Tag Archives: South America

El Chaltén is an el champion place!

I’ve been to plenty of out-of-the-way places over the years, but few have been as remote as the Argentinean village of El Chaltén. This tiny dot on the map is home to just 1600 people and a bloody long way from anywhere – around 220km down the road from El Calafate, which itself has a population that could fit in a phone booth, provided the locals hadn’t been eating too many empanadas. There’s only one reason for anyone to be in El Chaltén, and that’s because it offers some of the best hiking on the planet, underneath the imposing Monte Fitz Roy.

I arrived by bus in the early arvo and, because the weather wasn’t completely shithouse, decided to get out and see what I could see. The three main hikes (Laguna de los Tres, Laguna Torre and Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado) each take more than eight hours to complete, so I went for a couple of shorter options (like that time I banged midget Siamese twins. They weren’t conjoined freaks or anything, just from Siam. And I dunno if they were really twins or if I was just so smashed I was seeing double. Shit, if you’ve stumbled across this site because you’re interested in South American hiking, I feel sorry for you).

First up was the popular Los Cóndores walk, which starts just out of town and is only around a 3km round trip. It provides a top view out over El Chaltén, as well as the opportunity to watch condors cruising through the skies. The end of the track also offers the chance to marvel at the delightful Lago Viedma. It’s an easy walk – mobs of pensioners were scraping their way up there with their walking frames – and a great way to get acquainted with the area.

From there I walked through town to continue my adventures. El Chaltén exists only for touristic reasons – honestly, why the fuck else would a town pop up hundreds of kilometres from anywhere, at the end of a lonely dead-end road? So despite being a small place, there are heaps of bars and restaurants, which all sell drinks and food at highly inflated prices that a po’ ol’ unemployed champion like thyself could never hope to afford. But if you’re a valuable member of society and actually have more than five dollars in your pocket at any given time, you could have a ball going out every night.

At the northern end of town is the path to the legendary Chorrillo del Salto. Alright, maybe it’s not legendary. Maybe I just heard about it a few hours ago. But waterfalls are grouse, so of course I wanted to see it. The walk there is as easy as a Wyong girl with five Cruisers in her, but there are some stunning views out over the mountains and rivers. The waterfall itself is quite lovely as well.

With plans to hike the 25km Laguna de los Tres trail in the morning, I went to bed early so that I could get a good night’s rest… nah, fuck that. Real men hike with hangovers, so I ended up getting absolutely shitfaced at the hostel with an eclectic mix of Germans, Poms and Italians. We polished off our final box of disgustingly cheap Vino Toro around 4am, at which point I stumbled into bed with someone I didn’t know particularly well, gave her 30 seconds worth of reasons not to want to get to know me particularly well, and promptly passed out. And they say hiking is good for your health.

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Ice to meet you! Adventures at the Perito Moreno Glacier

I thought my ex-girlfriend was the most frigid thing on the planet, but then I met the Perito Moreno Glacier. This 250-square-kilometre block of ice is absolutely magnificent, incredibly cold, and one of the highlights of the Argentinean side of Patagonia. If you like massive slabs of ice and being so cold you think you’ll lose a few fingers, then this place is for you. In fact, you’ll probably find it a chill-a-minute!

The town of El Calafate (pronounced smell-curry-far-tee) is a seven-hour bus trip from Puerto Natales, where I bid tchau to my Portuguese mate Tony and left him to rebuild his life after nearly being sexed up by a couple of admirers. El Caf is a decent little tourist town (although sleet-ly too cold for my liking) with some nice restaurants and bars, and a really shitty lake that looks and smells like it’s made out of dog turds.

Which it might well be, because El Calafate has more dogs per capita than anywhere else in the world. There are three dogs for every non-dog, which means they’re everywhere. You can’t scratch your dick without hitting a dog. They’re all over the streets, chasing cars, fucking anything that moves, and crapping on bushes. It’s like having thousands of Todd Carneys in one place.

But enough about the town. People only come to El Calafate for the glacier, and it’s one of the most astonishing sights anyone could wish to see (along with the arse on this one chick I befriended in Slovakia, but that’s another story). The size of it is snow laughing matter – the ice field is 5km wide, 30km long, 100m high and as blue as a Smurf’s blurter.

You can pay top dollar to walk on the glacier or cruise around it in a boat, but I wouldn’t bother because you can get a bergs-eye-view from the park’s numerous trails. There’s a number of walking tracks that get nice and close to the ice, offering the chance to see it from all sorts of different angles and heights. It was bloody freezing, with snow and high winds, but none of it bothered me because I was pissed had such a cool view in front of me. In fact, I froze to the occasion and explored the entire park.

My sidekick for this adventure was my Japanese mate Sean, who had probably warmed himself up with some sake before taking on the sub-zero conditions. If not for that reason, he needed to be piste to put up with the chill-dish jokes fluttering around him. My hilarious acts of wordplay were snowballing, and receiving a frosty reception, so he looked like he was ready to ava-launch himself off the nearest cliff. I don’t know what I did wrong – after all, isn’t Japan known as the land of the icing pun?

Torres del Paine, Day Quattro: The rain in Paine falls mostly on me

Torrential rain. Sub-zero temperatures. Sleet and snow. Cyclonic winds. They sound like good names for heavy metal bands, but they’re not the kind of words you want to hear while you’re hiking through Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. My fourth day on the W Trek dawned with absolutely appalling weather that saw a number of tracks closed for safety reasons, and left me wondering whether I’d actually get out of my tent at all.

I did finally crawl out around 10am to start a wet, wild and at sometimes dangerous 16km walk towards the ccentral Las Torres campsite. I can’t say the views were breathtaking, because I could see dick-all other than the thick clouds around me and the rain that pelted into my eyes. It didn’t take long before I was wetter than a fat chick with a box of fresh donuts. As the weather worsened, I had to keep going, because there was no shelter or places to divert to. It was just one sopping foot in front of the other for hours.

There’s a section of this track that runs along the shores of Lago Nordenskjold,and that’s where things got truly dicey. The wind was smashing through at more than 150km/h – enough to knock me off my feet and send rocks flying at my head. It was kind of scary, and I was grateful when an attractive Chinese girl asked if I wanted to hold onto her pole so I didn’t get blown away.

“No thanks,” I replied. “But feel free to hold onto my pole if you like. You won’t be blown away by it, either.”

The last few kilometres of the walk felt like something out of a World War II prison camp. Lonely, skeletal figures staggered through the gloom, sometimes falling, never speaking. When I finally reached the camp, it was even worse. Far from the comforts of Camp Grey and Camp Frances, Las Torres is little more than a turd-smeared toilet block and a small tent, which was full of muddy, crying, shivering survivors. To make things worse, the shack that serves as a shop was out of Clos. It was a tragic end to an awful day – or so I thought.

“Hey man!” came a voice, and I turned around to see Antonio standing there with a girl under each arm. He told me he was heading back to Puerto Natales on the next bus, and planned to get drunk and go dancing. I looked around at the horror show surrounding me as I weighed up my options; I could stick around in the mud and misery another day in the slim hope that a miracle would happen and it would clear up enough that I could hike up to the Torres in the morning. Or I could jump on the bus, get epically drunk in a warm pub, and try to pork a stunning Chilean girl. If you’re wondering which way I went, just check the name of this blog.

I made the right decision, because the weather just got worse and I ended up having a top night. After getting back to Puerto Natales at 10, a bunch of us loaded up on boxes of cheap Clos and headed out to a swinging bar, where I got smashed on awesome local beer and worked my way through a kilogram of chips. I’m doing my best to rediscover all the weight I’ve lost over the last year.

Things then took a turn for the bizarre. On the way home from the bar, after killing another box of Clos, Tony and I ended up in a near-deserted pub with only one old pisshead drinking in the corner. At 3am it seemed like as good a place as any to continue the festivities, so we got stuck into more of Patagonia’s finest piss. Then a couple of perverts walked in, and we suddenly found ourselves in a more dangerous situation than anything del Paine could throw at us.

“You are handsome boys, why not you dance on the pole?” asked one of the creeps. At first I assumed he was talking about his dick, but then the barmaid flicked a switch and a sad string of rope lights lit up a pole in a dark corner of the room. The sicko started gyrating to a song that must’ve been playing in his head, saying, “You would look so good on the pole. Don’t be scared, I dance with you.”

I told the idiot in no uncertain terms that I didn’t intend on dancing on any poles, but poor old Antonio was drunk enough to be coerced into the corner. He bopped around a bit while the perverts oohed and ahhed and lifted up their shirts to expose their erect nipples, and I laughed along and did my best to cop a feel of the barmaid’s big tits. Suddenly, my Portuguese pal let out a squeal and raced for the door, spilling out into the frigid night. I skolled my beer and followed him, and when we saw that the perverts were after us, we ran through the icy streets of Puerto Natales until we were sure we’d lost them.

“I’m fine with dancing on the pole, I’m alright with their sexy comments, but I draw the line at them biting my penis,” he yelled.

I just nodded, afraid to ask any further, and then handed Antonio a box of Clos to help him suppress the memories.

“No more Clos,” he wept, throwing the carton into an open drain. “With you, it is always about the Clos! We hike, we drink Clos! We don’t hike, we drink Clos! Because of Clos, I was almost raped by a retarded guy!”

If the marketing team at Clos don’t use that as their tagline in the future, they should lose their fucking jobs.

Torres del Paine, Day Tres: Avalanches A-Go-Go!

Patagonia’s hiking wonderland of Torres del Paine is like 50 worlds in one. It doesn’t take long to walk from dense forest to sparse flatlands, or to wander from bright sunshine into pelting rain, dense fog or worse. For my third day on the W Trek, I made my way up the Frances Valley towards Mirador Británico. It was a bloody unreal trip, but also saw the onset of horrible weather that threatened the rest of my hike.

The day began with angry winds that rocked Camp Frances, but nothing looked as wild or unkempt as my little Portuguese mate Antonio. He was wandering between the tents in nothing but his underpants, with scratches all over his body and a distressed look on his face.

“Did the rodents eat your clothes, Tony?” I chuckled.

“I wish,” he replied. “I ended up in a tent with a fat girl who had run out of chocolate. She took out her frustrations on me until I finally found a Mars bar in my pocket. I threw it into the bushes and when she dived after it, I escaped. I feel violated and unclean.”

I grabbed my daypack and left the European to piece his life together as I got back out there to see more of the park. The hike up to Mirador Británico is really pretty, running along a roaring river for several kilometres before heading up into the snowcapped mountains. Just look at these photos – it was fuckin’ beautiful and I enjoyed every second I spent looking out at that astonishing landscape.

The most stunning aspect of this hike is the massive glacier that clings to the cliffs far above. Every few minutes, a frightening rumble echoes through the valley, but while it sounds like thunder, it’s actually regular avalanches. They’re incredible to watch – tonnes of ice crashing into the abyss far below. Each frigid tumble emphasises the relentless power of nature, and it’s not hard to feel small when confronted with something that large (something I’m sure Antonio can attest to).

The hike heads through ancient forests full of skeletal trees clawing at the sky, across windswept plains, and ends up with a brilliant view of the rear side of the legendary Cordillera Paine. When I finally made it to the mirador, I had giant mountains on every side of me, providing a memorable view. I didn’t spend too long enjoying it, though, because the wind and rain started up and it actually became pretty dangerous being in such an exposed part of the park.

It was good to have a day’s hiking without my tent and other gear weighing me down, so I’d highly recommend spending two nights at the lovely Camp Frances. By the time I returned, Antonio had moved on to escape the clutches of his plump lover, so I drank a box of lukewarm Clos down by the lake with a group of excitable Chinamen I met.

“He who see rain at night will see mountain in morning,” slurred one of the fellas, before passing out in a bush.

“Ancient Chinese proverb,” explained his mate, whilst not realising he was pissing his pants. “It mean tomorrow will be good day for hiking.”

I just nodded and assumed the bush-diver was Shanghai’s answer to Tim Bailey, but when I woke up the next morning and looked out of my tent at the pouring rain, I realised the truth of another proverb; Never trust a Chinaman who’s smashed on cheap goon. I hope you enjoy these lovely photos because trust me, the story gets a lot nastier from here on.

Torres del Paine, Day Dos: Prances to Frances

After a spectacular first day in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, I was looking forward to a cracking second day that would see me hike 23km from Camp Grey to Camp Frances. This section of the W Trek winds past lakes, mountains and waterfalls, but when I woke up, all I could see was rain. I felt like snuggling into my sleeping bag and wanking the day away, but I put on a brave face and strutted out into the angry wilderness.

The first half of the journey involves backtracking towards Paine Grande, where I started the trek, but it was like I was seeing everything for the first time again. A different time of day meant that the mountains and valleys shone bright with new colours, and I was amazed by Torres del Paine all over again. I get the feeling you could walk these trails a thousand times and still fail to see everything.

The second half of the day saw me climbing up headlands that provided fantastic views over the shimmering lakes, with sensational snow-capped cliffs in the background. I splashed through icy creeks, and scurried across dodgy-looking wooden bridges that looked like they could fall to bits at any minute and causing me to bust my arse. It wasn’t a tough hike, so I was able to enjoy the stunning vistas around me, as I neared the imposing mountains of the Frances Valley.

It’s autumn in Patagonia, so the park is ablaze with burning reds and simmering oranges, which stand in stark contrast to the azure water and emerald hills. However, despite being a truly wild place, it’s surprisingly quiet. There are very few birds, animals or insects, so often the only noises are far-off rivers bubbling away, or glaciers collapsing in the distance. Just ignore the whinging Americans that pop up every hour or so, and it’s like being the only person on Earth.

When I finally made it to Camp Frances, my Portiguese mate Antonio was standing at the front gate with a beautiful Korean girl under his arm.

“Hey baby,” he cooed. “A puma ate my tent this morning, can I sleep in yours?”

“Oh no, that’s so sad,” replied the lass. “You’re very brave, of course you can sleep in mine.”

“Excellent. The puma also ate my pyjamas, so I won’t be wearing any to bed.”

With that, Antonio led the Korean beauty off so that she could sample his linguiça.

Camp Frances is a cool place, with dozens of wooden camping platforms strewn about the forest, like something out of a fairy tale. It’s a magical place, but there is an evil that lurks beneath the trees – horrible, razor-toothed mice that eat anything they can find, even if they have to chew their way through tents or bags to find it. These filthy pricks get into everything, and the only way to escape their hunger-fuelled wrath is to hang your food from a high tree. It’s also a good way to keep your chocolate bars away from fat cunts.

The best way to forget about the ravenous rats is to get shitfaced, and Frances is a great place for it. The on-site minimarket sells one-litre cartons of wine for 4000 pesos – a deal I most certainly availed myself of. Clos is actually a pretty good drop, and I ended up downing two boxes with Antonio when he finally emerged from the Korean’s tent with a smirk on his face. Everyone else was in bed by nine, but we rocked on till 2:30, when the Clos was finally empty and Antonio staggered off to find a tent to pass out in.

The W Trek never fails to surprise, amaze and challenge, and as I pushed further into the hike I fell even more in love with Torres del Paine National Park. It’s a top place to hike, and all those delightful mountains and valleys look even better when you’re smashed. Torres del Paine could well be the perfect pairing of alcoholism and ascending mountains. Speaking of which, I need to shake off this hangover and keep heading through the mountains…

Torres del Paine, Day Uno: Wild on the W

Tonight, Drunk and Jobless is coming to you live from Patagonia’s world famous Torres del Paine National Park. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard about it until a few weeks ago, either, but it’s famous with the hiking set, and for good reason. The mountains in this part of Chile are incredible, the lakes are so blue it almost hurts. There are glaciers and icebergs, angry cliffs and violent winds. The weather changes its mind every five minutes, there’s the ever-present danger of being blown into a fjord, and every wonderful sight is beaten by an even more wonderful sight around the next corner. This place is great.

So great that thousands of people come to Torres del Paine every year. Seriously, this joint is Disneyland for people who enjoy looking at trees. I knew that when I found it on one of those shit ‘Top 5 Things to do in Chile’ blogs, but it was driven home when I happened on an introductory lesson for hiking the trail while I was picking up some gear.

“Are there toilets out there?”

“Will I get cold?”

“Where are the Wi-Fi hotspots?”

I’m not some unreal bushman, but I know that if you need to shit on a hike, you go behind a tree… but more on that later. Things didnt improve when I woke up at some some silly time, jumped on a bus, and ended up in the Park. I swear half the motherfuckers there were dressed as if they’d only ever read about hiking on the internet. North Face hard shells when it didn’t even look like raining, five layers of snow clothes when it was about 12 degrees, I even saw some fuckwit in a sombrero.

I took a catamaran across a windswept lake to the start of the hike, and that’s where I met a Portuguese chap named Antonio. He told me that he’d managed to sneak past the front gates of the park without paying, had climbed onto the cat without paying, and planned to camp without handing over a single peso. One thing I’ve learned since arriving in South America is that you don’t want to get between a Chilean and a dollar unless you’re willing to lose a finger, so when I said goodbye to him at Paine Grande camp, I didn’t expect to see him in one piece again.

I’m in Patagonia outside the peak times, but I was still worried that I’d be pushing through people just to keep going along the trail – and the truth is that I pretty much was as I started out on the famed W Trek. I can walk faster than most otber people (except the Germans) but I take a lot of photos, so I had to wind my way around the same people over and over again. For someone who usually hikes alone in Australia, I didn’t really get that feeling of being out in the elements that I usually look for.

It can be a clown show at times, but it is bloody amazing. It’s not just about the mountains and lakes, because every tree and shrub and rock is worth taking a photo of, or just standing back and basking in its glory. There aren’t many places that can match the epic scale of Torres del Paine, so watch your step whilst you’re gaping in wide-eyed wonder at the incredible stuff going on in the Patagonian wilderness around you.

The hiking in Torres del Paine isn’t exactly difficult. There are no really steep bits, or really rocky bits, so as long as you’ve got a set of legs that work, it takes no major effort to get around. What has made it tough for me is the fact I’m carrying everything I need for five days on my back – tent, sleeping bag, mat, and food. Most people choose to stay in the refugios along the way, or rent a different tent each night. Those who really have money falling out their arses also eat in the restaurants, so all they need to carry around is a spare cashmere sweater. Really, if you’re on a week-long camp and you can’t carry your own supplies, maybe you’d be better off staying at home.

Like most people who hike the W, I spent my first night at Camp Grey, about 11km north of where the catamaran docks. After setting up my tent, I hiked a further kilometre to Glacier Grey, which is absolutely astonishing. A wall of glowing blue ice lurks menacingly on the lake, while massive chunks of frozen water constantly break off and cause deafening crashes.

Things were also noisy back at camp, because I got the squirts. There was some bad stuff going on in my guts, and the toilets were full, so I raced down the track out of camp and let rip with last night’s chicken vindaloo, which looked like it hadn’t even touched the sides before coming back out. Unfortunately, in my panic I hadn’t realised that the path looped back towards the campsite, so when I started wiping my arse I looked over to see a couple of horrified Germans gagging on their sausages about three metres away from me.

“Sorry, Gunter,” I chuckled as I wiped my blurter. “I guess a threesome’s out of the question, then?”

There’s quite a nice bar at Camp Grey, but when I wandered in and asked for a cold one the little bloke behind the bar gave me a toothy smile and asked for 4000 pesos, so I stole as many complimentary olives off the bar and hotfooted it out of there. Luckily, I brought a bottle of Chile’s cheapest vodka with me, so when I got back to my tent I was faced with two options. I could take it out to the camp kitchen, where gorgeous European women would treat me like a king and fight for the attention of me and the bottle, inevitably leading to an evening of raucous sexual debauchery. Or I could mix it with a can of overpriced Sprite and smash it in my tent by myself, thus achieving maximum drunkenness and increasing my chances of vomiting on a puma.

I took a deep breath, made my decision, and walked towards the camp kitchen with the cheap bottle in my hands. A dozen women, each one looking stunning despite a hard day of hiking, was drawn to me like moths to a flame. For a few minutes, I was the king of Torres del Paine, as offers of sex and chocolate were thrown my way. But I’m a man of simple tastes, so I chose a delightful Brazilian lass and escorted her back to my tent as she sucked back the vodka.

Once inside, she began to strip off for me in preparation for hours of getting naughty in nature. And then… well, I don’t know, because I was so tired from walking all day that I passed out. When I woke up, there was no sign of the Brazilian or the vodka. I climbed out of my tent, and was stunned to see Antonio sitting on a log with a massive smile on his face.

“You wouldn’t believe my luck!” he told me. “Last night I arrive in camp late, a beautiful Brazilian lady come up to me with a bottle of vodka and asking for sex. She take me back to her tent, we make fuck all night. Three, four, five times. Free accommodation, free alcohol, free poontang. It’s a good day to be Antonio!”

Punta Arenas – Industrial wasteland at the end of the world

After the lush, green beauty of Chile’s Los Lagos district, flying into Patagonia was like soaring into another dimonsion. Over the course of the most remarkable plane trip of my life the trees, mountains and volcanoes gave way to gnarled shrubs, murky swamps and endless flatlands – an alien landscape that makes it hard to believe anyone lives this far south. When I landed and made my way into the only real city in the region, Punta Arenas, I had no more answers to why people would make this harsh place their home. I dunno, maybe they just really like penguins or something.

Punta Arenas (pronounced put-eet-in-her-arse) has some nice colonial buildings in the centre of town, but is mainly a rambling mess of sheet metal shacks and flat-roofed boxes, with little to set the heart racing. I guess the best way to describe it is functional – the city faces brutal weather, and the simple architecture reflects that. If you’re a connoisseur of crack dens, however, you’ll adore it.

The main reasons for heading to Punta Arenas are to use it as a stopover on the way to Antarctica or Puerto Natales, but it does have a few interesting things to see. There’s a brilliant recreation of the 27-metre-long Nao Victoria which is a few kilometres out of town, that’s like a wet dream come true for history and boat buffs. The original ship was part of the fleet that discovered Chile, and was the first to circumnavigate the globe, but has since been turned into a chicken hatchery or something. I didn’t actually get to visit it because it was in the opposite direction of the pub, but my dad reckons it’s tops. He also reckons I’m the funniest and coolest person he’s ever met, so I trust his judgement. Heres a photo of him in front of the ship with his pensioner travelling group, Geezers Overseas-ers.

Of more interest to heavy drinkers like me is the Austral brewery, which is located right in the middle of town. Austral is a delicious lager that’s been brewed right here in Patagonia for more than a century, and when I heard that they offer tours of the brewery I raced out there with visions of drinking thousands of litres of fresh booze. Sadly, the whole thing was locked up and looking abandoned when I got there, and when I begged for a beer through the fence a little bloke came out and shooed me off with a broom, so I grabbed a six pack from the shops and got pissed down by the beach.

Punta Arenas doesn’t offer stunning vistas or world-famous landmarks, but it does offer insight into the realities of living in such an extreme part of the planet. It’s a tough industrial town that feels like it’s an eternity from anywhere. It’ll never rival Venice, Prague or Wattanobbi for beauty, but it has an unpolished charm that offers a weird appeal. Nobody enters Punta Arenas without using it to go somewhere prettier (Sofía Vergara’s chubby best friend is in a similar position), but it has a bit of personality and makes for a decent arvo out. Next!

Tutti Frutillar

What’s the fruitiest little town on the planet? No, it’s not Orange, and it’s certainly not Berry, it’s the Southern Chilean village of Frutillar, a picturesque spot on the shores of Lago Llanquihue. With its gorgeous Germanic architecture, tree-lined streets and sweeping views out over Volcan Osorno, this place is sweeter than a handful of dried figs and better for your health than a daily apple.

Frutillar is an easy 50 minute bus ride from nearby Puerto Varas, over lush green hills and through simple, run-down towns full of stern-faced Chileans. Once again this country has surprised me with how quickly it can change – from modern and clean one minute to backwards and grimy the next. It’s a nice trip out there, but the best was most definitely still to come.

Like many towns in Los Lagos, Frutillar was settled by Germans who were run out of their homeland by snakes or something. More than 100 years later, this influence is still evident, with Euro houses, images of frightening eagles and swastikas biergartens all over the place. The first time a little bloke walked out of his restaurant and suggested I munch on his strudel, I almost thumped him, but was soon gobbling as much thick, juicy pastry as possible.

The weather in this part of the world can be as unpredictable as an ice addict and twice as nasty. It can be sunny and warm with bright blue skies, then dark and stormy with torrential rain, then windy and cold, all within a period of 15 minutes. It’s mental, and I was constantly dressing and undressing in a desperate attempt to keep up with the weather. Things never cleared up enough to get a great look at Volcan Osorno, but then again not being able to see volcanos is becoming a bit of a theme on this trip.

Despite being dominated by scores of well-preserved historic buildings, the most impressive structure in town is the massive Teatro del Lago (or Theatre of the Lake in non-Spanish). Built over the water from enough colourful bits of wood to make a greenie cry for a week, it’s an impressive sight and hosts performances from some of Chile’s greatest opera singers. There was nothing like that going on when I visited, but I did see a homeless man arguing with a shoe round the back, so it wasn’t a total loss.

When I found an old piano by the lake’s edge, I decided to put on a concert for the passing tourists. I haven’t played a musical instrument (other than the rusty trombone) since my early days of high school, but I must be a savant because I soon had dozens of classical music enthusists from around the world grooving in the street, and humming and clapping along to my selection of 90s advertising jingles. They seemed to particularly enjoy my 35-minute rendition of the VB theme.

Alright, so maybe my audience wasn’t dozens, it was two, and they weren’t music enthusiasts, they were flea-riddled street dogs, and they weren’t dancing, they were mainly just licking their balls and humping each other. But whatever, I’m still cool. I’m available to perform at weddings, birthdays, pet funerals, bar vitzvahs, bat bitzvahs and penis cutting ceremonies. I’m waiting for your call.

The Wetter the Better in Parque Nacional Huerquehue

After sleeping off my hangover, I woke up bright and early and ready to hike to the top of Volcan Villarrica, near Pucon in Chile. But when I skipped outside, the big bastard wasn’t there anymore. It was like he’d thrown up his massive molten hands during the night, said ‘Fuck it’ and just walked off, leaving a gaping hole where he’d once been (and no, I’m not going to mention my ex-girlfriend here). It seemed like magic, but it wasn’t – the weather was absolutely garbage, with rain pouring in and myst swirling around, meaning I could barely see the empenada in my hand. So I did what any sensible person would – I went for a six-hour hike in Parque Nacional Huerquehue.

The Parque is one of the most famous in South America, with hiking enthusiasts travelling from around the world to bask in the glory of its remote lakes and rugged cliffs. The views from the peaks are monumental when the weather is fine, but I wasn’t sure how much I’d see in a downpour. I needn’t have worried, because I was treated to a unique, ferocious, beautiful experience that was well worth almost drowning for.

Huerquehue is around an hour from Pucon, with buses available to deliver you right to the front door. It’s an interesting trip, with the ricketty old wagon climbing steep dirt tracks and descending into thick forests. Once at the park, there are two main hikes – the Los Lagos, which I took, and the more difficult San Sebastián, which was out of bounds because of the tempest. I was just about the only person stupid enough to be out there that day, so I really did feel like I was leaving civilisation behind and marching into somewhere truly isolated. I zipped up my jacked, checked my snorkel (Oi! Stop snickering!) and headed off into the unknown.

It’s a ravishing walk, first snaking through the thick Araucaria araucana, before racing along the edge of the picturesque Lago Chico. I would’ve like to sit down and soak in its glory, but I was almost getting knocked over by the wind and rain, so I bravely kept going. Of course, maybe I confused bravery with stupidity, because as the track started winding up the side of a cliff, I was slippin’ and slidin’ all over the place, and went closse to rolling all the way back down to the start.

There are a couple of majestic waterfalls during the climb that are truly spectacular. Nido de Águila and Trafulco come crashing out of the forest, with huge plumes of water spraying throughout the foliage. I felt tiny next to them – an experience similar to when I ended up between a couple of members of the West Indian cricket team at a urinal a few years back.

Once I made it to the top of the mountain – a height of more than 1000m, and around 8km from the entrance – I was presented with a delicious platter of lakes to explore. Laga Toro is an incredible place, and the horrible conditions did nothing to detract from how wonderful it is. In fact, when the wind picked up and the rain started scooting horizontally across the surface, I stood back in amazement at how raw and savage it all was. Sure, it would’ve been nice to see it on a bright sunny day, but I think the conditions allowed me to see the true ferocity of the Chilean wilderness.

With the weather getting worse by the minute and everything getting wetter than a fish’s arsehole, I made the decision to turn around and aim for the earlier bus home. It was at that point that I realised my phone was also on the wrong side of damp, which was disappointing in itself, but also led to one of the lower points of my life. I needed to find something to dry it with, so when I passed a filthy toilet block, I popped inside in the hope of finding some toilet paper. I was in luck, because there was some toilet paper – a whole bunch of filthy, shit-smeared scraps in a bin in the corner.

As I sifted through the bin to find a few pieces that weren’t completely encrusted with the remains of last night’s completo, I couldn’t help thinking that I’d wandered down the wrong track in life. But as I tidied up my phone with a chunk of paper that had ended its life deep within the sweaty arsecrack of an overweight Chilean bloke, I was certain that I hadn’t wandered down the wrong track when it came to Huerquehue. If you get a chance to go there, do it – and please leave a few squares of shit-free bog roll in the dunny, just in case.

How do you pronounce Huerquehue? I have no fucken clue!

Pucon ist wunderbar!

I love everything about Germany (well, except for their history of starting wars and slaughtering innocent people by the millions), so when I found out there’s a town in Southern Chile that looks like it’s straight out of Bavaria, I had to check it out. After a number of run-ins with the locals, Santiago was getting a bit hot for me anyway, so I went to the airport and told a passing pilot, “Hey bro, take me to Pucon!” He told me to go lay an egg, but I was able to find a flight that was heading that way, so I took it.

It was worth the trip, because Pucon is absolutely beautiful. It’s nestled on the banks of the crystal-clear Lago Villarrica and surrounded by densely forested mountains. Oh, and there’s a massive fuck-off volcano looming over everything, that’s so magical it’s hard to believe it’s real. The big fella is known as Volcán Villarrica and he’s 2,860m tall, so he’s quite spectacular and extremely active (just like me!). Pucon is a tourist town, with adventure-seekers from around the world rocking up to go hiking, white water rafting, and skydiving. There are also tonnes of good restaurants and lively bars, so if you’d rather sit around and get drunk and fat, you’re in luck.

As I strutted around, I really did feel like I was in München or Wanknōbbel – not surprising, seeing as the area was largely settled by sausage guzzlers 100 years ago. The buildings have been lovingly constructed in the traditional German style, and most of the people look European. The only thing that broke the illusion was the lack of schnitzels the size of my head. So I smashed about a thousand empenadas instead, then bought some el cheapo (my Spanish is already getting better!) beer to drink by the el agua. The weather was miserable, but I was enchanted by the scenery around me.

With so many fun-lovin’ people in town, it came as no surprise that my hostel was absolutely packed and full of life. The Chili Kiwi is right on the lake and has a great little bar stocked with a wide range delicious local beers, so I set about testing them all out. I’m pretty thorough when it comes to that sort of thing, so I ended up drinking close to my body weight and getting riotously drunk. There’s a party atmosphere there, so a good, safe and responsible time was had by all (except when a few of us started drinking a mixture of beer and red wine out of a flower vase).

As the night got blurrier, I wound up picking a fight with a pot plant and passing out in the toilet, thus ensuring that none of the good sorts in the hostel wanted anything to do with me. The next morning I was so hungover that I couldn’t stand to look at the volcano, let alone climb it, so I just sat around the hostel watching episodes of Becker and eating cold completos I found in the bin. I live a full life.