Pucon/Santiago/Valparaiso/Vina del Mar/San Pedro de Atacama

Posted: April 27, 2012 in South America, Uncategorized

I arrived to Pucon very late (11 pm), and went straight to the hostel called El Refugio where Bea (Hungarian girl, I mentioned how we met first in Buenos Aires and then in Torres del Paine) stayed.

We met immediately and jumped into each other’s arms of the joy again. She climbed the Villarica volcano (main attraction in the area) on that day because the weather was nice, and since the next day it was forecasted similar weather I begged the hostel to book me in for a tour. (You can only do this climb with guides –advance booking just as in the case of any tours is essential and usually at 11pm there is not much chance to be able to book anything, tears always help though 😉

So next day after a 6am wake up we started the tour. 2 guides picked us up (a girl and a guy), and took us to the volcano in minibus (6 people is the standard group size). We saw the sunrise from the bottom of the volcano:

The starting point of climbing was 1800m.

You had 2 options to start the first 400m with:

Chairlift or walking. 5 people including me took the chairlift and 1 warrior walked.

The first hour after the chairlift was ok..on volcanic sand, then we had the ice bit where we had to put on special ice walking gear like this:

By the way the tour company provided boots, jacket, ice walking gear, gloves and sliding gear for the way back..yes, sliding, I will explain later..

My boots were brand new so I had to stop to cover the fresh blister caused. After the ice bit we had the hardest part, climbing on moving volcanic rocks..very steep climb, one bad move and you are down…

Saying that, about 2 month ago 2 people fell off at this point..bodies were found only after 2 days..they fell about 500m.

I was a bit worried therefore very cautious of my steps. We were on the top around 1ish, but the wind was very strong so the fume of the volcano let us stay there only 10-15 minutes. (incredibly horrible feeling to inhale that toxic fume, it gives you headache and coughs)

But the crater looked amazing:

The view from here was well worth it though:

On the way down, my knees were suffering from all those downhill but then we got to the first sliding bit..Imagine a snow slide like this

We put our sliding gears on and the fun started



There were 2 more of these. You had to listen to the guide on how to slide because the snow was very icy and full of rocks underneath. One of the girls on the 3rd slide couldn’t slow down and literally flew away in the end landing off the slide. Since she wasn’t moving for a bit everyone got scared but in the end she was fine just hit a little bit her hip. The tour finished at 5pm, I went back to the hostel, met Bea, decided to cook together, but first she had to meet a friend in another hostel, so I walked with her..where I bumped into Iain, Chris and Katherine (Navimag)..small world.  And on the way we also bumped into our tour guide, Emir, who invited us for an asado (barbecue) in the evening, and since we were starving, we accepted the invitation 🙂

Pucon Tours was the host, so we were the only travellers there. To give you an idea about the amount of meat on the grill:

A few beers later the Spanish seemed to be our mother tongue 😛 Then the cherry on top of the cake was Tal who turned up at the asado a few hours later…she lived there!! I was supposed to give her back her driving licence that she left in my wallet in Bariloche a month ago..so this fact eased the meeting:)

We got a bit tipsy and went home around 1-2..

The next day we woke up 10ish, did some admin , bought the tickets to Santiago for that night, and then went to the hot springs to release our tired muscles. After a month of hiking this seemed to be a fab idea.

I wanted to stay a bit longer in Pucon, but since Bea got super excited about the Sensation White 2012 in Santiago, even though the tickets were sold out, we decided to go there and try to buy tickets on the spot. The journey took 10 hours- we took a night bus.

Arrived to Santiago at 6am, then we were hanging out at the station a bit, as I didn’t want to call Carmen very early (she is my amazing Spanish friend whom I met on the W trek..she straight away offered me without even knowing me that I can stay in her flat..so sweet), so we went to a hostel to book Bea in and she discovered a free city tour starting at 10am..so after the vague sleep on the bus we did a 4 hour walking tour…my brain was a sponge..in the end we lost our tour as we were busy taking pictures of a couple of lama-like animals on the street.

We met Carmen after and went to the Mercado central to eat amazing sea food..I just cannot have enough of the fresh Chilean sea food..I love it!

It turned out that the venue where the highly sought Sensation took place was just next to the Central market. So we went there at 5pm, as we saw already a few people around..tickets were gone, and since it’s illegal to sell tickets on the spot we had to hunt for them..after 2 hours of waiting/negotiation on prices we managed to get 2 tickets for 50.000 pesos which is about £60 (original price was: 55.000 CHP). We were super happy!!! Carmen stayed there as she met Cora (the other lovely girl I met on the W, Carmen’s friend), and me and Bea went back to the hostel to get ready, pick up my stuff and make out way after to Carmen’s house, and then to Cora’s house for pre-drinks. It’s a shame that we didn’t get the chance to go altogether but the girls didn’t have budget for it (me neither in theory but I just couldn’t say no to an event like this!!!!).

This was our outfit:

We had a really fun taxi ride with my favourite salsa, La vida es un Carnaval, and upon arrival (midnightish) we got interviewed by CNN Chile…I would love to see this shot but probably they cut out from the production as it was scandalous:)

By this time we were fairly drunk (almost had a litre of vodka, just the 2 of us).

The party was SENSATIONAL!!!! OMG! Total euphoria! Check out a short video:


The party finished at 6am, so we went home. The next day was a bit rough…when am I going to learn that Redbull gives the worst hangover ever?? Malta should have taught it to me.

Anyway, I spent the afternoon with Carmen and Bea, cooked spaghetti Bolognese, chilled in the afternoon and in the evening went to Valparaiso.

It’s a little town 1.5 hours away from Santiago. Colourful houses, antique, authentic. We got there eat 9pm, so we didn’t want to spend too much time with searching for hostels. Through a weird sales guy we reached our destination, a nice old family house with a beautiful baby. Chilean babies are sooooo nice!!!

Next day we decided to make our lives easier and we took a tour for 10.000 pesos with minibus. It was a great idea as the city is quite big and we could save some time by going by car.

‘The colonial city of Valparaíso presents an excellent example of late 19th-century urban and architectural development in Latin America. In its natural amphitheatre-like setting, the city is characterized by a vernacular urban fabric adapted to the hillsides that are dotted with a great variety of church spires. It contrasts with the geometrical layout utilized in the plain. The city has well-preserved its interesting early industrial infrastructures, such as the numerous ‘elevators’ on the steep hillsides.’


The tour was fun, with 2 Brazilian ladies, one from Rio, the other one from Belo Horizonte..oh all the Brazilian memories came back during the day..Such happy people!

Our guide Mario was very good and funny so all of us enjoyed the tour. We also went to Vina del Mar, which is much more modern.

We got back into town at 6pm.The hostel we stayed in was full for the upcoming night so i went to another hostel (family house rather) and that’s where the fun started.

Bea left in the evening for Mendoza and I sat down in the living room to do some admin. An old guy (Jorge) who lived there came up to me to chit chat. I wanted to focus on what I was doing but then I gave up as he sat down and just talked to me. So very quickly turned out that my birthday was coming up, he brought beers, wine and we had a drink together. Then the son of the landlady (Jose) came home from uni (20 years old) and joined us in the drinks. By the time we finished 2 litres of beer we wanted to have more so i went out with Jose to buy some more. Unfortunately Jorge came out after us and while he left the house a lady who went up to collect the rubbish in the house nicked my precious Maltese metal lighter..I loved that lighter but oh well..so they felt bad about it but I told them not to worry…considering that my credit card, dslr camera and laptop were on the table too and they stayed untouched I felt quite lucky. But the atmosphere was going down after this…in the end we decided to go to sleep, when….the house started to be shaking…more and more and more. I freaked out…we all knew that it’s an earthquake. I wanted to run out, but they said it’s safer in the house so apart from a few plates and bit falling nothing major happened. Turned out it was 6.8 strong, it lasted about a minute. It was followed by 2 smaller ones…first time I experienced something like this..I calmed down after a while and went to sleep.

The day after I met Hannah, she was on the Navimag too and she stayed in Valparaiso too. We decided to take it easy and just go to Vina del Mar to chill on the beach.

In the evening I went back to Santiago and we just chilled with Carmen, didn’t go out.

The day after (Wednesday, on my birthday) she went to school in the morning, and I happily stayed in. I needed some rest and catch up with my things. Went to buy my bus ticket for Thursday to San Pedro de Atacama, then she came back home and cooked very yummy Spanish tortilla with original salsa from Andalucía.

In the evening both Jessica and Pat (flatmates of Carmen) were ready to have a few drinks with us on my birthday. I bought a bottle of Pisco, and some food to cook them Rakott kel, a typical Hungarian dish. They were so sweet, prepared a little surprise cake for me..the candles were quite powerful, so we almost lit up the house:


We had a power nap before and we woke up super late so the whole night was a bit delayed. We were meant to meet Mariona and Xavi and Hannah too, but we had no time unfortunately.

So we managed to get ready by 2am, which was too late for me..I couldn’t face all those drunken students at the club, so I went home after an hour.

Next morning we spent together with Carmen, packed and caught the 12.20 bus to San Pedro de Atacama. It was a 24 hour bus ride, I was travelling with Julia, a German girl. In Calama during our 10 minutes stop I met the German couple from Navimag whom I met also in Chiloe and Pucon. So funny that you keep bumping into people.

We arrived on the 20th April at 12pm to Atacama. As usual, hostel sellers were waiting for us at the bus station. So we went to La casa sol de naciente, but Julia didn’t like it. I stayed.

It turned out that it was worth doing 2 very good tours, one is sand boarding and watching the sunset in Valle de la Luna and the other was star-gazing in the desert.

So I booked the sand boarding tour for 3pm on the day of arrival. It was a lot of fun. I never tried any board whether it’s skate or snow…but I assume sand boarding is the easiest and softest terrain.

After the 2 hour long fun we went to Valle de la Luna to check the salt caves..Incredible, San Pedro de Atacama was under the ocean millions of years ago and you could see all the salt on the clays.

We had to rush to see the sunset on top of a beautiful clay mountain where you had a perfect view on the volcanos and Los Andes..Unbelievable views..

We celebrated the end of a fun day with a few Pisco sour..the last ones I had in Chile..then went back to the hostel and I slept.

The second day in Atacama I hired a bike and went to Pukara Quitor.

I met Rene and his daughter on the hill and continued the day with them.. Around 3pm I went back to the hostel, returned the bike and wanted the collect the video on sand boarding but it wasn’t ready.

I also wanted to book the stargazing for the night but I was too late..no more spaces were left but they suggested me to go back at 8pm in case some people cancel. It did happen, so at 9.30pm i went to the desert where a Chilean lady did a 2 hour explanation on the constellation of the stars, the zodiac, and the rest. It’s incredible how limited things we see in Europe. Chile and Australia are the 2 best places to see the amazing galaxy.

I went back to the hostel at 12.30, packed for next morning when I started a tour to Uyuni crossing to Bolivia. This is the topic of my next blog.

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