Our introduction into Chilean culture was quite blunt. Coming out of arrivals at Santiago Airport, about 2 flights and 22hours after leaving Heathrow, Matt and I were greeted by a large crowd of taxi drivers, who all seemed to be shouting their fares in Spanish. This would have been helpful, had we spoken Spanish. Moreover, we were immediately targeted by taxi drivers wearing cheap suits and with their hair slicked to the side, looking very slimey. They knew we had no idea what they were saying and we seemed to just go along with what they were doing, being lured into a bad deal. After shaking them off we managed to get a decent price for a taxi to the bus station in the southern side of the city, and the taxi driver and his wife took us there with no hassle at all...except the car was about 20years old, and the boot was held open with a peice of bamboo. This, combined with his suicidal driving and lack of seatbelts really woke us up after the long flights.
An 8 hour wait in the bus station was made easier with a couple of beers, and meeting a goergeous Argentinian girl called Sol (meaning "sun"). Matt thought that her name was an indication of how hot she was, but decided that saying this to her may not be a smooth as he had first hoped. This wait in Santiago gave us time to explore the local area a bit, and our first impressions were not at all what we had expected. It appeared to be a very seedy and run down city, that felt a little like Zante on steroids. There was an abundance of topless cafe´s, an urge that we managed to resist (perhaps because of tiredness). The city initially was a little intimidating, but we weren´t best prepared for the Spanish culture and attitudes. The language barriers were difficult to overcome, as Chile proved to be less accomodating to the Engligh language than we had previously experienced in Spain or similar countries. Another things we noticed as a first impression of Santago was the abundance of beautiful women, putting merry old England to shame! 8 hours on a coach south to Temuco was comfortable, and we slept a little, despite having two kicking children in the seats behind us.
We were very fortunate to be greeted by Charles Stanton on arrival in Temuco, whose farm we would be staying on for 9 days. He, along with his wife, Cheryl, daughter Hannah (7 years old), and son Joshua (9 years old) made us very welcome from the start. As did their dogs...all 6 of them. Getting out of the car after what was a 40hour journey door to door, Matt and I were both greeted by Lady, Kinella, Lottie, Pookie, Max (the only male) and Sheba, who all went straight for our groins! On the farm the family had two substantial houses, one of which they used, and the other of which Matt and I used.
During our time on the farm, we were able to explore their land. This involved heading down with the children and the dogs to a river that flowed though some of their fields. This was a beautiful setting, and along with the swamp, horses, canal and many other features of this picturesque farm made it an unforgettable place to be. We also on our first night went in their HotTub which was heated by a fire in a metal container which was in a big barrell of water. There we saw the sky at night. This was filled with comfortably 5 times as many stars as are visible from the UK...very impressive. Charles and his family took Matt and I to Villarica, where his friends have a summer house (which was mre of a chalet than summer house), and there we had the opportunity to water-ski and tandem kayak in a gorgeous lake.
We then moved on to Charles´ own cabin, which was situated on the edge of their own lake, next to the Lliama National Park. From the cabin you can see the Lliama Volcano, which was actually erupting when we got there. This was a truly amazing scene and one that I will never forget. The red spurts of lava contrasting with the dark night sky created a scene of tremendous beauty combined with a feeling of raw power as the lava set onto the edge of the volcano. Even from 3-4miles away we had a brilliant view. The following day we were able to Kayak around this massive lake, and take advantage of 35C temperatures, and do a spot of fishing too. Shortly before beginning the drive back to the farm (about 1 hour away), we took a small trip towards the volcano (Lliama), which was still steaming from the night before. This was a brilliant sight. Whilst nearby we stumbled upon a Chilian growth of some sort. It was a green stringy growth known as "Old Man´s Beard" (see photos). This provided a few funny minutes as the kids (and matt and I) pretended we could grow beards (sob sob).
The next couple of days we chilled out on his farm, soaking up some sun and relaxing. This gave me personally some time to think, do some reading and relax. The temperatures topped 38C, which was a little too hot for my liking, but not something worth moaning about.
On our last night we headed over to Charles´Brothers house, who lived on another house on the farm. Matt and I went out with his sons (William (21), Lawrence (20) and Matthew (18)) and a couple of their friends in the evening, had a few drinks with them and saw Temuco nightlife. This was really good fun (with one of the sons passing out and another "being ill" on the roadside on the way home). Therefore a good firm rinsing was in order the next day!
So...8hours on a night bus, 16hours in Santiago, 13.10 hours on a plane and Auckland here we come!