Goodbye to the Adventure Team

by CameronM Sun, April 09 2006 21:42

Today is the official last day of the OM Adventure Team, even though there were only three of us left now. Hal and Sandy, a couple from California who retired into missions, picked me up and we all had lunch at there apartment in Las Condes.

We sat and watched Chile lose to the USA in the Davis Cup mens singles and chatted about all and sundry. Hal and Sandy have been in Chile for almost two and a half years, so they know a fair amount of Spanish and have a good idea about the culture. Sandy studied cross-cultural issues at university, so I guess she has a pretty good idea about how not to offend people.

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Overnight bus to Santiago

by CameronM Sat, April 08 2006 21:41

Having arrived at 7am into Santiago, we boarded a micro for the trip to the OM Office. Most people had slept badly on the bus, so it was great to hear that we had no organised activities and could relax until dinner at night.

I emptied the contents of my backpack into the washing machine, since in the last two weeks we had only been able to have a few items washed and my clothes had been worn and re-worn a few too many times.

In the afternoon we walked to a nearby supermarket and bought a small thankyou gift for Yerko and Corine, before we headed off for a BBQ with the other OM Chile staff at the home of the Director.

Luke, Rachel and Jennifer headed off after the BBQ, so we said our goodbyes and soon it was just Lise, Bernedette and myself all alone in the office. It was a strange feeling, after spending 3 weeks with so many people, to now just have a few.

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Whitewater rafting Upper Trancura River

by CameronM Fri, April 07 2006 21:40

Today was our last day in Pucon before heading back to Santiago on the night bus, so we were keen to make the most of it. We headed off in our Politur minibus again, this time to Upper Trancura River for a two hour whitewater rafting trip.

As it is heading towards winter, I was pleased to know that the tour company provided full wetsuits and even booties and gloves to keep us warm. The river contains rapids up to class 4, however as the water level is low at this time of year, they had dropped to about 3.5. There was still enough foam to make three of the rapids a little scary, but under the watchful eye of our safety kayaker, and in the trusted hands of our guide, we were able to conquer them without flipping, falling in or otherwise coming to grief.

At one point we had to leave the rafts as the guides took them through a very rocky section alone. We walked for a few hundred metres beside the river before having to jump in, off a rocky outcrop about 4 metres above the water. It was great fun, although during the fall I did have time to think that the water seemed to be a lot further away than it initially looked!

Sitting in the front of the raft and being responsible for setting the pace for my side of the raft, meant that I tried very hard to respond to the guides commands. This meant that after an hour I was completely knackered. Luckily I was able to ease up on the paddling and rest a little between rapids, although our guide did seem to have a nasty streek and sometimes made us paddle for an extended period, just to watch us run into a rock at full speed.

Finally we reached the half way point on the river, between the easy lower section and more difficult upper section. This was the end of the road for us and it was with some relief that I sat down and rested, while enjoying a Pisco Sour and a ham sandwich.

Yerko and Corine had purchased tickets for the executive overnight bus service to Santiago. This is the middle class of the three standards for long distance buses and appears to be the one most commonly used by tourists, as our bus was full of fellow backpackers and adventurers. The seats recline and there is plenty of leg room, so in theory you can get a good nights sleep. In practice though, at least for me, you tend to spend the night trying to get into a comfortable position and just as you drop off to sleep, you are awaken as the bus stops at one of the many toll stations or bus depots, or you are kept awake by the snoring of other travellers.

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Ojos del Caburgua

by CameronM Thu, April 06 2006 21:37

Today we swapped hiking boots for mountain bikes and headed from Pucon towards a nearby waterfall named Ojos del Caburgua. The first half of the trip is alongside (or at least near) a river and on a bumpy gravel road. The scenery is great and it is nice to get on the bike again after a long absence.

We reached the waterfall in time for lunch and enjoyed the falls, which come from two sources and meet in a nice little pool. After lunch we finshed our Life Direction Seminar, before jumping on the bikes again for the return leg, which was via the main road.

Yerko and I headed off together and pushed through the stiff head wind to cover the 18 kilometres in about 50 minutes. Not too bad, especially since my legs were already sore from the climb yesterday.

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Volcan Villarica

by CameronM Wed, April 05 2006 22:22

Standing an impressive 2800 metres above sea level, the most active volcano in South America, named Volcan Villarica is an impressive sight from just about anywhere in Pucon.

Today we joined a 'crowd' of other thrill seekers and climbed to the summit. Thankfully the tour bus drops you off at about 1500 metres and the chairlift, used for the ski season, takes you a further 300, so you total climb for the day is only about 1000 metres.

Having said that, even at the end of summer, the top half of the climb is through ice and snow (actually part of it is a glazier), so that adds a fair amount a 'challenge to the trip.

With our two English speaking guides, but minus Yerko and Corine, who were having a 'couple' day, we headed up the first roicky section of the mountain.

After about half an hour we broke into two groups and I went on with Luke, Rachel and two fellow adventurers, while the rest of our team trailed along behind.

After an hour we reached the snow line and donned our grampons (those metal spikes that fit on you shoes) and headed up. It was slow progress, as the path zig-zags across the face, but as walking with grampons is a little strange, I was glad not to be going flat out.

Another hour or so later we stopped and removed the grampons as the last 45 minutes is rocky. Eventually we reached the summit, but sadly as the vulcano smokes out toxic gases, we could only stay for about five minutes.

The trip down was a little scary, as I think our guide must have had urgent business to take care of. We almost ran through the ice and snow, with hardly a break to catch our breath. I was freaking out, because we were carrying an ice pick and I was worried about falling onto it and impalling myself.

About one third of the way down, the slope eased and we started to 'slide' down. To do this we wore a pair of 'nappy' like pants over our snow gear. It didn't work very well, as the slope was very bumpy, but a little while later we reached an area where frequent sliders have carved out a route down the mountain. It was great fun, and a lot easier than walking.

All of our group made it up to the summit, which was great and on the ride back to town we were able to bask in the glory of a hard days effort.

In the evening we headed to thermal baths of Los Pozones, located about 45 minutes from Pucon and soaked our sore muscles.

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Civilisation at last!

by CameronM Tue, April 04 2006 22:20

After saying our goodbyes to Henry and his wife Isobel, we boarded our bus to Tumuco, the nearest 'big' city to Hualpin. The ride was a lot better than the outbound trip and I was able to enjoy the coutryside, which consisted mainly of farmland and beautiful hills. Chile is lucky to have a cold enough winter for the trees to lose their leaves, so at the moment many of the trees are starting to show their autumn colours.

Luckily we only had a short wait in Tumuco until we could board another bus for the hour and a half trip to Pucon. After spending the last week or so in virtual isolation from the outside world, Pucon was a sight for sore eyes. With internet cafes, call centres and enough Adventure Tour companies to satisfy even the most die-hard extreme tourist.

We stayed in a nice compex of chalets about 15 minutes walk from the centre, but what it lacked in location it made up for with charm. As an added bonus, I also didn't have to put up my tent (first time in about 10 days) or sleep in my sleeping bag (first time in about 16 days), so I was very happy.

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Rolling the Yellow Submarine

by CameronM Mon, April 03 2006 22:18

Today we headed off to vist another pastor in the rural area. He is planning a special activity on the weekend and wanted us to call into the houses nearby and invite the people.

It turned out to be a slow job, as the houses were a long way apart and in every house we went in and chatted to the occupant, who was very happy to see us.

We had split into two groups and we had gone on foot, while the others went in the pastor's yellow VW van, which we nicknamed the yellow submarine.

When we next met up with the others, they swapped and went on foot, however we did not get very far. On the very next hill, with the others looking on in horror, the little yellow submarine stalled just near the top and started rolling backwards. Before we could do anything we started heading into the steep bank on the side of the gravel road and the van rolled over onto it's side.

I was beside Yerko and tried to stop myself squashing him, but we both ended up against the side of the van (which was now on the ground). The girls on the other seat were in the same position and they also had the seat lying on them.

Thankfully we were all OK and we soon scrambled out the doors, which were now facing the sky, helped by Luke, who raced to our aid.

We got a nearby farmer to bring his tractor and in no time at all we had the now slightly dinted yellow submarine back on its wheels.

The pastor clearly felt bad, but Yerko, on our request, spoke to him saying that it was not his fault. We gave him some money to fix the van, as most people barely make US$200 a year.

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Food, glorious food

by CameronM Sun, April 02 2006 22:15

A very busy day today, heading to church with the missionaries, followed by lunch with the whole church.

After church we boarded the pastors van (sitting outside again) and headed to a very small church on the outskirts of town. The people had killed a pig for us and we again sat down to eat with them, for us a second lunch. I was soooo full.

After a brief time of sharing, we headed across the river in a small row boat. I felt bad for the poor young guy who had to row all us 'fat' missionaries.

The pastor's mother-in-law lived across the river and about 20 minutes walk away. She was very pleased to see us and her daughter, who came with us. The mother was very lonely, as her husband has been in hospital for a long time. We shared, sang a song and helped her light the fire in her stove before saying goodbye and headed back across the river.

On the way back, the three guys, Rachel and Henry, the Missionary sat in the back of the van. It was now dark and very cold, but it didn't stop Yerko and Luke, who have named themselves 'the wildmen', from standing, waving and shouting at passing traffic.

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Rural Haulpin

by CameronM Sat, April 01 2006 22:14

Today we headed out with a local pastor to visit several homes in the rural area surrounding Haulpin. The people are farmers, selling potatoes, which are sent to Santiago, no doubt to make french fries.

We had lunch at the home of one farmer who is very active in the church. I was surprised when I ventured into the bathroom, as the rest of the house was quite rundown and I expected the worst. The bathroom was almost brand new, however and nicely tiled. Thank God for small mercies:)

I the evening we continued walking to the local church, about 20 minutes over fields, across gullies and over fences. We were accompanied by a middle aged lady who we had visited, and I will now never complain about not getting a carpark close to church again. Man, what they had to do just to get to church, it rwally made me feel very lucky.

The church was having an all night preayer meeting and asked us to share a little about ourselves and then prayed for us too. Afterwards we joined them for dinner before getting a lift home.

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Don't eat food at the bus depot

by CameronM Fri, March 31 2006 22:12

A very long day travelling on a number of buses to make it to Haulpin just after 7pm. We had lunch at a bus depot and I think the food didn't agree with me, as I had to get Yerko to stop the bus while I did a runner into the bushes for a call of nature. Consequently I wasn't feeling the best when I was called on to give my testimony in the evening youth meeting, but I managed to share a little on finding happiness.

We are staying in the house of a couple, who work for OM as missionaries, supporting the local churches and taking young people on short term trips to other South American countries. Again, I was in my little tent, this time next to Rachel and Luke, who also 'camped' upstairs.

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