Here is Pat waiting in the Quito, Ecuador airport for the check-in counter to open. Most of you probably think that this vagabond lifestyle is all glitz and glamour, well, guess it depends on your definition of glitz and/or glamour!
The plane that we caught took us to Santiago, Chile. That’s about half way down the long, skinny country on the Pacific coast that reaches from about 20 degrees south to 55 degrees south. That’s around 2700 miles!
Most of our time in Santiago was misspent trying to apply for and receive a Brazilian visa. When it became obvious that a visa was not going to happen in a timely fashion, we headed south and explored Valdivia, Puerto Montt and the surrounding areas.
Don’t worry. We went to Torres del Paines too, but that will be its own update!
The first leg of our trip was actually an overnight bus ride from Bahia de Caraquez to Quito. We arrived at Quito at the crack of dawn and had the whole day to check it out since our flight to Santiago was later that night. We spent most of the day walking around New Town. It was filled with restaurants, shops, bars and hostels. We will have to get back there and spend more time.
A flight can seem short or drag on forever based upon the status of the Sudoku puzzle in the magazine. Fortunately one of the puzzles in this magazine was not filled in yet. Other favorite ways to pass the time in flight are; seeing how many times we can ring the flight attendant call button and turn it off before they figure out who is ringing it, trying to get our row companion to give us half of his sandwich and writing letters to future passengers on the barf bags.
Ahhhh … Finally in Santiago. It was a long trip (overnight bus, 12hr wait in Quito and 2 airplanes). We arrived at about 3am and just wanted to get to the hostel and crash. We had the foresight to make a reservation ahead of time cuz who wants to try to get accommodations at 3 in the morning? The hostel, La Casa Roja, was far from asleep even at this hour. So much for crashing! It was party central until 8am when we finally fell asleep. Obviously we checked out that same morning and found the more tranquilo and comfortable Los Arcos just half a block away. The staff at Los Arcos was very helpful and friendly and the courtyard was a great place to read the travel guides, complain about the Brazilian consulate and relax with a cerveza.
As mentioned earlier, we were attempting to get our Brazilian visa in the 2 days that we planned on being in Santiago. We got to know this bridge very well as we trod from our hostel to the Brazilian consulate and to points in between. The really annoying part was they didn’t tell us until we had the proper-sized photos with the proper-colored background, copies of credit cards, addresses and phone numbers of our hotels in Brazil, payment for the visa at a bank in cash and copies of the last 3 months bank statements that the process would take 4 working days. Ugh! That was the point at which we aborted the mission in Santiago and planned on completing the task in Buenos Aires.
Having blown off our Brazilian visa pursuit, we decided to take in a couple of museums and walk to other parts of town. The Museo de Artes Visuales highlighted short, and sometimes disturbing, films from 5 different artists. It also housed a small collection of modern art. This picture of a tree is composed of pieces of toast burnt in various places. Pretty wild! The Museo de Bellas Artes collection was nice. The building itself was incredible.
After our very short visit in Santiago we jumped on an overnight bus and went south 10 hrs to Valdivia. There was some excitement on the bus around 3 in the morning when a woman from Germany that we had met prior to boarding the bus realized that she had been robbed. There was much shouting and the police eventually were called and boarded the bus. Initially they did not find the money that was stolen, but a second search after the bus pulled into the terminal resulted in the money being found. Turns out it was one of the bus employees. Just goes to show that you can never let your guard down.
We just had to stop here. Our good friends Mike and Cheri Hausman would have approved. Valdivia has a large German population and everywhere you look there is a German restaurant, chocolate shop or hotel. As it turns out we were in town for Beerfest 2008 (they couldn’t very well call it Oktoberfest since it was the middle of January). We walked about 4 miles to the fairgrounds where this wet and wonderful event was to take place only to find that the festivities did not start until much later at night. Disappointed and thirsty, we sought out the nearest German restaurant / pub to get our fill of brats and beer.
This dish is a German dish called ‘Crudos’. It is raw beef with onions served on toast. You squeeze a little lemon on it, drop a spoonful of capers on, spread a little aoli and add a glob of garlic to it then enjoy and wash down with a real German beer!
Valdivia was once surrounded by a wall and protected from the Mapuche Indians with forts. Many of the forts remain and can be seen throughout town.
I am not sure if our German hosts at the hostel appreciated the rearrangement of their garden statues, but Pat couldn’t resist.
The market in Valdivia was spectacular. There were veggies, cheeses, dried herbs, flowers, seafood and lots and lots of people getting the freshest of everything for dinner that evening.
The seafood portion of the market stretched the entire length of the market along the riverside. There were bushels of mussels, crates of sea urchins, piles of clams and row upon row of glistening fish.
Here’s a lucky guy with a front row seat just below the fish cleaning tables in the market.
This big fella was sporting his best leathers for a very popular road rally. We never did figure out where they were going or where they came from, but the people-watching was worth the stop.
There were rows upon rows of bikes lined up waiting for their turn to start the rally. There were new bikes and antique bikes, individual and double riders. They all carried sleeping bags and camping gear so it was no doubt a very long ride.
Puerto Montt is about as far south as one would want to travel by land in Chile. From here the country consists mainly of islands, fjords and mountains. It’s beautiful and fierce. We were here in the middle of their summer and found it necessary to wear sweaters. Makes you wonder what winter is like!
Here is a good and economical dinner; a few sticks of grilled meat from a street vendor, an avocado and a baguette (not pictured) with a bottle of Chilean red wine (also not pictured but thoroughly enjoyed). Total bill: around U$S4.
While in Puerto Montt we took a full day tour to check out the lakes, volcanoes and a national park. Here we are sitting on a beach at the lake enjoying a picnic lunch. Well, it was enjoyable as long as you stayed still. Once you got up and moved around, nasty biting flies called tabanos, attacked and made sport of buzzing our heads.
Parque Vicente Perez Rosales was a postcard waiting to happen. Here are a couple of very angry waterfalls sending snowmelt from the nearby volcanoes and the Andes mountains down to the nearest lake.
Wow. Did I say postcard?