Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Traveling to the South

Surprise, surprise, I’m a bit behind on my blog. I’ve had a ton of adventures and, as it always seems to happen, a ton of homework recently. Consequently, I got a bit behind and am now playing catch up!

My last huge adventure was a trip to a town in the south of Chile called Pucón. A friend from the program and I left on an overnight bus Thursday the 16th arriving the morning of the 17th (my birthday). We spent an extended weekend, due to a holiday weekend, and left Pucón on another overnight bus on Monday the 20th.

Pucón is a pretty touristy little town in the south of Chile, known for its volcano, lakes, and nature. Most people come to Pucón to summit one of the volcanoes in the region. Luckily, that was not on our list, as the weather turned too bad to summit after our first day there. As we went in the off-season, it was becoming too cold or wet to do many of the summer activities offered, and the winter activities were not yet open. We still managed to make the most of our time and have a blast.

We arrived on my birthday and what turned out to be the most beautiful day of our trip. We dropped our stuff out at the hostel and then decided to treat ourselves to breakfast. We had coffees and delicious muffins at an extremely overpriced cafe and then set out exploring the town.

We ended up at an outlook of one of the inlets of the lake. The water was so clear and blue it was unbelievable. The volcano overlooked the inlet and was absolutely picturesque. I also happen to really like lakes and greenspaces, so I was absolutely in heaven.

After our wanderings, we headed back to our hostel to see if our room was ready yet. We got a quick tour and then the run down of the plethora of activities we could still do in the off-season. We settled on horseback riding for the day.

Horseback riding turned out to be much more of an adventure than either of us anticipated. My friend had never been on a horse and this was only my second time, so we were already really excited. We pulled up to the site and were informed that we were on a Mapuche reservation and would receive our tour from a Mapuche guide. We’re both taking a Mapuche culture and language class and the Mapuche conflict in Chile is an issue that really fascinates me, so we were both thrilled with this unanticipated setting.

Our guide was really interesting. He told us a lot about his worldview and beliefs, some of which were addressed in our class today, and taught me some new words. My horse, on the other hand, was not so great. We were riding the horses up a small mountain, and my horse wanted no part of it. At the beginning of the ride, I was given a branch and quickly discovered why. We began our ride by crossing a small river. Well, most of us. My horse and I stopped in the middle of the river to hydrate. We also made later stops to snack, rest, peruse, etc. I didn’t tell the horse to make any of these stops, and couldn’t get him to move after. We spent most of the ride being followed by one of our guide’s sons who would hit the horse’s flanks when he wasn’t moving fast enough, which would encourage him to take off galloping. We eventually did make it to the top of the mountain. It just took awhile and quite a bit of encouragement.

The stubborn horse was absolutely justified by the view from the mountain. We were able to see the entire valley and the lakes. It was breathtaking.  We spent some time appreciating the view and then our guide talked to us about some of his experiences before we retrieved our horses and headed back down the mountain.

At the end of our ride, we were greeted by our guide’s mother and a traditional Mapuche meal. We had sopaipillas, bread, cheese and meat empanadas, some sort of fried bean and meat concoction, and a cold wheat bread. It was absolutely delicious and an incredible way to end the experience.

When we got back, we went out to dinner to celebrate my birthday. We found a restaurant with a great deal on their tourist menu and I had my first legal drink. After dinner, we bought a cake and headed back to the hostel to eat cake and chat with other people in our hostel before heading to bed.

The next morning, we woke up bright and early to go hiking in Parque Nacional Huerquehue. It was so cold when we got there, but we heated up quickly. The trail was a switchback trail up a mountain, but our goal was to see some of the famous lakes of the region and we (at least I) weren’t leaving until we’d seen them. We’re both from Indiana, which is extremely flat, so we weren’t entirely prepared for what we were up against, but it was an incredible hike. I honestly couldn’t believe how beautiful the area was, and was really reminded of Nothern Michigan or Washington state for most of the hike. We met our goal and arrived at the lakes for lunch. There were three lakes; Lago Chico, Lago Toro, and Lago Verde. We saw all three, ate our lunch, and then started our descent. When we got back to our hostel, we made dinner and curled up next to the wood burning stove, content to heat up after a long day in the cold.

The next day, it started drizzling, so we decided to postpone our outdoor plans for the day in hopes of better weather. We spent the day exploring Pucón. We took more pictures at the outlook, wandered the town, found numerous artesian markets, and stopped for some of the pastries the region is famous for. It was a nice, relaxed day.

That evening, we went on a hot springs tour. Aside from having a volcano, the region also has numerous hot springs, created by guess what? magma. My friend wanted to go on a night tour so we could see the stars, but as it had been drizzling, that really didn’t happen. I get cold really easily and was really worried about spending my night freezing outside, but it was a great night. I spent the entire time in one pool and just relaxed completely. When it was time to go, I hopped out and changed before my body could realize it was cold. It was a really relaxing way to spend the evening.

Our last day in Pucón, I’m surprised my friend didn’t kill me. I had wanted to go on a bike ride to see the Ojos de Caburga, a series of waterfalls, since we arrived. There was a prediction of rain in the afternoon, so we decided to head out in the morning and hopefully beat the rain. That most definitely didn’t happen. About half an hour into our bike ride, it started raining and didn’t let up. On the way to the waterfall it wasn’t awful, because we were taking a back road which, while hilly, was rather scenic. We got a bit muddy, but the road was decently shaded. We showed up at the waterfall soaking and cold, but determined to see what we’d biked through the rain and mud to get to.

The Ojos were gorgeous. The water was a blue that I have rarely before seen, and they were tucked into a forest in a way that was rather difficult to reach. They were secluded and wild, and absolutely astounding. We marveled for as long as our wet, cold bodies could stand before heading back.

The ride back to Pucón was absolutely miserable. Our route sent us on a scenic “ida” and used the highway to return. We had no idea how far we’d gone, and when we turned onto the highway, we saw the sign that said “Pucón 19 km.” Then the rain picked up. At one point, I was biking with the rain blowing directly in my face and looked down to notice my pants foaming at the knees. That’s right. My pants were so wet and the motion of cycling was irritating them enough that the detergent still in them was foaming. I was effectively washing my pants on my bike.

We arrived in Pucón safely but drenched. We dropped our bikes off, went back to our hostel, changed, and then calculated our ride.

We biked just over 40 km. in the pouring rain. A marathon is 42 km.

I was pretty pleased with our effort.

After that ride, we got dinner, dried our clothes as best as we could, and crashed until our bus came.

All in all, it was a full, exhausting, and ridiculously fun weekend. I’d highly recommend Pucón, except maybe not in the rain.

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