Monday, November 23, 2009

Rainy days

With Pucon in the rearview mirror, we continued our trek south with a three hour bus ride to Valdivia, a port city situated where three major rivers meet the ocean. Valdivia was not originally on our list of must-see places, but Pete learned that the brewery for one of his favourite beers was located there, so we added it to the list! Exploration of local drinks is a part of the cultural experience, right? Even if it is so clearly a German brewery (Kunstmann)?

We arrived at 5pm and having skipped lunch, we were desperate for some good eats. We grabbed a cab and headed straight for the brewery (which also had a restaurant), and dove right in with beer sampling. Thankfully the food wasn't far behind (including my hamburger which was about the size of my plate!) as we polished off the first jug rather quickly. Still being exhausted from our marathon hike the day before and coupled with the effects of the beer, we called it an early night.

Up the next morning and we had a wonderful breakfast and conversation with the sweet elderly Chilean lady who served it to us. She was anxious to hear about where we were from and what we did. She coudn't believe our story about having no "casa" left in Canada and urged us to stay and live in Chile. Her name was Nora, and she was ecstatic to learn that we knew people in Canada with the same name as her! Pete and I are always so happy to have these sorts of conversations with the locals along the way so that we can practice our Spanish. She was very patient with us and tried to pick up a few English words along the way as well.

We ventured out to run a few errands - booked our flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas for the 28th, and found a place to purchase some rain pants that are necessary for the excursions we have planned in Patagonia in the coming days. Not only did we find a place to purchase pants, but they made me a custom pair! Within their small shop they had nothing to fit me, but offered to whip some up that afternoon. They ended up being a perfect fit - now we I just have to hope they are good quality.

I wish I had more to say about Valdivia as we quite enjoyed the town - much less touristy then Pucon and with a relaxed coastal feel. However, it rained. And rained. And rained. Our one day to explore the city turned into just a couple hours as that was all we could stand to be out. With our bus not leaving for Puerto Varas until 6pm, we returned to the hostel in mid afternoon and waited it out in the lounge, doing some research and booking hostels for our next few destinations.

Got off the bus in Puerto Varas and made the trek across town to our hostel - it was quite a distance but we're getting pretty used to lugging our big packs around. Also got to see a bit of the town and was instantly very impressed. It is touted as being the "next Pucon" as similar outdoor activities are available here, but does not yet have all the same tourist infrastructure (which is why I think I like it better)! The town has also well-maintained German colonial architecture which gives it a very different ambiance to any other place in Chile we have been.

Unfortunately, we have still been plagued by rain and cold. We've only ventured out enough to get a quick look around town and pick up some food. We made it down to the lake and over to see a large imposing church that overlooks the downtown (and built according to a similar church in Germany). We had hoped to do some sea kayaking ahead of the big trip we have planned next week, but with the wind and rain, the appeal to do it wasn't there. Instead we have been enjoying the warmth of our hostel (which is heated via wood stove!) and continuing planning for the next phases of our trip. We leave tomorrow for a few days on the island of Chiloe where we hope the weather is better as there are many things about this island that we are anxious to explore!

BRRR!!! Lakeside in Puerto Varas

German architecture in Puerto Varas

The Gringo Show

We have been to many places along our travels where we will go a full day without seeing any other tourists besides those in our hostels, making us obviously stand out in a crowd of locals. While we have yet to feel unsafe or threatened at all, there are times where we are a bit uncomfortable because of oppressive stares! That is when either Pete or I will look at the other and say, "Oh, we're on The Gringo Show again." (Gringo - or Gringa, for ladies - being the name given to white tourists in South America).

The other day, as we waited for our bus in Valdivia, we shared a bench with a Chilean couple and their ~2 year old daughter. The daughter ran around the platform a bit and then would come back to her parents, always staring at Pete and I before hiding her shy face in her Mom's lap. Her Dad finally said to her, "Dices hola gringa"...meaning "Say hello gringa" (to me). She looked up at me and said "HOLA DINGA!", and then buried her head again in embarrassment as we all burst out laughing!

Pete and I are now known to each other as...The Dinga Show. Episodes airing daily... =)

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