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Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

sayan

People have asked us over and over again what our favorite part of our trip has been.  I’ll give you the answer, unanimously agreed-upon, without a shadow of a doubt: Parque Ambue Ari.  That lovely animal refuge in the middle of nowhere Bolivia, that we didn’t even plan on going to, weren’t even sure we wanted to go, where we ended up spending seven weeks and where we’d go back to in a heartbeat.  I can’t express to anyone how much that place means for us, which is why we keep bringing up numerous stories, silly, disgusting, and serious, that start with the phrase: “in the jungle…”.  So many of the thoughts I’ve post today and I my previous post were cemented at that park.  In fact, I’d say every single one of them stems from living there: learning to live simply, to be productive in the morning, that friendships are life, to create balance, especially with nature, to have patience, to have trust, understanding, to be selfless.  If the job search really turns up nil, we just might go back to the Amazon Basin to take over the treehouse and be back with our friends, both human and fuzzy, escape the reality of this life, and immerse ourselves in another.

Now, in terms of other favorites, I think I can say that the city we’d most likely try to live in is Santiago, Chile, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we turn up there in a few years, future job pending.  The city is beautiful, close to the mountains and the beach, the food is great, and the people are ridiculously friendly, if hard to understand. They have great wine, there’s a rock climbing gym, fantastic public transportation, and active politics.  It’s also close to Argentina, which maybe wasn’t my favorite place, but I did like it quite a bit, I do miss the rock-climbing community there, as well as its beautiful outdoors and wine, so it’d be nice to hop over for a visit every now and then.

santiago, chile, from cerro santa lucia

And people ask what the most beautiful place we went to was, and that is a really difficult question.  I realized not long after we started backpacking that we were drawn to the beauty in nature.  That’s where we and everyone we met wanted to go.  I think we are drawn to nature’s beauty because even the rocks and the hills and the mountains cry out to God’s glory, and often in nature we can find peace, serenity;  balance in simplicity.  So, we went a lot of great places.  But highlights off the top of my head include incredible beauty of Iguazu Falls in Argentina, the overwhelming power sensed at the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentine Patagonia, the Fitz Roy range nearby, the Bolivian highlands, the Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu in Peru, and the beaches in northern Peru.

iguazu falls

And people ask: would we go back?  Where would we go?  The answer is, YES – if any opportunities present themselves I would leap on them.  However, I would like to take care of some things at home first (school, work experience) so that if we do go back it’d be in a sustainable way (i.e. permanent).   So, while we’re not exactly planning to go back (just the opposite, we’re planning on settling down and growing roots in Portland), its remaining an open possibility that I’ll work to keep that way, through school, work, and language skills.

As to where we would go, that depends on why we’re going.  I could work in Santiago and love it, but I could move to Bolivia or somewhere else as well, maybe focusing more on community development, and love that too.  I could own a vineyard and live in Argentina or Chile. 😉  But, we also really want to go to Central America sometime, starting in Columbia and working our way northward, ending with a long stint in Mexico – basically the second half of this trip we couldn’t accomplish this time around.   So, I guess our answer is, we’ll probably travel again sometime to any number of places, even ones we haven’t thought of yet, and in the meantime, we have a lot of great ideas for vacations. 🙂

So, I hope that helps to answer some of your questions.  Feel free to ask more, and we’d be happy to respond.

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Once in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, we decide it’s time to cross into Bolivia.  We decide to book a 3 day, 4-wheel trek across the desert to Uyuni, Boliva.  Below are the tails from what has essentially become my e-diary, sorry most of it was written in notes and in a hurry, so its not that great.

Also, pictures can be found HERE and HERE!

Trip to Uyuni, March 12th – March 14th

Day One: We get up painfully early before the sun rises to get ready and pack our bags.  Tyler wanders the town to find an ATM so we have money to exchange into Bolivanos, as well as buy last minute snacks and bread for breakfast.  We wait around outside the office for awhile until finally a van picks us up and we set off for the border.  We’re stamped out of Chile easily enough, and continue on to the Laguna Verde border crossing into Bolivia: remote, in the middle of the desert altiplano.  From there we’re told we can temporarily enter Bolivia, but as soon as we get to Uyuni we have to each pay $US 135 to obtain our visas.  Not too bad…the only problem so far is that we specifically went to the ATM in Chile to get pesos to exchange in Bolivia to pay entrance fees and have some cash when we get to town because the ATM is supposed to be spotty, but we never get a chance to stop.  So frustrating! But the scenery and company makes up for everything…

We drive through the desert in our trusty Land Rover with our fantastic Bolivian guide Neftali. After a few hours through the incredibly high and remote desert, we come across a lake, known as the white lagoon.  Who would expect water out here?!  The more impressive sight is the Green Lagoon, which, when the wind and sun are just right, goes from watery brown to bright turquoise!  It was amazing to watch it slowly transform – well worth the wait!  Next sight was the Dali rock fields, which apparently inspired the famous Spanish artist (or they just look like his work, I can’t remember now…).  As we keep driving all day long, we have good conversations with our new friends and trip-mates: Will and Isabel.  By the time we reach the Polque Hot Springs we’re already sharing towels along with stories.  The hot springs were great (with a fantastic view), but maybe a little much with the altitude (close to 5,000 meters – which is about 16,404 feet of elevation!).  Next stop: Morning Sun Geyser Basin, where we walk around active, bubbling, muddy, sulfuric geysers. They’re not like Old Faithful; they’re more like some kind of swamp-land from your imagination when you’re reading Lord of the Rings.  Still interesting to see though!  Finally, a few hours later we arrive at the refugio by the Red Lagoon.  Like the Green Lagoon, when the sun and wind are just right the lagoon turns an amazing shade of rust-red in the late afternoon, and is home to thousands of pink flamingos.  That night we sleep out in rustic accommodations in the desert; our guide makes us the best dinner of all the groups (lasagna!), including wine, and we even get afternoon tea and pancakes for breakfast.  Incredible!

The only downside to the trip was that the other 2 girls in our car (“the frenchies”) wanted to be in another car, and to make a long story short, basically insisted that we plan our entire trip around following this other car’s schedule, which ended up making us miss some sights in the desert and have a really, really long second day and an extra night in the crappy little town of Uyuni, all so they could see some boy they liked and see the last day of Carnival in Uyuni (which is just a bunch of people drinking in a square).  Ah, the joys of group travel! At least we made some good friends out of the whole thing, and had some great discussions with Neftali about who his least favorite travelers are…

Day Two:  After a great breakfast in the refugio, we head out to cross the rest of the desert.  We get up early, intending to leave early, but the French girls hold everyone up and we end up leaving 2 hours later than planned so they can try to follow the other car…

No worries though – we focus on the awesome sights we’re getting to see.  First stop is the Stone Tree, a cool rock formation in the middle of the desert.  In addition to the “tree” there are volcanic rocks around that I swear were just made for bouldering…so perfect I couldn’t resist playing around on them.  Later I found out someone else had the same great idea and broke their arm, so you’re actually not supposed to climb on the boulders…what a shame.

After the tree and boulders, we made a few more stops in the desert for photos on mountains and lakes in the altiplano, then made a looooong trip to Uyuni, in Bolivia. Before heading into town we stopped at the “train cemetery” where old trains from over 100 years ago are just sitting around rusting in a field. You can play all over the them…it’s kind of a neat, but weird, sight.

Once we get into town, Neftali tells us that there’ s really nothing to do in Uyuni other than party for Carnival, which none of us are really interested in after our 2 days in the high desert.  He can’t cook us dinner because the place we’re staying doesn’t have a kitchen, and there’s not many restaurants open because of Carnival.  We end up having to eat pizza for dinner, which the French girls didn’t even show up for.  Oh, and that was after they took the first showers and used the last of the water at the hotel so no one else could shower until the next day…in the afternoon. Lovely. But, at least we have a room to ourselves, and we can breathe a little easier at last!

Third Day:  On our last day of the tour, we finally get to see what we’ve been waiting for: the salt flats of Uyuni, the largest in the world.  Right now since it’s the end of the rainy season in Bolivia, the flats are covered in about a foot of water so we don’t get that endless white field effect, but we do get amazing crystal clear reflections.  Before we get to see the flats, we stop at a “salt museum” to see the traditional way of how salt is processed.  Basically when the flats are wet it’s shoveled into triangular piles, which are hauled into town by truck, where they’re dried in the sun for a few days.  Then the salt is heated in an oven to clean it, ground, and packed into plastic bags, and sealed by melting the plastic.  When there’s no water on the flats, they use knives to cut blocks out of the salt which they use to make houses and tourist hotels.

Next we drive out the start of the flats, a few miles outside of town, and have breakfast on the back of the Land Rover.  Side-note: strawberry yogurt with chocolate corn-flakish cereal is surprisingly good. The goal of today: avoid sunburns (Tyler, of course, fails at this), and take a million pictures. We drive through the water, stopping in the middle to get out and take pictures. We walk for about an hour through the water…exfoliating our feet on the crunchy, surprisingly sharp sand. Apparently there’s nothing for traveler’s foot like walking around these flats for a day! And isn’t that a nice image to have in your mind when you’re using salt?!  The scenery is intense: the watery reflections and cloudy skies blend into oblivion; it’s exactly what I imagined when I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Seriously, it looks like you can just walk into nothingness and heaven.  There are islands on the flats that look like they’re floating in the sky because of the reflections, like some trippy Myzumi anime.  After we spend a long time trying to take it all in and capture it, we meet Neftali and the others at the Hotel de Sal, where Neftali is making us a traditional Bolivian lunch of llama and the best quinoa I’ve ever had.

After that we head to an artisanal market in the village near the flats, where I buy my first llama sweater and get my first taste of beautiful, vibrant, and cheap Bolivian handicrafts.  Waiting for months before we buy anything has finally paid off!  Once we get back to Uyuni our tour official ends, and Tyler and I set off on our next challenge: getting our visa straightened out.

The Longest Hour: the tour is over, and we have an hour before we meet Will and Isabel to figure out where we’re staying and get our Bolivian visa.  We passed though the border crossing at Laguna Verde on the condition that we would pay to get our official visas as soon as we arrived in Uyuni.  After the end of the tour, we walked around town looking for the Migración Office, covered in our salt-splattered clothes.  We find the office, expecting to pay the $US 135 visa fee.  However, we can’t pay by debit card, and the ATM only dispenses 150 Bolivanos (about $US 21) at a time.  We are pretty sure we can’t just make 10 withdrawals in day, even between our two bank accounts.  We go to the only ATM in town anyway.  It doesn’t open until 5 p.m. It’s now about 4:15.  We’re supposed to meet our friends, Will and Isabel, at 5 in the main square.  We have nothing to do for an hour.  We walk.  We look vainly for another ATM.  We ask around for hotel and hostel prices, as we also have to find a place to stay that night.  We walk more.  Finally, I decide to just use an internet café, at least let the most important people know we’re alive and well in Bolivia, even if we don’t have our visas yet.  It takes 22 minutes to send one email, delete my junk mail, check one bank account, and update my Facebook status.  Frustratingly slow, but at least I can finally write home.  Tyler goes to get in line for the ATM.  At 5:05 a women is painstakingly slowly sweeping bank receipts out of the ATM booths.  No one can go in until she’s finished. She doesn’t know it’s after 5, that people had already been using the ATM. Tyler and I are now first in line.  Some pushy tourists try to tell the girl to hurry up, people are waiting.  Strange thing to see in Latin America.  We patiently wait; we’re used to it by now.  I spot our friends, wave in the direction of the ATM and get back in line. We finally get to go in; we each try to withdrawal the maximum amount on the screen from our bank accounts – 1400 Bolivanos, about US$200, hoping with every fiber of our being that it works.  It does!  Our friends are trying to get a Bolivian phone card to work; it’s complicated.  We tell them we still have to get our visa. They’ve decided to stay in the same hotel as with the tour; they’ve already showered and have a room.  That’s what we wanted to do, but we were waiting for them.  We decide to go get our visa before the office closes and meet them at the hotel later. We go, but we don’t have all the required paperwork. That’s easy; just pay a 50 peso fine each.  Our passports already have the visas and 90 day stamp in them; we just have to fill out the paperwork. The dates are fudged to match the day we were stamped out of Chile.  But we’re officially in Bolivia!

We go back towards the hotel; I’m impatient as Tyler insists on buying another 5 liters of water before the big bottles sell out.  I want to shower before the water runs out again.  We get back, check in hurriedly, get to the room, and take our bags from storage to the room.  Tyler runs to meet our friends at the “bus terminal” to buy our tickets to Potosí for tomorrow. I scramble for a shower before the water is out.  I try to use as little water as possible and be as fast as possible so Tyler can have a shower.  I want to wash my salty pants but I don’t.  Tyler gets back, and for the second time there’s no more water for him.  Oh no! He washes using bought water, again, but he amazingly only uses less than a liter of water.  We spend some time reading our guidebook, playing computer games, organizing photos.  We go to eat dinner with our friends, end up at a “Mexican place” which turns out to be alright. Off to bed early, we’re still used to Chilean time, an hour ahead.  The next day we find a place serving breakfast, bread on the verge of mold, with margarine and jam, coffee.  Then we’re off on the very bumpy dirt road to Potosí…

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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile, March 10th to March 12th

First, there’s photos from this part of our trip HERE!

Our bus ride goes up Valparaiso through the coast and desert 25 hours until we arrive at the small town of San Pedro de Atacama, in the far north of Chile.  The bus ride turns out to actually be one of the best, Sharon sleeps well (though Tyler struggles), the bus food is pretty good for riding semi-cama, and the movies are also better than usual.  We arrive late at night and as we’re getting our bags and trying to orient ourselves, some folks ask us if we’re looking for a place to stay and offer us a room for CHP 5,000 each (a good price, though it doesn’t include breakfast or internet), and we agree and they take us to Casa del Sol Naciente in their pick-up truck.  We’re the only 2 in our room, but the beds are warm, there’s hot water before 10 p.m., a kitchen with loads of free items, a hangout patio with a fire place, camping options, a lurking kitten, and really nice people. It’s a bit “rustic” but it has great views of the surrounding volcanoes and desert.  The second night they offer us a private room for a $1000 pesos more, which we take and enjoy.  Both prices were lower than anything we’d seen online.

Day Two: We finally get to sleep in – late – until 11 a.m.!  Tyler for some crazy reason gets up early, showers, buys bread for breakfast and makes coffee, making for a nice, relaxing morning.   Then we walk around town a bit – it’s tiny, all the buildings are one-story adobe, and most of the roads are unpaved and look exactly the same, with complicated street names, when there are street signs.  We compare prices at different tourist agencies for the trip across the desert to Uyuni, Bolivia.  The agencies aren’t budging on the prices, so while we mull over whether or not it’s worth it, we book a trip to go to Valle de la Luna that night.   After asking a few more questions, we book the cheapest trip that leaves the next day.

Once all the planning is done, we seek out a cheap lunch at food stalls on the outskirts of town, and find a little place that serves ceviche with boiled potatoes and salad that turns out to be quite good.  Afterwards we walk around town taking a few photos and collecting 5 liter bottles of water and sugary snacks for a trip across the desert.  By the time we come back to our room, it’s basically time to get ready to head to Valle de la Luna.  We rush to get ready but end up waiting around quite a long time for the tour bus to pick us up (it’s very late), but by now we’re getting used to the “hurry up and wait” mentality, and we’re excited to be the only North Americans, as it increases our chances of getting to practice Spanish.

Once we finally get to the tour, it’s great!  We stop at a mirador that overlooks the desert, mountains, and town, and then go for a downhill walk through the Valle de Muerte – a beautiful desert canyon.  Next we stop to pay the park entrance free (our student discount works again!) and take a very rushes walk through some crystal salt caves, then quickly walk up to the mirador to just in time to catch the sunset over the Valle de la Luna. Who knew the desert could be so beautiful, and have so many different shades of orange, red, pink, and rose?! It was truly out of this world, and we felt blessed to once again get to experience such unique and beautiful scenery.

Once back into town, we decide to have chorilliana one last time, and this time we make sure to ask that it comes with a fried egg (instead of scrambled) before our plate arrives at the table, a mistake we’d made twice before.  For some reason (maybe the altitude) we’re still hungry and ask for another plate of fries, as we watch the news of the tsunami in Japan and warnings all along the Chilean coast.  Then we finally go back to the hostel to pack and organize for our trip through the desert early the next morning.

Next time from the desert crossing to Uyuni, Bolivia!

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Hello All!

So, a few things: first, we are doing fine nd well in Sucre, Bolivia, and we’ll be here for a few more days.  We’ve had spotty internet for the past few weeks, which is why we couldn’t update this much.  I’ve just posted something I actually thought I had posted weeks ago about our first impressions in Santiago. Today I’m going to work on posting what I’ve written as sort of an electronic travel journal over the past few weeks, starting with these ones from Santiago and Valparaiso, Chile.

Enjoy, and sorry to post so much at once!

Oh yes, and more pictures of Santiago can be found HERE, and pictures from Valparaiso can be found HERE.  I still have to add captions later today so you know more what’s going on, but for the love of God I just need to start getting something up for everyone!

Love you all,

Sharon

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Santiago, March 2nd to March 7th

As soon as we get off the bus, even though is dark out, 6 a.m., and we have absolutely no idea what we’re doing, I can tell I love Santiago.  We decide to hang around the bus terminal until it’s at least light outside, and hope the tourist office will be open soon.  After waiting awhile, and seeing the tourist office doesn’t open until 10 a.m., we decide to ask a taxi driver to take us somewhere we there’s a concentration of hostels so we can walk around and make our choice. The taxi driver doesn’t quite believe us, and ends up taking us to a hotel (we wanted a cheap hostel) but we’re too tired to keep protesting, and, there’s a baby kitten there!  The hotel is empty, the building is decrepit, the staff…strange.  But it’s right downtown, so after a nap and a shower, we set off to wander around the downtown sights: Plaza de Armas (the main plaza), Palacio de Moneda, the cathedral, parks, etc.  Immediately I love the way the city looks and feels.  We have lunch in the Mercado Central, amazing, but expensive.  We have centolla, spiny crab, which is fantastic, and ceviche.  The city is beautiful: clean, plenty of open spaces, parks, palm trees, interesting architecture, friendly people.

The next day after breakfast with a kitten in my lap, we decide to move on to a cheaper hostel.  After some online research we decide to stay at a newer hostel.  It ends up having great prices, wifi, breakfast, and everything is sparkling clean and new, and in an amazing old building, close to downtown.  We love it immediately; our dorm room has a balcony. We go out exploring again, at some point, that day or the next, we head up Cerro San Cristobal, one of the tallest hills in the city.  You take a funicular up to the top, where there’s a Cristo Rendedor statue, a sort of outdoor sanctuary, and parks overlooking the city.   On our way back we wander through the Bellavista neighborhood, colorful and artsy with tasteful graffiti covering most of the buildings and walls.  We walk through Parque Forestal, stop off for amazing ice cream at Emporio de Rosa, then head to hostel recommended Kyo’s sandwiches, which are absolutely amazing.  We cook dinner that night, and decide to add on another day since there’s so much to do in lovely Santiago.

We like Santiago so much, we keep adding on day after day.  Our hostel is fantastic, the people are great, and it’s just such a nice place to be.  We go to the grocery store and once again decide to make some comfort food, aka Mexican food.  We’re also looking to use up the last of our brown rice.  We make Mexican rice, which doesn’t work so well with brown rice, and tortillas. We make a ton, so we have leftovers for lunch the next day.  That night we go out with the hostel to La Piojera, a “typical working class Chilean bar.”  The common drink, a “terremoto” literally, an earthquake. It’s cheap white wine, fernet, and brandy topped with pineapple ice cream.  Tyler ends up having three, and I have two.  It’s more than enough, and to make a long story short, we spend most of the next day sleeping and putting around online, organizing photos.  In the afternoon I walk to Cerro Santa Lucia, a beautiful park nearby.  That night I cook Tyler pasta for dinner, and we have a lazy night.

The next day we sleep in, and decide to go to the Museo de la Memoría y Derechos Humanos, after eating sandwiches at Kyo’s again, of course.  We decide to walk there, through the Barrio Brasil neighborhood on through to Quinta Normal, stopping on the way for sopaipillas at a food cart – a sort of fried corn dough served with a spicy salsa called pebre. The museum is great and interesting, although, sadly, we don’t get back in time to go to Neruda’s house, La Chascona.  I email the Neruda house and set up a tour for the next day, and surprisingly get a quick response.   That night we made plans to go out with our Chilean friends that we met in Punta Arenas, which ends up being a lot of fun.

Saturday we go to La Chascona, one of Pablo Neruda’s homes, a famous Chilean poet who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work.  The house is amazing – colorful, unique, and inspiring, and in the artsy Bellavista neighborhood.  Afterwards we decide to stop off at Emporio de Rosa for ice cream, again. Still no Earl Grey flavor, but I opt for raspberry mint and rose this time. Tyler once again gets green tea with mango and raspberry mint.  That night one of our new friends at the hostel, Sergio, decides to host a BBQ for anyone who wants to join at the hostel.  It turns out to a lot of fun, though a late night. We grill corn, which everyone found strange, zucchini, and onion to make a salad, as well as chorizo.  We stay up late into the night, swapping stories, drinking wine, and sharing food.

The next day we get up painfully early to take a bike and wine tour through the nearby Maipo valley.  It’s a fantastic tour, beautiful, though the highlight I think was seeing kittens at the organic winery.  We take home one bottle, and eat lunch at a traditional countryside restaurant, where I finally get to eat cazuela, a stew, and Tyler has pastela de maíz, a sort-of stew surrounded by corn bread baked in clay dish in an oven.  Both were fantastic, and the next day, after one last late night hanging out with friends at the hostel, we finally left for Valparaíso.

Valparaíso, March 7th to March 9th

Day One: After a short bus ride west (1 ½ hours) we arrive in the port city of Valparaíso.  It’s known for being sort of quirky, with lots of street art, and lots of student energy.  We arrive and stay at La Casa Limón Verde, a beautiful old restored house in a great neighborhood. Everything is so colorful in this city…it’s mesmerizing.  Our first day after we drop off our bags, we walk around the nearby miradores in Cerros Alegre and Concepción, taking in the views and vibes of the city.  We walk through the dock area up Ascensór Artillería, which overlooks the entire city by the Pacific Ocean.  The city is somewhat like San Francisco, less gritty, nicer, and quieter, but vibrant.  We cross the city and walk through the Museo de Cielos Abiertos, an outdoor mural museum on top of a hill overlooking the city.  By the time we get back, we’re exhausted from all the walking, and opt for an easy dinner of an instant garbanzo bean dish and fresh pineapple.  We treat ourselves to cable TV before bed…Titanic is somehow better dubbed in Spanish than in English.

Day Two: We take a bus to Isla Negra, a town about 1 ½ away that is home to what is supposedly Neruda’s most outlandish house.  All his homes have nautical themes, but this one is particularly interesting and especially beautiful as it’s right on the sea.  After the well rehearsed Spanish tour (the tour of the other house in Santiago was in English, which they charge more for, but the guide was great; this one was in Spanish and we got a student discount, but the guides were really lifeless), we spent some time enjoying the beach before heading back.  We decided to make empanadas that night, after seeing a Chilean family make some in Punta Arenas.  After a long (at least an hour) search for masa to make the empanadas, and find green onions and shrimp, with a few street vendor snacks in between (sopaipillas with pebre and eggrolls) we finally make it back and make some pretty darn good empanadas, drink our wine from Maipo, and Tyler even makes it up on the trapeze at the hostel.

Last Day: Check-out is at noon, and our bus to San Pedro de Atacama doesn’t leave until 10 p.m.: we have 10 hours to kill. We made our own delicious breakfast: eggs and chorizo for Tyler, yogurt and fruit for Sharon and were allowed check out late.  We walked across town to La Sebastiana, Neruda’s third house, but just hang around in the garden looking at the views from the city and checking out the gift shop and free exhibits.  From there we follow Calle Aleman to take in some of the best miradores of the city.  The hillsides are covered in multi-colored houses overlooking the sea: enchanting.  We walk down Cerro Allegre, admiring the empty but beautiful churches.  We end up walking back and forth across town at least three times, trying to find something else to do, and taking in more street food.  Eventually we take naps in the park for about an hour, and head back to the hostel to get something out of our bags and use the bathroom.  After a chat with the hostel worker, we sit on the street and watch a group doing capreira in the Plaza de Sueños, a sort of Brazilian martial arts dance.  Then we finally ate chorilliana, a classic Chilean dish of French fries, grilled onions, steak, chorizo, chicken, and topped with a fried egg in a classic bar that is 115 years old, with live music.  The chorillana was delicious – so unhealthy, but so good – and the local beer typically so-so, and then it was finally time to catch our bus.

Next updates from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile!

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Santiago, the best!

Hello all!

Just wanted to hop on really quick to let y’all know I’ve posted pictures from our first few days in Santiago HERE.

So far, we like Santiago quite a bit, in my opinion it has all the great things about Buenos Aires, but better, and without the bad things. The food we’ve had is fantastic, the public transportation is clean, more organized, and quieter, the weather is warm to hot but not humid, there are more parks, atmospheric tree-lined streets, colonial buildings, people are willing to talk to you on the street, in Spanish, but it’s still a modern city. Maybe I’ll be looking for jobs or internships here in the future?

We’re staying here until Saturday, then we’ll move on to Valparaiso. I’ll post some more photos and updates then!

Love,

Sharon

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Tyler-baby in Puerto Montt, Chile

¡Hola a todos!

We are writing from the so-so town of Temuco, in central Chile.  It’s been awhile since our last update, so I’ll fill everyone in on some of the details of what we’ve been up.  Tyler might write later in a more interesting manner if he feels like it.

But first, for those interested, pictures can be found HERE.

Puerto Montt

Puerto Montt was the first town we went to from Punta Arenas.  The bus ride was shorter than we were told – a pleasant surprise when it lasted only about 31 hours or so.  It was also a pleasantly quiet and clean bus ride; no noisy obnoxious tourists this time!  The disappointing thing was that they took a route through Argentina, which meant more border crossings using more pages in our passports, and driving through a lot of scenery we had already seen.  But, we got to spend the last of our Argentine monedas (coins) that we couldn’t exchange in Chile at one of the stops. (Until, of course, Tyler found a bunch of Argentine pesos in his clothes when we did laundry in Chile).  And, we still got to see some new scenery!

In Puerto Montt we hopped off the bus, got a list of accommodations and a map, got pointed in the ride direction, and ended up in one of the best and most affordable places we’ve found yet.  Plus they had a cat, and there were baby kittens at the little kiosco on the street.  We ended up getting a sort of accidental deal on a private room, with a good breakfast, wifi that worked in our room, and really friendly people running the place.  We went off in search that day of seafood empanadas after I saw a Chilean family making some at the hostel we were stuck at in Punta Arenas.  Once again we were pointed in the right direction, found a little place, and they told us there were no empanadas.  We were sad.  All made sad faces.  Then she offered to make empanadas for us if we waited.  And it was awesome – we made conversation with the folks in the shop, watched some soccer, and finally got to have some great, fresh made empanadas, filled with delicious mussels and green onions.

 

craziest, best hot dog (salchicha completo) ever in puerto montt, chile

We spent the next day traipsing around town trying to make our next plans.  We decided to do just one side trip in the area (our original plan was to do none and save money, but it was too beautiful to resist).  We were recommended to go to the island of Chiloé; transportation there seemed the easiest, so we bought our tickets to leave the next day.  In the meantime, we made a goal to try every street food available in the town – two varieties of crazy hot dogs, giant gumdrops, chocolate, mote (a very strange beverage of sugary juice, grains, and a pickled plum), stick meat, and corn-cake things with wonderfully spicy salsa (perhaps called sopadillas but I’m not sure).  Then we meandered over the fish market, where we had actually tried to go the first day but didn’t make it as it was really cold and raining.  This day was sunny and nice, so we found the place – it was no Pike’s Place but it was pretty neat.  Plus they have lots of razor clams around apparently.  But, we ate dinner near the market the same night and it was suuuuper disappointing.  Oh well.  I did get to see four kittens in one day, and hold two of them so…

 

Chiloé

Next stop was Chiloé, a beautiful nearby island.  The best story of this side-trip was when we got off the bus in Chonchi, a tiny town in the center of the island.  We get off the bus, go to the tourist information booth, and they tell us there’s four places to stay in town, and our very upfront with which one is the cheapest.  We go there, it’s a family home, and get a great room with a view, for only slightly more than we paid in Puerto Montt (no breakfast though).  As soon as we get there, Tyler realizes he left his shorts and towel on the bus.  They were damp so he had taken them out of his backpack and put them in the overhead storage on the bus and left them there.  It was our only towel.  We had just bought those pants in December – they’re the fancy outdoor kind that wick and zip off into shorts.  We were upset, and to try to think of something to do, I said, well, why not just ask the bus company?  It couldn’t hurt.  The same buses probably run through here every day. We didn’t have much hope, but sure enough, we went to the bus office, the guy called the driver on the bus, they found our stuff, and said it’d be back by 7:30 that same night.  Craziness; and, it worked!  We came back, and they had transferred his clothes to a different bus and brought back to us, all, for free!  Latin America isn’t really known for its customer service, but I really think that beats any lost luggage treatment you’d get in the U.S.

 

Pacific Coast, Chiloé

So, we got Tyler’s stuff back, we were in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere with almost no tourists, had a great room…all was well.  We decided to go camp on the beach at the national park the next day, another thing we were recommended to do from the tourist office in Puerto Montt. Our hospedaje agreed to store our extra luggage until we came back.  We take the bus to the “national park” thinking it’s a 6 hour walk from there, as indicated on the map.  We go the national park, and mention we’re trying

 

beachy fun in Chile!

to go camping at Cole Cole.  He then gives us a strange look, gives us our money back, and then says we h

ave to take the bus further up, and then walk on the beach to the park, then pay the entrance fee, and then pay to camp.  We didn’t have enough money for all that, and there certainly wasn’t a

n ATM nearby.  So, we start walking down the road.  We hope to get picked up by someone, but so does everyone else and every truck that passes us is full.  So we walk to the end of the paved road, to a gravel road.  We keep walking, and I see a path through a field to the beach.  Why not just look for a place to camp on the beach?  Isn’t that all we wanted anyway?  If we conserve the water we have, we should be fine.  And, it turned out to be the best place we’ve stayed yet – we

found a great campsite (probably a fisherman’s), right on the water, walked up to the national park where we could have camped, and enjoyed a great, people-free day. Fantastic. The only slightly bad part was that it started drizzling the next day so we had to pack out early with damp things, but, all was dried off back in Chonchi in our same great room.  Good times to be able to relax on our own for a bit, and it ended up saving us quite a bit of money.

 

Temuco

This is my least favorite place I’ve been to so far.  We wanted to stop somewhere to break up the 15-18 hour bus ride from Chonchi to Santiago.  Central Chile is supposed to be beautiful, so why not stop over and spend a day somewhere a little less touristy.  We were recommended to go to Valdivia or Temuco.  Temuco was further north, so we bought tickets to go there.  We arrived at about 9 p.m. last night.  I don’t really like arriving at night, not only is it dark and potentially less safe, most lodgings are getting full or are full by then.  But, we had no other choice, except to continue directly on to Santiago – there were buses that apparently left as late as 12:30. But we were tired, and hungry, so we looked for a place to stay.  There was no information place.  There were 3 hospedajes nearby.  We were all told to go the bigger one.  It was a crap-hole. And it was more expensive than anything else we’ve ever paid in Chile.  For a dirty shared bathroom, no wifi, and no breakfast. I looked doubtful and the lady started going on and on about how all the other places were full and this was all that was left.  Not a good sign.  But we took it and went out to find food and our tickets to Santiago.  I hated this place.  Hated.  The people there were loud and drinking, and it seemed like the kind of place you’d find strung out heroine addicts in.  Maybe that’s because we just stayed on the beach.   So we go back to the bus station and find out there’s 2 spots left on a bus that night to Santiago.  I think sleeping a crappy bus is better than staying at this place, so we go back to try to leave.  We well the lady we’re really sorry, but we just found a bus that leaves tonight and we want our money back so we can go.  Its literally been 10 minutes, at the most, since we paid.  She tries to tell us there’s no room on any buses going back to today. Lies! We just asked and found them.  I tell her that.  She says if we paid, we paid, we can’t get our money back.  I point out its been minutes, and there’s buses full of people coming in every 5 minutes (true) –  she’ll find someone to take our place.  She says she had to turn away a group of 5 people while we gone because we had already taken the room. Lies. More lies.  And I knew she was lying, but there was nothing we could do about it.  We asked again, said we were sorry, asked why she was being so serious.  All to no avail.  So we go to our room – and the place is, at most, half-full.  My ass there’s no more room.  And, two guys came in after us – two guys that could have taken OUR ROOM!  Impressive that she’d let people that are obviously pissed at her stay in her place.  She’s lucky we didn’t trash it (peanut butter and jelly on blankets did cross our minds…).  But, I managed to calm down, watch a movie, get lots and lots of sleep, talked to a nice Canadian family staying at the place, and got the heck out.

 

The only good thing in Temuco: ice cream that looks like a garden gnome

We leave for Santiago tonight at 10:30, which will get us into town at about 7 a.m. Not the best situation, but sleeping on the bus saves us some money, and we’ll have all day to find a place to stay! Until then we have about 7 hours to kill in the city, which, is mostly just uninteresting.  I mean really uninteresting, as in, I don’t know why people would come here.  But, we found a restaurant with wifi, I ate a turkey sandwich with avocado, something I’ve been missing – a poultry sandwich option instead of beef or ham – we’re about to get ice cream, and we’re about to wear out our welcome here I think.  So, with that, I sign off.  Next time from the Santiago area!

 

Love,

Sharon

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isla magdalena, chile

Just wanted add some links really quick to photos we’ve taken since coming to Chile:

HERE and HERE.

We don’t have much news to report, but I can fill everyone in a bit on what we’ve been up to.

We spent Valentine’s Day on a bus to Puerto Natales, Chile. We were supposed to transfer to a different bus to keep going south the same day, but decided to take a break and stay in town for a few days.  We went out for dinner that night and it was GREAT: we had ceviche (fish marinated in lime juice, with cilantro, onions, bell peppers, and sometimes corn), a FANTASTIC local beer (the best we’ve had in Latin America), and amazing sea food. Tyler had conger eel and I had a sea bass stew.  Best. Valentin’s Day. Ever.

The next day we were feeling lazy and tired, so we booked a tour to Torres del Paine, Chile’s most famous national park. It was fun to drive around and see the countryside, and the wildlife, but the weather was pretty unpredictable: one minute it was sunny and warm, and the next it was freezing rain and wind.  But, that’s predictably Patagonian.  The only downside was that that we never actually got to see the granite spires that are the Torres del Paine.  I was also a bit disappointed that we didn’t do any hiking or backpacking in the park, but, at least we can do that in the Pacific Northwest and it’ll probably be just as beautiful, just different.

Next we caught a bus to Punta Arenas, further south in Chile, on the Strait of Magellan, just across the channel from Tierra del Fuego.  There’s not much in the town, besides an island with penguins.  We went to the island, and it was awesome!  Penguins are just so funny to watch.  But, because we were lazy when we got here and didn’t buy bus tickets to the next place, we’re now trapped here because the next bus heading north doesn’t leave until Monday.  Oops.  And there’s really not much to do…maybe we’ll take a ferry over to a town in Tierra del Fuego tomorrow just for something to do, and we’ll certainly catch up on sleep, reading the news, uploading pictures, and making some great meals now that we’re not too tired to cook.  At least its a fairly relaxing, small town, the people are nice, the food is great, and its not terribly touristy like other places we’ve been.  Plus, the grocery stores in Chile are fantastic – we actually found ingredients to make Mexican food, finally! We’ve been having a good time trying to make friends with Chilean tourists, getting advice from people on the street, cooking meals, and stuffing our faces with ceviche and pastries.  Not bad at all.

Next stop: Puerto Montt, Chile.  No idea what we’ll do there….but we leave Monday at 9 a.m. and arrive Tuesday at 9 p.m. so we’ve got another loooong bus ride ahead of us, hopefully we’ll find some good Chilean wine and treats to accompany us. 🙂

That’s all for now.  Hope everyone’s doing well!

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