21st February for a flight to Fos Iguazcu-the Brazilian side of the falls, we will spend 2 days there seeing both sides of the falls and then fly to Sao Paulo and overnight in an airport hotel before flying to Barcelona on 25th February............all that remains is to try and book the last flight but the TAM website won't accept our booking............

So folks, as Christmas looms and some of you are in the midst of winter, we are enjoying Santiago and looking forward to the next stage and then eventually heading north and back to Peru.........but those plans can wait.........

Take care

Norma xx