Wales in Chile- just the place for Xmas & New Year

Trip Start Nov 02, 2007
Trip End ??? ??, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Monday, December 24, 2007

Having spent a week heading through the arid landscapes of Northern Chile and stopping off en-route at some memorable (the huge tented dome we stayed in at the beach, in Bahia Inglesa for Jess´ birthday) and forgettable places (charmless Santiago saved only by the awesome curry át Restaurant Majestic, mmm!...), we found ourselves in Pucon on Christmas Eve.  Located in Chile´s Lake district it was a utterly beautiful place to be, surrounded by lakes and an active volcano (volcano Villarica) which puffed smoke all day. 

We found ourselves at ´El Refugio´, a charming little hostel run by Peter and Lorena who hosted an amazing Christmas dinner the following evening.  Our company included 2 axe wielding german women, who were crazy in the nicest way possible, an american who rocked (he was a geologist!), a brit-ozzie couple who were hilarious and Slovenian Mika - who was on another planet completely.  After hours of hysteria and stuffing muchos food down the cakehole, including vienetta and the delicious, but lethally addictive alforjores (wagon wheel type affairs containing a shed load of hyperglycemia inducing caramel) and refusing the bloody steaks that P and L kept trying to make us eat, we retired at 4am for some sleep.

Our budget, now suffering due to being in modern, european like Chile, we moved hostels to the fantastic Hostel Wohlenberg, ran by the hilarious Eric and Ellie, where we spent a week doing as much as possible in the wales like paradise and trying to improve our pigeon spanish.  Of course, as it was christmas we bought ourselves a present of jet skiing ala James Bond stylee on the lake which was incredible. 

Stan, wanting to connect with his inner gaucho (thats cowboy to you gringo folk), decided that we should partake in some ´yee haa´ yelping horse riding around the hills of Pucon.  I of the ´terra firma´ school of thinking was wetting my pants at the thought of it, but nevertheless we headed out to ´Huepilmalal´ ranch hosted by the incredible Rodolfo (who competed in the olympic games in Montreal and Munich), for a morning of clip-clopping around the valley on these incredible animals.  Stan's horse who had the spirit of the devil, kept trying to gallop off in all directions much to Stan's delight, my horse however had an extreme case of lazy-itis (some might say we were perfectly matched...) and wouldn't canter however hard I kicked him in the gut!

After 4 hours and a sore backside, we eventually managed to get off the horse and spent the next 2 days walking like cowboys and suffering immensly, due to having used defunct muscles that we didn't even know existed!

Having deeply regretted wimping out of cycling down the 'Death Road' in Bolivia, we were eager to prove our recklessness and had booked our climb up Volcano Villarica.   We were delayed for 2 days due to bad weather, but on New Years eve we got the go ahead to climb the snow covered mountain and only at the foot of the volcano did it actually dawn on Harmeet that climbing the goliath would probably kill her! (Come back Machu Picchu all is forgiven!).  We were handed ice picks and followed a zig zag trail up the snow in really poor visibility, which was probably a good thing as about 4 hours into the climb, more than half way up, Harmeet started slipping and sliding about all over the place like a drunken hobo.  Feeling more light headed then a stoner giving blood, the guide decided to send her down as he thought she was suffering from the altitude and was a bit of a liability, so he dug her a hole in the side of the mountain and told her to wait for another guide to take her down. 

I being the valiant husband (ahem!)  decided to go back down with her, which is where the fun started, as you basically get to slide all the way down on your bottom!  An hour of high speed, adrenaline pumping,  butt sliding later, we arrived at the base of the mountain, Harmeet still giggling hysterically from the after effects of the climb.

Our evening ended perfectly with Eric and Ellie, hosting a masive bbq (more bloody steaks!!) and then heading down to the beach to watch the amazing fireworks, (we saw at least 1 Shirley Bassey, a Bob Marley and a couple of Cilla's) and then we were forced (in headlocks) to go to the local casino with our new friends and watch them lose all their money! 

Having fallen in love with horses(!), our hosts and Pucon, we regretfully decided to move on and left the next day to cross the border into Argentina, after making foolish plans to complete a full circuit of the gargantuan country in just 4 weeks... what a pair of banana brains...
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