Monday, January 13, 2014

Patagonia Part 3: Pucon, Chile

My route to Pucon wasn't direct or even really intentional. I'd read about it when I stumbled upon a blog, while searching for different bus routes that would bring me south, into "official" Patagonia. And by "official," I mean a place that was actually in my Patagonia travel book. Anyway I read about Pucon and it sounded neat, but I wasn't planning on going there. From the bus station in Pichilemu, I got the bus to a tiny town called San Fernando. I was planning on buying a ticket there to a town called Osorno-because from there, I could get a bus to Bariloche, Argentina. Well in South America, you generally can't buy a ticket until you are physically in the town you need the ticket from. So...I arrived in San Fernando and went to every ticket office, and NO ONE had a ticket to Osorno. So I looked around at all the advertised places that the different bus companies offered and one did go to Pucon. So I bought a ticket. Then I got online (most bus tickets have internet cafes), cancelled my hostel reservation, and made a new reservation.

It is one of the best decisions (or best mistakes) of my trip.

But first things first. I had from 5pm to midnight to kill before my bus came. So I thought I'd explore the town. I set out from the bus station and it took about a minute to realize there isn't really much of a town to explore. AND it was Sunday so NOTHING was open. Back to the bus station. They had a little cafe so I had a couple beers (Malta, a new favorite), a chicken sandwich, watched 2 or 3 movies and a soccer game, and finally decided to leave and wait in the terminal. I immediately wished I'd stayed in the cafe. A Chilean guy sat next to me and started talking and I swear, the man was not speaking Spanish. I couldn't understand a word!!! And he wouldn't leave me alone, so I finally just went the one place he couldn't follow (hello ladies room!) until he left. Anyway the bus finally came at midnight, which was really weird because the station was almost deserted between 10:30 or so and then. I was so happy to see my bus and get my swanky "cama" seat, blanket, and microscopic pillow, and slept most of the 8 hour trip. I woke up, got off the bus, and saw this:

I knew I'd like it here.

In the following days I: went on a "tour of the area" where I saw waterfalls, the most beautiful lakes and lagoons, and went to a hot springs; went horseback riding; went to a nearby national park and went HIKING and swimming in a lake; and met some really great people. Yes, it's a touristy town. You walk up the main street and about 90% of businesses are tour operators. I just accept that it's a touristy place because it's a really nice place to go. It also made me realize, again, how much I really, really, really miss the mountains.

My favorite part of this trip was going to Parque Nacional Huerquehue. I loved the hiking, and you can also camp here, stay in a hostel, and swim. There are VERY limited supplies (as in one little grandma cooking in a little house, where the beer is kept cold in the stream next door) so bring snacks. Just ask at your hotel where the bus station is. Pucon has a bewildering amount of bus stations for such a small town and it did cause me to miss a bus. Also, anywhere you can be on any water is pretty much guaranteed to be beautiful. A lot of people climb the volcano and recommend it. I didn't climb it.

I liked the hostel I stayed at, Paradise Pucon. 4/5 hostel stars. (Hey, Linnea, why do you call them hostel stars? Me: good question. Because hostel stars are not the same as a 4 star hotel, for example).
Pros: Good social areas for meeting people, super friendly and helpful owners who help organize tours and activities, fire pit, little kitchen-does the job but gets crowded. I stayed in a private room my first night and it was actually not nearly as nice as the dorm room. I think the rooms in the "main" building are more updated so quality varies. Cons: paper-thin walls in the not main building. Kind of noisy. Best solution is to be one of the ones making the noise. Another bread breakfast.

Now, for 70 million pictures. Okay, 34. It was just so beautiful!

The aptly named Laguna Azul. Probably 20 feet deep or more, and you could see straight to the bottom.

The lake just outside of Pucon had every water activity you could imagine, and some
 I hadn't imagined! I wish I'd had a chance to try some out....

Ruby and her trusty horse!

Ruby and I, Pucon in the background, during our horseback ride.

Traditional drink of Chile: like an iced tea, with grains in the bottom and a peach on top.
So it works if you are thirsty or hungry!

Hiking buddy for the day: Yacine, from France!

Right after taking this picture, Yacine and I jumped off the dock and went for a refreshing swim!

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