Saturday, April 13, 2002

Chile

April 13, 2006
So this is it. Santiago de Chile. Took the bus in from the airport and found a cheap hotel in the centre. Had a look around the city center. Seems like a nice place, although not many special attractions. Very European I'd say.

April 15
Puerto Montt.
Flew down from Santiago today. Weather is disappointing, a lot of rain and fog so can’t see volcan osorno. Doesn’t seem to be that much to do here. Found an hospedaje which I have to myself as there are hardly any tourists around.

April 16
Well, more here than I thought. Found a nice market place with indigenous crafts, mostly made of wood or wool clothes. A lot of rain so still haven’t seen the volcano. Tomorrow I’ll go to Puerto Varas. I had originally planned to spend three weeks around this area but don’t think I will after all. Might be a better bet to head north, at least there wont be rain :-)

April 19
Went to Puerto Varas on Wednesday. It’s a lovely village, very small. Did some white water rafting on the Rio Petrohu√©, great fun! Had a group with an Isralie guy and an English couple. Today I took a bus to Petrohu√©, in Parque Nacional Vicente Perez Rosalez. Paid some old guy to take me across the river to the hospedaje, not sure how I'm getting back! He was very excited about the hospedaje and told me about five times how they had hot water. This is probably a beautiful place but still too cloudy to see anything. It's raining a lot today so this is probably going to be a washout. I did find a cool German Shepherd dog who showed me around the woods, but apart from that nothing happening.
I just realised that my camera film wasn’t loaded properly, so I’ve got no photos from Santiago or San Antonio. Will have to retake some in Puerto Montt and Puerto Varas. I’ve decided to change the plan and fly south to Punta Arenas. The Isealie guy from the rafting and said it's cold but you still see stuff. So I'm going. This area of Chile has been a bit disappointing although mostly because of the weather.

April 20, day 14
Back in Puerto montt and glad to be out of Petrohu√©. Horrible hospedaje and of course the most Mexpensive yet. The generator cut out around 8 o’ clock, which of course they never told me about. Stale bread and cheese for breakfast. Stopped off in Puerto Varas on the way back to pick up my jumper which I left behind me at Hospedaje Elsa. A nice place. I'm trying to work out a plan to see the Torres del Paine and the Perito Moreno glacier when I go south. The language is proving to be a problem, the Chileans are hard to understand, and I really need to learn more.

April 23
Arrived in Puerto Natales last night, came directly from Punta Arenas. It’s a small town. I've found a nice place to stay, Nico’s 2, run by an Argentinian lady called Paula. I've booked three nights at Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

April 29, day 23
So, the last week!
The Torres was great. Went to the towers the first day, sat at the bottom but couldn't see them because of yet more clouds! Great weather the next day though, took a bus transfer across to Glacier Frances. The third day I walked to the glacier grey with a girl from the refugio (Persefoni?). It got so windy on the hills that we had to turn back and there was quite a storm last night.
Met a strange character on the bus home. Crocodile Dundee, or at least that’s what I've christened him. A fifty or so year old Aussie guy who’d been camping out for five days and smelled like it too. Talked rubbish all the way back. Full of conspiracy theories and stories of where he’d been and the lengths he went to to save a few cents here and there. I told him I was going to El Calafate soon and says,
“Mate, we could go up there together”
“Sorry did I say El Calafate back there? I meant Afghanistan.”
I told the guy where I was staying, never thought he would actually call round but he did and told me all the same stories again to an American guy Geordie and his Japanese girlfriend.

Today I was supposed to go to El Calafate. Yesterday I asked at the bus company and the guy told me they had one bus, which leaves “a las nueve y media”, at 9.30. That’s what he said. I know he did. So I got down early and even checked at the company next door to see if maybe they had cheaper tickets. She said “No, we have only one bus and it leaves at 9” so I go back out and wait. I start to wonder when it gets to 9.35. I go inside and ask the guy what time the bus leaves for El Calafate.
“A las nueve”, at nine.
“9? Are you sure its not 9.30?”
“No, a las nueve”
I'm certain this guy told me nine. After walking around town to half a dozen other offices, they all told me they have only one bus which leaves at nine. Which seemed strange to me, why did they all leave at the same time? Finally went back to girl at the “next door” office, who had a good laugh at my misfortune, telling me at least four times that the bus leaves at nine. Finally found out from Paula that there's is actually only one bus per day which stops at the various bus companies. Why didn't anyone volunteer that info and save me all the hassle? At least I seem to have shaken off Crocodile Dundee, I think he went through Rio Gallegos because he could save a few cents.

the torres del paine

May 8, 2002, day 32
Tuesday. Went to El Calafate (Argentina) with Geordie and Ayaka (from Nico's 2) .Saw the Perito Moreno glacier on Wednesday, probably the most amazing thing I've ever seen. I ran out of film of course, but to be honest pictures can't capture the clean air, the cold, and especially the sounds.
Money would be a problem in Argentina if I was staying more than a few days. The banks are only open to change money and the ATMs are empty. All this is because of the economic crash last December. This may make it difficult to come back here in a few months, I’ll just have to wait and see, but hopefully it’ll be ok. Missing that bus the other day has had a bad knock-on effect. Because I have one day less here, I don’t have time to go to El Chalten as I have to get back to Punta Arenas for the return flight to Santiago. A real sickener.

Took the bus back to Puerto Nateles on Friday and straight to Punta Arenas. Stayed at a strange house one big dorm divided by curtains with three labrador dogs who seem to have the complete run of the house. A few chicks came in while I was there but they all left after having a look around. Personally I thought it was grand and the cheapest in Chile so far at 3000 pesos. The place I'm in now is 5000 pesos and not as good. By the way I'm now in Calama in the Atacama desert, the driest region of the world. So two fingers to the rain that’s bugged me so much! I took a bus from Santiago yesterday. Only 15 grand (in pesos of course) and it took 23 hours with only a couple of brief stops. Not as bad as it sounds, the bus was quality. Calama is definitely very different to the south, and the desert looks great.

May 13
Went to Chuquicamata to see the famous copper mine, the biggest open caste mine in the world. Interesting place to visit but I’d say horrible to work there. The great Ernesto Guevara stopped off here on his travels with Alberto Granado, as anyone who has seen The Motorcycle Diaries might remember.

copper mines at Chuqicamata

I came here to San Pedro de Atacama on Friday, It’s a great place. A small oasis village with adobe houses and dusty streets. I came up from Calama with a Kiwi guy called Mike who I met at the bus station. Mad guy, he’s been travelling for about 12 years now, and has a few interesting stories to tell. I hired a bike for a few days and cycled out to the Vale del Muerte (Death Valley) and did some sand boarding. Very tiring, spent most of the time trudging up the sand dunes. The valley was great and the scenery here is spectacular. I booked a spot on a four wheel drive trip across the Altiplano to Uyuni in Boliva. The tossers then cancelled the tour, but luckily I've been able to find another company, I've booked in with mike and a few others from the hostel (Hostel Florida, recommended).

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