Santiago came as welcome relief from the chaos of La Paz. A clean modern city surrounded by dramatic snow covered mountains. It reminded us both of good old Cape Town. Unfortunately our hostel belonged back in Bolivia, dark, tiny room and very noisy. Not a good introduction to the hostel world, thankfully that was our only unpleasant hostel in Chile. We spent one day looking around the city, we go back for two more days before we fly to New Zealand, then headed north to Valparaiso.
It is listed as one of the best cities in South America in our guide and we can´t work out why. It was nice enough, colourful houses set on a hill overlooking the Pacific. We had a great night out at a very odd restuarant, covered in grafitti and strange nautical nic-nacs. They had no menu, they just served someting called Chorlillana. Fried pork, onions and egg sitting on a bed of chips. My God it was good, tasted like the best bits stuck to the bottom of a roasting pan. From Valparaiso we took a day trip to Vin del Mar, a very nice beach resort town where Chillians go on holiday.
An over night bus took us south to Pucon. The buses here are amazing the seats are like something you would find in first class on a plane. The plan was to climb mount Villarica, South Americas most active volcano. We left four days later having not even seen it. We have never seen rain like it, a constant heavy down pour with no reprieve the entire time. Still, we are told it is beautiful. When we arrived at our hostel we met a very friendly Dutch couple who were about to go on a 3 hour guided horse ride. I, having briefly forgotten my life long oath not to get on a horse, said it sounded fun and that we should go. A short time later I met my trusty stead. He looked like he had lost the will to live and didn´t stand much taller than me, so I decided to go ahead. It was a great trip to a 85m waterfall that was really gushing because of all the rain. Only had one tense moment when our guide galloped ahead to open a gate. My horse sprang to life and took flight after him, I managed to hold on, no harm done. Zoe, it turn out is a very good rider. While in Pucon we also spent a very wet day on bikes, and a much drier one in a hired car. We even snuck in a little gambling at the local casino and a night wallowing in natural hot springs.
From Pucon we headed futher south to the Island of Chiloe. After a day walking around Chileo nature reserve we were both very cold and hungry. We found a restaurant, and I use the word very loosley, in the middle of nowhere. We were greeted by rapid Spanish to which we smiled and nodded, the lady disappeared into the kitchen apparently satisfied with our response. A moment later she returned bareing two bowls of steaming soup/stew, just what we needed. On closer inspection, and with great delight, I was able to inform Zoe that the lumps of fatty flesh were in fact tripe. I tucked in, Zoe tried and failed, tried again, and then had to throw in the towel, or in this case a plate over the bowl.
We had all sorts of plans involving ferries to various far off places where we could white water raft and climb more volcanoes. In winter, the futher south you go in Chile, the more difficult it is to get around. Our plans would have taken weeks of waiting for infrequent buses, so we decided to head to Argentina. We are now in Bariloche, a breath-takingly beautiful place on the shores of lake something or other surrounded by snowy mountains. We have spent the last two days snowboarding with the rich and beautiful of Argentina. Tomorrow we head a little futher north to San Martin De Los Andes for more of the same. From there the wine region of Mendoza awaits. Life is good.