After 8 years of not seeing my sister, it was a luxury to have the opportunity to travel with her to the south of Chile, but when your beloved sister waits till you are about to reach your destination to tell you that the world’s largest earthquake took place 3 hours from where you are seated, several fratricidal methods spring to mind.
I took a deep breath, sat back on the bus and focused on keeping my hands away from any pointy objects. If you’ve paid attention so far, you might be wondering why anybody in their right mind would name this post “Southbound Train” when I actually travelled by bus. To set things straight, yes, I’m indeed losing my marbles; there is, however, a logical explanation for the title.
Some of the few things I remember about my childhood in Latin America is my Chilean mother playing a song by a famous Chilean band named Los Prisioneros, and the title is roughly translated into English as “southbound train.” That is why I was increasingly shocked upon finding out there are no trains in chile. WHAT?
Me: But the song…?
Mother: There used to be trains in Chile, but not anymore.
Me: But why? (Picture Shrek’s masked cat, Puss in Boots, looking up with a sad expression and cute tender eyes).
As an initiative by the Chilean government to upgrade their trains, they bought new ones from Spain but aforesaid trains weren’t compatible with the Chilean railway system… Kaboom! No trains! Therefore, I named this post this way as a tribute to that famous song and also because it’s ironic: No southbound trains. Fortunately for backpackers, Chilean buses are generally very comfy and usually on time. They are not a German-kind-of punctual but at least, according to Chileans, if they are late, they make it within the hour… unlike Peruvians. Even though neighbouring countries never like each other, particularly, I think it’s wrong of Chileans to constantly tease Peruvians. I wouldn’t feel offended if somebody mistook me for one of them. I’d feel offended if you thought I was Colombian.
We made it to a hostel named Monica, after its owner, the nicest sweetest hostel owner ever – well, after that nice lady who looked after me in Dunedin. One private room for the two of us cost 19,000 Chilean pesos (AU$38 approximately) per night. The nice lady was helpful all the way and she even made us fresh baked bread and drove us to the bus stop. It was at the hostel where we met an extraordinarily awesome German girl, Anna, who became our companion for the rest of our stay in Pucón.
Upon doing our research concerning Pucón’s main sites, the three of us rented bicycles for 10,000 pesos each (US $15) as a means of transport. While Anna seemed moderately excited about riding a bike, my sister boasted she was a professional cyclist and I also took my chance to show off I usually engage in outdoor activities as a pro backpacker. In fact, my sister is new to this form of travel, thus I took every opportunity to enlighten her each step of the way. Of course, that was until I realised that I forgot my backpack in Santiago. A pro backpacker with no backpack: strike #1.
The Sun was brightly crowning the sky when we set out from the hostel. Right then I noticed that both of them took jackets on them. I glanced at the sky, clear, blue and bright. The jacket seemed unnecessary but then my sister’s words echoed in my head “Pucón is at the bottom of the world, close to the Antarctica. It’s cold there. You’ll end up frozen (echoes) frozen, frozen, frozen…” and just as my mind started humming can’t hold me back anymore sparking the early symptoms of an aneurysm, I sprinted back to my room and picked up my jacket. Strike #2.
As I didn’t have a backpack where to store my jacket, I tied it around my waist and made my way to Ojos del Caburgua along with Anna and my sister. We rode on a safe bike trail along the highway. No holes, no bumps, no rain. The road was safe. That is why it’s been so hard for some people to understand just how exactly I had such a spectacular accident. It’s simple: I was riding a bike. I’m the X factor. Don’t scowl just yet, Simon. Do you remember that jacket I told you about? There’s something called motion, there’s something called gravity and there’s also something called idiocy.
Sooner than expected, my jacket started to loosen up from my waist. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet. That is not how I suffered that infamous accident. As an expert biker – as you might recall, I have shared more than one near-death experience with my bikes – I was quick to grab my jacket and tie it around my handlebar. FACE PALM! I know, right? It was okay for a while but then the wind blew and I lost control of the handlebar which turned towards the highway. Everything happened in a split of a second, yet I remember seeing a lorry headed my way and my reaction was to propel my whole body towards the pavement in order to avoid further movement towards the main road. So I did get some bad scratches and bruises, but how is that significant up against getting ran over by a lorry? All in all, I won this one…. somehow. While all of this might have been avoided by securing the jacket elsewhere, I am a disaster magnet and we’ve got to work with what we are given… unless you are given airplane food, then you must chuck that plutonium in the bin; that stuff will kill you.
What happened next can only be described as an episode of MTV’s Jackass. I stood up full of scratches, shook my head and got ready to get on my bike again. We didn’t resume our journey, however, given that we weren’t sure whether we were going in the right direction. Right next to the spot where I had my accident, there was a hostel where I took the opportunity to wash my wounds and ask the owner for directions. Despite all the Adam Sandler’s films you may have watched, stupidity never ceases to be comical and that’s why the actor gets away with releasing the same movie pattern over and over again while casting all of his friends. Only that could explain why I found her way of leading us to Ojos del Caburgua so amusing.
“You must ride straight ahead. Then to your right you’ll see a sign directing you to Río Trancura (Crystalline River). That’s not the right exit. You must continue straight ahead. Then you’ll come across another sign pointing towards Río Turbio (Misty River). That’s not the right one either. You must continue straight ahead for over 20km. Always stay on the left.”
What kind of sick joke is this?
I’m sorry, I’m having a dumb day. So we just have to continue straight on until we reach our destination. But hey, that long explanation wasn’t utterly pointless as at least we learnt two very descriptive river names. And then Tolkien complains that Brits lack imagination when it comes to naming land.
We continued on and further this very complicated way to Ojos del Caburgua. In spite of my wounds, I was determined not to be the one to delay the party. Fortunately for me, however, my sister started to show signs of fatigue and we both started to drift away from our German friend Anna, who got way ahead of us. Do you remember when my sister boasted she was a professional cyclist? Hah! Strike #3 and out. Germany 1, Venezuela 0.
Never pretend you are a Nike girl with a German. Don’t Just Do It!
When we finished riding up the hill, we found Anna patiently waiting for us, poor non-starters. She had been quiet about her abilities thus far, but Anna is actually a pro. Focused and determined, she suggested we should meet at the touristic site or perhaps at the hostel. After assessing our abilities, I came to the conclusion there was only one realistic option: “At the hostel, I reckon!” – unless we could find a couple of missiles to plant on our rears, there was no way we could catch up to her. I mean, my sis even suggested hitchhiking… and we had bicycles FFS. How desperate is that!
Against all odds, we managed to make it to our destination. The entry fee is 1,000 Chilean pesos (US$1.5), just so you take some change on you. Don’t be a di- and pay with a 20,000 bill… like we did. That fee allows you to see Ojos del Caburgua and Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon) – like the movie, yeah, we know, yay *rolling eyes*
The park is provided with broad walks that lead visitors to Ojos del Caburga, a waterfall that flows into a natural pond, and with decks from where you can take in the breathtaking view. If you keep on walking the tracks along the river and into the woods, depending on which entrance you came from, you’ll find the Blue Lagoon, which does justice to its name: the lake is a peculiar navy blue.
Do you remember that earthquakes are the topic that started this post? Well, have you seen news of Chile lately? Hell yeah, I was there, all through the earth tremors, quakes, the earthquakes, the shakes, the milkshakes and the bringing all the boys to the yard. I blame my sister. She is the Devil.
Come to think about it, she was probably holding a Voodoo doll when I fell off my bike. How else can you explain the crash? It’s not like I ever have any accidents. Case closed.