07 October 2008 – day 5 - Tuesday

Today we got up at the ungodly early hour of 5:00am because we had to go to the airport. After showering and packing, we were about to set our bags outside the door for the bellman to pick up. Before we could, there was a knock on the door. The bellman was early.

We headed down to breakfast where we met with the other people in our group. Some of them were grumbling that the bellman knocked on their door at 5:30am, a half hour early! So I guess our five minutes wasn't bad after all.

After a scant breakfast of small sandwiches, coffee and juice, we headed back to our room and collected our carry-on baggage: the backpack containing my laptop case, the camera bag and a small bag to hold our light coats. Then we headed downstairs and onto the bus.

On the bus yesterday, Nelson told us not to have high expectations. He said it was likely that the weather would be cold, crappy and likely to be raining or drizzling. Minnesota weather! He joked that it rained 366 days of the year. So we would most likely not be able to see the volcano.

The bus took us to the airport where we did the normal routine. We shuffled onto a plane and a little over an hour later, we landed in the port city of Puerto Montt.

It was beautiful, warm and sunny. An absolutely perfect day. We could see the volcano from the airport, so a few of us snapped photos just in case the clouds rolled in.

Our trip guide, Nelson, accompanied us. We met our new local guide, a guy named Marcel, but he trilled his 'r' so it sounded like Marrrrrrrrcel.

Our tour bus took us to the town center where we visited a fish market.

Our itinerary calls it “Angelmo”. This is where Nelson did something very fun. He divided the group into teams of our own choosing between 4 and 8 people each. Then he took a bunch of Spanish words written on paper and assigned the words to each group. The words were for things like a special Chilean seaweed, a Chilean alcoholic drink, or something else you could easily find in the market. Then he passed out small amounts of money and set us loose. He told us that he expected some money back, so we had to bargain for the items.

This was a game of communication. Our mission was twofold: First, to interact with the local vendors and to buy the item assigned to our group with money to spare. Second, we had to pick a name for our group.


and I

formed a group with five other people and we were assigned the words “Cabeza de Ajo” which are the Spanish words for a head of garlic. That was easy. We walked over to the first vendor we saw and bought some garlic. We had only to pick a name for ourselves. After a little bit of discussion, we decided to call ourselves, “Las Vampiras” which means “The Vampires”. That's because vampires supposedly hate garlic. Well, we thought it was cute anyway. We proudly marched our garlic over to Nelson and gave him our name.

After that, we ate a light lunch at a very tiny seafood restaurant. This might have been the smallest sit-down restaurant I've ever seen. This was literally no bigger than my bathroom at home. It was tiny! I could not sit on the bench without pressing my back against another customer. It's a good thing he was from our group.

Kathy ordered a local Chilean specialty called an Empanada, which is a baked shell with things baked inside. There is a lunch product you can buy in the United States that is similar, called “Hot Pockets”. The pastry was very small, and the table next to us ordered some seafood soup that looked great, so we decided to order some too. It was very good, filled with mussels, clams, crab, fish and so on. One of the strange ingredients was a reddish-orange ball they called a Sea Squirt. It tasted weird and had sand inside.

After lunch, we walked through a local handicraft market and back to the bus. The market had nothing but tourist crap that was very expensive, so we didn't buy much. We found a mediocre tablecloth, but they wanted fifty dollars for it. We tried not to laugh and walked away politely.

Next, we got back on the tour bus and rode for a long time. As we rode, two volcanoes loomed in the distance.

The bus drove us to the city of Puerto Varas, which is another cute town on the side of a huge lake. This has the feel of a quaint fishing village, but there are still a lot of people here. We toured the town and took some photos from an overlook. It was very pretty.

Next, we checked into our hotel, which is very nice, called Hotel Cabanas del Lago.

I'm impressed because it has free Internet service, which is something we didn't have in Santiago (the hotel in Santiago had free Internet, but only if you used their computer room. They charged for Wifi service.)

We had an hour and a half to “freshen up”. Which means we immediately left the hotel and went out taking photos of the two nearby volcanoes.

Glena was kind enough to take our photo in front of one of the volcanoes.

We ended up at a coffee shop where Kathy and I drank a hot Cafe Mocha and an ice cream coffee drink. It was like a root beer float, except they used coffee instead of root beer. It was really good, with piles of whipped cream on top. I set my camera on a nearby table and used the remote control to take a photo.

We got back to the hotel by our 3:30 deadline and got on the bus again. The bus took us to a nearby ranch where they taught and trained horses for the Chilean rodeo. There were Chilean cowboys there, known as huasos, pronounced like “Wasso”. We were warned not to call them Gouchos, because a Goucho is a cowboy from Argentina, and the Chileans are proud of their heritage and don't really care much for the people of Argentina.

After explaining and showing us the huasos, the horses

and the equipment,

they gave us a demonstration. It was really cool. These horses go through years of training, and they are the only horses in the world that can side-step really fast. And really, they were running in a sidestep at times. It was impressive.

After the demonstration and a glass of Pisco Sour, they served us a very nice dinner.

After dinner, I noticed a beautiful golden sunlight shining on the volcano, so I went outside to take some photos, and a bunch of the people in our group followed.

That's about all we did today, not counting four small loads of laundry, done in the hotel sink by hand.

Tomorrow we're going to see the active volcano up close.