Monthly Archives: March 2014

Antafogasta and San Pedro de Atacama

The next days were full.  We left the following morning for a full day of bus riding to another northern city.  It is called Antafogasta and we basically just ate dinner and spent the night in this city.  I think it is the second largest city in Chile but I am not definite on that.  It is a nice city on the ocean.  Actually, a lot of these places are on the ocean and the interstate we rode on (PanAmerican Highway) mostly goes up the coast so it’s a beautiful drive.  Also, Chile is such a thin long country, Timothy thinks it looks like a french fry so you are always fairly close to the water and to the Andes Mountains.

We had to get up super early to catch a 7 am bus over to San Pedro de Atacama.  We got over there around noon, found a room in a pretty neat hostel, and walked over to the town.  I didn’t take many pictures of the town which I’m sorry about.  It was different then the others we went to.  It was a small town made up of several streets full of restaurants, craft places, food stores, and many guide and tour places.  I had been told there were lots of things to do here but it was the biggest surprise to me.

We decided to do two tours before we made our way back to Santiago.  The first was to go to the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon).  It’s supposed to look the most similar to the moon’s surface on earth.  We are now definitely in the Atacama Desert which is supposed to be one of if not the driest places on Earth.  This tour was neat because the land is beautiful in a different kind of way.  We also went to Death Valley.  It was originally called Mars Valley because it had a red tint to it and looked like Mars.  It apparently sounded like Death Valley when they said it, so that’s why they ended up calling it Death Valley.

Timothy hanging out in the hammock at the hostel
Timothy hanging out in the hammock at the hostel
One of the buildings in the town
One of the buildings in the town
Mom and Dad at the Moon Valley
Mom and Dad at the Moon Valley

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Valley of the Moon
Valley of the Moon
Another at the Valle de la Luna
Another at the Valle de la Luna
Dad and I in front of the mountain of sand
Dad and I in front of the mountain of sand
Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Luna
Death Valley or Mars Valley
Death Valley or Mars Valley

We finished the tour and ate at a restaurant in town.  It was all llama meat prepared in many ways.  So, we had pizza without llama.  I just couldn’t try it.  We had to get to bed early because our next tour was early the next morning.  The bus was picking us up outside of the hostel at 5:30am to go see the geysers 13,000 feet up on the mountain El Tatino.

The geysers were neat but unfortunately Timothy got altitude sickness.  He was so sick with a headache, nausea, and then he started throwing up.  We were up there for the geysers, breakfast, swimming in the hot springs, and seeing the animals and scenery on the way home.  We had to pull over 2-3 times for him to throw up.  Needless to say, he never wants to do that again.  It did put a little damper on the trip for me since I just wanted to go on back so he could feel better.   But, the other people who had paid for the trip needed to enjoy it as well.  We didn’t do this but others put eggs in a ziploc bag down in the geyser and had scrambled eggs when they came out.  Another friend told me you could put chocolate milk down in there and have  hot chocolate with it.

We were so far up that we were sooo cold.  It was -4C and they said that they considered that a warm morning.  In the summer it is usually -15C and in the winter -30C.  _4C is about 28F.  Our hands and feet were cold!  We haven’t had that weather down here like you all have had back in the States, especially our friends on the east coast.

We finished the tour and once again headed back to the bus station.  The reason we rode the bus is because my Dad likes the full experience of being in a country.  For those of you who don’t know my parents they travel a lot and Dad has been in over 100 countries.  He prefers to see as much as possible and be with the local people.  Riding a plane doesn’t do much for him.  The other reason is it is very affordable.  We paid an average of $14 for our shorter bus rides and $20 for a longer one.  Our biggest fare was the trip from San Pedro to Santiago.  It was a LONG trip of over 1000 miles.  It took us 24 hours to get back!  It only cost us $30 each.  We were fine sleeping and for the first 20 hours.  The last 3 were a little tough because we just wanted to get off.

Headed up the mountain.  Andrew is on other side but he wouldn't get in picture
Headed up the mountain. Andrew is on other side but he wouldn’t get in picture
One of the geysers
One of the geysers

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Trying to get any warmth if possible
Trying to get any warmth if possible
Our group having breakfast
Our group having breakfast

Caldera, Bahia Inglesa, and Pan de Azucar

This was the best part of the trip for me.  It was great as you’ll hopefully be able to see in the pictures.  But first, I have to add the details that may bore you but things I want to remember.

We rode to Chiopio and decided that we were going to rent a car so we could ride up the Andes Mountain to see a national park called Nevado Tres Cruces.  So, we get off the bus and the rental car place is closed for lunch.  We decide to get food ourselves.  I don’t know if I have written this before but the Chileans love “completos” which are hot dogs!  They put heavy doses of tomatoes, avocado, and mayonaise on them.  I had not had one yet but Mom and I decided to go for it.  Glad I tried it but won’t be having another one.  Here’s a picture.

A "completo"
A “completo”

After lunch the rental car store opened and we rented a car.  Well, actually, a truck.  They told us it was necessary to have a truck to drive up the mountain.  That seemed OK until they started telling us there were 2 extra tires in the back, several empty gas tanks we needed to fill because there was nothing or noone out there, chains for the tires, and a shovel in case we got stuck.  I looked at Dad and thought this may not be such a good idea.  Apparently, this mountain road is not totally paved or well marked.  There are many mining side roads that you could also get lost on.  There is no cell service so we needed to have a satellite phone.  Lots of bad possibilities that could occur.  Especially since we are not a camping, outdoorsy family.  We really wanted to go but after talking to a guide and the hotel owner, we changed our minds and went to plan B.

Renting a truck with the gas tanks and other helps in the trunk
Renting a truck with the gas tanks and other helps in the trunk

We drove about an hour over to the coast to a small town called Caldera.  We found a hostel run by a lady from Denmark.  She and her family lived above it, and she had been in Chile for about 25 years.  She suggested we drive over to Bahia Inglesa for dinner and gave us some restaurant names. Bahia Inglesa was a beach town too but it had a different  feel to it.  We really like it a lot.

Bahia Inglesa a neat beach town.  Loved it!
Bahia Inglesa a neat beach town. Loved it!

The next day we set out for plan B which was going to the national park called Pan de Azucar.  This was the best decision.  We drove north to the park and the first thing we wanted to do was find the penguins that live on an island close by that we had heard about.  (These parks are not like ours as far as signs and selling stuff like tickets, shirts, souveniers, etc.  They don’t do it.)  We enter the park and stop at the entrance building.  The guide tells us the boats to the penguins are only about 100m from us.  We return to the car and the only thing we see is some restaurants- so we try to ask them about how to see the penguins.  The couple we see don’t speak English but we figure out they are going to check with a fisherman at his house (located right behind the restaurant) but he was asleep.  We were out by the car in the parking lot when a park truck came by and told us to yell into an  open door on one of the fisherman’s house.  So we did.  He came out and told us the price.  We said we’d like to go now or as soon as he could take us.  He didn’t speak English either but it’s amazing how people can still communicate.  He got the boat  ready for our excursion.  In the meantime a mom and daughter were dropped off by a cab so we asked them if they wanted to come with us. They said yes so  we all got in for the best ride ever!  We saw pelicans like crazy!  Then we saw the cutest penguins ever waddling around. There was a baby sea lion and then 2 larger ones basking in the sun.  Lastly, the best part, was the dolphins swimming all around our boat.  I took a video but unfortunately it won’t load.  My picture doesn’t show the total amount of them and how close they really were.  It was totally amazing!

The restaurants at the beach.  The food was delicious.
The restaurants at the beach. The food was delicious.
Sea Lions
Sea Lions
Lots of pelicans!
Lots of pelicans!
Dolphins- there were hundreds of them!
Dolphins- there were hundreds of them!
There are penguins in this picture.  Wish I had a real camera.  These were from my phone.
There are penguins in this picture. Wish I had a real camera. These were from my phone.

 

An island in the national park Pan de Azucar
An island in the national park Pan de Azucar
The beach in the national park
The beach in the national park

After that wonderful ride, we hiked up to El Mirador which was a view of the ocean and the desert area we went through to get there.  So glad we went there for the day! IMG_2775

Another view from El Mirador looking back where we had walked.
Another view from El Mirador looking back where we had walked.
View from El Mirador.  The view was beautiful
View from El Mirador. The view was beautiful
one of the 22 different species of cacti in the park.  this is a columnar cacti
one of the 22 different species of cacti in the park. this is a columnar cacti
Me and Mom after we walked 4 km to get to the top
Me and Mom after we walked 4 km to get to the top
Headed out of the park back to the hostel in Caldera
Headed out of the park back to the hostel in Caldera 

So glad we didn’t take a chance on getting stuck in the middle of nowhere.  It was a great excursion!

Mom and Dad Arrive

I’ve been busy this last week.  My mom and dad flew down here last Tuesday and in true “Willis” fashion, we were on a bus the next morning headed north.  We did a whirlwind tour of the northern part of Chile and returned to Santiago yesterday.  The first stop was La Serena.  This is a town on the sea and took about 6 hours on the bus.  The ride was fine because we got to see the scenery on the way up.  When we got there we were so hungry because we hadn’t eaten anything on the way up there.  (Actually, we may have had a snack.  They let people get on the bus and sell ice cream, cookies, horse jerkey, drinks, etc.)  But, regardless, we were hungry.

We leave the station and begin to look for a hostel to stay in.  Dad had his trusty Lonely Planet Chile book and we were looking for a place from the book.  This area wasn’t the best or nicest so it was a little shock to Timothy.  Dad was looking for a good deal and Timothy just wanted a 5 star hotel.  It was funny- T had a bit of cultural awareness.  We finally decided to just eat first and hope to feel better then look for a room.  The restaurant was in the front of a house and the owner/grandmother had her granddaughter with her.  She was really cute.

After we ate Dad and I walked around the town trying to find a place for the night.  We ended up at a hostel owned by a Croatian family.  After we got settled in and got the coveted wi-fi password, we went out to have a late dinner.  We walked a block from our hostel and started reading a sign outside of a restaurant.  We didn’t know exactly what the sign said.  So, this man and young lady came out and invited us in.  The man said he could help us with the English.  We sat down as the only people in the place, and he started asking what we wanted to drink and helping us with translating the menu.  We assumed he was the owner.  A few minutes later he told us that he didn’t actually work there.  He had ordered his food and was headed home.  He stayed and talked to us for a while.  He actually had already had  7 piscolas (pisco and coke a Chilean drink) so he was very happy to help us.  He told us a lot about himself.  I wish you all could see T imitate him.  He remembers what he told us and says it with the same accent.  He was “big boss” and had “12 tracks” that deliver vegetables.  His wife was a doctor (a surgeon) and his mom had died a few years ago and he missed her a lot.

Some situations are funny but when you try to tell about it, it just doesn’t do it justice.   That’s the situation here.  Anyway, I’ll include pictures about the whole day.  We got back and went to bed since we had to be up the next morning to take the bus to Copiapo.  Another ride of about 6-7 hours.  The boys were loving this! LOL

Dad waiting with T at the bus station
Dad waiting with T at the bus station
Little girl at the restaurant.  Think her grandmother owned it.
Little girl at the restaurant. Think her grandmother owned it.
This is a tree in La Serena that was decorated by knitted coverings.
This is a tree in La Serena that was decorated by knitted coverings.
Our room for me and the boys.
Our room for me and the boys.
Dad and the guy at the restaurant.
Dad and the guy at the restaurant.
Timothy and Andrew watching this man at the restaurant.
Timothy and Andrew watching this man at the restaurant.

Scotland Is Next

I forgot to add that Kent received his official acceptance into St. Andrew’s University last week.  This means we will be headed to Scotland in the fall.  We will be sad to leave Chile since it is the easiest place we have ever moved to.  It’s hard to describe why it’s so great.  Then I’ll be sad to not be around the older boys too.  This semester they have learned a lot of things through experience.  This past month their truck caught on fire on their way home from church and their sewer backed up.  They had to make appointments for the plumber, rip out all the carpet, clean the basement floor, order new carpet, etc!  They’re becoming young men because they have to! The “helicopter mom” has not been there to help, but that’s a good thing.  God has been teaching me to let them grow up and learn on their own.

Aaron Visits from Texas

Our first guest has come and gone.  Aaron is a friend from Arlington TX and was on spring break from his school.  He is a high school computer teacher.  He left on a Friday night and got here early last Saturday morning.  It was a fun week and he got to see several aspects of Chile.  The first day we walked around the city and had dinner out at a French restaurant.  We actually left the apartment headed for a Chilean restaurant a Chilean friend recommended.  When we got there we looked at the menu outside of the restaurant and it had lots of food we didn’t know (no English) but some things we saw were tongue and rabbit so we decided not to eat there.

Sunday we took him to church and he met lots of people there and at the mall afterward when we went to eat lunch.  Monday morning he and Kent went hiking in the Andes with a guide.  They reached the base of a mountain in the area of San Francisco.  They reached the end point and there were some hot springs.  They said the first 2 springs were fairly cool, but the last one was super hot!  There were a bunch of older ladies relaxing in the springs and they got a laugh out of them.  Kent said it was way too hot to get in, and Aaron got in but had a red “belt” around his waste when he got out.  The ladies were speaking Spanish and Kent said all he understood was “gringo”!

View on the hike in  the mountains
View on the hike in the mountains
Trekking in the Andes
Trekking in the Andes

Thursday they went on a vineyard tour.  It was pricey but they went to 3 different vineyards and had a tour of how the wine is made.  It also included a full meal with wine under the arbor of grapes and a beautiful view.

The vineyard tour and their huge barrels
The vineyard tour and their huge barrels
Lunch at the vineyard wine tour
Lunch at the vineyard wine tour

Friday I joined them and we took a bus over to the coast to Vina del Mar.  We had a delicious fresh meal at a restaurant on the beach where the fisherman bring in their catch.  We went to an older palace and then to a museum with information and artifacts about Easter Island. Easter Island is off the coast of Chile.  We looked into going there but it’s about 2,000 miles from us in Santiago.  Chile is a very long country!  We took our picture outside with the “dum-dum”.  We call them “dum-dum”s because of the movie “Night at the Museum”.  Remember that? This was a nice way to end the week since he left to go back home Saturday night.  We enjoyed having him to visit- hope he did too!

Vina del Mar  view from our restaurant
Vina del Mar view from our restaurant
Our favorite soup full of seafood
Our favorite soup full of seafood
A museum with information about Easter Island which has the "dum-dums" on it.  Remember this from Night at the Museum movie?  Easter Island is off the coast of Chile
A museum with information about Easter Island which has the “dum-dums” on it. Remember this from Night at the Museum movie? Easter Island is off the coast of Chile
Lunch in Vina
Lunch in Vina

My parents are coming Tuesday to visit.  I’m not sure what all we are going to do.  Maybe the northern desert part of Chile?  I’ll let you know…..

Chiloe Island

The last tour we took was to Chiloe (Chee-lo-ay) Island.  This island is the second largest in Chile, and we had to take a ferry over to get there.  We spent the day driving around the island looking at Catholic church restorations, little towns with their shopping areas, and the bigger capital area.  We had a nice guide who grew on us through the day.  His name is Santiago.  When he picked us up at the hotel he asked me if I spoke Spanish and I was trying to respond in Spanish when he told me he wasn’t going to speak English on the tour.  I wasn’t even asking him too but the way he said it didn’t set well with me.  He did speak English, but he was really pushing us to only speak Spanish with him.  We ended up liking him a lot but we were exhausted when we got back.

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Shopping in the little town
Shopping in the little town

 

the fam
the fam

 

I thought this was my older brother Lee!  If you know him, you'll agree.
I thought this was my older brother Lee! If you know him, you’ll agree.

 

Food on Our Trip

I know, it’s pitiful.  I love food and like to see what is eaten in different places.  The bad part is that I would start to dig in and then remember I wanted to take a picture for the blog.  Some of these pictures aren’t that good-sorry!  It’s using an iphone in the dark.  Or it could be the user :-(

One restaurant near the hotel was written up on Trip Advisor and it was very good.  Being typical Americans and hungry!, we were the first ones there both times we went.  We ate fish both times and the salad was huge and fresh.

fresh salad with avocado and tomato
fresh salad with avocado and tomato
Chilean Sea Bass
Chilean Sea Bass

On one of our day tours our guide, Santiago, wanted to show us some of their foods he liked and thought were unusual.  The first one is sea kelp and it looked hard and unappetizing.  He said you boil it in water for 30 minutes and then cut it up and put it in your salad.  He assured me it was delicious.  The other square food was seaweed.  It was also eaten a lot down there although I didn’t see anyone eating it.

sea plant they eat
sea plant they eat

The German influence was evident especially with the kuchen.  I kept pronouncing it “kutch-en”.  We went to an ice cream place and I ordered it and the man kept looking at me like he wasn’t sure what I said.  He then said it was pronounced “koo-ken”.  They had it with a crumble topping and with more of a cream cheese topping.  They served it for breakfast and for dessert.  The used berries and apples and peaches.  It was really good.

kuchen-sorry it's a horrible picture
kuchen-sorry it’s a horrible picture

Lastly, the amazing soup they make is full of fish and seafood.  They also put in chorizo and chicken.  It is delicious.  Probably my favorite entree I have had.  It has a name but I don’t know how to spell it so I’ll get back to that.

Typical delicious soup full of fish, chicken, sausage, mussels-yum!
Typical delicious soup full of fish, chicken, sausage, mussels-yum!

 

Mt. Osorno Tour

The second day of our trip we took a tour to see Mt. Osorno and Petrohue Rapids.  We headed out with a guide and two couples -one from Chile and one from Germany.  The weather started off cloudy but it turned into a beautiful day.

Heading out of town to visit Mt. Osorno
Heading out of town to visit Mt. Osorno

We first stopped at the entrance of the national park which cost us 1.500 pesos ($3) each and then walked back to the Petrohue Rapids.  The water was beautiful and green.  I don’t think I have seen water that color before.  The rapids were powerful and it reminded me of my parents going with me and the boys rafting in August with the boys.

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Petrohue Rapids beautiful green water
Petrohue Rapids beautiful green water

Next, we went to a large lake and took a quick boat ride around it.  We were at the base of the volcano. When we got off the boat there were some locals selling drinks and treats which we tried.  Yum!

We took a boat ride on a lake at the base of the volcano.
We took a boat ride on a lake at the base of the volcano.
A cone shaped cookie filled with dulce de leche
A cone shaped cookie filled with dulce de leche

After the boat ride we hopped on the bus and headed up to the mountain for lunch.  We were at the highest point we could go, and they dropped us off at this unfinished building for lunch.  We were very hungry, and the food was  pricey.  I was disappointed because I felt like we had to pay a lot for food or be hungry.  We decided on a salad and a pizza.  While we were waiting we started talking to the waitress.  She and her husband were traveling the world.  They were volunteering at this restaurant in exchange for food and lodging.  They had worked and saved their money for 4 years and now they just travel. She is Brazilian and he was from Holland, and they had been living in Amsterdam before they left for their adventure.  She said there is a website they use that posts these types of volunteer positions.  She said you contact the business and let them know when and how long you can work.  They were going to be in southern Chile for a month then heading to Peru.  There was a young German girl doing the same thing.  Anyway, they were very interesting and the food turned out to be delicious!

During lunch the clouds kept coming up and covering the windows of the restaurant we were looking out of.  Our group decided to wait for a while to see if the clouds would clear. There was a ski lift chair that you could ride up even higher and the other couples wanted to do that.  We waited about 30 minutes and they cleared.  It was beautiful.  Timothy and I hung out at the waiting area which had a coffee shop and some short trails.  We met people from Massachussetts, Florida, and Germany  during our wait.

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The view down the mountain
The view down the mountain

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The day was a long one but it was well worth it for the view!

Hotel Flowers

We can tell that fall is coming because the air in the mornings and evenings is cooler.  The flowers are still in bloom but they’ll be gone soon.  I loved the flowers at the hotel.IMG_2608

flowers lining the stairs
flowers lining the stairs
beautiful
beautiful

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area outside the doors of the lobby
area outside the doors of the lobby
hotel garden
hotel garden

Puerta Varas

Last Thursday morning we flew down to the Patagonia area.  We are super close to Anartica but we didn’t get down to the tip of Chile because we didn’t have the clothes to go that far south.  We did, however, go fairly far south to their Lake Region.  We had heard about the Chileans spending their summer vacations down there and how wonderful it was.  We also heard that if we wanted to go and have warmer weather we needed to go before it got too far into March.

We spent five days down there and learned a lot more about Chile.  We flew into Puerta Montt and drove over to the little town of Puerta Varas.  Puerta Varas is on the Llanquehue Lake which is the largest lake in Chile.  Our hotel was on the edge of town on the lake and was a great place to be stationed since we could walk to town but it weren’t in the middle of everything.

Some interesting information we learned is that this region’s main industry is salmon.  They are the second biggest exporter in the world after Norway.  This area kind of reminded me of Scotland.  It was cloudy and overcast 2 days and sunny the other 3 we were there.  They said it rains over 200 days a year.  They also have several volcanoes in the region.  Chile has 15% of the world’s volcanoes and I think they said for a total of 2200-2300.  Most of them are dormant except for around 300 of them.  We went to one and I’ll share those pictures on another post. They also have a large German population. We saw many German businesses and houses.  Lots of kuchen to eat!

The food was expensive but it was a tourist town.  The boys wanted McDonald’s one day but there was no fast food to be found.  The first day we rented bicycles and rode around the town which was lots of fun.  IMG_2477 IMG_2494 IMG_2479 IMG_2501