Found out that sea lions are called ‘lions’ because the males have a mane…learn something new everyday. These aren’t males, just pregnant females. Went walking with penguins. They sure do walk funny. It was on a wildlife preserve so we could get really close…you can see the mommy and baby right behind me.After an 18 hour, four border crossing bus ride, I’m up in El Calafate which is a pretty little town with lots of cafes and shops. The main draw here is the Puerto Moreno Glacier which I visited yesterday. It’s ridiculously beautiful. Our tour started out by walking along kilometres of balconies across from the glacier where we could eat lunch and watch huge chunks fall into the lake. The sounds of cracking and thundering were amazing. Then we hopped on a boat to get closer. We walked through a lush forest…... and went trekking on the glacier for about 90 minutes. The trek ended with glacier ice in whiskey. So far, the holidays are shaping up pretty well. :)
Friday, December 24, 2010
I spent the day in the famous Torres Del Paine Park. I was going to spend a couple of days and do some easy hiking but the weather didn’t co-operate and I just went the one day. It’s an incredible place with over 200kms of trails and views that just don’t stop. Started out looking at Los TorresThe (towers) del Paine really are quite impressive. They were formed when magma entered under the rocks and forced then up into jagged peaks so there are layers of volcanic and granite mixed together. Saw some really cool animals like the flightless nandu, a relative of the ostrich and who, according to locals, produces delicious eggs that are the size of a dozen chicken eggs. and I finally got to see the forth member of the camel family, the guanaco. This is a baby. The whole place used to be a sheep ranch until 1959 but now, at the base of these amazing towers of rock, are rolling hills of grass and trees with rivers, lakes and waterfalls. The last part of the day was spent hiking up to a lookout for the Grey Glacier in the drizzling rain. There was a huge variety of flowers in the forest which made up for the lack of view once we got there.
Monday, December 20, 2010
What, you ask, is the Navimag? It’s part ferry, part cargo ship and part cruise ship that travels between Puerto Montt and Puerto Natales in Chilean Patagonia. We boarded on a beautiful day and watched the volcanoes of the lake district disappearAs we sailed off into the sunset It was a great trip that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of the weather. The crew was fantastic, food was tasty and plentiful, the entertainment was great and the wine wasn’t too expensive, although, you could bring your own bottle to the pub. They also gave lectures on the wildlife that we would see, Chilean phrases, glaciers and National Parks but mostly, we just watched the fiords of Patagonia slip by our decks.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I got a little tired of traveling so I spent the last week hanging out in a sleepy little pueblo by the lake. Walked around a lot, ate good food and went horseback riding.
I’m on the road again and will catch a 4 day cargo ship ride down to Puerto Natales in Southern Patagonia. Hoping for good weather as a lot of people get seasick on this journey…
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I’ve finally found a South American city that I would want to live in…it’s great here! The city is a mixture of colonial and new architecture, has lots of green spaces and it’s wonderfully clean and vibrant.
My hotel is across the street from the most interesting park/ cultural space/ church/ archaeological park.
I spent a whole day wandering up and down the tree lined streets but don’t worry I made sure to keep myself hydrated and well-fed. I ate fish and chips at the seafood market where they bring in all the catches of the day…a little smelly but at least you know it’s fresh.Lot’s of police presence especially around the government buildings , but they mostly seem to give directions and look pretty.
It’s interesting to note that there is absolutely no ‘traditional’ culture here. It’s completely modern city with none of the woven bracelets/hats etc. seen in Peru and Bolivia. The people look much more European too.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Well, it really was like entering civilization again. As soon as we crossed the border from Bolivia, we hit paved road again. The Chilean border crossing was very professional and efficient and we didn’t get ripped off by the guards, who actually put our stuff through a pretty thorough examination. San Pedro de Cama was the entry city and I spent one night there. Had a great goodbye dinner with my friends from the desert trip. (Richard, Sara, and Lucy), only to find out that we all booked the same overnight bus out the next day and didn’t have to say goodbye quite yet. I got off in the cutest place called La Serena and took a few tours into the Elqui Valley where they grow grapes for Pisco (brandy) They grow everything there, including walnuts.
and copau, which tastes like a kiwi but grows on a cactus.One of the most interesting things I learned in the valley was about Gabriela Mistral who is a national hero (has her face on money) but she also wrote the charter of children’s rights for the UN and, seems to be responsible for Chile’s success as she forced education along before other South American countries. My favourite tour was a great couple of hours at an observatory with an astronomy guide who showed us galaxies, planets and explained how to find your way by the Southern Cross. They have the biggest and best observatories Chile due to weather and clean air.