Monday, November 30, 2009


We left Chiloe on Saturday, and had an uneventful travel day. Taxi, bus, ferry, another bus, plane and one last bus into Punta Arenas, our farthest destination south in Chile.

Our first impression as we finally entered the city: what a dump. It's an industrial town, it's dirty and had very little in terms of notable character or scenery. We checked into our hostel and had the very same impression as of the town: a dump, especially considering what we had to pay for it.

The hostel owner had also missed our confirmation email and thus only had room for us for one night instead of our requested two. We took that as a sign to get the hell outta dodge and decided to only spend one night and head to Puerto Natales the next day. Only one day in the dumpy town was necessary in order to take in the number one tourist attraction: PENGUINS!!

There are a few islands off the coast that inhabit Magallenic Penguins - and lots of them! We paid a litlte extra to be ferried across to Isla Magallenes, which holds the most (50,000 breeding pairs). Enduring the choppy waters, spending time in the crappy town and the extra money we paid for it was totally worth it once we got to there!

We only had one hour to spend on the windy island, but despite of the cold, I could have easily stayed all day. There were so many of them it was hard to just watch the happenings of a few before another would capture your attention. We wandered around totally in awe and snapped well over 200 pictures! When the crowd of other tourists ventured farther up the hill to check out the lighthouse, Pete and I took the opportunity to just sit still and watch them: grooming each other, fighting with each other, or just wadding around! The longer we sat still, the less they cared that we were there, and they ventured a little closer. Some would obviously pose for us, or even seemed to flirt a little bit!

We begrudgingly got back on the boat and over to the next island, Isla Marta, to watch a few more penguins, but this time frolicking with the sea lions. We weren't allowed to get off the boat so just spent a few minutes sitting off shore and watching them on the coast. The choppy waters were starting to make some people nauseous and so we didn't stop for long and quickly headed back to shore.

Only a couple of hours left in town and then we were back on another bus for Puerto Natales, about 3 hours north, and this is where Pete and I got smacked with our first real scare of our trip thus far. After we had been off the bus for a couple of hours relaxing in our hostel and then getting ready to go for dinner, it hit us - my purse was left on the bus. It had been wedged between Pete and I and probably fell on the floor so that we totally missed it as we were disembarking. PANIC! We immediately ran the few blocks to where the bus station was, and I held my breath as I asked the receptionist if they had found a black purse on a bus that came in a couple of hours earlier. Thankfully, they had it right there. We were damn lucky, as we would have been pretty messed up if that was gone - it held our passports!

It worked out quite perfectly to be in Puerto Natales a day early - we now have more time to relax and get prepared for what comes next, our three day kayak/camping trip through what is supposed to be the most beautiful national park on the whole continent - Torres del Paine. A few snow flakes fell this morning, which reaffirmed that YES, we are in fact crazy to be doing this. The weather forecast calls for just clouds and sun... here's hoping!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


We left Puerto Varas pretty disappointed for the little amount of exploring we actually got to do. Damn weather! I suppose we are still in the tail end of spring, so should expect this - but it just really sucks to only plan to be in one place for a couple of days and then have it ruined by wind and rain. Given all we have planned over the next week or so, we are just crossing our fingers that the worst has passed!

Another four hour bus/ferry ride and we arrived in the province of Chiloe, a small island off of the coast of Chile, and our last stop in the Lakes District before we fly down into southern Patagonia. Thankfully, rain turned into drizzle with patches of blue sky as we got nearer the city of Castro.

The light drizzle continued as we left the bus station, so because of that and the distance to our hostel, we decided to grab a cab. Pete wandered up to the first cab he saw and said: "Conoce esta dirección?" (Do you know this address?), and when the cab driver opened his mouth, we had NO IDEA what he was saying. Usually we can pick out a word or two and at least get a clue as to a response, but he spoke so fast and with such a different accent that we were lost. He honestly sounded like a Newfie speaking Spanish. A new dialect, perhaps? Spanewf? Newfnish? Not sure what to call this one!

Chiloe has an identity all of it's own that they have fought hard to preserve. When the Chilean government wanted to build a bridge to the island as part of their bicentennial celebrations, the island's people refused to let it happen for fear that easier access to the mainland would make it more challenging to keep their island's independence.

One of the very distinctive features of Chilote are the picturesque neighbourhoods made up of palafitos - houses built on stilts over the water. Most are in Castro (those in the other major city of Ancud being wiped out by a tsunami on the 60s), and we were very pleased to get to stay in one!

Our hostel was the big brown/orange building, third from the right.

At high tide, the water moved into just a few feet below the patio off the front of the hostel. Our room was over the water and so high on the stilts! Anytime someone took the stairs a little heavily, the whole place would shake a little.

With the forecast showing sunny skies for the next couple of days (which is rare for this island) we took immediate advantage and booked a day long kayak trip - we wanted to work out all of our "kayaking kinks" before heading out on the three day trip next week. The sun didn't show up as forecasted, but we were thankful to at least be spared from any rain.

Rió Notuco turned out to be a perfect spot for us to test our skills. There were many fallen trees in the river, which meant a lot of manuevering and some quick turns to stop from getting flipped over or stuck. We both managed to stay in the boats the whole time, but there were a few times when we had to be rescued from being wedged in some trees.

Navigating thru the fallen trees!

Damn sexy outfits, if I do say so myself...

With so much to see on this island and only one more day to do it, we decided again to rent a car and venture out on our own. We joined up with an Australian girl named Katy that we had met in our hostel and hit the road. First up was a drive and ferry ride to another small island off of this island, called Achao. We went in search of a few things: seafood in the form of fresh oysters served right on the beach, mussels for dinner later that evening, and churches. For a small island of only 160,000 inhabitants, there are 150 churches, many of which are Unesco World Heritage sites. Most are entirely made of wood and constructed such that they did not even use any nails to hold them together.

The many churches were easy to find - the oysters, not so much. We found a small town in the center of the island advertising "ostras" and followed the signs all the way to the beach. Found the "ostra" bar, found the oysters, but found no one to actually serve them to us! Several empty wine bottles laying nearby suggested that the owners might have had too much fun the night before and weren't interested in their customers that day. Apparently, this is pretty typical here.

Surprisingly, the mussels weren't that easy to find either, but during our last stop on the island, we finally had success. And what a success! 2 kilos of mussels for 800 pesos (about $1.60 CDN)! Pete was salivating the whole rest of the day in anticipation of dinner.

For the last half of the day we drove a very scenic route across Chiloe to the western coast and did some short treks through the Parque Nacional Chiloe. We saw some really incredible changing scenery in just a one hour hike - from a field of flowers, thru a swamp, to a beautiful coastline covered in abandoned oyster shells!

Thanks to some favourable weather, we got to see a lot during our short stay in Chiloe and it was easily one of our favourite spots in Chile. Tomorrow we fly down to Punta Arenas - our most southerly destination (almost 12,000 kms from Calgary!), and almost the farthest south one can possibly go on this continent before we begin our ascent north via Argentina. We are both really looking forward to our visit in southern Chile, but are also getting anxious to get back to some warmer weather. Cold, bad! Hot beaches, goooood!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Rainy days

With Pucon in the rearview mirror, we continued our trek south with a three hour bus ride to Valdivia, a port city situated where three major rivers meet the ocean. Valdivia was not originally on our list of must-see places, but Pete learned that the brewery for one of his favourite beers was located there, so we added it to the list! Exploration of local drinks is a part of the cultural experience, right? Even if it is so clearly a German brewery (Kunstmann)?

We arrived at 5pm and having skipped lunch, we were desperate for some good eats. We grabbed a cab and headed straight for the brewery (which also had a restaurant), and dove right in with beer sampling. Thankfully the food wasn't far behind (including my hamburger which was about the size of my plate!) as we polished off the first jug rather quickly. Still being exhausted from our marathon hike the day before and coupled with the effects of the beer, we called it an early night.

Up the next morning and we had a wonderful breakfast and conversation with the sweet elderly Chilean lady who served it to us. She was anxious to hear about where we were from and what we did. She coudn't believe our story about having no "casa" left in Canada and urged us to stay and live in Chile. Her name was Nora, and she was ecstatic to learn that we knew people in Canada with the same name as her! Pete and I are always so happy to have these sorts of conversations with the locals along the way so that we can practice our Spanish. She was very patient with us and tried to pick up a few English words along the way as well.

We ventured out to run a few errands - booked our flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas for the 28th, and found a place to purchase some rain pants that are necessary for the excursions we have planned in Patagonia in the coming days. Not only did we find a place to purchase pants, but they made me a custom pair! Within their small shop they had nothing to fit me, but offered to whip some up that afternoon. They ended up being a perfect fit - now we I just have to hope they are good quality.

I wish I had more to say about Valdivia as we quite enjoyed the town - much less touristy then Pucon and with a relaxed coastal feel. However, it rained. And rained. And rained. Our one day to explore the city turned into just a couple hours as that was all we could stand to be out. With our bus not leaving for Puerto Varas until 6pm, we returned to the hostel in mid afternoon and waited it out in the lounge, doing some research and booking hostels for our next few destinations.

Got off the bus in Puerto Varas and made the trek across town to our hostel - it was quite a distance but we're getting pretty used to lugging our big packs around. Also got to see a bit of the town and was instantly very impressed. It is touted as being the "next Pucon" as similar outdoor activities are available here, but does not yet have all the same tourist infrastructure (which is why I think I like it better)! The town has also well-maintained German colonial architecture which gives it a very different ambiance to any other place in Chile we have been.

Unfortunately, we have still been plagued by rain and cold. We've only ventured out enough to get a quick look around town and pick up some food. We made it down to the lake and over to see a large imposing church that overlooks the downtown (and built according to a similar church in Germany). We had hoped to do some sea kayaking ahead of the big trip we have planned next week, but with the wind and rain, the appeal to do it wasn't there. Instead we have been enjoying the warmth of our hostel (which is heated via wood stove!) and continuing planning for the next phases of our trip. We leave tomorrow for a few days on the island of Chiloe where we hope the weather is better as there are many things about this island that we are anxious to explore!

BRRR!!! Lakeside in Puerto Varas

German architecture in Puerto Varas

The Gringo Show

We have been to many places along our travels where we will go a full day without seeing any other tourists besides those in our hostels, making us obviously stand out in a crowd of locals. While we have yet to feel unsafe or threatened at all, there are times where we are a bit uncomfortable because of oppressive stares! That is when either Pete or I will look at the other and say, "Oh, we're on The Gringo Show again." (Gringo - or Gringa, for ladies - being the name given to white tourists in South America).

The other day, as we waited for our bus in Valdivia, we shared a bench with a Chilean couple and their ~2 year old daughter. The daughter ran around the platform a bit and then would come back to her parents, always staring at Pete and I before hiding her shy face in her Mom's lap. Her Dad finally said to her, "Dices hola gringa"...meaning "Say hello gringa" (to me). She looked up at me and said "HOLA DINGA!", and then buried her head again in embarrassment as we all burst out laughing!

Pete and I are now known to each other as...The Dinga Show. Episodes airing daily... =)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Welcome to Jasper! Er, I mean Pucon, Chile!

A few hours into our bus ride down the Panamerican highway south of Santiago, something occurred to me. Ever since leaving home to start college, I have always moved with my compass set south. I first started in baby steps: 1 year in Grande Prairie, a bigger step to Calgary, and then even ventured a little further south into Okotoks. Now with this grand move that Pete and I are embarking on, I am getting closer to one of my ultimate life goals: I want to live where there are palm trees.

A few hours into our bus ride...and we ran out of palm trees! I think we have now, officially, gone too far south!

An 11 hour bus journey south of Santiago landed us in Pucon, Chile, reputably the most touristy place in southern Chile. Immediately we were struck with Pucon's similarities to Jasper: lush evergreens everywhere, constant smell of campfire, hotels and restaurants built to a "rustic cabin" standard. One major difference, however...a snow covered, smouldering volcano in the background!

This small city of 20,000 has it all: a black sand beach, a casino, good restaurants, and enough outdoor activities to keep visitors busy for a week! However, with only a couple of days booked in Pucon, we had to make the most of our time.
Day one was an early rise so that we could scour the tour agencies for ideas on what to do first. We booked ourselves into a white water rafting trip for later that afternoon on the Class IV rapids at Rio Trancura. I have been looking forward to this for some time...while I regularly will turn down opportunities for many other extreme sports, this is what I lovvve! To my mother's extreme dismay, of course (which is why I only tell her about these trips AFTER I do them).

These rapids were easily the most intense that Pete and I have ever done. Right off the bat, about 10 seconds after we got into the raft, we got our first mouth full of water as we plunged head first into a gigantic rapid (Pete and I were placed in the front of the raft, as the most experienced rafters. Eep!) After that first rapid, Pete and I looked at each other and laughed, both having the exact same thought in our heads: if Jason Stannard were here, he would be swimming solo already (sorry Jay, you know it's true!)

That was not the last time we would be drenched head to toe. Over and over we plunged into what seemed like a neverending stream of rapids, trying to catch our breath while frantically paddling to hit the next wave in the right direction. When we finally had some calm in the water, the guide encouraged us to join him in a game. We noticed that the boat in front of us had everyone out and in the cold river, so we could guess what the game was about!

We all stood on the side of the rafts and jumped. Or moved side to side. Trying to rock the boat until someone fell off. I faltered a little, and because I was standing right beside Pete, I pushed on him a little for support. Over he went, into the freezing water! I did feel a little bad, but it was awfully funny. He has now declared that in any sort of precarious position (on mountains, volcanoes, etc.) he will refuse to stand beside me for fear of his own life. I kinda don't blame him.

We didn't go much further before everyone was forced out of the boat to walk a short distance on the river's banks. A short section of river was deemed impassable, and thus we had to wait for our guides to float the boats past the section while holding onto a rope from shore. At this point, my legs were a little wobbly from all the action and walking on the wet rocks of the shore probably wasn't much safer then being in the boat! But, we made it, and back into the boat for the next set of rapids that they guide told us was "muy interesente", or "very interesting". Nice choice of words.

Got beat up again by some HUGE rapids, but were lucky enough to stay in our boat while we watched a tall German guy in the boat in front of us get knocked off. The safety kayaker picked him up soon enough, but that incident was enough to make us all paddle a little harder when told to.

Shortly after, our ride was over, and we were all forced out of the boat to swim to shore. SO COLD! And as per usual on these trips, the extortionist photographer sold us a few pictures at an extortionist price. But of course, we had to purchase them, at least just to freak out Mom a little...

Saturday was to be a little less extreme...or so we thought. While many people we have met here were setting out to climb the nearby Volcan Villarrica, we decided that we would take an easier route. Or so we thought.

An hour bus ride out of town took us to Parque Nacional Huerquehue, for what was advertised as an "easy" 14 km hike. If this hike was to be "easy", I would hate to see what their "medium" or "hard" hikes were. 14 km hikes I can handle...but the majority of it was either straight uphill or straight downhill. And in mud. I slipped numerous times, believe I sprained my left thumb, and earned a few fresh bruises in other places.

All of the agony would have been tolerable had the scenery been as rewarding as expected. However, we were vastly underwhelmed. Along the way we saw two waterfalls and three lakes - all of which paled in comparison to the type of things we have seen in our own backyard in Canada when we went on similar treks. AND, there was snow. Again another indication of: woah! We have indeed gone too far south!

We kind of wished that we had booked in a little longer in Pucon as there is so much more to do, but instead we continue making quick work of Chile with another bus ride this afternoon to Valdivia for one night, and then onto Puerto Varas for two. For the first time since we've started these travels, we have to stick to a schedule and be in Puerto Natales by December 1st for a kayak trip.

And where is Puerto Natales, you may ask? Very far south. Apparently, we haven't learned anything!

For those of you that don't have a map handy to follow us, I found one of Chile that includes most of our stops: San Pedro de Atacama, Arica, Valparaiso, Santiago and Pucon. Up next: Valdivia, Puerto Varas, Castro, Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bright lights, BIG city!

What an incredible contrast Santiago has given us compared to our last few months of traveling! After visiting some of the most incredibly remote and untouched places in the world, we found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the largest city in Chile for 5 nights.

We expected a large, busy, dirty city, and were actually pleasantly surprised. While it is unmistakenly large and busy, it is also very clean, and quite beautifully lush. It is the most modern place we have been to on our travels, and could quite easily be compared to many cities in North America (except for all the signs being in Spanish!)

Best of all, we've had a fantastic tour guide and a free place to lay our heads - all thanks to my friend Dean who I used to work with at CPR (he moved to Santiago just about 1 year ago). It has been very nice to spend some time with a fellow displaced Canuck who knows the ins and outs of the city. When we arrived on early Saturday afternoon, Dean and Alejandra lept into action and took us out on the town. First (after finding a place to drop off our piece of crap laptop to be fixed), they took us to Cerro San Cristobal - a park overlooking the entire city, crowned by a 36m tall statue of the Virgin Mary. This location boasts some incredible views of the city:

There are 6.5 million people living in Santiago, which is 1/3 of the population of the whole country. The picture above is just one small section of the city - I think if we took about 10 side by side shots from what we could see, it still wouldn't even cover the breadth of it.

At the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal is the neighbourhood of Bellavista, which reminded us of Kensington in Calgary - although it was much bigger and more happening. We stopped for a quick drink on the sidewalk and were treated to a couple performances from a kid with a huge drum strapped on his back and an aspiring rapper.

On Sunday, Dean and Alejandra took us out of the city to see some of the beautiful countryside surrounding Santiago. We drove about an hour to a little town called Pomaire which is known for producing large quantities of inexpensive pottery. It was incredible how cheap it actually was - Pete and I bought a small, three piece set of decorative vases for the equivalent of $2 CDN, which I could easily see selling in a store at home for at least $50. (Dad, you'll be getting another package in the mail soon!) It was hard not to go crazy with the souvenir shopping, although I did also buy myself a small necklace as a souvenir.

From Pomaire we went in search of some fruit stands. And we searched. And we searched! We drove on some pretty narrow side roads for awhile, in search of a little town that we never found. Neither Pete or I minded though, when this is the kind of the scenery we were treated to along the way:

Back to Santiago and with Dean and Alejandra back at work on Monday, we were on our own to explore. We headed straight downtown to Plaza de Armas, the historical center of the city. There was some incredibly beautiful architecture (surrounded by modern high-rises!) and an insane number of people wandering through the shops surrounding the plaza. We ventured out a few blocks to search out some other noted plazas and buildings, also realizing that there is definitely no shortage of statues of dudes on horses, most of the dudes being important contributors to Chile's liberation from Spain.

Old and modern: yep, that's Santiago!

Tuesday was a much more mellow day for us. Tired of playing tourist, we decided to take advantage of being in the city and resorted to one of our favourite city past times - we went to a movie! A waste of time this movie was (don't go see 2012!!), but I got to enjoy some popcorn, which was all I really wanted anyways.

We got the call that our laptop is fixed, and 199,000 Chilean pesos later (roughly $400), we can head back out on the road and finally be consistently reconnected with the world. Today is our last day in Santiago which will be spent running errands and getting ready for an early bus ride tomorrow - 11 hours to Pucon, a small city in the Lake District of Chile which is a hot spot for vacationing Santiaguinos - thank goodness we will be there a few weeks in advance of tourist season! While we will be sad to leave our gracious hosts in Santiago, we are very excited to get back to exploring more corners of the continent...

Monday, November 16, 2009


FINALLY! A few hours to sit and write. I have a lot to catch up on, and I hope I can make it through my chicken scratch notes and remember everything in between...
On Tuesday the 10th, we had a 7am flight to Santiago, which meant a very early rise for us who have otherwise become habitual late sleepers! Bet we were up and to the airport with no issue. In fact, the whole day went much smoother then anticipated. Considering that our transport to our final destination of Valparaiso (Valpo for short!) included a flight, finding the correct bus to the center of Santiago, finding another bus to Valpo and then trying to navigate through the confusing streets to our hotel, we did pretty good for a couple of meathead Gringos! Next task - I'm signing us up for The Amazing Race!

Getting to Valpo was worth the effort! The 1 1/2 hour drive from Santiago was beautiful and entirely reminiscent of driving in California - brown rolling hills spotted green with trees, framing a lush green valley filled with various orchards, vineyards and olive groves.

And then we arrived in Chile's second largest city, and another Unesco World Heritage Site. We had been highly anticipating this visit - everyone raves about this city. Our initial impression, however, did not meet our expectations - the city STUNK! Of garbage, and lots of it. Our taxi driver tried to explain as best he could so we would understand..."Primera vez mi ciudad no es bonita!" (First time my city is not beautiful)! Lucky us, we got there in the middle of a garbage workers strike!

Once we got away from the center of the city and wound our way up the hills via a myriad of crooked streets, we finally found our hostel, and it was one of our favourites yet - clean, very colourful, and with 4 meter high ceilings. After we checked in and had a map explained to us, we ventured out. What first seemed like just a big smelly city is now a potential favourite! We could have spent hours just strolling through all the quaint little streets. It's like a cross between parts of San Francisco and St John's - streets lined with brilliantly colored conjoined buildings. Murals decorated the numerous cafes and boutiques on every corner. There are also 15 furnicular elevators to help alleviate the stress of walking up some steel hills - most being built over 100 years ago. We spent the remainder of the day just discovering the character of the city and finished with dinner at a restaurant overlooking the harbour.

Streets of Valparaiso

Our friend Gill survived her 30+ hour bus trip from Arica (crazy Brit!) and joined us the next day for more sightseeing. We hopped the train for a 10 minute ride to neary Vina del Mar which is a complete contrast to Valpo - a very upscale city where all the rich Santiagoan's (sp?) spend all their money and their weekends. We found our way to the beach, and YES, I did manage to burn the last exposed piece of skin that I did not burn the first time - the backs of my knees. Very good.

Beach in Vina del Mar

While we relaxed quietly on the beach enjoying the sun, an English couple sitting only 20 feet away from us had their bag nicked when only turning their back for a second. Two "blimey jovenes" (as Gill affectionately called them - rocking her Spanglish) had been scouting everyone around us, and thankfully Pete had tied a strap of our backpack to his belt loop. Luckily, a Chilean woman close to us saw the whole thing and called the police. They were onsite within minutes. The bag and all it's contents were recovered - the police telling the couple that they didn't want them "to go away with a bad impression of Chile!" Perhaps these cops should talk to cops in Edmonton - I still have a bad impression of that trashy city after our vehicle was broken in to this summer!

The next day started off with errand running - or at least, an attempt at it. I am now oh-for-two in trying to cash a traveller's cheque in this country, thank goodness there are bank machines on every corner. The rest of the afternoon saw us ambling some more around the quaint neighbourhoods surrounding our hostel, and also included a good lengthy siesta for me! Our evening saw a little more action - one of the staff at our hostel invited us to a CD release party for a local band he was managing. They were really good! A four piece band who played a mix of jazz and rock, I urge you to check them out here:

Our last day in Valpo was one of my favourite days since leaving Canada. After waiting too long to join a tour group leaving our hostel for a vineyard and other sightseeing, we decided to do it ourselves! Our hostel staff arranged for a car rental and a winery tour, and the three of us were off on our own. Pete enjoyed being behind the wheel again (and the fact that the speed limit is higher here!) and we found our way around the area without too much trouble.

Our first stop was the William Cole vineyard for a tour and wine tasting. Our tour guide was most informative, and we all learned a lot in a short time frame, including which tap to turn on and stick our heads under for tasting (ha!) The wine here is so tasty and SO cheap. We each bought a bottle and were back in the car for our next destination.

We stopped at the small fishing village of Quintay for a leisurely lunch on the beach, watching fisherman bring in their small boats and sort through their catch from that morning.


Surrounding Quintay, there are several less visited beaches that we went in search of! The first one, Playa Grande, was quite large and unbelievably quiet - we virtually had it all to ourselves. We laid around for about an hour just listening to the waves crash in (and shivering from the cold wind that interrupted the heat from the sun!) Knowing that our time was limited before we had to get the rental car back, we went in search of another smaller beach (Playa Chica) that was a little harder to get to. After about 20 minutes of walking we found it, and while it was not much of a sandy beach (had a very rocky shore), it was a beautiful spot that was again, all to ourselves!

Playa Grande

Gill, Pete and I at Playa Chica

Overall, it was just an incredible day, exploring lesser known spots on our own - spots that haven't been spoiled by being on the tourist path.

Off to Santiago Saturday morning, which is a complete contrast to so many things we have seen so is large, very modern, clean, like many a city in North America! Lots to see and do...but that will be saved for the next post...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sunburns and Big Mac´s

After one day in agony suffering from too much sun, I made a speedy recovery, and from an unlikely source. When remedies of cool showers and aloe vera failed to provide needed relief, I dug through Pete´s bag of tricks to find some aspirin. I popped two pills and went to bed - overnight I was miraculously healed of all pain! The next day, when Pete reached into his bag for some aspirin for his own burn, he discovered that I had NOT taken aspirin, but that I had instead ingested 8X the daily recommended dosage of altitude sickness pills! Not the healthiest thing I´ve ever done, to be sure, but I do believe I might write some medical journals with my amazing discovery. Interesting to note however are the crazy side effects - repeated tingling of fingers and toes, and a very long and intense muscle spasm in my right hand. Good times!

So it´s been back to the beach for the last couple of days, albeit under an umbrella in order to save me from further agony (and because I am now out of altitude sickness pills). The beaches were much fuller this weekend so it has been fun to just people watch, listen to the waves rolling in, and play several rounds of FMK with Ruth and Gill (thanks for the inspiration Alcam - the game has now gone international!!) Pete and I have taken a couple of breaks from the sun, sand and surf in order to take in a local museum dedicated to the War of the Pacific (in which Bolivia lost coast access) as well as to do a bit of shopping (my wardrobe of 5 shirts and 5 bottoms being quite inadequate for warmer climates).

Our favourite beach is in that little cove

Today we say goodbye to Ruth and Gill - Ruth going back to Sucre and we will be meeting up with Gill in Valparaiso tomorrow. Pete and I are going to enjoy one more museum (with super old mummies!) and one last warm beach day before our early flight tomorrow morning. From Santiago we are directly boarding a bus north 1 1/2 hours to Valparaiso which is supposed to be one of the nicest cities in all of Chile. After a few nights there, we will head to Santiago to spend the weekend with a displaced Canadian friend before we begin our journey south. We still have MUCH to plan for that next leg of the journey - many destinations being undecided as we complete a cost/benefit analysis for each (Pete is trying to keep up his CMA skills). Chile is so expensive!

Culture Shock!
Now that we have been in Chile for almost two weeks, we have been adjusting to the vast differences between Bolivia and Chile. Some are welcome and easy adjustments, others have been made more begrudgingly...

Yay Chile!
- It is SO nice to walk across the street here without worrying about getting killed. The first time we had a driver slow down and waves us across the street, we stepped out very tentatively, half expecting to driver to step on the gas pedal once he got us directly in his sights. In Bolivia, you take your life into your own hands when stepping out on the street.
- In comparing the cities of Sucre and Arica, we found the Aricans (sp?) to be much more friendly and helpful, to the point of having a vehicle stop on it´s route to warn Pete and I of going the wrong way to a popular tourist destination, saving us a very long walk!
- Seafood! (Well, that makes Pete happy anyways).
- Beaches! Obviously.


We miss you, Bolivia
- The sight of a McDonalds and Blockbuster, which may be appealing to some, was disheartening to us. Chile is a very modern country and in many ways Arica feels like a North American city. We were happy to leave such capitalist mecca´s behind us, and were not so anxious to see them again. (Of note, Mickey Dee´s was one time in Bolivia, but was later kicked out by the Bolivian government!)

- So much for our Spanish lessons. Chileans speak a very lazy Spanish, often leaving out the ¨s¨in any given word. Very hard to understand.

- It costs so much more to tour through here, at least double for accomodations and a good meal. Hence our debate over what to actually do while we are here...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lazy days in Arica

We arrived in Arica early Tuesday morning (6am) after a 9 1/2 hour bus ride from San Pedro de Atacama. I was not particularly thrilled at the prospect of a long overnight bus ride as the idea conjured up memories of my University days and the frequent trips via Greyhound from Calgary to Peace River! Howeever, we were told by several people that traveling by bus in Chile is luxurious in comparison - and boy, were they right!

Our bus was ¨semi-cama¨ which meant seats that reclined almost entirely horizontal (¨cama¨means ¨bed¨in English, and there are buses available where the seats stretch out to full beds). There was even a co-pilot who took over for the driver halfway, and also worked to provide us pillows and blankets when he wasn´t driving - service plus! I wish this all meant that I slept well, but I didn´t, being too distracted by all the snoring around me.

We went straight to our hostal on arrival, expecting to just crash on lobby couches until later when we could check into our room. Luckily, the gracious hostal manager had our room ready early and we were able to go straight to bed! Thus Tuesday was a lazy one, in between naps we did amble around the town center a bit, but stuck pretty close to the hostal for the most part.

We were excited for the next day as it meant: a) BEACH! and b) two of our friends from Sucre would arrive to join us for the week. Ruth and Gill arrived late teh night before after an excrutiating long trip from Bolivia, and as they had both been here before, led us to our first taste of beach and ocean!

There are many beaches in Arica, which is why we chose to relax a week in this city before moving south where the water gets significantly colder.

After two days of sun and sand, Arica has not disappointed! The water is clear and the beaches are beauitiful. We´ve enjoyed it so much, in fact, that we both got a little too much sun yesterday. I burned in the most inconvenient of places (the top back of both my legs...makes it super hard to sit! Also my back, and my face, despite using sunscreen) So while Pete took to the beach with Ruth and Gill today (for once, I burned more than Pete, first time that has EVER happened), I am sticking close to the cool of the hostal, likely not venturing out into the sun until hopefully feeling better tomorrow.

Four more sleeps in Arica and we are on the move again. The plan is to fly to Santiago on Tuesday where our first order of business will be to get our laptop to an Apple repair center! We have much yet to plan for the next phase of our trip, which I´ll be doing today in some sort of creative, comfortable position that I have yet to find...

(unfortunately, pictures of Arica will have to wait as the computer here isn´t working properly...)

Monday, November 2, 2009

San Pedro de Atacama

From the freezing mountains of Bolivia to the sweltering desert of Chile...we have had a very relaxing (albeit sweaty!) few days in San Pedro de Atacama, just about 50kms west of the Bolivian border.

The temperature for our first couple of days here has been in the high 30s, while yesterday it cooled off to a much more tolerable 28. It has been too hot to do much of anything, which has suited us fine as it has taken us some time (and a few naps!) to recover from our last few days in Bolivia.

San Pedro is a very touristy town, largely because of it's preserved Colonial style and it's very mellow, laid back feel. It feels very much like a surfer town - without the surf!

We did manage to muster up enough energy yesterday to take to the slopes - sandboarding!

It's funny, I can't even count how many times Pete and I have been told that we were a waste of space in Calgary - living so close to the Rocky Mountains yet never taking up skiing or snowboarding. The thought of spending a whole day in the cold never appealed to me, but if I can do the same thing in a warmer climate...BRING IT ON!!

We were a small group of seven plus our instructor, and none of us seven had ever done it before. Our instructor drove us to a sand dune in 'Death Valley'. Scary, right?

Pete and I ended up finding it super easy, we were easily the best of the seven (yes! I am always this modest!) We both decided afterwards that we think that it might have to do with the fact we are both curlers - keeping our balance on the board was not a problem. I only fell once, and Pete never did! About halfway through the morning, the instructor told me that he thought my board was too big for me, plus I think I was on the board backwards - switching my leg position around seemed more natural. I seemed to be doing okay though, so the instructor didn't want to change it.

Next time we do it, I'll be sure to get the equipment all figured out and I'll be able to kick Pete's ASS!

So today is our last day lazing around town and at 8:45pm we board an overnight bus to Arica and THE BEACH! We are both very excited to be heading back down these mountains to sea level and to spend some time in the water.

Riddle me this...In Sucre, we were only two hours ahead of Alberta. So, now that we traveled west into Chile, we should be even closer in time to home, right?


We are now four hours ahead! Chile practices daylight savings time, so just had their clocks spring ahead one hour (it is spring here!), and seeing as Alberta just fell back an hour, we are further apart. Makes phoning home more difficult!

Sunday, November 1, 2009


Here is the first album again, with a few adds of Sucre and Potosi:

And a brand new album! Full of pictures from our recent tour: