Pucon was the next place on our list as it was highly recommended by Meshi in Paraty. There isn’t much information online about the buses crossing the boarder into Chile so we decided to head to Osorno (a transport hub in Chile) to try and catch a connecting bus to Pucon.
Eric joined us for the trip as he was continuing on to Valparaiso. As we arrived at the bus terminal the bus was just ready to leave. We didn’t have enough cash with us so Eric kindly lent us the difference. Crossing the boarder was slow but smooth enough. We were amazed how much they used the dogs to sniff out any prohibited products. All the bags were taken off the bus and placed on a surface. The dogs then ran up and down the bags stopping every now and then. When they stopped the owner of the bag was called over while it was searched. It was quite daunting and almost like a game show.
We had lunch in Osorno before catching our bus to Pucon. There are two buses a day and we were luckily enough to catch the afternoon one. About two hours into the journey the bus came to a stop as there were lots of protesters in the road. We tried to work out what they were protesting about but it was unclear due to our limited Spanish. Eventually the police arrived and cleared the protesters by spraying tear gas. The drive of the bus quickly turned off the air on and shut all the vents above the seats. It was quite scary but we were soon able to pass. We arrived at Pucon at 11pm and headed straight to sleep as we had booked a volcano hike for the next day which meant a 5am start!
Luckily we were in a empty dorm so could sort the stuff we needed for the hike without waking anyone up.
We were picked up in a van and headed to the volcano. Due to the van breaking down a couple of times we were quite behind the other groups so we got in all our gear quickly and headed to the start.
The first obstacle was a ski chair lift. We waited for the chair to come round and it scooped us up. Once we were on the lift we had a chance to take a moment to watch the sunrise and the amazing landscape.
The volcano is pretty steep and we had to zig zag across to enable us to walk up it. It was pretty dusty as we were walking on volcanic stone from the last eruption in 2014. Our guide told us that the eruption was at night and it the colour of the orange lava was so beautiful.
At the first stop we stuffed our faces with sandwiches and the group broke off into smaller groups. Our guide was called Avi and she helped us keep a steady pace.
We all strapped on our crampons and were shown how to use the ice picks in case we slipped on the ice (this would come in very handy for me). The crampons are great and the spikes really help you walk on the snow. It was great fun walking on the snow but my legs had started killing and we were only 3 hours in to the 6 hour hike!
2 hours later we had reached the final rest point before seeing the top of the volcano. We had to put on gas masks as the gas is very strong at the top. When we reached the summit we both glanced at each other, the look of, I can’t breath!! After a little while we got used to the gas masks although it still smelt really bad!
We had to walk a little and a combination of laughing and tired legs meant I kept slipping over which made me laugh even more but put the ice pick manoeuvre into good use.
That evening we decided to try and make vegan bean burgers with Amy’s tips. They worked out quite well and our new Chilean friends were so intrigued by what we were making. We spent a few nights with Nicole & Nicolas who were on holiday from Santiago and Pati who worked in the hostel. We stayed up late talking with a new friends which was lovely.
As we reached the bus station Nathan was checking if we had everything and noticed that the immigration slips were missing from the money belt. I had cleared out the money belt earlier in the day and had thrown them away!! I sprinted back to the hostel, with the help of Pati we rummaged through the rubbish and found the tiny slips of paper! I thanked her and sprinted back to the bus station. 2 minutes to spare!!
We arrived at 6am to a very smoggy Santiago. Before venturing out we dropped our bags off in the luggage area and then headed to Starbucks for the free wifi, tea and a croissant. We had decided to spend a day in Santiago as there was a cheap flight that evening to Calama. This would put us in the right location to see the salt flats. We walked around the city towards a popular local veggie restaurant. We arrived just after they opened and managed to get a seat. An old man kept speaking to Nathan is Spanish after Nathan had pointed to something on the menu for him and said “muy bueno”. The waiter found this quiet funny. We had a great lunch and as we left we saw it had a massive queue. Perfect timing!
We headed to the history museum (Museo Histórico Nacional). It started out really interesting but then began to focus on Spanish leaders which is where it lost us but it was nice to cool down with the air-con.
We then went to the local park and came across some unusual characters. We stood and watched the chess players for a while In the park is the natural history museum which was full of taxidermy animals – they even had two stations for live taxidermy!
After a busy day in the city following a night bus we really wanted to sleep, so had a look online for a hotel near the airport. We found a great deal so collected our bags before catching the local bus to the airport. Once we were at the airport the hotel provided a free shuttle to the hotel which was perfect. We ate dinner then headed straight to bed as we had to catch the shuttle at 4am!
Until the next time…