Archive for Pucon

22 Oct 2009

Tick Tick Tick – Welcome To Pucon

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Views of Volcano Villarrica smoking away across Lake

The hypnosis – the sweet whispers at bedtime – worked. I finally shocked them out of their slothful city existences and back to the mountains. We arrived at Pucon early in the morning and a taxi whisked us to Antumalal Hotel, an oasis on the banks of the spectacular Lake Villarrica.

Antumalal Hotel gardens overlooking Lake Villarrica

Antumalal Hotel gardens – view from our bedroom

Waiting for the first Pisco Sour to arrive

Antumalal is surrounded by well tended colourful exotic gardens. It is a small hotel with a history. Architecturally it is very beautiful – timeless even – each of the 22 rooms has windows the entire width of the room that overlook the lake. It was built in 1945 and has changed little since. The corridor walls are lined with photographs of famous people who have stayed here.

I was sitting on a comfy sofa in the hotel lounge, the open fire blazing, the last light of day rippling across the lake, sipping my Pisco Sour, when I heard hushed voices behind me.

“Did you hear there’s a celebrity staying here?”

I listened to their conversation for a while, pushing myself further into the cushion so as not to be seen.

“He’s a lot smaller in real life”

It piqued my curiosity until I could stand it no more. I peered over the cushion. There was a rustle and a bit of a commotion, then lots of shouting, “There he is. Quick.”

In an instant I was seeing stars as a barrage of camera flashes went off all around me.

“It’s Al. Cool. Hey Al …”

I spent the next hour signing autographs and then walked down the corridors with the hotel management deciding which photos should come down so mine could go up – there were some old black and whites of Queen Elizabeth, a couple of James Stewart and one or two of Neil Armstrong. I think I’d like to be next to Emma Thompson I said.

Antumalal is a cool hotel – when you ask for a queen room, you can actually have the room Queen Elizabeth stayed in!

Pucon Volcano Warning System. When this light goes red … RUN!

Pucon is in the shadow of the mighty Volcano Villarrica. On a clear day you can see the Volcano smoking away. It is one of Chile’s most active volcanos and has regularly erupted several times in recent history. It erupted in 1999, and also in 1984 and 1971. It is a time-bomb waiting to go off – tick, tick, tick. The town has a safety plan and in the main street a set of Green, Orange, Red lights warn if you should “Get The Hell Out Of Here”.

Ponchos, chaps and spurs, hanging over the “Rock of Depression”

We have spent the last few days being energetic while keeping a watchful eye on the volcano, just in case:

  • horse riding in nearby valleys, saddled up in traditional Chilean cowboy/girl gear, chaps and spurs and thick wool ponchos
  • hiking in Huerquehue National Park, climbing steep muddy and snow covered trails in search of Monkey Puzzle trees (Chile’s National Tree), volcanoes and pristine lakes;

And now we are kicking back in the hotel, awaiting our masseur and hoping these aches will go away.

Monkey Puzzle tree – puzzled!

22 Oct 2009

Cama Premium

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The only way to travel.

There would be an interior photo if some ^%&* hadn’t stolen our camera.

Short of chartering your own airplane, there is no quick way to get from Valparaiso to Pucon. The best way, however, is by bus. Bus travel in Argentina and Chile takes on a whole new meaning especially if you book cama premium. It is the height of luxury and ridiculously good value.

An attendant welcomed us on board and ushered us into a private cabin – cama premium – first class. The seats are broad and comfortable. A box of food is handed to each of us. We watch a movie. After dinner the attendant does his magic and turns our seats into fully flat beds, covers us in blankets, tucks us in, switches off the lights and wishes us dulces sueños.

In the morning he wakes us to bring us our breakfast, unmake our beds and welcome us to Pucon.

If only all travel was this good!