Sunday, February 1, 2009

Home (errr I mean Santiago)!

!warning long post!

Well, one of many (hopefully) adventures is over. We finally got back after a long couple of days (we spent the last 30 hours of 48 hours travelling). First the numbers:

25 nights (3 spent on a bus)
10 different hostels for a total of 14 nights
6 different campsites for a total of 8 nights
Hostels booked in advance: 1
Bus rides booked in advance: 3
Longest time without a shower: 3 days
Latest time to arrive without a place to stay: 1:30AM
Total different bus rides: 34
Money spent: Around 1500 USD
Things of mine that were lost: Watch, Camera filter, backpack raincover, Fishing pole
Oceans visited: 2 (Atlantic and Pacific)

Total bus time: Around 115 hours!

So some crazy numbers here. We covered a lot of ground in the 3 weeks that I was gone. We usually would only spend 1 or 2 days at most cities and then move on...

So the first leg of our journey involved taking a over night bus trip to the city of Valdivia, located in the south of Chile. It was a ok, 12 hour trip, we arrived in the morning, explored the city, took a crappy boat tour, went to a famous chilean beer brewery, and went to the beach for the afternoon. Going out in this town, proved to be tough, we started at this sleasy pool hall, and left shortly after! Playing pool here sucks, the pockets are a lot smaller and not rounded! Its almost impossible to play a game, it took us a hour to finish one game!

Click on the pics to make them bigger


(Valvidia)


(Beach about 30 min from Valdivia)

(Kunsman Brewery)

After Valdivia, we went to Puerto Varas, which is home to the fantastic volcano Osorno. We arrived a little late, so we had to quickly find a campsite and set up camp. On the way to the campsite, we met some Brazilians and we actually ended up camping and hanging out them for a couple days. At Osorno, we did some day hikes around a nice lake. But there were these huge horseflies, and a lot of them! It made the hike rather bothersome, so we did the hike rather quick!


(Making dinner at our campsite)


(Volcano Osorno)


(Los Lagos)


(Notice the huge fly above my head)


(With the Brazilians)

Our next stop was the island of ChiloƩ, where we visted 2 cities, Ancun and Castro. There is no bridge to this island, so a ferry is needed. Its funny to see a huge bus, like greyhound on a ferry. In the afternoon when we arrived, we did a tour of the area, and went on a Penguin tour. It was amazing, to see Penguins in the wild and not in a zoo! The penguin tour was located in a small fishing villiage, where people were bringing in the catches for the day. After Ancun, we took yet another bus to Castro, where we camped in a national park. The park was nice, but nothing fantastic. After a night there, we headed back to Puerto Montt to fly to Torres Del Paine..






(There were lots of little islands like with the Penguins)






(Castro is famous for its houses built on stilts)



We made our flight to Punta Arenas, and found a place to stay for the night. Its a different life down there, a lot of rain, and it doesnt get warmer than 60 degrees or so in the winter. The hostel we stayed at was a true hostel, a bunch of bunkbeds, in several rooms. You have to just trust people, not to steal your stuff! I would usually hide my important stuff (passporte, MP3, etc) in the sheets!


(Packing for the hike)

The next day, we headed towards Torres del Paine, which involved 2 long and bumpy bus rides to the park entrance. Once arriving at the park, started hiking at 6PM. Daylight lasts almost until 11PM, so you can cover a lot of ground. We did what is called the W circuit, which is a 5 day, 76 km, trail. The first day was rough, it was tough terrain and it started to rain and didnt stop. After setting up our tent, we spent the rest of the night, in a leanto shelter, talking with other people. After a wet evening, I had planned to get up the next morning and see the summit at sunrise! So, I actually got up at 3:45 (I was the only one) to do the 45 hike to the summit. It proved rather difficult to do in the dark (I had my headlamp)! But of course, I actually got to the summit too early and had to wait about 30 min before getting it got light outside. But, the weather changed while I was hiking and it started to snow! So, it was foggy when it got light and I couldnt see anything! So that was a bummer, but since I was the first hiker to reach the summit in the morning, it was neat to have the place to myself before a couple of other hikers came.


(Right before we started the hike)


(There are supposed to be mountains back there...)



(Moral is high again)

After coming down from the summit, the ranger told us that we should leave the higher ground and go back to another base camp because of the forecast and it was already raining by this time, so we took his word for it! The think about hiking, is that you have to hike back, there is no other choice! So, after packing a wet tent and clothes, we set off for a nice 10 mile hike back to the other campground. It was a steep climb, very muddy and rainy. The runoff from the mountains was a amazing sight, mini waterfalls were created and coming down the mountain. So this means that trails turn into streams and streams turn into rivers! After making it down base camp, moral was pretty low, the forecast called for 5 days of rain, which didnt make anybody happy. But, after a fire (this was the only place were fires were allowed), we dried our stuff (actually some people burned their clothes because they got too close to the flame!), and dinner, our moral was higher. The night was fine but windy, the next was nice, so it was great to pack a tent without it being soaking wet! The weather was ok for the rest of the trip, it would rain here and there but, it was ok for the most part. We had some long days of hiking, I think 10 hours was the longest, its a different feeling to hike a lot, set up camp, then the next day, take down camp and do the whole thing again! I had actually pulled a groin muscle on the second day which sucked, but I toughed it out, with a handy walking stick!


(Grey Glacier)


(It was very windy at this campsite)







(The glacier is about 1500 feet high!)


(This picture doesnt do any justice on how big this glacier is!)

After the hike, we headed back to Punta Arenas and spent the day there. Just a chill day, and we saw the Magellan Straits, which were cool. We flew back to Puerto Montt, and the guys did a fishing trip in a nearby river. We didnt catch anything, which sucked, but it was cool to fish in a river. As noted above, I lost my fishing pole which I had rented. Funny story, I was fishing on this big rock in the river and I decided to jump back to the shore, so before I did, I tossed my pole to a buddy before I jumped. But of course, I didnt throw it high enough and it flew into the river. There was no chance to get it, because I was fishing near some huge rapids and it was gone in a second! The store was closed when we came back and so I left a note with the money owed.....That night we went a casino, where I broke even. I wanted to play craps, but the casinos here dont do odds (only a few people probably no what that means)!


(Where I lost my pole)


(The note I left at the fishing shop)

From here, we went to Argentina. My buddy and I met the girls (who had came the previous day) in Bariloche. Which is kinda a popular outdoor town. After a night there, we started our trip to Buenas Aires, which was only a 22 hour bus ride away. But travelling by bus is different here, it is actually nice! You get a couple of good meals, drinks, and your seats fold into a bed. Plus they give you Whiskey nightcaps! And that ticket only cost about 100 dollars.

In Buenas Aires, I used points and we stayed at the Hilton, which proved to be a huge treat considering, our hostels before. But they only had a queen bed available, and we had 5 people. 3 people slept in the bed and 2 on the floor. So everytime we came and left we had to leave in groups, so people would get wise! So we spent 3 days there. It is a amazing city, a lot of life, cafes and places to eat are packed well into the morning hours. So of course, we had to try 2 things BA is famous for: Meat and tango (no we didnt dance), but went to a tango club, where we watched people dance, it wasnt a show or anything, just regular joes. It was an amazing thing to see! We spent three days there, just exploring the city and hanging out at a cafes during the day and bars at night. The BA bus terminal is huge, about 160 gates of which buses are leaving at every moment!




(One of the cafes we ate at)








(Some dogs seeking shelter from a rainstorm)


(BA at night)


(BA at night)

From BA, we went to the town of San Bernando, a beach town about 7 hours to the south of BA (we thought it was suppose to be 4!). The busride was pretty crappy, a old and smelly bus. They were showing a VHS movie, which needed tracking the whole time, and during the movie, somebody taped over a bit and a spanish music video appeared! Very ghetto....It proved to be a very interesting town! It had a carnival atmosthere and the place was full of teens! Drinking age there is 18 and it isnt really enforced. So we decided to avoid the bar and club scene for that reason, and just spent a few days and nights hanging out at the beach. But the party scene was just crazy, the streets were flooded with young people the entire night and morning! We left the hostel at 7:30 to catch a bus, and there were lots of people just partying! I mean, I am not talking about a few people here and there, but a ton! There were lots of police, trying to get people to go home...

From there, we went back to BA, to catch a bus back to Santiago. The last leg of the journey was hard, long bus rides and the land border crossing took about 3 hours....

I dont want to go back to work, but its nice not to live out of a backpack anymore!

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