Nearly a decade ago we journeyed to what seemed like the end of the earth, in a country called Chile. It was our first holiday together, inspired by atheist revelation in the beauty of the Andes we were set on a course that would guide us here today. We spent Christmas in this magnificent part of the world then as we will do again now, a cycle of symbolism rich and comforting. That first foray was highlighted by an ascent of the glorious Volcan Villarica, the instigator to our lasting love affair with volcanos. As I type this now seated by the lake I can cast my eyes skyward to Volcan Villarica once again similarly inspired all this time later.
We arrived in Pucon, this little town at the base of the volcano on another overnight bus that we are slowly getting used to. Checking into our hostel gave one surprise to us, it seems our private double room neither double, private or indeed a room. We’re sleeping in a converted vintage van, this was not on the website. After politely hiding our initial shock we begin to appreciate the reason for this seemingly too affordable ‘room’. This hostel does boast a killer location and great kitchen so we manage to find good humour in this twist of events, an adventure at every turn it seems, I wonder how Geeves would show us around this one.
The lakes district here is a particularly picturesque place as contrasting to the equally amazing Atacama as could be. The desert has bid farewell to any influence over this area as cool breezes, lush greenery and sparkling waterways take over the surrounding vistas. Buoyed by memories and nostalgia there could be no better location for a Christmas away from our families and loved ones, indeed Pucon is far more than just picturesque.
Before the Christmas binge we dive into a bit of local activity and go for a canyon. Joining four others we embark on the familiar jaunt into wilderness and a taste of alpine streams, waterfalls and adventure. Alarmingly this canyon looks and feels a lot like the canyons we know from home despite the opposing terrain. There seems to be a pre-christmas theme developing here as we’re assaulted by all imaginable images from home. Abseiling down waterfalls and clambering through some of the best up close scenery nature has to offer we’re feeling more and more relaxed by the minute and relishing being in Pucon again all these years later.
For the first time this trip we manage to stumble into a huge group of Aussies staying at the hostel, this could be interesting. We’ve come across enough Germans to populate a nation but not many Aussies thus far, but that has all just changed. Usually happy to avoid the familiar and soak up new experiences we slowly accept a style of conversation and interaction that further brings us a feeling of home to accompany the Christmas cheer. With New Zealand, Mexico, France, Costa Rica and of course Germany among many others also represented we thankfully avoid an enclosed expat singularity despite the conversation inevitably turning to cricket. The resident carpenter, yes this hostel has one of those, spends the day carving out a cricket bat for what the other nationalities are learning is as necessary a part of christmas as a tree, presents and too much food.
As this day extends itself the distance to home seems less and less. We might not be going home but that doesn’t stop us bringing a bit of home to Pucon. So complete is the picture that a rousing discussion erupts about the current test series in play, an Indian-Aussie passionately lamenting the demise of Indian batting. I politely agree.
And on, with a day of cooking, eating and enough red wine and beer shared liberally to make any Aussie Christmas proud we relish simplicity in celebration. In a year that is one big long holiday we have somehow managed to find a small holiday within the larger, an escape from our escape.
Yes we are flying south for the summer but for just a little while it seems we might be making a slight detour; an ocean separates us from home but it now seems no wider than an alpine stream, we can nearly smell the seafood and hear Richie calling the first delivery.