Hiking in PatagoniaFinally in Tierra del Fuego!
On the ferry south:
Near Punto Arenas
The beautiful Parque del Tierra del Fuego in Ushuaia / Argentina:
Around Puerto Williams / Chile:
Some photos of Valpo
The cats and dogs of Valparaiso
Travelling with FernandoWhen I first arrived in Chile I went to visit Fernando, who for many reasons I'm convinced is part troll
We went up the volcano Osorno on a foggy day.
Around Christmas he had organised a Christmas party for underprivileged children in Chiloe with his university students and invited me to come along
The end of the world...... is not Ushuaia. It's a nice place, but feels rather like a Swiss ski resort. Therefore we took a small speed boat over the Beagle Channel to Puerto Navaino, a single house on the beach which houses the Chilean customs office. From there we went over bumpy roads to Puerto Williams. I had been scared to get seasick during the crossing, I should have worried about the bus ride.
There are hiking trails starting from Puerto Williams, for some one has to have a GPS, equipment, provisions and enough guts to withstand the unpredictable weather.
I stood in the snow on top of the Flag hill, wind howling around me looking across the Beagle Channel to Antarktica, Puerto Williams below me.
Puerto Williams consists of a few houses huddled around the harbour. The colorful mostly wooden houses from the fishermen and the white modern ones from the military base. The military operates their own supermarket and hospital. We went into the supermarket by accident to buy wine for dinner and had an older soldier explain to us in the rapid Chilean Spanish that we have to use his card. We were bemused about this episode until 2 day later someone explained to us that the supermarket only sells to military members.
We stayed in Pattis house. An adventuress she travels the world as a cook on all kind of ships. She is an amazing cook. We went with her to the only bar in town, located in an old shipwreck.
A good end of the road.
SymmetryI had gone by ferry through the inside passages of Alaska and decided to take the ferry through the fjörds and channels through Patagonia as well.
But first I had to book it. I tried to call Navimag (the company) several times, everytime the call was not answered. I wrote them an email and did not receive an answer. I filled out a form on the website. In the end I went to different travel agencies in Valparaiso, hoping to book through them. The first only new about the website and tried to call them with as much success as I had had. The second claimed the company had been out of business for some year and gave me the address of another webpage, which did not exist. The third rummaged through their note book of contacts and called several people to find the newest number. They finally managed to talk to someone, who gave me a different number, which I was supposed to call. When I did, the number was not accessible from my phone.
I went to Argentina on my last border run dishearten, thinking I will have to find another way. When I returned on of my emails had made it through and I could book. Payment is done in the local office in Puerto Montt.
Live on board is pretty similar to the Alaskan ferry, but all the meals are included. We spend a lot of time in the common room talking to each other, or sitting outside with hats and scarves admiring the landscape. i think if I mix up the photos from this and the other ferry I might not know which is what.
Seeing walesNorth of La Serena, around two small islands is a marine wildlife sanctuary.
We got there by public transport, having arrived just in time at the bus station. The weather could not decide whether it wanted to be sunny or rainy and had settled for a sullen gray once we arrived. I looked at the boats, with which we were going to the 5km far away islands. They were just big enough to fit us and the 10 other people in our group, 5 rows of three people on slim wooden benches.
We both looked at each other when the guide handed us the life vests, wondering if this was a good idea.
We took off, it was kind of cold and wet. We saw some small penguins on the coast eying us nervously and huge sea lions sitting on rocks in the water, completely ignoring us.
The the boat stopped and our guide told us to look for wales. We scanned the horizon when suddenly one of them blew right next to our boat. A group of Orcas was hunting all around us, fortunately penguins and not us. They were as big as our boat. Fascinated and a little bit nervous we watched them play, seasickness and cold forgotten.
Seeing starsWe arrived early morning in La Serena and after sitting around for 2 hours in a coffee shop at the bus station finally were allowed into our guesthouse and contrary to our plans fell asleep. Waking up sometime in the afternoon we decided this might be a good chance to go stargazing. The area around La Serena has one of the greatest views of the sky. In fact, allowing other nations to put up telescopes is a lucrative industry for Chile.
Around Serena there are several, the smaller and older ones being named after famous astronomers, the bigger and newer have as inspired names as "European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT)". Chile actually changed all the streetlights from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama to avoid light pollution in the sky. They also have to build roads just for the transport of the extremely large mirrors (E-ELT is 42m in diameter!).
But next to money, the Chilean scientific community also benefits by getting one night a months free access to the observatory. Considering that waiting lists are long and fees are high, this is a sweet deal for them.
Lucky chile and their pretty stars.
So what did we see? The southern cross and other constellations(theoretically I should never get lost again in this hemisphere). Starclusters (looks like a star to the naked eye and are millions of stars through he telescope), Saturn (which looks like a white dot with a white ring around it, like a childs drawing) and of course the moon:
This picture was taken by Erin holding the lens of her iPhone to the eyepiece of the telescope
We like the moon!
Random moon fact (As far as I remember):
The moon used to be closer to earth, like filling up the whole sky close, and it is moving away from earth.
Once it is too far from the earth's gravitational field it will stop orbiting earth, which means it will only be visible from certain areas. As the moon has a big effect on the earth's orbit around the sun, bad things will happen once it is gone.
But maybe by then we will live on Mars.
Random geek fact:
It has been considered as unlikely that a class M planet (like earth) exists in a twin star system. But Tatooine has recently been found!
Though no aliens in pajamas fighting with laser swords...
Being a tourist in ValparaisoI love Valparaiso, which figures as I live here. I had spent my first few days when I came here in January visiting some tourist places, but being sick of travelling on my own, becoming obsessed with coding and having to find a job and a place to live soon got in the way.
Last month Erin came to visit me and go to Spanish classes during her summer holiday and we spent our weekends discovering the tourist side of Valparaiso.
Here are the places we visited:
Cemeterio de Dididentes on Cerro Carcel
One whole hill here is dedicated to cemeteries. This one is by far the prettiest. I really like visiting cemeteries and additionally to statues in different phases of decay and big shady trees this one also has a view.
Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion
these are the two hills of Valpo which the Unesco declared World Hertiage. It is also right where I live. It has colorful houses, beautiful views over the harbour, lots of stairs to get lost on and small cafés to treat yourself after walking. I especially love the promenade at the modern art museum, such a great view. To get there follow the ants painted on the sidewalks.
What can I say, it is a harbour.
You can take a boat there to Muelle Barón where the sea lions are, but by the time we got there it was dark and we went to eat instead. Valpo has really good sea-food, we want into a s restaurant / bar by the harbour and had fishy things and beer. Chile has quite a lot of good beer, too...
This ascensor was scary. It was really shaky and is quite high as well. But from the top one has a good view over the harbour, we were there in the evenings and saw the lights go on in the city:
Pablo Nerudas house. It is on Cerro Bellavista and we walked there on Via Alemania, (Germaness can be seen in a lot of places around Chile, there is even a Plaza Bismark on Via Alemania), which has amazing views. The house itself is interesting, I had walked through it to the third floor when I entered the bathroom and remembered I had been there before. The bathroom has white and green and blue tiles and looks really cool. Neruda seemed to have been a difficult customer, regarding real estate, here was is his wishlist when looking for a house:
“I feel the tiredness of Santiago,
I want to find a house to live and write in
peace at Valparaíso. Certain conditions must be
It may not be too high or too low. It must be
solitary, but not in excess. I wish neighbors
were invisible. I wish I did not see or hear
them. Original but not uncomfortable. Very
light, but firm. Neither too big nor too small,
far from everything. But close to the stores.
As well, it has to be very inexpensive. Do you
think I can find a house like that in
On a site note, Erin and me had been watching "Househunters International" during dinner, now I feel I should write a "Househunters International" fanfic with Pablo Neruda in it.
Sea Lions! Man, these things are agile. They were lying on top of a pylon, which rose the length of a full grown sea lion out of the water. And these fat things can jump that high, you really don't want to stand were they land.
Done! (for now)All the pictures have been added, if there is anything else appearing on this blog it will actually be new material. At the moment I'm taking a break in Valparaiso, see my other blog for details. As you might have noticed I have not made it to Tierra del Fuego yet, but I will!
My new plan is to go in November (I will have to cross to Argentina again beginning December, I thought to combine the two). I will make my way south either by ship or doing some hitchhiking, go hiking in Torres del Paine, see penguins and somehow end up in Ushuaia (Argentina).
If anyone wants to exchange European autumn for Chilean spring, come and join me. But bring your own tent unless you are very, very small (or don't mind a cuddle).
In two days Erin is coming to live for a month in Valpo, we will probably end up traveling and hopefully have some crazy adventures, so watch this space
Am I still in South America?Today I learned this sentence in my daily Spanish lesson:
Los buses pueden ser muy bulliciosos,
especialmente cuando el cofer pone música
Which is very true for all of central and south America, bus rides being comprised of driving down roads with break neck speed, while listening to mariachi music with the loudspeakers set to 11.
But in Chile I saw this sign in the bus:
this image has been lost
the driving style here is still South American though, I already had an argument with someone trying to steal my parking space.
San Pedro de AtacamaI have been here before. 16 years ago I visited with my parents and sister on an odysee through the Atacama desert.
Until now the only other deja vu I had encountered from this trip was the distinct South-American car alarm, it used to go off every time we opened or closed the rental car, my sister and me could imitate it perfectly in the end.
The first time I came here it felt like an expeditions and San Pedro seemed to lie at the end of the world. We had come here on a sheer endless ride on bumpy roads through the desert.
The streets of San Pedro were dirt and dust and empty, except for the inevitable sleeping dogs. I remeber the red earthen color of the houses, except for the white wahed church (which still looks the same). There were a handful of hostels and everyone gathered in one of the two restuarants in the evening, serving standard Chilenean food, posing a problem for me as I was a vegetarian at the time. It was my first brush with live outside my comfortable middle class existance, electricity not being available 24 hours, showers not always being hot and toilet paper being thrown in waste baskets.
Today the whole town is white washed. The difference to Bolivia, just 20 minutes away, is starteling. Bolivia looks like South America, San Pedro de Atacama like a picture book version of it. I think 80% of the people in town are tourists and restaurants, hostels, shops have sprung up for them.
I only spent one afternoon there this time, sitting on the shadowy Paza de las Armas drinking beer with a Chilenean who shared a table with me. He was working there for the season as a massage therapist...
After a 23 hours busride (Chile is a long, long country) I arrived in Valparaiso. Walking through its streets up the Cerro Conception I was invited on a rum and coke by someone celebrating his birthday in the bar I passed. Two days in Chile and twice invited on a drink, I think this might just be a good end of the road.