Category Archives: Chile

Final Map

Here ends our story. After traveling for almost eight months in South America, (yes, it has taken us a long time to write the last few blog posts!) we headed back home to make arrangements for new adventures.

We covered a lot of ground and while we could have moved faster and seen more countries, we didn’t want to just tick the boxes but actually to experience the places we visited. It truly has been the trip of a lifetime. We experienced so many wonderful places, met so many people – both travelers and locals, and loved every minute. If you have ever wanted to go to South America, you should definitely do it! It certainly won’t let you down!

Adios amigos,

Mark and Saskia.

 

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The Pisco Museum

So we had heard about this pisco stuff when a mate of ours visited Chile some years ago. However our stint in Chile was pretty short so we were stoked to learn that pisco is also popular in Peru. In fact, the two countries have been arguing for a long time over who invented it first.

Fortunately a couple of entreprenuers have started up a Pisco Museum in Cusco. We were expecting something low key but the museum could be more accurately described as a cocktail bar.

That's a lot of pisco.

A Cholopolitan and an El Majeño.

There's all sorts of information on how pisco is made but we recommend having a go at the degustation. There were several options, we went with a tasting of four bottles. To our surprise this came with a talk from one of the staff (cheers Sergio!), who walked us through how the various varieties are made. The service was excellent and it was a lot of fun.

The bottles in the degustation have been hand picked by the museum owners. That must have been quite a task as there are many, many producers.

In brief, there's a bunch of different varieties, distinguished by whether the grapes are red or white. Production involves a staged distillation process that is periodically 'paused' to control fermentation of the grapes, resulting in a sharp, crisp product at the end. Would love to say more but pisco consumption got in the way of note taking…

Here's the low down on the tastings. The type of pisco is listed after the name of the producer.

  • Don Zacarias, Quebranta (no date). Made in Lima. Strong sharp taste. Fruity. Pronounced, lingering aftertaste.
  • Ferreyros Acholado, Cosecha (2011). A mix of red and white grapes. Smoother, more body to it, easier to drink. No pronounced aftertaste. Made in Ica.
  • Estirpe Peruana, Puro Moscatel (2008). A bit sharp but not as much as the Don Zacarias. A mid-step between the two; still an aftertaste but not as strong, still a bit smooth but not as smooth as the Ferrey. Tasted better on the second mouthful.
  • Don Amadeo, Torontel (2012). Tastes a bit like a muscat. Made in Lima. Fruity, not too sharp with a strong aroma. Added lime, became refreshing and easier to drink.

This experience kickstarted a whole lotta pisco concumption while we were in Peru. We mostly stuck to Pisco Sours, the national cocktail. It originated in Lima and Mark actually visited one of the hotels that helped make it popular, the Gran Bolivar Hotel. The drink uses quebranta pisco and is mixed with egg whites, limes and sugar syrup. As it settles the egg whites seperate from the mix resulting in a layered cocktail. Very refreshing on a hot day.

We've had a few goes at making them with mixed results. It is probably a good thing that they aren't easy to replicate, best to go straight to Peru!

Here's a picture of bacon with chocolate sauce. It was delicious. Get on to that. Now.

Tasty snack from the museum.

 


¡Six Months!

 


¿Donde en el Mundo es Carmen Sandiego?

G'day from Trinidad, Bolivia. We recently celebrated our fifth month on the road in South America and we thought it was time for an update. We've been in Bolivia since the 28th of June and have had a great time. Currently exploring Bolivia's share of the Amazon Basin, which is a welcome change from the altitude and cold of the altiplano.

So where have we been? Well, the map below tracks our travels to date. Basically we have covered the southern half of the continent and we are now making our way north. The plan is to spend August in Peru before travelling through Ecuador and Colombia. Our goal is to get to Santa Marta on the Caribbean coast, the most northern point of interest on the mainland. We will be pretty stoked if we achieve it.

We are well behind on our posts but keep touching base for more stories – there's a ton of content coming your way!

Thanks for reading,

Mark and Saskia

 


Torres Del Paine

Panaroma courtesy of Ben Anscombe.

Note from Mark: This post was drafted back in February but I needed time to absorb the experience. There's a lot in this one, might pay to get a drink before you start. My thanks to Ben Anscombe for the assistance.

Currently rolling along Ruta 40, a day after I completed the W track at Parques Nacionales de Torres del Paine, Chile. No injuries, just a bit of sun burn and the normal aches associated with hauling a pack.

Torres del Paine was an awesome adventure. It has so much going on – huge glaciers, imposing peaks, raging rivers, rickety bridges, stunning valleys and turquoise lakes. It gave me my first sightings of avalanches, condors and even pink flamingoes (of all things).

I started with dos amigos from the Navimag trip. Saskia decided to stay back in Puerto Natales (PN) due to a lingering illness, but hoped to meet us on the last night of the trip. We had all agreed to start at the Western end of the track and make our way across the Torres massif over five days. This plan was further fleshed out with help from the guides at Basecamp in PN (recommend the briefing, held every day in the afternoon).

For those familiar with the park or interested in the trek, we camped at Campamento's Grey, Italiano (free), Cuenos and Chileno respectively. We had the option of staying at Campamento Torres (free) instead of Chileno but for various reasons opted for Chileno.

20 Febrero, Glacier Grey

It took about half a day to get to our starting point, which included a bus trip from PN to the park and a short ferry ride to the Western end. This trip gave us a good view of the massif, which is easily viewed from the road. The rain that pursued us through the fjords had dumped plenty of snow on the peaks and the forecast was for clear skies. A good start.

We set off from the wharf at 1:00 pm. Here we could see the damage done by the fires of 2005 and 2011. The damage was extensive and, with jagged peaks and high cloud above us, made for a melodramatic setting. I was relieved when we reached the highest point in the track and gazed down onto Grey Lake. It's a great view from there, right up to the glacier.

Me, Ben and Floris. Photo courtesy of Ben Anscombe.

We made our way down towards the lake, stopping frequently to take photos of the lake, mountains and ice bergs that had broken off from the glacier. It was easy going and we had a good time taking detours and marvelling at the views. The cloud slowly cleared and eventually it was sunny with no wind. Perfect!

Playing with ice. Photo courtesy of Ben Anscombe.

We pulled into Campamento Grey at 6:00 pm. Its a good camp site with reasonable facilities and a great view of the mountains. Two condors circled the peaks above us as we debriefed on the day. Couldn't believe how good we had it.

21 Febrero, Grey to Italiano

It may be helpful to note that Campamento Grey is located near the glacier but it is not beside it. Further, you cannot access the glacier directly but it is possible to hire kayaks near C. Grey or you can walk up to a viewing platform about 1.5 hours north from the campsite. We decided we wanted to try the latter, so left at around 9:00 am to the viewing point.

There's no fire damage here and the forest is fantastic. After about 1.5 hours of uphill leg work we were rewarded with a stunning view of not just the glacier but the Southern Patagonia Ice Field and snow covered mountains. The view was crystal clear, just beautiful. I've never seen anything quite like it, it was an overwhelming experience.

We hung around waiting for the sun to throw a bit more light before taking photos. A bunch of people in kayaks paddled up to the glacier and gave us a real sense of scale e.g. huge. Eventually the sun cleared the Torres' western shoulder. We took photos and then to our surprise stumbled into a glade filled with Andean wood peckers. Some how we didn't scare them off with our excited yelps and snapped a few picks. Chuffed!

Returned back to Campamento Grey to decamp. Someone had The Rolling Stones blasting. We took our time as we still had the whole afternoon ahead of us. The hike back out of the valley was slow, hard work with the packs, hadn't realised how steep it was. Still, we had great weather.

It took the whole afternoon to get back out and down to the original landing point. By this time one of the amigos, Ben, had hurt his ankle and was limping. We got him to stick his leg into the nearby lake then strapped it. From there it was a 2.5 hour trek to Campamento Italiano. Doesn't sound like much but our legs were tired so it was slow going. Fortunately we were distracted by views of the southern lakes and the setting sunlight on the peaks.

Coming around the southwest point of the W track.

Eventually stumbled into Campamento Italiano around 9:00 pm. All buggered. We estimate we hiked for about 10 hours in total, my longest day hiking to date. Cooked up pasta with tuna and finished off with a hot chocolate. Big day. Went to sleep with the sound of distant avalanches providing a hint of what was to come in the morning.

22 Febrero, Valley de Frances

Despite the long trek the previous day, staying the night at Campamento Italiano provided a key advantage – it sits at the base of the Valley de Frances, the mid point of the W trek. This is probably my favourite part of the trip, but by a margin.

We got up early to get the most out of the day. Cloud had come in overnight but it was quite high and we could still see most of the peaks.

The trek up the valley to the viewing point takes around 3 hours. The trip began with an up close and personal view of Cerro Paine Grande and Glaciar del Frances. Within minutes of our approach there was a thunder crack and a plume of snow billowed from under the cloud on our left. We thought that would be it but for around eight minutes snowed poured down the face of the mountain like a waterfall. Amazing.

The path up the valley follows a river towards a wide bowl at the top of the valley. The valley itself is fairly evenly divided by the river and features near pristine forest and stunning views of the Torres' craggy peaks and towers. Facing south, one is presented by an almost perfectly composed view of the valley and the southern lakes and rolling hills beyond. I will never forget it.

Getting up early was the best decision we made that day. As we walked back down the valley low cloud quickly rolled in, spoiling the view for those still making their way up.

A quick lunch back at camp and we were off east to Campamento Cuernos. This was a fairly easy leg which we completed under time. Great views of the local lakes. Rain began around 4:00pm which was good as were able to set up our tents in time. I had booked dinner at the hut, or refugio, which with the rain turned out to be a brilliant idea. Sat down with the boys and smashed the largest pork chop I've ever seen. Finished off the night with a couple of beers and fell asleep pretty quickly.

The lakes under cloud.

23 Febrero, Cuernos to Chileno

Woke up to rain. Got up for breakfast at 7:30 am. Found Floris, amigo número tres, who had expected his EU7 tent to buckle under the rain. The tree cover saved him but the tent was soaked. Decamped in the rain and began trudging up and over the next hill.

Ben was not in good condition. He had remained stoic despite the injury but it wasn't getting any better. The night before he had stumbled through the door into the hut, wobbled over to us, then wiped out half the table when is ankle gave way. Hilarious but not good!

Fairly early in the walk we came across our first river. The water was maybe knee high but moving fast over the rocks. People on the other side directed us to a tree that overhung the river. So next thing we are climbing into the tree and dropping down the other side! Good fun.

After three hours of walking in the rain we reached a junction that lead to Chileno (north east) or out of the park (due east). Ben's ankle was a real problem and the rain meant Floris was in for a bad night. The lads decided to end their trip that day and walk out. I was tempted to join them as I wasn't going to see much at Chileno with the rain and cloud, however there was the possibility that Sas would be making her way in to meet me there. So we all shook hands and agreed to meet for dinner in PN when I got out.

Turned out to be the right decision for all of us. Within minutes of arriving at Chileno Saskia walked through the door! We spent the rest of the day in the hut with the other soggy campers. Booked dinner again, big piece of slow cooked beef. Went to bed in the soggy tent, warm but not exactly dry. Saskia bore it well.

Sas making her way in.

25 Febrero, Back to Puerto Natales

We woke up to rain again so decided to head off early. Decamped fairly quickly and after 2.5 hours we were out of the park and waiting for transport.

Looking down the Valley to C. Chileno.

While we waited we saw several native birds (tíques, caranchos and condors) and some wild llamas.

A tíque with a fresh catch and a condor soars above us.

 

A carancho keeps watch and a llama heads into town for a beer.

Arrived back at PN at 5pm, went out for dinner with Sas, Ben, Floris and another couple from the Navimag trip, Rik and Elena. We found a restaurant that specialised in BBQ meat, Asador Patagónico, which delivered the goods in spades. We demolished a delicious meal of Patagonian lamb, beef and salmon with local beer and wine to wash it down. A perfect end to our adventure.

Happy ending. From left: Rik, Elena, Floris, Saskia, me and Ben.

 


The journey so far…

As we sit here in San Rafael's autumnal sun, sipping on local wine, we started going over our travels to date. We pulled out our map to look at where we have been over the last three and a half months.

 

The journey so far has basically been four different chapters:

  1. Patagonia, including the Navimag trip, Torres del Paine, El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier, Mount Fitz Roy and Ushuaia.
  2. The cities of Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, including a visit to the Tigre River near BA and a few days in Botucatu and Paraty, Brazil.
  3. The tropical paradise that was the journey from the Pantanal to Iguazu Falls, via Paraguay.
  4. North and western Argentina, including Córdoba, San Rafael, and Mendoza (as well as Bariloche and Salta which are next on the list).

As you can see in the picture above, we are now in Argentina's wine region and quite close to where we started in Chile.

It has been one amazing adventure after another! To paraphrase a friend, all the bus trips and shitty hostels are worth it when we find ourselves drinking cocktails in Rio or staring at the Devil's Throat in Iguazu Falls.

We have now 'dropped anchor' in San Rafael, where we have been working with an organic farm collective for a few weeks. It has been so nice to get some rest and have time to hone our español before we start off on the journey north (which we are still working out!).

We would like to say thanks for stopping by to read our stories. This blog has been good fun, we hope it is entertaining our friends and family back home. Cheers also to the other bloggers on WordPress that have visited and left a comment or liked a post. Always nice to have a bit of validation!

Dos Condors.

 


¡Video! Bow of the Navimag, Chile

Frantic last minute posting before we slip off the grid. This is a series of shots from the bow of the Navimag, which we sailed on through Chile. We know, long time overdue…

 

 


Top Treks Around the World

Hi all,

Just saw that Lonely Planet have put up an article on great hikes around the world. Number one is the W track, Torres del Paine. Have ticked that box! Was an awesome five days. Have not yet posted picks as was an epic trip and still working through the material. Should have something up next week though.

The article for those interested: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/themes/adventure-travel/the-worlds-best-multi-day-treks-without-high-altitudes/?intaffil=lpemail

 


Road Trips

 


Navimag Day Four

18 Febrero

Our last day on the Navimag was fairly uneventful,mostly because we slept through the morning! Weather had deteriorated so we kept in doors. Arrived at Puerto Natales around 3:00 pm but we did not dock the ferry until 10:00 pm! So we whiled away the night in the ferry bar with friends. At one stage I pulled out my guitar and had a strum. This little Chilean dude popped up and asked to play. He was good! Must have been about 15 years old. Cool kid. We spoke broken Spanish and English to each other, funny. Shortly after we were in the middle of Puerto Natales and it was midnight and raining. Accommodation was just a taxi away though. And thus ends this journey.

Colourful Natales. Photo taken on a rare sunny day.

Puerto Natales is surrounded by mountains and stark bluffs.