Category Archives: Chile

A sunny Sunday in Santiago

 

 

1E070F47-FDCC-4005-91C3-C3177E4C4E4C.jpeg

The long drive from the port of Valparaiso to the capital city of Chile took us through countryside which was lush, green and filled with vineyards. These were interspersed with orange and lemon groves and with the high, snow capped Andes towering in the distance, the two hour drive was a visual delight.

FC471CB0-E722-4431-A870-AF25736AD039.jpeg

 

Not so delightful was the entry into Santiago. I have never seen so much graffiti anywhere! There were political slogans, anti-police slogans, some dubious art work and then the hideous scrawls of kids just wanting to leave their mark. And these marks were everywhere. Statues, buildings, pavements…none were immune and it was difficult to look past and focus on something else.

It didn’t help that, in common with most cities in Catholic countries, everything was closed. Even the ubiquitous Mcdonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC were resolutely shut. Not a coffee to be found anywhere. Therefore a visit to Constitution Square in the blazing sun and a long talk from our guide on the political and constitutional make-up of Chile could not be assuaged by the simple pleasure of ‘an Americano to go’. But at least the guards protecting the President’s formal residence (even though he only goes there on official occasions), smiled benignly as they indicated we should step no further forward.

6899A781-5398-4B99-8456-BC511B34DA6C.jpeg

 

9B05FFAC-9CD4-4C57-BB65-272E7117E5EB.jpeg

So, onwards. We couldn’t go to the main square because there was a ‘demonstration’…no details given, but at least this was unlikely to have an anti-British flavour. However, the drive through the new part of Santiago, with its fabulous modern architecture (free from the graffiti which adorned places like the Opera House), was fascinating. So were the open spaces and lovely parks throughout the city.

7A07FB08-D837-4074-80E8-14A901AA5F14.jpeg

2FAF7253-D325-4521-BB32-AD6E016C2359.jpegI have to mention lunch at the partially open air restaurant. A traditional drink in Chile is ‘pisco sour’. This is made from distilled grapes and is ‘soured’ by lemon. Delightful! We were given this in Puerto Montt as an aperitif and it was definitely not strong. However….. Santiago wanted to leave a lasting impression. Bigger glasses and a punch like a swinging sledgehammer caused general noise levels to rise and loud laughter joined in when copious amounts of the local wine were added to the mix. I had visions of people sliding gently under the tables for an early siesta but fortunately everyone arrived back at the bus.

Those who were then sleeping (!) missed the joke about our next stop. The coach driver navigated his way through cyclists and walkers to take us up ‘Conception Hill’ for a panoramic view of the city. This is a local name given because it is a favourite place for young couples who cycle or walk to the top, watch the sunset and, eventually, come down again. Great views from a myriad of private viewing spots on this densely wooded hillside.

What day in Chile would be complete without a visit to a vineyard and a chance to simple the local wines? But it’s a great way to sell the products and people came away laden with cases of wine. Sadly, my baggage allowance is already tight and ‘getting tight’ on board by drinking in my room is not an ambition.

469FA583-255F-4B62-B151-E1BB8B51AD98
Next stop Easter Island.

 

Back in Valparaiso we were in time to catch the local ‘flea market’. Stalls sold the usual goods that few people wanted or stopped to buy. I was amazed to see a huge number of second hand stalls (a bit like an English car boot sale) which attracted a lot of attention. I was even offered “nice relaxing smoke”. Time to sail off into the sunset! Next stop Easter Island.

27C24A24-85EC-48CD-BB68-4D46624B639C

 

 

 

 

Flying high in the Chilean clouds

F4858D69-0D39-4450-AB9A-D9054C4B54F2.jpeg

Early morning in Puerto Montt was anything but promising with clouds so low we appeared to be surrounded by fog. Perhaps not the best day to be taking a trip up a volcano, scrambling around waterfalls and visiting a lake. Fortunately, the forecast promised better things by mid morning.

On the basis that we were probably going to get wet around water falls anyway, this was the first stop. I couldn’t work out whether it really was raining or whether it was the spray from the cascading water.

Whatever…it was wet! Huge volumes of icy water hit rocks and boulders all around us and fell into deep green pools. Power boats took those who wanted to get seriously wet right up to the cascades, and whilst it looked fun it is slightly less fun sitting in wet clothes for the rest of the day.

80F93241-4240-43ED-A5D1-75BCAFE2E806.jpeg

C87861CA-B356-403F-9EC3-B9FFD97CF22B.jpeg2441F860-54EC-431D-A123-65DF3CDF94EE

9966BDB3-ECA7-421F-B2BC-9EA8B5AE011A

D6583E47-EB93-4861-B1E3-11B427EAC892.jpeg

386EDB6D-BEFA-4A86-A718-95982EBE3917
Whatever…it was wet!

Although the falls were not necessarily high, they were impressive and spray was everywhere so, when the sun shines, there are rainbows all over the place – but only one today.

8469AA7A-8DA9-4CBD-99D3-7890E50D5D4E.jpegThen it was off up the Osorno Volcano. Where’s the volcano? It’s that huge glacier topped mountain which is tucked behind the clouds. The coach suddenly lurched steeply upwards and continued to climb through lush vegetation.

F0286A70-B5DB-416A-BA91-9BB4F84023E0.jpeg

There was a huge lake at the bottom, allegedly, and snow and ice at the top. All I knew was that we had now come out of the forested area onto rocky slopes and were negotiating 42 hairpin bends along the incessant climb. The coach had to stop for 10 minutes to cool the engine whilst we were shown a crater on the side of the mountain.

08585402-5EBF-4556-823D-E542B6960785.jpegThis crater looked like a big hole to me but there was no way of seeing how deep it went. The coach set off again and chugged reluctantly upwards. The only coaches that can make it up there are the ones with engines in the front. Rear engines weight down the back ends and are too dangerous. And this wasn’t?

0D634BC7-05E8-4A24-B0BF-51EE36D84E42.jpegFinally at the top we found how true it was that it would be cold and windy. But suddenly the wind began to move the clouds to reveal the snow and ice capped volcano in all its majesty. Wow. We were up above the clouds and immediately in bright, bright sunlight which glared off the snow capped peak. This was really special and we were promised excellent photo opportunities on the way down. The 42 hairpin bends going down the mountain became 42 very hairy hairpin bends and it was obvious why the trip was not suitable for anyone troubled by heights or motion sickness. I just couldn’t get ‘The Italian Job’ out of my mind and was thankful to be sitting towards the front!!

EEAFC370-27DA-4DFA-AD84-201CD3CF7701.jpeg

2CC8B60A-782A-42BF-AE9C-064CA9F335BF.jpeg

Down, down to the lake and the views were indeed stunning as the clouds parted for us. The lake appeared to reveal wonderful lakeside farms. We had lunch at one and were visited by llamas, emus and various animals who were keen to see such strange creatures walk amongst them. Having had my head pecked by an emu in New Zealand, I was giving them a wide berth. Then it was on to one of the small lakeside towns (this one a German town created by original German settlers).

8FA4E5D3-B92B-4C72-B4FF-723B817707E6
It was strangely reminiscent of Bowness in the Lake District but…

 

It was strangely reminiscent of Bowness in the Lake District but here the children paddled in the water from strange, black volcanic sand. We were back in time for the final tender to the ship and after only being on board for about 15 minutes we are already on our way.

It’s a sea day tomorrow and time to catch our breath after a very long day out. Then its Valparaiso and Santiago on Sunday, where it promises to be even warmer than today’s very pleasant 20C.

‘Dancing on Ice’ in Chile

We have spent an amazing two days cruising the Chilean fiords and visiting a number of spectacular glaciers.

What I found incredible was our ability to get so close but I almost choked in an effort not to laugh out loud when I heard this morning, “I’m so disappointed that we didn’t dock and get to walk on the ice”.

Most glaciers in the world are shrinking but this morning we visited something quite unique. The Pio XI glacier is actually growing. This massive flow of ice is currently over 20 miles long and 6 miles wide – the size of Santiago – growing about half a mile per year. You don’t quite get the perspective when you sail up close but you do see, very clearly, the towering ice formations, the rock being swept down to the water and the incredible colours.

DE1AA35B-7732-4DA3-8269-28F0902664C3.jpeg

A30F2773-7F5A-4C2B-BF52-53BF188EC7D2.jpeg80CF226A-9859-4AE2-851A-3312CD24E160.jpegBF4DA472-F409-47DE-849B-038B000E0E4B.jpeg

7D2EEC19-6A03-4CE7-B786-BECB41474119.jpeg758FB75F-67D3-4E38-9BB5-9BDAE60CC23D.jpeg

2BA19BF3-B59F-4F94-8F1C-76C2160AB78A.jpegBB709E60-E987-4342-A766-90F4C9DAABCF.jpeg6F89FCE6-8812-4BE2-B555-B94DE5500D04.jpeg

338A51C0-D068-459C-9BA1-F87411E44F1B.jpeg

BB043014-D23A-481B-8A59-7302999A0ADC.jpeg

7B5F1E55-9E39-418B-B785-2FCF4FBFCABB.jpegIce is white, right? Wrong. There are some deep blues and aquamarine colours in there, along with pinks and the grey of the rock which has been carved from the mountains and carried to the sea. I think it needed a better camera than mine to do it justice but I have still managed to capture a little of the majesty.

It would appear that my geographical ignorance knows no bounds, or else I have long forgotten what I was once taught. On the way to yesterday’s viewing of the Amalia glacier, I couldn’t help but notice, with some surprise, we were passing the odd small ice floe or two. Of course glaciers shed ice into the sea, hence icebergs… doh!!! By the time the glacier was in view, we were totally surrounded by small (and some not small at all) ice floes. A boat was launched from the ship – did that mean we needed to worry? Apparently not; it was the ship’s film crew at work making a film of the ship amongst the ice floes and right up against the glacier. That should be worth seeing. Hats off to the Captain and the incredible skills of the navigators who made it possible to almost reach out and touch. I did hear there had been a few bumps along the way and some of the floes are now proudly sporting the ship’s paintwork!

C21AE39A-DC14-4931-B239-9806CBEF15B9.jpeg

Within the fiords, the weather seems to change constantly, and minute by minute the views also change. The sun breaks through on one side to reveal snow capped mountains from the Andes range, whilst on the other side of the ship the clouds descend and completely obliterate a view which was clear just moments before. The prevailing feature throughout is the intense chill and it is not sensible to stand still on the upper decks for too long. Hot chocolate and hot soup are served on deck during glacier watching and how comforting to wrap icy fingers around a steaming hot mug whilst appreciating the wonders of the world. If you are going to ‘do cold’, how much better to do it in comfort!

Tomorrow, we are out of the fiords and back into the Pacific as we head north for our next stop in Puerto Montt and from there onwards towards warmer climes. In many ways it will be a relief to warm up but what truly awesome spectacles we have seen and, for me, it has been another opportunity to marvel at the beauty and diversity of our planet.

 

Trekking in Patagonia

44B8860F-3EAF-45E2-AD15-D45D78AD5D59.jpeg

 

imageWhatever was I thinking about when, back in November, it felt like a good idea to go on a guided hike through a forest? I was clearly guilty of failing to read the small print and when I saw some of my fellow ‘trekkers’ kitted out with stout boots, walking poles and every conceivable bit of walking kit you could wish for, I thought my own waterproof jacket and trainers were a little under stated! However….

Our arrival in Punta Arenas had been peaceful and in an area famous for its summer winds of wild proportions, that was a relief. (They have purpose built hand-rails throughout the town as there are days when you cannot stand safely and walking is incredibly difficult – sounds like a windy day in Blackpool). I also learned that they don’t have sunny days in this part of the world. Sometimes the sun shines for a little while but you can experience four seasons in the space of 10 minutes. Today’s high cloud was considered ‘beautiful’ by the locals. The port itself is too small to take a cruise ship of this size and so we had to tender ashore. Therefore, with no rain, little wind and the temperature almost reaching a magnificent 10C, it felt like a good day for a walk. That was before I realised we were being taken to a chair lift.

A2C73FE8-FC05-4437-B357-A3EB3902D3A3.jpegThe plan was to go to the top of the mountain via chair lift and walk all the way back down through the dense forest. Right…..that was the bit I missed in the write-up! The gentle breeze at the bottom of the mountain soon gave way to something a little stronger which had the chairs swinging and our guide cheerfully told us that the temperature at the top of the mountain was about 10 degrees colder than below. As we had a very long walk ahead we would soon be warm.

713E7BBC-2FD4-4B3D-9EFB-DA3D59F3B687.jpeg

 

AE427005-FAE8-4B50-A94F-C007529D7723.jpegTaking in the different types of trees and plant life was only possible when your eyes were not glued to the floor as you were stepping across tree roots, wading around bogs, jumping over streams, clambering through dense undergrowth and negotiating scree and rocks. The two guides were good and helped people across the really awful bits but there were a few ‘bottom slides’, trips and stumbles along the way. Not, I might add, from me, although I did find myself giving the odd tree a hug to avoid planting my bottom on a steep slide which would have carried me into a stream. All along the trail there was evidence of animals, some of them very large, but the guide was dismissive about the numbers of wild animals. “Lots of rabbits”, she said. If the rabbits round here leave that amount of mess, they either have exceptional appetites or Harvey, the giant white rabbit, is here on holiday!

It took almost 3 hours to reach the promised hot chocolate at the bottom. But by then I was warm. My knees felt as though they may not function for some time and my toes, which had been firmly welded against the fronts of my shoes, were complaining loudly. Climbing the steep steps onto the coach was hard but getting back down them pure torture.

7CB4E52A-91AB-4D75-B947-D8FE5EC96A31.jpeg

I just know I am going to be stiff later and probably worse tomorrow but I have two days in the fiords visiting glaciers and a day at sea to recover before my next Chilean experience of waterfalls and a volcano from Puerto Montt.

4FC3B0CE-8CA5-407F-9FD6-F5DBE2127C0A.jpeg

C1A1FA3D-1A11-4610-859E-5E7CAE816D04.jpeg

 

CC7CFB9C-0A65-48EA-8C8B-95A5293F00C2.jpeg