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Quickly I got my bags together and left the hotel and moved by bus back to Pucon, where I hiked the two blocks to the Hospedaje Arrienda and established myself in my pleasant atelier. I then walked down to Sol Y Nieve, about 4 blocks, and established that indeed they had not gone hiking that day, but that I was on the list for the following day, which they thought would be a good possibility, since in their assessment the weather was clearing. The seemed to me to know about these things. I wandered back over to Tetera for an expresso and an a ham sandwich and to consult the map on the wall and make a copy of the roads I would be taking to facilitate a hitchhiking trip I had in mind, my alternate excursion in case of not being able to climb the volcano this day. There were many things to do in the area of Pucon, but there was little in the way of public transport. Hitching was supposed to be possible, and so I planned my trip as if I had a car, but was prepared to walk a bit of it, which was the way turned out.
Around Pucon there are two national parks. Villarica was one, its centerpiece the volcano and lava flows, but I would be going there when I climbed the volcano. The other park was called Huerquehue, which was in the Andes near the Argentine border (every place in Chile was near the Argentine border) and it would be a good place to walk around if you could get to it, and according to one of the guidebooks people were using (one in Spanish available in Chile) if it hadn't rained the day before. There were a number of hot springs, or thermas, in the area. The thermas I wanted to go to were out a road on which there was supposed to be little traffic, but this road was in the general direction of the park. I saw from the map in Hans's parlor that there were two ways to get to the road leading to the thermas, and one of these looped to the north to pass near Lake Caburgua and then ran near the park entrance before dropping down to meet the other road, which ran more directly to the south.
I copied both routes out on a piece of paper and labeled the resulting sketch map with all the towns I would pass either way. Armed with my sketch map and a small bottle of mineral water, I marched along the paved road out of town. A few hundred meters on I saw a couple ahead of me looking about as if wondering what to do. Just then a car approached from a side street. The man had a word with the driver, who must have agreed, since they then hopped in the car. Ah, this should be easy, says I to I, and I put out my thumb myself.
It's been a while since I've hitchhiked but I must say it's a good feeling to be able at such a ripe old age to recapture yet another bit of my retrenched youth. And it was pretty simple to catch a ride. There were cars every minute or so, which would mean that I must have caught the tenth one. The driver, a handsome Chileano laborer in a pickup, conversed in humble yet assured tones. On finding I was American, he told me he had a sister in Miami whom he had never visited. Too expensive, he said, when I asked why not. We discussed the price of airfares, and then I asked about how I should go to get where I was going. The driver suggested I go the northern route. Mucho mas bonita, he said, and there would be more traffic that way as well. What the driver might not have known or didn't consider was that there would be more traffic on the paved road to the town of Caburgua, but that getting east of there, whether on the southerly route or from the lake, would be on gravel roads with little traffic on either. In any event, he wasn't going so far, so I got out on the pavement to walk, as it turned out, to the crossroads where I would have to make my choice.
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