Monday, May 4, 2009

A Southern Loop - Chile and Back

On April 12th, 2009 we left Buenos Aires on a 20 day journey that would take us on a voyage around the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn) to Valparaiso, Chile, followed by a bus ride over the Andes, through Mendoza, Argentina and back to Buenos Aires...a "southern loop". The following are some of the things I saw the last week of the trip between Chile and home.


Day 13 - Puerto Montt, Chile and color green
Puerto Montt is one of the last places reachable by car without the use of a ferry in southern Chile. Surrounded by national parks we made it our sole goal here to get out into the mountains and away from civilization.

it was interesting to see that even in these remote faraway places a common thread of artistic voice is sewn on the walls.

we took a taxi out to the mountains. yes, taking a taxi to a national park to go hiking seemed like an odd thing to do, however it was cheaper than renting a car and our driver was our personal guide through all the backroads we took to get there. when we hiked through the mountains later he merely slept in his black and yellow car at the park entrance till our return. win win for everyone.

Alerce Andino National Park was where our feet hit the ground. a lush, green, wet place. all around water flowed and dripped. it was hard to imagine it ever being dry there, the proof being in the street signs blanketed in rust.

below misty mountain tops

today was brought to you by the color green

looking down on the park from the base of a 2300 year old tree.

Day 14 - Surrounded by color in Valparaiso, Chile
On day 14 we said goodbye to the ship and hello to land for the remainder of the trip.

Corrugated tin houses.
Stacked on a mountainside,
with rickety mountain cloud elevators.
Color on top of color.
Stray gray dogs,
with old dog eyes,
guarding graffiti ghosts
and dry dripping mural-ed voices
that descend into slanted canvas alleys,
framed with worn-in coffee shop wood,
all perched on a salty southern Pacific doorstep.

this stacked city is full of mountain elevators (ascensors).
280 Chilean pesos (US .50 cents) gets you a ride up or down.

covered in orange sunset tin

magic painted doors

"gorilla" riding the city bus

a 15 minute bus ride north took us to the beach town of Vina del Mar. there I got to take a Bikram class with my two favorite yoga instructors Don and Annie. it was a breathe of fresh air to travel to the other side of the continent and come upon the smiling face of a friend. (Don I'm jonesin' for some more of that bad-ass veggie/Chilean bread suprise you made us.)

Day 16 - The capitol city of Santiago
A 2 hour bus ride from Valparaiso took us inland to the skyscrapers and big city energy of Santiago.

Bus to Santiago
Afternoon front seat bus ride.
Seven dollar fair for:

Pacific marine clouds
burning off inland
into never-ending blue skies.

Rolling dry vineyard hills,
chaparral mountains,
and a dusty wide-open Chilean freeway.
California dreaming,
steady guardrail climbing.
Santiago skyscrapers,
grown amidst mountains.
Big city bus station arrival.

war of the titans

"gorilla" in capitol of Chile

looking down through the smog from the top of San Cristobal.

one of the greatest stores I have ever seen

Day 17 - Bus to Mendoza, Argentina
We were told by many that if we cross the Andes by across when we head back to Argentina it is a ready that is best done during the day. They were right. The ride to Mendoza is about 6 hours plus whatever amount of time it takes to pass through the border checkpoint. It took us 2 hours and from what we heard that was apparently fast. Aside from the ascending scenic drive into the mountains, most interesting part of the bus ride came at the border. All the border agents were donning there protective masks. The swine flu scare was in full swing. When we presented our American passports to the border agent he took one look and made a waving motion to some men on the other side of the building. Two soldiers shortly arrived and escorted us, along with a Swedish guy, across the large open bus-filled building to the enfermaria (sick bay) where doctors and more military personnel were standing by. The U.S. and Sweden were both countries known at the time to have reported cases of the flu, thus the reason we were pulled out of the line. We hadn't scheduled any time in our travel plans for being quarantined quick talk kept us from having to go through it. Once she explained that we hadn't been to the States in almost a year we were free to go. I never did see what happened to the Swedish guy, but I know that an enfermaria in a foreign country, in the middle of nowhere, would probably not have been the coolest place to hang out.


looking back at the snake of mountain switchbacks

fire hose border "gorilla"

the other side

Day 18 - Mendoza, Argentina

Wine country. Argentina is the 5th largest producer of wine in the world and Mendoza stands as the epicenter of it all for the country. I could go on in further detail about wonderful wine is here was but I don't really want to. Instead I rather share some of the more random things that happened here and the ideas that followed because of them them:

1. We spotted the mythical smile-producing dredlock mullet. I can't confirm this but I am fairly sure Argentina is the number one producer of mullets in the world.

2. Next to an abandoned velodrome we watched three Argentines learning how to fly-fish.
I am thankful to have had the chance to use the words velodrome, abandoned and fly-fish all in one sentence.

3. Rented bikes and bought ice cream from a grumpy old lady in the park. Conclusion: Grumpy old ladies do not have the power to buzz-kill ice cream when you're on a bike ride.

4. Trees are awesome. I miss trees.

5. How long does it take before selling ice cream in a park makes you jaded?
Answer: not sure

6. Found old dilapidated swings and made them work again. Conclusion: Finding old dilapidated swings and making them work again is good for the soul.

7. Heard the song "More Than Words" by Extreme 3 times in one day while walking through the city of Mendoza. What the f**k?

8. The sidewalks in Mendoza are tiled, not paved.

9. Fireworks randomly going off throughout the day like cannons never gets old.



abandoned velodrome

Currently Listening To:
Song: The Moon
Artist: The White Buffalo

(when I lived in San Diego there were a few Southern California musicians that I was lucky enough to see on a regular basis. The White Buffalo was one of them. If he ever makes it to your town check him out.)