Friday, January 21, 2011

No go - Neuquén

I survived being tossed around in a bus all night between San Rafael and Neuquén. Barely. Low points was the lack of shocks in combination with the bumps in the road, the horrible movie about an out of control train (my seat was directly under a speaker - awesome!), and the smell of the dinner meal provided. Oh yeah, and the city of Neuquén. I looked for things to do online and found three: (1) the central park, (2) the museum of fine arts, and (3) the view of the city from a mountain. I arrived at 6am and set out to see these things which looked so lovely in the photos. I skipped the taxis and started walking to kill time and managed to walk for about 45 minutes in the wrong direction. I got to see the outskirts of town, which included factories and many whistles accompanied by kissing noises before turning back and getting a taxi from the bus station. What awaited me at el parque central was dismal. Fountains turned off and covered with graffiti were set off by brown stubs of grass and the most bland museum I have seen in my life. I can´t wait to add a picture. I circled the museum thinking there had to be a better entrance only to be told I couldn´t bring my purse inside. As much as I want to check my passport and all my money for what didn´t look to be that incredible....

And then things improved. I had the first delicious, NOT dulce (sweet) media lunas (croissants) while continuing to attempt to try to learn spanish. Then I used my spanish to find a bookstore (okay so it was across the street) where I replaced The Count of Monte Cristo, which I lost to Diego in Córdoba. I bought Doce cuentos peregrinos by Gabriel García Marquez and walked back to the bus station in the heat. This took me an hour. Reading the prologue, five pages, took me six.

Anyways, I have a book for the next six months and it will definitely be the longest it has taken me to read 200 pages in a very long time. Also, I get to use all sorts of big words in wierd ways that nobody understands including myself. Perfecto. Te amo a ti español. Tu eres sereno y díafono.

Tonight I catch the 23:00 bus to Junín and make a connection in the AM to Pucón where I have booked a hostel for three days. Showers. Bliss. Talking to people again without feeling like a fool? Still won´t happen, but at least I can make some friends!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

en curso...

I have a lot of adventures to fill everyone in on. I ditched my previous plans and started going with the options before me. Unfortunately, this means I am still suffering with my Spanish, but now I am travelling sola and everything is changing.

Las Melosas

After my last posts, I went out in to the Andes, the fronterra of Chile. The area was very remote, about an hour and half drive further into the mountains from Manzano. There was a lot of climbers in the area, despite being far from everything, and there is also camping down by the river if anyone ever wants to visit. The rock was nice, but climbing on limited and old gear got into this newbie´s head. I was freaked. We ditched the trad and hit up a brand new sport climb that had just been bolted by a German climber named Waldo. There are rocks for days out there and many FA´s to be had. I would recommend NOT going in the middle of summer though. I learned that the hard way (and still returned for more).

La Fiesta de Promiteda en El Talagante

After a long day of climbing I joined my friends Maximo and Fernando at their cousin´s (prima) engagement/ wedding party number one. Basically, I needed a place to stay, we were going climbing the next day, and I needed to meet the parents of the house I would be crashing at. This was a night of immersion into Chilean culture. I was passed between everyone for kisses and those that knew English used as a sign of their education. I drank wine, ate delicious empanadas, and eventually danced until 3:30am. At this point I wanted little more than to die a quick death in my bed, but the primos continued to party on until 7am. People are insane down here! We still were all up at 10:30 to climb.

Punta Las Tralcas

Just to the south of Isla Negra and north of El Quisco lies a beautiful point of granite on a somewhat isolated beach. The climbs are way out on the end where salt spray covers the rock. This makes for very interesting climbing conditions to say the least. Where your feet would normally stick on granite they slip, you get scratched, and salt fills your fresh wound. Wonderful. Oh yeah, and imagine what the bolts look like (las chapas). Don´t use them, just free solo to the top and set up a top rope with some nuts that are 25 years old. Or climb once, praying you live, and then spend the rest of the day drinking beer on the beach with new friends and enjoy a spectacular sunset. Done.


The day after Las Tralcas, I explored Santiago with Tobias and Henrik, my delightful Danes. We enjoyed a sushi dinner and I checked Emma and I into the Bellavista hostel (Tomas, Henrik´s roomate had it with our antics and we got the boot). The next morning Emma and I woke up at 6:30 to head to Quintay. Quintay is a lovely beach enjoyed by fishermen and divers. It is also one of the most difficult places to get to from Santiago. If you want to go, get a car or catch a bus from Valparaiso. After walking from bus terminal to bus terminal, we got tickets to Valparaiso and hopped off at the exit for Quintay. At that point we started hitchhiking. Twenty minutes later we got a ride...

I got to experience Emma´s work firsthand. Basically, she runs up and down and all around trying to find fishermen to interview. Okay, there is way more to it, but that is what I experienced for a while before kicking it on the beach with my book and exploring the town. I recommend Quintay to anyone that wants a day of diving followed by a good (though expensive) meal on the beach. There was a nice restaurant that we went to that was much cheaper and more local (and has great pisco sours), but it would not be worth the travel time to get there. Quintay = great excursion from Valparaiso.


A collectivo to Valpo cost us around $2 each and took about 30 minutes or so. We met Tobias and Henrik there and got comfortable in our hostel (Aurecela) in Cerro Bellavista. The neighborhood was very cute, though pricey, and made for a great kick-off to Tobias and my adventures the next day. We wandered the streets photographing street art and found ourselves in the cementario de disendentes and el cementario uno. I wish I had pictures uploaded on this computer to share, but they will have to come later. To sum our day we had Chorrillanas again and went to Viña del Mar for the Museo de Archeologia. There we saw deadly spiders and shrunken heads. Okay, there was more, but that is what hit home. YUK

Concha Y Toro

Emma and my next excursion was to Concha Y Toro winery. This is very simple. Call the winery, know some Spanish, make a reservation, then take a metro forever, get on a micro (collectivos overcharge gringos), and get off in front of the winery. Or do what everyone else does and take a car. Needless to say, we had a fantastic time and enjoyed many wines. The Marchesa Chardonnay is delightful.

That night I made friends with a pack of guys at the hostel (go figure) and convinced them to do a night out. I can´t imagine how I pulled that off. Anyways, it made for more people at Emma´s going away party the following evening. That will be all for those two nights, but both were hilarious and lots of fun.

Argentina? en serio?

I know I was not planning on going to Argentina until March, but when you have a friend to travel with who is multilingual and lots of fun. Why the hell not? That is what gets you on a night bus to Mendoza with someone you have known for two days. Or maybe it´s being impulsive. Whatever it is, I am glad I went. I got to see Mendoza, did a nice tandem bike riding wine tour with my new friend Diego and ate the best food so far in South America. Sorry Chile, but Argentina has you beat in the food department. I am now en route to the lake district in Chile, which meant another night bus to Cordoba, then another to San Rafael (now without a book, music, or movie), and ANOTHER tonight at 22hrs to Neuquén. It looks like my plans might change again and I will be meeting my Chilean buddies for our volcano trek in Lonquimay.

Before I pass out from the heat, I am going to sign off. Buen viaje :)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fotos from Cajon de Maipo

I already shared Cajon de Maipo, but not fotos. Enjoy!

Emma and I hiking uphill in the heat of the day 
Woops! the needles on this cactus were a few inches long

Henrik and the valley of the Maipo River below

Hey guys!

Henrik chilling out in the cave

Me on the first climb


Henrik and his first outdoor climb

Emma making a go at it 

Hanging out in the tree! Emma is just happy to get out of the sun

Ildi and the valley

Me leading the second climb. Super fun!


Feeding Emma wild boar from the restaraunt Patagonia we ate at the night before

Ildi tackling the crux



Henrik at the top!

Me on climb three. Photo top tope climb

Chilling at the base

Ildi doing a climbing move


Look guys, no hands! 


Ildi and my nostrils

My second photo set up. Super safe.


Me on climb four

BBQ at the refugio in Cajon de Maipo. It's midnight. We haven't eaten dinner. We're starving....
From the left: Fernando our Chilean climbing buddy and guide for the day couple I don't know...

More about El Quisco...and how to avoid potentially dangerous situations while travelling

When we arrived in El Quisco famished, fatigued, and ready for a siesta we got in to a taxi with a man representing habitaciones for 24000 pesos a night (this is about 50USD) for three people. It sounded good. We would have our own Cabana with a kitchen and a private bathroom. Perfect, right? Nooooooo.

This is what we arrived to:

Make note of the sagging bed filled with bedbugs and the styrafoam ceiling. This place is where nightmare come true and girls get sold into the sex trade we're certain. The kitchen was not much better. The drywall was not completely plastered and there was a giant hole around the pipe for the oven. On top of that, the owner wheeled over a new propane tank to install for the hot water. This was a very frightening moment and we all walked outside to avoid death by combustion. 

In retrospect, this was a good move. Our friends that we met down here had a fire in their home just yesterday. Josephine, an adorable blonde Swedish girl, was lighting her ancient stove and it exploded. She and her friend Jerry were not seriously hurt, but she lost her eyebrows and some hair and Jerry and her feet were badly burned by gas that ignited on the floor. The house was mostly destroyed and she lost all of her clothes. 

You never know what is going to happen! At least we weren't in Arizona.

Moving right along to happier things, here is the beautiful hostel we moved to after getting our money back at the dive.

Me and Emma on our adorable new beds

Breakfast? Perfect.
Oh yeah, and this place was 21000 pesos a night and included breakfast. If you can get past the sounds of the father with dementia (we thought there was passionate lovemaking going on at first...very awkward moment with the women running the place that was hopefully lost in translation) and the sounds of screaming children coming from the carnival down the street, then you can enjoy the sound of the waves while eating breakfast on the veranda in the morning.

Isla Negra

I forgot a few details in my last post so I will update and then tell all about my adventures this weekend.

While we were in El Quisco we took a short trip to Isla Negra to visit one of the quirky homes of the great Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Throughout our time in El Quisco (all 3 days worth) Emma, Ildi, and I took turns being sick. Isla Negra was my day to feel the pains of travel. Despite this, we enjoyed the home very much. Sort of...

Getting to Isla Negra is quite easy from El Quisco. We took a collectivo (which is a sort of taxi that fills up with as many people as possible) for around 2USD a person and made the 10 minute drive down the coast to the small town surrounding Pablo Neruda's house. For the most part, this town is entirely driven by tourism for Neruda. The driver dropped us off at the street and we walked down dirt roads to the museumesque home. Although the sun was shining brightly through the ozone layer hole, the intense winds made it quite brisk. Neruda's house is situated on black rocks looking out over the Pacific and it is also here that him and his wife are buried. You can only see the house with a tour that I blocked out of my mind. I avoid tours as a rule and this one was the epitome of why I despise them. All the lady talked about was when Neruda bought all of the things in his house (there is a lot) and there was nowhere to sit when I started to feel my lunch rising up through my stomach. Awesome!  On top of that, no pictures are allowed. It is cool to say I have been there, but I think money can be spent better on other things. Such as a bicycle wine tour outside of Santiago.

Ildi and I 'bundled up' for the winds in front of Isla Negra

Pablo Neruda's ship that never made it in to the water because he was afraid of the ocean (although he loved it...)

The view from Neruda's bedroom. One of the only photos allowed inside the house

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Cajon del Maipo

Back in Santiago, for a moment. A lot has happened since the last post. We went climbing in Cajon del Maipo and spent a day in Santiago visiting Santa Lucia y El Mercado Central. I also have some pictures to upload. I actually have about 300, but I will spare you all and put up some highlights.

Cajon del Maipo was so wonderful that I am returning shortly for another day of climbing. The rock is high quality volcanic rock with fun pockets and knobs. A local with a refugio in Manzano showed us around and made sure that we didn't have to think at all about which climbs to go to or how to get to them. This is good because I still can't even say the name of the crag that we were at. We got Ildi, Emma, and Henrik up on the rock. Henrik ran up in his hiking shoes, Ildi tapped into her inner Hungarian and overcame her fear of heights, and Emma realized that she in fact is the one with the fear of heights. I am scraped up and sunburnt and heading back for some trad climbing this afternoon.

Ildi left for Boston last night so we ran around Santiago trying to see everything she wanted to see before leaving. We visited Santa Lucia, the hill on which Santiago was founded, before finding our way to Mercado Central to say hello to some fishermen. I liked Santa Lucia mostly because it is high enough to give a good view of the city and it's built into columar joints. Que rico!

I also had lunch with my friend Alvaro (of Katmai fame) and we made plans for me to meet him in Chaiten in mid-February. A week of geology and climbing around a lava dome on an active volcano - perfecto.

I am short on time, but I'll throw some pictures in for you all to enjoy.

Saying goodbye to Bear in LA

Dulce de Leche ice cream in Santiago - yum

Bellavista market has really cool locally made jewelry and crafts that aren't too expensive

Chorrillenas in Valparaiso - the epitome of Chilean cuisine

Playing Kings in Vina del Mar
Cafe Journal, Vina del Mar

Emma and I in Valparaiso

New Years fireworks on our roof in Vina del Mar

La Playa in Reneca

Martin, Thea, Emma, Me, and Henrik in Renaca

Ildi and I jumping off Las Dunas in Concon

Ildi and Emma showing what happens when you run around in the dunes

View of Vina del Mar and Valparaiso from Concon

Mariscos in Reneca

Emma and I enjoying some jugo de frutilla at a wonderful restaurant over the waves in Reneca