I spent this weekend in a town called Pucon down in the Lakes District of Chile. It is beautiful even though the weather has been very rainy while I've been here. I decided to give the ol' couchsurfing website (www.couchsurfing.org) a go in South America and it turned out really well. I am staying with some French kids doing an internship at an outdoor outfitter here: Leo, Nico, Marion and Gilligan (nobody knows how to pronounce his name, not even the French people).
Yesterday morning when I arrived it was already raining steadily so after getting some food and trying really hard to find their house without asking, I caved and was directed to the activity agency they live above (I was close, across the street, not bad). I have my own room and free wifi, which is great. Plus they all speak Spanish but a lot of times they take off in French and I just sit and smile to myself, but they are really great.
Since the weather wasn't conducive to much outside, I decided to check out the hotsprings the couch hosts told me are here. Good move. A crowded bus ride resulted in making friends with a Chilean chef and the bus driver and me being at the top of a hill above a river with six natural hot pools beside it. Nice. I practically ran down the hill to submerge myself with at least 50 other Chileans in the wonderfully warm water while the cool rain dripped steadily on us. It was so relaxing, especially after 12 hours on an overnight bus from Santiago, which was actually pretty comfortable, but still a bus. I even made friends with several Chilean women, they are so friendly and love that I can speak Spanish. I love that too.
It has been SO satisfying to finally be able to communicate with people and be able to ask them about their families and hobbies and how they came to the place and what their story is. After so long in countries where I've been oblivious to what's going on around me until it happens it's so so wonderful to understand and be understood. When I was with Tommy in Santiago he said if he could have any super power it would be flight or the ability to speak and understand all languages. Yep, that about covers it, flying and shouting in every language at the clouds and people below me. Dream come true.
Last night got pretty rowdy here, lots of mixed drinks and loud French people but because they drank everything so quickly and because I didn't want to over-do it, I remained in control and was able to maintain conversations in Spanish with French accents. This meant lots of shouting at all hours of the night and me waking up at 7:30am to catch the bus to go hiking feeling very drowsy.
Rousting myself paid off though, I was one of five people I saw all morning on the trail. I followed the muddy path through the drizzle still coming down past a beautiful large lake with campsites abounding and up into the cloud-filled forest of some of the most enormous trees I've seen in a while. Some were even bigger than those in Angkor Wat. Huge and mossy and wonderful.
There were also loud, complex, beautiful bird songs to offset the fuzziness of a rainy day. I finally spotted them, small puffy birds that ran super fast on the ground and sometimes fluttered unaffraid near my head. They remind me of juncos; gray with rust-brown shoulders but these ones have yellow bellies. They were so cute and sang so wonderfully. There were lots of bright colored flowers as well, little stars shining in the damp green woods.
I made it up past a waterfall to three blue-green lakes shrouded in mist with very very clear waters. They took my breath away but I didn't stay long because if I stopped moving the rain chilled me, even with a raincoat on.
So I slipped and sloshed my way back down the trail and caught the bus back to town in time to see the sun come out! Woo hoo! This merited a stroll through the suddenly-lively town filled with ice cream shops, North Face installations, lots of knit products and busquers on the street. Very pleasant and it felt so good to dry out and stop shivering in the sunshine.
Tomorrow I'm catching a bus to Bariloche to try to meet Jorge, a very good friend of the Schencks. I think he might be on a trek at the moment, so I might head to El Bolson, a Lonely Planet-proclaimed hippie's paradise. I guess I could be into that...Plus Daisy who I met in Spain said there's an organic farm to WWOOF there so I've been in touch...that could be very pleasant. Things are looking good and feeling better.
Hot springs YEAH
Done changing? Go right in through the floor!
Catarata Nido del Aguila