I’ve been complaining for months about the cheese in Chile. I’ve been homesick for the beautiful green of Vermont. (I LIVE HERE!) I’ve been craving some delicious Lake Champlain Chocolates. So Edwin convinced me to take a trip to the South of Chile, near Valdivia.
I found the bus ride to be long but worthwhile. Chile has an amazingly diverse landscape, and it is wonderful to see it change over the course of eight hours. By the time we reached the Región de los ríos, there were trees, cows, and rolling hills—it almost felt like driving through New England. Unlike quaint New England houses, however, we passed homes with obtuse tin roofs and brighter colors than quiet New Englanders may feel comfortable with.
We got off the bus and tried to gather our bearings. Luckily, a carabinero was on the lookout for suspicious-looking gringos—and Edwin fit the mold. After discovering that Edwin was, in fact, Chilean, he led us to the Chocolatería Entrelagos that everyone seems to esteem so highly. It was mediocre, but the workers were in costume. What did I expect?
We hopped another bus and ended up in Reumén. Edwin’s grandfather’s house is next to the town plaza, and from in front of the house, we could see the town limits in each direction where the houses give way to fields or forest.
There isn’t really a system of approaching houses that is anything like what we have in the US, as all houses have iron fences around them. Sometimes, there’s a doorbell or an intercom system. When there isn’t, you simply have to holler, whistle, or find some other means of getting the attention of the residents. So while Edwin was in front of the house, whistling, the neighbor stuck his head out of the second-story window to tell us that “Don Tilo” had gone shopping. Sure enough, as soon as the neighbor popped his head back into the house, a van came around the corner and out hopped Papi Tilo with his rib-high pleated trousers and his fedora. After he greeted us and handed Edwin the keys, he hopped back into the van and was gone.
And that was the most excitement we experienced in Reumén.
The next morning was a Sunday. We had heard about termas in Valdivia, beautiful hot springs that could chase the winter chill out of our bones. So we decided to take a bus to the termas aguas calientes in the Puyehue National Park. Oh, wait… it’s Sunday. Nobody comes to Reumén on Sunday. It was at about this moment that Edwin established a new mantra: Chile, me decepcionas, or Chile, you disappoint me. Although when he says it, it smacks of such betrayal that it produces a feeling of metaphysical disillusionment. The only plausible solution was to hitch hike. In a Savory truck used for transporting huge quantities of milk. Awesome.
It also turns out that the “hot springs” we intended to see were actually just hot tubs and warm outdoor pools. So we took a hike, which was just as relaxing, albeit colder. After an all-you-can eat buffet where I could essentially only eat wilted lettuce, we called it a day and headed back.
Valdivia, Take 2
So, we had a long weekend. Monday was a holiday. Which allowed us to travel. It also meant that everything in Valdivia was closed except for Jumbo, the huge supermarket. It also meant that I had to stare at the praiseworthy cheese I’d been told so much about through a locked glass case.
We wandered around the foggy streets, making our way down to the river, where we decided to take a boat tour. And captain the boat.
I don’t know which island we ended up on, but the rivers are truly beautiful in Valdivia, and I really enjoyed the views while I could… that is, until the encroaching fog slowly engulfed my body…
“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”