Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Host family love and a series of fortunate events

When I left Viña de mar, I sobbed silly wet tears.

I didn't come here expecting to settle into a family as I did. I knew I'd get along fine because so long as there's a bed/shower/book to read- I'm fine-- but I had no idea that I would feel so much love for the family whom took me in while I studied at the Universisdad Tecnica Frediderico Santa Maria. I am so grateful to have stayed with Claudia, Fransisca, Jaime and Tomas. Leaving them marked the midpoint to this Chilean adventure of mine, and I was nervous, excited, sad and jittery.

Myself and three others -who had also decided to stay on post-course- made our way to Chile's capital of Santiago, wherein we navigated the Metro to Puente Alto, the southern most tube station of Santiago...think Morden, or West Croydon- but with mountains. From here we had to catch a bus to our hostel. Which seems... So Simple but was so Not Simple. The bus drivers kept telling us that they didn't go where we needed to be, despite the road being entirely turning free and our destination being before their final destinations. This confusion led to....
  • hopping on and off the same bus 3 times
  • with 28kg on my back and front
  • broken spanish conversations with mad little old spanish ladies 
  • little old spanish lady insisting on hailing down a car for us to hitchhike in (...we didnt...we're not that stupid)
  • dead dog on road 
  • walking half a mile down hill to discover we're on the wrong road
  • so walking back up
  • still with 28kg on my front and back
  • i dont know how to use bullet points (i do....)

Eventually we get on a bus that leads us somewhere remotely townlike... where we decide it wisest to get a collectivo* to the hostel. So we bundle into taxi. We drive a few miles. The light is starting to go. Oh... what's that you say? The hostel appears to be closed? There's three bloody padlocks on the gate and the owner isnt answering the phone. Well, bloody brilliant. 

We all felt a bit sick in this moment, we were quite far from home and with no sign of refuge... things felt... dicey. 

Along comes Pedro... ahh... Pedro. The gorgeous uni-browed Chileno. Pedro's cycling up the hill, minding his business when he sees a group of stranded foreigners with a collectivo driver who really wants to be paid and leave. One of the foreigners (me) likes the look of his unibrow and decide he is Going To Help Us. Through Spanglish, we explain our situation and ask if he can help- and OHHH he does. He recommends Cascada de las Animas (roughly- The Waterfall of the Animals) and so we smoosh back into the taxi and head there. 

It's heaven.

Cascada is like an eco-project hostel. The entire site is surrounded by the Andes, and is around an acre in size. There are funky flinstone looking cabins for the posh-os, but we're just students so we plucked for the log cabin, which worked out at £15 each per night B&B. The cabins had a log burning fire, a very good shower, and a lovely big lounge. The cafe/information dome is a geodome with hanging plants, dream catchers and lovely details everywhere. The yoga classes and massages also took place in geodome structures. Yes, our hostel had massages and yoga.

After arriving we took advantage of the great weather and immediately went on a short hike to the hostel's namesake waterfalls, which were beautiful:

A video posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

We stayed there for 4 nights and 5 days, and I can't tell you how happy we all were to have found this slice of paradise nestled among the Andes. Big love to Pedro and his gorgeous face, who we'll never see again, but whom totally shaped our experience in the Andes. Funny how life works, isnt it? 

The point is, trips can be stressful, unpredictable- people can be unreliable (must complete Trip Adviser review of hostel number 1)...but without all of our bus miscommunications, without missing the first three collectivos, without joining the wrong queue in the metro station, without being slow due to all the 28kg carrying... we would never have seen Pedro cycling up the hill. We would never have been to the lovely Cascada de las Animas. So thanks, Pedro. Thanks good fortune.


Today I sailed through fjords, drank whiskey cooled by glacial ice, hiked alongside a lake made of ice, and saw a colony of Imperial Comorants. I'll catch you up. 

For a more immediate way of keeping up- follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @fifinicholls

Hasta luego, amigos xxxxx

*very clever Chilean taxi system where people share rides and consequently pay a fraction of the fare, saving money and the planet- a bit. 

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