April 25, 2004

Not too chilly in Chile

Sarah and I entered Chile last Monday, April 19th. We had spent close to a month in Argentina and it was hard to see it go, especially the last hostel we were staying at. The last town we stayed at in Argentina was Bariloche, we like it and the hostel so much that we stayed there for 12 days. We had originally planned to go south from Bariloche to El Calafate to see the glacier there. However it was cold enough in Bariloche to convince us that we wouldn't be heading any further south given the clothes we packed (I, for instance, only have one pair of pants and 3 pairs of shorts).

Instead of going to El Calafate we decided that it might be a good idea to do a week's worth of spanish lessons. We did a week (well 5 days technically) at the Britannia school of English (they also offer spanish lessons) at 4 hours a day. We had really good teachers and we were in a group of 3 initially that grew to 4 on the third day. I think that the course really helped me since I knew absolutely no spanish before, and it was a good refresher for sarah who has done 2 weeks of 1 on 1 spanish about 5 years ago. One interesting note is that since we were learing in Argentina we learned the Argentinian accent, which has a different sound for y's and double l's. I kind of like the accent, but now we are in Chile and it is totally different and quite a bit harder to understand (not that I would understand that much in Argentia either, but they do speak a little slower and ennunciate entire words, unlike most Chileans).

Getting to the spanish lessons was a bit of a hassle. La Morada (our hostel) is half way up a small mountain and the only transportation into town is via a 4x4 (the excellent Land Rover Defender), and the first ride into town is around 10:30 am, class starts at 8:30am. So we had to walk down the hill at 10 to 8 in the morning which required getting up at 7am. The walk is 15 minutes and later we realized that we were just missing the 8am bus (we didn't know that there was an actual schedule, our previous experiences with the busses in Bariloche indicated otherwise). So for the last two days we hitched in rather than wait for the bus and be late. The first day we hitched we got picked up right away by a nice guy. The next day it took a bit longer to be picked up, but when somebody did stop it was the same guy as the day before. We used some of our recently learned spanish to try to have a conversation with him and found out that he lived just down the road and he has an Aunt in Quebec.

The school (well one guy at the school, Luis) organized afternoon activities for us. One of these was a trip to a local public elementary school where we bring the class a book and try to converse with them a bit. We went to a grad 6 class and talked about our respective countries and what we thought of argentina and bariloche. It was a pretty interesting experience. All the public school kids have to wear these white smocks that are historical and are supposed to eliminate perceived class differences by having everyone dressed the same way. We had three very un-shy boys sing us a song they were learning much to the embarassment of the rest of the class. And at the end of the class they sang happy birthday in spanish for sarah since it was her birthday a few days earlier.

We spent the last few days in Bariloche lounging at our hostel infront of a nice fire and enjoying cheap but tasty wine. Except for one day where we decided that it would be nice to do a 4 hour horse ride. Sarah was a little nervous because she has had some bad experience with horses but it started off with no problems and Sarah became less nervous. That changed when for some reason , possibly hers but she doesn't really remember, the horse she was on reared its head and head butted her. This opened up a small cut across the bridge of her nose which bled quite a bit for the size of the cut. The guide was worried that Sarah wouldn't want to do the rest of the ride but she said it didn't hurt and after a few minutes the blood stopped gushing. We have some nice pictures but we need to find a good place to upload pictures. That should be soon. There weren't anymore incidents on the ride after that and we had some very nice views of the area around Bariloche although it was really cold and my hands got quite numb.

Most of the time we were in Bariloche it was raining or at least cloudy. The day we left it was a perfectly clear day and made it that much harder to leave, but we did. At the border with Chile they are pretty uptight about not letting in any foreign fruit or veggies or meat, so they X-ray all the bags and have a dog go through the luggage compartment and the passenger area of the bus. And in the immigration office where we get our passports stamped there was one guy to handle a whole bus load of people while there were 3 people handling people leaving Chile, which was not many people while we were there so two of the three were playing starcraft most of the time.

We eventually ended up in Pucon which is on a nice lake and towered over by a large volcano. Most people go to Pucon to climb the valcano, but you can only climb it with a tour and they only let tours start if the weather is nice. When we arrived we couldn't even see the volcano. People at our hostal kicked around for 3 days waiting for a nice day to climb it. Of course the nice day was the day we left, but we weren't planing on climbing the volcano anyways so it wasn't a big deal.

We had an 11 hour bus ride from Pucon to Santiago which was pretty painless. A crying baby for the first couple of hours on and off but the ipod drowned out that noise pretty effectively. There were qutie a few impressive looking volcanoes on the way out of Pucon but after these went away the scenery wasn't very exciting and we slept quite a bit. Upon arrival in Santiago we got on the subway and went to the HI in town. It is pretty expensive compared to other hostels we have stayed in and doesn't even include breakfast or have a kitchen we can use. We have been in Santiago for two days now and are leaving tomorrow for La Serena and eventually San Pedro de Atacama in the desert up north. Santiago is pretty nice as far as big cities go but nothing compared to Buenos Aires or Rio and quite a bit more expensive. We are looking forward to seeing the Pacific again tomorrow after being away from it for the last 2.5 months.

Well this is probably getting a little long for Dave again so I'll leave it at that.

Posted by bforsyth at April 25, 2004 06:18 PM

Good to hear from you guys finally! I have a teeny weeny violin for Dave if he wants it.:) All is sweet here. Hi to Sarah.

Love Mom

Posted by: Mom at April 25, 2004 09:38 PM

obviously ben didnt inherit word economy from his mother!

Posted by: davepop at April 26, 2004 08:08 PM

Just catching up on your logs and photos - nice work!

I sympathize with your reluctance to leave Patagonia, it seems to have that effect on everyone who passes through.

If you're thinking about more Spanish lessons, you're heading into the right countries. The Andean countries - Peru, Ecuador and Colombia - speak among the clearest, most standard Spanish in the world (At least inland. For some reason, everywhere in S.Am language seems to become lazier and more regionalized on the coast).

Have a blast in Peru. You'll meet some great locals and a ton of tourists, but do keep an eye out. Nearly all the trouble I had down there was in Peru - small stuff mostly - but agree on prices first, count your change, watch out for counterfeit (coins more than bills) and keep an eye on your gear. That said, have fun!

Posted by: David Huska at May 1, 2004 11:28 AM