“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Last week a bunch of gap students and I took a trip south to Pucón! Before we left I researched a little bit about the place and found it was known for having of different activities such as whitewater rafting, caving, zip lining, hot springs and more- activities that I had never done before! I love trying new things, especially activities that involve being outside and especially, especially activities that involve water! So I knew I was going to love this trip!
These new activities brought up old memories and experiences that are near and dear to my heart. It was weird how these completely new experiences somehow felt so comfortable….
Travel frequently involves unanticipated situations and this trip was no different; the unexpectedness just happened to come VERY early on in the trip.
Maggie, Tommy, Anna and I arrived at the Viña bus station at 8:45pm for our 9:00pm overnight bus, but when we got there, there were two things missing. Andrew…and all of our bus tickets. We called Andrew who actually was at Valparaíso bus station. So after we laughed, cried and freaked out all at the same time we pulled ourselves together, got our luggage and sprinted to the metro, took the metro to Valparaíso then sprinted to the bus station. We got really lucky because the bus ended up leaving 20 minutes late so we were able to catch the bus right in time. But it was a little more excitement then we wanted.
After a 10 hour bus ride overnight we arrived in the beautiful town of Pucón! We got off the bus, found our hostel, checked in, and decided to go out and explore the town! It was raining on and off so we dashed in and out of stores and when there was a break in the rain we walked around admiring the beautiful landscape of the mountains covered in clouds. I could feel myself glowing because the area reminded me of my favorite place in the world, Lake George. Every year my family goes camping in upstate New York on this beautiful lake, surrounded by the Adirondack Mountains, with campsites only accessible by boat. Lake George is such a special place to me so being able to make that connection was comforting.
The group minus Maggie, plus an adorable dog that we met
We found an amazing organic foods restaurant where we had lunch. I haven’t found organic restaurants in Viña and I really don’t go out to eat much so this was an absolute treat! I had an amazing lemonade, mint, ginger juice. When I tasted the juice I immediately thought of this juice my mom and I get at a juice bar in Maryland. I also ordered something that I had been craving, a nice big salad. Chileans really aren’t into just having a big salad for a meal. It was an absolutely delicious meal and we all left feeling very happy and content!
After lunch we headed back to the hostel. Our hostel was perfect because not only were they really informative about activities but any time we wanted to book something we would just tell one of the workers at the hostel and they easily would call up a service for us.
That afternoon we decided to go horseback riding. A van picked us up from our hostel and we drove about 20 minutes. When we arrived we got matched up with our horses, (mine was named Canela aka Cinnamon) and then started our trek up the windy roads of rural Pucón.
We eventually arrived to a path in the forest and while we let the horses rest, one of our guides, Rafael, took us down this steep, slippery, path to a beautiful waterfall! Like Luis from San Pedro, Rafael has had a lot of life experience. As we were walking up from the waterfall he was telling us about his experience in 1971 when the volcano Villarica erupted. He remembers his dad waking him and his eight siblings up in the middle of the night and running as fast as he could out of the house away from the lava. Pretty intense! I love meeting and talking to new people so it was really interesting talking to him and learning a little bit about his life.
When we got back to the hostel we had about an hour to relax before another van picked us up and took us to the hot springs. One of the workers at the hostel told us the best time to go to the hot springs is at night so you can relax in the springs while enjoying a gorgeous view of the stars and she was totally right. There were lots of choices because each bath had a different temperature but because it was freezing outside so they all felt really warm and delicious. It’s hard to compare natural hot springs to a hot tub but this experience brought me back to my elementary and middle school days when my friend’s and I would spend hours hanging out in my friends backyard running from her pool to her hot tub or in the winter lying down in the snow and then jumping in the hot tub as fast as we could… good times. I had never been to any natural hot springs before it was really wonderful and healing, and I can definitely say I want to go back…very soon!
The next morning we took our time waking up and decided we all wanted to go whitewater rafting. It was rainy again so we were a little hesitant at first but we all agreed we didn’t want the weather to stop us. We got picked up from our hostel and drove to a place to get wetsuits and shoes. This was my second time in a wetsuit, my first being 2 weeks ago when I went surfing for the first time with my volunteer program Adapta. Even though getting the suit on is a bit of a process it’s pretty cool being able to swim in freezing cold water. Anything that allows me to spend more time in the water I like! We then drove to the Liucura River, which is where we would start our rafting adventure, and then move into the Trancura River. Rafting was really cold but so fun! I had never gone rafting before but it did, however, remind me of the times my dad and I would take our canoe out in the spring and summer and paddle down the Potomac River. Love and miss that good old father/daughter time.
The sun wasn’t out so it was very very cold but there was something so refreshing about floating down the river and inhaling the crisp air while looking up and being surrounded by mountains whose peaks were covered in a light blanket of clouds. When there was a break in the rapids one of guides turned to us and said “okay who wants to jump in?” At first we all looked at him like he was crazy but the next thing I knew Andrew was doing a backflip off the raft into the water. In that moment I thought “why not?” so there I was jumping off the raft too! It was freezing cold but exhilarating so definitely worth it. All in all rafting was thrilling and the fact that our guide was yelling out the different commands at us in Spanish just added a whole other level of enjoyment!
The next day was another day filled with firsts! We went to the Parque Nacional Villarrica, where the big volcano, Villarrica, is located. We saw some pretty incredible views of the volcano but also of the lakes surrounding the towns of Villarica and Pucón, before meeting up with our guide, Soledad, to go caving aka spelunking. I had never done anything like this before so I had nothing to compare it to, but the fact that we went caving in a volcano made it ten times cooler. We walked along a lighted path examining the different rock formations and talking about volcanic minerals. At the end of the path, Soledad flipped a switch that turned off the lights in the cave and we were left in complete darkness. I put my hand up to my face, and I could not see absolutely anything. Even though it was a bit off-putting there was also something really relaxing. To be able to take a moment in complete darkness and just be with you and only you was a great moment of centering.
After lunch we all decided to go canopying or zip lining, yet another first for me! We arrived to the course and our guides very quickly got us suited up and explained the rules. We then proceeded through this zip lining course in this forest, crossing a beautiful river. The course itself wasn’t anything spectacular but it was still really cool to try zip lining and I was impressed by our three guides who had a fast, efficient system, unclipping and clipping each one of us as we went through the forest. They were all really friendly and you could tell they really enjoyed their jobs so it was fun to chat and crack jokes with them.
After that we headed back to the hostel and enjoyed the rest of the beautiful day in the backyard, reading, talking, drinking tea and playing with the enormous dog, Tomas, at the hostel. I’m not kidding; he is a bear!
The next morning we woke up pretty early, packed up, made some lunch for the day and set out to find the bus station where we caught a local bus which took us to Parque Nacional Huerquehue….yeah I still really can’t pronounce the name. We went on a lovely, long hike up a mountain, veering off the path a couple times to go see some pretty waterfalls, until we finally arrived at “Laguna Verde”, a beautiful lake on top of a mountain. We hung out for a while, having lunch and basking in the sun before heading back down the mountain to catch the bus back to Pucón.
Note the snow capped mountains in the distance!
Once we got back to our hostel, we quickly showered, gathered up our stuff and made our way to the bus station to catch our 7:30pm overnight bus back to Viña. Luckily there were no problems on this end of the transportation.
All in all, it was a trip of first which brought up memories of activities in beautiful, relaxing natural settings.
Ciao for now!