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Saturday, June 5, 2010

Back Across the Andes by Tromen

Lago Laçar panorama (click to enlarge)

We had a good rest day in San Martin spending a chunk of the morning going hiking up the hillside from the town, which is nestled in a side arm of Lago Laçar, so you can't really see the lake. The forest is full of yellow and red deciduous trees giving a rich autumnal glow although in June it is well into winter.

The Puma hostel was a great place to stay and like all the other Argentinian hostels had good cooking facilities and the bidet which is ubiquitous in Argentina, as in France, although so far absent in Chile

Yesterday we got up in the pitch dark and made a bee line for the bus station about 7 blocks south and five blocks west in time to catch the San Martin bus company bus to Pucon. Strangely the other competing bus company Igi Llaima also ran a bus out to Pucon at the same time rather than on alternate days as in the Lonely Planet.

Two hours later it was still pitch dark with a starry sky as we reached the border with Chile, but since the border formalities seemed to take at least an hour an a half with slow queues to stamp the passports and everything taken out of the bus and X-rayed on the Chilean side, including seizing all our fruit and vegetables it gave a chance to see the pass in the daylight.

Volcan Lanin

On the left Volcan Lanin reared eerily and gradually became a white snow capped almost perfect cone as the sun rose.

The border was snowy but nowhere nearly as extreme as the previous pass, partly because of the better weather.

We then wound down through alpine valleys with farmlets and small towns to Pucon, a Chilean ski resort on Lago Villarica opposite Volcan Villarica another active snow capped perfect cone pushing its way above the clouds on our first peerless day in Patagonia.

Volcan Villarica over Pucon harbour and Lago Villarica

We are staying alone at "The Tree House" the best option in what is a very expensive if pleasant resort town described as the Queenstown of Chile, which says something for NZ Queenstown's questionable international notoriety.

Two gigantic items in the supermercado, (left) giant pinones (right) giant kelp

I've also managed to internet check in on the internet and have boarding passes with window seats on the Andean side of the planes for both the flight tomorrow back to Valparaiso and the LAN Chile flight next day on to Ecuador.

Today, as I write on a free WiFi link courtesy of Entel, we are sitting in Temuco airport after a misty-rainy drive by bus from Pucon and a slightly risky transit at the Cruce del Aeropuerto a motorway crossing out of Temuco where if you are lucky, (and we were lucky) a lone taxi driver may be waiting in the drizzle to ferry you directly to the airport. At least my Spanish is good enough to negotiate these connections! Boarding in four minutes for a flight back to Santiago airport and a double bus link to Valparaiso.

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