After more than two straight months in Santiago, last weekend I took a short vacation to the south of Chile, exploring Valdivia, Villarrica, and Pucon. I brought a few clothes (although only a backpack worth), some snack foods, and two books, one of which was my bible. I was inspired to take this trip by my friends Leo, Pris, and Claudia, who are also here in Santiago, but ended up not being able to come. So I left Santiago solo, around 10 pm Thursday night, on the Jac busline (www.jac.cl), departing from terminal Sazie (which is conveniently close to where I live). The total trip south took about 10 hours, with a stop in Temuco to unload passengers. I arrived in Valdivia around 8 a.m. and set out to find the youth hostel "Aires Buenos" (clearly a play on the words "Buenos Aires"). Jesy let me in and showed me to my room. I changed clothes and promptly headed out exploring.
In Valdivia, I found a town with mostly new buildings. Nearly every building was destroyed in 1960 in the great 9.5 magnitude earthquake - which to date is still the strongest earthquake ever measured in the world. I found the Banco de Chile building, retrieved my paycheck "Vale Vista", and promptly re-deposited it into my checking account. I walked down to the waterfront, taking pictures of the boats and the fresh seafood market. At the waterfront, I was offered a boat tour package by a nice - but clearly seaworthy - man. I turned him down (really said "I'll consider it"), and set off down the embarcadero. There I found the sea lions - which were actually completely unprotected from us (and us from them), lounging just in the water. I think one of them even spit on me while it was snorting at another lion.
I crossed the Pedro de Valdivia (an explorer and firs royal governor of Chile) bridge and next visited the Austral University of Chile (kinda like "University of South Chile"). Their campus is much more tranquil than ours at Beauchef; they don't even have fences or a guard. I think it reflects the security of Valdivia more than anything else. I found their student center and rested there for an hour, reading my book and relaxing. I then caught the minibus out to the coast (about 10 miles away), to the town of Niebla and its famous fort. Niebla is also where the Valdivia river empties into the Pacific ocean. Not wanting to pay the $1.25 entry fee to the fort, I scrambled around the back side and ended up finding a spectacular view point, secluded and sunny. So I sat there, again reading and resting, and munching on potato chips. And having an amazing time. Imagine the peaceful post-drizzle bright warm sunshine, the sound of breaking waves below, a few gulls chirping nearby, and otherwise silence. It was great!
I did get sore eventually after sitting on rock for a couple of hours, so I decided to go back into Valdivia and see if I could find any other tourists at the youth hostel who wanted to eat dinner. I got back, took a shower, read some more, and not finding any of my fellow hostel-goers, I went back into Valdivia in search of seafood. I managed to find some marginally-average salmon for $6 (including the rice), but it was a nice warm place to rest (after the sun set, it got cold again!)
I went back to the hostel, chatted with a few other travelers, and then called it a night. It was relaxation at it's best!