Patagonia. From everything I have read, its this awe inspiring remote wilderness that every person who visits says it is worth every bit of effort to get to. Full of jagged mountains, vast pampas grasslands, and icy glaciers so blue its unreal. So of coarse that is where Shane and I wanted to visit the most on our journey through Chile. The every bit of effort part was no joke though. We took an 8 hour overnight bus from Pelequen (the farm that was already 2 hours south of Santiago) to Pucon which is the "center of south Chile". Its not considered Patagonia yet but is a good stopover point for getting down there and is known for its natural beauty in its own right. Even with being wore out from the bus ride we were both loving the town as we wandered around waiting for our check in time. It was like a quaint mountain town full of tiny log cabins complete with main street that had cozy little restaurants and shops. Best part, it was surrounded by mountains, not in the mountains so there were nice level streets without the hike and you still got the beautiful view! The leaves were at the end of the season and the air was brisk as we walked around town under an overcast sky. We stumbled upon the lake, popular across Chile as THE summer getaway. Pucon is also known for its Skiing (unfortunately for Shane ski season doesn't really start until late June/early July). Most of our time there was spent eating at delicious restaurants and chocolaterias then wandering the town and parks.
I practiced saying no (thank goodness) our second day there when Shane decided to climb the near by Villarrica Volcano which is one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. He started the trek at 6:30 in the morning while I was still cozy in bed. It was an 8 hour hike with a 5,200 foot altitude change, reaching 9,300 feet at the summit. The guide had to instruct them on proper ice ax technique (in case he started sliding down the mountain) and had to chip footholds in the ice and snow for them as they climbed with crampons. The windchill with the 25 mph winds was 5 degrees, no wonder Shane's camel back water froze in the straw! When he walked in the door that afternoon he was wore out (for once!!!) but elated with a red cheeked grin from ear to ear. The views were stunning and what an accomplishment! We decided to something a little slower paced next so we went to Geometrica thermal hot springs. They had 17 small pools at varying temperatures that meandered up a crevice in the mountain connected by a board walk with changing rooms at each area. There was a river winding through which echoed off the moss covered walls making it sound like some CD you play to fall asleep. It was set up so that the pools were far enough apart that with the steam in the air it seemed like you were the only one there. It was freezing getting dressed but as soon as you hit the pool it was all worth it. At one point it started to snow and we watched as the flakes melted when they got low enough in the steam. Now that I can say yes to!
Our goal though was to get to Patagonia so onward it was. I had done a ton of research prior to the trip and decided on a three day ferry ride in the Patagonian fjords to reach Puerto Natales, the gateway to the famous Torres Del Paine. There we would spend time hiking to majestic overlooks and hopefully even spot a puma. Sounds great right? Well apparently the website failed to mention the ferry only runs 5 months out of the year! Alternative routes involved expensive plane flights and long bus rides which we didn't really have the motivation, time, or money to do. We finally stumbled upon Huilo Huilo, just two hours drive south of Pucon. It is "northern" Patagonia and is characterized as temperate rain forest which just so happens to be Shane and I's favorite climate. The for profit nature reserve has received awards and international recognition for its sustainable construction and has multiple restoration initiatives going including the successful reintroduction of the Huemul deer (there are fewer of these deer left in the wild than giant pandas). We found out later that hardly any non Chilean tourists make it to this area, most international tourists hit the big three - San Pedro De Atacama, Easter Island, and Torres Del Paine. Boy are they missing out! The lush towering forests, awesome waterfalls, and prime fall colors made for a beautiful four days. Even with the near constant mist/drizzle the crisp air was still comfortable for hikes (if the area goes more than seven days without rain many of the plants start to die off). It was perfection that is hard to put into words. When you find a place or environment that just hits home for you. Its like my yoga zen feeling just walking in the woods. The fact that we didn't end up making it to Torres Del Paine almost seems like fate, since it lead us here. Its funny how often that happens. We can plan and plan but more often than not things don't work out exactly how we expect. More often than not it seems (if you don't fight it), it work out for the better.