Sunday, 19 April 2015

Gettin' Around Bio Bio

View from the quarry, overlooking the Bio Bio River.
It's 2 months down in Chile, and things are starting to be normal now. Get up before the sun, stuff down some toast, throw back a hot coffee, then catch a bus to work. That's the easy part! I then have to teach over-energetic kids who just want to muck around and play games, and have no consideration for my headache or lack of energy at all. I joke, but they are good kids, and I am enjoying teaching the primary school. The kids are great on the whole, and it's better than many other jobs I've had. Yes, it is reality now - work, have dinner, sleep. Repeat. I do my best to break this up though, and have been doing a bit of sightseeing around the area, trying to stick to natural sights, as the man-made sights in Chile tend to ruin nature - dirty cities, busy streets, and everything is so noisy!

Lleu Lleu lake.
The Bio Bio river.
La Laguna Grande and it's swans.
Not having much money lately, my trips have been small and done as cheaply as possible! A few weeks ago, I went camping with a few friends down south in a place called Lake Lleu Lleu. It's about 150kms south of Conce, and deep in Mapuche territory. The drive was probably more eventful that the camping part - we got a flat on the highway (which I had to change as the 3 others had never done one before), pulled over by the cops for not having our lights on while (speeding!) on the motorway during the day. We didn't get done for not wearing seatbelts, or for the speeding. We also had no registration papers, but the driver and front seat passenger were both girls, the cop a young bloke, so a bit of "perona, perdona, por favour, por favour! (sorry, sorry, please, please!) and flirting, and we were allowed to go! Stop to replace the tyre, as we had to use one of those Barbie-mobile tyres that are 1/3 the size of normal ones and you have to stick to 80kph, which is near impossible for a Chilean. The type place wanted to charge us 10,000 pesos ($20AuD) which I think is extremely good, but our driver did a bit more flirting and got away with 5,000 pesos (and Johnny the mechanic's number!). I won't even go into out epic quest to buy charcoal for the fire (which failed) and discovering that we had no cookware either. I will just say my friends are lucky that I have bush survival skills... and had my pocket knife and can start a fire!

Just in time for a photo of the sunset at Lleu Lleu.
The skyline of Concepcion.
We made it for sunset luckily, as I was starting to worry about getting there, not being able to take any pictures (the most important thing), and cooking and setting up in the complete dark. Although I have done a tent in front of the car's headlamps before, it's not really what you want. We had dinner, and drank beers that turned out to be free - the lady at the supermarket forgot to scan them, and I forgot to mention it. I figured it was a bit of good luck for us. Cheers! We had the whole lakeside to ourselves - nobody else was camping that weekend. We did have a dog for the weekend though, which is to be expected in Chile, as there are strays everywhere. He of course shared our sausages. In the morning, I woke to a strange noise, and thought it was pigs... and it was! We were joined by 3 little pigs, which I christened Babe, Wilbur and Bacon, all good pig names. We were later joined by 2 more pigs (where they came from I have no idea...), and so I had to come up with more equally piggy names - Sausage and Napoleon. Swimming in a lake is always fun - you forget how hard it is to stay afloat in fresh water compared to the ocean, and really tire yourself out really quickly! It is nice not having to worry about closing your mouth and eyes too much though - hate drinking salt water! The drive back wasn't nearly as fun, but it is always nice to get home!

La Laguna Grande.
Sunset on the Bio Bio.
Hiking and Eucalyptus.
Just down the road from me is a town called Chiguayante. A few kms out of Conce, it sits right on the Bio Bio River, and has many wealthy houses. I went for an 8km hike around a quarry with some teachers from the school I teach at, at sunset time, and loved it! An easy walk, but quiet, surrounded by eucalyptus trees that made it smell just like Australia! The quarry was empty, save a few machines, us and 2 dogs which followed us from start to finish. Always at least one dog anywhere you go in Chile, and they are always friendly too! Another place that is very close to Conce is La Laguna Grande (The Big Lagoon). You can take a 15 min bus ride, or as I've had no money lately, you can walk it in about an hour. It isn't for swimming, and I have been told that a few people died there last summer - I'm not sure how (drunk swimming? swan attack?), as the water looks extremely still and peaceful. They have a Laguna Chico, which you can pay to swim in, which is safe. Like every public space in Chile though, there are loads of people, dogs and teenagers making out everywhere you look. It's a lovely spot to watch the sunset, have a beer with a few friends, and find a dog to take home.

The Bio Bio river and the 'tits of the Bio Bio' in the background.

Left as they were after the tsunami in 2010.
So I have been trying to get out of the towns and cities, but sometimes it's nice to visit a little fishing village. This is exactly what I did last weekend. 25kms north of Concepcion is a town called Coliumo. You may remember hearing about the devastating tsunami in in Chile back in 2010 which was caused by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake that lasted almost 3 minutes - it's centre was Concepcion. A few buildings collapsed in the city, and the coastal towns were very badly damaged in the tsunami - Coliumo and Dichato were nearly completed wiped out. Most of the town has been rebuilt, the houses on concrete stilts, but some evidence can still be found. While walking around the peninsula, a once-cool house with a view over the bay still sits there sadly, windows smashed, walls crooked and not a thing done to it in the last 5 years. The house right next to it is immaculate - possibly the replacement. A few boats have also been left as they were - turned over, leaning up against the rocks. Some of the people were moved up the hill, and now live in houses built by the government to replace their lost ones. It is still a busy fishing village, and the harbour is full of colourful trawlers, all with their own names, waiting for the next tide to go back out fishing.

The fishing boats in Coliumo.
Feeling much better that I have explored more around my area, but still much more to do around here - and hopefully before the winter rains set in! The weather is turning colder and windier, so as you may have heard, 'winter is coming.' It might be time to hunker down, stay in bed and stay warm, but that's not my thing really! The next blog should be coming to you from South Afica in fact - I am flying there in 2 weeks time to take the photos for a good friend of mine that I haven't seen in almost 9 years! As I will be there for 2 weeks, there will also be time to squeeze in a safari and a million photos of The Big 5 if all goes well! Until then, enjoy this video showing my city Concepcion from the air - a great way of seeing it, as it looks so clean and quiet!

Our private 'wharf' at Lleu Lleu.

Birthday Weekend

The always impressive Pedraforca. Just beautiful! Hiking with a touch of snow. Winter was setting in by November, and although ...