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Central Chile (Dec 2000)

posted Nov 19, 2008, 7:08 PM by Gerick Bergsma

When I arrived in Santiago, my immediate plan was to pick up my friend, Julie, my aunt and my uncle, and then to get out of town so that we could enjoy Chile's south.  My aunt and uncle arrived a couple days after Julie, so by necessity I had several days to enjoy what was to be the most cosmopolitan city on my trip.  From their ultramodern airport (which I became intimately acquainted with) to their efficient public transport, Santiago was my reintroduction to modern western culture, and my introduction to the countries historic and scenic wealth.

 

The day following Julie's arrival, she and I explored the city, visiting the public markets around the city, and revisiting some of the bookshops I had ventured into the day before with Martin, this time looking for a travel guidebook, as I had left my trusty Lonely Planet in my parents' bag when they returned to the states from Bolivia.  The markets were wonderful, although in the main market, people trying to get us to eat in their restaurants accosted us.  To get to the second market, an artisan's market called Los Dominicos just outside of the city, we had to take one of the subway lines to the last stop and then catch a bus headed to one of the suburbs.  Unknown to us, "Los Dominicos" was also the name of the neighborhood beyond the artisan's market, so we were reaffirmed when the bus driver assured us that he would let us know when we got to the stop we wanted.  We boarded the bus, anticipating a short ride by the description in our guidebook.  In its short description, the guidebook described the market as being located in an old monastery.  I, therefore, was quite sure that we had arrived when I saw a building that I thought resembled a monastery.  We were waiting for the driver's word when the bus turned onto a side street, away from the monastery.  We were a little concerned, thinking the driver had forgotten about us, but were then relieved to see a large roadside showing Los Dominicos straight ahead.  I relaxed a bit, and Julie and I began to be a bit more attentive, watching each group of building as they passed, waiting for the stop.  After an hour on the bus, though, weaving through the residential suburbs of the city, we seriously doubted that we were heading in the right direction.  Rereading the account in our guidebook, it became clear that we had long ago passed the stop for the market, and so I stood to walk up to the driver and see if he had forgotten, or if the market still lay ahead.  As soon as I stood, the driver looked in his rearview mirror, and indicated to me that the next stop is where we wanted to get off.  We hopped off the bus, and seeing a large complex up the street, I asked him if that was Los Dominicos.  He nodded in affirmation, and then quickly drove off.  As we approached the complex, it became increasingly clear that we were not at the market.  A large college campus stretched before us, and when we reached the guard shack, the guards were more than friendly in telling us that we were a long way off.  So far off, in fact, that none of them had any clue as how to get there.  Our driver, apparently in his embarrassment in having forgotten to tell us where to get off or in confusion as to where we meant when we told him "Los Dominicos" had left us in an obscure neighborhood that was his last stop before returning into town.  One of the guards explained to us how he thought you might get to the market, telling us to walk down the street we had been dropped off on until you reach a streetlight, and then the market should be right there.  It did not sound too difficult, so we began our trek.

 

Another hour later, we were still walking down the street, and had yet to see the fabled streetlight.  We had passed a large roundabout, which we assumed was what he meant by the streetlight (I don't know the Spanish word for roundabout, and perhaps it is the same as the word for streetlight, which is often interchangeably used to mean intersection), and had somehow ended up on a road that our bus had driven up, giving us some hope of getting back.  Several busses had passed us already, so we decided to get back on the bus, and try again.  We boarded the next bus that rambled by, and after asking the driver to let us know when we reached "Los Dominicos," he asked me if I meant the artisans' village.  I affirmed that it was, and after a seemingly short ride, we arrived back at the building that several hours earlier I had thought might be the monastery.  He pointed to the church, and told us that it was the artisan's market.  Having spent the day searching for the market, we arrived shortly before the market closed, but had just enough time to browse a few of the shops before walking (by this time we were tired of the bus system) back to the metro stop.

 

That night we decided to celebrate Julie's arrival, eating at a fairly nice restaurant, and then going to a couple of bars.  We had a great time, and Julie told me all about her adventures in Costa Rica, but it affirmed something I had often been told, Chile is EXPENSIVE (at least compared to the three countries I had just visited).

 

The next day, after sleeping through most of the morning, we decided we needed a bit more relaxing of a day than the daylong hike we had planned.  Instead, we opted to visit one of assortment of famous Chilean wineries.  There are several wineries within Santiago itself, but we decided to visit the country's largest winery, Vina Concha y Toro in the nearby town of Pirque.  Boarding another metro to the end of the line, and catching a bus out of town, we soon arrived in the small town of Pirque.  We located the winery, which pretty much was the town, and took a tour of the grounds.  The sprawling vineyards and well-kept gardens were beautiful, and the guide explained the intricate details of the wine making process.  We even visited the Casillero del Diablo, Cellar of the Devil, where the founder of the estate, Don Manchor, dressed in a red cape to startle thieves, starting a legend that the cellar was inhabited by the devil.  We saw no demons, but the winery was a pleasant way to spend the afternoon.

 

Early the next day, I was at the airport again, this time to pick up my aunt Vicky (a.k.a. Auntiekiki) and my uncle Paul, who were also to accompany me south.  We decided that we would leave that night on an all night bus to Temuco, a large city at the doorstep of Chile's beautiful Lake District.  My aunt and uncle wanted to explore Santiago a bit, and I needed to use the Internet, so we split up, agreeing to meet at a restaurant that evening.  The day passed relatively uneventfully, so I was quite glad to finally tear away from the computer, and make my way to the evening meeting point.  I arrived, meeting my aunt, uncle and Julie, and browsed through the expansive menu of the restaurant we had elected.  The restaurant was full, and lone waiter was extremely busy, so we spent several minutes studying the fare offered.  My aunt and uncle, wearied by a night's travel and a day's explorations, recounted their exploits to Julie and me, until the waiter arrived, asking if we wanted any drinks.

 

"I'll take a Fanta," I told him, ordering what had become my default beverage in South America.

 

"We don't have any Fanta," the waiter informed me.

 

"Do you have any Coca Cola?" I queried.

 

"No." he responded.

 

A little taken aback by the lack of Coca Cola, I asked him, "What do you

have?"

 

"We have ginger ale, or anything from the bar."

 

My aunt, uncle and I all ordered a ginger ale, but Julie said that she would prefer water.

 

"Can you also give us a non-carbonated water?"

 

"All we have is carbonated water."

 

"Can we have tap water?" I asked, to which he responded with the faint hint of a frown followed by a reserved affirmation.

 

The waiter left to get our drinks, and we returned to studying the menus.  After a few minutes, the waiter returned with our drinks and a bit of bread, but quickly left before we could order our food.  After another wait, he finally returned to take our food orders.  The menu delighted my family and me, all connoisseurs of foreign foods, and my aunt quickly ordered the lamb.

 

"We don't have the lamb today," we were told.

 

Another moment to review the menu, and she quickly decided on the beef tongue, which they didn't have either.  She took another moment to review the menu.  Meanwhile, I attempted to order one of the chicken dishes, which was also out of stock, and my uncle an Alpaca steak, which only prompted the waiter to roll his eyes, and to quickly point to four items on my aunt's menu, declaring, "What we have today is this, this, this and this."  He immediately turned and walked off to attend another table.

 

Unfortunately, in his haste, my aunt had caught none of the items that he had pointed at, and the rest of us were left not knowing what was available to order.  My aunt tried her best to explain to us what she thought the waiter might have pointed at, and after deciding what we wanted, the waiter returned.  My uncle tried to order another dish, which they didn't have, and again the waiter pointed to the four items we were allowed to order and stormed off.  This time we caught three out of four, one being rabbit and the other two being steak options.  Julie does not eat red meat, making us wonder what the fourth option was, and what sort of side items she could order, so when the waiter returned the third time, we simply asked, "Do you have any chicken?"

 

Without saying a word, the waiter walked out the front door of the restaurant, leaving us all a little befuddled.  While he was away, my aunt, uncle and I decided we would just opt for the steak and rabbit dishes, and Julie said that she would be fine just ordering a couple of side dishes.  We waited for the waiter's return.  After a long wait, he returned to the restaurant.  Walking to our table, he stated, "There is absolutely no chicken tonight."  I can only imagine that he walked to the nearest store to see if he could buy chicken.

 

Although a little startled by the lack of menu items, we told him that was fine, that we would take two steaks, the rabbit, and some side items for Julie.  He wrote down the meal orders, and then asked Julie what side items she wanted.

 

"Can I have some eggs," she asked.

 

"How would you like those prepared?"

 

"Scrambled."

 

"I'm afraid that we don't have scrambled eggs, would you like them fried?"

 

In absolute shock that they could not scramble an egg, I laughed, "You can fry an egg, but can't scramble it?"

 

A little put off by what he perceived to be an insult, the waiter looked at me and replied, "I'll ask the chef."

 

Julie continued, "I'll also take some mashed potatoes."

 

"We only have fried potatoes," the waiter responded, "or we can boil a potato for you."

 

Unable to contain myself at the hilarity of the situation, and a little unimpressed with the chef's abilities, I again laughed, "If you can boil a potato, can't you just mash it?"

 

This time, the waiter stood adamant that they could not prepare mashed potatoes.  Julie opted to have them fried.  She finished by asking if they had any fresh vegetables.  A searching glance into a glass doored cooler standing at the back of the restaurant, and he replied, "Only tomatoes."

 

"Fine, I'll take a tomato salad."

 

He nodded and turned to the kitchen, our ordering ordeal finally over.  We continued to talk, wondering how a place with almost nothing to offer attracted so many people.  We noticed that we were the only people in the entire restaurant eating, most apparently came simply for the bar.  We finished a pair of rounds of ginger ale, and began to grow a bit impatient as we waited for our food.  Finally our food arrived, greasy heaps of mediocre cuisine.  My rabbit reminded me a bit of Cuy, though, and Julie's egg, fried and then cut into small pieces to simulate scrambling, seemed to go well with her small plate of tomato slices.  Dinner complete, we retrieved our belongings from the hotel, and boarded our overnight bus to Temuco.

 

We arrived in Temuco early the next morning, refreshed by another long overnight bus ride.  The station was empty, and lacking the usual line of people hawking places to stay, we were forced to stop a moment and figure out where we wanted to stay.  My aunt and uncle decided they wanted to stay in the historic Hotel Continental, whose rooms hosted such Chilean figures and Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda and even former president Allende.  Julie and I, however, settled on a slightly more obscure residence near the edge of town.  After settling into our place and resting a bit, Julie and I decided to walk over and see what my aunt and uncle were doing.  We walked into town, explored the town's market, and then stopped in the plaza to snack on some fruit we had bought.  As we sat, a hungry looking man stopped to ask us for money.  I offered him half of the nectarine I was eating instead, which he gratefully accepted.  Having finished our fruit, Julie and I continued across the plaza to my aunt and uncle's hotel.

 

While crossing the plaza, a nicely dressed (or perhaps I should say overly dressed) lady approached me.  She smiled, and confidently commanded, "You are going to give me some money so that I can buy milk for my child."

 

Having been accosted by innumerable beggars in the past, and not appreciating her particularly smug manner as she stood there obviously expecting payment, I rather demeaningly replied, "Actually, no I'm not," being certain not to brush too closely to the could-be pickpocket when I walked past.

 

Not wanting to let her gullible foreigner get away that quickly, she turned to walk with me asking, "What are you, a horrible man?"

 

Without stopping or even looking at her, I retorted, "Yes, that is exactly what I am."

 

"Yes, you are.  You are a horrible man."

 

"Yes, I am."

 

She stopped, and raising her voice in an obvious attempt to attract attention, began yelling, "You horrible man!"  Julie and I continued to walk off amidst a few undecipherable insults, laughing at the lady's brazen assault.

 

We picked up my aunt and uncle, and walked about town a bit, exploring the market and the busy streets around the plaza.  As they day wore on, we began to get hungry, so we stopped at some fruit stands and a bakery, buying tidbits for lunch.  With food in hand, we returned to the plaza to eat and enjoy the noontime bustle.  We sat under a tree, and sliced the avocado we were making sandwiches out of when another beggar approached us.  Having already had a couple of run ins with the beggars of the plaza, I tried to ignore her, but my aunt finally offered her a plum, which she took several bites out of before leaving it in a sticky heap on the sidewalk. 

 

Another lady, seeing our generosity, approached me (they always seem to be attracted to me, maybe I just look like I am an easy target or something.  Matt and Lucy, you saw it in action in Peru, and it was certainly in full effect on this day).  She was dressed similarly to the lady that had accosted Julie and I earlier, and she approached with the same seething arrogance that had made me so abrupt with the last lady.  The exchange with her went just as my exchange with the previous lady had gone, her demanding money, and me pretty much telling her straight out that she would get nothing from me.  As her barrage of insults began, I saw the lady that had attacked me earlier walk by, coldly staring at me as she passed.  When she was through putting the deplorable (and whatever else she might have called me, I sort of tuned her out) man in his place, she stormed off, joining briefly with the first lady, obviously to tell her friend of my evils.  They parted, obviously off to menace other innocent passers by.

 

That afternoon, my uncle, Julie and I decided to take a walk in a nearby park.  We walked out of town to the park, and hiked the forested hillsides of the park to a small viewpoint on top.  It was a pleasant walk in the warm afternoon air, and the viewpoint gave us a wonderful view of the city.  We wandered about at the top of the hill near a small visitor's center/restaurant, and watched some hovering Caracaras for a while, before descending back into town.  We met my aunt back in the hotel and talked for a while before I headed out to find bus information for our departure the next day.

 

That evening, Julie and I returned to our hotel, both ready for a good night's rest.  As she prepared for bed, I began to chat with two people also staying there.  I introduced myself to Rohan, a Stanford student studying in Santiago, who offered me some of the roasted chicken and Pisco they were enjoying as a late night snack.  Ginger, his friend, also a Stanford student in Santiago, was busy talking to her boyfriend in the United States.  As I sat to join them, the owner of the residence, seeing Ginger on the phone, asked her where she was calling.  When she told him that she was talking to the United States, he grew noticeably upset, lecturing how she should not make calls from the phone there.  In broken Spanish, she was attempting to tell him that she had used a calling card, but he clearly did not understand.  I translated for her, and the owner, still not wanting her to use the phone said that next time she should ask before using the phone.  We agreed, and he went off to bed.

 

 We talked for over an hour, discussing our fields of study (Ginger was an Earth Systems major and Rohan was in Biology, so we had lots in common), and various places worth visiting in Chile.  Their snack complete, they offered me some tea, which I gladly accepted.  We exited the main part of the house to go to the kitchen, located across a small courtyard, to warm some water for the tea.  Ginger and I sat down, shuffling some cards for a quick game, as Rohan ran back to the house to pick up the glasses we had left.  As we began to deal, Rohan's voice came through the kitchen door, "Guys, I think we are locked out."

 

It turned out that the door into the main house, the only door out of the walled courtyard, had no handle, and required a key to open.  We had shut the door, locking ourselves out of the house.  We quickly tried to open the windows into the house, but all were also secured.  We retreated to the kitchen to figure out what to do.  Our first thought was that we would have to wake the owner to have him let us in, but after his anger over Ginger's phone usage, we hesitated to startle him at one in the morning, evoking his wrath.  Our other option was to wake Julie up, the only other person sleeping in the house, but with our room farther than the owners, we weren't certain how to wake her without also waking the owner.  We surveyed the courtyard again, hoping there might be some way for us to exit the courtyard to the street in front of the house, but he only way out, other than going through the house, was to climb over the house.  I then recalled that there was a skylight in our room, and thought that maybe we could climb onto the roof and knock on the skylight to wake Julie.  Rohan, Ginger and I exited to examine the metal roof on the house.  In the shadows, I thought I saw a ladder hanging on a wall near the owner's bedroom.  I reached to lift it down, bending the nail on which it was hanging, dropping it on some bottles stored at the base of the wall.  Several bottles shattered.  We ran into the kitchen to hide.  Fortunately, nobody woke up.

 

Unfortunately, what I thought had been a ladder was a hand truck, making climbing on the roof a little tricky.  I hoisted him onto the roof, and guided him to the skylight over our room.  He quietly knocked on the skylight.  Nothing.  He knocked a little louder, calling out Julie's name.  There was still no response.

 

I began to think, even if the knock woke Julie up, she may not realize its significance, or may even be afraid to respond.  She had not spoken much with Rohan, so his voice may not do much other than frighten her.  I decided I needed to somehow signal her if she was awake.  I found a window across from our room's door, and began to try to crack it open so that I could call in to her.  The window did not want to open, but finally, I forced it open just enough that I could whisper in to her.  Despite Rohan's knocking and my whispering, Julie never woke up.  After he nearly fell off the room once, I helped Rohan off the roof, barely avoiding ripping the gutters off the house.

 

At this point, we should have probably just given in and woken the owner, but at this point it had become a challenge to get through this without waking the owner, so we focused on the window I had budged.  Rohan and I both tried to force the window open, only prying it a little farther.  If we were to get in, we would have to get it a lot wider.  It appeared through the darkness of the house, that it was a couch pushed up against the wall that was preventing the window from opening.  If we could somehow move the couch, we would be able to crawl through the window.  We continued to push on the window, but it would not move.  Fearing that we would torque the window and break the glass we finally gave up this approach, thinking of other ways we might be able to move the couch.  After unsuccessfully trying to shove our hands through the small opening we had created, we found a mop handle that we could fit through the window crack to try to pry the couch with.  We fit the stick through, and started to pry the couch away from the wall.  Careful not to break the glass, we pried against the window's base, and slowly, the couch began to move.  With the force we had to apply, at first we thought the couch was very heavy, but then, noticed nails protruding from the back of the couch.  It was nailed to the wall.  While we had successfully pulled the nails out of the wall near the window opening, the nails farther away were beginning to twist, and would likely require a greater force, that would then tear the wall open.  Not wanting to cause more damage than we had already inflicted, we decided to abort this approach. 

 

At this point, Ginger informed us that she really needed to use the bathroom.  Noticing a small out building near the kitchen, I thought it might be a bathroom, and decided to see if we could get in.  Of course, that door was locked, too, but when I tried a small window, it easily opened.  In the dark, I could not make anything out inside, so I moved a small potted plant on a metal stand out of the way, and crawled through the window.  I turned on the light, and was surprised to find the outbuilding was a small apartment, with a tiny kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.  Fortunately, nobody was home to witness my felony (my first since the lobster incident), so I unlocked the door, and called to Ginger.  In her haste, she knocked over the plant I had moved, and while the pot did not break, the metal stand made a lot of noise as it toppled.  We all hid again.  Nobody woke up.  As Ginger relieved herself, Rohan and I explored the small kitchen/bedroom.  Somebody was clearly occupying the apartment, but, as we were well into the wee hours of the morning, did not appear to be there that night.  The kitchen area was extremely cluttered and messy, and posters and pictures hung over the bed.  Ginger joined our explorations, and we examined the pictures on the wall trying to figure out who might be the resident of the apartment we had broken into.  Finally, she ventured to say what we had all been thinking, "Why don't we just stay here?"

 

The bed was large enough for two, and near the closet, I found a sleeping bag.  Rohan and Ginger took the bed, and I spread the bag on the small space of floor.  We set the alarm early, and planned to simply wake the owner in the morning, when it would be less offensive.  We turned off the lights, and were about to go to sleep when, through the window, I saw the house's light turn on.  I jumped up, hoping to catch whoever was up, and ran through the apartment door.  I ran out to find a man and woman laughing as they exited the house into the courtyard.

 

I can't say that I know what went through Alexander's mind when he saw a complete stranger coming running out of his apartment, but his face quickly turned from smiling laughter to one of disbelieving startle.  Both he and his girlfriend stopped dead in their tracks, staring at me as I stood in the dark.  Finally realizing who these people were, I broke the deathly silence, stammering, "Please forgive me," and hastily trying to explain why three strangers were sleeping in his apartment.  Ginger and Rohan, hearing my pleading story, emerged from the apartment, adding some credence to what I was telling them.

 

Alexander's startled look again changed into a smile, and he and his girlfriend began to laugh at our story.  We all introduced ourselves, and Alexander invited us back into his apartment.  He and his girlfriend had been out dancing with some friends and were just returning from the club.  We talked for a while, and then Alexander let us back into the house that we had been locked out of several hours before.  I immediately went to close the window that we had tried to pry open, and noticed that the nails that we thought were from the couch were really from a board nailed to the wall to cover the window's sill plate.  We had almost completely ripped the board off, so I quickly shoved in back into place as best I could, and moved the couch back into place to cover the still slightly protruding nails.  Since Ginger and Rohan were leaving early the next morning (and by this time I knew I would want to sleep in), we said our goodbyes, and I was finally able to go to bed - now being careful not to wake Julie up. 

 

The next day, Julie and I went to meet my aunt and uncle.  After a bit of general ridicule over the night's exploits, we packed up and headed to catch a bus to Pucon.  Pucon is a welcoming city nestled between the beautiful Lake Villarica and the magnificent volcano of the same name.  Mt. Villarica is the town's showpiece.  Its nearly perfect conical form dominates the vista, its brilliantly smooth coat of snow giving it a most tranquil look.  The stunning landscape is enhanced further by a picturesque chain of mountains to the east, and lakes and rivers in all directions.  Forests blanket the mountains, and the bright sunlight caused shadows to dance across Villarica's snowy hood as bulbous clouds scurried across the blue sky.

 

We found a pair of residences next door to the bus station, and pretty much spent the rest of the day lazing around.  We walked around town a bit, and decided that since we had a kitchen in the small apartment we had rented, we should make dinner.  We shopped around for ingredients for a soup, so that my Uncle Paul could work his culinary magic.  Julie decided she wanted to rent a bike and explore the nearby lakes, so my aunt, uncle and I returned to the apartment to prepare our meal.

 

That evening, my uncle became ill, leaving soup preparation to my Auntiekiki and me.  We prepared all the ingredients, and then tried to start the stove, only to discover that the stove would not start.  After much coaxing and prodding, we finally got one of the burners to start, though it would only burn at a low setting, and would frequently blow out.  After exhausting nearly our entire match supply, and spending several hours waiting for the soup to reach a boil, we finally decided to ask the owner of the residence if something was wrong.  After analyzing our situation, he said that the gas was low, and that he would call the gas company for some more, but that until then, we could use his kitchen in the main house.  I carried our pot of tepid chicken soup into his kitchen, where it simmered over a much more vigorous flame.  I returned to the apartment, where we waited for our gas supply to be replenished and the pilot light in our water heater to be reignited.  Julie had returned, and we began talking, allowing considerable time to pass before we remembered that I had left the soup on the stove.  I returned to find the pot fervently boiling, soup spilling all over the owner's stove and dripping onto his floor.  I removed the pot to continue cooking under our surveillance in our kitchen, and left the kitchen to the owner who had offered to clean up my mess.  After nearly four hours of preparation and cooking, we finally got to enjoy our soup.  It turned out quite good. 

 

The following day, Julie and I decided to take a hike in the nearby Parque Nacional Huerquehue.  We got up early and caught a bus that took us to the park entrance.  We had limited time in the park, so we chose a short, yet strenuous hike to the top of a nearby ridge from which we would get beautiful views of the surrounding mountain ranges.  The hike was gorgeous.  The trail started along the quiet waters of the Lago Verde, through dense shrubs and secondary forest growing through the remains of what looked like salvage logging after a fire.  We continued to climb, finally reaching the beautifully open primary forest above.  As we ascended, the trees again changed to primarily shorter araucaria (monkey-puzzle) before opening into a grassy area at the top of the ridge.  From atop the ridge, a stunning panorama encircled us.  Snow still covered the southeastern side of the ridge we stood on, extending into the forests below.  The northwestern side of the ridge provided views of Lago Verde, and a series of cascades on the opposing slope.  To the north, the ridge joined the icy crags of one rugged range, and to our east, a second range paralleled ours.  Several remarkable volcanoes joined Villarica to punctuate the scene.  Villarica, to the south, was closely flanked by the squat Volcan Quetrupillan; the majestic Volcan Osorno towered in the distance.  Two other volcanoes graced our eastern view, rising to regally preside over the snow capped range.  Julie and I rested in the grass, picnicking on the tuna, bananas and juice we had hurriedly gathered as we left.

 

We gathered our garbage and prepared to leave.  I, in a brilliant flash of conservationism, decided I was going to crush the steel can that had carried our juice.  The steel proved too strong for my weight, so I jumped on the can, hoping to flatten the treacherous cylinder.  As I landed, full weight on my right foot, the can slipped, twisting my foot and mildly spraining my ankle.  I hobbled down the trail, being sprayed by a interesting carabid beetle I picked up along the way.  Fortunately, neither was serious, and was walking fairly normally and had cleaned the burning chemical off of my face - which had fortuitously missed my eyes - by the time we reached the end of the trail.  As the bus that arrived at the park would not arrive for several hours (which would have caused us to miss our bus from Pucon to the next town we would be going to), we had to walk to a nearby town to catch a bus back.  In my leisure at the top of the mountain, I had underestimated the time it would take to walk to the town.  As we hurried along the road, nervously wondering if we would make it in time, Julie waved down a truck, and two Germans gave us a ride to the small town.  We caught our bus to Pucon and our connection to Valdivia, where we were to meet my aunt and uncle.

 

Following our early start and strenuous hike, I slept much of the bus ride to Valdivia.  On the trip, we followed the shores of Lago Villarica to the town of Villarica.  Waking up at the station, I was unsure of where we were.  I turned to the lady across the aisle from me and asked, "What is the name of this town?"

 

She querulously looked towards me, indignantly replying, "This is not a town, it is a city."

 

After reformulating my question and ascertaining that it was not my stop, I went back to sleep.  I woke up again shortly before we arrived at Valdivia.  We drove through stretches of agricultural fields, which attracted large numbers of ibises, lapwings and herons, finally arriving at our destination. 

 

Valdivia is an attractive town nestled in the bend of tranquil river as it nears the sea.  We arrived in town and found a place to stay.  Julie and I then took a quick walk along the river, stopping to wade in the cool waters, and catching small fish that Julie, a fish biologist, identified for me.  We lazily passed the afternoon, meeting my aunt and uncle that evening in the main square to make plans for our trip to Puerto Montt in the morning.  My aunt and uncle had already purchased tickets on a bus that left at some ungodly hour of the morning, so Julie and I decided to take a later bus, and meet them at noon the next day.

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