Reading Cortes at the Bottom of a Volcano

My university is currently in indefinite paro, meaning that the students are striking, the Cabiñeros are water cannoning the campus and there is no class for the time being. My teachers are sending out readings via the web, and assignments are still due (also via the web). But all this can be done remotely. Thus four friends and I decided to take a little four-day trip outside the city to Pucón, the city below the volcano. Who says you can’t read Cortes at the bottom of a volcano instead of in a library in Santiago?

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Sunset at the Black Sand Beaches of Pucon

Pucón is a popular summer destination down south in the Region of Lakes. It’s got lakes (obviously), mountains, national parks, and the largest volcano in Chile. Because we decided to go in the winter, it was mostly deserted, but significantly cheaper. The streets are lined with artisanal shops, and a very Park City feel with stone and wood style buildings. You can walk from one end of town to the other in under an hour; it’s not about the city, it’s about the nature that surrounds it.

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Bike Riding Scenery; Yes I’m wearing a fanny pack, it came with the bike

The first day we rented bikes and rode 40 kilometers into sacred Mapuche land. We road through farmlands over tree encased dirt roads. The landscape changed around every bend from farm, to river, to veritable cliff, and there was nothing but the sound of running water. We made it to the Ojos de Caudillo, a series of waterfalls at the center of the land, that are so clear blue that you can see to the bottom of the lake that they run into.

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Ojos de Cadillo

The second day we went canyoning, a sport I’d never heard of before reaching Pucon. Canyoning is basically walking through a canyon with a twist: you hike through the river that formed the canyon. They suited us up with two wetsuits on account of the frigid water (remember it’s winter here) and harnesses for repelling. We hiked into the wilderness, repelled down three waterfalls and trekked through a river. The wilderness was completely different from what we’d biked through. It was a jungle complete with massive palm fronds, tropical trees, and canyon faces covered in moss. It looked similar to something out of Peter Jackson’s King Kong (which only comes to mind because someone was watching it dubbed in my hostel the other day…Adrien Brody speaking Spanish …). We couldn’t carry cameras in because of all the water, but I found some pictures on line so you could get a sense of what it looked like. It was foggy most of the day, but at one point the sun broke through the clouds and hit the trees around us. The whole valley looked like it was sparkling as the sunlight bounced off the wet trees.

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Images from the internet, though this is roughly what it looked like

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Sights from the Trekking

Our last adventure in Pucon was a trekking experience. We went to Cañi, a national park just outside of Pucon, to hike to a lake at the top of a mountain. The trek was much more difficult then originally imagined (straight uphill with almost no flat breaks) but the landscape was so beautiful you could almost forget the effort. This part of the lake region looked more like a forest (marking three different climates in three days). We met four other trekkers who lived in Chile on our way up: two brothers, one French woman, and her Mexican husband. They hiked with us for the duration of trail. When one of the brothers noticed that I was wearing boots not meant for serious trekking, he gave me his hiking poles. They insisted on sharing their water and food with us as well, and stopped regularly to wait for slower members of our group to catch up as if we were all old friends who’d started the hike together.

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Various Views from the top of the Hike

This is my favorite part of travel so far in Chile: no one is really a stranger. Everyone I’ve met while hiking, or in hostels, or wherever has taken me in a treated me like a friend. They’ve given me hiking poles and food and shared stories with me. They have just been kind to be kind, friendly to make friends. It’s a basic kind of trust and compassion that I’m not used to (probably because I’m from a very detached big city) but really love when I find it.

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Two Of our Trekking Buddies

So though I did not get through as much of Cortes as I would have (should have) liked to, I feel I learned something better then what he had to say.

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