Whenever you research travel in Chile, you'll see the country is divided into three main sections: the North (Atacama), the center (Santiago) and the south (Patagonia). When we first arrived to Santiago, we had a couple of weeks before our jobs began, so we decided to take advantage of our time off and explore the south. While we couldn't make it as far as Patagonia, we found some of the most beautiful vistas and scrumptious food we've ever seen and tasted.
PART 1: THE ROADTRIP BEGINS
We chose Pucon based on my strong desire to visit the Montana Magica lodge in the Huilo Huilo Natural Reserve. The Lodge only had reservations for Thursday and Friday, so we chose to spend the first night in Pucon. Google Maps suggested it was about a 8-9 hour drive, which gave us enough time to make a few stops along the way.
After a hilarious (read: unsuccessful) attempt at trying to drive stick shift since I was the designated driver on the car, we were on our way, with Siri confidently directing us to Ruta 5 Sur. Almost immediately, we were greeted by a toll booth outside the city, and were taken aback by the steep $2.500 CLP (~ $4 US Dollars) toll.
We quickly found out that Chile loves its highway tolls, and for the duration of our journey, we encountered eight toll booths (each way!). Our initial assumptions about the price of goods in Chile being almost similar to that of the US were confirmed.
Nevertheless, we found it to be extremely entertaining, since each toll booth had its fair share of street vendors selling all kinds of postres, coffee, soda, etc. You could never go hungry (and overeating was apparently the theme of this trip).
A few hours into the trip, we needed to make a stop for...more food. We saw a big sign for a town named San Fernando, which was enough of a sign that it had some interesting things going on. And that's when we stumbled upon the greatest flea market we have ever witnessed.
It went on for what felt like miles (5 blocks), and it sold anything and everything you can imagine. Yarn? You got it. Motorcycle engine? Come right this way! And it's all surrounded by the freshest and cheapest fruits and vegetables you can imagine. Hopefully the photos below help convey my excitement and wonder of it all.
There were tons of stands selling empanadas and sopaipillas (fried dough) which all came with various types of pebres (salsas). Each vendor had their own style of pebre, but the basic ingredients include cilantro, onions, garlic, and aji (spicy chili sauce). They're delicious, cheap and perfect for a cool morning walking through a flea market.
Our final (pee) stop was at Salchucheria Alemana to grab a small bite to eat and a couple of beers. What came out was this tray of sausages with sauerkraut and tiny dill pickles. Another lesson learned: always order less than what you think in need. Portion sizes in Chile are out of control.
And that rounded up our time in San Fernando. Everyone here was incredibly sweet, albeit amused by all our questions of what each fruit was. We even encountered a toothless parking lot attendant (very common in Chile) who empathized with America's racist president, and made it a point to let us know that Chile welcomed all kinds of people.
Pretty great start to the trip. Now, on to Part 2: Pucon!