Monday, June 27, 2016

Forests and fairies

How is this for a hoot!

Chris Hunter, a Forest Run follower on FB, wrote this post this morning: 
"Ok folks, I'm the village idiot. Can you believe that for a number of weeks now I have tried to understand the relationship between the Forest Run and people dressing up as fairies.
So, on Saturday morning, while eaves dropping in on a conversation between a mum and her 4-year-old daughter, I realised my mistake... "Fairies live in the forest mum... dah!" 
Need I say more? So now my world is a perfect place once again and saved by a 4 year old..."

And there I thought that everyone knew that fairies lived in forests...

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fabulous turning forty

We celebrated my 40th birthday in style today with a wonderful walk around a volcano crater (Raihuen), through the crater and with views of volcanoes all around. It would be hard to get better than this!

We stayed on Friday night (and tonight) in a cabaña on Lago Puyehue, near the town of Entre Lagos.

Late morning we drove to the Antillanca ski resort through the most spectacular forests. From about 30km before the park we could already see the clouds clearing and as we climbed upwards and upwards we were graced with blue skies and wispy high clouds. Below it was 2°C but up at the resort, in the sun and above the clouds, it was probably 8 or 9°C.

There is next to no snow around at the moment - no skiing is happening. It is a walker's paradise.

The area around Volcan Casablanca is complex - a bunch of cones and craters as well as the volcano itself. There must have been a lot of volcanic activity here at some stage.

We walked the 3km road to the Raihuen Crater and then enjoyed trails to the top of two 'cones'. From both of these the views were spectacular! We saw Volcan Orsono (the one that looks over Puerto Varas) as well as Volcan Puntiagudo and Volcan Puyehue. From this angle I'm not sure if we saw Volcan Calbuco too, which we saw beautifully yesterday when leaving Puerto Varas. There were some other snow-capped peaks visible but I'm not sure that they were volcanoes. Still, seeing and identifying four volcanoes on a birthday afternoon... what a win!

We walked halfway down the crater, descending down what looks like old lava flow from an eruption of Volcan Casablanca. And then we walked across the crater. Absolutely magical experience.

We had a delicious dinner at the small restaurant attached to the place where we're staying.

We haven't eaten out much so this was a treat. We've found restaurant food to be very expensive but also very good. Celliers has really spoilt me for my 40th birthday. 

Tomorrow we continue heading northwards and will pass through the small 'cities' of Orsono and Valdivia. We'll probably stay near Valdivia for Sunday night and then closer to Santiago for Monday night. We fly out Tuesday afternoon.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Ferry riding and northward travelling

We've had two days of travelling to get back from Futaleufú to Puerto Varas.

The first leg of our journey started with a 150km drive from Futaleufú to Chaitén. It was a bit rainy and very overcast - fine for travel. We took it slowly on the slick roads and enjoyed what we could see of the scenery through thick cloud. We love how small bands of cloud just seem to sit in the middle of a slope or a patch that just hovers above trees.

We got a puncture! Totally fluke as the dirt roads are so good here. A sharp stone - shaped like a stone tool flint - pierced through the tread. We used the skinny spare, one of those smaller ones that you can't do more than 80km/hr, to get us to Chaitén. We found a mechanic in town. Interestingly, he used a patch on the inside of the tyre and not a plug. Maybe they don't  know about plugs out here? The patch seems to be holding up just fine.

We had the late afternoon in Chaitén so we walked along the massive and wide beach, checking out stones and driftwood. My theory about the wood is that this part was actually vegetated and maybe the vegetation died in the volcano explosion of 2008? There is so much wood lying around there.

I'm really glad we had clear weather to see the volcanoes and glacier on our trip down when we first hit Chaitén. This time there was such thick cloud we would never have known they were there! 

On Thursday morning we presented ourselves at the ferry at 08h30, as instructed. We're really impressed with the efficiency and punctuality of the ferries. And we love watching huge articulated trucks reversing on to them.

This was a cushy ferry and we grabbed front seats with massive windows looking out. I did some reading (busy with 'The Seed Collector') and some snoozing. We also enjoyed seal sightings - lying on the surface in small groups with their flippers visible and also 'dolphin-diving' ahead of the ferry. No dolphins. Loads of birds. Before we set off from Chaitén we enjoyed watching large pelicans on the water. They are so big!

We had spectacular weather and calm sea so the trip was a smooth nine hours directly to Puerto Montt (a brief stop in Aycara to offload and onload people).

From outside of Puerto Montt we had cell signal so we found a place to stay in Puerto Varas for the night. Turns out it is owned by a South African guy (from Bassonia - Jhb south) and his Chilean girlfriend. He came here four years ago for a software development job and stayed. We recognised his accent after a few words. Hahaha

We are heading a bit North (once we get ourselves moving!) to a place on Lago Puyehue. It is within close distance of a town called Entre Lagos and some great hiking trails in the nearby park. There is also a ski resort closeby. We've booked for two nights.

Tomorrow is my birthday. My lips don't quite want to form the word f.o.r.t.y... Yip, I  am turning 40 tomorrow. It used to seem so... old... and yet I still feel 24. That is certainly what counts more.

My 40 days of running has not been. We've had great days with long hikes and other days full of driving. I'm going to do a restart when we get back to really enjoy my annual game.

From my last day in my 30s... see you on the other side.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A lucky ride

Today started slowly - as most cold and overcast mornings do. By 11, the sun was out and patches of blue sky had made it through. We were in for another beautiful day.

Yesterday evening I had a message from a Joburg friend asking if I knew his friend Lynn because she was currently in Futaleufú - as are we. Oddly, I'd seen through  Facebook shortly before we left that Lynn had bought land in Chile. I thought it was more South and had no idea that Lynn was staying here.

I'm not sure how I first met Lynn but it was years ago and our more recent contact had been about orienteering - our school orienteering programme - as she was teaching at a school in Eshowe.

What I didn't know is that Lynn has spent most summers here (over the past 10 years) as a teacher for the daughter of a guy that Celliers knows. He runs a rafting and kayaking company here.

I found this out when I met up with Lynn today. She starts heading back to SA tomorrow - our paths only just crossed.

She recommended a route for us to walk - one that she has mountain biked many times. She drew us a sketch with landmarks and off we went.

It was great to see the Futaleufú river. We had two sightings but missed the place to spot Dynamite, a big rapid. She had said we may have to crawl through vegetation to get the sighting...

On and on we walked. We saw two large bulls being led by their owner. Most of the cows here in Chile are really small. At first I thought they were all cute 'teenagers' but then I noticed udders and realised that these were a fully-grown, small breed of cattle. These two bulls were definitely the exception. Large, square and very strong with enormous heads. Working beasts. Their owner said they are used for work, like hauling logs from the forest. Celliers took a photo of me standing next to them. Magnificent animals. Fluffy too.

On we walked. We passed a small settlement, spotting the school 'with a Chile flag outside' and then the houses and poplar trees, which Lynn had indicated. We'd been out walking for about 3hrs (it must have been just after 4pm).

Then a lady in a truck drove past us and stopped just ahead. She didn't stop for us; instead to read something. I knocked on her window and asked about the route to Futaleufú and whether she was going there. She said no and that it was shorter for us to turn around rather than doing the loop.

And then she said that the teacher at the school lived in Futaleufú and he would be able to give us a lift back.

We turned around and walked quickly. It must have taken us 10 minutes to walk back to the school and there we saw the teacher locking up. Close! I asked if he could give us a lift back and he said yes easily.

In the car, I explained the route we had planned to take. He said that the road on the return went up and up and up and was very steep and long. He said the whole loop was around 23km; we thought it was 15km. We would have been walking until 19h30 if we'd missed him. Phew!

We had a conversation in Spanish and he was good to talk to because he kept his words clear and simple for me to understand. He was born in Futaleufú, studied in Orsono and worked as a teacher all over Chile for many years. He returned to Futaleufú three years ago and loves his town. He has three students at his little school and is the only teacher there. From September he rides his bicycle to school.

We were back in our cabaña before dark and had the wood-fired room heater going in minutes.

We have been blessed with very fine weather. Not very cold during the day and relatively clear. Lynn says she is rarely here this late in the season but the weather has been really unusual. By this time of year the snow would be all the way down the mountains with lots of rain too. Chile too is in a drought. There is some snow up on the surrounding mountains; but not much.

To us everything looks damp and wet - it is dry for regular conditions.

Tomorrow we leave Futaleufú.  It has been good to have a few days in one place. No driving; lots of walking. We're heading back to Chaitén and will meander along the way to enjoy the scenery. We're catching the ferry to Puerto Montt on Thursday morning.