Author Archives: Becci

Villarrica 02

The Volcano Curse : Pucón, Chile

Pucón in Chile seemed to us like a clone of Banff in Canada. It’s very beautiful and very touristy. I think that winter is a more mellow time to visit, which suited us just fine.

We have been wanting to do some ski touring for a while and hoped to break our ‘volcano curse’ by tackling Volcán Villarrica. Every time we have visited a volcano on this trip, things haven’t gone as planned.

We arrived in Pucón to rain and clouds, found the only shop in town that offers ski touring on the volcano, and booked a trip for the next day. We woke up at the crack of dawn to totally clear skies. The volcano looked so beautiful and ominous smoking in the early morning light. Lucky for us, the conditions were almost perfect for attempting the summit.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And so we climbed… and climbed… and climbed. It may have been slightly ambitious for my first ski touring attempt. Going straight up was fine, but turning on the steep slopes was a bit of a debacle for me. It requires almost doing the side splits, then bringing one long loosely attached ski over to meet the other. Very tricky for the flexibility challenged!

Villarrica 02 Villarrica 03 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Villarrica 06 Villarrica 05

I’m not sure how long it took to reach the summit, but they estimate about 4-5hrs. By the time we got there, the wind had really picked up, and we were being blasted by ice and snow. It was pretty amazing being at the top of an active volcano, looking down into it’s smoking crater, only once copping a face full of gas. From the top we could see the snow capped Volcán Lanín, which marks the border between Chile and Argentina.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally, the moment I had been waiting for! There had been a dusting of snow overnight, so I was pretty keen to start the ski down. I clicked into my skis, hit the slope and then tried to make my first turn. Then things got weird… I could barely communicate with my skis. I felt and looked (confirmed by Mark), like I was back on the bunny slopes. I was falling on almost every turn. The touring bindings I was using allowed for a lot of movement, which is not what I’m used to at all. I felt completely unstable and out of control. Soon my confidence was shot. I even had to walk part of the way down.

Villarrica 12

At least this guy got some fresh tracks…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Villarrica 13

We celebrated at the end of the day with the guides and the rest of the crew, over some rooftop beers and this spectacular view. I’m sure my poor guide was breathing a few deep sighs of relief.

Villarrica 14

At first I was just thankful to have made it down without any broken bones. But after a while that wore off, and I was just annoyed. The terrain wasn’t any more difficult than what i’m used to, and worst of all, the volcano curse lives on.

Soaking in the hot springs at Los Pozones was the perfect cure for my aching ego and tired muscles.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day, we leisurely made our way towards the Argentine border. Saying our farewells to the smoking Volcán Villarrica, still visible from the quiet backroads.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This pretty campsite in the woods was home for our last night in Chile… but we’ll be back, real soon! This country is absolutely blowing our minds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posted from: Bariloche, Argentina.

IMG_3090

Parts and Recreation : Santiago, Chile

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us… Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”  – John Steinbeck.

Sometimes we have to remind each other that even though our plans change, we can still have fun in the moment.

We only planned to spend a few days in Santiago, get a few repairs done on the van, buy some spare parts, and then get the hell out. This was pretty optimistic. Ten days later, we are finally ready to hit the road again. We fluctuated between frustration with the current situation and making an effort to enjoy ourselves.

Mark spent most of his time like this …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the other hand, my time was spent a bit more like this …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACruising the ‘burbs’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWarming park benches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoffee shop hopping – at my second favourite place, Faustina

Mechanically, the van was still running great, but we tend to push it harder than most vintage car owners. The brakes are now in good working order and Mark fixed lots of the little annoying things that have been on the ‘to do list’. Luckily, Santiago is a gold mine for VW parts. Thank you Velizwagen!

Mark and the mechanics replaced all the shockies, the brake cylinder, and the busted engine mounts. Then, we discovered that the transmission mount was also broken. This part is held on with two pathetic little bolts and looks like it should be simple to replace. As it turns out, it is a really difficult job. When the threads in one of the bolt holes stripped, they had to remove the entire engine to finish the job.

IMG_3090The boys at Retro Garage  – mechanics numero dos.

We have been dreaming of wilderness camping and cooking over an open fire, so the big city isn’t exactly where we want to be right now. It didn’t take us long however, to realize that Santiago is a pretty nice place to be stuck. On a clear day, you can see the Andes as they rise up in all their glory above the city.

Santiago is very live-able by our standards. It is really bike friendly and has fantastic parks everywhere. The weather was perfect, so we were able to make the most of being outdoors, exploring our neighbourhood with morning runs, afternoon bike rides and leisurely strolls.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_3086 IMG_3077 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are some pretty old buildings too…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuseo Nacional Bellas Artes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPalacio de Moneda

We have a hard time being budget conscious in cities. There are just too many tasty temptations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFavourite coffee shop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Benevento – our local 

IMG_3080BACO – getting awkward with oysters

Still, we did try to balance things out with a few hotel room picnics at Posada del Salvador in Providencia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m usually not a big hotel fan, but this place was great. It’s in a good location, the staff are super friendly and most importantly, they have parking. It was pretty cheap by Santiago standards, especially since we got a little discount for having a VW bus. Also, it was just a short walk from lots of yummy restaurants, like La Gloria (sandwiches) and Liguria (fancy pub food).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe view from our room with Mark’s thrifty finds

Steinbeck was right. This trip has definitely developed a personality all of its own, and it has taken us on one royal ride. It has ebbed and flowed and changed with our expectations, and despite them. Sometimes we are all in sync and life is a dream, other times our personalities are clashing like titans.

As we move into the last month of our travels, it is hard not to have mixed feelings. But for now, we are just happy to be on the road again.

Posted from: Chillán, Chile

Winter in Wine Country: Northern Argentina

Northern Argentina has so much to offer, but we really didn’t make the most of it. As I was slowly recovering from the most disgusting gastro illness of all time, Mark was next on the hit list. We didn’t have much energy for anything, but as always, we had to keep moving. When we weren’t driving, we were in recovery mode.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt took us about three days to realise we were wearing the same thing.

The north is dotted with some super cute dusty desert towns. They mostly have a charming mix of white colonial style architecture and adobe mud brick buildings. Usually our main reason for visiting civilisation is to sample the region’s local foods (and in this case wine), but with our pathetic appetites, we struggled to get into the swing of things.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALunch in Tilcara – still in my pjs

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery town seemed to have a pristine white church

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAdobe ruins

Ice-cream imitating wine in Cafayate 

The more we travel, the more I am able to draw comparisons and parallels with other places we’ve been. Sometimes it can be counterproductive, but other times it helps to create a sense of familiarity and comfort in a new place. Northern Argentina reminds me a lot of Utah, in a good way. It has striking rock formations and beautiful coloured desert landscapes, as if burnt by the sun. Oh, and some sweet wild campsites.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We arrived in Mendoza late on Saturday night. This wasn’t great timing, as lots of places were closed on Sunday and Monday. We still had fun though, exploring the pretty streets and plazas on our bikes. It’s easy to forget that this city is in the middle of the desert.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our culinary highlights were dinner at Maria Antonieta and wine tasting at the Vines of Mendoza.

We met up with Beto in Mendoza, he’s a VW mechanic and self-proclaimed pirate. After the rough roads in Bolivia, we need to replace the engine mount. After taking a look at the van, Beto recommended that we wait until Santiago where they have more parts. But meanwhile, he toured us around his city, helped us buy some tire chains and car insurance and gave us some other contacts in Chile and Argentina. His wife, Kuki, even treated us to a great home cooked meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFausto, a sweet Brazilian dude, staying with Beto while he works on his engine

Beto introduced us to the art form that is mate drinking. He taught us how to prepare the leaves properly, by shaking out the dust. Then once the hot water is added, spitting out the first bitter mouthfuls. The cup is then passed around the circle, and each person slurps an entire cupful before passing it on. When you’ve had enough you say “Gracias”, but not before (this is the hardest part!).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We decided that winter here is probably not the best time for wine touring. The countryside was stark and lifeless, but still held a depressing kind of beauty. Blood red berries (probably poisonous!), offered the only splash of colour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The hostess at Bressia took one look at us, and said we needed a reservation to do a wine tasting. We had diligently made one the day before, so after giving her a silent “up yours”, settled down for some yummy wine and cheese. We already know Argentina has great reds, but we also really enjoyed their white, Lágrima Canela, a delicious chardonnay blend. After loading the van up with wine, it was time to hit the road again.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lately our thoughts have been drifting towards snow covered forests. The forests are still a bit out of reach, but the snow is getting closer. We headed towards the border for Chile, but since the road was closed due to bad weather, we spent the night in the snow-less ski resort of Penitentes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_2985 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bring on Chile and the snow!!!!

Posted from: Santiago, Chile.