. I met Havi, my guide for the trip, and Pedro, our driver. There were 7 passengers on the bus together, including me. We had a little minibus, so it felt quite different from Stray in New Zealand, where most of the time I was on a huge bus with 40 people!
So we set off on our week long trip around the Lake District. Our first stop was Pomaire, a town famous for its clay pottery. We stopped there for lunch, and I got to meet and talk to my fellow passengers properly. I had my first empanada, a pasty like thing, which was delicious! Saw some lovely pottery, although couldn't buy any as it would just smash in my bag of course! And had my first encounters with stray dogs. Of course, being me, I couldn't resist stroking them!!! They weren't rabid or anything, so no worries, just a bit smelly! Then we drove on to see the Rapel Dam nearby. It's a hydro-electic dam built in the 60s, and supplies a 3rd of Santiago's electricity. Apparently the dam doesn't affect the natural water supply, which is good if that's true! There were also all these huge carp living in the water. They feed off all the rubbish and nutrients, and grow reallty big. A good spot for fishing!
After that we made our way to our overnight stop, a town called Pichilemu. Apparently it's the best place to surf in Chile, and in high season is packed with surfers
. However, it was pretty quiet when we were there. In fact, we were the only guests in our hostel, bar one American surfer. That afternoon we had the option of surfing or horse-riding. Of course, I chose the horse-riding! I persuaded Katy and Benjamin from the bus to come along too. So we were taken down to the beach by the 'horse guy'. He spoke no English, so we didn't have too much conversation. He took us down to the beach where there were three horses tied up. While he was sorting out his own horse, I said hello to the horses, and looked them over. I was drawn to a gorgeous skewbald gelding, who lent into me when I stroked him. So when our horse guy came over, I asked if I could ride him, and he said yes. So we mounted up, and off we went.
My horse was eager to go! Katy and Benjamin hadn't ridden before, so we went at a sedate pace at first, so they could get used to riding and their horses. At went behind the beach, alongside a lake, before we were taken into a forest. The trees were all growing up through the sand, it was pretty cool. Then we went up over the sand dunes, and out onto the beach. That was the point that I realised it was going to be a great ride. The horse guy was so relaxed, he rode behind us, not in front of us, and basically gave us free rein (excuse the pun) to do what we wanted. He rode with Katy, who wanted to walk. But being me, I wanted to go a bit faster
. So I finally gave my gelding his head, and off we went! I felt like I had died and gone to heaven. It's always been my dream to canter along a beach at sunset, and I was doing it! So actually a dream come true! I was cantering along the beach, splasing through the surf, with the sun setting next to me. Then I doubled back, and caught up with the others. I checked Katy and Benjamin were ok. Benjamin was quite confident, so we cantered off together again. Then I was cantering along, and my horse knew that when we got to the end of the beach his job would be done, so he was keen to get going! So I let him break into a gallop, and it was amazing! Words can't describe how fantastic it was. Racing along, the sea splashing up around me, it was breath taking. So I slowed up, and gave my horse a rest, and rode him into the sea and just watched the sunset for a bit whilst waiting for the others to catch up. Then it was a bit more cantering before we made it back to the start of the beach. It was the best ride I've ever had in my life, and truly a magical experience. Our 'horse guy' was lovely, and really sweet. I spent ages hugging and stroking my lovely horse, before Katy and Benjamin had to drag me
away. Back at the hostel, we jumped in the bus, picked up our surfers and then went to watch the sun set over the sea. Another beautiful moment. I took myself off for a few minutes, and just watched. A perfect way to end a brilliant first day. That evening our whole group had dinner together cooked by the hostel cook. We had shark! I still can't believe I ate it! I'm really not a big seafood/fish fan, but it was actually pretty nice! Never thought I'd eat shark! So all in all an awesome first day on the Pachamama Bus!
After a lot of buses and shuttles and things, I finally got to Santiago. After checking into my hostel (where I had a whole room to myself), I was knackered, so slept for a few hours to help ease my jet lag. But I had to wake up and try to find the Pachamama Bus office to pick up my bus ticket for the next morning. I then spent the next 2 hours walking around Santiago, trying to find the office. I had worked out the route, and found the right street, but there was no office or shop or anything to suggest it was there. My complete inability to speak Spanish didn't help! I then had to walk 30 mins back to my hostel, get them to ring them to make sure they were still open, then walk 30 mins back. It turns out they were based inside a hostel. No one told me that! So finally got my ticket, and feeling completely exhausted and hungry, I picked up some food, and trudged my way back to my hostel before collapsing and getting some more sleep. The next morning, the Pachamama Bus arrived to pick me up