Living and Eating – Pucón

I remember a time (not THAT long ago) when I was in school and asked to draw a house by my art teacher. I would draw a square with a triangle on it and a rectangle on one side of the triangle for the chimney. Like so…

image

The sad thing is that 4 year old me would probably have done a better job drawing this house than I had. What can I say? I was a child prodigy. Is it me or does anyone else think that there is pubic hair growing out of the chimney?

It was the default image of a house that I had as a child. Looking back, I don’t know why that is so. I didn’t stay in a house like that… in fact I don’t think anybody in Singapore stays in houses like these. I didn’t even think that houses like these existed outside storybooks until we reached Pucón.

See... looks EXACTLY like the picture I drew, right?

See… looks EXACTLY like the picture I drew, right?

For a place that’s known for being a centre of adventure, Pucón, on first glance, looks kinda underwhelming. The locals amble along slowly about their businesses and animals bask lazily in the middle of the roads.

It looked the perfect picture of a sleepy little town… if you don’t consider the fact that barely half an hour down the road, there are people (willingly and willfully) flinging themselves off the tops of scary mountains.

The small town feel was enhanced by this lakeside beach (yeah, that's a LAKE) where locals hang out in the middle of the day with a bottle of wine, a fishing rod and a good book

The small town feel was enhanced by this lakeside beach (yeah, that’s a LAKE) where locals hang out in the middle of the day with a bottle of wine, a fishing rod and a good book… at least I presume they would be good books… no hablo espanol, remember?

For a moment, seeing the wild flowers by the lake side, we got the feeling the "hmmm.. maybe we COULD erally live here..." and then we were hit by the -2°C wind

For a moment, seeing the wild flowers by the lake side, we got the “hmmm.. maybe we COULD really live here” feeling… and then we were hit by the -2°C wind

Even though it is essentially a three-street town , Pucón seems to have an un-proportionately huge number of quaint cafes and brilliant restaurants. There are the usual pizza/pasta places alongside the steak houses. And then there are the Peruvian restaurants, atas diners and chill out bars. We were seriously spoiled for choice when it came time to feed.

The Worst Food Photographer in the World strikes again

The Worst Food Photographer in the World strikes again

Beside the food, Pucón was also a great place to have taste of the National drinks of Peru and Chile - the Peruvian Pisco Sour and the Chilean one, Both claimed they are the original, both claimed they are the best. Jo put them to the test... often at the same time.. #OnePiscoSourtoomany

Beside the food, Pucón was also a great place to have taste of the National drinks of Peru and Chile – the Peruvian Pisco Sour and the Chilean one. Both claim they are the original, both claim they are the best. Jo put them to the test… often at the same time.. #OnePiscoSourtoomany

Even with the crazy amount of good food available in Pucón, special mention must go to Chef Pato. First off, it’s without a doubt one of the quirkiest restaurants we’ve ever been to.

Chef Pato Win #1: A FIREPLACE!! The feeling of stepping into the warm  and cozy Chef Pato after a day in the gruelling cold cannot really be described. Add in the smell of baking dough and melting cheese from the pizza oven, I swear I thought we were in heaven

Chef Pato Win #1: A FIREPLACE!! The feeling of stepping into the warm and cozy wooden cabin-ish Chef Pato after a day in the gruelling cold cannot really be described. Add in the smell of baking dough and melting cheese from the pizza ovens that greeted us as we entered the restaurant… I swear I thought we were in heaven

Chef Pato Win #2: Antique irons, retro cameras, old stirrups, steam punkish dive helmets and ermmm... stuffed ducks... I thought we've stepped onto the set of Gremlins or Big Trouble in Little Chinatown

Chef Pato Win #2: Antique irons, retro cameras, old stirrups, steam punkish dive helmets and ermmm… stuffed ducks… I thought we’d stepped onto the set of Gremlins or even better… Big Trouble in Little Chinatown

pucon pato stirrups

We don't normally do the touristy "getting-random-strangers-to-take-photos-of-us" thing, but I think we would be doing Chef Pato a grave injustice if we did not do it here

We don’t normally do the touristy “getting-random-strangers-to-take-photos-of-us” thing, but I think we would be doing Chef Pato a grave injustice if we did not do that here

And they are not just about the quirks. Right off the bat, once we sat down at our table, we were served with COMPLIMENTARY piping hot (and fresh) bread that came along with the most mouth watering avacado salsa and pico de gallo! I truly believe that the devil’s in the details when it comes to things like these. We’ve had enough rock-hard and stale buns served to us thus far to know that a lot of restaurants here feel that while it is kinda an obligation to serve us bread, it doesn’t mean that they have to do anything more than to pick up the closing-time deals at the local bakery.

And it worked! Based on the waiter’s recommendation, we went for the rather expensive option of freshly caught salmon with capers and a bottle of wine, instead of what we agreed on – their speciality and (MUCH cheaper) pizzas.

Grilled Salmon with capers. I swear, Jo had to slap my hands away so that she could take this shot. #savedfromtheWorstFoodPhotgrapherintheWorld

Grilled Salmon with capers. I swear, Jo had to slap my hands away so that she could take this shot. #SavedfromtheWorstFoodPhotographerintheWorld

And yes… we went back a second time so that we could have the bread and dip PIZZAS and wine, which was great too.

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Adventureland

It’s official. We’re badasses.

Want to know how badass we are?

We hurtled down the side of an active volcano with our feet tied together… without any training.

And the thing is… that’s not even the most bad ass thing we could’ve done when we were in Pucón, Chile.

Smack in the middle of the Chilean Lake District and surrounded by a volcano, a national park, giant lakes and thermal springs, Pucón is a haven for travellers seeking adventures.

Volcano hiking (complete with a view of the lava spewing caldera), biking, horse riding, rafting, birdwatching, salmon fishing, trekking to remote hot springs, canyoning. Name an activity, and there’s probably a tour agency in Pucón willing to arrange it for you for a price.

After our adventures in Las Leñas, we decided to give winter sports another chance. We were pretty close to success the last time round, so we thought we owed ourselves the chance to give it one more try – and when I say “it”, I mean “breaking our heads into a million tiny pieces”, of course.

I mean, if we can’t balance ourselves on two sticks and two poles, the next logical step would be (of course) to ditch the poles and use only (what is essentially) one big stick to bind our feet together, right?

Enter snowboarding.

We did not know what we were in for...

We did not know what we were in for…

There really must be something to this adventurous spirit of Pucón, because we took one look at the scary mountain and immediately decided to cough up money for a ski lift to bring us up the slopes of DEATH – something that we did not dare to do in Las Leñas because… well… we don’t really know how to ski!!

Yup... that's the "I don't know what the sh*t I am doing on this ski lift look". We had enough trouble getting our asses onto the lift to wonder how we would fare tumbling down the slope.... the near isolated ski resorts (off-peak season) didn't really help either...

Yup… that’s our “I don’t know what the heck I am doing on this ski lift” look. We had enough trouble getting our asses onto the lift to make us wonder how we would fare tumbling down the slope… and the near isolated ski resort (off-peak season) didn’t really help in my contingency plan to shout as loudly as we can for help…

And if that’s not enough, did I mention that Volcan Villarrica is a very active volcano? Spits out lava at regular intervals, that kinda thing? I was pretty sure that’s Peter Jackson’s backup for Mordor… heck, I’m sure it was Sauron’s backup for Mordor as well.

But… no guts no glory, right?

I’ll be the first to admit… Looking down the slope was enough to (almost) scare the sh*t out of me the first time.

Boarding into nothingness

Boarding into nothingness

The slope looked to be inclined at an impossible angle, the fog was coming in thick and fast and for some reason I couldn’t seem to be able to strap on my snowboard tightly enough.

However, seeing that there was only one way down (we could also have gone down the hill by way of the ski lift, but what kinda losers would that make us???), we sort of just closed our eyes and went… ARGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!

I think we even managed to look (rather) convincing on the board...

I am being quite literal about the eye closing bit… yet somehow, I think Jo managed to look (rather) convincing on the board…

Best.Decision.Ever

For those of you who have never snowboarded before, DO IT NOW!!

I can’t believe I am saying this, but you really need to find yourself a high, (the next part is crucial) snow covered mountain and fling yourself off it on a flimsy board.

The adrenaline rush is insane when you are zipping down the slopes at break neck speeds, but there’s something more to it.

There was this feeling that I’d conquered the mountain as we boarded down the sides of the volcano… right until the moment when the mountain decide to hit back…

and we fell and we fell...

and it hits back again, and again, and again, and again, and again….

We went through some truly epic falls. I swear there were times we fell so hard, we ended up with our faces in the snow and both our feet up in the air. The falls were so bad our snowboards, gloves, goggles and beanies would take turns to “abandon ship” and ended up scattered all around us. I don’t think we would have looked too out of place in a Road Runner cartoon with the “Crash! Boom! Pow!” sound effects.

What did we do after the falls? We stood up, brushed off the snow and were ready to go again. It’s not that the falls didn’t hurt or that we were damn garang, but as we rode, (warning!!: possible New Age-y gibber coming up) there was this sense of “oneness” with the mountain. That we’ve somehow surrendered ourselves to the awesomeness and majesty of it all.

It’s clichéd but I am really having problems putting into words the serenity we felt, along with the constant “WE’RE GONNA DIE!!” thrill of riding the snowboard – it might have something to do with an unspoken understanding that the falling is as much of the experience as the ride, that somehow we would (probably) not die from trying.