Trip Start Jan 22, 2008
Trip End Sep 30, 2008

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Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Get the violins/ some cruel laughter ready as things have got worse before they, hopefully, start getting better.

The remainder of my Monday evening was spent feeling terribly sorry for myself as I was unable to sleep or eat and ended up on all fours of the toilet floor in the hostel throwing up the only thing I had consumed all day - some pretty vile coffee. Maybe it was poisoned? No, no.

Anyway, I finally managed to eat solids again in Frutillar - forty hours after my previous meal. Frutillar sits on the banks of the Llanquihue Lake, which is Chile´s largest and offers a great view of incredibly beautiful, snow covered Volcano Osorno. Being in a town which looks as if it has been literlly airlifted from Germany was a little odd, as were some of the legically challenged stray dogs which were amusing but a good advert but sticking to your own breed. The next stop, at a lookout point overlooking Puerto Octay - still on the shores of the Llanquihue - was like one had stepped directly into a postcard, such was the perfection of the picturesque town, calm still waters of the lake, and snow covered volcano backdrop. Maybe, I am being a touch overly romantic about the area, but it was striking, was the first time I had seen the sol in about a week, and I´m also very emotional right now (read on for details). SO please, give a brother a break...

The overnight stop was at the majestic Saltos del Laja waterfall, actually a beneficiary of the bad weather, where the water falls powerfully into a deep rocky canyon. Our hostel was not quite so special and the only other guests appeared to be noisy peacocks which maraud the junk filled grounds making noises like crazed cats. Nice. On top of that, and despite the presumably total choice of rooms, we were moved three times (owing to lighting/ shower issues) before finally being settled into a bizarre musky room. Our group was by now down to three and I was paired with Australian Ashton (more about him later).

Our tour guide left before dinner - having to return to Santiago for a job interview - leaving us to enjoy driver Sergio´s company for the evening. It turns out he has had a fairly extraordinary life "featuring":

* two year exile to Argentina owing to political oppression of the Pinochet regime. He returned from this a day early to "surprise" his wife, only to find himself surprised as why she was entertaining another man in the marital bed;

* following the above he left her for while and lost touch with his two adult sons, causing him to make a failed attempt at taking his own life;

* the story gets slightly happier as he forgave his wife, with whom he had another son, only to then be taken hostage for a while by two men after his taxi, who held two guns to his head and told him he was going to die.

Despite all the above, and the fact he has subsequently again split from his wife, he is a lovely, cheerful bloke who (ignoring the self-pitying tone of this message) makes you realise how lucky one is to live in the stability of the West (falling house prices, rising fuel costs, etc, etc are really not the end of the world).

Anyway, we all called it a very early night and I was treated to the most incredible deisplay of power snoring/ sleep talking I have ever witnessed by Ashton (and I thought I was bad). On at least five occasions the noises were loud enough to wake me (and probably the dead), on a couple of these it was words not snores (and oddly Spanish words at that "mui, mui, mui" ("more, more, more") - I absolutely do not want to know what he was dreaming about at this point.

We hit the 440 km drive back to Santiago early today, stopping for a vineyard tour and wine tasting at Vina Balduzzi. The tour of the wine making process and cellars was pretty brief but the visit was worthwhile for the chance to sample four delicious wines at the finale. On arrival back to Santiago, I decided that I should not let the smog prevent exercise and so set off on a foolhardy 10 mileish run (I did not intend to go anything like this far but got lost). I huffed, puffed and generally struggled throughout and the disasterous run ws complete when I was chased and pelted with rocks by a gang of about 10 menacing looking teenage street kids, shouting "Gringo". I could obviously have taken them, but in the interest of Anglo-Chilean relations and all that...

A non-vintage week of my life has been rounded off by my realisation that I failed to purchase an adapter for my New Zealand purchased fourth camera of the trip meaning that camera number five is now sat grinning at me. Please, any shareholders in camera companies, liquidate your stock in about two months time, when the market´s biggest customer should be coming home.

All in all, maybe just as well that I am due to lkeave for Argentina tomorrow.
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