Heading out of Santiago we ventured south towards Patagonia, stopping at Pucon in Chile along the way.

Leaving the sunshine and in-pool bar of La Casa Roja in Santiago was difficult. It would be the perfect place to get stuck for a while, but the mountains were beckoning me. Our plan in Patagonia was to do a few hikes, and I was lucky that my travel buddy was a hiking superstar. So with zero hiking gear on us, we had the brilliant idea of purchasing gear in Santiago that we would later sell on in Ushuaia where it’s a lot more expensive to buy (and saving on renting not so great gear along the way). So, set with some newly purchased tent, cooking utensils and sleeping mats, we took a night bus out of Santiago.

Ten hours later we arrived in Pucon, a small town in the lakes district of Chile. My first taste of fresh mountain air, I found I was suddenly breathing deeply again.

Waterfall at Pucon, Chile

Pucon, Chile

I got off the bus and looked down at the directions for a hostel I had scrawled down on a piece of paper, then looked up to see a large hairy dog staring back at me. Almost like he was there to collect us from the bus. We started walking, he followed…. then he took the lead, like he knew exactly where we were going and he was the guide taking us to our door. We walked around town with increasingly heavy backpacks and found the hostel… with the help of the dog. The hostel was a cute house with a cosy lounge room, attic dorm, a large amount of Americans, and one toilet to share between everyone.

There’s an array of adventure activities available in Pucon, all of which are disgustingly expensive for a backpackers budget, the most sought after being a climb up Volcan Villarrica. I would have love to have done the climb, really I would, but I was on a budget and the weather was overcast. So Volcan Villarrica was one of the few things that was crossed off the list in favour of future adventure.

I settled for one hiking trip, saving the rest for further south. The ‘hiking trip ending at natural thermal pools’ that I had decided to go on ended up changing into a ‘minibus trip with a few stop off’s ending at an indoor swimming pool’ due to one person being unable to hike or climb the 200 steps to the thermal pools… yet still booking onto a hiking trip. It was still a nice afternoon, even if a slight rip off, and we stopped off at some really nice waterfalls.

volcan-villarrica-pucon-chile

Volcan Villarrica, on a clear day…

So after checking out town and the surrounding area, practising my Spanish with with a 70 yr old woman and her entire extended family while hanging out in a swimming pool on a non-hiking hiking trip, chatting with an array of Americans, and nearly peeing myself on more than one occasion while waiting for the one toilet in the hostel, I left for Argentina on my first day-time long haul bus trip, and was I ever glad that it was during the day…

Kimberley Casey

Founder of Time as a Traveller, where Independent Travellers share their extraordinary experiences. Kim is an Independent Traveller since 1997, and has travelled to 60+ countries. Writer. Photographer. Lover of Freedom. Specialist in off the beaten track, adventure, long-term budget travel and everything Latin America. Good at roughing it, long haul trips, and sleeping on all modes of transport. Read her story at https://timeasatraveller.com/founder-kim-casey/

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