A Travellerspoint blog

the Desert North

sunny 30 °C
View West Coast of South America on Tatyanazzz's travel map.

After spendfing a week in the central region of Chile, we decided it was time to move on. Although buing a ticket for the bus was easy the 20 something hour bus ride was a test of endurance. Our journey was to Antofogasta second bigest city in Chile, north of Santiago. We took the night bus boarding at 5pm driving through the night and finally arriving at 1pm at our destination. We got to witness a bit of the countryside which started of with the usual fields, avocado orchards and vineyards.Then the landscape started changing into dry hills coloured only by some shrubery and cactuses, then we awoke to the view of the desert for the next 5 hours. Now we find our selves in the city of Antofogasta with dry brown hills to our east and the pacific laping at the coast.

Antofogasta is a strange town, originally built as a port for all the mining ventures in the region. The infistructurure is old and generally we werent imprest. We then moved onto Calama another inbetween town formed from the mining boom. This city has only one thing to offer: buses to leave.

So after a few disapointments we were pleased to arrive in a small township of San Pedro de Atacama, located in the driest desert in the world at the foot of a volcano. This township was recognised by UNESCO as a world heritage site. At the moment its overun by tourists from all parts of the world. Although we feel its a still a destination of the beaten track.
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In the two days that we have been here, we┬┤ve been able to witness more of the essence of Chilean culture then in the past week. Within the hour of arriving here we hired a bikes and were off to explore the grandure of the Laguna de Muerte (death as nothing lives or grows there). Later we follwed through with an expedition of 17km on a bike to the Valley of the Moon. To our suprise the desert landscape is very diverse offering dramatic landscapes: high sand dunes, different rock formations, caves lined with minerals abd crystals.
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San Pedro has the highest consintration of tourist operators in North Chile. Where every second door is either an eatery, a hostel, a tour operator or a souvenir shop. So we were inticed to jump on a tour to the Geiser de Tatio. Starting at 4am we boarded a small 4WD bus to undertake the grulling 2hour gravel road climbing 2000m from our current location. Making it the higest geothermic field in the world at 4300m above see level.(Mount Cook is 3200m). The early start guarantees our arrival at sunrise to witness the spectacle, where the hot underground water comes to the surface, mixing with the cold air -5 C to create impresive steam plumes.

The tour was good value, although a rough ride, we saw more local fauna: birds, valcoonas (small llama), a rabbit/opossum and flamengos. We even dropped by a village of indiginous Chileans to taste some BBQ llama. Mmmmm
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We are now starting to feel a bit drained from lack of oxygen at high altitude, lack of green veges and grains in our tourist diet. Although we are "looking after ourselves" eating lots of fruit and taking in the sun cautiosly. Off to Bolivia on a 3day 4WD excurtion.......

Posted by Tatyanazzz 14:15 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

The Coast

Vina del Mare, Valparaso

We set out on a 1.5hr bus trip to the coast off Santiago to a small place called Vina del mare. More of a resort town than a tourist town, with High rise appartments literally on the beach mixed with restuaraunts and the odd castle.DSC03626.jpg

We sifted down to the beech and then made our way back through the streets, stopping to check out a real Easter Island Maoi (statue). Spent the night in an old creaky backpackers.


The next morning we made our way to Valparaso, a ten minute train ride to the next bay. The hills covered with multi coloured houses and steep stairways. We took a couple of rides up old Ascentors (cable cars) built between 1883 and 1907, they rise quickly at 65Deg up rustic wooden supports, an old man at the top pulls the start lever, all day everyday. It seems jobs are not there out of nessecity but to employ the many people who do not have skills or education. Parking wardens sit in the shade on each street corner waiting for a car to park so they can issue a ticket. Venders scoul the streets and beechs selling ice blocks and cool drinks.
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There is not always a lot to do in the smaller citys but walking around and taking in the culture is enough. So many amazing buildings and small narrow streets you never know what sight is around the next corner.
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Posted by Tatyanazzz 06:21 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Our days in Santiago


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Shaking off the jet lag and a hounding cold, our lovely host Paulina escorted us to have a look around the city centre. The metro system here is efficient, clean and easy to navigate. The city centre is a conglomeration of old and new architecture, the streets were bustling with vendors, buskers, beggars and lots of pedestrians. We made our way through the pedestrian promenade, borded by rows of maple trees on each side, towards plaza de Almas the old city square. A tourist mecha: its a central point for most of the museums, artists and buskers and a good place to sit and people watch.

Taking a quick rest, we were witness to traditional performance: Chilean drummers, who have a bass drum and cymbals on there backs, they whack the drum on one side with a stick and on the other with a mallet to create two different sounds, they also have a strap to there feet which connects to two cymbals (hihat style). They then begin to spin around really really fast, still playing, its very impressive.
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We then endevoured to attend to our museum studies begining with an old Metropolitan cathedral, which was a lovely sanctuary from the days heat. Then on to a museum of Chilian history that contained artifacts dating back to 2500BC and up untill the assasination of Salvador Allande, and closing note was the insinuation of Pinochets take over...a bit sombering. A part of Chilean history that has no place in museums only in cemeteries and poeples collective memory. The museaum of Precolombian cultures has an astonishing collection of articacts from the various tribes that have populated the South Amerian continent. But seing an exhibition of Frida Kahlo paintings was a highlight of the day for Tanya.

Everyday we are more and more alarmed by the expanse of this huge city. We visited a park located on a hill close to the city centre, San Cristobal. The long winding road up led us to a magnificant veiw of the city and to the statue of the Virgin (like Rio but smaller).
DSC03566.jpg The urban development spans into the horizon, the only limitation to its expanse are the hills. 7 million people and growing is an astonishing sight. The locals tell us that Santiago is not representative of Chile. The day in the park was a lot of fun, just cruising around taking in the sights and enjoing the sun. To decend from the hill we took a cruisey gondolar ride.
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Tim; Things I could get used to,
The temperature, it hasnt dropped below 24 and is a balmy 29-31C most days, no cloud and apparently summer lasts from October to March.
The price of Liquor, a bottle of Grants is about $24 and a 12y is about $55! A good bottle of wine is about $10.
The Pool, its a pool, what more can I say, except that it is on the roof of the apartment. easy.

Things I could not get used to;
The kaos, its Kaos.
The noise, its non stop, all day all night.
The dogs, so many street dogs layin in the sun and lookin hungry. (maybe I can take a few home on the plane...)
Dairy, all milk is in cartons and generally long life, sour cream is runny and cheese is bought by the slice.

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Posted by Tatyanazzz 15:56 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

to Santiago de Chile

Fresh Beginnings

27 °C

DSC03549.jpgAfter many months of contemplation, deliberations and eventually some methodical planning and packing, finally we were on the plane to Santiago de Chile. Departure from Auckland was very uneventful. The flight was long 11 hours, and we suffered from broken, patchy sleep. The pacific winds were great aid, chiseling off 50 minutes off the flight time, to arrive in Santiago on a clear and hot summers day. We negotiated customs and managed to secure a shuttle from the airport to our home stay with ease and no real stress or panic. So now that we are here, a great sense of adventure and excitement is slowly setting in.

The shuttle drive from the airport was a great scenic experience to get a brief glimpse of the city. Here are a few of our initial impressions: We landed in a city that is surrounded by mountains of all shapes and sizes some look like volcanos others more sedate. Their ghostly siluets are a nice presence reminding you of the geographical richness of this land. We even cought a glimpse of high peaks still covered by snow, quite a contrast to the sweltering heat of 29C.

The architecture in the city is diverse and representative of many different eras and trends. The multi coloured buildings seem to flow down endless narrow streets, all connected via a tangled mess of power and phone cables. It seems that no one cottoned on to having a "T" shape power pole would separate the many wires.
Driving seems a little intense for me at the moment, Indicators seem to be reserved for leaving car parks only, the horn is essential for moving through a recently changed green light as well as catching the eye of pretty ladies.

We staying with the lovely Paulina, who lives on the 16th floor of an apartment building, overlooking a growing suburb of more high-rise apartments and mountains. We went for a walk around the neighborhood, took us a few hours to navigate the long blocks of streets and find a retreat in a manicured park. It seams most apartment buildings have a secure gated parking area along with a friendly concierge help you find your way home. The city seams very clean and policed, where even parks are gated and secured. In general everyone we met has been very happy and helpful.

As in any other first impressions we tend to spot the more familiar before seeking out the unusual and the unique. Like other cosmopolitan cities, there are lot of western food joints like Macs, BK and even Pizza Hut, even the supermarket has a lots of familiar brands. The Flora of Chile seems to be very familiar, with most things in flower.

The temperature will be a something to get used to but not complain about, its 7.30pm and its still 27 C, we can get used to this weather where a light breeze brings relief. Well that was our first day on limited sleep, tomorrow we will endeavor to get back to the city centre.

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Posted by Tatyanazzz 00:03 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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