Well, left Santiago amongst a flood of tears! I'm still not sure weather they were shed in sadness at seeing me and the rest of the gang move or in joy at being rid of me at last!
After a few moments of reflection I put thoughts of the first leg aside, promptly forgot all about the prople that left and got down to concentrating on the second leg of the journey.
From Santiago we travelled a short distance a visited a vineyard where we bought an obscene amount of wine. Its good to see the new guys are maintaining standards and have managed to drink all the red wine in less than two weeks!
Our first stop on the journey south was in Pucon a well known ski resort in Chile. There is loads to do here. Ski (obviously!), climb Volcan Villarrica, ride horses and go rafting amongst others. Unfortunately there hadn't been much snow so skiing was off but as it was absolutely chucking it down so climbing the volcano was off and who wants to ride horses in the wet or the dry for that matter. As I was already getting soaked white water rafting seemed to be the sensible choice. There are two sections of the Trabcura river that are worth rafting. The harder section is supposed to be a grade 4 whereas the other is only a 3.
Needless to say we went for the 4. There were some excellent rapids (I went in on the first one!) which culminated in a small waterfall around 2/3 metres high where everyone not in my raft went in. Panic ensued as because of the level of water we had to get everyone out of the river before they got swept into a 7 metre waterfall which as you can imagine would not have been good.
The following day saw the rain still falling and as the river had risen half a metre overnight and showed no sign of abating I went white water rafting again but this time on the grade 3 section which was now running quite fast. Once again a good day was had by all and everyone went in this time (well jumped in as we didn't fall in!)
We left Pucon with the skiers feeling a little disapointed and left for the Argentinian ski resort of Baraloche. As you all know, if it is raining at low altitude its likely to be snowing higher up. This seemed to be the case as we crossed the border into Argentina in around 2ft of snow and needed to use snow chains to get the truck moving.
Baraloche was OK for skiing so the skiers were happy at last. Having never skied and deciding it was too expensive to learn I, and some other intrepid explorers, went trekking in the snow using snow shoes instead. The scenery was stunning (it always seems to be!). We also had a bit of a go on some toboggan thingies which was almost as much fun as walking.
We left Baraloche (my sleeping bag didn't!) and headed south for Patagonia. Luck was on our side and prior to reaching El Chalten (our first stunning scenery stop) the weather cleared and we had blue skies, no cloads and plenty of sun. Did a couple of walks and had phenomonal views of Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torres.
From El Chalten we have moved on to El Calafate and have visited the Perito Merino glacier which is supposed to be the last advancing glacier in the world (I didn't see it move but bits did fall of it!)
As with any trip there are always good bits and bad bits and this trip is no exception. It would seem that when there are elections the selling of alcohol prior to the election is prohibited. This has meant that from 8pm last night until 8pm tonight there is no drinking (bummer!!). Mind you if this is the worst the trip gets I can't complain.
Leaving for Chilean Patagonia tomorrow where we will be spending some days trekking around Torres del Paine before going onto Ushuia. Hopefully the weather will continue to hold. Will write again soon, take care and regards to all
Thinking of you always (NOT!)
Matt somewhere in South America !!!
Telephone: switched off