Monday, February 21, 2011
Land of glacial lakes and live volcanoes
Now that we're back on-line, I'm going to try to catch everyone up on our travels through the Lake District in the south of Chile (please excuse the long summary).
Welcome to the view in Puerto Varas! Beautiful..with Volcán Orsno in the background. We really enjoyed our time there. We experienced the famed rain of the south and it wasn't a drizzle. Wow! It poured for an entire day on two separate occasions and we got some welcome down/Kindle time.
Our bus ride to the Cochamó Valley took us by a magnificent fjord. So cool! At the valley we went on a 5 hour horse-back riding trip. It was really exciting for some of our family (the younger contingent)..."it was awesome" GH and "who knew a horse could act so much like a panda" TW, referring to his horses penchant for bamboo along the trail. For others the scenery was awesome but the horse-back riding was, well ... "4 hours too long" was the exact quote.
Finally, as we stayed a week in a backpacker's hostal, we made some great new friends. We had such fun sharing dinners with folks from Holland, Switzerland, Poland, Seattle and Chile. One night we traded favorite YouTube videos. Our friend Elmer, a teacher from Amsterdam, introduced us to "Where the Hell is... Matt", which inspired his 2nd grade class to make "where the hell is klas U". At first, I thought it was Europeans making fun of US goofiness, but not so - just a very fun video.
From Puerto Varas, we went north a couple of hours to Pucon. The small tourist town sits at the bottom of an active volcano - Volcan Villarica. Kind of crazy!
There, we rented a car and drove up through the mountains to a beautiful national park and had an incredible 14 kilometer hike up into the mountains to some glacial lakes. Dan and I were so impressed that the kids made it!!! It was a really strenuous hike (I'm still a bit sore 3 days later).
After our great hike, we braved the unpaved road again and went over to some of the natural hot springs in the area and soaked! Heaven. Here you can see a picture of one of the hot springs -there were 6 springs - all at different temperatures, all in a row, right next to a river. Nothing like soaking in the hottest one and then taking a cold shower! Almost like a northern MN winter sauna/frozen lake jump!
If it weren't for the relatively isolated location and the soon to be very rainy climate - we would have loved to live in the south. But after a painful 11 hour - no pit stops-and broken- bathroom- bus ride- we made it back to Santiago on Saturday. Sunday we left for Viña - again to see if we can find a neighborhood that suits us. We found different things that we liked about Valpo, Viña and La Serena- so we're taking this next week to try to see if we can figure out where to settle.
We're all well. Its been fun watching the kids gain confidence in Spanish, but I think it will really take off when they get in school. I'm so proud of their traveling so well thus far. We've been living out of small suitcases for five weeks now and they've managed well despite odd schedules, long bus rides, and lots of pulling wheely backpacks along never-ending bumpy walks.
We've also been loving the Kindles - perhaps our best pre-trip purchase. The kids have both discovered series (thanks Auntie Siobhan) that has them eating up chapter books as soon as they can download them. A public library would be nice, but its all for a good cause. The kids have also discovered the joys of Scrabble on their Kindles too!
Dan has been doing a great job of really working hard despite us vacationers recounting our adventures every day. He took off some days so he could join us on the trip south the last two weeks and that was great. And I'm doing well. Busy coordinating our trip logistics wherever we are and wherever we've been heading next, making connections with Chilean contacts, searching out laundry facilities, grocery stores and the likes. Feeling very fortunate (and perhaps a bit pooped) just about now.
Sorry for droning on. I'll try to get some other family members to post soon too.