The Northern Lake District

Trip Start Nov 22, 2005
Trip End May 15, 2006

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Flag of Chile  ,
Sunday, December 18, 2005

Even though all the guidebooks say that Santiago is the most modern city in South America, I donīt consider it to be very modern. Yes, everyone owns a mobile but models from 2 or 3 years ago. Yes, they have a Metro train system but even the most populated stations are not wheelchair accessible. So my expectation was that all cities outside of the city centre were primitive.

Boy, was I wrong.

Temuco is a very lively and bustling city with all the conveniences of Santiago. Live bands play in the plaza and there is an art gallery in the city centre. With a university close by there are lots of young people in the city. And I felt comfortable walking through the streets wearing a skirt. In some ways, I would say Temuco is more modern than Santiago.

However one thing that we found consistently while travelling was the lack of information of sights of historical significance. My aunt found out from the local tourism centre that there was a Ruca (a type of house that indigenous Mapuche people lived in) close by that we could visit and where the people will serve us lunch and show us how the Mapuche people lived. They gave us a bus number and said the bus driver will know where to drop us off. Well, the bus driver didnīt know where it was and dropped us off somewhere where he thought it might have been. We asked around and not many people seemed to know what we were talking about. But the people were friendly and very happy to help an elderly lady and her young niece so they endeavoured to provide us with directions, even if they were vague. Two hours of walking and a bus trip later and we find out that the Ruca we were looking for had burnt down and that the next best place we could go to was in the opposite direction on the other side of the city. Well, another two bus trips later and I was well over this "Ruca" thing. We must have looked a sight arriving unannounced at this house and trying to explain to them how we eventually got there. But the people were so welcoming that within minutes I had forgotten how many hours I had spent searching for (and cursing) this Ruca. They served us a really nice lunch even though it was late in the afternoon. And of course showed us around the Ruca and the various tools and instruments used by the Mapuche people. I also tried on a traditional indigenous outfit (which in a scary way actually suited me). Looking again at our information from the tourist office, nowhere on the brochures did it indicate the details of this great Ruca that we had visited.

Valdivia was a beautiful city. In the past it had been an important centre of Spanish colonial control over Chile and was later a centre for German colonisation of the district. The city had a very unique feel and I immediately fell in love with it. Not to mention that they make great chocolates and nice beer! Again, we found the same carelessness of their historical sights as we saw in Temuco. We visited "Fuertes", or forts in which the Spanish maintained their control. The Fuerte de Niebla was really nice and had a very interesting museum. But sadly the Fuerte de Corral had been neglected. Walls had fallen and no one had bothered to clear them or restore them. Where once there was a church now lay a vacant block of concrete. And the young people at the gates who were selling the entry tickets couldnīt give much more information. It was an interesting insight into government expenditure on their national culture.
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