Entering Chile then Ovalle | Chile baby! | June 18, 2004
I can’t believe it cause we weren’t planning on coming here at all. But here we are in Chile!! Let me go back a few days first though.We have been spending lots of time on busses. A couple days ago I discovered that the bus had a free coffee dispenser. Now, I have only had about 2 cups of coffee in my life and both of those I drank to be polite (but hated it). This stuff is different in South America – I can’t get enough of SA coffee now and I am drinking it everywhere. So anyway, we are on this overnight bus and I discover this dispenser and start drinking cup after cup of coffee. Over the course of the bus ride I drank 15 cups (they were kind of puny, probably the equivalent of 1/2 a normal mug each). Anyway, I didn’t end up sleeping that well for some reason – I guess I stumbled upon the side effects. It’s all good though. Kevin and I have a little travelling rule – if something is free, stock up! The other thing that we do on the busses, which turns heads, is dry our clothes that we previously washed in a river or shower etc.. I think we have lost most of our shame now. I don’t even notice when people get mad at me for draping wet underwear and socks over the back of their seat.
Last tuesday we got to the west side of Argentina and entered the Andes mountain range. Wow! They are absolutely breathtaking! We got off in this remote little village and wanted to do some hiking. This was kind of a weird place – there was snow on the mountains but desert type area at the base. While hiking up to the snow we hacked open a cactus and ate the insides with a spoon (quite refreshing). We climbed to a notable height and foolishly watched the sun start to set. So now for the second time in the last weeks we were scrambling down a mountain side while there was still some light. This time we were time constrained and needed to catch a bus in a couple hours. We should have made it with lots of time to spare but Kevin and I got split up and both got lost. For a good hour we were crawling around farmer’s fields by the light of our camera lcd screens, jumping over creeks and pushing through brush. I had the GPS so I eventually made it back 10 minutes before the bus was to leave. I thought for sure that I would beat Kevin but he was already waiting for me (with mud up to his knees and a big grin!)
After that we went higher up into the mountains. We arrived at the base of the largest mountain (supposedly) in the Western Hemisphere, Acongagua. Unfortunately there was a foot of snow at the base. We decided to fork out the money for a hostel just this once. The next morning we made an attempt at the mountain but wimped out cause it was too cold and wet. That’s about the time when we discovered that the town had a natural hotspring. This thing was amazing. A long time ago they built this building with multiple bathing rooms under this hotspring waterfall. Eventually over time the building became coated with various deposits and it now looks like it is part of the mountain. So you can go inside this builiding and slosh around in the various baths and tunnesl filled with sulfer smelling water. It was fantastic and I made sure to wash my clothes in it.
I guess it was 2 days ago that we went down the other side of the Andes into Chile. We arrived in the capital (Santiago) and wanted to leave pretty fast – another wildly loud and crazy city. There were a few things that struck me while I was their though. First of all there are hundreds of chinese food restaurants. They are very noticable too because they all went shopping for their neon lights at the same outlet – every single shop (and there’s at least on on every block) is covered in green and orange neon lights and they all have different, funny names that Kevin and I enjoyed decoding. The other thing about Santiago which wasn’t the first experience but definitely the most occuring, was the amount of bus vendors and buskers. Seriously, at every stop someone jumps on the bus and starts selling stuff in a monotone, auction type voice. Sometimes people just jump on the bus and play instruments and then ask for money from everyone. It is always an adventure.
The best thing about Chile, by far, is the hitchhiking. Chile is notably the best on the continent and people (especially on the Panamerican highway) can’t wait to get you in their car. We took advantage of that and hitchhiked 4 times all the way to this remote mountain village south of Santiago. We were going there mainly because we wanted more hot springs, but also because of the great hiking. The last leg of the road was dirt and only big mining trucks drove on it. We got picked up by this happy guy who entertained us the whole way with all the new Spanish vocabulary we didn’t need to know. He was doing us a big favour so I didn’t attempt to hang my wet underwear to dry on his review mirror. We got to this little village and nievely realised that it was winter and all villages like these kind of close up. So we ended up getting stuck there all day with no food. We finally hitchhiked and got back to Santiago in the evening and started digging into the street food. Today we are making our way northward through Chile. This country has lots to offer. Beaches on the left, mountains on the right, ice to the south and desert to the north. We have been far to long in cold, snowy weather so we opted for the deserts.
La Serena | Going To Fray Jorge With Style | June 20, 2004
Yesterday was our cheapest day yet-$0! We left the city we were in and wanted to go to a national park, so of course we hitchhiked. The people that picked us up seemed to like us a lot for some reason and ended up driving us to random beaches and sites to keep us as long as possible. They bought food for us all day and just kept driving around so we went with the flow. Once in the morning their car broke down and the driver flooded the engine. This guy stopped to help us and did some weird siphening out of this tube to suck the excess gas (important later, keep reading). Sometime in the afternoon, Kevin and I realised that we were starting to get sick. Our stomachs were both upset and we were trying to figure out what we ate. Anyway, in the evening I was really hurting. The people were driving us to the national park that we wanted to go to finally. I had to throw up so bad but I forced it back until we got to the park gate. I ran out and barfed my guts out on the road. It was so discrete though, that I turned around and no one had noticed (it was dark). They were too concerned with the fact that the car was not starting again. And guess what? It was my turn to siphen the gas. I thought this was a fantastic way to get over my sickness. I was feeling better by now but after we got the car started and my face was burning from gasoline, I started to feel sick again. I ended up throwing up more during the night. Kevin was sick too. I won’t tell you how his body treated the sickness. All I will say is that we are going to do a wash tommorow. Having said all that, we are feeling much better today (except the normal sleep deprivision). We did a solid 10 hour hike to work off the sickness.-steve
Chanaral | Lookin’ For Foxes | June 22, 2004
Still trying to be the cheapest yet. The next day we decided to hike Fray Jorge Park all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It was a grueling 25 Km hike round trip so by the end we were dead tired. The views were gorgeous, we had our best Buddha pic yet. We had hiked early in the morning so we didnt have to pay a stupid entrance fee but when we were hiking back to our camping site we had to bypass the guards so we didnt have to pay, something like $3 US. We made a sharp turn away from the ticket booth but they somehow saw us because we werent too far away enough. This is where we were playing Commando in the bushes and trying to take cover. After playing Rambo for a few minutes we thought we lost them. It was the funnest thing ever trying not to get caught. Just then, out of no where, an old man from up the hill saw us and was yelling “Malo, Malo”, which is “Bad, Bad” and started radioing his fellow goons. We quickly played dumb and pretended that we were looking for zorros(foxes) and rats. We went back to the information booth and thought we were done for and had to fork out $3 US. When we got there, all the park guards were looking at us and giving us the evil eye but we still pretended to play dumb. There was a small musuem there and we pretended we were interested in all the animals. We ended up signing our names and where we were from, and that was it! We didnt even pay a cent! Yahoo! We lucked out by taking the last truck out of the park and hitch hiked all the way to La Serena. Our next big adventure was in a small city called Chanaral. We were contemplating whether to go to Pan de Azucar to see the penquins or to Antofagasto to go to a confluence point near there. It was funny because we had no idea where we wanted to go. After waiting and waiting and realizing that no cars had come by the past hour, we decided not to hitchhike and bought an overnight ticket to Calama. We had decided earlier that it was time to cook up our biggest meal yet over the fire. After conquering a huge hike near the city we quickly set up our fire pit. Earlier in the day we had bought a pan and all the necessary foods for our big meal. This was not like any other meal. We were in the desert and had to scround up every possible twig, branch, cardboard, and juice box there was near the city. We found a spot near the mountain away from the city and this is where our 3 course meal began. All we had to work with was an half-inch long knife. We had ate a total of 12 eggs, 5 fish fillets, 4 tomatoes, 2 oniions, 2 peppers, 2 lemons, some bread, 2 bananas, and 2 mandarin oranges. It was the best ever – stuffed to the bone.
San Pedro De Atacama | Backpacker’s Heaven | June 24, 2004
Kevin and I are chillin in this backpacker hangout of Chile, San Pedro de Atacama. I can see why everyone hangs around here. The place is a little oasis in the middle of the dryest desert in the world. It has never rained here which makes the skies crystal clear every night and the mountain views spectacular. Around the city there are geisers and salt flats and a mountain biker’s dreamland. Today we spent the whole day mountain biking – I have never seen anything like the area here. There are these beautiful canyons that you can bike through – amazing views and great trails. There are ruins and fortresses and other things to visit. It is just incredible. Kevin and I have never stayed in one place more than 2 nights. This might just break our tradition. We are staying 3 maybe 4 nights so far. Tomorrow we are getting up at 4am to take a little tour of some geisers that can only be seen in their glory at sunrise. We also found the cheapest cabins to stay in. They have hot showers and comfortable beds – even a little kitchen. We have been running around the town finding ingredients to whip together the most amazing creations yet. This place is defintely the highlight so far. After this we are going back through Argentina towards Paraguay. We were not able to get Paraguay visas before cause we didn’t have all the paperwork. We are going to try just going to the border and begging or something. We’ll see what happens. -steve
San Pedro De Atacama | Best Place Ever | June 14, 2004
Kevin and I are still in San Pedro De Atacama. This is the best place we have been so far. Yesterday we visited these wonderful geysers at 4am and froze our buts off. They were pretty cool though. I pretty much sat on this one big geyser most of the time to stay warm. After this, we went to this little village. Much to our satisfaction there was this little llama walking around. The first thing we thought was, we have got to mount this thing! And we did just that after catching it and avoiding the friendly spitting. They also had llama skewers roasting on this grill so we ate some llama. I tried to feed the llama a banana but I got in trouble because it supposedly kills them.
Today we rode for 4 hours to these salt flats south of the city. The best part was this random little pond in the middle of nowhere that was freezing cold. It was almost hypothermic in temperature but we got in anyway. I have never seen anything like it. The temperature outside was way over 30 degrees. Nearby there were a couple crazy pink flamingoes. They were gorgeous. When they took off their wings were flourecent pink. We wanted to catch them and cook them for supper but they were just too observant of our tactics. Ok, tommorow we head back to Argentina and eventually over to Brazil to meet Koop! Looking forward to it!