Back to the Beginning …

Well … last post we left you with Subby dead in the desert east of San Pedro de Atacama. It’s kind of a long story, but I think worth telling – so here we go …

Broken down 60 miles east of San Pedro de Atacama at 16,000 ft.

Here is Subby, the barely visible vehicle on the left, while on the right is an abandoned, nearly new vehicle that had flipped and was left not more than a week before. It was completely stripped of anything of value by bandits that steal and prey on any vehicle that looks at all vulnerable. To give you an idea of what they consider vulnerable – they once tried to steal the Carabinero’s (police) pickups, but while trying to make their getaway, ended up getting stuck in the land next to the road that is very soft and unstable. I’ll tell you how and where I heard this in a minute. But now, back to our adventure.

So, there we are in the middle of nowhere – remember we have checked out of Chile – we don’t have food that won’t pass the border check and we are low on Chilean and Argentinian Pesos. Oh dear!

But God is so good! He sent us two sets of mechanics – the first ones to stop were a group of young people who had just participated in the Dakar races and were headed home to Argentina. The whole bunch were mechanics and worked like crazy for nearly an hour without success. They wanted to wait with us till help came, but we sent them on their way with promises that they would let the guards at the border know of our plight and so send help. The border was only about 30 or 40 miles, so we waited … and waited.

the little silver truck is my ride back to San Pedro de Atacama

That’s where the next set of mechanics come in. Raul decided to stop the next car headed toward Chile to see if they could contact the Carabineros for us. They could do better – turns out they are the road mechanics for all the road repair vehicles on that section of highway. Ok! Once again, they work like dogs for about an hour … nothing. They told us that help from Argentina would not come. Though the border was only 30 or so miles away, the nearest town with help was about 250. The only solution was to go back to San Pedro and see if we could get someone to tow us back. They were traveling in a tiny two-seater pickup – only one could go. It was decided that help would be more sympathetic to a woman and there was no way Raul would leave me alone in the desert anyway – so smoooshed into the truck I went. Memories of the movie Breakdown flashed through my head as we took off, but no … God brought these guys and He would take care of me. (They were really awesome and wouldn’t leave my side until they were sure I would be safely taken back to Raul 🙂 God bless them!)

Anyway, on the one hour drive back to San Pedro, we met a Carabinero posted to protect travelers on that road. He gave us the name and phone number of the only man in San Pedro who tows people and where we could find him. Remember, this is a community with a local population of about 2500.  Adolfo showed up with a 32 year old Toyota Jeep, a chain and a metal bar. That’s it.

The young men left me in his care with an admonition to take good care of me and not leave me until I was back with Raul. I had nothing to give them but a blessing as all the ATMs were empty on that Friday afternoon. They were very sweet and I bless them again!

So off we go, Adolfo, his old jeep and me. What took those guys one hour in their speedy little truck down 60 miles and 4000 ft of altitude, took Adolfo about 2 hours to return. On the road, he passed the time telling me of all the trucks that had gone over the cliffs at different points and the merciless banditos that made their living stealing cars along this lonely pass and selling them in Bolivia. He told me about the Carabineros pickups and the difficulty he had had getting them out of the sand. Ah! That’s why they have his number on speed dial.

🙂

So there I was, thinking of Raul at the mercy of those banditos or at least worried sick about me – it had been nearly 4 hours at this point. Thank God he had quit smoking – between the lack of oxygen at that altitude and the cigarettes stealing what little he had, I’d find him passed out by the side of the road! Then we took the turn that should bring Subby into view … and there was nothing to be seen …

Where'd he go?

Oops … my mistake – it was the next turn … whew!!! When we got there, Adolfo got a very grateful handshake and thank you for bringing me and I got a big hug and “So there was no one to tow us?” quietly in my ear. I told him –

Our rescuer

THIS is it!

From there, Subby was hooked up and off we went – three hours slowly down, down, down those 4000 ft into a very dark San Pedro.

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Elizabeth - owner of the Hostal Hara - and me.

Adolfo set the car in front of the only possible mechanic in town. We couldn’t open windows or even lock the car because the battery was beyond dead, so we spent the night in the car right there, taking advantage of the kindness of the lady at the nearby hostal for personal needs. We ended up staying in that hostal for the next week.

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Michael and Raul working hard in the parking area of the hostal

It took the mechanic one look to wash his hands of us. He then called the only auto electrician in town to see if he could do anything. Michael was very lovely and worked like a slave for days – to no avail. He did get it running, but not at all well.

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We felt there was nothing to do but call my Scottish cousin, Alejandro, in Punta Arenas. Though many options were considered, the best was to ship her back to Punta Arenas and let Alejandro see what he could do. God bless him, he set right to work and found us transport and helped us set it up. He and his wife, Ana Maria, encouraged us every day. All that was left was to wait and go with the flow – not knowing if Subby would even make it in the end.

So we wait ...

Through all this, the message God sent us over and over was “Be still and know that I am God” Ps. 46:10.

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From the picture, the Hostal looks a bit like a jail, but it was very comfortable, just a couple blocks from the center of town, and the people were great. What a blessing!

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... another view of the old church

While we waited, we took another look at San Pedro de Atacama 🙂

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... processions down the dusty streets of San Pedro de Atacama with Volcanos Licanbur and Juriques in the background.

We kept hearing and seeing small marching bands of every level of expertise on all sides.

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So cute!

We heard from someone that they were probably preparing for Carnaval.

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… but no – it was a festival for the Virgen of Guadalupe that lasts for four days – between January 31st through February 3rd.

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Finally we got word that the transport would be coming on Saturday to pick up Subby and take her first to Iquique and then south to Puerto Montt where she would take the same ferry we had taken north in December, but in the opposite direction, on the following Friday.

Subby's transport south to Puerto Montt

Saturday came and we waited … and waited … and waited … We had thought they would pick her up in the morning and we would be on the first bus out that afternoon. Be still, He had said. God’s plans were not our plans. Subby was not picked up until after 7pm and we would be spending another night in San Pedro.

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We had not eaten in the whole day waiting for the transport, so we headed into town on foot once Subby was on her way. Five minutes earlier or later and we would have missed the blessing God had for us. Entering the town, Raul noticed a couple walking out of town – Ralf and Ramona – our German friends who we had said good-bye to in Punta Arenas back in December! What a lovely thing! I had lost their email and felt really bad about it – now here they were. We enjoyed a wonderful time of sharing over dinner – talking and laughing and catching up on all we had done and seen. How great is our God!!! The next day they were headed out and so were we – perfect timing 🙂

Ready to roll

Next morning we were ready – at last!

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waiting at the bus depot in San Pedro

From here we would catch the bus from San Pedro to Santiago – 22 hours.

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This is the life!

Knowing what it was like to travel all night in an uncomfortable train, we spent the extra Peso and got tickets for the Superior Premium Cama (Bed) – with seats that recline to form a full-out 180° flat bed. If I had known about these buses, I would have taken the bus more often!!! Movies all afternoon, cozy comfortable bed all night, wifi (unfortunately not working that day), and a light breakfast in the morning. Wonderful!

Santiago revisited

The bus ride was so nice! We had nearly two days to revisit Santiago before we headed south again at 9pm the next day, so here’s a couple images from there 🙂

Raul's favorite restaurant

We had to have lunch here. Dagoberto introduced us to this restaurant on our first visit. It is named Juan y Medio (John and a half) the founder’s nickname for her husband Juan – a sizable man. They still serve large plates of all his favorite foods. Really, one plate is enough for two people – so maybe it should have been named Juan times Two!

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... a little bit of downtown with the flag flying

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Castillo Hidalgo

In the center of Santiago is a rock hill that was turned into a beautiful park called Santa Lucia. Castillo Hidalgo was built here as a defensive fortification in the early 1800s. Today it is used for all kinds of special events.

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Neptune's Fountain

The park has beautiful walkways, fountains, structures, and gardens.

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Relaxing at the top of the hill

It doesn’t look that far up from below, but it was a tiring trek!

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Celebrity Cruise in Puerto Montt

From Santiago we headed south again to Puerto Montt. No – we didn’t take the cruise ship … but it looks good, huh?

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beautiful coast on the canals

Tuesday the bus got us into Puerto Montt. We expected Subby to get there in time for the next ferry to Puerto Natales that Friday – she didn’t make it! We spent the next week in Puerto Montt … so here are a few shots of Puerto Montt revisited 🙂

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Puerto Montt Cathedral Church

Smooshed between modern buildings on the town plaza is the oldest structure in Puerto Montt – Iglesia Catedral – constructed of heavy wood and copper.

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Mussels Parmesano ...yum

Anthony Bourdain did a show on Chile and this was a little restaurant in the fishermen’s market he featured in Puerto Montt. Yummy!

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Folkloric Dancers

Here we hit another celebration – Puerto Montt’s 159th Birthday! It was quite a celebration with fun activities and parades …

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the Army

Next came the different Honor Guards:

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the Navy

So elegant – and notice the leading Officer is a woman 🙂

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the Air Force

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my heroes - the Carabineros

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... don't forget the Military Band!

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Taekwondo Association

Then different local clubs and groups like this one:

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The highlight for Raul and I, though, was the entrance of the All Volunteer Firefighters. All firemen throughout Chile are volunteers and are responsible for funding a lot of their own necessary training and equipment. They are a truly honorable and beloved group of people.

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The evening continued with bands playing and parties in the street. At midnight, it wound up with an awesome fireworks show! It was fun to have been there.

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Our view of the Strait of Megellan

Punta Arenas Ah! After a 2 1/2 hour flight – home again. Our wonderful friends let us stay in their back apartment. Ana Maria had it all decorated up nice and set us up with all kinds of thoughtful little things like an electric teapot, coffee and tea, Alejandro’s office tv, and the beds loaded with extra warm blankets.

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Subby getting the once over

Finally, after mixed messages – Subby didn’t make the ferry, Subby made the ferry – our car made the four day trip and  arrived in Punta Arenas. Alejandro was now able to see just what was going on and give us a verdict.

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Lago Toro near the camping site

The verdict was good! The original problem was found and solved in a couple hours, but the damage done by those trying to fix it before would take a few more days. We were nicely setup and in family, and Ana Maria’s birthday was coming up – so … hurray!!! We decided to stick around and enjoy the people and the place – and well … we just had to return to Bahia El Bote once more, as well 🙂

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How blessed we are!

The weather was heavenly and we enjoyed lovely walks and sharing with all the friends and extended family who had come that weekend.

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The water is FREEZING and DELICIOUS!!!

I had to get my feet in that beautiful clear water!!! It was so cold, I could only stay in a couple minutes – but it was worth it!!!

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Going fishing with my cousin Alejandro

You can’t be here any length of time without Alejandro offering a boat trip of fishing around Lake Toro – so I took him up on it – just for the photography, mind you.

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Blue skies smilin' at me!

What a day!!!

The Macizo mountains in the Torres del Paine National Park, covered in snow, are just behind the hills on the right. You can’t see them in this picture because the clouds covered them. If they had been visible here – this could have been my Pulitzer shot!

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One of the fish caught that day. The water looks like a swimming pool!

Well, I hadn’t planned on fishing myself, but after this pretty one was brought in, they passed me the rod. I didn’t hold out much hope …

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This puppy was yummy!

I GOT ONE …

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The weekend was perfect – beautiful weather, beautiful people, great food! But all good things come to an end. We set out on the 4 hour drive home at about 6 pm. Before we got to Puerto Natales – normally 1 hour away – Alejandro’s car got two flat tires!!!

Puerto Natales at sunset

This shot was taken while in Puerto Natales waiting to get one of the tires fixed so we could continue – Sunday around 9 pm by now – good luck!!!

No worries – they have an awesome mobile tire repair there, just a call away.

We got home around 2 am – the thermometer dropping to about 21℉      (-6℃) on that late summer’s eve at one point.

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Ana Maria, Alejandro and me

Back home, Ana Maria introduced us to this spot. It’s her favorite back-to-nature place and is only about five miles from the house – the Reserva Nacional Magallanes (Magellan National Reserve).

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Rio de Las Minas cuts through the base of the canyon.

Taking this picture was scarier than it looks. The canyon was quite spectacular. We really enjoyed visiting it and getting out and walking. Another beautiful day!

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... our buddies Max and Rex 🙂

These are Ana Maria and Alejandro’s yard dogs – Max and Rex. They also have a little dachshund in the house and half a dozen love birds – my kind of people! Anyway – Max and Rex look surprisingly small in this photo – they are indeed huge! Max is the one with me and Rex is just about ready to start something – he gets jealous. I will have to go love on him – or get out of the way! At first it scared me, but they never really do much more than growl menacingly at each other 🙂

... don't go without me 😦

A funny thing about Max – he doesn’t like to be left behind. Whenever Alejandro goes out, Max tries first to get in the car or truck with him. If that doesn’t work, he sticks his head under the gate and whines.

When I was packing up the car, Max set himself up right at the bottom of the steps so I couldn’t get by – I think he doesn’t want us to go, either.

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... the leaves are changing

…but it looks like autumn is starting to set in …

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bye bye

Even cruise ships are on their way out …

… I guess it is about time for us, too. We will really miss everyone here and lovely Patagonia and Punta Arenas.

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But don’t worry guys – we’ll be back – we made sure we ate some calafate*!!!

*legend has it that if you eat calafate, you will return to Patagonia – it worked before!

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Into the Desert

The Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert extends for a length of about 600 miles in the northern part of Chile, and occupies over 40,000 sq. miles between the coast and the Andes Mountains. It is considered the driest desert in the world. They aptly refer to this area as an altiplano (high and flat) region. The valleys are on average 8,000 ft. above sea level, with the bordering mountain ranges reaching between 15,000 to over 20,000 ft. in some areas – without any glaciers due to the dryness. So, without further ado, let’s get started 🙂

Valle del Elqui on a misty morning

Along the coast on the southern border of the desert you’ll find La Serena, and just east of that – the Valley of Elqui. It is a beautiful, productive agricultural area just before the dry, dry, dry sets in.

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this is starting to look like a desert

Up Highway 5 we went – into the desert and to catch glimpses of the few towns along the way.

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There's no getting around that guy!

In the northern part of Chile, besides finding deserts, you find mining – everywhere. The large ‘package’ this truck is carrying is probably mobile housing or office units for a mining company. There were 3 more like it in front. We traveled at a snail’s pace for quite a while until there was a place wide enough for them to pull over and let us pass.

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We stopped in Copiapó for gas and got lost, so I got two opportunities to catch this photo of the bronze statue in honor of Juan Godoy – the discoverer of the silver mine here. This town is most recently famous as the site of the tragic mining accident in August 2010 when 33 miners were trapped for 69 days in a copper-gold mine.

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Vineyards in the desert!

From Copiapó we headed west toward the ocean. Along the way we saw this beautiful contrast of barren and lush. The mountain looks like it might have some kind of ground cover, but it’s bare!

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The mountains are so fascinating. Some, like in this photo, are hard granite with huge stripes of other minerals – maybe carbon?

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Renewable Energy for the Future of Chile!

And here is something that makes me smile – windmills. Not a Pulitzer picture, but I was glad to see them!

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Bahia Inglesa

Just west of Copiapó is Caldera and we decided to get off the road and have lunch in the quaint little town nearby – Bahia Inglesa.

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Yummy!

At last – Scallops a la Parmesana! My daughter had read that these were the thing to have in Valparaiso. Since we were there too early in the day (last post), I didn’t get the chance – but they can’t have been any better there than here!

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eeek!

Anyone who knows me, knows I have to put my feet in water that beautiful. What I didn’t count on were the jellyfish measuring more than a foot in diameter!

Don’t worry – I didn’t go in far 🙂

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good spot to stop

Somewhere along the coast before reaching Antofagasta we camped for the night. Lovely 🙂

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velvet

See what I mean about the mountains being fascinating. These looked like they were covered in camel-colored velvet. It’s not sand dune, but it has absolutely no vegetation either. I don’t know what makes it look so soft.

They were surreal 🙂

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Mano del Desierto

About 45 miles south of Antofagasta you will find the HUGE Mano del Desierto in the middle of nowhere right along Highway 5. It was constructed by Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal in 1992. It’s exaggerated size is said to emphasize man’s vulnerability and helplessness. I think the desert does that just fine all by itself! That’s me by the thumb and Subby in the back. The picture at the top of this post is a panoramic view with Raul way off to one side 🙂

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What??!! It's the last Coca Cola in the desert??!!

Wait a minute! I thought the saying was “He thinks he’s the last Pepsi Cola in the desert! Now we know the truth – fact is stranger than fiction!

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Up the coast we go!

After Antofagasta we decided to take the coast road – Highway 1. There are those reminders of California again! Beautiful views and excellent road!

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The things these eyes have seen!

And here we are set up on the beach again, further north.

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Iquique

Iquique – the Free Port of Northern Chile – is a surprise in the middle of the coastal desert. The city is backed up completely by the velvety mountains and dunes, so it has grown long and narrow with some brave souls building right up the side of the dunes as far as they can. As we were leaving, we saw a huge dune that goes nearly the entire length of the town with what looks like the spine of a huge creature. It was really weird. Later we found out it is called the Dragon Dune. Sorry, my picture of it didn’t turn out 😦

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It looks like Miami Beach!

While Iquique has it’s cramped and uncomfortable areas, it also has it’s beautiful areas like this boardwalk along the ocean.

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Humberstone Shanks System

On the road again, before getting to Highway 5 South we came to the Humberstone Saltpeter Works. One of the largest deposits of saltpeter, it provided enough sodium nitrate fertilizer to transform North and South American agriculture – and even into Europe – from 1872 through 1960.

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Train car between the mine and Iquique - about 30 miles away.

Already a ghost town by 1970, the site was first preserved as a National Monument and later in 2005, as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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The town square with the theater in the back.

It kind of gave us the feeling of Marty in “Back to the Future” when he returned to his home town 30 years in the past – only this town is empty.

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The schoolhouse - she looks like a tough teacher!

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bachelor houses

In their best days, these were busy, bustling towns with neat little English style buildings.

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Production Area

The system used to extract the  sodium nitrate was the Shanks Extraction Process developed by James Thomas Humberstone – and apparently it turned this area around when it was in decline. We read everything here to see if we could find out about the process, but I guess we’ll have to google it.

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Look ma - no cables!

Back on Highway 5 heading south in the middle of nowhere again, we came across these solar powered lights on every curve or other spot that might be dangerous at night. How smart is that!

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Maria Elena Train Station

Maria Elena Saltpeter production community is the last of it kind that is still inhabited. It reminded us a lot of the oil camp communities of Venezuela in San Tome, El Tigre and Anaco.

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town street on an early Sunday morning

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not sure what this is for - but cool older English style 🙂

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Satellite map of San Pedro de Atacama with surrounding area - look how dry!

Now we get to the last town we planned to visit in Chile – San Pedro de Atacama. The picture here is a satellite picture of the area – including some of the sights we visited. It might be worthwhile to click on this photo and enlarge it.

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Valle de la Muerte - Death Valley

The next few shots are some of the amazing sights we saw as we descended into the valley where San Pedro de Atacama is located (at over 8,000 ft)

It doesn’t look it from the picture, but it was scary walking out to that point. The earth just drops away.

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more Death Valley

It looks like some huge hand has pushed the hills all up sideways! I wish the shot came out better. I’m going to have to study why photos don’t represent what your eye is seeing – or invest in a better camera and some classes!

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Are those stegosaurus???

Driving through here, I was convinced that all the science fiction writers got their inspiration from here. See the sleeping dinosaurs?

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... maybe we're in Area 51

… and here we have a group of flying saucers crashed along the side of the road.

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This is it?

At last! San Pedro de Atacama – Population – 1,978 locals!

This area has been inhabited since before the Incas, before the Spanish, and certainly before the tourists!

The streets are pretty empty at this hour because of the sun, but as soon as it goes down, those tourists come out of the woodwork and there’s nowhere to even walk.

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Church of San Pedro de Atacama

By the way, we are travelers, not tourists!

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This small adobe church was built by the Spanish in 1577.

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Yes! That is water on the ground - it rained!

Here’s another view of the little adobe town with a good view of the Lincancabur Volcano in the background. The volcano is nearly 20,000 ft over sea level and shared between Bolivia and Chile – Chile having the summit and the greater portion. We’ll see it again.

Interesting note – Chile contains 10% of all the volcanoes on earth. The northern ones are not active, while the southern ones are.

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white volcanic rock home

Most of the buildings here and in the surrounding areas are built of adobe blocks or these white volcanic rocks. They are low and usually have some type of fiber and mud roof. It works – it keeps us cool!

The days here are hot, hot, hot, but the nights are cold! Keeps it interesting 🙂

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Chunky, crusty not-white salt flat

Onto the surrounding sights! About half way down on the east side of the Atacama Salt Flat (refer to your map) is the Laguna Chaxa (not on the map).

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This is not the smooth white salt flat you’re used to seeing because of the way it has formed.

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Andino Flamingo

… and true to form, what you would expect to find – pink flamingos.

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Raul is reading up on saltflat wildlife

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What a poser!

This is one of the local wildlife. He is a Saltflat Lizard (Liolaemus fabiani) – if you enlarge the photo, you can see his pretty coral spots 🙂 After posing so nicely, how could I leave him out of the blog! Perspective – he’s about 6″ long.

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do I really have to go?

There was a cleared path taking you to different areas of the saltflat. I didn’t make Raul walk too far. It’s hot under all that sun!

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Do I look ready for the desert?

From the laguna we headed back up to San Pedro and about 5 miles to the west to Valley of the Moon (also not on the map – bad map!) The first stop is a salt cave. By the way, this is one of three mountain ranges in this area – the Salt Mountains. No surprise in that name – huge salt crystals are everywhere 🙂

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No worries, I've got the flashlight.

The white is crystalized salt – it’s all kind of rocky and lumpy, and doesn’t taste anything like salt.

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large quartz crystal

Not sure you can see that – but it is a large, clear quartz crystal about an inch and a half in diameter.

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whew, it's hot!

Now we get to the part that gives it its name – Valle de la Luna. This is such an otherworldly spot that they use it when filming movies and documentaries about Mars.

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Subby waiting patiently

The sky is amazing!

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Can you see me???

Scientists have actually repeated experiments of life viability done on Mars soil and found the environment very much similar – no life in that soil!

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more spaceships!!!

The pamphlet they gave us said that it was an extraordinary event to see an insect here. We did – one or two flies!

Extraordinary!

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Raul pointing out the curvy crust

You can’t see it (sorry again), but the sides of the mountains look like God took a huge sculptor’s spatula and shaped these areas with broad upward strokes. Really cool!

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what can you say?

This is in an area called the Amphitheatre. It is too huge to get even in a panoramic shot – at least with my camera. The layers of rock look like gigantic phyllo dough.

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Is that the Parthenon up there???

Those are not man-made structures on the top there. They are shaped by waters from very long ago and wind.

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The Three Marys

These are also naturally occuring – and they are tall! They call these the Three Marys – maybe if you squint and look sideways with your eyes crossed – but I get their point.

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Well, that’s the Valley of the Moon. What did you think – pretty cool, huh? Should I stop here? … No! There’s so much more to see!

12th Century Fortress

Also not on your map – just a few miles NW of San Pedro is Pukará de Quitor or Fortress of Quitor. Estimated to have been built in the 12th century – it was first inhabited by the Atacameño Indians, abandoned and then picked up by the Incas who used it to keep the Spanish at bay for some 20 years.

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Raul taking pictures of the French tourists ...

The fortress was built on the steep side of a mountain overlooking the San Pedro river …

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... and the French took pictures of us 🙂

…commanding a clear and extensive view of any approaching enemy.

The fortress was mainly built for defense of the agricultural valley along the banks of the river.

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Some of the stone structures have been rebuilt by archeologists, but most of it remains as it has over the centuries.

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Salt laguna at 14,000 ft.

From there we continued north about 60 miles on nasty dirt roads to the Tatio Geysers (also not on the map – why did I put that map in here?!)

The peak in the background is Sairecabur Mount – also a volcano, with an elevation of nearly 20,000 ft. It doesn’t look so tall from 14,000 ft 🙂

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Vicuña - so dainty 🙂

A new favorite – vicuña. They are very similar to the guanaco, but slightly smaller and more dainty. They also were not so camera shy 🙂

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Ooooh - so warm!

Here we have arrived at the geysers. I am testing the water in one of the hot springs. The air was so cold, or I would have gotten my swimsuit and jumped in here. It was so lovely and warm – the getting in would have been great, but not so the getting out …

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The main event

With more than 80 active geysers, this is the third largest geyser field after Yellowstone Park and a geyser field in Russia. These are best seen at sunrise when the steam condenses in the freezing morning air, so we’ll spend the night and check them out tomorrow.

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Well, that was the most horrible night we have ever spent. The cold (below zero) was not a problem. The altitude was! It was so hard to breath and Raul had a fit of claustrophobia that took days to get over.

early morning 🙂

So this is what we came to see – there’s the steam rising – interesting.

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Ok, we saw it - let's go!

We felt so terrible in the morning, we quickly visited the most interesting areas, got into our car and headed back to San Pedro de Atacama. The road down was much worse than coming up. We were both so sick, but somehow Raul got us back to town. He is my hero!!!

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off to Argentina - bye Chile :

We spent two days recuperating in San Pedro, and then set off for Salta, Argentina through the Jama Pass (that is on the map – it’s redeemed!).

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magnificent!

Between checking out of Chile in San Pedro and crossing into Argentina, you travel 160 miles across the Andes Mountains, rising to nearly 16,000 ft, with nothing but gorgeous scenery and few travelers. Despite the rapid climb of 4,000 feet in the first 20 minutes, the road was beautiful.

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Volcano Licancabur

Here we pass nearby Licancabur Volcano, a bit closer to its same height.

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cool rock formations - Monjes de Pacana

It was time to say good-bye to Chile – for now. What a beautiful, gracious, varied country! A place we will want to re-visit.

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Headed down the other side of the Pacana Mount, contemplating leaving Chile for the last time on this trip – 60 miles from the border with Argentina – we were in for a surprise …

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It seems Chile didn’t want us to go either …

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... to be continued ...

Subby’s engine stopped and we were stranded in the desert at 14,000 ft.

Not to leave you worried, we are fine, back in San Pedro de Atacama, waiting to get Subby back on the road. God has been wonderful and provided friends and family to help us through. But then, that’s another story ….

From San Pedro – God bless ♥

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Into Argentina and Back Again …

Well, it has been a long time since my last post. Sorry. We have been traveling out of internet range for a while, so there’s a lot to catch up with. I’ll take you as far as the coast just north of Santiago de Chile on this trip 🙂

Pass through the Andes - Argentina side

Back into Argentina:

On leaving the beautiful verdant region of the Llanquihue Lake, we headed east toward the Argentine border. Without realizing it, we passed close by the Cordon Caulle Volcano that had erupted last June. As we approached the border through the winding mountain roads we began to see a tragic change in the scenery. At first it was just a little ash and a few sick looking trees …

Ash flooded rivers

… but as we crossed the border the damage was much more dramatic.

The ash grew deeper, more trees dead and the rivers and streams were a sludgy gun-metal grey from the ash. Some were completely choked off.

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It looks like a snow scene - but it's ash!

It got worse before it got better. Ash was piled up three and four feet deep on either side of the road, effectively smothering all plant life. Definitely impressive, but very sad.

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Golden mountains at sunset

We decided to begin this small trip back into Argentina with a visit to El Bolson – a small town popular for winter sports and hiking trails. Though there was no great presence of ash, it was dry, dusty and hot. The sun hits like a lazer beam! During the day the mountains looked dusty and bleak without their impressive covering of snow, but as the sun set, casting it’s last rays of light, the mountains came alive looking as if they were made of solid gold.

Camping amidst the cypress 🙂

We managed to find a lovely protected campground with plenty of tree cover in this hot, hot, hot little town – it kept us comfortable and cool for our stay. The day after we arrived, with volcanic ash to the north, a fire broke out a little south and nearly engulfed the town in smoke. For two days small aircraft could be seen flying overhead with water to drench the fire. Somehow the tall, regal cypress kept the smoke out of our campground, though we could see it all around.

beautiful Lake Region

The drive north to San Carlos de Bariloche took us past the fantastic Lake District of Argentina. Even though it’s beauty was greatly dampened by the ever-present ash, it was spectacular.

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spectacular mountains

Photography was difficult, so you will have to take my word for it. So many of the pictures did not turn out well because of the haze caused by the ash.

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a small taste of Bariloche

San Carlos de Bariloche is the coveted destination of most Argentinians and others from around the world. The architecture, the lake, the awesome mountains give the impression of being in a small town in Switzerland. Snow sports in winter and hiking, biking and water sports in summer make it popular to young and old alike.

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Cathedral of Our Lady of Nahuel Huapi

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… you can check out this stone Cathedral online for 3-D imagery … my little camera could only hold so much …

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roses covered in ash

The mountains surrounding the lake were fabulous the one moment they were visible. Unfortunately, I did not catch them on film 😦 Bariloche was hit so hard by the fall-out of ash it nearly put it out of business. The campsite we stayed in had removed dozens of truckloads of ash in order to stay open. Still, it was everywhere. Despite all the ash, they work to recuperate the beauty they know is there.

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The next few pictures are a few of the clearer hazy shots taken along the road to our next destination.

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The region is truly impressive and must be spectacular when not carpeted in haze and ash. We will have to return once it has recovered it’s natural beauty.

Sitting atop Subby on the ferry across Lake Pirehueico

Crossing back into Chile we met with one of the most thorough customs group yet. We had to remove just about everything in the front while two officers went through the boxes, under seats and in the glove compartment. In the end they removed the honey I was given in Venezuela and a little bag of nuts. From there we rushed to the ferry that was leaving in 15 minutes in order to cross Lake Pirehueica. Whew! We made it!

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a little advertising

What a lovely, peaceful way to travel after that border crossing! Almost three hours floating gently down the lake with bright blue skies and gentle, cool breezes. Oh, how I love Chile!

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Best seat in the house!

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Once across the lake, we headed to Panguipulli – a pretty little town Raul had read about located on yet another lovely lake. This is the Chilean Lake District, after all. We arrived a little late in the afternoon, so we headed to the campgrounds we had heard about. We got lost looking for it. A taxi driver near us got lost looking for it, too – and he lives there!!! Once we thought we had found it, we found there was nothing there – we headed back into town to look for one the GPS brought up. It was a private residence that provided campsites for backpackers in his backyard. No vehicles.

... in the woodshed ...

The owner, Esteban, wouldn’t have us wandering around lost in the night, so he graciously offered us a spot and fixed it up nicely with tables and chairs he made himself and an electrical connection for our cooler. The Lord took us to the woodshed … and it was good! We had the most peaceful night ever! In the morning, we met Esteban’s father, Santiago. He is a Christian and wanted to share with us. He noticed from little emblems on the car we were Christians, as well. Such lovely, gentle, generous people – and Esteban – you’re in our prayers to enter the Kingdom soon!

... through the river district ...

From there we couldn’t decide to go north to Pucon and then west to Valdivia – or the other way around. Our path was chosen for us when we missed the turn off to Pucon. West it was – through parts of the beautiful River District.

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... a little more advertising ...

Valdivia – on a river just before opening out to the ocean – is a great modern town with plenty of it’s own history. We heard about this town from the Perez’s in Punta Arenas. Alejandro and Ana Maria’s son, Lucho, went to college here. No surprises – we found a port in the storm (literally – it was pouring) – in a small hostel right down near the water front. Once again – friendly, accommodating owners making us feel more like family than guests.

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cute, colorful architecture

It rained for two days, so we had a lovely rest. On the third day – Raul’s birthday – we set out to see a little of the waterfront and the downtown before continuing our journey.

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nothing like a good fish market

If you check closely, you can see why there is a VERY strong fence behind the fish market along the water – sea lions swim from the ocean to catch an easy snack here. The female waiting behind that fence weighs about 300 lbs. and is not just a little intimidating.

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oh my - what have we here???

In our wanderings we found the central plaza – and in the central plaza – a pavillion …

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.. I thought about asking them if they knew Happy Birthday to You!

… and in the pavillion – a string quartet from the Universidad Austral de Chile!

They were great. We stood there listening until they were done. Raul – their most enthusiastic fan – received a grateful acknowledgement from the director when they finished 🙂

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Perhaps this was the scale model???

Now we know where Dubai got their idea … this one looks like it’s been around longer.

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... these darn lights have given me grief the whole trip!

On the road again, we headed to Pucon.

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view from above

Pucon is a small, pretty vacation town in the Chilean Lake District. We were told that if you haven’t visited Pucon, you haven’t visited Chile – for the food, for the people, for the mountains. We were also on the lookout for a good auto electrician – which we found! They fixed the lights to our bike rack so that they work now as they never have before.

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Volcano Villarrica - YIKES!!!

From just about anywhere in town you have a view of the Volcano Villarrica. It is still active and if you have the energy and ambition to climb it, you can see the molten lava flowing inside.

Let’s hope it stays inside!

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.. the local wildlife

Heading north again, we decided to stop at the Laja Falls just past Los Angeles off highway 5. Does that sound funny to anyone else? Maybe someone from Southern California??? Anyway, we got to the falls just as it was getting dark and our lights were acting up again – it made no sense. We found a campsite just in time! The little cat in the picture was the sweetest, loving and intrepid creature – here checking out what’s for breakfast. It was a close call that the two travelers didn’t become three!

ah, these are pretty :)The Saltos de Laja, from pictures we’ve seen, was a little low on water – but still lovely.

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... that's more like it!

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... into the mines for us ... once again working for our bread

Just south of Concepcion we visited an undersea carbon mine at Lota. This mine closed down in the 1990s and is now open for public tours guided by previous miners.

Our guide worked 19 years in the coal mines and now works as a guide while he continues to wait for his pension. When asked, he said he would not choose that profession again!

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... can you get that call?

The Siemons phone from Germany in the picture has been working there in that mine since 1935 without missing a ring …

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... sorry mom, no long distance

… and it still works.

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... heavenly

Heading north again, as it approached night and Raul’s driving limit, we pulled off the road onto this lovely piece of earth – off the road far enough to not hear or see the traffic, lovely scenery …

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... is she level???

… and near and dear to my heart – free 🙂 These are always the best campsites!

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... one of Chile's treasures - vineyards

Back on the road I enjoy more reminders of Northern California – vineyards. It is beginning to make me want to go back there! If you haven’t tried it, Chilean wine is very good!

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Now we get to the important part! PichilemuSurf Capital of World!!! I watched a video of a surf competition here when our son, Chris asked us to visit. Immediately after watching it I wrote to him and told him that if he ever decides to surf here, I don’t want to know!

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... I don't think so papa!

This is the famous Punta de Lobos. For a thrill, you can look up a surf video for this area. The waves get taller than you’ve seen in Hawaii … and don’t forget – you have to avoid those rocks!

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... a strong reminder

This cross – and individual others – are strong reminders of the real danger of these waves. The waves were not gigantic this day, but later in Santiago, we caught up with a friend who was surfing here the day before and he said they were killer.

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...

In all fairness, there are safer areas here and surfing classes with kiddie waves. So if you’re inclined to surf here Chris, stick to the safer areas – or don’t let us know!

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Santiago de Chile - a small sliver of a huge city seen from the park on Cerro San Cristobal

Santiago de Chile – I am always nervous about going into large cities, and this time was no different. Before entering we camped at a VERY nice gas station rest stop and Raul contacted a friend he had made while we were on the ferry to Puerto Montt. Dagoberto told us to meet him at his home the next day and gave us simple directions. Good thing! The GPS was totally off!!!

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Dagoberto, Elena, me, Raul, and my new best friend - their granddaughter, Connie.

When we arrived at their house, they told us that if we wanted, we had two options – we could stay in a room in their home, or stay in an empty apartment they had not far from there. We chose their home. If I am not hospitable after the incredible example we have been shown in Chile, then I have no excuse! Once again, we have gained more than friends – we have gained family.

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... good form Kathy!

Since we arrived on the weekend, Dago and Elena were able to give us the royal tour – great views, great food, great company – two days in a row. What an incredible city! The bad part is I left my camera in our car the first day. What was I thinking?! The second day included taking their youngest daughter to her riding class. What fun!

We also got to meet their older daughter, Evelyn, Connie’s mom. Such a lovely family!

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Central MarketMonday morning – everyone back to work. For us – back to the mechanic – not the lights – they started working right again – absolutely wierd! This time it’s the radiator – we’re headed to the Atacama Desert from here! After spiffing up the radiator we joined our surfing friend, Christian, at the Central Market for lunch. Yummy food!

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inside the market - the fishy pictures weren't as pretty 🙂

This is more the tourist market – very beautiful, very fancy, and very pricey. Designed by Fermín Vivaceta, an Argentinean residing in Chile, prefabricated in England and finally mounted here in 1872 – it is a beautiful metallic structure. Originally designed for art exhibitions, it was soon transformed into a market. It is most famous for it’s incredible variety of fresh seafood and it’s restaurants.

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Mapocho River

The Mapocho River shown here, runs from the Andes behind Santiago, right through the center of town and on to the Pacific Ocean.

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That's purple corn on the left. I want to take it all home!

Across this river from the Central Market is another market with more varied stands selling local handmade articles and beautiful and varied fruits and vegetables like the stand you see here.

There are large markets everywhere in town. What I don’t have is a picture of the Vega Market that Dago and Elena took us to on the first day for lunch – fantastic, amazing!!! The local’s market – bueno y barato!

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Palacio de la Moneda

Tuesday was our day to see the sites. We were fortunate enough to hit the day for the Changing of the Guard at the Palace de la Moneda – the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. They only do this every odd date.  We had heard it was comparable to the Changing of the Guard in the UK or Spain. Since I’ve never seen a changing of the guard anywhere, I didn’t know what to expect.

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here's the relief ...

We were pleasantly surprized! With all my photographic concentration toward the small troop of elegant guards and band who had come out of the Palacio, I suddenly heard a band coming from behind me. I didn’t want to miss anything, so I didn’t turn at first – but the music was moving toward me and I took a quick peek to see what was up. Imagine my surprise when I saw these dignified and precise guards marching in to relieve the ones in the Palace.

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Once all united, the precision of their actions and music was beautiful to behold.

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At one point the Commanders of the incoming and outgoing approached, saluted and then shook hands. Then the fresh guard entered the Palace.

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And off they go ...

After a few beautiful songs, the remaining guards then set off down the other side of the street the fresh guards had entered on.

The entire ceremony lasted 30 minutes and we are so glad to have been able to witness it! God is so good to have given us the right day for sight-seeing 🙂

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Santiago is an amazing city. You can find everything from European grandure, to modern, busy business and garden districts, to new upscale California style neighborhoods, to older middle class areas, to old, poor little barrios. You have the Andes as a backdrop, busy, efficient highways, parks, a zoo, plazas, open markets, shopping malls … just about anything you could imagine. It is surprisingly clean and orderly, and even when total strangers kindly looking out for me told me to be careful because it’s a dangerous place, I never felt nervous – even when I went off by myself to take pictures while Raul checked for tire rims. The next few pictures are just a few impressions of downtown Santiago.

these guys look like Robocop

We came across a protest march – the policemen were there to maintain the peace. The Carabineros – the police – are wonderful. They are highly respected – because they have earned it. They are polite, firm and incorruptable. It is a point of honor. You feel safe when they’re around.

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one of the Cathedrals in downtown

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some crazy modern art in a plaza drawing on their Indian heritage

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the Central Post Office

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the reflection of a historic church in an ultra-modern business building across the street 🙂

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a beautiful wooden plank structure colorfully maintained in the middle of the downtown shopping district

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Well, that’s a sorry representation when it’s all said and done. I guess I will have to go back and do a better job another day! One thing I miss already is onces with Elena – elevenses or afternoon tea 🙂

Valparaiso

So on we continue – to Valparaiso and then north. Valparaiso is a quick hour and a half through lovely rolling hills with vineyards and then curvy mountains roads to drop you down to sea level in a hurry.

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Headquarts for the Naval Armada of the Republic of Chile - I'm telling you, the Navy always gets the choice spots

We did a kind of run through since it was early. So here they come …

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... maybe we could stay at the Queen Victoria ???

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I could deal with that graffiti ...

One of our greatest pet peeves is the terrible destruction and lack of respect for private property, monuments, etc visited upon by graffiti “artists”. However, here in Valparaiso they have a graffiti festival that has provided many beautiful displays of art like this.

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Viña del Mar with Valparaiso in the distance

Just up the road from Valparaiso is Viña del Mar, a little more modern, spread out and elegant.

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old and new together

… they even have funiculars to get up to their apartments from the beach 🙂

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So here I end a long, long journey with a parting shot for our surfing loving son …

So until we meet again - from the Atacama Desert - God bless ♥

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Ferry North and Lake District

We hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! We were very blessed sharing hearth and home with Alejandro, Ana Maria and family in Punta Arenas.   ♥

Ferry Evangelista to Puerto MonttOn the 26th Raul, Subby and I boarded the ferry Evangelistas that would take us through the channels and fiords of southern Chile. It is only recently that these ferries carry more than cargo and perhaps provide a free ride to a few natives to their perspective villages on the remote islands.

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Are you sure the ferry will make it through there?

After a late start and a long night getting settled, we woke to a cold, cloudy and windy day, with dramatic views of narrow channels to be passed and snow tipped mountains in the distance.

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I think we'll make it!

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narrow strait after narrow strait

… and just when you think you’re in the clear …

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SNOW! 🙂

… just a note here – this is full summer!

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The fake Torres

The clouds are cutting the tops of these fake towers, but they were great – just not as great as the REAL Torres del Paine.

On a sad note, we heard while on the ship – somehow Torres del Paine was on fire. Before it was under control days later, more than 80,000 acres had burned. We were so sorry to hear that most people had cancelled their camping reservations at Alejandro’s campsite, but fortunately they were never in any danger – thank God.

There's sun over there!!!

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Oh dear - more ice!

Do you know what a fiord is? I always thought of Norway and Alaska, so I thought it had to have icy, snowy cliffs on either side of the narrow straits. We learned that it is a narrow inlet between steep cliffs or slopes – with no outlet – no snow required. Too bad this was such a foggy day, you could have gotten an awesome view of the steep cliffs of this fiord ending in a glacier.

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Glacier Skua

Here, a small group took one of the boats out and brought a huge chunk of ice back for the passengers to enjoy in their drinks. We already had our bit of iceberg in Glacier Grey, so we left it to the others

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AH! This is more like it!!!

A fresh new day begins!

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This is Liz Canache reporting to you live from ...

Puerto Edén – one of those native communities on a remote island. A group of natives – who still travel free – disembarked here, along with supplies and a truck full of cattle that had been stored below with Subby.

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Puerto Edén

We had been told we would be able to disembark here, but I guess due to the late departure, we were not able to stay long enough to get off.

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Which way do we go?

The day continued smooth and clear…

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What a glorious day the Lord has given us!

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mmmm ...

It didn’t stay this smooth. At one point, we hit the Golfo de Penas – Gulf of Sorrows – aptly named. Despite the beautiful tranquil day, the gulf was open ocean and quite choppy …

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… we need not go into more detail

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Once again we work for our ride ...

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Good thing we’re not complete novices, having had to work our way up the Amazon, as well!

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Raul at his post ...

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Another casualty of the unseen shallow rocks - now a warning to others ... "Capitan Leonidas"

Bajo Cotopaxi received its name from the English steamship that was shipwrecked on unchartered rocks there in 1889. They have made good use of a later casualty – the “Capitan Leonidas” – having installed an automatic radar refractor and light to warn other ships of the danger. You might want to enlarge this in order to see the ba-zillion little black-faced gulls cluttering this unhappy ship.

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... and on we go ...

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working hard 🙂

My cruise director getting travel tips from the ship’s cruise director, Mauricio.

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Mountains upon mountains

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these look like they are floating above the water

These pointy mountains are volcanos. This will not be our last encounter with these puppies!

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Puerto Montt

We’ve arrived!

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Fuerte Real San Antonio

The big Island of Chiloe

… a very little history … Chiloe is such a unique spot in character and form. It is the second largest island in Chile – Tierra del Fuego being larger. The people have a very independent spirit – kind of like Texans. They resisted joining Chile in their independence for 8 years. Fuerte Real San Antonio, located in the north west corner of the island, was the last Spanish holdout.

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Jesuit ...

… a very little architecture …

The Jesuits and the Franciscans were visible influences throughout Chiloe and the small surrounding islands to the east.

We were told you could tell the Jesuit churches from their single steeples and the Franciscan structures from their two. So – let’s check them out …

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Jesuit ...

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... uh .... where did that come from???

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- there's the shingles 🙂

Oh! I forgot – another interesting point is the change in the building material. Further south they used the British style of metal siding and panelling. Here it’s wood. The island, and this entire area of Chile for that matter, are covered with cypress which has provided for all their building needs. The houses and other structures are usually covered with wood shingles or slats.

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such a beautiful place

It was so beautiful and such a joy everywhere we looked. To me, it reminded me of my beloved Northern California. To Raul – Santa Catarina, Brazil. Either way – gorgeous!

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... not a bad spot to stop 🙂

Time to stop for the night.

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Is she working or playing with that Ipad???

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palafitos

Next day …

The houses and buildings along the eastern coast of the island are built high on stilts because of the tide. See the boat in the mud? When the tide comes in … out he goes. The water will rise nearly to the level of the porches – about 15 ft up – where the fish will later be unloaded …

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... Franciscan

– the BIG church!

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What looks good to you?

Lunch break!

Nothing like a good seaside mercado!

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... how about a little fresh ceviche 🙂

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... Jesuit

Ok, back to work …

These guys were busy!

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... and Jesuit.

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Well, though we only hit less than half of the old missionary churches in Chiloe, I think you get the idea. The Jesuits and Franciscans (who probably hit the surrounding islands more) were very busy, and yet true to Chiloe-an style, they held fast to their  superstitions, many still believing their myths like mermaids foretelling whether the fishing season will be good or bad.

Back to the mainland …

New Year's Day, Lake Llanquihue, Puerto Varas

Just north of Puerto Montt is a lovely little lake town called Puerto Varas. That’s where we decided to camp for New Year’s Eve. Oh my, parties all night … and they all love to do it at campsites! It seems to be the tradition to usher in the New Year in the great outdoors. Jan. 1 was even more so. Those who couldn’t or wouldn’t camp the night before were out in force the next day – enjoying the beaches, the parks, and wherever else they could set up. What fun!

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snoozing on the pier bench - this is the life

Check out Osorno Volcano in the back there. Very photographable. We’ll see more of that one later …

As we biked the 5 miles or so into town, everyone was leaving – that left the whole town to ourselves! Good thing there was an ice cream place open – yummy!

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I'm confused - Jesuit from this end, but Franciscan from the other??!

… there we are back with the old churches!

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crazy little museum

This was some kind of crazy museum. It was free, but closed on New Year’s. I would have liked to know what it was about 😦

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... this church is more likely to be Lutheran

The little towns all around Lake Llanquihue (pronounce jahn-kee-way) were settled by German immigrants invited by the Chilean government in an effort to colonize this area and the Germans were in need of places to settle during the late 19th century.

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... that's a pretty one

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I love these gardens.

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Is that German enough for you?

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Teatro del Lago

In the small town of Frutillar you find a surprise – the Theater of the Lake. It is more than a concert hall, hosting world class music, theater and dance performances, as well as housing art exhibits both national and international. The town has a history of love of music and arts that is seen in the decor and the presence of a fine arts school. This theater opened in 2010.

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... pretty pier near the theater

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aaaaaahhh! ... another!

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Osorno Volcano

Moving on around the lake

I told you we’d see him again …

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up, up, up we went

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Puyehue Falls - and there's that volcano again.

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isn't the water lovely???

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... bad tabano

On Raul’s sleeve you might see the worst pest we have encountered yet! The tabano – a very large flying insect that stops at nothing. It seems to be drawn by bug repellent, swatting and anything else you might do to avoid it. We had to pay to see these falls and ended up rushing to get to them and then rushing to get to the car. Bummer. The really weird thing was that they didn’t follow us into the car – though they attacked the windows once the door was shut!

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sunrise outside Armando Scheuch Epple Ellementary School - at last, a peaceful nights rest!

After two nights of revelling Chileans at the campgrounds, we spent a very pleasant, silent night outside a grade school on a lonely little road. Heaven!!!

So ends this part of our adventures in Chile for the time being. Today is another day and we are headed to Argentina’s Lake district! Tell you all about it …

… later.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Beautiful Places, Friendly Faces

Alejandro's Camp near Los Torres del Paine

Leaving Tierra del Fuego, we headed right back to Punta Arenas for Subby to get one more check up before heading to Torres del Paine. Our new found friends and relations, Alejandro and his wife Ana Maria, invited us to stay at their campground near the park. Just to recap – Alejandro is the mechanic of Scottish descent – and proud of it! He introduces me to everyone as his Scottish relative 🙂

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lovely campsite

We got a little lost, but we finally found it. What a beautiful spot! It was worth all the looking. Alejandro offered us all the choicest campsites and we settled for this one for the first couple nights.

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beautiful blue bay on Lago Toro

While I got organized, Raul was taken out on the boat to get a tour of the lake. They were supposed to be fishing, but ended up talking too much!

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really cool granite formation on that mount - like a fortress.

This was part of our view and a tempting hiking destination, but in the end we never had the chance to go up there – about 4 hours up and perhaps 15 minutes down if not careful!

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not fair! that moon was huge to my eyes!!!

That beautiful full moon came out the first night.

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What a gorgeous new day!!!

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looks like laundry day again

After a couple of days, Alejandro left us this nice little cabin for a couple more days. It was really comfy.

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check out these gorgeous roses

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My Scottish relations

The family picture – Alejandro and Ana Maria with granddaughter, Almendra, on her lap are on one side of us, and their daughter Alejandra and her husband, Mario with their son, Nico, on the other side. If I had to choose only one word to describe them, it would be lovingly generous. Is that two?

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Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

how's that for blue?

The first amazing thing you notice about this area is the color of the water. It is truly the color you see there.

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or maybe this blue? it's so windy!!! don't fall in, honey!

The next amazing thing is the wind. Oh my. At one point I made Raul stop so I could get a photo and it nearly ripped the car door off!

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Wow!

And then there are the mountain peaks …

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Oh my, I need a haircut!

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mmmm

You can see the Torres (towers) back there. They are the spikey ones 🙂

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how's that?

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The horns of the Towers of Paine

The first day was rather overcast, so when we returned the second time, this sight amazed us as we turned around a bend in the road. We saw mountains we didn’t even know were there the day before.

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now for the close up

The two different colors are two different rock types. The dark on top is a sedimentary rock referred to as mudstone, and is usually gone due to the erosion  of previous glaciers and wind. The rock below is granite.

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AT LAST!!! Check out the babies 🙂

Now Raul may have some peace – I finally got a good shot of these crazy guanacos. I’ve been making him stop every time I saw one. They are a lot less flighty in this park. They must know they’re safe. I walked right up into their group – that is until the male let me know it was time to back off!

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There are the towers - just beyond our nemesis bridge.

See that pretty little bridge? Yeah, not so pretty if you plan to drive across in Subby! We tried once and backed out – wasn’t going to happen. Then a tour bus flew right through. Well! If he could, surely we could. Not! Subby got away with a scratch and a bumped side mirror, even though we folded it in. We backed out again, and ended up walking across the bridge! Oh yeah, those are the Torres (Towers) del Paine!

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Check out the big ice cubes!

Lago Grey – complete with icebergs.

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they're God's ice sculptures

In the background is another vantage point for the Torres.

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ice anyone???

That ice came in handy after about an hour of walking without our water. It was so refreshing – even if it was probably about 5,000 years old!

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So that's where all that ice came from 🙂

Glacier Grey

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It's my first-ever glacier!!!

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Natural Monument – The Cave of the Milodon

Off to the Cave of the Giant Sloth

Less than 15 miles from Puerto Natales, where we will be taking the ferry from after Christmas, is the Cave of the Milodon – or great sloth. In this huge cave, they have found strong evidence not only of the great sloth having inhabited it, but they also believe it was simultaneously inhabited by people. It must have been a great find for the people, being large enough for the whole village and open enough inside, that nasty beasts couldn’t hide in there and surprise them.

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looks dark in here, but it's not

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well, they had a good view!

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at the back of the cave - nice and open

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We found him! Isn't he cute 🙂

For many years, they felt there might still be great sloths lurking around …

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Back over to Argentina – we went back to hopefully meet up with our friends from home, the Willetts, and to see more of God’s wonders at the Glaciers National Park – part of a huge ice field in the Andes of southern Patagonia. The guard at the border crossing was really thorough! He even checked our glove compartment and commented that we had a lot of stuff! I said he would too if it was his home.

Another glacier! This one is Perito Moreno in Argentina. I got my haircut. Raul did it - nice, huh??

The big attraction in the southern part of the park is the Perito Moreno Glacier. It is about an hour west of the small town, El Calafate. Foreigner beware – they charge you three to four times what an Argentinian is charged! They do at all their parks.

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south end of Perito Moreno Glacier. Check out the size of the boat ...

It’s impossible to show you just how huge this was, but if you consider the size of the tour boats near the glacier, you might get an idea. You may have to enlarge the pictures by clicking on them to be able to see the boats.

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north end of glacier - check out that ship ...

This boat wouldn’t get any nearer to the glacier than this, because it was dangerous. Huge chunks of ice were periodically cracking and dropping into the water with huge splashes.

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I like this shot 🙂

Off we go to get a closer look …

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view of a walkway heading right up to the glacier

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this is where north and south ends meet

Over time, as the glacier moves, it crowds into the land where two lakes meet and communicate. When it blocks the free flow of water, pressure builds until the ice starts popping and cracking – sending chunks of ice into the water and eventually freeing the area again.

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the ripple is where a chunk just cracked and fell in

That was what we got to experience. First you hear a sound like the pop of a shotgun, then a sharp cracking sound, and soon after a huge splash that sometimes reverberates for quite a time. Most of the cracking was internal and we would see water flowing from under the ice, but sometimes we would see the ice dropping and splashing into the water right in front of us.

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This is us saying hi to all of you from Perito Moreno Glacier. Wishing you blessings bigger than this strip of ice 🙂

As huge as all this is, when seen on a map of the entire ice field shared between Chile and Argentina, it is about the size of the tip of you pinky as compared to your forearm. We truly have an AWESOME Creator!

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Gerhard Nijenhuis with Hope

Meet Gerhard. We met him at the gas station in El Calafate. His Volvo caught our attention with all it’s stickers. He is driving one of 100 Volvos from Holland around South America in order to raise money to build a school for a group of orphans and abandoned children in Peru through the Hope Foundation. At the end of his journey, he plans to sell his car in Holland as an additional gift to the school. Good job! We’ll be seeing you around 🙂

From El Calafate and Perito Moreno, we drove about two hours north and west to a tiny town called El Chalten to visit more of the park and to meet up with the Willetts.

little trekkin' trash cans all over town - so cute 🙂

We did meet up with a few of these clever trash cans – hiking, climbing and making phone calls.

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heading up to Condor's and Eagle's viewpoints - about a 3 hour hike - easy-peasy

Since we were early, we decided to try our luck on a short hike. It was such a lovely day.

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a nice view from Condor's viewpoint of El Chalten and the mountains beyond

El Chalten is a little bitty place, about 26 years old. It is the height of summer now and between the crazy patagonian wind rushing through the valleys and the cold, we could only do a few days. This is the hiking capital of Argentina. It’s primary purpose is tourism and pretty much shuts down for the off-season. I don’t know how the few permanent residents do it … or why!

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Eagle's viewpoint - the photo doesn't show that it is higher than the other - pooh! This is looking in the direction we entered El Chalten.

This was a beautiful and expansive view, but once again, the “eyes” of the camera don’t catch it.

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By the way, we didn’t see any eagles or condors here.

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After our hike, we wandered around town a bit, and then decided to leave a note for our friends where they were staying so they would know we were here. As we headed back to the camp, we met them on the road as they were driving in. Such fun! That night, Lesley prepared us a lovely dinner and we planned our next day together – a 22 km hike to Laguna Torre and the base of the Glacier Torre.

an early part of the 8 hour hike - there's Steve 🙂

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beautiful views to go with the beautiful company

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Raul and Steve enjoying a rest along the way

It was great hiking with them, because they know what they’re doing! One of my favorite things was that they stopped periodically just to relax. In Spain, we just went and went and went.

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more of God's majesty seen in creation

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We made it to Laguna Torre!!!Here we all are at Laguna Torre with the Glacier Torre behind. From the left: Steve, Nathan (behind me), Naomi in bright blue and Lesley next to Raul. What a blessing it was to meet them along the way and share this great time with them. Thanks guys for sharing part of your vacation with us 🙂

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Well, it’s been a great time, but we have another 3 to 4 hours of walking to go, and surely Steve will have a great cup of hot tea for us – so I will say good-bye for now. God bless and keep you during the holidays and throughout the New Year.

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Indian Bread – a comment by our son, Chris

Manna???

Indian bread: Grows in the wilderness + goes bad in a couple days= a pretty close (though the original description is vague) description to that of manna. Don’t you think?! I think that is pretty wild. They
even called it “bread” just like manna was called for lack of a better term. I think God has a pretty neat sense of humor, and maybe he stuck that stuff down at the end/beginning of the world because he wanted somebody to continue to appreciate the genius of his invention….

Just a thought, I tend to feel stoked when I find natural explanations for what God did because I see it fitting into a framework that is
even more impressive because of it’s seamless fit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

End of the World, Beginning of the Continent

From San Julian, it was a fairly quick trip to Rio Gallegos. Since that wasn’t where we wanted to stop, we continued south to the border. In order to get to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, you must cross into Chile where you take the quick ferry to the island.

Punta Arenas, Chile

Being so close to Punta Arenas and its free port, we decided to take a detour and get a much needed new tire. We got there pretty late and after driving around town, we decided to head back to the gas station near the entrance to town, since it seemed to be the best set up for truckers and travelers. Just as we arrived, Raul noticed a young man with a Chevy truck and decided to ask him if he knew a good Chevy mechanic. We call these coincidences, but I think not. His father is the premier Chevrolet mechanic in town. The next day we went to Alejandro’s shop. Nicer people you could never meet. We were served tea and coffee and crackers with homemade rhubarb jam while his workers started on the car. For some reason, he looked so familiar to me. Turns out his grandmother is from Scotland. He looks just like one of my brothers! Anyway – you’ll see pictures in the next post 🙂

San Gregorio Station, Founded 1876

With Subby in order and the new tire on, we headed back up the coast to the ferry that would take us to Tierra del Fuego. Along the way we saw this old Estancia close to the road that looked picture worthy 🙂 An Estancia is where the English would set up a station with their few houses clumped together with the necessary barns and buildings for the business at hand – usually, as in this case, sheep ranching. It made me think of what it would have been like during the pioneer days. We later found out that San Gregorio had been one of Chilean Patagonia’s largest landholdings, belonging to the Menendez wool empire. It consisted of considerable residencial and production centers, a train station and a port for shipping their wool and meat. It is now working as a cooperative, and these buildings are National monuments as typical examples of the Anglo-Scottish sheep estancias.

Guanacos! I want one of these!

Once across the Strait of Magellan, we arrived in Tierra del Fuego. It didn’t look any different from the Patagonia we had been traveling through. Look, see – there are those cute and illusive guanaco and all that flat, treeless land!

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... and lots of cute fluffy sheep - I love the black-faced ones! I want one of these, too!!

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our campsite for the night - by the way, it's about 9:30pm at this point! Do I look cold? I AM!!!

We drove and drove and drove on those Chilean dirt roads, till we had to call it quits. We found a nice spot off the road and far enough from the view of the nearest estancia to set up camp. It was cold and windy, but we were nice and toasty inside Subby 🙂

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Mountains ... with TREES, and SNOW!

Next day, we entered back into Argentina and then headed south again toward Ushuaia. Now the landscape started changing – rapidly!

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Hurray! Ushuaia - the end of the world is in sight!

We made it!

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Setting up camp

We found a very nice campground right above the town. A little pricey, but good company, hot water and internet are worth it!

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Notice the cooler under the car – much colder outside than inside.

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laundry day 🙂

When we finally got a nice sunny day, we took advantage to get a few things washed. If it looks like we’re always wearing the same clothes, it’s because we are! If you had to wash by hand and wait for a cold breeze to dry them, you would, too!!!

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Camping "La Pista del Andino" from the left - Fernando, Raul, me and Leo

Once again, we had found new dear friends. True to His word – the Lord set us, the solitary, in family. Fernando is the owner of the camp and Leo is one of those who work with him. Everyone treated us so well and we had a great time for the few days we were here.

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We also ran into our friends, Ramona and Ralf,  here too!

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Have you seen enough snow yet? Can we leave now?

The first day, we headed up the mountain to catch a glimpse of the Martial Glaciar. It was a cold, grey, cloudy day. While on the ski lift to get us closer so we didn’t have to hike so far, we were rained on.

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Nope - not ready yet!

On the hike up the mountain, we were snowed on. Such fun!

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hard to see, but that's me

I made a snowball, but couldn’t bring myself to throw it at Raul. Poor Daddy!

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On the way back down, we got hailed on!

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I see you 🙂

It was a great hike, and would have been so beautiful if the sky had just cleared a little. As it was, we got some good exercise, but didn’t see the glaciar. Oh well.

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View of Ushuaia from the entrance to the campground. You can also see the Beagle Strait and Chilean Andes beyond.

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Whew! It's cold in this penitentiary - and this part is re-furbished!

Ushuaia was colonized and built by prisoners sent from Buenos Aires with the intention of reinforcing their claim on the territory, much like England did with Australia. The penitentiary is now used to house several small museums pertaining to the history of the town, the seas and the prison itself.

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Raul in the prison wing in its original form - really brrrr cold!!!

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Please Officer! Don't leave him in there!

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End of the road

Here the route that travels down the distance of Argentina ends. Ushuaia is referred to as The End of The World because it is the southern-most city on the planet. Since leaving home, our odometer shows that we have driven 11,100 miles. Add to that nearly 1,000 miles on the Amazon, and we have traveled over 12,000 miles. In kilometers that would be 17,864 km driven, plus 1,500 on the river. If you compare that to the sign, at this point we have driven far enough to make it to Alaska (as the crow flies)

Bahia Lapataia

The following are a few shots from the National Park of Tierra del Fuego. Hope you enjoy them 🙂

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Bahia Ensenada - win-dy!

We tried taking a hike along the coast here, but dang!!!, it was windy and cold!!!!

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Lake Roca

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Rio Pipo

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Ushuaia from the hill behind the campgrounds. You can see the camp at the bottom.

Here ends Ushuaia with a couple of parting shots.

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a little flavor of the town

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the port in Beagle Strait

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a well-mannered lunch buddy

On the way back north, we stopped at Lake Fagnano for lunch. It was a beautiful day … we had a roasted chicken, cold drinks and a patient buddy to clean up the bones. A great stop 🙂

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Subby and the Zebra!

Guess who we ran into on the road??? Now maybe you can see why they are so easy to spot!

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Ramona, me and Ralf

After visiting for a bit on the side of the road, we decided to stick together and search out a king penguin colony they had heard about.

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Dang! I almost had that one!

There’s that illusive guanaco again! They are poetry in motion when they jump those fences!

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There they are ... and there they go!

King penguins! We searched high and low for those penguins. Our only indication was that it was somewhere on Bahia Inutil. It’s a very big bay. Finally, I spotted a tiny sign that said King penguins – 500 mts. The small group – not yet a colony – was located on Estancia San Clemente. They charged a small fortune, but what are you going to do after all that! They provided a guide and off we went. Our first approach was maybe a bit energetic and off the penguins went!

this is cool - they didn't run 🙂

Then the guide showed us what to do – low crouching, slow walking, sitting and wait, wait, waiting.

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Ah - an intruder joins the love birds!

Oh my, they’re coming closer.

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Love conquers all.

… and closer …

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there was a bit of a spat between the boys, but the girl made her choice and sent the intruder packing!

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Wow! There's the happy couple!

… and closer! I was getting nervous – those beaks look pretty sharp! But after this pose, they looked at us, turned and went back to the others 🙂

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typical estancia - you can't really see the sheep, though

After the visit with penguins we headed for the ferry to take us back to the mainland.

Lots of estancias, lots of sheep …

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At last! A good shot!

… and a few of my favorite subject – guanacos.

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After getting this shot, we noticed that Ramona and Ralf had fallen behind, so we waited … and waited … and then decided to turn around.

We found them by the side of the road – with a flat tire. At one point, Raul and Ralf had the truck resting on a block of wood and it got scary. I asked the Lord to hold the truck up, and the wind picked up so strong – in our favor. The guys were able to get the jack back in place and finish the job. So, between the guys … and much prayer … the tire got changed. Hurray!!

Back in Punta Arenas

Back across the Magellan Strait, we all headed to Punta Arenas again. Them for their tire, us to check more things on Subby. We hung out for a couple more days, and they continued. I hope we’ll meet again along the way.

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me and Ralf at an old, old clock

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Raul by the monument

We wondered why they leave so many rusting hulls in the Strait, but this one had a purpose. It was a monument to those who gave their lives to explored and develop this region.

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the road south

After Ramona and Ralf took off, we decided to head further south and check out Fort Bulnes and see if we could get down to the lighthouse at Cabo San Isidro.

This wasn’t the worst of it …

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what a spot!

It was getting late, and Raul was getting tired, so before we got to the end, we pulled into a small clearing of trees and setup for the night. We spent an awesome night right there by the water.

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check out the view

I shot this right before snuggling in for the night – about 11:30. So nice. I don’t have a picture, but I woke when it was pitch black and thought I saw lights on that island across the way. That surprised me, so I sat up to look. It was a cruise liner headed through the strait. It looked like fairy lights on the water. 🙂

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Indian Bread

I learned this in Ushuaia, but didn’t have a picture. The orangy clusters on the tree are a type of fungus that the settlers always saw the natives eating, so they called it Indian bread. They only last for a few weeks and then they are gone. In the native language, they are called yummy yummies. I ate one, Raul wouldn’t – chicken.

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So close to the beginning of the continent!

The next day we continued south as far as we could. We got within 5 miles of Cabo San Isidro before we had to quit. Nothing short of an ATV would get any further. Subby definitely wouldn’t. We found an interesting road sign. It gave the distance by road to Cabo San Isidro and then to Cabo Froward – where the continent begins. We were maybe 10 miles from the beginning of the continent. I like the way the Chileans think – not the end of anything! The beginning!

Fort Bulnes

Our next destination, heading back toward Punta Arenas, was Forte Bulnes – a Spanish fort put there to protect the Magellan Strait from all sorts of pirates and contrabanders!

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Palacio Sara Braun

Ok! We are back in Punta Arenas for the last time on this post, so I will leave you with a couple shots. Sara Braun, by the way, was a Russian lady married to one of the two great pioneer sheep ranchers to settle this area.

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definitely a government building!

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cool building

Well, that’s all for now. We’ve visited two of the southern-most cities on the planet – Ushuaia being the end of the world and Punta Arenas, the city closest to the beginning of the American continent. It’s been great, and there’s so much more to come!!!

God bless, and see you next time!

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