A Travellerspoint blog

Carnivorous Mullets

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Had lunch in Santiago's most hip neighborhood called Barrio Lastarria. If you're young and you want to be seen you hang out in this neighborhood. The mid 20 to early 30 something Santiagians roam the streets here and sit and discuss politics on sidewalk cafes and restaurants. No emo teenagers in this neighborhood. The place we ate at was called Patagonia and the dish was an Argentinine mixed meat dish called a parillada. Even included deer sausage and comes with a glass of red wine. So good I'm going back for my last dinner here in Chile.

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Weird phenomenon with hairstyles going on here in Chile. The guys here all have mullets or rattails. They are EVERYWHERE! This guy had a combination of both.

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It's been an exquisite trip filled with unforgettable moments and jaw dropping scenery. Got to watch some NFL here in Chile while in my hotel bed so got a little taste of home and it made me a little homesick. It's back to the states tonight so y'all better get ready for me. Hasta luego Chile!

Posted by Sikhamsay 17:02 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Santiago, Chile

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I've been staying in hostels the entire trip and I'm over shared bathrooms and unwashed sheets. So the last 4 nights of this 2 week trip I will be staying at a hotel in Santiago. The place is Meridiano Sur, Petit Hotel and it's in a great location within walking distance to the metro (Santiago's subway) and restaurants, and most importantly bars.

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The first day in Santiago we just wandered around Providencia (the neighborhood where our hotel is located) and Las Condes. As you travel East along Santiago's main road the neighborhoods get more and more ritzy. Walking around Las Condes you're surrounded by skyscrapers and this neighborhood has been called Sanhattan with it's shimmering high-rises like in Manhattan. The Andes rise up above the urban sprawl of Santiago for a dramatic backdrop but most of the time the smog clouds a clear view of the city.

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Our first night in Santiago ended up with us having dinner with a Santiagian. We stopped at a bar in Las Condes and had a few beers while discussing Chile's history with the server (the server to the left of Judy).

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We ended up staying there for drinks and conversation well beyond the closing time and didn't realize it. We felt bad for keeping the staff there late but they were all very gracious and the owner just as gracious. The most gracious of all was the server. We ended up having a home cooked meal of soup and steak at his house along with great wine. He lived in a very modest house and had a son that had poor hearing in one ear because of a meningitis infection. It was an amazing experience. We got to experience the day-to-day life of a working class Chilean...no better way to experience the culture of Chile. He was so gracious...he even paid for both of our subway rides and the taxi ride back and refused to accept anything from us. The next day we tried to find him at a rally commemorating former President Allende's death but didn't run into him. Gonna miss the dude.

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The next day we visited La Vega, which is Santiago's open vegetable market. If it grows from the ground there's a good chance this market sells it. There are also many hole in the wall places to eat here that serve peasant food if you will--you know the kind of food that your mom would make. We ate at Carmen's and had a delicious soup followed by a braised beef pasta dish.

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The best thing to do in Santiago is wander around the streets so we decided to do a walking tour. Started off at a hectic bar with Judy squeezing in between just over 18 years-old Chileans trying to order a terremoto, which is cheap wine with pineapple ice cream and definitely gets you going.

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From there we went to Mercado Central to gawk at Santiago's open fish market. Judy hates fish because of the smell so she wasn't too impressed. Luckily the cheap wine made her not mind the fish smell so much so I was able to walk around a bit.

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The walking tour continued through the streets of central Santiago. This town has it's share of Plazas and everyone was out enjoying the nice weather. Street performers attracted huge crowds of people yet others were out just to enjoy a nice game of chess. Also went to the National Library and got a chance to see an art exhibit.

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Posted by Sikhamsay 16:38 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

DOs and DONTs

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I've only been good with 1 of 3 dos and donts (see first post), the greeting part. I've already discussed communism with several Chileans here and that turned out fine though. I couldn't take pictures of the indigenous in Patagonia because the invasive species known as Europeans gave their diseases to the indigenous and they all died out. However, the indigenous in the Atacama are still living so I had a chance to do my best as a National Geographic geek. I've tried to photograph the Emo kids here but I haven't been successful because the Emo kids just don't care and won't pose for photos they're just too damn into their emotions.

Anyways, I was in a pueblo in the Andean plateau and tried to snap a picture of an indigenous woman but she saw my gigantic camera and darted back into the dwelling. I did get a photo though since my camera was faster than she was...success! I wanted more so I walked into the building where she was selling food. I pointed to my camera and then to the food she was selling and she shook her head in agreement. I went to compose the shot but quickly moved the lens up away from the food to try and capture her. She caught me red handed and pointed to a tin can and said something in Spanish. The Brazilian couple in our group translated and said she told me to tip her. I tipped her and I bought the giant piece of fried dough as well.

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Oh our group was great and our guide Gino was great too. You can see Gino here in this picture. He is a carbon copy of Apollo Anton Ohno. See if you can find him in the picture here.

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Posted by Sikhamsay 15:58 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

San Pedro de Atacama

The Atacama Desert and Norte Chile

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I took a bus from Valparaiso back to Santiago to catch a flight out to Calama in Northern Chile. The town of San Pedro de Atacama doesn't have an airport so couldn't book a direct flight. Both towns are in the Atacama desert and are about an hour's drive from each other. The flight to Northern Chile gave me a chance to get an aerial view of the Andes mountain range. Here's a shot from the plane.

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Calama is a small mining town in the Atacama desert. It's claim to fame is the gigantic copper mine just north of town--one of the largest open-pit copper mines in the world. I had wanted to go see this abyss but couldn't fit the trip into the schedule. There's a shit load of activities to do in San Pedro anyways and Calama is well an eye sore of a town and makes TJ look like Beverly Hills. Chileans, however, are very prideful of Calama and for good reason since this town provides the Chilean economy with a staggering amount of copper money year after year.

It's dry as fuck in this high desert and this town is sky high--over 8,000 feet above sea level. San Pedro is an oasis in the desert but apparently the water here is naturally polluted with high levels of arsenic which leaches from the surrounding salt lakes. I brushed my teeth with the water here and bathed in it and so far haven't suffered any ill effects from arsenic poisoning yet. The polluted water and high elevation isn't enough to deter tourists from visiting this town and the hordes of visitors has turned San Pedro into a Disneyland in the desert.

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I first visited Laguna Chaxa, which has been turned into a reserve since 3 of the 5 known species of Flamingoes use this lake as a breeding ground. The lake itself is very accessible and is a short drive from San Pedro. Walking around the lake you can also see volcanoes all around and one of them is the volcano Lascar which is the most active here in Chile and you can see plumes of smoke rising from it's crater. The volcano last erupted in 1996. The reserve is within the Atacama salt flat and the earth's crust here looks like a roided-out stucco wall.

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From Laguna Chaxa I went even higher up above sea level to see the alpine lakes Laguna Miscanti and Laguna Miniques, which are both named for the volcanoes that rise up above these lakes. It's a long drive to get to these alpine lakes but once you see the scenery it makes the trip out here worthwhile. You can't go down to the shores of the lakes because again these lakes have been turned into reserves. At 14,107 feet above sea level it wouldn't make for a fun walk back up from the shores. Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the 48 contiguous states, is at an elevation of 14,505 ft so you do the comparison. I couldn't make any sudden movements without feeling disoriented and nauseous from the elevation.

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The next day I woke up at the wee hours of the morning to see the El Tatio Geysers. Tours leave no later than 4 a.m. since the best time to see these geyers is dawn before the air temperature warms up and the winds will start to disperse the steam. The drive up the Andean plateau to get to these geysers is a fucken bitch. It takes 2 hours to get there and you need AWD and high clearance to get over the river fords and unpaved roads. I thought I had acclimated to the high elevation from yesterdays trip to the alpine lakes but once again the 14,107 feet elevation is busting my ass. Nearly passed out a few times and dry heaved a couple times when I got out of the car. Oh and I must mention that at this elevation at dawn, the temperature is below freezing and it definitely doesn't look like it with all the steam rising up from the ground. I tried to stay warm by crouching down next to a small geyser (I stayed away from the big ones because the crystal crust around the alpine geysers is very thin and can collapse so you'll burn yourself or better yet die...more on that later). I didn't warm up because the geyser was too small, about the size of a frick'in nipple and I got up too fast and things went black for a few seconds.

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Unlike the geysers in Yellowstone you can get right up to the gurgling holes here in El Tatio. There are also fumaroles galore and one of them was spitting out plumes of sulfurous gas like a fog machine or better yet my cousin Chant's ass. It was funny seeing other tourists walking into the plumes of gas totally unaware that they'll probably pass out and die from inhaling too much of the sulfurous gas. As you can see this place is not regulated much.

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As the sun starts to rise shafts of light crown the ring of volcanoes and the rising steam begins to glow making an unforgettable scene. You look around and it seriously looks like a world out of Dante's inferno.

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By early morning the sun is in full view warming up the air temperature and the steam starts to disperse so what's there to do next but to enjoy a nice dip in the thermal springs. Yay-yeah! Stripping down to my tiny board shorts in the frigid air I looked forward to a nice relaxing soak in the thermal hot springs. The water temperature however wasn't as warm as I thought. Makes sense though. At this elevation water never reaches 100 C since the low pressure lowers the boiling point of water thus the lower temperature of the thermal springs. Right behind the thermal springs lies "The Killer." Its aptly named for taking the lives of a few people who stood too close to the geyser and the the fragile salt crust gave way and turned them into human soup. I watched from afar.

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San Pedro is also known for it's landscape, especially Valle de la luna or Valley of the moon. You go there a few hours before sunset to hike some of the trails and later hike up sand dunes onto a cliff to catch the sunset. The valley definitely looks like the moon hence the name. This valley would've been a great place for mountain biking but by this point I was suffering from something that I don't really understand. I wasn't sure if the arsenic in the water was starting to do something to me but it felt like I had a combination of the flu and a 3 day hangover but I haven't been drinking...not much anyways.

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The town of San Pedro is tiny with unpaved dusty streets and high priced meals because of the tourists. I did visit the surrounding pueblos in the Andean plateau. All of them have dwellings made from adobe with thatched roofs and are populated by the indigenous Atacameno people. One of the pueblos had solar panels atop the roofs. They all can speak Spanish though and are influenced by the Inca. The houses all have crosses on top of them to ward of evil spirits.

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At the time I didn't know it but I was clearly suffering from altitude sickness. I keep forgetting that San Pedro is over 8,000 ft in elevation. Having dinner the last night in San Pedro I couldn't hold down my food. For 2 nights straight the Chilean dude staying in the room across from me was puking his innards out...altitude sickness as well. We shared a bathroom at the hostel and my bed is right up against the wall adjacent to the bathroom so a good's night rest was rare. Looking forward to the 5 a.m. transfer to Calama to catch a flight back to Santiago.

Posted by Sikhamsay 15:30 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

WTF

While enjoying the beach in Concon I noticed a group of people all dressed the same and they were digging giant holes in the sand. They were burying beads and some other random stuff. I asked Judy why they are all wearing white flowing dresses and she said it must be a Chilean thing. I didn't think much of it until later the group moved down towards the water and started to chant and sing. They were washing themselves too. In the middle of the group was some lady dressed in white with her head wrapped. Weird ass shit! I told Judy to join them since she totally looked the part.

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Posted by Sikhamsay 20:10 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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