*As of yesterday (11/08/19), I am now back in the UK! I still have some posts to upload that I didn’t get round to writing in my final weeks in Santiago, so they’ll be posted over the next few days. Once again, thank you to everyone who has supported me over my year abroad and during my fundraising. I wouldn’t have been able to have this experience without your help and I appreciate it immensely.
Hello all! I’m currently in my final week working at the school – a whole mixed bag of emotions has been felt this week as I gradually say farewell to my classes (lots of class photos have been taken) and clear up my things. It seems very surreal that I’ve reached this point already, I can still remember my first day here and how I almost felt pushed into the deep end. I’m pretty sure that none of whatever I expected is the reality here, but I’ve learnt a lot about myself and other people working here.
I want to make a post about my last week at school to round things up on my blog, but for now, a post about what we did during the winter vacation! Much like the winter break in the UK (although without Christmas and New Year’s Day), we had two weeks to rest and relax before the new semester began. Emily and I (along with Josh in the end) decided we wanted to explore more of Chile, so we spent a week down south exploring a few different places and eating a lot of cake. I should probably explain as well that before we jetted off to Puerto Varas (our first point of exploration), I decided to bleach my hair, which is why my hair is blonde in all the photos I’m about to post. Moving on!
14/07/19 — 16/07/19 – Puerto Varas
We chose to fly from Santiago rather than take a bus down on the Sunday, so (at a more respectable time than in the summer), we hopped on a plane that took us to Puerto Montt, a city about 30 minutes away from Puerto Varas.
Puerto Varas is a city in Chile’s Lake District that sits on the banks of Lake Llanquihue. By the time we arrived the sun was already setting, so after we dropped our bags off where we were staying, the three of us took a walk down to the city centre and along the riverbank. Since Josh was going off on a tour the following day, we went to bed relatively early with full intentions to explore it properly the following day.
On Monday, Emily and I decided to spend the day walking around the city. We first tried visiting the famous Catholic Church with the red roofs, but we were quite literally locked out of the church and it’s gardens. On the way down to the front, we found Lourdes’ grotto across the road from the church, and had a moment of quiet contemplation before walking back down through the city centre.
Considering we visited in the middle of winter, and the Los Lagos region is known to have heavy rain and grey skies throughout the season, we were incredibly lucky that the weather was gorgeous. We decided to first take a walk around the bank of the lake (and being approached by numerous guides selling tours heading to the volcanoes). The skies were so clear that we were able to see all three volcanoes, including Osorno, the conical shaped one that appears on all the postcards.
After walking pretty much the length of the Puerto Varas lakeside (I may be exaggerating), we visited the Pablo Fierro museum: a house tucked round a corner on the front built up over years by the artist himself. It’s a really kitschy little place, full of antiques, paintings by Fierro, people’s drawings/messages to the artist and the artist himself – at least when we were there (a bit of a shock for both of us since we just assumed he had passed away years ago). It was a lot of fun exploring all the different rooms and seeing all the messages people had left. I’d definitely recommend it; it would be fascinating to see how much it changes over the years. Maybe I’ll revisit it in a few years time.
Considering how we were looking forward to cooking lots for ourselves, we spent the first day eating cake for breakfast and lunch. Puerto Varas was founded by German immigrants in the 19th century, and in addition to its German-inspired architecture, the city is also known for its Kuchen. Although we assumed kuchen was a kind of walnut cake with a biscuity base (since this is the kuchen we ate in Santiago), it’s actually just the German word for cake, so when you ask for kuchen you have a massive range of choice. In the second cafe we visited in the afternoon, my kuchen ended up being a blueberry and raspberry cheesecake, whilst Emily’s resembled what we were used to.
In the evening we met up with Josh who was back from his tour and had dinner together before going back to our base to rest.
16/07/19 — 17/07/19 – Frutillar
The following morning we took a bus to Frutillar, our next stopping point. Frutillar is a pretty small town further north of Puerto Varas, still on the shore of Llanquihue. It’s well known for its beautiful theatre on the lakefront as well as Music Week, a weeklong music festival (kind of?) which is hosted during February time.
The weather was pretty foul the entire day, but the rain was refreshing after not having felt it for months on end! It was certainly more like the weather in the UK.
Below are some more photos of the lakefront in Frutillar and the pier, which was possibly one of my favourite points in the town. It would have been nice to have seen the town when it wasn’t so grey, but there was something so calming about the stormy weather which made it all the more enjoyable.
Most of our (what ended up being an afternoon) in Frutillar was spent walking along the lakefront (creatures of habit that we are) and having a look in all the small markets. After breaking for a snack (i.e. kuchen), we found something seemingly interesting called the Patagonia Virgin about a 30 minute walk away from the town centre and decided to check it out. This also coincided with when the weather was its most awful, and we found ourselves walking along a relatively busy road. The Patagonia Virgin ended up being a hill (we think) on the outskirts of Frutillar. This was admittedly more hilarious when we were slightly hysterical and freezing that it is now typing it, but it was a laugh and a pretty walk along the lake.
We all decided to have a cosy night in our hostels because of the weather, which ended up with Emily and I taking personality tests and examining our entire ways of thinking (a pastime that continued well past that evening).
The following morning before we caught our bus to Valdivia, we went to have brunch (i.e. kuchen and strudel) at the same cafe as the day before and take a last wander down the front before catching an Uber to the bus terminal. Josh once again managed to catch the attention of a stray dog (history always repeats itself), and we just missed getting caught in a short shower.
17/07/19 — 19/07/19 – Valdivia
Our next stop on our tour was Valdivia, a costal city and capital of the Los Lagos Region. We got there in the late afternoon, so spent the rest of our first day walking along the riverfront during sunset and finding a place to eat dinner.
We were surprised and slightly scared to see the seals (sea lions? Who knows but they were big and scary) actually on the pavement as we walked down towards the city centre. While a lot of people say how beautiful Valdivia is and how much they love the city, I wasn’t too taken by it; I much preferred Puerto Varas and Frutillar. I think this comes from the country girl within me.
The next day, Josh went kayaking (off on his next great outdoor adventure) so Emily and I were left to our own devices. After breakfast, we took a bus to Niebla, a small costal town further up from Valdivia. Here we took a walk on the two little beaches (the area around is known for their black sand beaches), and had lunch overlooking the fishing boats and a stunning view of two rivers joining to become a mouth into the sea.
We also went to a fort which was built by the Spanish conquistadors as part of a system to protect Valdivia. It was quite interesting but this was also when it started pouring with rain so we spent quite a bit of time there underneath the entrance to the loos!
After we returned to Valdivia, Emily and I decided to go on a boat tour. Whilst we couldn’t really hear any of what the tour guide said, it was really pretty and nice just to sit down and watch the world go by. It was less fun when it started pouring again.
In the evening we reunited with Josh again and spent the evening in our Airbnb playing card games (I lost all of them… this time).
20/07/19 — 23/07/19 – Concepcion and Constitucion
Although these are two different cities I’m lumping them together because we only spent a night in Concepcion and as such were unable to see anything. We did go to a Chinese restaurant however and the food was really good (fully immersing ourselves in Chilean cuisine).
In our time at the school during the new year, Emily and I befriended a new maths teacher, Claudia. Her family home is in Constitucion and she invited us to stay with her for a few days during the winter break. On our first evening, we walked down to the beach. I don’t have any photos since it was pitch black, and it wasn’t long before it started absolutely tipping it down, so much so that our clothes were soaked through. Once we got back to her house we spent the evening playing card games. I was a lot luckier this time, much to the behest of Emily who lost pretty much every single game.
The following morning (or afternoon as it turned out), we visited the feria by the river to buy ingredients for lunch as we were in charge of cooking. We also introduced Claudia to apple crumble, which she absolutely loved and asked for the recipe. Below is the only photo I have from Constitucion: the river which the feria ran along.
After that we went back to Santiago and completely crashed for a week! Travelling around the south was so relaxing and I’m so glad we decided to go. I definitely want to return one summer so that I can enjoy the lakeside whilst it’s hot.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I want to write two more before my journey with Project Trust comes to a close, so I’m not quite done with this blog. My debriefing course is in early September, so I’ll definitely still be posting until then.