A Travellerspoint blog

Valparaiso getting there

sunny 28 °C
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Having left Santiago it's now time to visit the world heritage site Valparaiso. The ca takes us there in no time, although the navigation e stimate 3 hours because of some inconsistencies in the chilenean map coverage, i.e., if a street is recorded from two directions, could be motorway, you're often being asked to take huge diversions into the mountains to reach your destination, and then only the satellite images reveal the problem, if the overlay works, which it doesn't do either.  You might wonder why this is important since there should be road signs, or similar, but unfortunately not, not even the airport is indicated, or the road into Santiago, and if you ask, people are kind but not necessarily informed.  Anyway, after some hills, larger valleys, Casablanca is one of the most recent wine yards for whites, we pass a forest, and a long motorway serpentine, winding down until after an abrupt right turn the motorway ends in Av Argentina, an we're in the middle of Valparaiso, passing a kilometre long fruit market, and hundreds of mini busses which carry shoppers from each to everywhere in town.  

Public transport is actually interesting here, those minivans, holding 30-40 people, standing, and their goods, are very efficient since they are everywhere and stop at every corner, or in between, go up and down the hills, and leave the older elevator systems to the tourists.  They have the white wheels of cars of the fifties, and are prettily maintained from the outside, blinking and shiny, and speedy, going through the serpentines.

We drive down to the harbour, to search the road which brings us up the hill to our hotel.  Via Alemania is indicated, together with via francia, which we take, no knowing that this means a drive across all hills and valleys from valpo since Via Alemania seems to connect all valleys.  After 15 min we reach our destination, half above the town, probably 200 m, cllimbing another 68 steps to reach the doorway of the little hotel, which is more a small mansion house, 9 rooms, and we have a balcony overlooking the town. 

Since we arrive late the afternoon winds have already started, that heavy that the balcony is not of much use, and in the shadow anyway.  We decide to go for dinner to Cerro Concepcion, constantly crossing the road side, imagining getting killed by thrown at us trees, or worse, one of the many wires, which because of the more frequent earthquakes, are all overground.  Would be a strange incidence, since we're more in fear of human violence, since the hotelier had already marked the no-go areas down by the harbour, but very close to on of the major squares.  Since, we're not brave we end up in a little pizzeria, since our preferred and researched restaurant (pasta e vino) is full, and the hotel recommendation looks like a tourist trap with no guests.

The pizza is ok, and the wine nothing special, but I serves the purpose after this long day.  The winds have calmed when heading back, and we fall to bed easily.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 15:38 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Ecocamp day2

overcast 15 °C
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Actually not really ecocamp since we leave in the morning for the first trekk, passing las Torres, up and down through winding paths, Manuel explaining here and there the local fruits (not many), and fauna (not much more).  Actually, that's not true, but for a non-biologist, I just miss the spot in my brain to store birds and plants.  The puma is certainly getting on our mind, a he's the largest and probably only predator in the region, aside from the many condors flying above us, beautiful their circles to watch.

After a lunch break (everybody had made some from the breakfast tables, and we have on top our delicious power food), we decide to climb up the Bader valey.  It's a steep hill to the entry, which appears to never end, so we reach the tabletop as 100m below the entry, and decide to enjoy the view over lago nordskold. It's also getting quite windy, and Manual, in his role as the official tour guide, without whom the Bader valey is alledgedly a no go, recommends a return from this point.

We feel anyway for the first day challenged enough, happy to return into the valley to reach RefugioCuernos.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 16:00 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Ecocamp arrival

Six days in rough nature, in a camp

overcast 15 °C
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Early in the morning the taxi arrives to pick us up for delivery at the busterminal in El Calafate.  After some hassle on no is having the tickets, we're boarding the bus.  Prepared with snacks we know to have to be eaten up before we arrive Chile, we're relaxing in our semi comfortable seats (the more northern you come in chile/argentina the more comfortable the buses get, and since we're driving towards the most southern points in Chile, expectations aren't too high).  Bobo has his cushions well positioned so nothing can go wrong.  We're leaving into the landscape, huge empty spaces, some estancias, hills in the distance, but most of the land brownish grass.  After 4 hours an old mine appears, some dilapidated industrial sites, the old trolleys had been turned into a museum, but even that looks closed now.  The only modern thing are the conveyer belts, so modern spread through the country side as if the mine would sell those instead of cole.  A kilometre further the related village appears, a spurl o houses spread over a hill, Tio xxx the name, some houses referring to better times, but it's a rough space here now, poor probably, and not much prospect for those who got stuck here in the middle of nowhere.  The bus needs some fuel, and having a loo before getting to the border isn't a bad idea either.  Actually I had wondered not anticipating what complication the border would bring, whether we're still in Argentina or had crossed into Chile already.  The first stop comes, and the few South American jump out of the bus, while we're still believing some policemen would just get on the bus to check the passports, and that's it.  Quite the opposite! We all queue outside, since there was another bus earlier, in the wind, and 20 min later infront of the Entrada desk, i.e. we're not in Chile yet, since a glorious fotograph of Mrs Kirchner makes clear who rules the country in Louis XIV style.  The officer stamps our passports, and types the names into an at least 30 years old computer.  Soon we're boarding again, to drive another mile into Chile, to stop for the next check, this time the luggage including a x-ray scan, and search for fruits and vegetables. But our power trekking food, processed to unidentiability, didn't raise any attention, and the nuts and fruits have all been eaten up.  Back on the bus, we reach Puerto Natales quickly, where vans from the ecocamp awaiting us, and we realise no many on the bus, booked the same travel company.  Heading for lunch, at a restaurant close to their offices, we meet our tour guide, Manuel, who announces the other 5 people, Australians, will arrive a little later, as their ship is just pulling into the harbour.  We go for some wine in a local supermarket, as we allegedly were encouraged to save some money here, instead of buying it in the camp, a carmenere a local variety, not sure yet whether that's the grape or the region, anyway, we get some, and also an Errazuriz, a vineyard we plan to visit later when around Santiago. 

Another 3 hours drive with a stop over in a prehistorical cave, milon, which contained the bones of some prehistorical animals, released by receiving glaciers, some thousand years ago.  The other group guides who entertain that part of the tour, appear to be very informed, but also patronising (??) to a point which makes me worried abou their attitude, and what we can expect from Manuel.

We make another stop at Lago Sarmiento, a beautiful blue, because of some special sediment from earlier glacie times, which also prevents life in it.  Finally we arrive at the Ecocamp, at the foot, very close to the towers of the Torres.  It's getting quite fresh quickly, the non heated domes, not to the delight of Slobodan, are quite small, just large enough to open our luggage, using now second time, the technical clothing trekking gear, which w felt was so essential but not fashionable to buy.  

A Pisco sour is awaiting us, and some initial briefing for the next days, since meanwhile all the Australians have arrived.  Two couples in their fifties, and one of their sisters.  Nice and well educated people, so we're even more pleased not to be in the other group, and also not in fear being pushed through the trekking route.

Manuel explains the tours of the days, and certainly expectations were set, the Bader valley a must, and the boat trip on the last day an unnecessary nuisance, since we all booked trekking, not pensionairs boat rides.  Certainly the fire in the park in Dec took it's toll, but this group isn't easy to satisfy, there must be some similarities between Germans and Australians, I didn't know so far.

Dinner is served in the large communal domes, 3 courses to leave a good impression, and then we're ready for bed, trying to organise in the dark the few things around us, freezing a little, and wondering why we're actually here ...

Posted by LutzAndBobo 16:00 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Buenos Aires

Diving into the past of a great grandeur

sunny 35 °C
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Touching down into flat land, it's really that flat, the delta on one end, and endless greens on the other. Flying over the whole town, vast, squared map, then green again, the airport far outside.

They didn't expect so many Europeans knocking at their door early on this Wed morning, 5 counters for thousands of those energetic, technically dressed, trekkers in boots, and backpacks. Anyway we slept quit well, queued with the locals eventually, and used our first Spanish words to distinguish tourism from businessmen, which they acknowledge, stamp the Passports and off we go. Queuing again to pass the luggage through another security control, for mysterious reasons...

Using Manuel de Leon as the transport into the metropole was the best choice, as we learned later, but now we're just boarding the bus, driving the motorway into town, next to everybody drowsing away. Arriving an hour later at their terminal, a private well manicured lawn surrounded platform, which they use to transfer passenger to their local vans heading into personal hotels. Our van fits four, not exactly as the luggage is too big, and it takes 15 min until the best order is found. My husband telling me that patience will bring us to the hotel, not interference with drivers skills. Anyway our luggage is too heavy, so some lifting is appreciated.

Eventually we start driving, and learn that the other passengers are from goettingen, close to Frankfurt where we used to life for 10 years. Getting around half the world to meet people who could have been your neighbours... Is that the destiny of travellers? I'm suspicious. The traffic is dense, fast, hectic, not terribly dangerous, i.e. no as expected, although expectations have stayed at home ... We arrive at the hotel, treated by two by nice and friendly ladies, who check us in. But Slobodan realises he's left his jackets, and pullovers on the bus, and is already contemplating about flying back home, because of the disastrous anticipation not having the right jacket for the capitals we'll visit to wear, an unimaginable prospect, but the receptionists had made already some calls, and in contrast to our fears, all stuff has been collected, and is ready for us to be collected. Off we go, back to the bus terminal, this time on the tube.

The tube is old, but running, all windows open in the tunnels, producing a good draught in the 35 degrees climate. We reach the center again, pass by some old trainstations, flee markets in frint of them, selling everything and fruitjuices, the only thing I could use now, but we're too scared of the unknown, so no tries yet. Against a passport check we get all the stuff from the bus terminal staff and then finally head into town.

After being handed  our lost possessions, we're out in the heat again, a first stroll through town, crossing huge avenues, full of colourful trucks, hords of cabs, and crazy fast running busses. Need to get used to crossing a ten line road.  The town and street structure reminds of some European cities, but because of the scale, also the US.  It's the dust and dirt which reminds you it's not Paris or Madrid.  But it has a European touch, no doubt, and not unexpected, based on the fact that it's build by Spanish, French and Italian, and wanted to remind the inhabitants of where they were from, or their desire to belong to .... We walk by a Harrods building, closed and dilapidated, probably since the Malvinas got lost, there is not much mood to buy Marmite or Marmelade now.  But the facade has still some beauty, as so many buildings still have, although at least during the last 20 years not much has been renovated, or even new build.  We stroll along crossing a pedestrian shopping street, and mall, and cross avenida Mayor, with its enormous big, 15 floor art deco buildings, marble entry halls going over 3-4 floors, candelabras, mechanical metal brass revolving doors, and sun clocks indicating the level the passengers were highflying.  We cross direction San Telmo, in search for cafe Poesia, which appears a few streets down, on a small corner.  An old cafe wodden decor, piano in one corner, old pictures, the sentiment of older times, but also a neighbourhood hub for arts and culture.  Nobody speaks English, and after some misunderstandings we order some huge fruit smoothies, and a steak and salad, which we had hoped would have been a small plate of the local meats.  The coffee is delicious, and art multiple of them we realise that our spare cash is not going to pay the bill.  With some indications I'm heading out into the heat, on search for some ATM which are quite sparse in this area of town.  It's a nice area by the way, and I'm now on an unplanned sight seeing stroll, the 9th cash machine works, and all banks are closed, I'm heading back to the waiting Slobodan, and the waitresses who were wondering why it took so long.

On the way to another tube stop, we cross through the really touristic, antique shops everywhere, cobbled street net, and at the local main square, seeing the last 10 secs of a couple tango dancers, passing a retirement home, with a lovely garden, onto the 9th july avenida, which on the border to La Boca indicates our tube stop.  4 motorways cross here high up in the air, in the midden a fanced spot with 10 dogs in it. The area looks run down, although even here some girls sit in a coffee shop and chat, next to the noisy road.  The pavement is something to get used to, since it's broken everywhere, somebody fixed a pipe, or some other causes, if not just ageing broken tiles or stones, but it reminds me of belgrade, only there was no war here ... It's a general impression, whether it's streets, houses, tubes, cars,of all has seen better times, some really good ones in the 20th, and some more modern structures remind of later times, but since the economic crisis in the 80th everything must have come to a halt, at least investment into the visibles.

We're heading back home to the hotel, in need of a little break before checking on dinner places.  We have recommendations for 3 restaurants, and one bar.  

What looks like a stretch of park on the map, appears to be a dogy area not to cross walking, so the receptionist informed us, we therefore start walking to the first place, a traditional Argentinian steak house, large room, all in wood and cast iron metal, the background in red wine, very harmonically, but also touristically, and since we're not into heavy meet today anymore, we continue towards the square where a short cab ride should await us to cross the dangerous border.  We get a cab, to drive 200 m up the road, nothing really dodgy aside from the cabdriver, and reach a pub to have a beer as expensive as in London.

The restaurant around the corner behind a graffiti wall was tip, and we enter after ringing the door bell. But it, Tengui it's name, appears to be a fancy spot, with inside and outside sitting, expensive at the end, and after some arguing with a nice sommelier, they acknowledge that there is no good white wine in Argentina, an after four attempts of trying all they have, we pay an leave home, this time walking through the dodgy area, but nothing noticeably happens.

Posted by LutzAndBobo 15:05 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

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