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Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Romancing the Stone....

I made my way from Santiago to Pucon, Chile in an overnight bus two days ago.
Yes, you read correctly, an overnight BUS.

I asked my concierge at the Santiago hotel to book me an overnight TRAIN with a sleeping car and he booked a bus. So, I bit the bullet and went. Again, the public transportation here in Chile is fantastic.
Basically, it's a double-decker bus with seats that flatten out into beds. Black out shades, snacks, breakfast for like $50! 12 hour trip. I'm going to try to see if I can do the same thing from the south of Argentina to Buenos Aires, it's so much less hassle than getting to the airport, checking bags, going thru immigration, sitting waiting for the flights, etc... I'm now a converted busser.

Arrived in Pucon, a ski town here in the south of Chile yesterday morning at 9:30 AM. It´s pouring here, day two of it, no less. But the town has so much charm, even in torrential downpour, that I can't help but adore it and want to make every moment count. My hotel fronts the Plaza and backs Lake Villaricca. The best way that I can explain Pucon is that it's like Interlachen, Switzerland. Set in the mountains, surrounded by lakes, with tons of outdoor activities. I just can't help but look around here, craning my neck constantly for a better view of the snow-capped mountains and the blue of the lakes.

Deciding NOT to waste time, I went rafting yesterday. Yes, I know, I know. We're all taught in the States that thunderstorms and being outside in them equals sudden death by lightning, that's not the consensus here in Chile, so I went with it, and took a Class IV rafting trip down the Trancuro River with two guys from Chicago. My guides Jorge and Christian (the rescue kayaker) were skeptical of how successful a trip it would be, considering the rain, but took us anyway.
I had a blast! The rapids were fantastic and enormous. We actually had to walk the raft down the river for a couple of the rapids because they were too strong and the current would've toppled us. But, what an exhilirating feeling. Better than sitting in a hotel, waiting for Mother Nature to give it a rest.

Of course, the day couldn't be without incident. During the 'walking the raft' segment of time, we (me, Mark and Sam, the Chicago boys) had to walk thru the jungle to get the end of the rapid. In our wetsuits and booties, torrential downpours, it was a bit slippery, so I'm not sure what exactly possessed to take a shortcut from one riverbank to the other by climbing through a huge tree. YEAH, I'm always full of bright ideas. Well.....serves me right. I fell out of a tree while going across and
I´m sore as shit. Like full on "Romancing the Stone (thank you Karen) jungle acrobatics. Shimmying out to the edge of the very strong, thick branch. Shimmy, shimmy, shimmy. Moving my ass right on down. As I got above two huge rocks where I had planned in putting my feet down and jumping across to the next riverbank, the slick branch betrayed me, ungripping my ass, and letting me plummet, footing not yet quite right on the rocks, down. Flipping while hitting the fissure between the two rocks. My helmet (THANK GOD) bounced off one rock, then the other, while my hips flew straight up in the air. A complete an utter wipe out. I don´t black and blue easily, and I am like blackened on elbow, hips and knees. I literally fell out of a tree!!! Thank god the raft trip photographer didn't get THAT shot. Well, kinda funny if he did.

Anyway, I´m fine but just kicked around today, no rainy outdoor activities for me. Hopefully, the weather will clear tomorrow, there's an active volcano here that is supposed to be an amazing hike, with hot springs to ease the pain afterwards. The weather report for tomorrow is looking better. But, the south of Chile, bruises and all, is wonderful. I absolutely love it.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone... Mind you, I've yet to see turkey on a menu anywhere. Guinea pigs, yes (it's a delicacy in South America). Turkey, no. So, I'm very jealous of you all....

More soon.


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