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November 11, 2004


I finished the last entry on Santiago; check it out! I'm now in Pucon, Chile, a resort town on Lago Villarrica and in the shadow of Volcan Villarrica, which I climbed yesterday! But first, the story of how I got here.

After two Chileans and two guidebooks editors told me personally not to bother with Temuco, or to spend very little time there, I wondered why I was going there at all. The guidebook had extolled it as a town with a strong Mapuche heritage, in contrast to the more European cities elsewhere in Chile, and it's supposed to have a great market where all the people from the surrounding countryside come to sell their produce. But then I thought about all the other things I want to see, the fact that my guidebook also says it's a "grey and forbidding" place on first glance, and that I've seen many other great markets don't really need to see another. So when I arrived at the bus station in Santiago on Monday night, I tried to change my ticket to go straight to Pucon, but was told there would be a 15% change fee because it was less than four hours before departure. So, I went to Temuco!

I had "splurged" (about $21) on acama-class bus for the 8-hour overnight ride to Temuco. It had seats that recline nearly flat, and I had a single seat on one side of the aisle, which was much better than fighting a stranger for an armrest. I decided that for overnight trips, it's definitely worth it to me to up the chances of getting any sleep at all, and since I'm not spending money on a room that night, it kind of balances out. I can tell you this bus was worth every penny, and I was actually able to get some sleep.

I arrived in Temuco at 7 am, and was dropped off near the center of town since the main bus terminal is on the outskirts and I didn't want to take a taxi. I walked straight to the local terminal--about 20 or 25 minutes, the longest I think I've carried my main backpack so far! It was cold, foggy, and, as the guidebook had promised, grey and forbidding. I wondered what the hell I was doing in Temuco, and decided that if the bus terminal didn't have a custodia (place to leave my big pack), I was getting straight on the next bus for Pucon. They did have a custodia, though, so I figured I might as well see a little of town. It was too early for much of the market to be set up, and almost everything was closed. As I walked around, I tried to get a sense of this place somehow. Since I'd heard it has a more indigenous population, I found myself looking at the people I passed, wondering if they were Mapuche, if they were somehow different from the people I've seen in the rest of Chile. But I just didn't feel anything, didn't get a sense that this was anything more than a basic, somewhat poorer, industrial town in the Central Valley. The main plaza was pretty, but that was about all I could see to recommend the place. Thankfully I found one place that was open where I could have an overpriced breakfast--aptly, I thought, called Cafeteria del Turista, yet mostly full of locals. Then I walked back past the market, which was slightly more happening, and where I got a lot of friendly attention from the vendors, calling "Hola, rubia" (Hi, blondie) and trying to sell me potatoes and such (to one, I shook my head and explained that I had nowhere to cook them!). But it was just your basic South American produce market as far as I could tell. I bought some cheap strawberries, cherries, and a mandarin orange, and went back to the bus station where I was able to catch a bus to Pucon just 30 minutes later.

Oh, I was able to do one productive thing in Temuco--I happened upon a place with a laminator where I was able to plastificar my rapidly disintegrating insurance ID card (I've been halfheartedly searching for a place since Arequipa, Peru!). My roommate Anita in SF has a laminator (how many people do you know with their own laminator?!), and I really wish I'd thought to use it while my card was still pristine. But at least now it can't get any worse!

Posted by Amy on November 11, 2004 01:25 PM
Category: Chile
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