In Valparaiso, I find a supposedly quiet spot. In cities, you take what you can find. A fishermens’ club with a large parking lot, not far from downtown, with cold water showers and ultra disgusting bathrooms complete with water covered floor. All this for 5000 p.c. ($10/night).
Yep, sounds good!
Liu and I agreed to meet here. She knows the place.
She pulls in just a little late (like about 2 or 2,5hrs…), early in the afternoon.
She indeed takes me on a very interesting tour of the old town which, at times, could look a bit like old Montreal.
The weather collaborates as the day is suuuuuuper nice.
A beer on a terrace here, lunch on another terrace over there, and all the while, I can’t even tke my wallet out of my pocket. I’m surprised, a bit uneasy but… I let her spoil me.
“I invited you.” She says.
Wallet or not, Liu is charming. Aaaaaah…How great it is to be in such good company. How good it feels. It seems it’s been so long since I haven’t felt so good. We walk the streets of the old town with Minnie under a bright and warm sunshine. We both enjoy a great day and an excellent evening.
The next morning, I find myself in a labyrinth of narrow, twisty streets trying to make my way to Gonzalos’ parents place. I finally make it there with a little help from Gonz who comes looking for me on the next street over…
I am welcomed by Gonzalos’ family as if I myself was a member of the family. Such good folks. Simple and warm hearted.
In No4, I have everything I need to cook and eat but it’s just impossible to even politely refuse the invitations of the parents…
I spend three days with Cath and Gonz who take me on tours as well of the town and the surrounding areas. Again, it feels great to be in such good company.
I take advantage of the situation a bit and use the wi-fi to write a little on the blog, trying to bring it a bit more up to date…(total failure here…). I also look at my maps a little closer to find the best way south. My hosts and some other good friends as well all suggested many interesting places to visit. Studying the map, I realize I have pretty much no other options but to drive across Santiago to go south. Santiago, a megapole of 6 million people. I would have preferred to skip around her but, it now seems I’ll have to visit her.
But wait…Hummmm……Santiago….Hummmm…. I know someone who lives there…
I write a short email to Liu explaining her what would be my plan.
Since I will be in Santiago on a week day, I could stop by and pick her up after work. She is an architect and she works in an office downtown. She already knows how I’m not a big fan of big cities (everybody knows by now, I guess). So she sounds quite surprised by my idea but…
The positive answer comes right back. Sounds like a plan…
The next day, I’m there at the end of her work day. Who said there was nowhere to park downtown Santiago?
I understand the Santiago Parque Metropolitano is a beautiful place. Since it’s just 2 kms from here, that’s where we’re heading.
Once again, we spend a great evening.
Oh, and please, don’t ask me what the park looks like.
I have no clue.
Chile is really like four countries in one.
Northern Chile, where it’s mostly desert.
Central Chile, covered with fertile valleys.
Southern Chile, a region of forests and rivers.
The extreme south/Patagonia, a land of glaciers and perpetually snow covered mountains.
For someone like me, who loves varity, it’s paradise.
The further south I get, the more the scenery reminds me of home. If the change from desert to plains was sudden, the switch from plains to forests is much more progressive. I see more and more evergreens, then houses made of wood instead of concrete or mud. Then I see homes with chemnys suggesting fireplaces or wood stoves. Then, chain saw publicities and piles of firewood, etc, etc…
Here, bales of hay just like I see all around my place.
Down here, January and February are the two busiest months of the year with folks on vacation, just like July and August would be back home. Southern Chile is super popular with Chilenos for its moderate climate, its forests, lakes, streams and rivers. It is a tourist wonderland and ultra busy this time of the year.
The waiting line to this toll booth stretches for kilometers…
But, I still manage to find cool, quiet spots to sleep tranquilo.
Here, in Villarica, on the shores of lake Villarica, there’s as much traffic on the sidewalk as on the street!
The black sanded beach of Pucon is much quieter but only because today is grey and cold…
Next on my list is Frutillar, just south of Osorno, which will be the first stop of my tour around lake Llanquihue.
The german influence is so strong down here, you’d think you’re in Europe.
A little lunch break with a view.
We stop to take a look at the Petrohue waterfalls.
But we’re NOT alone…
…There’s people, lots of poeple…
…Actually, at this time of the year, I think there’s more people than water…
Back in Osorno, I need to find a vet to get the now traditional paperwork Minnie needs to cross the next border. I sleep in an empty parking lot right in town as there is no such thing as a decent place to camp out here. But, I find a vet just a few steps from where I spend the night. Lucky me, Miss veterinarian writes up the health certificate we need right away and lets me have it for… Free.
I kind of dig Chilenas after all…
The next day, I walk to the town center where I need to find the ministry of agriculture office to get more paperwork done. After breaking their cover, in dead center of town, in a war like construction zone, the friendly girl there explains that I’ll have to come back monday as the man in charge is not here today… since we are friday, this means like three days of street side sleeping in town… Not a good news.
So here I go, using all the charms I can find (…) and coming up with all kinds of stories to try to convince her to find a way to get these papers done today. I tell her about my friends who are waiting for me across the border and who, since they can’t reach me, will be terribly worried if I don’t make it there to meet them… I guess that, and the other stories I tell her seem to work as she leaves her desk and then comes back after a short while announcing the paperwork should be ready in about 30 minutes!
Funny how what was impossible just 15 minutes ago will now be in order in half an hour… And at no extra cost!
I really kind of do, dig Chilenas!
So I hit the road east-bound.
In Entre Lagos, just one more beautiful view of another magnificient volcano. The main difference is that, normally, volcanoes almost always have a string of clouds hiding their summit. The volcano itself creates a micro-climate generating clouds and trapping them around its summit.
But, in this case it’s different. Kind of nice looking!
This time it’s for real. We’re almost there. Argentina, the last, the 15th and last country.
The section of road between Osorno in Chile and San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina is fabulous. It already is in Chile, but it gets even better once across the border. Of course, 4 hours are necessary just to GET across said border, thanks to the huge flow of tourists but, once back on the road, you forget all about that…
Welcome to San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina.
In the hills, near Bariloche, I find this cool (litteraly) and quiet spot along a river.
On the way there, I see this:
Did I tell you it kind of feels like home out here?
Bariloche is the gateway to Patagonia. It is there that everything changes. Everything. From scenery to weather to language (well almost)…
In the next installment, Patagonia and the end… Of the world.