Okay… I probably shouldn’t have watched the videos on the Villarrica Volcano site. They have some very cool videos of the activity in the cone of volcano. It is an active volcano and has erupted within the last decade.
We are hoping to be able to climb the volcano. There are several groups that go up. They provide the crampons, ice axes, rain pants, etc. Most of the groups meet early at 7:00 and spend the day hiking. They start at around 6,000ft and climb 3,000ft to the crater at 9,000ft. They also provide gas masks because it is active and often have a lot of gasses. Sol y Nieve is one company and another is Trancura. Hubby can definitely make it. I’m not completely certain I can. I have been hiking 3,000-4,000ft but not at that elevation. But I think I want to give it a shot.
So of course I watched the videos of inside the crater. Last night I woke up at 2:00am with dreams of Mt. Rainier erupting. We live in the NW so we know about active volcanos. I missed Mt. St. Helens since we moved back to California for the year but we have seen the destruction. There are also eruption evacuation signs along the road from Rainier. We fortunately do not live directly in the path of any mudflows or rivers but we do know about volcanos. In the dream, the eruption started at the top with the classic volcano eruption and then one side exploded. It was very disturbing. But will it stop me. No.
I’ve decided I like the BlogThis option on the Google tool bar. It is way fun and actually useful. Tonight I’m doing some general web searches and I’m going to use it to put in some links.
This link takes you to a discussion of the volcano Villarrica. It has a great collection of desktop images and even cooler quicktime videos of inside the cone of the volcano. We’re hoping to climb this volcano if the weather and conditions permit. VILLARRICA VOLCANO, SOUTHERN ANDES OF CHILE
This is another great site for pictures. This has some pictures of Putre where we will be staying in El Norte Grande along with the altiplano. We won’t be making it to San Pedro de Atacoma or Chiloe. But otherwise wonderful pictures. Chile – A Picture Gallery
By far one of the best links for Chile is Go Chile. There is a whole wealth of information on the country when you dig around. I came home this evening to find hubby exploring the Flora section. There are also sections on all the national parks. Go Chile Travel Site
So I was wondering if there were any webcams in Chile. I did a bit of searching and found this site from Pucon which is supposed to have a live web cam of both Villarrica and the city. Here is the link for the cam showing Villarrica.
Villarica and Pucon
It is currently dark so I can’t tell what exactly it shows. I’ll look tomorrow.
Here is another one with a scenic view of Santiago. Santiago Skyline
Well, it is less than a month before we leave and there is still planning yet to do. I am starting to get that panic feeling at times. I haven’t yet had any dreams yet so that must be a good sign. But every so often, panic attacks.
Here is what is left to do:
1. International Driver Licenses
George and I both need to get licenses this time. Usually, I just get one but we’re going to be safe and both get them this time around. It is pretty routine to come across checkpoints and roadblocks where the police will check your papers. If you don’t have a IDL, it would be difficult. We’ve decided to both get them this time because one rental is going to be a truck and George said he would drive it. We both can drive a pickup but it will probably be good. Also, if one of us get sick, then we can still have someone drive.
2. Pay Cascada
The balance of our hiking tour needs to be paid by the end of the month. I need to get a Swift wire transfer.
3. Rent cars
We need to arrange our car rentals. We will need a pickup in Arica and a compact car in Puerto Montt. I’m probably just going to go through Hertz. I do have a direct email to Arica so I may try to see if I can get a cheaper quote. It will be expensive $60 per day in Lake District (including ins and tax) and $85 per day for the pickup.
4. Hotel in Arica
We need to get a hotel in Arica for one night. We leave really early in the morning (7:15am). I’ve done some internet searching for a hotel without a lot of luck. I may go ahead and use CHIP which is a hotel/tour service for Chile.
5. Camera gear for digital camera
We are going to be in huts for 5 days on our hiking tour of Patagonia. I don’t think we will have access to electricity althought there is hot water at one of huts. I’m going to order a backup battery pack for my Canon G2 so I’ll have enough power for the 5 days. I also need to get several more FlashCards for the camera so I’ll have enough memory to shot the whole trip. I am also bringing the SLR and shoot some with standard film. I may also want to get a new lens for the SLR.
6. Trip Insurance
We need to get trip insurance. It is required by Cascada in case there is any issues while on the tour. We didn’t get it right away since we’re only going to get the medical and emergency evacuation portion of the insurance. I am going to ask about Insurance at the Chilean talk on Thursday.
7. Attend the Patagonia travel talk
Wide World Books is having a travel talk on travel in Patagonia presented by Wildland Adventures. Their hiking in Patagonia trip is very similar to the Cascada trip so we are anxious to hear more about it.
Part of the enjoyment of travel for me is learning about the food and drink of the country. Chile has been a long time producer of wine. Grapevines were brought to Chile around the same time as they were brought to California by Spanish explorers. They have long been known for their red wine. Unfortunately, there have been numerous wines releases that are cheap and not that good. Recently, there has been a lot of investment in modernizing and creating low yield high quality grapes. There has also been a lot of international investment from French and US vintner.
Cabernet Sauvignon is grape that Chile has the best success. But there is a lot of interesting things being done with Carmenère. Carmenère was originally grown in Bordeaux but the grape was wiped out by phylloxera. Phylloxera has never infected the Chilean vineyards and Carmenère continues to grow. They harvested it like Merlot in the past but recently have improved the harvest so it makes a wonderful wine on its own or blended with Cabernet and Merlot in a Bordeaux blend.
Concha Y Toro is Chile’s largest winery. They have a wide variety of different lines that you can find here in the US. But it is better to seek out some other producers who are doing some interesting wines.
I have liked the wines from Casa Lapostolle. They have consistently been very good. An outstanding Cabernet is Monte Alpha from Viña Monte. Santa Rita is a great low end cabernet. Recently, I have picked up several different wines from Montegras. I had a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah blend that was very yummy and their high end wine, Ninquén was the hit at our group wine tasting. Some other producers I have enjoyed are, Casa Julia, Veramonte, Odfjell which makes an excellent Carmenère, and 2 Brothers which makes a blend called Big Tattoo Red.
Chile has not been noted for their whites. They do mostly Chardonnary and Sauvignon Blanc. They tend to be bland. One to note is a Sauvignon Blanc from EQ.
A good article on Wines of Chiles is from the April 30, 2003 issue of Wine Spectator. Here is another article on growing regions of Chile.
October is always an interesting month for weather here in the Northwest. Two weeks ago it was sunny and warm. This week it has been rainy and windy. Patagonia weather.
Patagonia has very changable weather. It catches the “Roaring 40’s”. From mid-December the winds can gust up to 70mph. The mornings can start out calm and sunny and by evening be gale force winds. Here is a good site for weather in Chile.
The weather this week in Seattle has been good preparation for Patagonia. We got over 2 inches and the winds have been gusty.
There is just one thing… I hate wind.
We have almost all our accomodations! I have been emailing with Glen and Bev from Hosteria de la Colina in Villarica. They have been so helpful. We will be staying at 4 nights at La Colina. I explained to them that we will be arriving later in the day because we will be driving from Puerto Montt after arriving at 1pm. They sent driving information. This includes information on a scenic backroad to take and information regarding the tolls on Ruta 5. They have also included information on places to see in Puerto Montt. I am looking forward to our stay.
We also have reserved one night at The Guest House in Puerto Varas for the night before we leave for Patagonia. It is run by Vicki Johnson. Puerto Varas has been recommended as a nicer place to stay than Puerto Montt. Puerto Varas is not far from Puerto Montt so it should be easy to make a 9:45 am flight.
I have been reading about the Villarica area. There are several National parks to visit. Parque Nacional Conguillio sounds like it has great hikes. Closer to Villarica is Parque Nacional Huerquehue. Glen and Bev at La Colina can recommend places to hike so we will get some input from them. We may also spent a day in Valdivia which has a great botanical garden. I am also going to email for some information from one of the guide services for climbing Villarica.
The high season for the area starts around December 15th. We will be there before the high season so some of the services may be closed but it sounds like we will miss the crowds. We hope the weather will not be too bad. It should be similar to the Pacific Northwest in early June. That is pretty unpredictable and can be cold. We’re preparing for the worst so we can be surprised.
Next, a night in Arica; the last hotel to arrange and then reserving our truck rental for El Norte and a car for Los Lagos and La Araucania.
We are now starting to focus on arranging accomodations for the Lake District. Well, actually Villarica. The area is called “La Araucania”. Araucaria is the botanical family of the monkey puzzle tree which is native of this region of Chile. We want to see it in its native habitat.
We probably didn’t do enough research before we booked our legs of the LanChile Pass. Originally we wanted to fly in and out of Temuco but there are no flights from Temuco to Punta Arena. So we switched to Puerto Montt since there is a flight direct from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas. We went ahead and booked the flight from Arica to Puerto Montt instead of checking instead of going into Temuco or Valdivia and out of Puerto Montt. Oh well. We may save on the car rental since we will not be getting a one way rental.
We have decided instead to drive directly from Puerto Montt to Villarica or Pucon after flying from Arica. It is about 250km to Villarica so it should be ‘do-able’. At least, we will get all the travel over in one day but what a day. We will be leaving Arica around 7:30am and arriving at 1pm in Puerto Montt. We will travel part of the way on Ruta 5 which is the Pan-American Hwy. So we think we should be able to pick up our car and arrive in Villarica before dark.
I have gotten a lot of help from a member of The Travelzine. Actually John is one of the moderators and has travelled to Chile. He has posted a lot of good information from his travels. It is hard to find people who have been to Chile so I have really appreciated his help and comments.
I have sent a inquiry for accomodations to Hosteria de la Colina in Villarica. I haven’t heard back yet so I still have my fingers crossed. If not, we’ll start looking around at other places. We will be in Villarica for 4 nights. George wants to climb the volcano. Actually he wants both of us to climb. We will see. I need to get back to running if I’m going to attempt this. We will need to get a guide and equipment but doesn’t look too much more difficult than climbing to Camp Muir at Rainier.
Off to more research.
We are making progress. We now have our LanChile Pass and have reservations for the 5 legs of airflights. We are going to be doing both North and South Chile so the pass is going to save us money. We could have saved even more if we had gotten our flight from the US to Chile on LanChile. We decided on American because we were able to get a good consolidator price.
Our first leg will be from Santiago to Arica. We will go directly from Arica up to Putre for three nights returning to Arica for the last night in the North. The next leg will be from Arica to Puerto Montt in the Lake district. This happens to be two legs because each change of planes is considered a leg and we will have to change planes in Santiago. We will stay 4 nights here in the Lake district and probably split the time between Puerto Varas and Villarica. Next we will go from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas where we will meet up with the Cascada group. Finally after returning from our hiking trip, we will fly directly from Punta Arenas to Santiago.
We will spent two nights in Santiago when we arrive and before we leave. This may be a little too much in Santiago but it will give us a chance to get adjusted to Chile and practice a bit of Spanish. We will also use the last days in Santiago to do last minute shopping and visit a winery. The flight back to the US leaves at midnight so we will have almost a full day.
We also have our hotel in Santiago. We have booked rooms at Orly Hotel. It is in Providencia which is supposed to be a nice area.
One of the biggest challenges when working on an itinerary for Chile is tackling the geography. Chile is over 4000 km (2500 miles) long but at most 180 km (110 miles) wide. The latitude near Peru border at Arica is close to the equivalent of Mexico City or Veracruz Mexico; 20 degrees south. Punta Arenas, the major city in the south, is at 53 degree south, which is farther south from the equator than Vancouver Canada is north. In Europe it is equivalent to the distance from Scotland to Nigeria. Think of trying to cover the whole West Coast of the US and into Mexico in three weeks.
Many visitors choose to focus on either the south portion of Chile or north portion of Chile. Santiago is mid-point and you either travel North or South. We love flowers so the idea of seeing the flowering desert first grabbed my interest. The flowering desert, desierto florido, actually does not happen in the Far North of Chile but in an area more in the mid North or “El Norte Chico”. The flowering desert is as unpredictable as the blooming Sonoran desert in Arizona. It also happens in September to October which would be too early for us. So we discarded the idea of trying to catch the desierto florido.
But the desert still attracted us. It may just be the contrast from the wet and mild weather of the Northwest US. Beyond El Norte Chico, along the very the northern border with Peru, is El Norte Grande or the Far North. The austerely beautiful, forbidding, vast area of desert stretching from the border of Peru to 1000 km (620 miles) south. Here lies the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. At the eastern edge of the desert, the Andes mountains climb to a high plateau; the Altiplano. The Altiplano is as high as Tibet, rising to 14,000 ft or more in elevation. It is about 180 KM (110 miles) from Arica on the Pacific coast to the small village of Putre at over 11,000 ft. We are planning on spending three nights in Putre and using it as a launching point to explore Lauca National Park. The village of Putre has about 1200 inhabitants. They have just gotten internet access through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After doing a web search, I found Alto Andino Nature Tours. There is actually a house for rent so we can ‘slow travel’. We have reserved the house, Casa Barbarita, for the three nights (November 24, 25 and 26th). We have also arranged for a naturalist to guide us and explore the botany of the region. Barbara Knapton who runs the tours has been very helpful.
Our challenge will be avoiding altitude sickness which is why we plan to spend three nights in Putre. The anticipation of an adventure in the high Andes is exciting.
But of course, we also want to visit the Lake District and Patagonia in the south.