A Travellerspoint blog

Pablo and Me

Santiago, Chile


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Santiago is a lot like Los Angeles, there is a lot of smog, the streets are confusing to navigate and there is a lot of traffic. The only real difference is that everyone speaks Spanish. Okay, maybe there really are no differences.

At Least They Have a River! It May Be Polluted, But They Have Water!

At Least They Have a River! It May Be Polluted, But They Have Water!

I only had one day in Chile´s capital city, and I was determined to see the former residence of Pablo Neruda while I was there. Mr. Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1972. He is considered by poetry lovers as one of the best poets of all time. His masterpiece ¨20 Poems of Love¨ was published when he was only 19 years of age and catapulted him to stardom. The museum in Santiago houses many of his former possessions including original poems, a painting by his friend Diego Rivera, and of course, his Nobel prize. If you are not familiar with his poetry, I very much suggest that you pick up a copy of his work. He is one of my absolute favorites, second only to Maya Angelou.

La Chascona, Pablo Neruda's Santiago Residence

La Chascona, Pablo Neruda's Santiago Residence

Pablo's House

Pablo's House

I Think Conan O'Brien Has at Least One of These

I Think Conan O'Brien Has at Least One of These

I also went up to to the large urban park in the Bellavista neighborhood where I took a funicular up to view the city. Santiago is nestled in between the Andes Mountain Range, but you could barely see the mountains because of all the aforementioned smog. It was cool to ride the funicular, though.

Riding the Funicular

Riding the Funicular

Santiago Skyline

Santiago Skyline

The rest of the time I just walked around the city getting lost. There was not much else that piqued my interest other than the museum, so I´m glad that I didn´t stay more than a day here. Pablo's house was really cool to visit, but this is the only stop on my entire trip that I might have skipped if I were to do it over.

In looking back, this has been the most amazing trip of my life. I saw and experienced amazing things that will serve as fond memories for a long time to come. Most importantly, this trip would not have been nearly as awesome if it weren't for all the cool people that I met along the way:

-Jorge from Brazil for your impeccable skills in locating airport transportation

-Alexia, Suyida, and Candida for your fun-loving spirit, and Alexia especially for her subway navigation skills. I channeled your subway skills and mastered Santiago's system!

-Ben from New Zealand for being an awesome hiking partner in Iguazu. I´m really glad we ended up doing the last waterfall!

-Kory for the awesome and insightful conversation in Iguazu. For some reason, it feels like we´ve known each other for a really long time, keep throwing those quotes my way!

-John and Zubin for the fun time in El Calafate. You both have a place to stay in Los Angeles should you be in my neck of the woods.

-Kelly for her camping tips and all those conversations. You and I kicked ass on that W circuit, and I still think that you´re more of a badass than I am. We need to get some In N´Out one of these days.

-Rebecca for the tip on the Pablo Neruda house - great suggestion!

-Diego for all the cool nature facts and the suggestion for the great pizza place

-Craig for the empanada - I owe you!

-Diego and Alberto for the hospitality, I hope to see you both in California real soon!

I would also like to thank my devoted readers as this has been a pleasure to write for all of you. I won´t have another adventure for awhile, but it looks like I´m headed off to Costa Rica (and hopefully Belize) sometime next year. Gracias y hasta luego!

3 Continents Down, 4 To Go

3 Continents Down, 4 To Go

Posted by mbeymer 01.01.2010 22:09 Comments (0)

The Last Civilization

Punta Arenas, Chile


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I arrived in Punta Arenas after a long day of traveling. I woke up at 4 AM that morning to do the last leg of the circuit in Torres Del Paine, then took a bus which sent me to Puerto Natales and then another bus to Punta Arenas. I didn´t have a place to stay when I got into town at 10 PM that night, but a nice taxi driver offered to call around for me. Finally, I got a room at the charming Hostal Bustamante.

After having the most comfortable night´s rest that I have had in a long time, I got up to explore the city. I wasn´t expecting much, but it is actually quite a charming place. Punta Arenas is the last civilization in Chile and lies on the Straight of Magellan, named after the first European explorer to discover the area. The area around Punta Arenas is known as Tierra Del Fuego, or ¨Land of Fire.¨

Vista of Punta Arenas

Vista of Punta Arenas

In Praise of Shadows

In Praise of Shadows

Ship in the Straight of Magellan

Ship in the Straight of Magellan

The First European Explorer to Land at Tierra Del Fuego, Ferdinand Magellan

The First European Explorer to Land at Tierra Del Fuego, Ferdinand Magellan

Local Art

Local Art

After I was done exploring the town, I was able to go to the Seno Otway Penguin Colony just North of Punta Arenas. Each summer, the penguins return from the northern waters of Brazil to make their nests for breeding season. This particular colony had Magellan Penguins, and they were very fun to watch. Whether it was them walking, jumping, or even falling, I was having a great time observing them.

Magellan Penguins

Magellan Penguins

Baby Magellan Penguin

Baby Magellan Penguin

Marching Back

Marching Back

Life is Tough for Penguins

Life is Tough for Penguins

I went to a local pizza place that the tour guide suggested when I returned. The menu also had an English translation, similar to many other places, in comically bad and broken English. I asked the waiter what he recommended, and he pointed to the Camorra pizza. I decided that there was no way that I could pass up the ¨bad chicken¨ and ordered it. Contrary to the name, it was actually pretty good.

I´ll have the ¨bad chicken,¨ please

I´ll have the ¨bad chicken,¨ please

This was a minor stop in my adventure, but I am really glad that I made it down here. The penguins are really cool to see, and it may sound ridiculous, but they are damn cute. Santiago is the last stop in this chapter of Mi Cuenta. I´m sorry that I have not been able to respond to all of your comments, but I appreciate all of your well wishes. I will see you all very soon in the new year!

Posted by mbeymer 29.12.2009 07:43 Comments (0)

Ever-Changing

Torres Del Pain National Park, Chile


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Sister park to Yosemite National Park in the United States, Torres del Paine is hard to comprehend. It´s constantly changing weather and immense landscape make it one of the coolest places that I have ever been. My goal was to complete what is known as ¨the W¨ circuit. The trek is 68.2 kilometers up and down some very grueling hills. I paid the price in blisters and muscle aches, but the views that I was awarded are still unfathomable and priceless. As a warning, these pictures do not capture the true essence of the beauty of this park. I have only put them here as a humble offering for what awaits you should you decide to embark on this magnificient adventure.

Getting to the park was a process. We had to drive out of Argentina and into Chile. I started to get a little worried at the Chilean border when they said that meat products were prohibited from entering the country. I had 4 MREs that I had planned on using as food for camping, and I knew that I would be out of luck if they confiscated them. I was honest and said that I had meat when they asked and showed them. The customs agent asked,¨Conocido?¨

I didn´t quite understand him at first and then I realized he was asking ¨Is the meat cooked?¨ I laughed due to the highly processed nature of this particular food (my military friends and family know exactly what I´m talking about here) and he let me into the country with them. Once we arrived in the park, the bus took us around to a couple of scenic view points (pictures below) before letting us off to start our trek. Since it was so late by the time we got to the first camp, I set up shop and got to bed early.

Guanaco

Guanaco

Indiginous animal of the area related to the llama

Chilean Firebrush

Chilean Firebrush

This is a flower that I absolutely loved. I first saw it in El Calafate, but it is more prominent in Torres Del Paine. Most do not look this nice, but I was fascinated by it each time I saw it.

Clouds and Cuernos

Clouds and Cuernos

The guide on the bus told me that if you look hard enough, you can see the shape of South America between the two peaks.

Glacial Runoff

Glacial Runoff

Look! I was able to set-up the tent!

Look! I was able to set-up the tent!

I woke up around 5 AM the first day in the park to catch the sunrise. As you can see, it didn´t disappoint. Punta Bariloche is in the foreground and Los Cuernos (or ¨The Horns¨ can be seen in the background). Since it is often cloudy, the sunrise rarely affords these amazing colors.

Sunrise over Punta Bariloche

Sunrise over Punta Bariloche

The first day´s hike was tough. I, stupidly, decided to bring my pack on this 22 km trek instead of leaving it at base camp - don´t ask. The scenary was beautiful, but I was hurting getting up and down these hills on the account that it was my first trek, I was out of shape (keyword = was) and the pack weighs about 50 pounds. Plus, I was spoiled after seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier. So the glacier was impressive but not spectacular. Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about what NOT to do the first day.

Glaciar Grey with Lago Grey in the Foreground

Glaciar Grey with Lago Grey in the Foreground

My second full day covered the middle fork, known as the French Valley, of the W trek. On the way to the second leg, I got a great shot that captured the color of Lago Pehoe (below). The way the clouds change the scenery constantly is very evident in this photo. The sediment of Lago Pehoe has a mineral composition that makes it a fantastic Carribbean blue. This was the only picture that I took the whole time of this lake that really captured the true hue of the lake.

The Pristine Waters of Lago Pehoe

The Pristine Waters of Lago Pehoe

The French Valley really makes you feel insignificant and small. Since it is the middle leg of the trek, you are surrounded on all sides by the massive peaks. This forrest is a point you walk through just before the very end, and there is something very erie about it. I loved the picture though because it is again evidence of the park´s ever-changing climate, especially when compared to coming out of the valley the next morning (2nd photo below).

The French Valley

The French Valley

Los Cuernos

Los Cuernos

When I got to about the halfway point, it was Christmas day. I had been eating the aforementioned MREs the whole trip and drinking glacier water (recommended), but I decided that I needed to treat myself with a hot meal at one of the lodges. The meal was $22 USD but worth every penny.

My Only Hot Meal of the Trek

My Only Hot Meal of the Trek

The last campground I stayed out, there were a bunch of horses just roaming around grazing. I woke up at 11 PM because one of them was eating right next to my tent. It was kind of cool in a bucolic sort of way, but nonetheless startling. The climate was also the most consistent at this last campground, the previous camping spot experienced winds that were over 60 mph during the evening.

Horse Hanging Out at the Campground

Horse Hanging Out at the Campground

The picture below is the final point of the circuit with the three spires in the background known as ¨The Towers.¨ These peaks are the feature where the park derives its name, ¨Torres del Paine,¨which literally translates to ¨Towers of Blue.¨ The photo is almost an optical illusion because they look a lot smaller than they actually are. When I reached the summit, it was snowing and very peaceful. Supposedly, it is very rare to see the towers when they are not shrouded in clouds. I considered myself very lucky that I actually got to see them.

At the Towers

At the Towers

You know that you are in an amazing place when you feel completely insignificant but simultaneously at peace. I am still trying to comprehend everything that I was priviledged to see at the park. The clouds and weather made it seem like a new place each and every minute. There were a couple times were I literally started to tear up because of the immense beauty that I was witnessing. I wish I could convey my feelings in a way that made sense, but alas I know words will never suffice for a place as amazing as this. Instead, I´ll leave you with this:

Sunrise Over Rio Ascencio

Sunrise Over Rio Ascencio

Posted by mbeymer 28.12.2009 09:10 Comments (0)

From the Rain Forest to... Glaciers

El Calafate


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When I came to El Calafate, I originally had not planned on staying. However, I heard so many cool stories from going to see the Perito Moreno glacier that I had to see it for myself. The Perito Moreno glacier is over 32 km in length (the size of the city of Buenos Aires!). It is also one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing.

Go South Young Man

Go South Young Man

When we arrived at the glacier, it started to rain and didn´t let up for the whole day. Thankfully, it was a light rain and I had remembered to bring a jacket. We first walked along the lake shore that faced the Southern portion of the glacier. After we finsihed this hike, we took a bus to the North face and it was absolutely stunning.

The Southern Face

The Southern Face

The North Face

The North Face

Pieces where the glacier has calved can be seen in the foreground

Pieces where the glacier has calved can be seen in the foreground

In Awe

In Awe

Since this glacier is one of the few that is still growing, I did not expect it to be calving. We saw about 4 big chunks of ice fall off during our hike of the North face. The sound is even more incredible than the site in that it bellows like a distant thunder. I tried to take some video of it, but I wasn´t able to get any footage. The first piece that we heard fall actually came down right after we turned around from taking pictures to walk up the trail, it is a site to behold.

On another note, it´s crazy how long that it stays light here. My first night here (December 20th) was also the summer solstice, or longest day in the Southern Hemisphere. I took some pictures of the town (below) at 11 PM, and it still was not dark yet. The town was celebrating the change of seasons with fireworks and live music.

Eternal Sunshine of the Southern Kind

Eternal Sunshine of the Southern Kind

Tomorrow, I´m headed to the main part of my trip - Torres Del Paine. Pray for me that I have good weather! Me Voy!

Posted by mbeymer 21.12.2009 19:56 Comments (0)

Un Otro Mundo

Iguazu Falls


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Puerto Iguazu was my next destination. Since I got to Puerto Iguazu late in the day, I decided to just walk around and I saw a couple of cool things. However, I quickly found out that the only real thing to do in town is to see the falls. Two Americans that I met at the hostel later that day recommended a fabulous restaurant for dinner. I trekked over to the restaurant and had an excellent local river fish called Surubi. The atmosphere of the restaurant reminded me of a log cabin, but instead of a tacky bear statue made out of wood that I find a staple of many forest abodes, they had Incan wood carvings instead. Go figure...

They too have received the gospel of Hendrix. Hail!

They too have received the gospel of Hendrix. Hail!

Surubi

Surubi

Incan Art

Incan Art

The next morning, I woke up at set out for the falls with a friend I had met from New Zealand named Ben. We took the earliest shuttle we could so that we could maximize the day. When we arrived, we set out for La Garganta de el Diablo, or The Devil´s Throat. We saw a lot of wildlife along the way including numerous species of butterfly, spiders, birds, huge ants, and a wart-hog looking animal (below)

Mohawk!

Mohawk!

Little Bugger

Little Bugger

These seemed very timid at first, but one walked up to Ben and I during lunch. He seemed to be just walking around, but then he leaped onto the table and tried to steal Ben´s lunch. A tug of war ensued between myself and the animal, and I´ll admit, the animal won. We had a good laugh, and Ben got something else to eat. Sneaky little bastards!

We reached the main part of the falls after about 20 minutes of walking, and it was a site to behold. I´ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

La Garganta de el Diablo

La Garganta de el Diablo

Upper Falls (and me)

Upper Falls (and me)

Lower Falls

Lower Falls

I´m the crazy guy with his shirt off

I´m the crazy guy with his shirt off

Arco Iris (Rainbow)

Arco Iris (Rainbow)

Once we saw the main falls, we went over to view the lower and upper falls in the seond section. It is easy to see why Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed ¨Poor Niagra,¨upon seeing these falls for the first time. Once Ben and I had exhausted our photo opporunities, we took a boat that actually took us under a couple of the waterfalls. This was a fantastic experience. The falls were so powerful that it was hard to keep my eyes open as we went under. Understandably, we were drenched.

Upper and Lower Falls from the boat

Upper and Lower Falls from the boat

There was one trail we had yet to do at the end of the day that was a bit outside the main part of the park. This was a waterfall that you could acutally swim under (below). I don´t have any pictures of us swimming in it, but it was so peaceful and spiritual. I even climbed up the rocks so that I could hike under the waterfalls. Besides the first waterfall of the day, this was my most amazing experience.

This is the one that Ben and I ended up swimming under!

This is the one that Ben and I ended up swimming under!

This place was in competition for the 7 natural wonders of the world, but it didn´t make it onto the list. Iguazu was probably the most spectacular site that I have ever seen, save for maybe the Grand Canyon. This trip just keeps getting better and better! I´m traveling about 2,000 miles over the next few days in route to Torres del Paine, wish me luck!

Posted by mbeymer 20.12.2009 10:47 Comments (0)

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