A Travellerspoint blog

North of Valparaiso

Day 2

0 °F

I woke up this morning still shit-faced and not in any condition to explore more of Valparaiso. I went to dinner last night at Le Filou de Montpellier which is a French restaurant here in Valparaiso. The food was mind blowing. Just 10 choices to pick from for dinner. I had a giant bowl of steamed mussels followed by beef bourguignon. They also serve home-made pate that I couldn't stop eating. During dinner I finished an entire bottle of Carmenere. Ran into a kid wearing an SDSU sweater. He was an exchange student from Del Mar/Torrey Pines. Afterwards I went back to Cafe Vinilo for more of their micro-brews and stayed there until they closed. Ran into a photographer from Portugal and he decided to join Judy and I to for more drinks. While walking to the next drinking hole this Chilean started talking English to us since she overheard us and wanted to practice her English. She tried to get us in a club for free but the bouncer would budge and wanted the guys to pay so we decided on another bar to see some live music. Ended up at some random bar with a bunch of Chileans singing songs about politics and national pride. We were sitting on the second floor overlooking the stage and my drunk ass started to fist pump and yell Viva la Revolucion and I got a few stares...yeah. Needless to say today I am suffering from all that boozing.

After dragging myself out of bed we walked down the hill to catch a bus to Concon. It's a small beach town just north of Valparaiso and there's a place there called Las Deliciosas known for empanadas. I fell alseep during the bus ride up the Chilean coast and we missed our stop by 22 km...no bueno. We got off at some random town and just hopped on another bus back to Concon.

At Las Deliciosis I ordered 3 kinds of empanadas. Each one was between $1 and $2 and they were much bigger than I thought. The first was crab with cheese followed by razor clams with onions and razor clams with cheese. All were damn worth the trip and the best empanada was the razor clam with cheese.

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Went to the beach after that belly filling meal. Water was too cold since it's still winter here in Chile. Waves were small but that didn't stop some surfers waiting to catch that big ride. The views were amazing and the open air was a nice reprieve from the cluster of Valparaiso.

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Walked around Concon for a bit and was amazed by the seafood here. There are so many great restaurants here and they were all packed with people. We didn't eat at any of them since we were still full from the empanadas and also we had to catch a bus back to Valparaiso.

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Back in Valparaiso we walked up from our hostel to see Pablo Neruda's house called La Sebastiana. He was an influential poet and Nobel Prize laureate. His house has spectacular views of Valparaiso and is worth the crazy hike up Cerros Bellavista. His home was built to look like a ship and each room is an art museum in itself. I don't have any images of inside the house...not allowed to shoot pictures.

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You can't take pictures when inside the house but you can take pictures of the views. These are some of the views from Neruda's house.

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Well it's been a crazy couple of days here in Valparaiso. I'll miss the city's charm but won't miss the dog shit. Going to go to bed early to catch the first bus back to Santiago for a flight out to the desert in the north. Peace out!

Posted by Sikhamsay 19:34 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Valparaiso, Chile

Day 1

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To get to Valparaiso from Patagonia it's a 6 hour flight followed by a 1.5 hour bus ride and believe me it ain't fun. Valparaiso though was worth the journey. This place is a gem. UNESCO had it right when it declared this town a world heritage site. My best description of Valparaiso would be like putting San Francisco into a blender and when you pour that shit out you get Valparaiso. The hills, the quirky streets, the architecture, the urban sprawl, the art, the culinary scene, this town has it all and San Francisco doesn't even come close. The only thing about this town that sucks is the dog shit and I already stepped in some. Tourists are everywhere in this town unlike Patagonia...well I mean foreign tourists. Americans, Argentines, and yes even Euro trash they're all here. Valparaiso is basically two parts: the flat commercial area and then the hills or Cerros. The best thing to do in this town is to explore these Cerros and basically just get fucken lost because every turn, every alley, every whatever is bad ass. Oh and a good buzz helps too.

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If you're fat and out of shape, well, good luck exploring Valparaiso. The hills here are intense so for those that are not athletic they built these funiculars that take you up and down the hills. It's 100 Chilean pesos one way and I took one up and down just for the heck of it. They don't look or feel very sturdy so just have faith.

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There's art everywhere in this town and Chileans were correct in calling Valparaiso the cultural capital. Creativity oozes out of every nook and cranny. The lamp posts along the street leading down the hill from our hostal were turned into a mosaic. While I was taking pictures of these lamp posts a lady walking by told me to put my "machine" away if I were to continue down lower. That's the downside of this town...petty crime. My camera is huge! I can't have my camera out for pictures too long before I get uneasy stares.

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After getting lost down in the flat commercial district I finally made it to Cerros Concepcion and Alegre. These are two adjacent hills known for 19th century homes painted with bright colors and sweeping vistas of central Valparaiso and the port. These hills have the best restaurants and cafes in town. The first cafe we went to was alright and it was only because Judy needed food and was starting to get cranky.

Thereafter we went to Cafe Vinillo for some drinks. Cafe Vinillo has a variety of micro brews made by the owner and yes they didn't disappoint in taste. I had the blonde and the brown ale. Both are excellent so I'll be heading back to this place tonight to try the other brews. The only strange thing was that they served my beer in a wine glass. Also tried an ice cream desert but I have no fucken idea what the flavor was but it looked nice. Wasn't too excited about the taste and the texture was too icy. They have art plastered all over the place so it's nice to look at and the atmosphere and the servers are great. I had a Pisco Sour here and I still have yet to like this national drink of Chile. I talked to an American lady here who was originally from the D.C. area but have been living in Europe for the last 7 years. I think her hubby was a French dude. It was nice to converse in English again. Almost forgot the damn language.

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With my buzz on I walked around some more to get better views of central Valparaiso. We stumbled upon Brighton, which is a B&B with amazing views of town. The place was too busy at first but we came back later and got a table on the patio. I ordered a soup and inhaled that motherfo! It's a cream of pumpkin with razor clams and fried camembert. Think clam chowder but with pumpking instead of potatoes. I want some more. I also ordered a Pisco Sour in my quest to find a place that makes this damn drink good. And I have to admit Brighton makes a very good Pisco Sour. I also had a Valparaiso micro brew and that beer didn't disappoint. While enjoying this cafe we talked to a couple from Argentina and they recommended a few beach towns north of here for us to visit so we'll most def hit these spots. The Argentines also commented on my gigantic camera and called it a machine as well. I also saw some Americans here at Brighton and could spot them from a mile away...homeboy was wearing basketball shorts, a UCLA t-shirt and Nikes.

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I bought another souvenir from Chile and while I was taking a picture of my purchase and older Chilean man said to me that the dude on the magnet I was buying was the best president ever. I asked how he compared to Castro and wasn't sure if I offended him or not. I remembered not to talk about this country's Communist past so I didn't pursue the conversation further. The magnet was of Pinochet but it read Pinoshit. For years Pinochet ruled Chile with an iron fist and was put into power by the CIA after a military coup. The president was assassinated and Pinochet was given the reigns. A part of Chilean history that most of them would like to forget.

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As I had mentioned earlier there's a huge art scene here in Valparaiso. Here are a few shots of murals around town. I also ran into an artists making a mural out of bottle caps. He was turning the walls around a small park into art and had kids sort out the bottle caps for him.

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So far Valparaiso has captured me with her charm and unexpectedness. I'm also excited that this town didn't disappoint with the food. I'll post about tonight's dinner soon since I have yet to eat. I'm just trying to figure out how to get back to Cerros Concepcion from the hostel. The streets and street names here are not easy to remember...well, except for this one.

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Posted by Sikhamsay 17:04 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Punta Arenas

Out and about day 4

0 °F

It's my fourth day here in Punta Arenas and the day after Torres del Paine so I'm beat. So today I'm taking it easy and soaking up Patagonian culture here in Punta Arenas. First let's discuss booze. There's Cristal beer which I was told by a local that it's the finer beer. Then there's Austral Patagonia beer which is competition for Cristal. The Austral beer comes in different brews. I've had Austral Lager, Austral Pale Ale, and Austral Torres del Paine. The lager is crisp with a clear golden color, has a sweet finish and very low bitterness. The Ale is not too exciting and again tastes sweet with little hops in the taste. The Austral Torres del Paine on the other hand was delicious. This beer tastes like a micro brew and is bolder than the others I've had. Cristal I don't recommend and tastes like a Coors light with slightly more hops.

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I've been going to this cafe in town called Chocolatta to use their Wi-Fi. This place has churros that are the shit! They are filled with dolce de leche so they're not covered in sugar but just dusted with powdered sugar and this makes them not too sweet but buttery and fucken delicious. I've had them two days in a row.

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Also went back to Sabores for a late lunch. Whatever this Pilpil way of cooking is it's got me hooked like it was crack. This time had Scallops Pilpil and didn't disappoint. I was still hungry so ordered Calamares Romana and yeah delicious. Here in Chile at restaurants they serve you Perbe, which is a cross between pico de gallo and bruschetta but spicy. And Perbe is eaten with a starch usually a warm roll. There ain't no tortillas here in Chile.

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My friend Judy had to relieve herself bad while walking around town today because homegirl drank a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. So we walked into this cafe in town to use the restroom. I waited outside for her and soon after I saw the worker girl dart out of the store to go across the street with a $20 bill in her hand. Apparently that girl asked Judy to pay $2 for using the toilet and Judy was not happy. Can't remember the name of the place but don't go there.

I went to a couple of musuems here in Punta Arenas and also went to an art gallery. One of the musuems is the Sara Braun mansion and well not too many rooms to see there. The view of town from this mansion was nice and the opulent furnishings, ceilings and woodwork were all original and from the 1890's. Sara Braun was a Russian that came from a wealthy family and married a Portugese. Their wealth came from sheep and were pioneers in that industry. Punta Arenas has many mansions here and symbolizes the wealth to be made at the time from sheep and agriculture.

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The other musuem is another mansion and belonged to Sara Braun's brother. It's the Menendez mansion. This place was closed so I just walked around the grounds. There's a huge backyard with creepy chairs made to look like hands.

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I wanted some views of town from the hills so did some walking in the rain to get a birds-eye view of the city. The homes are brightly colored and come in a rainbow of shades. From these hills you can see the Strait of Magellan. Reminds me of San Francisco in some parts. This part of town is more suburban and the homes are larger than the ones near town.

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Latin Americans have an obsession with 2 things: Reggaetone and the Virgin Mary so to see a Jehovah's witness gathering place blew me away. The Mormons are everywhere!

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Posted by Sikhamsay 16:24 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Patagonia

Torres del Paine National Park

0 °F

Woke up at 5 in the morn to get ready for Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (pronounced Pine-nay) and the forecast for the day was, well, more cold wind. The guide picked us up at 6 for a 3 hour drive to the town Puerto Natales, which itself is another 2 hours to the park entrance. When we walked into the van the guide introduced us to the rest of the group. Judy and I were the lone American tourists, then there was 1 spanish dude, and the remaining 6 were Chileans all older women...one of them was a grandma so I thought to myself what kind of tour is this are we even going hiking?! Of course the guide spoke nothing but Spanish and apparently he likes Asian women so I promised to find him one. Needless to say I understood nothing he said and I probably would have understood him more if he used sign language.

Como se llama? Said the guide and I would say Nathan. Apparently that's not a common Spanish name. Everyone pronounced it wrong and I had no idea there were so many variations of Nathan when a Spanish speaking person is trying to pronounce it. I just gave up and went right to sleep. I woke up 3 hours later and we had already arrived at Puerto Natales. At the entrance to the town there was a giant statue of a beaver and the sign Bienvenido Puerto Natales. The rest of the group ran out of the van to take a picture with the giant beaver. That beaver was life-like...it even had balls. And yes those old Chilean women were putting their hands on the beaver's balls and taking pictures with it...the grandma too. I didn't know this at the time but that beaver statue is actually a Miladon, which is an extinct beast that use to roam the area. Google the image if you all are curious.

We continued on to the first stop: Cueva del Miladon. Some cave where they found Miladon remains. A Norwegein scientist was the first to discover the skin of this extinct beaver...or beast I should say. We hiked to this giant cave. Wasn't very impressive I must say but interesting. I was ready to see the main event not a beaver cave.

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By now the road was not paved and it's going to be unpaved roads from Puerto Natales on out. I must mention the driver was speeding down the dirt road as if he was interstate 5. At least we got to our first stop quick though: Lago Torro. The colors were amazing. I got out of the van to take pictures and well lost my balance because the wind was blowing like a bitch! Patagonia weather is something to experience. The winds at Mammoth is amateur compared to this shit. Welcome to the big league boys. I wanted to take pictures of the glacier and the lake but I could only go so close to the cliff otherwise I'd turn into a kite. When I got back into the van the old Chilean women were so afraid I was going to get blown away.

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We continued on to Lago Grey. It's a short hike to the lake from where the van was parked. You first have to cross this rickety suspension bridge that had a sign saying 6 people maximum. I just had faith that Chileans are good engineers and that this bridge is sturdy. From this bridge you walk through some trees to the lake shore. The wind was relentless. I don't know how that Chilean grandma did the walk to the lake and back...she had a cane. She's a warrior and I was impressed.

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Chileans are prideful when it comes to their country. The Spanish dude was a human chimney and was had a cigarette in his hand the entire time except when we were driving of course. One of the Chilean women yelled at him for smoking in the park and asked him how would he like it if she went to his country and smoked in a national park there. I don't think he cared much.

I told myself I wasn't going to drink much since I'm still sick and was miserable in the wind with my snotty nose. But somehow booze just gravitates towards me. I saw the guide picking up things and putting it in a cooler. I was concerned a gust of wind would knock him off his feet and he'd get a nice surprise in the ass (see picture). Turns out the guide was collecting glacial ice to put in cups to chill "wicky" a.ka. whiskey. The giant shot of whiskey made me nice and warm. But I looked back and was dreading walking back to the trail in that wind but couldn't let the grandma one up me. When we got back to the van we all had lunch. The guide provided coffee and hard boiled eggs oh and mayo. Chileans LOVE mayo...I think they put it on hard boiled eggs too. I ate the egg and drank the coffee since I didn't want to be rude. I also ate some delicious salami that I bought back in Punta Arenas. The salami was imported from Spain and had giant pieces of fat marbled between peppercorns and the cured meat.

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After lunch we drove on to our final goal of seeing the Pine-nay peaks. We passed Lago Pehoe and the turquoise water was as impressive as the beaches in Hawaii but not as warm. From the lake we could see the peaks but apparently that wasn't the best view which I didn't understand because I could see those peaks fine.

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The next stop we hiked out to a waterfall and into more wind...worse than the lake. By now the grandma refused to get out of the van and I don't blame her. From this hike we could see the weather approaching and it didn't look good. I didn't walk out to this look-out area that overlooked a cliff and good thing I didn't because the wind picked up there and those folks had to lay down to prevent from being blown away. We didn't spend too much time there because the guide was concerned about the ominous clouds approaching and plus we had another hour drive before we hit the Pine-nay peaks.

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I saw plenty of wildlife in the park. The ultimate prize would have been a Puma sighting so I was tempted to throw some salami out the window to attract some. But I might get other unwanted animals too. There were wild horses roaming the hills alongside sheep that were grazing to fatten up. A grey fox was running around and was too fast for my camera. There were giant predatory birds including an eagle that was roosting alongside the road. The condors were flying up above us taking advantage of the wind. We also saw these deer-like animals called Guanaca. They roamed in herds large and small and apparently hunted by the indigenous. There numbers were running low so they were protected for a while and now they're everywhere kind of like pigeons. They don't flinch when humans approach and we had to drive past a few of them in the road with the driver honking his horn.

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By now we were chasing the sun to get a view of the peaks. The trip ended with majestic views of the Pine-nay peaks with the sun setting behind them. A fitting end. The grandma could care less. I think she wanted to go back. Te amo Patagonia. This region lived up to the hype. The array of colors, the moon-like terrain, the extreme weather, the glacial lakes, and the remoteness is something to experience. So much to see in so little time. We left at 6 in the morn and returned at midnight.

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Check out more photos in the photo gallery.

Posted by Sikhamsay 10:57 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Patagonia

Punta Arenas, Chile

overcast 34 °F

Punta Arenas, the end of the world as I'd say to people, is face numbing cold and that cold wind bitch slaps you in the face! Walking around town with my snot running down my nose makes me feel like Jim Carey in the movie Dumb and Dumber. I swear my snot is frozen. How the heck do these people live here?! It's a town so remote you can only access it by air or boat. The only road access is a round about highway through Argentina and it's not an easy drive. Google it if y'all don't believe me. My friend Judy and I are staying at Hostal Keoken while in Punta Arenas. We climb these wooden stairs to get to our room and from the top of those stairs you can see the Pacific Ocean. It's a family run place and our room is spacious and the down comforters are f'ing nice in the frigid night.

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Punta Arenas is difficult to define as a town. It's industrial in some parts but a sprawling metropolis in others. There's a giant hotel casino spa called Dreams and is right up against the Pacific Ocean and it's weird to see this in such a remote town. A Caesar's Palce in Patagonia...weird.

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Then you walk towards the main center of town not too far from this casino and it's more colonial looking.

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I have yet to run into American tourists here. I think my friend and I are the only tourists from the states. There are other tourists staying at the hostel with us but they are Chilean. I noticed that the people here are mainly middle class and it's apparent when you sit down at a restaurant or cafe and there are all these sharply dressed Chileans right alongside you paying the same amount of money as what us tourists from America is paying. Makes sense since Chile is experiencing an economic boom right now. Overall, the people here are very nice and hospitable. A stark contrast to the inhospitable land that they live in. The weather here is down right stingy with the sun so when it peeks out it feels nice and you don't feel so stupid for wearing sunglasses like my friend Judy here.

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I've been eating at this local joint called Sabores. It's in this unassuming building that looks weather beaten but when you walk up the stairs to the dining area it's got this unpretentious atmosphere with bomb ass local food and the prices are easy on my travel budget. Been here twice already and you can see how happy I am eating here. The seafood is the best I've had...so much so I've already ordered the same dish twice. It's callled Calamares Pilpil. It's Calamari for you Americans and is steamed to perfection in white wine, olive oil, and garlic. I savor every last drop of that piping hot broth in this cold weather. The wine selection here had my head spinning and I cannot decide on what to try. And if you're a wine lover like me and like Justin Timberlake would say you'd jizz your pants.

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The town pays homage to Magallen and the indigenous people that have been living here for hundreds of years. There's an easily recognizable maritime feel to some parts of this town. Magellan sailed through here I don't know the fuck when but this dude is an important figure here. There's a statue of both Magellan and the indigenous in the town square Tierra del Fuego. I saw Chilean after Chilean taking pictures next to the foot of the statue of the indigenous man sitting below Magellan. I didn't think much of it and just thought well it's the one part of the statue that you can actually touch. But then I walked into a souvenir store and saw a bunch of key chains made from a replica of that foot so there had to be some story behind that. I asked the store clerk...well my friend Judy the Spanish speaker asked her and she said that when you visit the statue it's customary to kiss the foot in hopes that one day you'll return to visit Punta Arenas. So I went back and kissed the foot of the indigenous man.

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Well the sun is setting here in Punta Arenas but from the looks of all the hustle and bustle in the town square the Chileans don't seem to mind it. The kids are out of school and they're everywhere and they all take the Emo look to the extreme. I've got a long day tomorrow as both my friend Judy and I will be trekking Torres del Paine and we are leaving for the park at 6 in the morn yo!

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Posted by Sikhamsay 16:56 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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