Wandering Martindales https://wandering.martindales.com Traveling Through Latin America Wed, 31 Jan 2018 03:39:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 117540293 Pucon, Chile » Temuco, Chile » Santiago, Chile: That’s Two (Countries) [Days 80 – 82] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/27/pucon-chile-temuco-chile-santiago-chile-thats-two-countries-days-80-82/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/27/pucon-chile-temuco-chile-santiago-chile-thats-two-countries-days-80-82/#comments Mon, 27 Mar 2017 22:54:03 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=3284 [Read more...]]]> Day 80 | Wednesday, January 11, 2017

With a 4:00am alarm this morning we are up,  departing Pucon via Buses JAC, and flying out of Temuco back to Santiago. Steve attempted to schedule a transfer yesterday to pick us up at our hotel and take us directly to the airport but they either don’t provide one this early in the morning (which seems the most likely answer) or they didn’t have any space available. So, we are going to get to take the bus from Pucon to Temuco city center then a taxi from Temuco city center to the airport on the outskirts of town and then a plane from Temuco to Santiago.

We have exactly 3 days left in Chile, this is both exciting and sad. It is exciting because I am ready for the adventure a new country holds for us but it is sad because that means our time in Latin America is flying by and that we have been here almost 12 weeks already.

Luggage in hand we check out of our hotel and walk the quick 5 minutes to the bus station. This early in the morning the only other soul in sight is the security guard for the bus station. He gave us the you crazy foreigners look. Fortunately, they have benches we can sit on and plenty of space for our luggage to camp out undercover should it decide to rain. Steve has taken to his typical travel day ritual and is pacing the length of the bus station to get some steps in. Suddenly the dark silence is broken by the viscous growl and barking of a large dog followed by the sharp yelp of a smaller dog. At a full sprint a young mid-size black dog comes barreling into the parking lot of the bus station narrowly missing the swipe of a German Shepard’s bite as the German Shepard zigged and the black dog zagged. The German Shepard continued on down the street causing chaos as it went evident by all the barking, growling, and howling that ensued. The little black dog paused a moment to assess its surroundings and catch its breath then wandered over to visit with us. Initially it came to me and I had just told it to sit down when it realized Steve’s pacing. As typically happens with kids and animals the dog chose Steve over me and fell into step with Steve and paced back and forth with him for quite a while. After some time the dog deemed the coast clear and ran on in the opposite direction that the German Shepard had gone.

Another crazy foreigner has shown up with luggage in tow to join the wait for the bus station to open. Finally an employee of the bus company has shown up and is going about getting things in order for the day. Just minutes before 6:00am they finally start ticket sales. As we have gotten closer to 6:00am more passengers have arrived as well as the bus to take us to Temuco. Steve purchases our bus tickets to Temuco for $3,000 CLP each, we get our luggage loaded into the cargo hold and we board the bus to claim our seats. An uneventful bus ride with a healthy dose of snoozing and we find ourselves in the center of Temuco. Fortunately, taxis are lined up outside of the bus station waiting to transport passengers to their desired location. Taxis are metered so it is pretty straight forward. We tell the driver we are headed for the airport, he loads our bags in the trunk, and away we go. As expected it cost $20,000 CLP to get us from the city center to the airport. Confirming that the transfer from the airport to Pucon was cheaper by about $6,000 CLP. Not a big deal, especially since options are limited at this time in the morning.

The Temuco airport is nice and relatively new. I would guess that it has been built in the last 5 years. A little fact checking has revealed that it was completed and opened for its first commercial flight in July 2014. It is a smaller international airport and if I am ever going to have issues it is usually at these airports. We are flying Sky Airlines again this morning and they are a budget airline so we shall see how this goes.

Fortunately, the line to check-in isn’t bad. After a brief wait we find ourselves at the counter. We hand over our passports and let the gentleman behind the counter know that we are headed to Santiago. First, he weighs our checked bags. Fortunately, they have not been an issue so far as they are under 20 kg each and very close to carry on size (the limit is 23 kg). At this point I have my carry on (a 40 L backpack) and Steve has a regulation size rolling suitcase carry on and an 18 L backpack personal item left. The gentleman behind the counter then insists on weighing Steve’s carry on which is not supposed to weigh more than 10 kg. Of course it weighs more like 13 kg this morning. Fortunately, we brought some reusable grocery bags with us on this trip and we always travel with at least one of them handy in a carry on. So, to appease the gentleman who was not going to let us through with a 13 kg carry on—on his watch, we moved 3 kg of stuff from Steve’s carry on to a grocery bag which became my personal item. This is a time I am really thankful that we have packing cubes and it is easy to pull a few cubes out. Reweigh Steve’s carry on. Take a few more cubes out and so on until we reached the acceptable weight for his carry on. At this point I am starting to get nervous though because I know for a fact that my backpack is over the 10 kg limit. So, I am very carefully not letting the gentleman get a good look at my backpack or giving any indication that it might be heavy. Also, the truth is that Steve’s 18 L backpack is most likely over the 10 kg limit as well, I am just hoping that the size is deceptive and that the gentleman assumes that it is under weight. In reality our backpacks look ridiculously small in comparison to all the serious hikers you see come through these airports whose packs are easily 3 to 4 times the size of my pack and usually in the 50 – 60 lb range. Thankfully, the gentleman was appeased once we got Steve’s carry on down to the 10 kg mark and didn’t need to weigh either of our backpacks. At this point I am a bit on edge but trying not to let it get to me as we still have security to get through. Big sigh of relief security was a breeze and we got through without even a second look in our direction. Now to park it in front of our gate and wait for our plane to arrive.

Not surprisingly this team of Sky Airlines staff is very thorough and takes their jobs very seriously. We have already gotten a sampling of this upon check-in. They are requiring everyone to have ID out and ready, which at least 30% of people aren’t heeding (which is drastically slowing the line down) because they are actually checking everyone’s ID against their ticket and the names much match exactly and if they don’t it creates great debate. I can’t believe it but they are actually going to delay this flight just so that they can cross check everyone’s ID against their ticket. Finally, a reasonable employee steps into the mix and starts pushing passengers through the line onto the plane. We are finally all boarded and running just a  little bit late.

At last we are in the air on our way to Santiago. What did I tell you about these small international airports. Trouble.

The heat slaps us as we get off the plane in Santiago. It is hot and humid. Welcome back.

Day 81 | Thursday, January 12, 2017

Man it is hot back in the city and this latest Airbnb apartment we are staying in faces the west so we get the hot afternoon sun pounding against the windows in the living room and bedroom. To top it off the AC unit is in the living room so it is warm in the bedroom at night making sleeping much more difficult. The view of San Cristóbal Hill from our apartment.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

You can also tell it is hot out by the amount of honking you hear on the roads. Unlike Peru where drivers use their horns to communicate a lot while driving you really don’t hear that much horn honking in Chile. However, as the temperature rises tempers flare and you hear a substantial increase in the amount of horn honking on the roads.

As we only have 2 full days left in Santiago we are rounding up a list of things we want to do before we leave. Unlike when we left Lima it is a pretty short list. There is a park, Cerro Santa Lucía, that is close to the office Steve has been working out of and that we have stayed near that we keep saying we need to go to. Today we are making it a priority to go.

The park is mainly made up of a hill which is supposed to have a nice view at the top. If nothing else it will help Steve meet his goal for flights of stairs climbed today. It really isn’t that big of a hill, about a 15-20 minute walk. The view from the top is nice but nothing compared to the at the top of the Santiago Metropolitan Park San Cristóbal Hill. It was a good walk though. Now that we have checked that off our list of things to see and do in Santiago we decide to indulge in some sorbet from Emporio la Rosa one last time.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

It is time to get in the mindset of packing and preparing for a new country.

Day 82 | Friday, January 13, 2017

Another week almost gone. Today is all about packing and preparing for our transition from Chile to Argentina. Time to put aside all the things that have become new norms and prepare for everything to be different. Buenos Aires will have a different pace, currency, slang (or lack of), traffic patterns, grocery stores, taxis, scenery, people, shopping, and Uber may or may not work. We also have to prepare for the whole process of traveling internationally through the airport which so far has gone pretty smoothly but you never know when you might encounter a problem. We have our passports in order, immigration documents, and onward travel booked so we should be good but I never like to count my eggs before they are hatched.

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Pucón, Chile: Triumph Finally! [Days 76 – 79] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/16/pucon-chile-triumph-finally-days-76-79/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/16/pucon-chile-triumph-finally-days-76-79/#comments Fri, 17 Mar 2017 03:06:06 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=3115 [Read more...]]]> Day 76 | Saturday, January 7, 2017

We are escaping the heat and hectic pace of Santiago traveling south to spend a few days in what they call the Lake District of Chile. The city of Pucón is a popular destination with both national and international travelers as a hub of adventure/recreational activities such as water skiing, snow skiing, backpacking, white water rafting, kayaking, horse back riding, natural hot springs, zip line rides, skydiving, and guided ascents of Villarrica volcano.

We are using Sky Airlines for the 1-1/2 hour flight from Santiago to Temuco and then plan to take Buses JAC from Temuco to Pucón. The bus ride should be about 2-1/2 hours.

Thankfully we have had another uneventful flight. Domestic flights within South America so far seem to be a much more pleasant experience than flights in the USA these days.

Now that we are on the ground in Temuco we are realizing that they have transfer services that run from the airport to Pucón and will drop you off at your accommodations. For $20,000 CLP we can catch a ride here at the airport directly to our hotel saving us about 1-1/2 hours and a taxi ride backtracking into Temuco city center. Per the JAC website I am anticipating the bus tickets costing us $2,500 CLP each plus, per a sign in the airport, it looks like a taxi to the bus terminal is going to cost us $20,000 CLP so it will not only be cheaper, and easier but also faster to take the transfer. Here’s hoping it all works out.

Steve supplied the name and address to our hotel in Pucón to the guys at the counter for the transfer and paid them the requested rate. We were provided a receipt and ushered out to the van. Our luggage was loaded in the back and we joined the other passengers in the main cabin. A short wait longer, we were joined with a few other passengers filling out the van, and then we were on our way. 

As we reached the outskirts of Pucón we began making stops dropping passengers off. As we pulled into the heart of the downtown area of Pucón it was our turn to depart the van if the driver could just find our hotel. After a couple of circles we finally managed to communicate with our limited Spanish, the help of Google Translate, and one of the other passengers the exact location of our hotel and we were dropped at the front door. We quickly and easily checked-in and made our way to our room to settle in. A quaint room with a modest kitchen, a balcony, and a decent bed to call home for the next few days.

After dropping our stuff off we located a grocery store and decided to venture out to pick-up a few groceries for dinner and breakfast for the morning.

A decent size grocery store with a decent selection just across the street from our hotel is always a big plus in my book. 

With that we kicked back and shifted into vacation mode.

Day 77 | Sunday, January 8, 2017

It is much cooler here in Pucón (high of 68) than Santiago (high of 88) and we are getting a bit of rain. Fortunately as Oregonians we don’t mind too much and it really doesn’t slow us down. 

Today we are wandering the town taking in the sites: quaint little shops, windows filled with yummy looking baked goods, decadent chocolates, and artisans creations. 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Finally the cold and wet has driven us inside and we are relishing in the day to rest after a day of travel.

Day 78 | Monday, January 9, 2017

Today we are determined to log some steps, see a few areas of town that we haven’t yet, to acquaint ourselves with the bus that departs for Parque Nacional Huerquehue, gather the details of the park, and the various hikes it has to offer.

Eventually finding our way to the major grocery and home improvement store on the other side of town we find ourselves caught unprepared in very heavy rain. Soaked through with water pooling in our shoes we squished our way back to the hotel to dry off.

Once the rain passed we ventured back out to the bus station. Buses Caburgua runs between Pucón and the park 4 times per day. The current schedule and prices as of today (January 9, 2017) are in the photo below.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] With confirmation on the location of the bus station (Uruguay 540, Pucón), the bus schedule, and some research on the various hikes within the park we now have a plan for how we will spend our last day in Pucón as long as the weather cooperates. Fingers crossed!

Day 79 | Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We are up early this morning so that we can catch the 8:30am bus to Parque Nacional Huerquehue. We have our sights set on completing the San Sebastián Trail today, an 8 hour hike. It promises panoramic views to include Tinquilco and Caburgua lakes, Villarrica, Quetrupillán, Quinquilín and Lanín volcanoes, and Conguillío National Park. After the fiasco at Torres del Paine National Park we are approaching today with a slightly different strategy and high hopes of squelching the memory of defeat. We are not putting our bag in the cargo hold of the bus and we aren’t going to allow ourselves to be pushed to the back of the line.

Arriving at the bus station with time to spare the buses are parked out on the street and the small convenience store that shares the plot with the bus company is just opening. Uncertain where to purchase bus tickets we first approach the convenience store and inquire and are pointed in the direction of the buses. Since neither bus is displaying the park’s name on its placard in their front window it is unclear if one of these buses is the correct one or not. Based on the gathering confused crowd we aren’t the only ones that are uncertain about which bus to take. Finally Steve decides that we should inquire. Sure enough one of the buses on the street is headed to the park. We get on the bus just before the flood gates open and before we know it there is a line down the sidewalk of eager hikers hoping to get on the bus. Finally the gates to the parking lot are opened and the buses move from the street into the lot. Another bus joins the line-up and they cram far beyond the legal limit and as many eager hikers as possible onto the two buses with no standing room let and then finally depart.

As we cruise up the winding road to the park at what can only be described as a Latin American bus driver clip we barely squeeze past oncoming fuel trucks and cube vans. Finally reaching the park entrance we all pile off the bus and into the microscopic ranger station to pay the park entrance fee. Once that step is completed we funnel out of the ranger station and over to the large map of the park with a bilingual ranger posted next to it to get our bearings. We are off. 

After just a few feet we encounter the beginning of the Ñirrico trail and an opportunity for a bathroom break. Deciding it would be good to take advantage of the bathroom before hitting the trail we make a quick stop and then continued on the Ñirrico trail until it splits with the Quinchol trail. Then we continued along the Quinchol trail. Instantly the trail converts from a very slight almost unnoticeable incline to a steep series of switchbacks. This first part of the trail is covered with a thick canopy providing a dense cool shade from the brilliant sun above. Periodically broken up with windows to the surrounding landscape. Finally we reach the top of the Quinchol trail. Thankfully it opens into a patch of flat brown grass with a trail carved down the middle. Thus begins the San Sebastián trail with sweeping views of the surrounding forest and mountainside.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Soon we are reentering the forest and enjoying a stretch of down hill trail. Trees frame perfect pictures of the surrounding mountainside as we go. We are encountering some very interesting trees along the way. Some of them have a very nubbly bark. We haven’t see a lot of wildlife but we finally encounter a lazy lizard. The down hill trail is short lived and we are soon climbing back up hill at a decent rate. It is not as steep as the Quinchol trail portion was and we are being rewarded with glimpses of the lakes in the surrounding areas from time to time as well as magnificent waterfalls off in the distance. The vivid blue of the lakes pops against the green of the trees. Higher and higher we go reaching the clouds. Eventually we reach a crazy stretch of trail that is a bit like a straight up and down ladder created by tree roots and trunks. Finally the end is in sight but between us and the end are a couple of peaks and masses of boulders to scale. We have come this far we can’t quit now. I refuse to let Chile be marked with another defeat. I will claim a victory today. The top of the trail is as promised. We have endless views of the surrounding lakes, valleys, snow capped mountains, and the blue sky dotted with wispy clouds. We have made it to the summit in the estimated 4 hours. 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Now to spend some time on the mountain relishing in our triumph. 

Alright it is time to start climbing down this mountain. If we can hit a good pace we can make the 5:10pm bus back to Pucón otherwise we will have to wait around for the 7:30pm bus. The trip down started out fairly well but as we went the decline increased and the ache in our knees, ankles, and hips increased with it. Pushing through we beat the bus to the entrance of the park by about 5 minutes. It appears that everyone else that has been dropped off at the park today has the same idea we do about catching the 5:10pm bus based on the mob waiting at the entrance of the park. Fortunately, we not only managed to get on the bus but we also managed to get a seat on the bus which my legs are thankful for. The driver crammed the bus just as full as the trip this morning and finally took off. The drive back to town took just over an hour. Upon reaching the bus station we piled out of the bus and trudged back to our hotel thankful for the only day of beautiful bright sunshine we had experienced in Pucón and our new triumph to redefine our time in Chile.

On that high note we began readying for our trip back to Santiago tomorrow and our final days in Chile.

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Santiago, Chile: Santiago Synchronicity [Days 72 – 75] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/14/santiago-chile-santiago-synchronicity-days-72-75/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/14/santiago-chile-santiago-synchronicity-days-72-75/#comments Tue, 14 Mar 2017 22:11:34 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2983 [Read more...]]]> Day 72 | Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Making the jump from temperatures in the mid 40s to the mid 80s is pretty extreme overnight. A bit like jumping from the refrigerator to the frying pan. Settling back into the work routine after having 10 days off is also a bit extreme. I can already tell that not too much is going to get done in the next couple of days except a couple of loads of laundry as I slowly adapt to being back in Santiago.

Fortunately, at this point we have discovered a slightly nicer area of Santiago to stay in and have found an apartment that is on the cusp of that area making it a reasonable commute to the Santiago office for Steve.

I just need to synchronize myself with the hectic, grimy, and raw pace of Santiago again.

Day 73 | Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Slowly, I am adapting to the heat and pace of Santiago again. On our walk tonight we discovered we are within a short distance of the Santiago Metropolitan Park from which we can access the zoo, ride the funicular to the Sanctuary of the Immaculate Conception on San Cristóbal Hill, and take the cable car that you can see stretch across the northeast skyline of Santiago.

Day 74 | Thursday, January 5, 2017

This morning we are getting out of the house early so that we can ride the funicular to San Cristóbal Hill. It runs daily from 10:00am to 7:45pm. You have the option of riding it part way up the hill and getting off at the zoo, riding it all the way to the top or riding back down to the bottom of the hill. There is a road that you can walk to or from the top of the hill. You can also access the zoo from the bottom of the hill but then you have to walk up hill instead of getting to walk down hill while viewing the animals.

Since it is already in the mid 70s and full sun I can’t convince Steve to walk up or down the hill so we are riding the funicular both up and down. So, while the funicular is cool I am not as excited as I was in Valparaíso because it is a modern version not one that was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s and been restored. What I am really looking forward to is that there are supposed to be incredible views of the city from the top of the hill.

Even though it is a bit hazy the views of the city below are still incredible. Also, at the top of the hill is a gleaming white 14 meter tall statue of the Immaculate Conception, there is a small chapel in the pedestal of the statue, an amphitheater for holding masses or other religious ceremonies which is currently showcasing a gorgeous carved nativity, there are several painted crosses, and a prayer chapel.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

So, far this is my favorite experience in Santiago. I guess I should have trusted TripAdvisor when it came up as the second best thing to do in Santiago. Now it is time to escape the heat and head back to the apartment, Steve has to get to work.

Day 75 | Friday, January 6, 2017

Due to time constraints yesterday we were not able to ride the cable car so this morning we are returning to the Santiago Metropolitan Park so we can ride the cable car and further explore the 722 hectare park.

Even though we got here before 10:00am this morning there is still a line to ride the funicular to the top of the hill. After a brief wait for the funicular to open for the day the line started to move quite quickly. Once at the top of the hill we wandered until we found the entrance to the cable car. After purchasing our tickets we boarded the car and started our journey across the skyline watching as Santiago spread out beneath us. The Santiago Metropolitan Park is impressive it contains two open-air pools, the cable car we are on, the funicular, the national zoo, a botanical garden, the religious sanctuary atop San Cristóbal Hill, and Bicentenary Children’s Park which includes an amphitheater, treehouses, water features, interactive fence, and a cable car.

After riding to the end we disembarked and wandered a bit in the park. Then we boarded the cable car again and road it back to the top of San Cristóbal Hill and returned to the bottom of the hill via the funicular.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

This area is such a deviation from the chaos of Santiago. A real positive note to leave Santiago on. Tomorrow we board a plane for Temuco so that we can spend a few days in the lakes region of Chile before we move on to Argentina.

It is hard to believe that today marks 2-1/2 months in South America.

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Punta Arenas, Chile: Penguins, Panties, & A New Year [Days 67 – 71] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/10/punta-arenas-chile-penguins-panties-a-new-year-days-67-71/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/10/punta-arenas-chile-penguins-panties-a-new-year-days-67-71/#comments Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:30:06 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2934 [Read more...]]]> Day 67 | Thursday, December 29, 2016

We arrived in Punta Arenas around 11:30pm last night. Our hotel is a brief 5 minute walk from the bus terminal but it was a bit eventful as drivers don’t yield to pedestrians in Punta Arenas as they do in Santiago, Valparaíso, or Puerto Natales. 

Given that we only have a couple of days before another holiday descends upon us we figure we had better get out to the grocery store and scope out the restaurants in the immediate area. A bit of a bummer as that cold we were exposed to entering Puerto Natales has hit Steve and I feel myself starting the battle.

Punta Arenas is the largest city south of 46th parallel south yet in so many ways it is a small town in comparison to cities like Lima and Santiago. A siesta is strictly observed here, to the point that you will be shopping in a store and they will simply start shutting down and tell you to leave. I guess they figure they are shooting fish in a barrel because where else are you going to buy goods. There really isn’t anywhere else to go. It is definitely commerce and not tourist focused. There doesn’t seem to be any great amount of history or beautiful architecture here either but we did find a sufficient grocery store and there are plenty of restaurants within a short walk of our hotel. If fact we capped the night with a meal we both enjoyed at Fusiones Gastro-Bar, grilled salmon and asparagus for me and a hamburger and fries for Steve.

Day 68 | Friday, December 30, 2016

The goal for today is to nail down a tour to go see some penguins. We figure we will start with tour company next door to our hotel, Payne Rent a Car & Tourism

Check, we just booked a full day tour for tomorrow (Saturday, December 31) to go see some King Penguins.

As we wandered the street yesterday and today we have noticed lots of street vendors selling various items for celebrating the New Year: confetti canons, champagne glasses, calendars, and most curiously bright yellow underwear.

As we kicked back and relaxed the rest of the day I just had to google the significance of the yellow underwear.

Come to find out Chile has several traditions for ensuring a Happy New Year. Here are some of them:

  1. Eat a spoonful of lentils at midnight to ensure prosperity for the upcoming year.

  2. Eat 12 grapes, one for each month of the year. If the grape is sweet that month will be good, if the grape is sour the month will be bad.

  3. Want a new travel adventure in the new year? Pack your suitcase and take a walk around the block.

  4. Want more money in the new year? Put some paper currency in your right shoe or hold it in your hand at midnight. Coins are placed next to your door to attract good finances.

  5. Place a gold ring in your bubbly for a prosperous new year.

  6. Ribbon-wrapped sprigs of wheat are distributed to bring abundance.

  7. The yellow underwear? First, they should be received as a gift. Second, wear them inside-out and turn them right-side-out after midnight. The result, either love will come into your life in the new year or you will get engaged in the new year.

Fun and a bit kooky traditions for the New Year!

Day 69 | Saturday, December 31, 2016

What better way to spend the day leading up to New Year’s Eve than getting to see a colony of King Penguins. 

A van ride, a ferry ride to Tierra del Fuego, a quick stop in Porvenir to learn about the indigenous people and visit the museum, a break for lunch, and finally we are heading to the main attraction, the Parque Pingüino Rey.

Along the way we also spotted countless guanacos (cousin to the llama), wild criollo horses, pink Chilean flamingos, lesser rhea (looks like a small ostriche), a grey fox, and a black and white commerson’s dolphin.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

After a full day traversing the Strait of Magellan, a portion of the Chilean side of Tierra del Fuego, and finally arriving back in Punta Arenas it is time to ring in the new year. 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Day 70 | Sunday, January 1, 2017

We are heading out of the room not because we think we will find any signs of life outside the hotel but because it is better than sitting and staring at the walls of the hotel.

Sure enough only a couple of restaurants we have encountered have been open and all other businesses are closed today. Again it is the double whammy Sunday and New Year’s Day. 

Finally reaching 20,000 steps for the day we decided to call it quits and head back towards the hotel. 

A bit of a late siesta and then we were back out hoping that the town was coming back to life as we look for a place to eat dinner.

Fortunately our favorite Punta Arenas restaurant, Fusiones Gastro-Bar, is open and we snagged a table for two before they got busy.

Day 71 | Monday, January 2, 2017

This morning we are climbing back on a bus to Puerto Natales to board a plane back to Santiago concluding our time in the Chilean Patagonia region.

Although a nice break from the heat and stink of Santiago I can’t wait until we board a plane for Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 14, 2017.

Fortunately, an uneventful day of travel landing us back in Santiago.

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Puerto Natales, Chile: Milodón Cave and Torres del Paine Take 2 [Day 66] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/08/puerto-natales-chile-milodon-cave-and-torres-del-paine-take-2-day-66/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/08/puerto-natales-chile-milodon-cave-and-torres-del-paine-take-2-day-66/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 01:25:15 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2775 [Read more...]]]> Day 66 | Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Today is our last day in Puerto Natales. Tonight we will take the bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas, about 3 hours South, but first we are going to take a tour of the Milodón Cave and Torres del Paine National Park. After yesterday’s debacle I am hoping that today we will return having witnessed the wonders of the park: Lake Sarmiento, Amarga Lagoon, Lake Nordenskjöld, the Salto Grande waterfall, Lake Pehoé, the Paine River, Grey Lake, and Grey Glaciar.

The tour bus will be arriving any moment for another early morning departure, 7:30am. A very large tour bus just arrived and I am starting to have a sinking feeling about today already. 

We have been very lucky so far during our time in South America and of all the tours and excursions we have done we have been fortunate enough to be a part of some pretty small groups. Today is going to be a deviation from that. We are on a bus with 40 other people and several of our companions for today have already shown a disregard for the schedule and we aren’t even an hour into this adventure. I am starting to think we might not be meant to see Torres del Paine National Park.

1 | Milodón Cave [Cueva del Milodón]

A natural monument where the skin, bones, and other parts of a giant ground sloth (Mylodon darwini) were found in 1895. The mylodon is a bit of a town mascot in Puerta Natales. There are several caves and a rock formation called Silla del Diablo (Devil’s Chair) that make up the monument. We only got to tour the first main cave given the time constraints of our tour but we did get to see a beautiful full rainbow.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 2 | Lake Sarmiento [Lago Sarmiento de Gambóa]

A vibrant, glittering turquoise lake with the snow capped Monte Almirante Nieto and the iconic granite Torres del Paine anchoring the backdrop.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 3 | Amarga Lagoon [Laguna Amarga]

A cool icy blue grey body of salt water encompassed by soft white shores caused by evaporation leaving the salt behind. This sight greets you as you enter the park.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 4 | Lake Nordenskjöld [Lago Nordenskjöld]

A lake named after Otto Nordenskiöld who discovered it in the beginning of the 20th century.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 5 | Salto Grande Waterfall

The outfall of Lake Nordenskjöld to Lake Pehoé. This is the first real moment I am regretting not asking the maximum size of this tour as we are stopping along the road to view this waterfall across Lake Pehoé instead of pulling into the parking lot and getting to hike to the viewpoint to get to see it up close, to hear it thunder, feel the ground trembling, or the mist on our faces because we are behind schedule.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 6 | Lake Pehoé [Lago Pehoé]

Yet another glittering lake within the park. This one boasting a hotel just off its shore.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] 7 | Grey Lake & Grey Glacier [Lago Grey & Glaciar Grey]

A cool grey colored lake capped on one end by a glacier that shares the name. Determined to not be robbed of seeing the glacier from the viewpoint we hustled from the parking lot, down a trail, across a suspension bridge, across a giant spit of sand and gravel to a small land mass which we travelled the length of to reach the viewpoint. It was worth it. Not only did we get a glimpse of the glacier, we also saw several icebergs that had previously been obstructed by the land mass we had just travelled the length of to reach the viewpoint.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] With that our second take on Torres del Paine National Park concluded and we headed back towards Puerto Natales. Upon getting dropped off at our hotel we claimed our luggage from the front desk and had them hail us a taxi. A quick taxi ride to the bus terminal, the purchase of bus tickets from Buses Fernández to Punta Arenas, and we boarded the bus for a 3+ hour drive South to continue our exploration of the Chilean Patagonia region.

Helpful Links:

Milodón Cave

Company Booked Tour Through – Carfran Patagonia

Company That Conducted The Tour – Hotel Glaciares

Bus from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas – Buses Fernández

 

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Puerto Natales, Chile: Hiking Torres del Paine…sort of [Day 65] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/07/puerto-natales-chile-hiking-torres-del-paine-sort-of-day-65/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/03/07/puerto-natales-chile-hiking-torres-del-paine-sort-of-day-65/#respond Wed, 08 Mar 2017 00:27:57 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2415 [Read more...]]]> Day 65 | Tuesday, December 27, 2016

We are starting our morning bright and early as we want to catch breakfast at the hotel before we leave for the bus station around 6:45am for our 7:30am bus to Torres del Paine National Park. This morning we will be riding with Buses María José. From what we saw at the bus terminal on Christmas day there are several bus companies that run between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park (see the list at the bottom of the post).

Arriving with the requested 15 minutes to spare we are waiting for our bus to pull into the terminal parking lot. We are surrounded by a crowd of other hikers toting packs that are easily half their size heading to Torres del Paine National Park to conquer the many treks within the park. 

The bus pulls into the parking lot just a few short minutes before it is supposed to depart again. We load onto the bus with the other eager hikers and Steve has his pack stowed in the cargo hold below.

About an hour and a half later the bus pulls into the entrance of the park near Laguna Amarga. Every last passenger has to pile off the bus to stand in line to pay their entrance fee to the park. At this point the bus driver is refusing to give anyone their belongings that are stowed in the cargo hold. We will get them after we pay our park entrance. 

As we are standing in line bus after bus keeps arriving at the park, full of eager passengers that pile out and join the ever growing line that we are standing in to pay the entrance fee to get into the park. In an attempt to expedite things there are park employees coming by handing out Corporacion Nacional Forestal Control y Declaracion de Ingreso Individual forms that each person must fill out before entering the park. This is all great and good but you have to have a pen to complete the form which only some were wise enough to bring, I am not among that crowd. Also, it is a carbonless copy paper so you have to press hard enough and be writing on a solid surface so that the information transfers to the second page. There really aren’t any good writing surfaces around except for the few signs with the rules of the park on them. Instead of asking someone else in line if I can borrow their pen I simply wait until we finally make it to the entrance of the park office to worry about filling out our forms.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] It is a chaotic madhouse of overly eager hikers in here. They are absolutely violating fire code (if they have such a thing in Chile) and have too many people crammed into this small space. In theory there are 4 steps to this process: 1) Complete the Corporacion Nacional Forestal Control y Declaracion de Ingreso Individual forms. 2) Pay the entrance fee either by cash or credit card. You are supposed to line up by payment type. 3) Show proof of your paid entrance/permit to the rangers and get it stamped. 4) Watch a park rules video. 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Instead of orderly lines at each of the 4 stations you have a mob of people milling around attempting to complete each of the 4 stations ahead of everyone else in the room. Some stanchions with ropes, belts, or chains between them would go a long way to making things less confusing and more efficient in this space. There is a park employee at the entrance attempting to answer people’s questions and bring some order to the mob but it is a quiet whisper in a deafening roar of chaos. Per the park employee’s advice we split up and I completed our forms and Steve gets in “line” to pay. After a decent wait we realize that Steve has gotten in the wrong “line” so we change to what we think is the correct line to pay with credit card. Standing there we start to realize that people in the cash line keep cutting to the front of the line we are standing in. Finally after a ridiculously long wait we finally make it to the counter to pay for our entrance. At this point the office is starting to empty. We then move to the line to get our entrance ticket stamped by the ranger. At this point we could slip out and not watch the video. A moment too long of hesitation and we are trapped and must watch the video. As we are standing in the room waiting to watch the video Steve looks out the window to make sure our bus is still there. Just a brief moment later we watch a different bus pull away and a guy in the room with us waiting to watch the video go chasing after it to retrieve his belongings. Sadly the bus never stopped for him but a courteous driver had the guy jump in the back of their truck and drove after the bus and they managed to get his belongings. He made it back before the video started and had time to recount his experience. Finally after watching the video (which is repeat of the rules on theCorporacion Nacional Forestal Control y Declaracion de Ingreso Individual forms and the signs posted outside the office) and then having a park employee repeat what was said in the video word for word we are finally released to find that our bus had left with our belongings. 

No I am not kidding! They wouldn’t give us our belongings when we got off the bus but yet they have no way of tracking if everyone who was on the bus has–had a chance to retrieve their belongings and they took off with our pack and left us stranded. We stood there completely stunned, dumbfounded, cursing the chaos we had just been subjected to, and without a clue as what to do next. Finally we wandered back to the park office to attempt to get some help. They informed us that the bus would be back at 2:00pm. Staring at them slack-jawed and in disbelief that our one full day in Torres del Paine to hike to the base of the torres was simply going to be thrown away we turned and headed back outside. We wandered and looked about grasping at straws hoping to come up with some idea to retrieve our belongings and not waste our day waiting for a bus driver to return at 2:00pm. All of a sudden we were approached by a lady. She explained that her belongings had been hijacked too. She ushered us back into the park office to see if we could get some resolution. Come to find out she used to work at the park. Has been to the park as a hiker and to teach trainings countless times. Her explanation of the situation, “Welcome to Patagonia. This happens all the time.” After some back and forth it is determined that the rangers have “attempted” to contact the bus driver by radio but hadn’t had any luck. The bus would be returning at 2:00pm. The lady trying to help us advised that we not waste the day and just do the hike without our stuff. The hitch to this is that our hats, sunscreen, water, food, jackets, all of our supplies are in our pack on that bus. We felt it wasn’t the best thing to head out without any supplies so we wandered back into the park office to wait for the bus out of the sun. The park employees weren’t too excited to see us and obviously weren’t keen on us spending the next few hours hanging out in the office so they “encouraged” us to go hike the Lago Sarmiento trail which would take about 2 hours. Taking the hint we headed out on the trail.

As we walked we tried to put the events of the morning behind us but as the torres (three granite peaks of the Paine mountain range) loomed on the horizon to our right it was hard to forget that we weren’t hiking to the view point at the base of them as we had planned. We encountered very few people (maybe 4) on the trail which was a pleasant relief from the chaos of the park office. We had multiple encounters with guanacos (similar to llamas) young and old. The best encounter was when we heard thundering foot steps running toward us and we looked over to see one guanaco chasing another nipping at its heals as it got close. It was rather a comical exchange and I would have loved to known what triggered it. Did the one guanaco steal or offend the others girl, perhaps it ate a favorite treat the other had hidden away or maybe it besmirched the others reputation? We will never know.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] As we walked we saw small herds of guanacos grazing, guanacos laying in the grass resting, and even babies skittishly observing us. As we continued along the trail Monte Almirante Nieto cropped up out of the sweeping grasslands. 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] In all honesty I have to admit there is a part of me that is hoping since we are in a much less crowded and quieter part of the park we might have a rare puma sighting. I know that the likely hood is very slim as it is a nocturnal hunter but the trail we are on hugs along a border of the park with private property separated by a fence. The fence is mostly for humans but obviously runs interference for the pumas as we keep seeing dismembered guanaco carcasses scattered about along the fence line. This is an active kill zone. 

Uncertain of how much further the trail continued on or even what we were heading towards as I started not to feel so well we turned around and headed back to the park office. We retraced our steps and arrived back at the park office around 1:30pm. As we are quickly learning is the norm in Chile, the bus arrived back at the park office just a few minutes later (1:30pm, 2:00pm close enough right?). After a brief exchange with, and feigned ignorance from, the bus driver Steve was able to retrieve his pack from the bowels of the bus cargo hold.

Finally with pack in hand we set about determining what and where the shuttle was that we could take from the park office area to the start of the trail to the base of the torres. We finally identified the shuttle bus, paid the driver and were on our way. With the last bus returning to town departing the park at 7:45pm and knowing that they play fast and loose with the bus schedule we knew we didn’t have time to complete the 8 to 9 hour hike but we can at least experience part of it.

Let me pause for a moment here and say that I am a very achievement driven person. I make lists, take great pleasure in checking things off lists, set goals, and pride myself on accomplishing the goals I set. So, it does not sit well with me to start a hike that I know I am not going to finish. It doesn’t sit well with me that the hike we had set out to complete today will go unfinished, that we won’t have our moment at the viewpoint at the base of the torres relishing in their magnificence and capturing photographs of them in all their glory. I am trying very hard not to let this cloud my attitude. 

Finally after departing from the shuttle, wandering around and attempting to get guidance on where to find the trailhead to no avail, finally taking off on our own along the road, walking for 15 or 20 minutes along the road (following a couple that exudes confidence that they know where they are going and hoping that we are headed to the same place) we have found the trailhead.

Keeping a brisk pace so as to complete as much of the trail as we can and to keep up with the couple that obviously knows where they are going we begin to navigate toward Base de las Torres. Along the way we encounter a crystal clear mountain stream which we cross via a suspension bridge, rugged terrain broken up with bright lagoons, uneven loose rock paths, wildly high winds, and snow capped mountains. After just a couple of short hours on the trail and reaching a bend in the trail where we can just start to catch glimpses of the torres we turn around and head back to catch the shuttle. A bitter pill to swallow but a day that I will long remember.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com] Fortunately, the day ended very differently from the way it began and we were able to catch the shuttle back to the park office and the bus back to town without issue.

We returned to our hotel dropped off our stuff and headed out to cap the night with dinner out.

Buses that run between Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park:

Bus-Sur
Av. España 1455, Oficina 11,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 241 2011

OR

Baquedano 668, Puerto Natales
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 2 410 784
info@bussur.com

Buses JB
Av. España 1455, Oficina 10,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 241 2824 or +56 (61) 241 0272
busesjb@hotmail.com

Maria Jose
Av. España 1455, Oficina 8,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 241 0951
busesmariajose@gmail.com

Buses Juan Ojeda
Av. España 1455, Oficina 7,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (98) 943 7808 or +56 (98) 914 2584
transportejuanojeda@hotmail.com

Buses Gomez
Av. España 1455, Oficina 6,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 241 5700 or +56 (61) 241 1971
info@busesgomez.com

Buses Magallanes
Av. España 1455, Oficina 3,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
+56 (61) 241 0101

Other Helpful Torres del Paine Links:

Map of Park

Schedules, Fees and Information for the 2016 – 2017 Season

Official website Torres del Paine National Park

 

 

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Puerto Natales, Chile: Rain Oh Beautiful Rain! [Days 62 – 64] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/02/22/puerto-natales-chile-rain-oh-beautiful-rain-days-62-64/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/02/22/puerto-natales-chile-rain-oh-beautiful-rain-days-62-64/#respond Thu, 23 Feb 2017 02:17:17 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2648 [Read more...]]]> Day 62 | Saturday, December 24, 2016

It is the morning of Christmas Eve and we are climbing on a LATAM Airlines flight and leaving the sunny mid 80s weather of Santiago behind to head for the small town of Puerto Natales in the province of Última Esperanza (Last Hope) in the southernmost part of Chile. Located in the Chilean Patagonia, Puerto Natales is the main launching point for travelers headed to Torres del Paine National Park. For us it will mainly be a break from the big city, a chance to escape to cooler temperatures, and a place to relax over Christmas.

We are flying into Teniente Julio Gallardo Airport just outside of Puerto Natales. It was updated recently, my understanding is that work was finished earlier this year. It is small, a bit like flying into the airport on the TV show Wings. As we are sitting on the tarmac waiting to disembark it begins to rain. Light showers quickly turn to heavier rain and as we walk through the door of the plane onto the rolling staircase into the open air I realize it is only about 60 degrees out and it feels incredible. Other than our luggage sitting out on open transport cars waiting to be shuttled to the terminal I have never been so glad to see rain in my life. Finally it feels like it could be Christmas.

After a bit of a wait luggage finally is making its way onto the carousel and we claim ours. Not sure how we are getting from the airport into town we head for the exit. Usually we take the “official” taxi that has a booth at the airport. There is not an “official” taxi booth at this airport. Weaving our way through friends and families reuniting we spot a gentleman near the exit holding a sign that says transfers. As we approach he inquires if we would like a transfer and Steve replies yes. We follow the gentleman out to a 15 passenger van towing a small enclosed cargo trailer. Steve inquires about the price, provides the driver with our hotel’s name and address, and oversees the loading of our bags. We are waiting in the van with a few other passengers as the driver attempts to snag a few more passengers to fill the remaining seats. Finally we start towards town.

One of the gentleman sitting in the seat behind us obviously has a cold. He is sniffling and snuffing like crazy. I really don’t want to get sick. Fortunately, he is part of the first group we are dropping off. Upon getting back in the van the driver realizes he has driven past our hotel so he circles back around the block to drop us off. The rain has subsided which is nice. After claiming our luggage from the trailer and paying him the $8,000 CLP for the transfer we make our way into the hotel.

Hotels in Puerto Natales tend to run on the high side. I think it is partly because there aren’t a ton of options. When I first booked accommodations through Booking.com I accidentally booked a hotel across the bay from Puerto Natales because I wasn’t paying attention to the options Booking.com was providing and the price was right. Fortunately, I noticed it about a week later and was able to cancel the reservation without any penalty and book a place in Puerto Natales. This hotel, Hotel Lago Sarmiento, only has a two star rating which makes me a little nervous but I am not willing to pay $1,000+ USD for 4 nights of lodging. The hotel has definitely seen better days. The decor is dated and heavily used. In fact one of the chairs in our room is broken. They are suffering from foundation issues, you can tell because there is a decent drop off as you get towards the outer wall of our room. You actually can feel yourself walking down hill. The bathroom is small, when you sit on the toilet you have to be careful tucking your knees under the pedestal sink so you don’t hit them. The cleaning staff leaves a lot to be desired and we are sleeping in 2 twin beds for the next 4 nights. The Wi-Fi isn’t working either.

Steve has headed down to the front desk to see about the Wi-Fi. I am attempting to settle our stuff in the room. Wi-Fi issue is sort of solved. The guy at the front desk just gave Steve the password to their office network.

Now we need to head out to the grocery store. Since it is Christmas Eve and already after 3:00pm in a small town I am nervous that stores may close early and we won’t have a lot of restaurant options the next couple of days. Fortunately, as part of my research earlier this week I located two grocery stores in town. The one, Unimarc, is only an 11 minute walk from our hotel. We are headed there to see what we can get. We brought 2 reusable grocery bags with us on this trip and we haven’t used them yet but Steve thinks we should take them with us to the store just in case.

Unfortunately, everyone that was on the plane with us seems to have had the same idea. This store is a mad house. We don’t have a fridge in this hotel room so we are having to stick to nonperishable items. As we are weaving our way through the crowded aisles it opens up outside and absolutely pours. I mean cats and dogs pours. The store has a metal roof so the pounding of the rain is amplified. I am glad we made it to the store before the pouring rain hit. Now we just have to hopefully wait it out in the store. We have rounded up a decent selection of items now it is time to brave the long register lines. Steve made a good call bringing the reusable grocery bags with us because they don’t provide bags at all at this store. This is the first time we have encountered this since landing in Peru. If grocery stores didn’t bag your groceries in plastic bags in Peru no one would have bags for their garbage.

We are finally on our way back to our room. It is nice that our hotel seems to be located on the main drag of town with all types of retail, a few restaurants, a grocery store and a couple of tour companies on the street. About half way back to our hotel we are stopped by a young gal looking for the grocery store. We point her in the direction but she isn’t excited about Unimarc and unfortunately I only know of one other grocery store that is on the other side of town, about a 30 minute walk away. She thanks us for the information and heads in the direction of Unimarc. As we are nearing our hotel we are stopped by a group of American tourists who want to know if they are heading toward shops and a place to buy wine. Funny enough we paused just slightly before answering and they followed up with, “Speak English?” and some wild gesturing. We smiled and said yes. There are shops and a grocery store strait ahead where you can get wine. Relieved they were heading in the correct direction they hurried on. That is the first time in my life I have been asked if I speak English. The smarty pants side of my wishes I was fluent in some other language and could have played with them a little. On a side note, for the first time in my life I stand out every where we go. I tend to be one of those people that operates in incognito mode usually, most people don’t even realize I am around so it is weird for me to stick out like a soar thumb all the time. Steve on the other hand blends right in. Most people assume that he is from some country in South America and speaks Spanish. They are always so shocked when he fumbles to form a sentence in Spanish.

Finally we are back at our room and it is time to relax for a bit and then make a plan of attack for dinner. I think our restaurant options are going to be slim based on the number of closed restaurants we walked past to and from Unimarc.

I was right about restaurant options being slim. We finally decided on Angelica’s Restaurant which we had scoped out earlier on the way to the grocery store. Thankfully we don’t need reservations to eat here. Reservations seem to be a big thing in Chile and that is just not a habit I am in. I took Juan’s, our guide from Valparaiso, advice and ordered lamb and Steve ordered spaghetti with pesto. The food is decent. I am just thankful we found a place open that would let us in without reservations. 

Now to call it a night. Oh, frozen boots batman it is cold outside. Both our teeth are chattering and we can’t walk fast enough back to the hotel. Well that is a welcome if unexpected change. We can hear the choir practicing at the church for services to be held later tonight as we walk.

While wandering town earlier in the day we happened across a church (Parroquia María Auxiliadora) that is advertising services tonight at 11:00pm. We figure we will head back to our room, catch a quick nap, and get up in time to attend services. 

After waking to the alarm from our nap we hurry to bundle up as we now know how cold it is outside. We hurry to the church only to reach the doors and find them closed and no one around. That is weird. We were certain there was a service tonight. We re-checked the sign on the door to find that the service was at 21:00 or 9:00pm not 11:00pm. Oh well, I guess it wasn’t meant to be. It was a good laugh and it is funny that both Steve and I are good with math and comfortable with 24 hour time but occasionally we still find ourselves making these silly mistakes. Back to the hotel we head to officially call it a night.

Day 63 | Sunday, December 25, 2016

It is the double whammy today, Christmas and Sunday. We anticipate with that combination that very little will be open. We are hoping at least a handful of restaurants will be open so we can eat something other than granola bars, potato chips, avocado, cashews, oranges, and ginger ale. The goal today is to wander the town, get the lay of the land, accumulate steps, and call family back home.

Fortunately, the hotel’s Wi-Fi is decent enough to make FaceTime calls. We have called all the family and wished everyone a Merry Christmas. Now it is time to get ready for the day and rack up some steps.

To at least give us a general direction to head in we are starting by walking to the other grocery store (Super Mix) that is on the other side of town, about a 30 minute walk from our hotel. 

We decide to walk along the water front, finally turning into a neighborhood. We are catching glimpses of Christmas trees and decorations in peoples’ front windows. The smell of roasting meats occasionally wafts through the air as we wandering through the neighborhood. It is nice to see and smell reminders that it is Christmas. Finally we have arrived at Super Mix. This grocery store seems about the size of the Unimarc that we visited yesterday but also carries some housewares. It seems like it might be worth a visit when it reopens after the holiday. From here we continue up the street (Avenida General Carlos Ibáñez) and past a new large housing development. At the edge of town Avenida General Carlos Ibáñez turns left and we follow its course. Eventually intersecting with Avenida España we turn left again walking past a huge new hospital that isn’t even open yet and several other medical facilities. Again wandering through some neighborhoods and to the Terminal Rodoviario (Bus Terminal). The bus terminal is open so we take the opportunity to scope it out and take note of which bus lines depart from it (see the list below for bus lines). Finally we turn onto Manuel Bulnes, the street our hotel is on. Throughout the entirety of our walk we encountered a small handful of people. Along Manuel Bulnes we started to encounter more tourists, you could tell because they were wandering aimlessly much likes us.

Fortunately, there are a small handful of restaurants open today. Among them is Kawesqar Café where we have finally managed to snag a table for two after a brief wait. Given that they are one of a small number of restaurants open today every seat in the house is full. They have a large table at the back of the restaurant that is reserved for a large party that people keep spying, sitting at, and getting dismissed from. Interestingly enough if the wait for a table is going to be more than 15 minutes they simply tell people to leave, in a very polite way of course. Our waiter is great. He is shocked that Steve doesn’t speak Spanish. He even says to Steve, “But you are my countryman, no?”, to which Steve had to respond no. The waiter than guessed that he was Peruvian. Again the answer was no. To which our waiter replied but your Spanish is so good. I am getting great joy out of the exchange. Of course I am obviously not Chilean or Peruvian and he isn’t surprised that I don’t speak Spanish. After a tasty meal we vacated the table as quickly as we could so they could seat one of the waiting parties. Even though they have several parties waiting for a table the wait staff is in no hurry to oust us from our table. In fact they are happy to let us linger as long as we want.

Another peaceful and relaxing day. Now we have a better grasp of the town, accumulated 25,000 steps each, and more of a plan of attack for tomorrow when hopefully shops and tour companies reopen.

Day 64 | Monday, December 26, 2016

Today, the goal is to book at tour of the Torres del Paine National Park for tomorrow. A good number of people come to this area of the Chilean Patagonia region to do 3 or more day treks in Torres del Paine National Park. Since, we are traveling light we aren’t doing any multi-day treks on this trip but we would still like to see the Torres del Paine National Park. There are several tour companies in town that you can book either single day hikes or vehicle tours to see some of the major highlights of the park. 

We decided to start information gathering at the tour company right across the street from our hotel, Vertice Patagonia. They have a hiking tour that will lead you to the viewpoint for the three towers for $57,500 CLP per person or a semi-private (max 10 passengers) vehicle tour which drives you to the Milodón Cave and then around the park to see the highlights for $32,500 per person. They did not have availability for the vehicle tour on Tuesday, December 27. Next, we walked through the door of CarFran Patagonia. They have a vehicle tour which drives you to the Milodón Cave and then around the park to see the highlights for $30,000 per person. They also have a hiking tour that will lead you to the viewpoint for the three towers for $65,000 CLP per person. The guy helping us also offered as a cheaper option which was he could sell us bus tickets to Torres del Paine National Park and we could do the hike to the viewpoint for the three towers on our own. The bus tickets are $15,000 CLP per person. We went ahead and booked only the vehicle tour for Tuesday, December 27. 

We exited the shop and then wandered the surrounding streets a bit. As we went we mulled over our decision to only do the vehicle tour and not do any hiking in the park. We finally decided that we would like to do a hike and to return to the tour company office to see if they would transfer our vehicle tour to Wednesday, December 28 and then sell us bus tickets for Tuesday, December 27.

Fortunately, they were able and willing to transfer our vehicle tour to Wednesday, December 28 and they got us all set up with bus tickets and a basic of idea of what we needed to do to enter the park and complete the hike on our own.

We wrapped the day up purchasing some gloves and snacks for the next couple of days, having dinner at Baguales Brewery + Restaurant and getting our pack ready for the next day’s hike.

Let the Torres del Paine National Park adventure begin!

 

Puerto Natales Grocery Stores:

Unimarc
Manuel Bulnes 742,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
between Manuel Baquedano and Eleuterio Ramirez

Superfrut
Manuel Bulnes 832,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile

Martinez y Alvarado Ltda.
Manuel Baquedano 358,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile

Super Mix
Avenida General Carlos Ibáñez 1652,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile

El Chacha
On Caupolicán between Avenida Libertad and Pedro Aguirre Cerda

 

Puerto Natales Restaurants:

Angelica’s Restaurant
Manuel Bulnes 501,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
between Arturo Prat and Blanco Encalada

Kawesqar Café
Manuel Bulnes 600,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile

Baguales Brewery + Restaurant
Carlos Bories 430
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile

 

Puerto Natales Tour Companies:

Vertice Patagonia
Bulnes 100
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
Phone: +56 612 412 742 & +56 612 415 693
Email: ventas@verticepatagonia.cl

CarFran Patagonia
Arturo Prat 367
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
Phone: +56 61 413600
Email: contacto@carfranpatagonia.com

 

Puerto Natales Miscellaneous Places:

Parroquia María Auxiliadora (Parish of Mary Help of Christians)
At the corner of Hermann Eberhard & Arturo Prat on the Plaza de Armas

Terminal Rodoviario (Bus Terminal)
Avenida España 1455,
Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
At the corner of Avenida España & Avenida Santiago Bueras

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Valparaiso, Chile » Santiago, Chile: A Mega Store, A Bus Ride & New Hope for Chile [Days 57 – 61] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/31/valparaiso-chile-santiago-chile-a-mega-store-a-bus-ride-new-hope-for-chile-days-57-61/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/31/valparaiso-chile-santiago-chile-a-mega-store-a-bus-ride-new-hope-for-chile-days-57-61/#respond Wed, 01 Feb 2017 00:45:29 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2613 [Read more...]]]> Day 57 | Monday, December 19, 2016

Since we don’t have to be to the bus station until 11:45am this morning we have a little bit of time to kill so we figured we would walk to Jumbo (the largest grocery store chain in Chile) to give it a once over. About a 20 minute walk from our hotel we finally reached Jumbo. It is part of an immense complex where you can also find a large department store and a home improvement store among other shops. The Jumbo itself is approximately the size of 2 regulation american football fields and they carry all manner of imported products. They have a large section of gluten free items, a wide variety of alternative milks, teas from around the world, and an impressive selection of just about every product that rests on their shelves. Honestly, I have never seen a grocery store this impressive. Not even in the States. I feel as though the heavens have opened and I can hear angels signing. On that high note we returned to our hotel to claim our luggage and check out. A quick Google search before leaving the hotel revealed that there are several Jumbo stores in the Santiago area. 

A quick Uber ride to the bus terminal, a short wait for our bus and we are on our way back to Santiago. Through this weekend away from Santiago I am learning to appreciate Chile. 

I always want to stay awake on the bus so that I can see various part of the countries as they whiz by but unfortunately as soon as the bus starts moving it is like I am narcoleptic and I just can’t stay awake. I honestly can’t tell you a thing about the area between Valparaiso and Santiago.

We Ubered from the bus terminal to our new Airbnb apartment. We have moved closer to Steve’s office and further from the Plaza de Armas so hopefully it will be slightly better. I know it won’t be a huge change as we are still in the same neighborhood (or barrio as they say in Santiago) but even a small improvement would be nice. 

Let me just say I know my definition of clean is very different from a lot of peoples. I can be honest and say that this is one of the areas where my compulsive nature really shows. Upon arriving at our apartment we found it to be utterly filthy. Everything from the kitchen counter, dishes, floors, a heaping pile of dirty sheets, towels and blankets in the bathroom and the topper a trash can in the bathroom FULL of used TP. YUCK! It sent me into a meltdown. After briefly looking for new places to move to I contacted the host and after a few messages back and forth had arrangements for him to inspect the place for himself. Either the host was genuinely horrified or a good actor. While standing in our apartment he called one of his cleaning ladies and scheduled her to come the next morning. He took the pile of dirty laundry with him and showed us where we could empty the trash. I am hoping this situation is resolved to my satisfaction tomorrow.

To wrap up the evening we decided to do a little shopping at Jumbo at Costanera Center. This store is HUGE. It might even be as big as 3 regulation american football fields. They have gluten free granola bars, a wide variety of alternative milks to choose from, the largest tea selection I have ever seen in my life and all around just about anything I want to buy except for nut butters other than peanut butter and Nutella. This is something we have consistently run into since we arrived in South America. They don’t seem to be big nut butter fans. We found cashew and almond butter in a couple of the tiny specialty organic stores in Lima but they were ridiculously expensive for absurdly small quantities. In Lima we could get one variety of peanut butter that was just roasted peanuts and no other ingredients. We haven’t seen anything but peanut butter and Nutella in Chile and the peanut butter we do find the ingredients read something like: roasted peanuts, sugar, stabilizer: fully hydrogenated vegetable oil, salt. So, some sacrifices have been made in the food category. If I was back home in Oregon, is this what I would buy? Absolutely not but when that is what you can get you do what you have to. Peanut butter aside this has been a very successful shopping trip and it is nice to know what we have such an option available in Santiago. Things are definitely looking up.

Day 58 | Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Fabiola arrived just after 10:30am this morning and after involving a gal off the street to translate she went to retrieve the laundry from the lavanderia and then set about cleaning the areas I had identified as concerns. Fabiola did an amazing job and I can finally relax. It is not to say that my home is always clean but there is something about living in my own filth verses someone else’s.

We are only in Santiago for 4 more days before we head out on another excursion. This apartment actually has a washer/dryer combo in the unit (which we are learning is very rare in this area of Santiago) so I am trying to get all our laundry caught up and ready to go because once we leave on December 24 the places we will be staying won’t have laundry machines for us to use until we return to Santiago on January 2.

I am also spending some time doing some research for our upcoming excursion. Let the Googling and TripAdvising commence.

Steve has a brief break from work tonight so we figure we will take the opportunity to get out and get some steps, explore a little of Santiago and enjoy our new found knowledge of Emporio la Rosa and their dairy free sorbets. There are a few Emporio la Rosa shops in our current neighborhood and they even sell cartons at some local grocery stores. Yum, something sweet to remember about Santiago.

While walking we found this little pop-up shop that reminds me a bit of Portland and was fun to walk through. We also witnessed a very cool fireman’s parade. We learned just this last weekend that all fire fighters in Chile are 100% volunteer so it was moving to see them so honored.

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

Day 59 | Wednesday, December 21, 2016

While we were still in Peru and planning out how we are going to spend our time in Chile one of the guys in the Peru office recommended that we visit the city of Pucón. We can get a pretty inexpensive round trip flight through Sky Airlines between Santiago and Temuco then take a bus to Pucón however as continues to be the case with Sky Airlines we can’t purchase the tickets online because we are using a foreign issued credit card. We have been holding off going into the Sky Airlines office to make the purchase because it looks like our cheapest flight out of Argentina is going to be through Sky Airlines and we want to purchase all the tickets at the same time because they charge a $20 fee per person to book tickets in the office and we only want to pay that once. We have finally settled on the date we want to leave Argentina so we are ready to purchase our tickets through Sky Airlines.

This morning we are venturing to the Sky Airlines office to check this item off our to do list. A quick 8 minute walk from our current apartment and we are at the Sky Airlines office. Fortunately, they are not very busy and we are able to walk right up to the counter for assistance. I have pre-written out the flights we are requesting in Spanish to help us communicate and it is a good thing I did because the lady helping us doesn’t speak English. First, we are arranging the flight to Temuco so that we can get to Pucón. Everything is going pretty smoothly. Once we have those tickets settled we move on to attempting to book a flight out of Argentina which is going to require us to fly from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago, Chile then from Santiago, Chile to Lima, Peru. We will spend the night in Lima, Peru and then fly from Lima, Peru to Bogotá, Colombia the next morning. Sadly, it is significantly cheaper to fly this route with Sky Airlines and stay at the not so cheap hotel at the airport in Lima than it is to book a flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Bogotá, Colombia through other airlines. Going through other airlines also does not get around a long (8 to 13 hours) layover somewhere in between Argentina and Colombia. Lets back up for just a minute and let me remind you we have purchase Sky Airline tickets previously in the Sky Airlines office in Miraflores, Lima, Peru. We purchased tickets from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile and from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was fairly easy and painless. We found that the prices were very close to what we were looking at online. Ok, back to the present moment. The first question out of the lady’s mouth helping us was do you have travel from Peru onward. Our answer no. We are planning on purchasing tickets from Lima, Peru to Bogotá, Colombia once we have secured tickets to Lima, Peru. Her answer, well then I can’t sell you tickets to Lima, Peru. I HATE THIS GAME! I really don’t understand why airlines think they are the border guardians. Correct me if I am wrong but there are whole departments of people in each country employed to do this job. I have interacted with multiple of them upon entering Peru and Chile now. Another fun fact not a single one of those immigration or border patrol employees has asked me if I have onward travel booked. Plus I don’t know if you caught it earlier in my detour but Sky Airlines in Peru sold us tickets into Argentina without any questions about onward travel being booked. Steve began to argue this point but it is difficult when you don’t speak the language very well. I sidebarred with Steve and asked him if he wanted to attempt to book the tickets to Bogotá, Colombia quickly from his phone or did he just want to purchase the tickets to Temuco? Neither. If we purchased the tickets to Temuco and tickets to Bogotá separately we would end up paying the $20 service fee twice and that is silly. So, we ended up walking away without tickets and cursing the inconsistency of airline policies/enforcers. We hurried back to the room pulled out a laptop and purchased the tickets to Bogotá, Colombia that we had looked at the previous evening. Upon receiving email confirmation of the purchase we headed back out to the Sky Airlines office. Another side note to my rant, the airline I just booked tickets to Bogotá, Colombia with didn’t ask me to provide proof of onward travel. I just don’t get it.

Fortunately, the same lady was available to help us and we approached her counter again. Either she was able to save our previous transaction or she hadn’t helped anyone else while we were gone because she was able to quickly review our Temuco ticket selection and then move on to the tickets that would eventually put us in Lima, Peru. Steve showed her the email confirming our flight from Lima, Peru to Bogotá, Colombia which was proof enough of onward travel for her. To add to the frustration of the morning the way she input the flights into the computer we are paying 2x the taxes and fees than we would have online if we were able to purchase tickets through the Sky Airlines website. Then to add just a little more insult to the injury she informed us that it is the airlines policy that for international flights you need to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight departs and the flight would be getting into Santiago only 2 hours before our next flight to Lima and that the liability falls to us to make the flight. If we miss our flight Sky Airlines in not liable. My head is starting to hurt! At this point I wish it was the same price or very close to fly with another airline. Finally with ticket confirmations in hand we exited the Sky Airlines office and continued on with our day.

In a brief moment of buyers remorse we hit the internet after returning to the apartment. Sure enough it is still cheaper to fly this crazy route with Sky Airlines and pay the extra taxes and fees than to purchase tickets through another airline. I did read on another blog later (I haven’t had the ability to test it though) that you can purchase tickets for Sky Airline flights on Skyscanner. It is worth a shot to save yourself some money and the the frustration of dealing with an employee like we encountered in Santiago.

Day 60 | Thursday, December 22, 2016

I am looking forward to getting out of Santiago again. With Christmas rapidly approaching it would be nice to experience some cooler weather and to see some Christmas decorations. Santiago is sadly devoid of decorations and no one really seems to be in the Christmas spirit. Steve has been working long, crazy hours this week. Staying up till midnight trying to help out with work as much as possible before we head to the land of questionable internet.

I am washing the last of our laundry today and attempting to pull together a list of things we can do while we are away.

Day 61 | Friday, December 23, 2016

Our final full day in Santiago until the New Year. Today is about packing up and getting ready to board a plane tomorrow morning at 11:05am for Puerto Natales, Chile in the far South. Getting ready for a new adventure and a Christmas vacation.

 

 

Here are some helpful addresses and links to websites for places mentioned above.

Jumbo Valparaiso
Av. Argentina 51,
Valparaiso, Región de Valparaiso, Chile

Jumbo at Costanera Center
Andrés Bello 2425,
Providencia, Región Metropolitana, Chile

Emporio la Rosa
Yummy ice cream shop that has options for those that are dairy free.

Sky Airlines 
Paseo Huerfanos 815,
Santiago, Región Metropolitana, Chile
Phone: +56 2 2632 9449

Skyscanner – should be able to book Sky Airline tickets through this site.

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Staying Connected https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/25/staying-connected/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/25/staying-connected/#comments Thu, 26 Jan 2017 00:20:50 +0000 https://travel.martindales.com/?p=115 [Read more...]]]> When planning this trip a few of my concerns were being able to have fast reliable internet, the ability for folks from my office to contact me, and the ability for Summer and I to stay in touch with family and friends.

Voice Calls and TXT messages

The contract on Summer’s cell phone ended 1 week before we left for Peru. On the day it ended I ported her phone number over to Google Voice for a one time $20 fee. This will allow us to keep her number without having to pay a monthly fee to a US mobile phone provider. This also allows her to use the Google Hangouts app on her phone and laptop to make and receive calls and txt messages. Calls to/from the US are free and calls to numbers outside the US are very cheap. I already had a Google Voice number for myself and forwarded my mobile number and my office number to it. This allows anyone to call my office line at work or my mobile number and it will ring my Google Voice number and I can answer it on my mobile phone or laptop. Since Google Voice works off of an internet connection it will only work while my computer or phone are connected to the internet. 

For communicating with people in LATAM while we are traveling we are using WhatsApp. Everyone from co-workers of mine, Airbnb hosts, and tour companies use it. It allows us to txt them or call them for free without getting charged even the cheap rates that Google Voice would charge us.

Video Calls

Since all of the family we want to do video calls with have Apple devices, we have just been using Facetime. It does not require a 3rd party app and is easy to use on all of our devices. All the place we have stayed, hotels included, have had good enough internet speeds to Facetime with the exception of one hotel that was located in the very Southern tip of Chile. 

Hardline/WIFI Internet

As I was doing research about internet speeds and reliability in Latin America I started to get very concerned that the speeds would not be good enough to do my job. Since the only way we can pull this trip off is for me to continue to work while we are gone, I started getting concerned that this was going to be an issue. Our plan is to mostly stay in Airbnb rooms while we are gone. Airbnb allows you to filter out places that do not have internet which is great, but they currently don’t have any way to know what the speed of the internet access is at a place. That means that we will have to contact the host of any place we are looking at staying at to see if they can tell us what the speeds are. What we found very quickly is that to get the speeds we will need, we will be paying more for the rooms than I was originally planning on. We also found that the only way to get the speeds we need is to stay in the larger cities as the smaller ones just don’t have the infrastructure that is required for fast internet. I realized that the company I work for has offices all over the world including some in Latin America. I found a list of the offices on the company website and started reaching out to contacts I had to see if I would be able to work from some of these offices. If I could, my concerns about internet speed would not be as much of an issue. I was able to line up contacts at offices in all of the countries that we will be visiting with the exception of Panama. These contacts will sponsor me to work from these offices while we are in Latin America. We will still need to have good internet in the rooms as Summer will still need to be able to do her contract graphic design work, but it will not be as critical.

I brought 2 pieces or hardware with us that I thought might come in handy. The first is an Apple Airport Express WIFI router with a flat cat7 cable.

This has come in handy multiple times as some of the Airbnb places we have stayed have very flakey WIFI routers that either hang and need to be restarted often, drop out constantly, or have bad enough range that they do not even reach throughout the entire apartment. I just plug this in and we have good solid WIFI signal. The second is a High Gain USB WIFI adaptor with a short USB cable allowing me to hang it off the back of my Macbook Pro using velcro.

Some of the Airbnb places we stay at are setup like a hotel where it is shared WIFI for an entire building and sometimes we stay in hotels when we are only staying places 1 or 2 nights. I have this for those times as the WIFI in hotels often has weak signal sometimes not even reaching into the room. One of the places we stayed our iPhones, iPad, and Macbooks would not pickup the router till we walked down the hall and sat in a little lobby area. For times like this I can use this USB adaptor which has about 2.5x the signal range of the built in WIFI in our other devices. In the case of the hotel where we had no signal in our room I was able to get a very strong signal once I hooked this up to my Macbook. I was then able to rebroadcast that signal over the builtin WIFI adaptor in the Macbook creating a wireless bridge allowing all of our other devices to also have internet access in the room. Even if I can get a signal without this adaptor, if the signal is less than full when I use this I get a stronger signal giving me faster internet speeds than the builtin adaptor. In the above example when I would walk down the hall with my Macbook pro I could get a signal with the builtin adaptor, but when I would hook this up my internet speeds would just over double and my latency would drop in half.

Mobile Internet

I was able to add an international data plan to my mobile phone. This gives me 1GB of data per month while we are in LATAM. It is not much but I have turned off all services on my phone that use internet over “Cellular Data” other than Google maps, Google Hangouts, Uber, and WhatsApp. Normal voice calls and txt messages are still very expensive on this plan which is why I am using Google Voice for those. Since Summer’s phone is no longer on a monthly mobile phone plan I found an international data SIM from KeepGo that works in all of the countries we will be in. It came loaded with 1GB of data and we can add more as needed. The data stays active on the SIM for 1 year from the time of purchase and if we add more data it will extend the expiration date out 1 year from the date we add it. The only thing that is set to go over “Cellular Data” on Summer’s phone is Google Hangouts so that we can keep in touch with each other when she is not on WIFI. That being said, I think the 1GB will last her the entire trip (3 months in and she has only used 50MB). Using an international SIM like this for Summer means that her phone works right away when we land in a new country. This saves us the hassle and expense of seeking out a local SIM card as soon as we land so that we can txt each other. In doing my research before we left Portland I found that Peru is one of 2 countries in the world, Pakistan being the other, that you need to go through a special process to get a SIM. They require you to prove your identity with your DNI (Local ID) or a foreign passport to get a SIM. From what I read it can take around an hour to go through the whole process if you are using a foreign passport. They do this as security measure to cut down on nefarious uses of disposable SIM cards.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)

Having access to a VPN while traveling outside the US if a good idea for a few reasons. 

  1. When you are using WIFI that is not encrypted you never know who is sniffing the data and stealing your account information from websites you are visiting. If you are using a VPN connection all of you data is encrypted and even if someone it trying to read it, they can’t.
  2. Some US websites will not allow you to use their site if your internet connection is not in the US. If you are using a VPN with an endpoint (server) in the US you can fool the website into thinking that you are in the US thwarting their efforts to stop you. This means if you want to watch Netflix or Comcast you can as long as you are using a VPN endpoint in the US.
  3. Some websites change the price of goods or services they sell depending on where your connection originates from. If you are looking to buy airfare in Chile, and your internet connection is in Chile then you may get cheaper airfare. If you are in Peru the rate may be higher. If you have a VPN connection with an endpoint in Chile you can get the lower rates.

There are many options out there for cheap VPN connections. I chose Private Internet Access (PIA) due to their large number of end points you can choose from and the low cost ($39.95 per year). I also have VPN connections on all of my devices through my work just in case PIA is ever not working for any reason.

Conclusion

So far we have had pretty good luck. We only had an issue in 1 city we were in where we lost all internet for a long period of time. The Hotel WIFI was down for around 36 hours and the 3G on our phone was down for 18 of those hours as well. Luckily this was while I was on a vacation from work so it did not cause any major issues other than not being able to keep in touch with family. We have had many other times in small cities while traveling on weekends or short vacations where the internet was very slow, but we at least were still able to email and txt with people to keep in contact.

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Valparaiso, Chile: Private Tour of Valparaiso & Viña del Mar [Day 56] https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/24/valparaiso-chile-private-tour-of-valparaiso-vina-del-mar-day-56/ https://wandering.martindales.com/2017/01/24/valparaiso-chile-private-tour-of-valparaiso-vina-del-mar-day-56/#comments Wed, 25 Jan 2017 00:58:15 +0000 https://wandering.martindales.com/?p=2516 [Read more...]]]> Day 56 | Sunday, December 18, 2016

I found a local gentleman (born, raised & still living in Valparaiso) that will do a full day private tour of Valparaiso and its neighboring city Viña del Mar for a reasonable price and we figure that might be the best way to see all the highlights given our limited time here. So, we are starting our tour at 9:30am this morning.

The Highlights Include:

Arco Británico surrounded by a pretty Victorian garden on Avenida Brasil which was donated to the town in 1910 by the British community marking the centenary of the Independence of Chile. [Valparaiso]

Catedral de Valparaíso (St. James Cathedral). [Valparaiso]

Graffiti. Valparaiso is known as Chile’s street art Capital. [Valparaiso]




Countless examples of European architecture. [Valparaiso]  

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

Magnificent views of the bay and port. [Valparaiso & Viña del Mar] 

[See image gallery at wandering.martindales.com]

Multiple funicular rides. Including riding the longest funicular in the city. [Valparaiso]

Museo Maritimo Nacional. [Valparaiso]

Lunch at a very authentic outdoor restaurant where you had to know the secret handshake to get in. You had to have reservations and the only way to get them was to know the right phone number to txt. We had to open a random gate between two house and walk down a narrow alley that led to another gate and another alley. Once there we got some of those “how did those white people find this place” looks. Unfortunately, Steve thought he took a picture of the inside but didn’t. This is the best we have to represent where we ate lunch. We were sitting under the corrugated metal that is just being held down by loose wood. It is a dirt floor restaurant with two cats and a dog mingling with the guests amongst old tattered dinner tables and chairs. There were no menus, just the wait staff rattling off what the options were. They had 3 entrees and 2 appetizers to choose from. Lucky we had our guide to translate for us. It was the best dining experience we have had on our trip so far. [Valparaiso]

Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock). [Viña del Mar]

Iglesia Las Carmelitas (Church). [Viña del Mar]

Moai from Easter Island outside of Museo Fonck. [Viña del Mar]

Palacio Rioja which houses the Museum of Decorative Art. Originally a private residence built in 1910. [Viña del Mar]

To wrap the day up Juan (our guide) pointed out the largest grocery store chain in Chile (Jumbo) and told us that they carry lots of imported items. This could be very good news as we haven’t found great grocery stores yet in Chile. Second, even though it is significantly cooler than in Santiago it is still a warm beautifully sunny day and we have passed numerous ice cream shops and when we aren’t passing a shop we are passing by someone eating ice cream so I asked if there was a place we could get dairy free ice cream. Juan took us to Emporio la Rosa at Plaza Aníbal Pinto 1185. Sure enough they have several flavors of dairy free sorbet so we are able to end the day with a sweet little treat. All in all a great day. Things are looking up in Chile.

Private Full Day Tour of Valparaíso & Viña del Mar [$52 (USD) per person]
Included:
Private English speaking tour guide.
Funicular rides in Valparaiso.
Old trolleybus ride in Valparaiso (from Monday to Saturday).
Metro ride Valparaiso-Viña del Mar-Valparaiso.

Not Included:
Lunch.
Drinks or Snacks.
Tip (optional).

 

 

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