Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dan and Dana's Excellent Adventure Part 2: Puerto Varas and Chiloe

It has been a rainy day (well more like a rainy week), and we are relaxing in the comfort of our hostel while we listen to the rain outside.

Sunday was our last day in Puerto Varas, and we took a tour around Lago Llanguihue.  The landscape in the area is very green and lush, and we enjoyed many beautiful views and pictures.  We also went to a German colonial museum that showed some houses from the German settlers, and it was spread out over a huge space of land.

Dinner at a German restaurant in Puerto Varas

Dessert at a coffee place after dinner

cazuela for lunch the next day

I've never seen an area of Chile that looks like this before.

At night we packed up and said our farewells to the wonderful staff at La Casa Azul.  Unfortunately we forgot to take pictures, but it is very clean, very organized, and very well run.  I would reconmend them to anyone traveling to Puerto Varas.

On Monday morning we caught a bus to Ancud, which is a city in the northern part of Chiloe.  Chiloe is an island, and so when we went there our bus drove onto a ferry (along with 7 or 8 cars).  During the ferry ride we were able to get out of the bus and take pictures, so that was pretty cool.

The bus is on a huge ferry here, along with some cars. 
The view from the ferry leaving Puerto Varas and on the way to Chiloe
So before this I was updating from my Ipod touch in the hostel as there was no public computer available.  Now I´m at an internet café in Puerto Varas waiting for our night bus back to Santiago.

We arrived in Chiloe around 1 in the afternoon, and we found our hostel easily.  It´s a family run place and the woman Mirta is very warm, welcoming, and energetic.  She wants her guests to be happy and get the best deal possible for tours, and she also enjoys sharing a cup of tea or breakfast with them each day to get to know them and see how their visit is going.

Our first day there we decided to go to a fonda since there wasn´t much happening in the area.  We were staying in Ancud, which is the northern part of Chiloe, and apparently also the slowest and least alive.  The fonda had an interesting mix of artisans, cueca, food, and general celebration.  We snacked on kettle corn while we walked around taking in the atmosphere, and then we sat down at a stand and ordered a dozen meat and egg empandas and 2 choripanes (sausages in bread like a sandwich).  After wandering around a bit more we got some hot chocolate and decided to call it a day with the cold rainy weather.

preparing brochetas or anticuchos

fried empandas!

Inside they have meat, onions, and egg.

Promoters of health.  I love how their menu includes fried emapanadas and alcohol.

Part of a cueca competition

On the walk back to the hostel

Tuesday was the 18 holiday, and we didn´t have any tours or plans.  Luckily Mirta knew someone that does tours, so for 15.000 pesos (about 30 bucks) we went on a full day tour that showed the main churches of Chiloe.  We went to various parts of the island such as Castro, Nercón, Dalcuhue, Curaco de Velez, Cachao,  and Chonchi to name a few.  The churches were constructed of wood and were very old and very beautiful.  We had a few hours in the middle of the day to explore an atrisan market and get lunch along the coast, and it was nice to have some free time to ourselves.  By the time the tour was over I was on church overload and it was almost 10 at night (we were picked up at 9:30), so we were tired and just turned in.

On Wednesday we woke up to heavy rain, so it was hard to get out of bed and get moving.  We eventually decided to check out the fonda again since no restaurants would be open for lunch given the holiday, and after that we attempted walking around to explore.  I couldn´t find the map that Mirta had given us, and after wandering around a bit it started to rain pretty heavily, so we retreated back to the hostel.  After relaxing for a few hours and playing some Angry Birds we enjoyed a cup of tea then some wine and cheese with Mirta and her husband Pedro.

Today has been a travel day so far, but that´s not necessarily a bad thing.  I was able to get our bus tickets changed so we would have about 4 hours in Puerto Varas, and we have had time to get lunch at the German restaurant again, hang out at the internet café we´re at now, and in a bit we´re going to get some chocolate fondue for dessert at a restaurant around the corner.

fruit, nuts, marshmallow squares, and coconut.  I figure I'm already nutty enough so I stayed away from the almonds and peanuts.

All I can say is yum.
After the 12 hour bus ride back to Santiago, we´re going to enjoy a relaxing few days with a few errands, Mexican food and drinks, a tour of the Andes, and a wine tour.  It will be a nice end to a much needed vacation.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Dan and Dana´s Excellent Adventure Part 1: Santiago and Puerto Varas

Dana and I are three days into our trip together, and we´re having a great time.

On Thursday we were in Santiago, and it was a relaxing day.  After lounging around in the morning, we stopped by the Grants office so I could drop off paperwork and walked through downtown a bit.  We got some lunch at El Aji Seco, a Peruvian restaurant that I like to visit from time to time.  The sun was shining and it was about 75 out, so we went for a stroll through Bellas Artes and enjoyed some ice cream while sitting in the sun.  (OK, so I enjoyed some ice cream while Dana had self restraint).  We walked from Bellas Artes to Patio Bellavista, and we checked out the restaurants and souvenier shops there.  After that it was off to the fountains at Salvador, and we snapped some pictures.

a random protest in downtown

Lunch, nom nom

By the time we got back to my place it was about 4:30.  I told Dana we should leave around 7:30 to catch our bus at 9:15 that night.  I thought that we would have time for a nap, but we spent time packing and making plans for tours down in Puerto Varas and for when we came back and didn´t have that much time after all.  We´re both the type of people that like to plan things in advance, so knowing that we had a tour set up for when we arrived in Puerto Varas on Friday as well as two activities planned for back in Santiago made us feel accomplished and excited.

I thought that we were going to hit a lot of traffic going to the bus station, but we arrived by 8:15.  After getting a seat I decided to buy some snacks and double check our bus information, and I´m glad I did.  It turns out that they changed the departure time of our bus from 9:15 to 10:05 and I needed to go and get a new ticket for us.  When I went to do so I asked about the possibility of getting on the 9:05 bus instead, but it was full.  We just hung out, and Dana showed me pictures from her trip to South Africa on her I phone and also gave me tips on using my new I pod touch.

We got on the bus at about 9:50, and we promptly pulled out at 10:05.  The only problem is so many other buses were leaving at the same time that we spent about 25 minutes waiting just to get out of the bus station. Once we got out our bus driver took a side street and got us on the road as quickly as possible.

We got seats on the second floor in the front!

Our bus seats were comfortable for sitting but not that comfortable for sleeping,  Despite that, we managed to sleep some.  It ended up being about a 12 hour ride, but for the cost of only about $50 it was worth it compared to flying.

By the time we got into our hostel it was about 10:40, and we had scheduled a tour to start at 11.  It turns out they don´t offer their breakfasts year round, so I asked if we could push the tour back a bit so I could run out and get some milk to at least grab a bowl of cereal before we left.  (We packed cereal and some food to bring with us, but no milk).  Luckily the hostel owner was understanding and told us we could leave at 11:30.

Our tour took us to see the alerces trees and a fish market.  The alerces trees are famous because of their resistence to water, and they are used as shingles in many houses here in the south.  The area we visited is actually a private area in a condominium and it´s protected by CONAF (a Chilean form of a wildlife reserve type thing), and so the hostel owner calls someone who controls the gate to get in and out of the area.  Apparently the trees are so valuable that they have had problems with people getting into the area, cutting down trees in the middle of the night, and then taking them to sell for a profit.

It was amazing walking through the area and see such towering trees and so much green.  Some of the trees are over 1,000 years old, and with the rain it really made you appreciate nature that much more.

After that it was off to the fish market.  All of the fish were laid out and in plain view, and it was cool seeing such a variety of fish and shellfish.  In addition to that, there were some people selling veggies, fruit, and even a few cheese vendors.  Dana bought a big piece of cheese that we´re going to have to work through eating for the next week or so.

Then we got some lunch at an authentic restaurant next to the sea.  I´m not much of a seafood person but there weren´t any options without it, so I ordered some curanto, which is a mixture of seafood, shellfish, chicken, sausage, and potatoes.  The plate was piled high with food, but unfortunately most of it was shellfish.  I wasn´t in much of an adventurous mood (I figure I´m already fishy enough), so I let Dana and the hostel owner enjoy the fish.

We got home from the tour at around 4 in the afternoon, and we took a much needed nap.  It ended up being about 3 hours, and after taking a shower I felt much more relaxed.  That night we went into town to buy some groceries for breakfast tomorrow, and we also decided to make sandwiches for the tour we took today.

I suggested getting to the grocery store first so we got there before they closed and we could go out to dinner afterwards, but when we saw fresh chicken prepared and ready to take home and eat, we decided on getting that for dinner and just staying in.

By 10:00 we had eaten and were feeling lazy, so we turned in for the night.

Today was another tour.  This time we went to see the Osorno Volcano, The Petrohue River and Waterfalls, and the Lago Todos Los Santos.

We left at 9, and it was raining pretty heavily.   The hostel owner told us we´d have to see how the weather was, as it seemed that almost no one was going on a tour today with the heavy rain.

You would think that with the amount of traveling that I would have put two and two together regarding a volcano, high altitude, and rain.  But of course this escaped me and I was totally unprepared for the snow that we saw up top.  I had worn a sweatshirt and my windbreaker since it has a hood to cover the rain I was expecting, and I didn´t have any gloves with me.  (They were back in the hostel along with my heavier coat). So once getting out of the jeep, we snapped some pictures and enjoyed a bit of the snow scene, and then we headed into the ski lodge and got some hot chocolate.

Unfortunately it was too overcast to see much of the volcano, but we were satisfied with having made it up there and having snapped some pictures.

On our way down, the hostel owner asked if we wanted to take a detour and do some walking.  We agreed, and so he drove off the beaten path and parked near the river.  We then got out, took some pictures, and proceeded along the path that he showed us.  It took us through to some rocks right up along the river, and the view was amazing.  It was only the three of us there, and you felt like you were in the middle of nature and a thousand miles away from everything else in the world.

After that, we were off to see some waterfalls.  By the time we descended it was barely raining.  We walked through the area and got to see some great views of the waterfalls, rocks, and river against the lush green backdrop of the trees along the mountains.  On our way back we enjoyed our sandwiches and some more hot chocolate as well as a visit from a stray dog that was hungry.  Dana gave him a bit of turkey from her sandwich.

Our last stop on the tour was the Lago Todos Los Santos.  (The All Saints Lake)  We took a motorboat ride through it, and we had a great 360 degree view.  The Chlean flag waved proudly from tbe back of the boat despite the light rain and cold weather, and the snow-capped Osorno volcano looked majestic from where we were.  After about a half hour ride we were back on the shore and had an impromptu photo session along the shore.

We´re now back relaxing at the hostel, enjoying some down time before going out to explore downtown and get dinner tonight.  Tomorrow we´re taking a tour of Lago Llanquihue, so keep reading for more news about our adventures.