Last weekend was an absolute blast. I spontaneously decided to go to Pucón (10 hours south of Santiago by bus) and it was incredible. It’s a small town nestled between a ton of mountains and a few volcanoes, the closest volcano being Villarica which is quite the active volcano. In fact there is an alarm system in the town in case the volcano erupts. My adventures in Pucón, Chile consisted of plenty of water sports, roaming around a village that reminded me of Whistler, Canada, eating plenty of German food and much more.
Unfortunately I opted out of hiking the volcano because I had heard it was extremely difficult and I don’t think my asthmatic lungs would have made it all the way up. However, I did get the chance to go kayaking, white water rafting and on a horseback riding tour. Pucón really reminded me of home. The buildings and everything has a very Whistler-esque vibe about it but the landscape reminded me so much of my hometown, Kelowna BC. In a way this made me love Pucón even more than I thought possible but in another way it made me quite homesick.
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Kayaking on the lake was beautiful and at one point I stopped and climbed some rocks on the left side of the lake and found beautifully colorful salamanders there. I didn’t get a photo of them because I was scared of dropping my camera into the lake but they were really fascinating.
White water rafting was so crazy. Other than last weekend, I’ve only been one other time and that was in grade 12 with my grad class. However, in grade 12 we had a motorized raft so we were able to hold on the whole time. In Pucón, we had to paddle and hold on with our feet wedged beneath the seats in front of us. I almost fell out a few times and it was kind of frightening trying to paddle when it felt like we were all going overboard. At one point we were allowed to jump out of the raft and float down the river so I jumped out along with two other women. It was so cold but super fun.
I also mentioned that I went on a horseback riding tour. This was actually a “Mapuche tour” where we basically got to go to the area just outside of Pucon where some Mapuche people live. The Mapuche people are native to Chile in this region and they speak Mapudungun as well as Spanish. As far as ethics go, I do not think that this tour was harmful to the Mapuche culture but I do question what the Mapuche people think when they see white tourists horseback riding through their village taking photos of everything. For this reason I only took photos when no people were around. I really wanted to experience this tour to learn about how the Mapuche people live differently than other Chileans and I made sure to tip the guide well.
Upon arrival, our guide got us settled onto our horses and we headed up the side of a mountain. He explained that the mountain we were ascending was very important to the religion of the Mapuche people. He also told us that the Mapuche are very spiritual people but they do not believe in one god. They believe rather in good energies and bad energies and they believe that everything (people, rocks, trees, mountains, etc.) has a soul or energy within them.
This area was definitely the most peaceful area I’ve been to in all of Chile so far. When we were about half-way up the mountain we stopped so the horses could graze and our guide told us about various problems that the Mapuche have with government, alcoholism etc. After our descent we were treated to a wonderful traditional Mapuche meal complete with the best homemade empanadas I’ve ever tasted, sopaipillas and these small, circular almost bread like biscuits that I found out were actually made out of black beans. The salsa was also incredible and we were served juice made from wheat which was surprisingly sweet and delicious.
While in Pucón I also visited a few German restaurants as there are quite a few German immigrants who live there. I had bratwurst, strudel, and this German kind of pasta (I don’t remember the name of it) all for the first time. It was delicious and the beer was obviously amazing as well. All in all the weekend was a blast but it did make me kind of homesick. It was kind of bittersweet being there because it reminded me so much of Canada. I’m not ready to leave Chile yet but I think I’m ready to see my family and close friends.
April is the founder and main author for Just Leaving Footprints. She has written for numerous blogs and publications such as Explore Magazine and Snow Pak. April loves writing about sustainable tourism, and promoting other sustainable travelers on her Facebook Group and Instagram Community, Ladies for Sustainable Travel. Currently, April is living and teaching English in Mexico City with her husband Arturo and they don’t plan on stopping their travels anytime soon.
Dealing with culture shock can be pretty hard sometimes. It’s often a lot…January 14, 2015