29 January 2008

Patagonia: Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

We left Seattle at 8am on Thursday and landed in Punta Arenas at 2:30 the next afternoon. That's 30 hours of flying people! Okay, real time it was only 25.5 hours of flying, but it certainly felt like 30+! Here's a word to the wise: Don't use Orbitz to book International Flights! I barely got on the 1st flight leaving Seattle, where we flew to Orlando, then Miami, Santiago, and finally Punta Arenas. We were on stand by for every single one of our flights, and never got to sit together.

Okay, enough ranting, this trip was AMAZING and we got our big glitch out of the way with the flights right at the beginning! Here's what I packed for the trip, and believe it or not I used everything I brought and didn't need anything I didn't have. If that makes sense.






It turns out we had a travel uniform for the flight over also. Khaki-ish pants and black tops. Oh, and don't forget the greasy hair!





The view of the mountains over Santiago was really pretty...not that I would know...i always sleep on airplanes! But here are the pictures Ryan/Kristi took: Arriving in Punta Arenas we were immediately hit with the fact that yes, we were in a foreign country, and yes, my Spanish was indeed remedial, to say the least.

We managed to make it into town, but made the mistake of skipping the Information booth at the airport, so we hadn't a clue where to find our pre-booked hostel. We were walking around like nomads with our very heavy bags just looking for a bank or information center or something! Finally after circling the town square a few times we realized there was an information center in the square! Dummies! But we were able to get a decent map, directions to the nearest ATM, and then we hopped a cab to our hostel, which was about a 20 minute walk out of town. At our hostel, the nice old-lady owner helped us get settled and served us the most delish beverage ever: Jugo! Also known as REALLY strong, full-bodied juice...this one was peach flavored. It's basically like drinking heavy syrup from a peach can. Basically my dream in a glass. But our hostel (pictured above) was in the GHETTO! Not dangerous mind you, just far from everything. In the future it's best just to pay a bit more, because eventually you'll make that money back on time spent walking/cab fares.

I just really liked this licence plate...made me want to go skiing! Boy was windy! that's not to say we hadn't been warned! We spent some time on the beach (cold!) and then went to dinner.














I got a very tasty pizza. It was just ham and pineapple, but as you can see the ham was candied and it also had candied cherries on it. But after all that traveling i was so hungry it could have had candied bark and I would have eaten it!





I've found that when in a foreign country you'll always have some pleasant and unexpected surprises: After dinner, we were standing on a corner looking at a map when a man came up to us and asked if we needed some help. Jose, in his late forties, was Chilean, but had lived in Texas for over 10 years. He was really excited to use his English since, surprisingly, not very many Americans travel that far south. He took us all around, helping us buy bus tickets, showing us the money exchange, and answering our questions about Penguin tours.Then, his friend Juan-Jose drove up in a Mustang and offered us a ride around town. After some hesitation, we squeezed in the mustang and he took us around.



My initial reaction was that Punta Arenas was fairly unimpressive. The houses are small and in many places are patch-worked together or built entirely from metal sheeting. But it turns out Punta Arenas has an interesting history. Literally meaning Sand Point, Punta arenas started of as a penal colony. Later, many Slavic's moved down along with some Brits. Only many years later did Chilean's start to move further south. Before the Panama canal was opened, Punta Arenas was home to two major ports on the straight of Magellan and was the primary stop for most ships. Now it's mostly used for military personnel, but many of the structures are still in place.

Juan-Jose drove us to the top of the hill to lookout onto the city. Mind you, these pictures were taken at 10pm or later! Look how light it still is!
After some more driving around and a stop at the southernmost golf course in the world (which is on a military base), Juan-Jose dropped us off at our hostel, but not before a quick stop at the town square! Apparently it's tradition for visitors to kiss the foot of the Indian statue there and our hosts insisted that we do so. I thought they just wanted to see the silly Americans kiss a statue, but it was a fun way to end the evening.

The next morning we got up and walked around a nearby cemetery I always like to visit cemetery's in other countries, they can really give you a sense of local culture, and are grounds for some very beautiful photos). (At the entrance there were these big white structures that almost looked like miniature apartment buildings. They were actually really big tombs, about 7 tall by 20-30 wide. Each "window" acted as a shrine to the person who had died and was housed there. Most were full of flowers, pictures, rosaries, and a few even had little mini Christmas trees! It is clear by the great maintenance of the grounds that they treat their dead with much more respect and care than we do here in the States.




Walking further into the cemetery, we came upon the family plots, many of which were nice sized buildings meant to hold entire extended families. Here we could really see the Slavic influence, as many of the names were of that decent. Overall, it was a really beautiful place to spend a few hours. After our excursion, we caught a 3 hour bus to Puerto Natales, which was smaller than Punta Arenas and a bit more tourist friendly. We had a GREAT hostel with free Internet, and we settled in waiting for Adam to join us. Coincidentally, just was we were heading out to explore the town Ryan and I saw Adam ride by on a bus! We went to meet him, discussed our plans, and decided to head into Torres del Paine national park the next day!

Hurried plans were made, bus tickets were bought, and food was purchased and rationed out. Man we were we excited! Now all we had to do was make it out alive ;-)

Next post: Torres del Paine!

16 January 2008

Patagonia: Itinerary

Hi Everyone,

Here's a quick background on the trip:

On December 19th I left to travel through southern Chile and Argentina with three friends for two weeks. It was my first Christmas away from home (*sniff*) but there couldn't have been a better alternative. We flew into Punta Arenas, Chile, which is the biggest city , the furthest South. We had a few days to explore before heading up to Puerto Natalas to meet the fourth person in the group: Adam, who was already in South America participating in the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS).

We had one night Puerto Natales then began our five day camping/hiking trek through Torres del Paine National Park. TdP is the heart of Patagonia and is home to some of the most impressive mountain spires in the region. It was also summer time and, along with the hole in the ozone layer, we anticipated wearing a lot of SPF 50.

After five days of roughing it, we had two nights in a hostel then hopped on a bus (6 hours!) to El Calafate, Argentina. There we camped in a family's backyard for 3 nights and did a day trip into Los Glaciers National Park to see the Perito Moreno Glacier. This is the biggest glacier in Patagonia, and only one of three in the region that is not retreating. The walls of sheer ice tower 180 feet above the water level and it was spectacular!

Then it was back to Puerto Natales to celebrate New Years, and I flew home on New Years Day, while my companions stuck around for 10 more days of climbing.

Stay tuned for more posts: next time with pictures!

11 January 2008

Welcome!

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to my website! I'm diligently working to update all of my recent travels for you. They're listed in chronological order by date of travel, so use the navigation options on the right hand side or simply scroll to October, 2005, to start with the beginning of my travels in Japan.

Thanks for visiting! Please leave comments!

Kristina