Friday, February 10

If you want to go to Chile

A lot of people have been asking me about planning specifics regarding Chile. First of all, I have to put out a huge thanks to the G-man for doing the research and putting in the leg work for our vacation. I didn't do a darn thing before we left beyond saying, "Yeah, that sounds good." Thanks, G!

That being said, here's a list of recommendations, information I wish I knew for our trip, and other random things:

  • We weren't originally planning on heading to the Lake District, but I'm so glad we went! This is where we rappelled down waterfalls and hiked up the live Volcano Villarrica. I would definitely recommend both these activities, which we booked through Sol y Nieve in Pucon. You don't have to book anything in advance; you can just find them once you get to town and make arrangements on the spot.
  • Waterfall rappelling is called "canyoning." If you speak Spanish, you can read more about it here.
  • If you do decide to go canyoning (which is highly recommended since all of us counted this as one of our favorite days), just wear a bathing suit under your clothes; they will provide the wet suits. You should probably also wear sneakers, possibly with socks. Not only will your shoes get wet from the waterfalls, you will also find yourself standing in and wading through ankle-deep water. Cold water. I mean CoOold! My feet weren't too bad because I wore my hiking boots with socks. Though I stayed relatively warm, I wouldn't recommend wearing hiking boots if you care at all about using them after this activity. However, if the only other option you brought is a pair of flip flops, then I guess you have no choice.
  • If your hiking boots somehow get soaked, because of canyoning or some other crazy adventure, DO NOT TRY TO DRY THEM QUICKLY BY PLACING THEM IN DIRECT SUN. Also, DO NOT CONTINUE THE FAST-DRYING IN THE REAR WINDOW OF YOUR HOT RENTAL CAR. Experienced hikers are shaking their heads and clicking their tongues as they're reading this. Novices, like me, won't think about the fact that when leather is dried in a rush, it'll shrink. Boots will no longer fit. Sometimes the leather will tear itself away from the rubber sole, and the shoe will end up a complete mess. And then when you read the shoe instructions later, you'll realize you made a common beginner's mistake. Oops.
  • If you hike the Volcano Villarrica, bring food and water! It's a four-hour trek up, and you will get hungry. Going down is much easier. You get to sit and slide down on your arse. Fun! They'll provide waterproof pants; just check for holes. Both big T and lil t ended up carrying hunks o snow in their pants like diapers.
  • We stayed at the Landhaus San Sebastian in Pucon. It's not exactly near the center of town, but it's a quaint bed and breakfast for only $60/night. It's run by an adorable family, and their restaurant serves great German meals. You will probably want to rent a car to get around. Visit the hot springs nearby.
  • For the Patagonia part of our trip, we used Antares. They organized our hostels, and food was also provided. Unlike the volcano hike, you will not need to bring any additional snacks. Each day will include three huge meals.
  • The Antares site has a good list of useful tips. You have to be prepared for all kinds of weather, all in a matter of hours. A typical day started off a tad chilly. We quickly got hot as we started our trek, so the fleece jackets and vests would eventually come off. Then it would start raining, so we had to dig up our waterproof shells and pants. Most lookout points were pretty high up, so they were often very cold. That's when we would swap our hats for wool beanies, and we even put on our fleece gloves. Oh, and sunblock and lip balm are a must. I'm usually obsessive about sunblock; and with the ozone problems here, we were appling SPF 45 and even 70+! Very necessary.
  • Breaking in those hiking boots is a good idea because the path isn't easy. You'll find yourself practically rock climbing at certain times. One day we trekked 16 miles in 9 hours. If you end up needing to buy new boots just before your hike - ahem - then bring sports tape and moleskin donuts for the blisters which will probably form. If you are a woman who is still suffering from said blisters a week after returning home, wear mules to work.
  • Our trip to Chile was even more amazing than I imagined. The hikes were hard, but they were definitely doable. (I might spend a little more time on the stairmaster if I go again.) Everyone should visit at some point. Feel free to ping me with questions.
  • Oh, and drink carmenere! It's a fabulous, easy to drink Chilean red wine. But before you try to lug back a whole case, do your research first. This Casillero Del Diablo, a good budget find, is available in the States. Your boyfriend might not be so happy to hear that he carried all those heavy bottles through the international terminals of various airports for nothing. Whoops.

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