What is your dream vacation? What is that vacation you think about and investigate over the years? Patagonia is one of mine. I was looking over a few of my guide books and I have a copy of Brandt’s “Backpacking in Chile and Argentina” copyright 1991. I must of bought it in the early ’90s and dreamed of going to Chile. I don’t remember what drew me to Patagonia. Who knows. But it has been a dream for years to visit.
I do remember listening to Sting’s song “They Dance Alone” which is song about the missing in Argentina and then later hearing about the first democratic election in Chile. I thought about how the countries were changing and moving from the dictatorships to democracy. I do remember thinking when they held the first election that soon it would be possible to visit. Now Chile has stabilized and is an important trading partner with US.
Here it is just over a week before I will be living one of my dreams. Traveling to Chile and seeing the natural wonder of the country from the desert to the rainforest to the ice fields.
The past week we have been do a few last minute items. We bought a few new pieces of clothes. It is great having an Ex Officio outlet her in Seattle. We have been doing a lot of studying of the areas we will be visiting. We found a new travel guide at REI. “Chile Experience”. It is great.
I noticed that we didn’t have seats on the LanChile flights so I called our travel agent and got some seats. We made certain we were on the Andes side so we have the best view.
Of course, there is a certain level of panic. I hate leaving our cats. We have someone stopping by but no housesitter. Hubby’s backyard nursery is always at risk since we can have freezing or snow anytime. There are years when there is no snow and it is warm and then other years it can be snowy and freezing. But it serves no purpose to worry.
It will be interesting to see what lives up to our impressions. Vacation is always a three part journey; the planning and anticipation, the experience and the memories. The actual experience of the vacation is always the shortest of the parts. Memories is what keeps us traveling. Those experiences that you can draw upon at times to bring joy or strength to the day-to-day life.
Yesterday was the two week warning day. Yes! We will be leaving in two weeks. I took care of some more lingering tasks. I reserved the truck for Arica. We emailed directly and never heard so I reserved it via Hertz web site. I also got the travel insurance. I didn’t reserve the trip cost so it was pretty cheap. It was just $17 per person. That gives us medical, evacuation, baggage and automobile insurance for the trip.
Today we went for a hike to test our clothing gear. We went up Mt. Si. It is an 8 mile RT hike with 3500 ft elevation gain. Perfect to test the endurance. Today was overcast, cold (35-40 degrees) and windy. Also perfect to test gear for Patagonia. The first half of the trip was fine in two layers of Capilene on top and one layer of Capilene with Schoeller hiking pants. After about 2 miles, the wind got a lot stronger and colder. We ended up putting on the polarfleece vest and gore-tex shell rain jacket, hats and gloves for warmth. We were nice and toasty. We made it to the top in about 2 1/2 hours. Not too bad. Hubby has made it in 90 minutes when training for Rainier and I am usually over 2 hours. So I’m very satisfied with the day.
Now to get some itineraries for the days in Santiago and the Lake District.
I have to remember that Chile has a reciprocity fee to enter the country. For US citizens, it is $100. We charge Chile citizens the same amount for a visa to visit USA so they are just turning around and charging it back. It will be paid at the airport in USD cash. Here’s a current page from Frommer’s.
I’ve been looking for other boards to research the latest. NWHiker board suggested rec.travel groups for Latin America. rec.travel.latin-america I did some searching and it is not too bad. I noticed another member from Travelzine had been there also. We exchanged emails this week. She is leaving on November 4th and will return on the 19th. We will have to try to connect when I get back.
Another place was the Lonely Planet Board, Lonely Planet Online | The Thorn Tree. It has a few interesting threads. So far the best has been Fodors, Travelzine and rec.travel.latin-america.
Here are some great pictures of Chile. We will not be visiting the Geyers but we will be in Santiago and Pucon. Chile 2001
Thanks to Pauline, I how have a page with my itinerary. Check out the Chile 2003 link to the right under itineraries. A big thank you to Pauline.
This weekend, we got a few of those lingering travel tasks done. I’ve got the car for the Lake District. I ended up going with Avis because I could get it cheaper. It will be a sub-compact so we’re going real small. Cars are real expensive and I’m a bit nervous to rent through a local company instead of a multi-national company like Hertz and Avis. Also tax is steep; 19%.
We took a trip to REI to buy some clothes. I needed some mid-layer for the cold regions (altoplano and patagonia). I mulled over a longsleve Mountain Hardware windproof jacket but decided it was too much with a gore-tex jacket. So I ended up with an REI polarfleece vest which has some wind resistance. I also got a good fleece/wool hat for the cold.
I’ve been looking at camera gear. I got a second battery pack for my digital camera so I will have enough power for the 5 days in patagonia. I still need to maybe get a new zoom for my SLR and another flashcard.
We paid Cascada via a Swift Transfer. It was pretty easy since they gave me all the information for the account (routine number, ABN, etc) for the branch of the Bank of Chile in NY. I went to my bank and asked for a Swift Wire Transfer and they filled out a form. I got a copy of the form and faxed it to Cascada so they know I have paid. It will probably take a week for them to actually receive it in Santiago. I faxed them a copy of the form I got from the bank so they know I have paid.
We are now focusing on finishing up our arrangement in Arica. Most of the hotels do not have a web site so I am probably going to have to go through a broker.
I’ve been checking the temperatures. It is finally warming up in Patagonia. The low temperatures are now around 40 and highs are mid-50’s. It is very similar here in Seattle right now. Santiago looks hot since it is getting up to 80 degrees. Add smog to that mixture and we need to look at an option to get out of town! Maybe we will visit Valpariso after all.
Last night we attended at travel talk at Wide World Books on Patagonia. It was given by Wildland Adventures. They do several trips in Patagonia both Chile and Argentina and they have a hiking trip that has a very similar itinerary as our trip.
It was great to see slides of the trails we will be on. The hike along Lago Grey goes through a more lush rainforest area along the side of the lake to the Glacier. The hike up Frances Valley is more rough. And the hike to the base of Torres Del Paine looks great but the trail is not cleared and maintained. There are a lot of bolders to walk around and at the end you end up climbing up talus to get to the base. But what a view. They also had slides of the accomodations which we will be using in the Eco Lodges and the tents. Of course, the hosterias look nicer but this should be an adventure.
I also found this great photo journal of a similar trip. There are also wonderful photos of the hikes. Check out the hike up the scree on the Torres Del Paine Lookout
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.