Posts in Category: Chile

Soaking up the desert in San Pedro

The many tours of San Pedro De Atacama

Well we’ve been very busy!

After leaving La Serena and the Elqui Valley, we headed up to San Pedro De Atacama, one of the driest places on earth, so much so that NASA use it for testing the Mars Rovers as it’s the most Mars-like location on earth.

So of course, it’s been raining for us.

It rains about once a year and it appears we’ve got (un)lucky. Nonetheless it hasn’t stopped us from a packed schedule.

San Pedro is one of the main tourist areas in Chile, surrounded by a wide variety of natural wonders which makes it a great base for tourists. As a result it’s very busy, and we ended up having to stay a 15 minute walk out of town to get anything even vaguely affordable. The accommodation was very basic and the bed was terrible (which meant we’re both very tired from lack of sleep) but at least it was cheap. Even a basic private bed in a dorm can cost upto 40 quid here if you stay in town (in truth it’s barely more than a village.)

San Pedro itself is a weird and lovely little place. Most of the action is on the main street, where every shop is either a tour company or a restaurant. I’m not exaggerating; there must have been about 20 tour companies on the main road alone. Everything is pot hole filled dirt roads around here, which made it properly feel like a desert town. We definitely had some of my favourite food here too, with lots of places doing cheap 3 course meals at lunch. It was nice to find food that (a) wasn’t bread and (b) had spiciness!

The first port of call on our adventure was to the meteorite museum; a private collection owned by two brothers, it gives a full explanation of how the universe and planets are formed with examples of all the types of meteorite that have been collected in the desert. The highlight was getting to touch 3 large meteorites, which were all approximately 4500 million years old. It’s safe to say I enjoyed the museum more than Laura but she was a good sport throughout.

On our first night in town the rain had really started to kick in. This is not a place built for rain- nothing is water tight, so everywhere has to switch the electricity off. This lead to us having a lovely romantic dinner in candle light. Unfortunately we’d tried to go for a drink beforehand however there’s a weird rule in town that you cannot buy booze unless you’re buying food too. A stupid rule I’m sure you’ll agree.

All the activities are based out of town in San Pedro which meant having to go on organized tours. We generally hate tours and avoid them but we had to make an exception and fortunately it went really well; we booked 3 tours with one company (Cosmo Andino) which were all really well organised and had a slightly more adult feel to it; we saw a bunch of tour groups full of gap year students which would’ve been our idea of hell!

Our first trip was to Valle De La Luna (Valley of the moon). It’s effectively a giant crater (formed by volcanoes collapsing not a meteorite) in the middle of the desert. The sheer scale of this place is incredible. The photos don’t do it justice but will hopefully give an idea of what’s involved. We also go to see where they used to mine the salt- due to the high altitude the water evaporates quickly leaving everything covered in salt. Very cool!

We were then taken to a mirador (view point) above the entire valley where we could try to grasp how big this place is. It also was a great opportunity to get some photos of us standing close to the edge of the cliffs!

By this point it had started to rain, which meant the final part of the trip, a walk around “Death Valley”, was cut short. The name apparently came from a mispronunciation of “Mars Valley” in French and nothing to do with death at all. We kept expecting to see Matt Damon appearing in his space suit!

It was laundry day, hence the stunning outfit I’m rocking

The first tour was just an afternoon one; our second tour was a full day trip to Salar de Tara- one of the biggest salt flats in Chile. The tour was almost called off due to weather- if it rains or snows in the mountains it’s possible for busses to get trapped there so they’re hyper cautious. Fortunately for us the tour went ahead and the weather ended up being incredible. San Pedro is around 2000m above sea level whereas our tour ended up peaking at 4800m which meant the weather changed dramatically; rain, snow, fog, and clear skies.

The main problem on this tour was that Laura felt really ill- whatever we’d eaten the night before had not agreed with her and had left her with some mild food poisoning. To add to the fun, there were no toilets on the whole trip. It seems we weren’t the only ones who hadn’t realised this, which meant an awful lot of stopping en route for people to scramble behind rocks to do their business. Not fun! Poor Laura struggled through but I did feel very sorry for her.

The salt flat is based in the Andes which meant driving through incredible scenery consisting of volcanoes and mountains, as well as some strangely placed wetlands full of flamingoes! A weird sight at 4000m in the middle of the desert. I was also surprised with how much wildlife there was for a desert. Vicunas (a relation of llamas) and alpacas were a common occurrence.

Snow on the way to the desert

The landscapes never failed to impress. The tour took us around some brilliant viewpoints, such as the “rock cathedral” and the “photo everyone takes” with the giant rock that looks like it has been sculpted into a person. I was particularly impressed with our minivan that somehow managed to cope with driving around in the middle of the desert without breaking it’s suspension or breaking down.

The culmination of the day was having a late lunch at the salt flat, complete with Chilean wine (which Laura did not have unsurprisingly.) I’d be very interested to come back and see this when it hadn’t just been raining, as I think the landscape was dramatically different for us relative to other tours. It was however still incredibly beautiful, and again difficult to grasp the sheer scale of this great plane that was so flat for so far and wide.

You’ll be pleased to know that Laura was partly recovered by the evening and sent her personal errand boy off to get take out pizza. This in itself was quite an ordeal; there is very little street lighting in San Pedro, which meant walking most of the journey home grasping a pizza with both hands and pointing a torch at my feet to try to not fall over one of the many pot holes. To get to our accommodation also involved crossing an incredibly rickety bridge which made for extra fun! San Pedro is also famous for its observatories and star gazing and we’d been hoping to use this evening to go on an observatory tour, but with Laura feeling unwell and the sky being cloudy we decided to pass and try and get some sleep.

My view as I headed out for pizza

Unfortunately our tour the next day was cancelled due to the weather. It had rained so much it had washed out a key bridge out of town and, although they were trying to rebuild it, it wasn’t going to be done in time. As a result we had a well deserved relaxing day, enjoying a nice walk around the town and getting some much needed work done. We’d organised to go on the star gazing tour at 11PM this night after cancelling the previous day, so we had a bit of a nap so we could stay awake till 2AM. Unfortunately the tour guide turned up to pick us up at 11:20 only to tell us he was sorry that the tour wouldn’t be running due to cloud cover. The weather has not been in our favour! This means we’ve managed to leave Chile without getting to a single observatory due to a combination of the bright moon and cloud cover, which I’m disappointed by but, c’est la vie!

On our final day we were getting a night bus to the border with Peru, which meant waiting around until 8PM. Both me and Laura hate this sort of day, and she suggested hiring bikes as we were able to grab a shower later from our accommodation (who were also kind enough to store our bags for the day.) I hadn’t slept at all the previous night and was quite grumpy but fortunately let Laura take the lead as the bikes ended up being a great idea. We cycled 18km into the desert to find Laguna Cejar, a salt lake which is very similar to the dead sea. The concentration of salt is so high that you naturally float in it. It took us a lot more than 18km to find it as the bike company had given us a terrible map, but it was worth it when we got there.

The sensation of being so buoyant is both weird and brilliant. It’s impossible to do frog legs when swimming as you sit too high in the water for a start. We couldn’t get over how quiet it was there, there were no tour groups and only a few other people. We had a lot of fun, although we both got a little sunburnt as you’re not allowed to use suncream in the lake.

We dried very quickly in the sun which left us both covered in a thick layer of salt. Fortunately there were showers so we could wash off!

The cycle back was incredibly hard. Did you know it gets quite hot in the desert around 2-3PM? The roads were also in terrible condition (no concrete in sight) which meant sore bums and arms. We were both very pleased to get back and get showered and fed after a really nice day out. I don’t think I’ve been that exhausted for some time, which helped with sleeping on the night bus. No Premium (180degree recline) bus was available so we were in cama (150 degree) which weren’t so good for someone who sleeps on their side. I think through sheer exhaustion I managed to get a fair amount of sleep, as did Laura.

This morning we were woken at 5am in Arica, the closest town to the border with Peru. I was literally not functioning, I think I must have just been in a deep sleep and had no idea what was going on. Fortunately for me Laura was a trooper and sorted everything out and shepherded me around. With the help of a nice Taiwanese tourist we’d met we managed to find the international bus terminal across the road to get a collectivo (shared taxi) across the border. We thought we’d have to wait as the border doesn’t open till 8, and Peru is 2 hours behind, but it turns out those rules don’t seem to apply to Collectivos who were fine to take us through despite it being 5am in Peru.

As we’d sat down in the taxi the driver asked us for a ticket. In Arica and all of Peru you have to pay a tax to use the bus station. Laura ran off to find out where to buy it whilst I stayed in the taxi with the bags. The driver started to pull away which panicked me somewhat but my cries of “mi esposa!” were met with an explanation that he was just moving out of the way slightly (good thing my ability to understand Spanish is improving). Fortunately Laura returned and all was well. We were particularly impressed with the service; you give your passport to the taxi driver and he returns with your peruvian entry form, fully filled out for you already. At each border (exit Chile, entry Peru) he guided us exactly where to go and what to hand over, and took us all the way to Arica, the nearest border town on the other side. All this for 4 quid each! Absolute bargain.

Our run of luck continued in Arica where we were able to get on our next bus a mere 10 minutes later. I’m on that bus right now! We’re heading to Arequipa, the midway town to Cusco where we will be starting the Inca Trail. I just hope the hotel is good as I think we both need a long nap. Hopefully the bus will get in in about 2 hours (5 hours total) and then it’s just a taxi to the accommodation. We’re getting very good at this travelling thing!

Back to the heat!

After a frankly very cold and windy spell in Torres del Paine, and the trauma of losing yet another pair of glasses, we caught the bus back to Punta Arenas. It was even colder here than in the park. And we’d pretty much run out of clothes. And there was no laundry. Excellent.

Interesting note: I’ve never had to wear the same pair of socks for 5 days in a row before. Turns out, I don’t like it.

We were staying around 10km out of town in a log cabin called ‘Le Casa Escondida.’ It was LOVELY! Owned by an incredibly friendly Chilean family, we were treated like family- they cooked us amazing steak and we sat by a roaring fire all night. Exactly what we needed after all the hiking of the past 10 days. As content as we would have been to not leave the fire, we thought we should at least explore Punta Arenas so we got a lift from a friendly Chilean man who was driving in that direction and off we went.

I can’t lie- this wasn’t the most amazing place we’ve been to in Chile, but it did at least have a naval museum, so Sam was in heaven, as is shown by the many many many photos he took. I won’t bore you with them, just this one of my super happy husband:

It was then time for TRAVEL DAY. Not just any travel day either. The monster of all travel days! First it was a 4am start for a 5.30am flight to Puetro Montt- 11 hour layover (but we did get to see stuff like this:)

Lake in Puerto Varas- not bad for a layover

  • 14 hour overnight bus to Santiago (think Emirates A380 business class for buses- was so nice)

Might not look like much, but after our nightmare night buses in SE Asia this was a HUGE step up!

All that was missing was the massage function

-2 hour layover in Santiago- 7 hour bus to La Serena. Phew, I’m tired just typing that! Needless to say, we were exhausted by the end of it, and slept so well when we got to the hostel! Finally, the heat was back. Shorts were allowed again! Flipflops came out of hiding! It feels so good to just wear one layer- how did we ever cope living in UK??

La Serena is a nice place- cute handicraft stalls and lovely roadside cafes. It was our 11 year anniversary whilst we were there and we celebrated with some live band watching, pisco drinking and a fairly decent Thai meal (so so sick of bread and anything that doesn’t involve it is a blessing now!)

11 year Anniversary- celebrating with the biggest bottle of beer we could find

On Sunday we left the town to explore the Elqui Valley, a place that had been recommended to us by the lovely owners of Campo Suizo down in the Lakes District. We decided to base ourselves in the small town of Vicuña. Hhhmm, but wait. Google maps is showing us something about 20 mins away from it- a tiny village in the middle of a valley. Excellent- more travelling!

In comparison to a lot of other travellers, we don’t really have much. I reckon I’ve taken more on a 4 day trip to Dubai. I’ve enterprisingly strapped my yoga mat to my big bag so no longer have to carry it and carrying our day packs on our front is super handy, if a little weird looking.

The Elqui Valley is SPECTACULAR. Incredibly beautiful and chilled out. We took walks through villages and hired bikes to get to Pisco distilleries, microbreweries and an amazing solar restaurant, where they actually use the sun to cook everything!

In the valley, there’s an average rainfall of 5-6 times a year so a lot of structures aren’t exactly watertight either.

Today we’re heading back to La Serena, where we’ll wait for a few hours and then take a night bus upto San Pedro de Atacama, our final Chilean destination. We’re going to spend around 5 days there as we want to visit an observatory, see the salt plains and Valle de Luna, as well as some seriously big geysers. Goodbye budget!







775 miles from Antarctica

Laura loses another pair of sunglasses to nature

More on that shortly!

I’m writing this as we travel on yet another bus. After the luxury of 5 nights in one place in Pucon it’s been hard to be travelling around on buses again.  All the seats here have a big recline, and we always end up behind the one person that reclines the seat the whole way back.  It’s a pretty cramped writing space but needs must!

After the wonder of Pucon we headed south to Puerta Varas, a lovely little lakeside town in the vicinity of not one but two volcanoes.  It was really very pretty, with lots of nice little cafes and food trucks. There was even a local Chilean pan pipe/guitar band playing in the Plaza de Armas which we found surprisingly good.  This was just a stopover town to get us to our flight the next day but I’m really glad we went.

The next day was less fun, as it was full of transport: Bus (Puerta Varas to Puerta Montt), bus (Puerta Montt to the airport, after a 2 hour wait in the bus terminal), plane (we met a very nice man from the US with a Chilean wife and had a good natter about all things Chile and US,) taxi (to get into Punta Arenas to get our next stage) and bus (Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales.) It literally took all day but as masters of travel we took it in our stride, and even managed to fit in a delicious pizza and beer before our final bus.

But why did we go through all this? To visit Torres Del Paine in Patagonia, the 5th most beautiful place in the world according to National Geographic.  Located about 1.5 hours from Puerto Natales (which is the nearest town) it’s most famous for the W trek, a 4 or 5 day trek that takes in glaciers and mountains and lakes and much more.  We’d wanted to do this, but as we had no camping gear and the fact we don’t like camping, we decided to instead come down and do a couple of day hikes and explore the town. We weren’t the best prepared for this part of our journey; information on the net is all regarding multi day hiking so we thought it’d be best to get here and find out once we’re on the ground. Plus, most people book their flights, accommodation and their multi day hikes months in advance- this is an extremely popular place. We booked our flights 3 weeks ago. Enough said.

The most famous part of the W is Las Torres (the towers), a series of three mountainous peaks above a lake about 800m up from sea level.  We knew this was available as a day hike and was our itinerary for the first day.  This meant, having gotten to our hotel and to bed about midnight we then had to be up at 6:30 to get a 7:45 bus.  At the park we then had to queue to buy our passes (36 quid for the two of us!) before getting another bus to the start of the hike; this meant we didn’t get to start walking until 11. To top it all off the visibility was really poor, due to the terrible weather.  Nonetheless we ploughed on with smiles on our faces excited for the walk ahead.

The hike itself is split into 3 sections; a steep uphill section, a mostly flat section, then a really steep bit.  I found this to be the most challenging of the hikes we’ve done as my legs were knackered afterwards, but it was really enjoyable.  All the scenery around here is so dramatic and beautiful.  There was also a camp site at the mid way point which served hot drinks which meant when we were suffering on the way back we could recharge with hot chocolate and coffee.

The hike is 25km and labelled as 8 hours but we managed it in about 6 and a half. It took us about 4 hours up, particularly as we were struggling at the top.  The path disintegrated to boulder climbing along with wind and actual snow, and there was a fair amount of traffic- it’s a really popular hike.  We made it though to find this lovely glacial lake at the top. It’s just a shame the towers were partly hidden by cloud cover!

The towers are at the back/right… in the cloud.

We wanted to stay up longer but it was too windy and cold so we clambered down at speed.  We got to the start of the trek again about 5:30. Fortunately, there’s a really fancy hotel at the start which meant we could relax with a beer and a cheese board.

The second day of our stay I’d put my foot down to say I wasn’t hiking; the tickets are a 3 day pass but I was quite happy to have a days rest so we could properly enjoy the day after, plus the weather hadn’t perked up.  As a result we had a nice stroll around Puerto Natales.  Like everywhere in Chile, it’s based on a Lake with stunning mountain scenery in the background.  There were lots of nice coffee shops, bakeries and restaurants and we had a very nice and relaxed day.  It was also valentines day so as a treat I got us take out pizza to have in the room before going to bed early to go hiking again!

Our second and final day of hiking was a bit of a voyage into the unknown. There was genuinely no information about any other day hikes. If you imagine the W route is in the shape of a W, Las Torres is the right hand part of the W: |||.  We decided to do the bottom part of the right hand side for day 2, as we knew how to get there and I’d found a snippet online to say it was meant to be very nice.  We were pros now too; we managed to skip the queue for buying tickets and get an earlier connecting bus which meant we were hiking by 10:20.

We realised that, if we went fast enough, we could do the entire bottom of the W and get a catamaran back to the bus connection at 6:30.  This was certainly achievable and meant we wouldn’t hike back on ourselves. Unfortunately, the weather had other ideas.  Although it was (mostly) sunny, I’ve never experienced winds like it before; they were strong enough to push a person over (and I fell over a couple of times as a result).  This made it incredibly hard going and meant by the time we reached the mid point we knew we had to turn back- if we’d missed the catamaran we would have been stranded.  To further the fun, Laura twisted her ankle early on which started swelling and causing her a lot of pain.  Although the walk was very pretty, particularly on the way back, it wasn’t the greatest day of hiking we’ve had by some way.

Rainbow from water whipped up from the lake

I really can’t stress how strong the wind was.  Waterfalls were genuinely going backwards as the water was being blown back up at the drop off.  The top layer of water from the lake was constantly being blown into a cloud causing “rainbow lake” (see photos).  And this is how Laura lost her current sunglasses; they were literally blown off her face and down the side of the mountain to never be seen again.  She was holding the big water bottle at the time and couldn’t react fast enough to catch them.  She was understandably disappointed.  Despite this I certainly had a good time, and I think by the end so did Laura.  We were both ecstatic to see the hotel at the end, and the beer tasted excellent again.

The shuttle back was almost delayed because one of the busses had been blown over (did I mention it was windy?)  The fire brigade (which is entirely volunteer in Chile) had been called, had righted the bus and some people taken to hospital, and they’d sent a replacement shuttle to ferry us back to where the main bus was to collect us.  Although it was now chucking it down with rain the wind had calmed so we felt pretty safe on our journey back!

We both agree Torres Del Paine is not the 5th most beautiful place in the world.  We think it’s probably not even the 5th most beautiful place we’ve been to.  It was however still very very nice and we’re both pleased that we’ve come down here.  Patagonia itself is very interesting- it’s so empty! Laura thought it would be barren (wrong) and I thought it would be full of forests (wrong). It’s mostly just shrubbery as far as the eye can see, a few hills here and there, but mostly nothing.  It’s just empty.  We really are in the middle of nowhere. Did I mention we’re less than 800 miles from Antactica?

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 5.04.56 PM

We’re now on our way back up to Punta Arenas for 2 nights.  We’ve chosen a place that is a bit out in the middle of nowhere and has it’s own sauna and log cabins, so this should be interesting!  There’s a naval museum in town which has replicas of the Endurance, the boat Shackleton took to the Antarctic when he and his crew were stranded for over a year, along with the boat that rescued it. And Laura has agreed to come too! I may write the next blogpost too to talk about how brilliant it will be hopefully, although there’s a chance it will all be in Spanish.

No more walking please.

Waterfalls, Volcanoes and Lakes: 5 days in Pucón

Pottering in Pucón

I’m not sure if I’ve ever looked so stylish

After a few exhausting days of massive hikes and long bus journeys, we decided to stay put for a while. Luckily, we’ve landed in a fab little town, dubbed the ‘Queenstown of Chile,’ called Pucon. It was amazing- as soon as we stepped off the bus, we heard English for the first time in weeks! This is a proper little tourist town, with loads of outdoor adventure places, great restaurants and seemingly hundreds of hostels.

Luckily, we’d already booked ahead- a couple we met at the bus station hadn’t and ended up walking around for 5 hours trying to find somewhere to stay. It’s Chilean holiday season as well as high season for tourists so everywhere in Chile is extremely busy- we’re now all booked up until the Inca trail in March! We don’t like having to book ahead as it limits us in terms of extending somewhere however it’s a necessity for February in South America.

We’ve been super fortunate with most of the places we’ve stayed in Chile and this is probably our favourite yet. We’re at ‘Chili Kiwi Hostel,’ a typical hostel but with loads of quirks like treehouses (where we stayed for 3 nights,) glamping vans (smaller versions of Vanatar) and tents with proper beds in them (where we’re currently at.) The only downside of this place is the noise- in the treehouse we were right above the assembly point for the 6am trip to the volcano- 12 people talking full pelt for 40 mins is not fun. Last night at our tent, 2 foxes decided to start screaming right outside.

Oh, and apples from the apple tree above the tent sporadically drop onto us and wake us up. Lovely.

However, we are having a really great time here- everyone is so friendly, there’s loads of outdoor hammocks, comfy seats and swings to hang out on, so many bathrooms (this becomes important when you’re sharing with 40 other people) and a killer view of the lake.

One day we hiked out to a waterfall, about an hour and a half out of town- we had just started the last mega hill up when some lovely people pulled over and gave us a lift up. RESULT! After a few wrong turns and scrambling over rocks, we made it to this:


It was freezing cold glacial water, which meant we couldn’t swim in it, as much as we wanted to in 35 degree heat.

One afternoon we decided to take kayaks out on the lake and paddle over to a nearby beach. When will we learn that WE CANNOT KAYAK TOGETHER?! It just doesn’t work. The beach was black sand and really lovely, apart from the hundreds of Chilean tourists and many many wasps. It was no Fiji beach, but hey, at least it was hot and Sam could paddle!

Today we took a local bus to the Parque Nacional Huerquehue and did a stunning 4 hour hike to the 3 lakes. We managed to motor on past all of the dawdlers and make it to the lakes when they were completely empty- so beautiful and serene.

The highlight for both us though, throughout the whole of Chile trip so far, has been this, hiking to the top of the most active volcano (last eruption was March 2015) in South America, Villarica:

This was an intense day. We woke up at 5.30am for a 6am start, got kitted up in heavy duty hiking boots and some weird leg things we had to wear. We then drove around 30mins out of town upto 1000m above sea level, the base of the volcano. Here, we took a ski lift up another 400m (we had the option to walk this but as it was on volcanic ash and our experience of this in NZ wasn’t pleasant, we decided to shell out for the ride.) Almost everyone in our group of 12 chose the ski lift and mocked those who decided to walk up. From here, we were already above the clouds.

Our walk began with putting on crampons and grabbing an ice pick. Trepidation set in. It was bitterly cold as we hiked up in zig zag lines through ice and rock for 5 hours, with occasional 5 minute breaks. The breaks were supposed to be longer but it was so cold we couldn’t sit down for long. We wanted to eat and drink but doing that would have involved taking off the industrial sized gloves we’d been given. No thanks, I’d rather go hungry.

I suffered quite badly with altitude sickness around 2000m, (slightly worried about the Inca trail now) but slowed down to catch my breath, which put me right at the back of our group. Finally we saw the top of the crater and were told to put on our gas masks (absolutely hideous) as the fumes were too sulphurous. Standing at the top of the crater and looking into see the lava was amazing.

The top!

However the view down below was even better.

Then came the best bit. We put on waterproof trousers, attached a plastic ‘seat’ to ourselves and slid down the mountain! We followed tracks that had already been carved (think a luge-bobsleigh type track but far less sophisticated) and used our ice picks to slow ourselves down- Sam did not quite master this and kept crashing into me, which pushed me into the slow coach tortoise in front of me. The snow was quite soft in places which meant we could stop and take the plastic seat away (not the most comfortable thing in the world- I have bruises to prove it.)

It took 5 hours to walk up to 2874m and only 1.5 hours to come back down. Would I do it again? Absolutely.

Tomorrow we leave Pucon and travel 4 hours south to Puetro Varas for 1 night only. From here, we’ll go to Puetro Montt airport and fly down to Patagonia- yippee! We’ll be down there for around a week, hiking and (presumably) feeling cold. Then we’ll make our way back up north past Santiago- the desert and salt plains await!


Remote Hiking

Nosotros Caminamos (we walk)

Interesting aside: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner are all verbs as well as nouns in Spanish.  Desayuno is “I breakfast”.  I like this.

As Laura aluded to in the last post we’re back on the hiking trail (despite the fact that she has now admitted she over-walked me in NZ!)  The difference is that we don’t have our own van to get everywhere now, and the public transport here is not so good in rural places, like where all the parks are.

Our first destination was San Clemente, a little village about an hour away from Talca, which was a big-ish town that took about 4 hours to get to from Santa Cruz via local then regional bus. It was quite a big transport day.  Only we weren’t just staying in San Clamente, but in a remote countryside place where the owners had to pick us up and drive us for another 30 minutes. We really do stay in some random places!

Fortunately it was well worth the trip. We stayed at Campo Suizo, a little BnB type place owned by a Swiss couple.  We were the only people staying and they could not have done more for us to make our stay amazing.  The food was all brilliant and home cooked, the beds were super comfy and it was a beautiful, remote place to stay.

The reason we’d journeyed this far was to head to “Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay” to walk Enrilladrilado, an impressive 8 hour walk up hills and mountains to beautiful vista (tons of photos will be coming shortly). The top is a wide expanse with lots of square stones in the floor, and apparently no one knows whether they are natural or man made.

To get there first involved the owners dropping us at a bus stop to get the first bus of the day.  The bus was really old and packed to the rafters; Laura got to sit on the dashboard and I held on any way I could for an hour long bus journey along a mostly dirt track.  Once we arrived we then had a daunting 8 hour hike ahead of us; we’d arrived at 9 and the penultimate bus was at 5.10 which we were determined to get which meant keeping up a brisk pace.  It was a lot of walking, particularly on the way back as Laura’s shoes have been giving her some grief so she was in a bit of pain. She soldiered through though and you’ll be pleased to know we were back for the bus with 20 minutes to spare!


I’m not sure how but the walks in Chile are even better than in New Zealand. There’s something incredible about the scale of everything, particularly the mountains which are huge and everywhere.  As it’s nowhere near as well organised it means that it’s a lot quieter too, and the quiet makes the views even more enjoyable.

The next day we were unsurprisingly sore, which we took as an opportunity to get one of the big bus journeys out the way as we went from our remote village, down a huge distance south to get to the lake district.  The intention had been to do almost 10 hours of bus journeys (2 local and one regional), however we had to make a change of plans. After arriving in Temuco, the regional hub, we discovered there was only one more bus to where we needed to go and it was already full.  The handy Rough Guide book we’ve been using pointed us to a nearby BnB, which actually ended up being a homestay.  Temuco is a nice city from what we got to see and we had a great dinner so it wasn’t a complete waste.

We got on the first bus the next day to Melipueco, a small town near to Conguillo National Park, and the stunning llaima volcano.  Despite it’s remoteness (1.5 hours direct, 2.5 hours via local bus with Chileans leaning over your seat and playing music from their smartphones out loud) it’s an exceptionally pretty place and we think this is what Switzerland would look like. Lots of wood!  Alas, due to our missed connection the night before we couldn’t go hiking on the first day so we took the opportunity to catch up on admin- school applications and such like.  It was nice to have a relaxed day and we had some lovely home cooked food- there were no menus, the chef just told us what was available.  Our Spanish is still far from perfect, but we understood “salmon” and “lasagne” (they’re the same!) so that’s what we had. Delicious!

Today though, we finally got to go hiking. There’s no public transport to this park so we had to pay someone to drive us out and back again, a 2 hour round trip.  We were hiking “Sierra Nevada”, labelled as a 6 hour hike which we managed to knock out in just over 4, which allowed us to do MORE WALKING!  Joking aside, I’ve really enjoyed both these walks, possibly even more than Laura.  The vistas have been amazing, and on our 2nd walk today we got to go on a volcanic black sand beach which was a treat.

Cheeky volcano in the background

Laura heading to Sierra Nevada

Volcanic Black Sand Beach

We have however made one faux pas; we didn’t bring enough cash and the solitary machine is out of money.  We’ve got enough for accommodation and a bus out of town, but we’re currently eating a dinner of crackers and chocolate spread!  We’ll be making up for it tomorrow by going for steak.


Vina to Vino