The bus ride to Pucón lasted a long ten hours. Over the course of the journey, I watched the dusty fields of the central valley turn into the lush green hills of the lake region. We arrived in Pucón around 10 p.m.; we headed to a hostel that Erica, a friend of Maribel’s, had recommended to us the day before. The owners of Paradise Pucon Hostel, Nina and Daniel, welcomed us into a charming little house slung with hammocks and bright carpets.
After settling in, we spent the night hanging out and talking with Nina, Daniel, some of their friends and some fellow hostel-visitors on the terrace outside, drinking sweet homemade ponche made from white wine, sugar and strawberries. All of the other visitors were kayakers–as we learned, Pucón is considered one of the best places in the world to kayak. A lot of them came from the US, but we also met a French guy and a few other Chileans. The conversation filtered from English to Spanish to French and back again. After the tension of our disrupted plans in the last few days, the ambience was a delightful relief: everyone blissfully relaxed in a new, homey spot. I realized that I’ve missed hanging out like this in my time in Chile–sitting around late into the night with a group of friends, nothing to do, joking, chatting. Very college.
I woke up early the next morning; after I enjoyed my Nescafé, Collyn and I set out to get breakfast and explore the town.
Pucón’s most notable feature, by far, is the Volcán Villarica. Active to this day, the volcano stands
about an hour outside of Pucón; you can see it from all parts of the town. It was absolutely stunning. We had an awesome brunch, and I really enjoyed walking around the feria artesenal. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly. Seriously: almost every vendor in the feria asked where we were from, where we were traveling, what the US is like, what we’re studying–and, in turn, told us their life stories, too. On our second visit to his booth, one of the vendors, an old man named Juan, gifted us both a little wooden bowl, handmade by him. It was so fun.
My pictures can’t do the town justice. Not only were the mountains and the volcano visible from every street, but the buildings themselves were also gorgeous, all built out of wood, many in the style of rustic cottages. The feria was also full of hand-carved wooden pieces–kitchenware, toys, various tchotchkes.
Collyn and I had a great day wandering around the town and hanging out. We returned to the hostel later that evening to eat lentils (our staple as we were keeping a close eye on our money), hang out with some of our new friends there and plan the next day. Being in such a prime location, there were countless outdoorsy activities to do in and around Pucón, from hiking the volcano to canopying to kayaking, but I’d begun to get nervous about my seriously dwindling funds at that point. We decided on visiting the Parque Nacional Huerquehue, a nearby park with several nice hikes; we went grocery shopping for provisions and set our alarms for early the next morning.
Unfortunately, when the morning came, I had a mini freakout–I’d spent the night trying to mentally calculate my remaining funds in relation to the cost of the next day and my return to Viña. While Johnny and Collyn took the bus to the park, I went to the bus station and bought a ticket back to Viña for that evening.
I passed the rest of the day wandering around Pucón, sitting in a cafe and getting a few last gifts from the feria. At 7:30, I got on the bus–I was lucky enough to be the first passenger on–and headed back north to Viña.
FYI: Chilean buses are great. Tyler was telling me a few weeks ago that this is because Pinochet dismantled the railway system to profit Tur-Bus, which his family owned, causing the bus system to grew tremendously during the dictatorship–so, uh, I guess, all things considered, that’s an okay legacy? Anyway, the attendants gave us a juice box & alfajor (a type of cookie), then personally slipped pillows behind our heads and offered us blankets. Then the attendants personally reached over us to close the curtains over the windows. It was adorable–and, I thought, actually way more comfortable than sleeping on an airplane, because the seats recline pretty far. We drove all through the night; I arrived in Viña, sweaty and neck-cramped, around 7:30 the next morning, eight days after departure. Sarah and Nina greeted me at home, fresh-faced, with coffee: no better way to return.