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RTW 08/09

Happy Christmas from Chile

CHILE | Monday, 22 December 2008 | Views [1032] | Comments [2]

Hola Amigos,

This is my last blog entry of 2008 and concludes my trip in Chile.

After a 31 hour bus journey from Punta Arenas in the south of Chile I got to Puerto Montt halfway up the country. On the bus I met a really nice Australian couple from Brisbane. It´s usually the younger generation that fly the nest and go backpacking around the world for a year but these guys told their kids last year, ages 19 and 22 that they were going on a RTW trip and would see them in February 2009.

Arrived in Puerto Montt and had the same idea as the Ozzy couple to get a bus back the way we came as we had seen a really nice snowcapped Volcano 20km back up the road in Puerto Varas. Got a bus, booked into a hostel and got a good vantage point to watch the sunset turn the snowcapped peak of Volcano Osorno from white to pink.

The next morning we got another bus to Villarrica which is another very relaxed and quite town with Volcano Villarrica across the lake. After another sunset we booked a tour to climb the Volcano the next day.

It took us four hours to reach the top of the Volcano and even though we couldn´t see any lava we could hear the odd rumble in the crater below.

The guide told us that you used to be able to see some lava but a volcano errupted last year and destroyed the town of Chaiten about 300km to the south and borrowed some lava from the surrounding Volcanoes.

Chile has almost 3,000 Volcanoes, of which 250 are active. See I do listen to the tour guides in between my obsession with taking pictures lol.

Anyways, the best part of the tour to Volcano Villarrica is coming back down the mountain on your ass :-).

Everyone is given a canvas nappy to sit on and off you go, sliding all the way back down to the bottom. What takes four hours to climb takes 15 minutes to get back down.

From Villarrica I got a bus to Santiago and then another bus to Valparaiso on the coast. The first over cast day I have had in a long time. I arrived early in the morning and went exploring the narrow and very steep streets of this city, most of which is perched on a hillside overlooking the bay with some very colourful houses.

This is also the HQ of the Chilian Navy and theres plenty of smart looking gents in white uniforms strolling around.

A unique feature in Valparaiso are the 15 ancensors or lifts which look very dodgy and take you up the steep hills to some nice viewpoints overlooking the city. These are used by the locals to access the residential quarters from the lower parts of the city.

I decided that one day here was sufficient so I booked the bus back to Santiago for the next afternoon and then onto San Pedro de Atacama in the north east.

What a contrast in landscapes, after leaving Santiago surrounded by vineyards I woke up the next morning in the Atacama desert.

Got to San Pedro after an uneventful 23hour bus trip and booked a hostel and some tours to the nearby attractions.

San Pedro is a very cute little town in the middle of a flat basin in the Atacama desert with great views of the many volcanoes that form the Andes range and run along the border with Bolivia and Argentina.

My first morning in San Pedro I was up at 3:30am and off to the Tatio Geysers, 90km away. The dusty gravel roads in the area aren´t too kind to vechiles and our minibus broke down. We were rescued by another passing tour bus and spent a nice morning at the geysers as the sun rose.

Tatio is the highest geyser field in the world at 4,300 metres above sea level. It is a flat area with countless blowholes full of bubbling hot water that in the morning time send out large clouds of steam into the minus 10degree air.

Some people even brought their eggs for breakfast to boil in the waterholes.

After a siesta I was on another tour to see the Valle de la Luna (Valley of the moon). This area is called so as it is similar to the lunar landscape of the moon. We visited some cool rock formations and some very large sand dunes.

Next day I visted the Salar de Atacama, at 3,000 square kms it´s the largest salt flat in Chile. We visited one of the many small lakes on the salt flat where flamingoes and other birds make their homes. The lakes are still and give a mirror reflection of the surrounding area and the birds.

Next it was off to visit some deep blue lagunas surrounded by volcanoes high up in the Andes before lunch.

The next day was my first total chillout day in over 3weeks and then in the evening I got a bus to Arica in the northwest of Chile along the coast and close to the Peruvian border.

Got to Arica at 7am and after a warm welcome from the Kiwi hostel owner and the best breakfast I have had in SA so far I met a girl from Mayo and we spent the day visting the sights around Arica.

I wanted to go on a tour to the nearby National Park but there wasn´t enough people for the tour to go ahead so we decided to rent a car ( I wanted to get a jeep but they had none left) and were joined by two lads from Slovenia and a french girl.

Yesterday morning we started our trip at 8am and headed off towards the Bolivian border to Parque Nacional Lauca.

The landscape here varies from barron desert nearer sea level to green pastures in the higher valleys thanks to the rain experineced at altitude.

The main attractions in the park apart from Lolli the Alpaca with her handbag around her neck who entertains the tourists at one of the police checkpoints are the snowcapped Volcanoes. One of which neighbours Laga Chungara and if the water is still you can get a perfect reflection off the lake of the Volcano and surrounds. Thankfully we were lucky and joined the Flamingoes and Vicunas (from the Alpaca and IIama family but they are wild not like there domesticated cousins) for a few nice pictures by the lake.

On the way back we got flagged down by a trucker whos lorry had broken down and we gave his wife a lift to the nearest town to get some food as they had the munchies. This road littered with lorries taking fuel and goods to Bolivia.

That wasn´t our only good deed for the day as when we got back to Arica we left the car back and got something to eat. One of the girls had a craving for papas frittas (chips) so on the way to Mc Donalds I got chatting to a little homeless man who asked me for some money. He had a little pet cat who was perched between his shoulder blades and had a christmas bell on its collar. So instead of giving him money I offered to get hime some food. We took him, the cat and went to Mc Donalds for a Big Mac. The looks we got from the locals and the staff was priceless. Five gringos and homeless man with a cat on his back in Mc Donalds, perfect way to end a great day.

Today I am just relaxing in the hostel and getting ready for the 8hour bus journey to La Paz in Bolivia tomorrow morning.

I will be in La Paz from tomorrow the 23rd until at least the 3rd of January.

I have booked into the Wild Rover Hostel were I am sure to meet a lot of like minded Irish who are going to party hard over the festive period.

I would just like to wish everyone back home, the travellers and the people that I have met over the past almost 4 months who keep uptodate on my blog a Great Christmas 2008 and a Happy New Year.

Over and out for 2008 :-) Chao




hope you had a great Christmas. not missing anything other than doom and gloom here!
plans for 2009?

Happy New year


  marie Dec 27, 2008 5:24 AM


Happy New year Paul.

all good here....

  ANNE MARIE Jan 1, 2009 1:02 PM



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