Saturday, November 7, 2009

Back in Santiago

It´s 6am and I am back in Santiago after an early morning flight out of Punta Arenas. I am sitting at my hotel waiting to check-in at noon. Luckily I got some sleep on the flight so it should not be that bad waiting around.

On Thursday night Matt and I went to a seafood restaraunt that was recommended to him by one of his guides. He said they were known for their king crab, that they were. The crab was awesome, however the service was a little slow. A couple bottles of wine helped make up for the service. Long story short was we stayed up way too late and drank way too much.

Yesterday was spent traveling starting with the three hour bus ride to Punta Arenas. I ended up staying one extra day in Puerto Natales so Matt and I rebooked out bus tickets so we could depart at 1pm. Once we arrived we went to the hotel to check-in. I only stayed there for about eight hours because of the early flight. Matt will join me tomorrow because he has an afternoon flight.

It is getting close to the end of this trip, basically two more days. Sunday we fly back at 10:20pm and if all goes as planned in Atlanta I should be back in Raleigh around 11am on Monday.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Balmaceda and Serrano Glacier

Yesterday was probably my favorite day of the trip thus far, I left my hotel around 7:30am to walk down to the peer. From there I boarded the boat that took the group to the glacier. It was about three hours to the glacier with two spots to stop and take a couple of pictures. In Patagonia it is pretty my three hours to everywhere.

The boat ended up arriving at 11:30am and docked up next to a boat that was in the fleet of the Chilean Armada. We got off the boat and made our way to the trail to hike to the glacier. The tour guide warned us that the 20 minute walk to the glacier may be dangerous because of the heavy snow fall and advised us to take the five minute walk to view the glacier. A 60 year old couple from Switzerland decide to do the 20 minute hike so a group from the UK and I decided to follow their lead.

The path was not that bad, it was covered in snow but it was just warm enough where your feet could keep grip in the snow. After the hike we ended up at the lookout point which was about 30 yards from the glacier. The view was amazing and the snow fall made it even better. We were also joined by the Chilean Marines, I guess they were doing some R&R. After about 20 minutes we made out way back to the boat.

On the ride back we were served drinks, we has the choice of Johnny Walker Red or Pisco Sour. I went with the pisco sour, it is one of Chile´s staple drinks. The pisco sour was served in a low ball glass with millenial ice (glacial ice). The drink was good, it compares to a margaritta but a little more sour because of the lemon juice.

After about two hours we made our way to Estancia Puerto Consuelo in the Fiordo Eberhard. There we were served barbecued lamb Patagonian style. It was an excellent meal.

After lunch we made our way back to the boat and went back towards the pier. From the pier I made my way to go check some emails and meet up with Matt for dinner.

The restaraunt we ate at was excellent, we decide to live dangerous and let the waiter pick our meal which was some kind of fish, scallops, squid and crab. We also had raw octopus for a starter which was fantastic.

On a travel note, I am actually staying in Puerto Natales for one more night, I had my travel agent move my room in Punta Arenas and rebooked my bus ticket. I was not really impressed in Punta Areanas so I am going to stay on more day here and spend about half a day in Punta Arenas. I them fly back to Santiago on Nov. 7.

I am off to wander.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Torres Del Paine

Yesterday I left my hotel at 7:30 am when the van picked me up to go to Torres Del Paine. We made the first stop at Milodon Cave, which is the biggest cave in Chile. I was awesome, we walked in and took a some pictures and left after 30 minutes. If you are interested in learning what a Milodon is, Google it, if I post a link it will be in Spanish.

After the cave we made our way to Torres Del Paine Park, this is massive and makes Yosemite look small. Once in the park we went to Lake Pehoe, Lago Grey, a waterfall which I cannot remember the name of and viewed the horns of Torres Del Paine from several location. I will try to post some pictures, by words will not do it justice.

I had an excellent guide named Julian who spoke very good English so I could actually understand him. We most drove to several points and them got out to trek the park. The roads in Chile suck, there are only very few paved and the rest are stones. I say stones because the are about 10 times the size of gravel. It kind of reminds me of driving through a construction site. Needless to say the ride is not smooth, bumps, hills and valley´s.

The trip was a full 10 hour day, the weather was all over the place. We had winds from 10 to 30+ mph and the temperature flucuated from 30-45 degrees. That is the thing about Patagonia, if you do not like the weather just wait five minutes.

I am going to keep this one short since the pictures do it better justice and I have to go meet up with Matt in a couple of minutes. I will try to post today´s excursion tonight.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Perito Moreno & Chilean Seabass

I did not get a chance to post a blog last night because I did not get back for El Calafate until 11pm. It was one hell of a day to see one of Chile´s biggest glaciers.

The day started at 7am with the bus picking me up at the hotel. We then made the rounds through the city picking up other passengers and finally headed out of town when the bus was almost full. We made our way to a rest stop near Torres Del Paine. We got go out to use the banos (bathroom). From there we headed to the Argentina border to go through immigration and get my passport stamped.

Long story short was after several stops we made it to Perito Moreno after six hours of travel. Once we arrived in the park they let us get out at the first viewing point of the glacier. It was amazing, I snapped a couple of photos then we loaded back up to drop off the people on the bus that were taking the boat tour. I decide against the boat tour because I was more interested in walking around. Basically I was the only one not taking the tour so they dropped me off at the visitor center and I made my way towards the glacier. There were several viewing points which I stopped at the take in the amazing views and snap a lot of photos.

The walking path to the glacier was probably around two miles, every step was more amazing. I have a bunch of photos to post but I have been having troubles with my camera cord to export the pictures so most of them will have to wait.

One side note is that the Perito Moreno Glacier in the only glacier in Chile that is not decreasing in size, it has remained the same.....stick that in your pipe Al Gore.

After three hours at the park we loaded back up and made our way to El Calafate. In retrospect I wish I would have spent atleast one night there, the town was awesome. It was your typical mountain town with breathtaking views from every angle. I made my way into a couple of stores and picked up a shirt.

Once we headed back we had two stopping points, we checked out at the Argentina immigration and checked back into Chile. Finally after five hours I made it back to my hotel.

I was exhausted but figured I should get something to eat. After speaking broken Spanish to the lady at the front desk she pointed my in the right direction to food.

Once I made it to the restaurant I the lady brought me a menu....all in Spanish. I threw caution to the wind and ordered Seabass. Here is the thing with Chile, if you want to go on a diet do not visit this country. The Chilean restaurant´s layer their food, for example my plate contained Seabass on the bottom, cheese, peppers, onions and tomatoes on the top. The portions are also huge, probably enough for two people.

After dinner I made my way back to the hotel to crash for the night. One bonus was atleast I got to watch the World Series on ESPN, just in Spanish.

I am a day behind, on my blog so I need to post my adventure at Torres Del Painne which was today. I will see if I can catch up tomorrow.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chicago has nothing on Puerto Natales

It has been a long day, we caught a cab to the airport at 4am for our 6am flight to Punta Arenas. The flight was about four hours with a stop in Puerto Montt to pick up somemore passengers. I remember landing and then waking up with a lady sitting next too me.

Once we arrived in Punta Arenas we went to get some lunch and wait for the Bus Fernandez to take us to Puerto Natales. I sleep most of that ride as well. It took about three hours to get to Puerto Natales, a driver met me at the bus station and took me to my hotel, the Lady Florence Dixie which is very quaint.

The city is goreous, the water is about five blocks from my hotel and city is surronded by mountains. The bad part is the winds have been gusting all day, it would guess around 30 mph. The weather is cold, the high was about 52 today but the wind cuts through your clothes.

Tomorrow will be another long day, I am off to Perito Monreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentinia. The sights should be amazing and I cannot wait.

Well I am off to get some sleep.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Con Gas, Sin Gas

Ordering water has become an task in itself. Con and Sin is with or without, which translates to water with carbonation or without. Knowing Spanish would be a great help in this city since 99 percent do not speak English, but oh well I can get by.

Today was interesting, we witnessed a man chase down some guy who stole a necklace from a women, long story short the women was given the necklace back after the bum dropped the necklace on the street. This all happened near the place we visited this morning which I cannot remember the name, basically it was a tram ride up a mountain which is dedicated to St. Christopher. All in all it had some awesome views.

After going up to view St. Christopher we made our way to a market and did some shopping, I ended up picking up a few things to bring back to the States.

Tomorrow will be a lond day of travel. The taxi is meeting me at my hotel around 3:30am to catch a 6am flight to Punta Arenas and then meet my guide who will take me three hours north to Puerto Natales which is in the Patagonia region. It will be a long day.

I also switched hotels today, I had a free night at the Crowne Plaza which was sweet but not affordable if paying for it on your own. I moved to the Hotel Vegas with is about $50 per night and looks similar to a 1920´s New York pool hall. The room is small but the staff is excellent. I am planning on staying here again when I fly back to Santiago.

Thus far Santiago is one of my favorites cities I have visited in the world, the people are fantastic, the city is clean and the views are gorgeous.

I am off to get some sleep before the early morning wake up call. Goodnight.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 1

From what I have discovered Chile is an excellent country. The people are very friendly if you speak Spanish. That is not my case, I speak very little Spanish. It is kind of interesting that a foreign country does not really care about the English language. Luckily my buddy Matt is semi fluent.

The first day has been awesome, we sat in a restuarant and drank a pitcher of Sangria which is wine and fruit. Plus I rolled the dice with the menu which was in Spanish and ended up ordering steak and eggs. Good call on my part.

The other highligt was viewing Jupiter and the four stars that surronded it as well as viewing moon were NASA crashed the satelite into the surface. I had the opportunity to view this at the Plaza de Armas which is the center of the city.....pretty sweet for four dollars.

Not much else happened today other than I think Faith No More´s crew is staying at my hotel.

I tried to post some pictures today but I had not luck, hopefully soon.

Riff-Raff Follows Me

I departed Raleigh around 5:15 pm and made it to Santiago at 7am on Oct. 29. The flight was smooth and immigration was not bad other that forking over $131.00 for my Visa. The only complaint was the plane, I was on a 767, two seats on each side and 4 in the center aisle. There was no monitor to watch movies in the head rest so I was stuck watching a tube style TV. Not much happened other than eating a sleeping for a couple of hours. The big bonus was Leinenkugels Summer Wheat which helped me get some sleep.

I landed around sunrise this morning and the sky was clear so I could see the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. After landing I got at taxi and went to drop my bags off at the hotel and made my was to the Plaza de Armas which is the center of the city.

My friend Matt and I went to check out his Hostel which was nice and went looking for breakfast. We ended up eating at a sidewalk cafe and watch a protest begin to unfold infront of us. We talked to a couple locals and they explained the college professors we basically on strike because the government promised them additional pay and did not deliver on their promise....go figure.

I ended up breaking the number one rule that I have read in all travel guides, they say to stay away because the protests can turn violent, obvious common sense. Needless to say I will post a couple of pictures standing in the protest. This is a similar experience to Thailand however the Thai people were trying to over throw the government and I did not see one demonstration.

That is the brief synopsis of the day thus far. It is now 1:20pm and we are off to see some other attractions. We have heard that the Argentinaian President is in town today so we might try to check that out and maybe some vinyard tours tomorrow.

Also I appoligize in advance for any grammar errors this computer I am on spell checks in Spanish.

I am off.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

T Minus Two

The trip is just within reach, only two days until my departure.

So far everything with work has been smooth unlike last year. All hell broke loose the week of my trip, I never thought I was going to finish up everything but some how managed. I have managed to stay ahead of the game this year, it might be because I am now a year wiser.

Thus far I believe I have everything ready, although I was at the store last night and it seems that there is something I need to pickup but cannot think of what it could be. I am sure that whatever it is I will remember tomorrow night and have to run to the store. The only task left to accomplish is laundry and packing. For some reason it has always been in my nature to wait until the last minute to pack. There was a brief period of time that waiting until the last minute back-fired on me and I ended up forgetting my boxers on two business trips and ended up making a run to Target.

I have been watching the weather and Santiago looks like sunny and 78 as an average. However, Patagonia's forecast is not looking as good, 58 degrees for the high and 30-40% chance of rain everyday. Luckily when I was picking up some items for the trip at REI a rain suit was on my list. I actually sat there and contemplated not getting one but in hindsight it was the correct decision, well that and my rain cover for my backpack.

My planning is about complete the only thing left to figure out is where I will be staying in Santiago on Oct. 31. I have booked my first night at the Crowne Plaza which is free thanks to a summer promotion IC Hotels Group ran, stay two get one free. I may stay one additional night but the normal rate is $160. If I decided against staying an additional night I have a couple places scouted out.

I am going to retire for the night because I have a feeling tomorrow will be busy and I do not want to spend all day scrambling on Thursday so I am going to try to get to work a little earlier.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Coming Full Circle

It has been almost one year since my last real vacation. I say a real vacation because I do not really consider trips where you can be reached by cell phone a vacation, even though one can just turn it off and disconnect from the real world.

I discovered last year that the only way to travel is to get out of the country, hence my 16 day excursion to Bangkok. It was a very memorable experience, some highlights were the princesses procession, Thai Boxing and getting caught up in social unrest. Plus the biggest advantage is you have to turn the cell phone off because it is too expensive to answer.

The destination this year will be Chile and Argentina. The cities I will be visiting are Santiago, Punta Arenas, Puerto Natales and El Calafate (Argentina). Here is a rough itinerary:
Santiago Oct. 30-Nov. 1
Nov. 1 - Depart Santiago 6am arrive Punta Arenas, three hour bus ride to Puerto Natales, four nights at Hotel Florence Dixie
Nov. 2 - Perito Moreno Glacier, five hour bus ride to El Calafate
Nov. 3 - Paine Towers National Park
Nov. 4 - Sailing excursion by Last Hope Fiord to Serrano Balmaceda Glacier
Nov. 5 - Transfer back to Punta Arenas and afternoon penguin colony excursion, one night at Carpa Manzano
Nov. 6 - Wander around Punta Arenas
Nov. 7 - 1:40am flight back to Santiago...yes that's a.m., I read the military time wrong when booking the flight
Nov. 8 - 10:20pm departure to Atlanta, arrive in Raleigh 10am Nov. 9

Well this is the rough plan and I cannot wait. Enjoy the ride.