If you need to get out of the city and the smog, its fairly easy to buy a bus ticket and go someplace outside of Santiago for the weekend. I’ve taken some great trips with other students from la Catolica but one of my favorites was last weekend when a group of 8 of us when down south to Pucon.
Pucon is mostly a tourist destination for the outdoor enthusiast but it’s also, so I’m told, a good place to find a party on the beach during the summer. There’s hiking, horseback riding, rafting, bikes for rent, a volcano to climb and a whole street full of “tourist agencies” where you can sign up for these activities.
After visiting a couple different places to compare prices etc. we decided to go “hidrospeeding”, which is similar to white water rafting… except that you, individually, are in the water and I think it’s illegal in some parts of the US. If you’re curious, look it up on youtube! Its well worth going in my opinion!! (this is the video the guide made of our group. I guess my name is Salan now) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BKy4_kAm0E
We had planned on hiking the volcano the next day (which is about a 6 hr trip give or take an hour or two depending on your group and your guide) but it was pouring rain so we went horseback riding instead. We chose a trail through a Mapuche community and up a mountain, which turned into a 20 minute hike in the mud at the end since the horses couldn’t make it up the slope. We got back home soaking wet, muddy, full of really good mapuche food and really happy that we’d sucked it up and gone despite the rain.
On Sunday we finally got to climb the volcano, Villarica, which was by far the highlight of the weekend and probably one of the most intense things I have ever done. Because of all the rain the day before, the higher parts of the climb were PURE ICE and it was terrifying (for me anyway!). Besides making it to the summit in one piece, the best part was getting to strap on a huge diaper-ish thing and sliding all the way back down the mountain on your butt… which is also much more intense than it sounds!
But don’t take my word for it!