Wine, Wine, Wine – Mendoza, Argentina.

We finally left Chile for good (Yea! No more crazy Chilean customs!), and headed straight for Argentina’s wine country.  If you have ever had an Argentinean wine, you can almost guarantee it came from the Mendoza region.

This area attracts a large amount of tourists who are ready to impress the crowds with phrases such as: “Oaky finish,” “wonderful bouquet,” “fruity balance,” and “nice legs” (referring to the wine). We, on the other hand, classed up the joint by saying things like: “I like this one,” “gross,” “I don’t taste the chocolate,” and “how much?”  We might not be the most educated wine tasters, but we know what we like, and we had a great time enjoying the different varieties.

Despite the hoards of people in town for the Easter weekend, we got right down to business. Our first tasting was at a wine bar in the city of Mendoza.  Vines of Mendoza is a great place to sample all the amazing wines from this large region without having to drive all over creation.  The people here were super friendly and eager to have us enjoy some of the fruits of their labors.

We shared a flight of Malbecs (the most famous type of wine in the area), and enjoyed the relaxed surroundings. We also had a chuckle at some of the other nearby tables and their pretentious wine speak.

Our flight of Melbec: so delicious, but two would have been a budget breaker.

While we didn’t both agree on the same winner, we did enjoy each of wines.

Kris enjoying some wine. It was a little taster than the “Gato” in a box in Chile.

One really popular activity is going to the city of Maipu (right outside of Mendoza), renting a bike, and riding around to some of the many small wineries.  We saw a few younger, more “enthusiastic” backpackers furiously pedaling to try to make it to all the wineries and get back in one piece.  We took the more relaxed (we like to think “more mature”) approach. We picked a few that sounded interesting and started our own two person peloton.

Kris on her hot rod. If you know anything about Kris, you would understand why the combination of wine tasting and bikes gave Joe heart palpations

At our first winery, Bodega Carinae, we joined a tour of the facilities given by one of the owners. We opted for the Spanish tour, as it was much smaller and more personal; just us and a family from Colombia. We tried to gleam as much information as we could, but listening to a tour in Argentinian Spanish with a French accent was a bit of a challenge. We might not have gained much new wine-making knowledge, but it was a fun time.

Joe double fisting. It turns out you that are not always supposed to finish all the wine during a tasting, but why not?

We had a great time visiting some of the different wineries and even an olive oil shop.  Riding the bikes through the amazing countryside was great, and the tree-lined streets made the ride nice and cool.

Kris leading the pack.

Baby vino.

While Mendoza is dominated by the wine scene, the city does have more to offer.  This area was leveled by an earthquake in the 1860’s, and they had the unique opportunity to rebuild the city the way they wanted to.

Mendoza has many great parks and all the streets are lined by huge, beautiful trees.  This was made possible by irrigation added to all the streets which help keep the trees nice and watered.  The shade provided by these trees also keeps it from feeling too sweltering outside.

Tree lined streets of Mendoza.

We spent a good amount of time sitting in the parks and people watching.  In all of the parks you are guaranteed to find a few friendly dogs who will entertain you as they go from gringo group to gringo group looking for the best hand outs.

Joe in the park with beautiful tile work.

The biggest park in town with nice lake.

Filling ourselves with enough wine and park time to make a homeless man happy (joke brought to you by Joe), we set out for a quick stop in Buenos Aires before heading to Uruguay.  Since we have been traveling for so long, we decided to treat ourselves to a first class bus.

Ohhh, is that leather?

These seats would lay down into a full 180 degree bed and each had their own entertainment system.  This would have been enough to satisfy our tired behinds, but the service on the bus was enough to knock your socks off, and we are sure that if they were, the bus attendant would find them and put them back on for you.  We were served a cold dinner, warm dinner, dessert, breakfast, and enough booze to make you forget the entire trip.

And this is the last of the bus ride Kris remembers.

It was a great experience which made us feel like a million bucks. A word of warning: full glasses of champagne and bouncing buses don’t mix.  How many times do you think those words have been uttered in the same sentence?

Uruguay and their easy-going lifestyle is calling our names.  Time to exit Argentina again, but don’t worry, we are coming back!

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Chile: Final Thoughts.

Traveled for:  44 Days

Cost per day of travel: 

Chile has by far been the most expensive country that we have visited on this trip, although it looks like Argentina might give it a run for its money.  We did not do too many tours or activities because almost all were absolute budget busters, however, it was kind of refreshing to take it easy.  Also, the transportation went from about one dollar per hour to much, much more.

With the few must do attractions, daily living, and transport we ended up spending $75 dollars per person per day. Ouch.

Places visited:

San Pedro de Atacama

Valparaiso

Valparaiso street art.

Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Fjords

Chiloe

Chiloe fishing boats.

Puerto Varas

Pucon

Pichilemu

Santiago

Favorite Stop(s):

-Taking the Navimag ferry in the Chilean Fjords was beautiful, fun, and relaxing.  Not only were we lucky enough to get upgraded for free, but we also had a great time enjoying the scenery with some new friends.

– Seeing the Cerro Abajo in Valparaiso.  This is one of the craziest urban downhill bike races and it only happens once a year. We couldn’t believe that we were lucky enough to be there on the one day that it happened.

Wall ride during Cerro Abajo.

Torres del Paine: Probably the most famous Patagonian landmark.

Los Torres – Torres del Paine

New Phrase  Language Learned:

-Chilean Spanish: We felt pretty good about our Spanish before arriving in Chile, but after trying to talk to a few people, it almost felt like we were starting over. It is all spoken so quickly, words are chopped, and the amount of slang is incredible. We have heard from several native Spanish speakers from a few different countries that even they found Chilean Spanish very difficult. This made us feel a little better as we struggled to understand the basics that we thought we had mastered on day 1.

FYI: Chile is so loaded with slang that there is a book called “How to Survive in the Chilean Jungle” to help learn Spanish phrases that are unique to Chile.

Moments We Remember:

-Hanging out with penguins on Magadalena Island.

– Joe thinking he got a great deal on a hostel in San Pedro de Atacama.  Really he just got the exchange rate wrong in the new currency.

-The absolute friendliness of Chileans. These guys give Colombians a run for their money. The popcorn seller in Chiloe really went out of his way just to help us catch a bus. They were all so patient as we struggled to understand what was being said. Everyone was helpful and went out of their way to make us feel welcome.

Quotes:

We often looked at each other and asked, “How Much?!” when we heard a price quoted for something. This was partly due to sticker shock AND the fact that we couldn’t understand the rapidly spoken numbers.

Biggest Surprise:

-The people were just as nice as the people of Colombia.  From bus drivers giving us directions (and not getting mad at us when we boarded the bus without the proper card),  to random people on the streets.  Traveling in Chile was a pleasure.

Items We Packed That We Couldn’t Have Lived Without:

– Warm clothes, it was really cold and windy in Southern Chile and on the boats.  Sometime it feels like we had everything we owned on.

Total Time Spent Apart From Spouse:

Only about 10 hours, Joe did the volcano hike by himself.

Would We Do Anything Differently:

In hindsight, maybe we should have started in the more expensive countries (Chile and Argentina), and then journeyed to the cheaper ones. Then, our only shock would be how cheap things are.

Try to get more “directo” buses. Far too often, we found ourselves on the slow one that stopped EVERYWHERE. This would often turn 6 hour bus rides in to 10. Chile is a looong country.

Would We Return:

While we both loved our time in Chile, we don’t feel the need to return as much as we would for other countries (Colombia is still at the top of this list). We felt that we got to see everything that we wanted and we spent enough time here to really enjoy what we saw.

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Pucón and Pichilemu: Last stops in Chile!

We obviously hadn’t had our fill of Chilean towns with volcanoes, so we made out way to Pucón, which is home to Villarrica, an active volcano.  This mountain had its last major eruption in the early 70’s, but smoke still vents from the crater, and sometimes at night, you can see the red glow of lava from the town.

Villarrica at sunset. The power lines are added for a dramatic effect.

The town has signs all over the place on how to evacuate in case of an eruption, and seeing how Chile had a large earthquake two days before arriving in Pucón, we paid a little extra attention to these signs.

Pucón has tons of things to keep the tourist busy.  We sampled just a few of these activities: hiking up the volcano, soaking in natural thermal baths, and hanging out at the “beach.”

The “beach” was covered in black volcanic sand and the water was a chilly mountain lake.  We were there a little off-season, so not many people were out enjoying the sand and water.  The weather was cold, but because the sand was black, it was nice and warm.

Black sand beach.

Seeing how we have visited hot springs in every country so far, we could not pass up swimming at one of the many different complexes near Pucón.  We headed to Termas los Pozones to enjoy their natural pools nestled in a canyon next to a river.  After paying a small entrance fee, we had to walk about 15 minutes downhill to reach the pools.  The walk down was nice, but after hours of soaking and relaxing, the walk back up was a bit daunting.

Just one of the pools. The setting is just breathtaking.

There are seven different pools along the river and they are all at different temperatures.  We started at the bottom, which was the hottest, and worked our way up to the cooler pools.  It was great to enjoy the water and take in the nice views.

Kris soaking in the last pool, the cool down pool.

Before arriving in Pucón, we decided we would try to hike to the top of Villarrica volcano, in hopes of seeing some lava bubbling in the crater.  First, you have to join a tour and wait for the weather to cooperate before making your ascent.  In typical Kristen fashion, she got out of the hike by twisting her ankle doing something very technical and dangerous: getting off the bus. She was fine, but we decided that it wouldn’t be the greatest idea to have her hiking for five hours up scree.

Joe was able to join a group and left very early one morning to make the climb, leaving Kristen warm and sleeping at the hostel.  While riding in the bus, he could see the reddish glow of the lava in the distance.  He was very excited about the possibility  of seeing lava and reaching the summit of this volcano.

This volcano is smokin!

This area also doubles as a ski resort during the winter, so we were lucky to use a chairlift to make part of the “climb”.  After the chairlift, it was up to our legs to carry us up the rest of the way.

Joe on the most difficult part of the climb.

The views were amazing on the climb up, and on clear days, like we had, you can see six different volcanos in the distance.

Mountains and volcanoes in the distance.

We also passed an old burned out chair lift station which was destroyed during the last eruption.

Old ski lift base. Skiers beware: this is one hot run.

As we continued hiking, the wind continued to increase. A couple of times, our guide said it was getting windy and we might have to turn back, but we could keep going for the time being.  The hike got a little more technical as we left the rock and entered the snow fields, so we donned our crampons, and kept on moving.

Before heading into the snow, the guides gave us a brief demonstration on how to stop ourselves if we were to fall.  Recently, two climbers died hiking here, so we all paid extra close attention to this part.

Snow crossing.

We hiked in the snow for about two hours before reaching the rock outcropping which would be the start of our final ascent.

Our guide told us, “only 200 meters up and 30 more minutes to the top,” and we were excited.

View from the rock outcropping. Notice the little climbers in the snow.

Now, as said before, the wind was getting stronger and would sometimes gust up to 50 MPH.  There was one more dangerous ridge to cross, and the guides decided it was not safe enough to continue.  We were all bummed, of course, but we felt good about their decision because we were already having a hard enough time just trying to stand in the wind.

Joe was starting to wish he would have stayed in the warm bed like Kristen.

Joe getting blown around where the climb stopped.

We were also not too upset, because this would be the start of the fun descent.  All the way up we noticed what looked like slides carved into the snow.  We would now get to use these slides and zip down all that we had just climbed up.

It still was a little dangerous because the wind was so strong at the top, that it was sending rocks skipping down the mountain.  The guides were standing lookout as we slid down the mountain.

Slide time. Much more fun than the climb.

It took all of about ten minutes to go down what had taken two hours to climb.  We all enjoyed sliding down, as it brought back some good childhood memories. While it was disappointing not being able to reach the top, it turned out that they had not seen lava for a while, so luckily we didn’t miss out on that.

Where we made it to. Boo Hoo.

Putting the volcanoes behind us, we headed to the beach community of Pichilemu to relax and enjoy the Chilean coast one last time.  Pichilemu was a great pit stop to recharge our batteries, mainly because of our great hostel.

Located about a 20 minute walk up from the beach, Buena Vista Cabañas had a great view of the ocean and sunsets through the pine trees.

View from our cabin.

This little hostel has about three cabins for rent, each with their own kitchen, bathroom and deck, and all for the same price as a regular hostel.  The only negative thing would be the walk up the hill from town, but if you did all your shopping before heading up, there is almost no reason to leave.

Our little cabin.

The weather was not the best during our stay. We had a great sunset our first night and decided to leave the cameras and just enjoy it.  Turns out that would be our only sunset. Ooops.

One day, we decided to brave the cloudy skies and walk down the beach to a famous surf spot, Punta de Lobos.  We walked for an hour and a half before getting to the surf spot.

Joe checking out the edge.

Kristen dared him to go a little further.

He shouldn't have listened.

We finally reached Lobos, and the surf was all but up.  There were a few guys out picking up some small waves, but nothing like the pictures we saw of how big this place can get with a great swell.

Small waves.

Joe decided that if it wasn’t triple overhead, there would be no point in paddling out in the chilly water, so he stayed nice and warm on the beach.

Joe and Kris on the cliff overlooking Punta de Lobos.

Pichilemu was a great stop where we could have easily stayed for weeks.  Having our own little cabin nestled in the hills made this a great place to relax and not do much of anything.

Punta de Lobos (even with a wee bit of sun!).

This was also our last stop in Chile before leaving the country for the last time. It was a great place to end our time in this amazing country. Chile: we will miss you!

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Chilean food: better served warm. Chilean beer: better served chilly.

Chile is the first country that we have visited where the locals have more money to spend, and it shows in their beverage selection.  In Chile, there is always large selection of beers and wines to choose from, and we no longer have to suffer down a bad beer or cheap wine.  We did sample our fair share of beers, but we will only highlight a select few in this post.

Kunstmann is a good choice if you are looking for something similar to a Heineken.  It had a nice hoppy taste, and it went down smoothly.  It didn’t really knock your socks off, but it is better than most brands available in the fridge.

Kunstmann enjoyed in Valparaiso

If you know anything about Joe, you know he loves his dark beers, and the darker the better.  This has been hard to find in South America, but one stood out in Valparaiso.

Trolley had a great malt and coffee flavor, and it was almost a meal on its own.  So far, this one wins the award for best dark beer in South America.

Trolley in Valparaiso = Yum!

The final beer that made the cut is made by the Austral Brewing Company.  This brewery is a bit bigger, but the beers were surprisingly good.  They have a wide variety of brews from lights to darks, and none of them disappointed.  This brew is a little more expensive than the rest, but rest assured, the flavor is worth it.

Austral Calafate Ale

On to the food…

During a long bus ride in Chile, we talked with a guy from Santiago and got an insider’s scoop on this long and skinny country.  When we asked what a good traditional Chilean dish was, he suggested the Completo.  What is this amazing dish you ask?  It is a hotdog covered in avocado and served with ketchup and mustard.

Holy Completo!

Hotdogs are literally EVERYWHERE in Chile, so much so, that they really should be considered the national dish.  Our friend from Santiago did recommend that we spend at least $2 on one or the quality would be questionable. Kristen didn’t want to deprive Joe of all the delicious hotdog goodness, so she let him do all the sampling.

Not believing that this dish is the best that Chile has to offer, we pressed him a little harder and he also recommended the Pastel de Choclo.  This dish might not be any healthier than the completo, but it is much more local and tasty.  It tastes like cornbread pot pie and it is stuffed full of choclo (Spanish for corn), chicken, meats, and other tasty surprises.

Pastel de choclo and a half eaten salad.

This meal should be ordered with caution because it will stick with you, and to your ribs, for a few days.  It is unique and satisfying, but quite the gut bomb.

Chile seems to have a never-ending coastline, so the seafood was bound to be plentiful and amazing.  We enjoyed many amazing dishes but here are just a few that we dream about when confronted with a completo.

These shrimp empanadas were enjoyed at the beach in Con Con, near Vina del Mar.  It took about 30 minutes for the lady to make them, but they were amazing.  We almost missed this photo op, as neither of us wanted to put ours down to grab the camera.

Shrimp empanadas. Que bueno.

This next magical dish had everything the sea has to offer. (Check out how big that mussel is on the side!)  This dish still makes Joe salivate and it rates right up there with the cuaranto he had in Castro.

Seafood Paella- just one of many that we consumed during our time in Chile.

An abundance of fresh fish also means one thing: SUSHI! The sushi stepped up to the plate while in Chile, these amazing rolls only lasted about 3 minutes.  We had this sushi in Santiago where it seems there is a sushi shop on every other corner.

Sushi

If Chile is famous for seafood and wine, then it should be equally famous for its produce.  So much of our produce in the US is shipped from Chile and it was funny seeing the same stickers we normally see at our home grocery.  We did a good job eating our fruits and veggies, and even drank a few of them.

Strawberry smoothie - AMAZING.

Chile varied greatly on food.  When it came from the ocean or from the ground it was usually amazing, but other dishes were a bit lackluster.  Just look at the completo; it does not conjure up images of fine cuisine. Especially in Southern Chile, food was a bland affair as fresh produce was severely limited, and everything seemed to be pizza, empanadas, or hotdogs.

Now as hinted to earlier, we have enjoyed some savory wine while in Chile.  Either by ourselves or with new friends, decent wine has been a nice new addition to our drinking options.  The prices are such that you can even get a decent bottle without breaking the bank.

Being on a budget, Joe has his favorite bottom shelf brand. Even after getting some razzing, he still buys it and we drink it with gusto.

Fancy, huh? And yes, that is a one liter box.

This little box is a real crowd pleaser.  Many people have scoffed at the box, but once they tasted it, they were converts. It also may have something to do with the price ($3 for a liter of Gato). Joe’s PSA: Don’t be afraid of the boxed wines, not only are they better for the environment, but they are also a lot easier to open.

With the coast never being more that 200 miles away we almost always found good seafood to satisfy our cravings.  Eating in Chile has provided more variety than in Bolivia (at quite an increased cost), but we found ourselves missing those cheap and fresh lunches.  Yes, the typical Bolivian menu of soup, meat, and rice did get tiresome, but there were many times in Chile were we would have gladly paid $10 to have one of those homemade soups with all those fresh veggies.

Our quick preview of Argentinian food has us worried.

What we have seen so far: delicious but pricey meats and terrible pizza. Oh, and hotdogs are called panchos. Uh oh.

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What is it with Touristy Towns and Volcanoes? Puerto Varas and Bariloche

From the sleepy island of Chiloe, we made the journey to the lake city of Puerto Varas. This area is known for its beautiful glacier fed lake dominated by a dormant volcano in the background.  Puerto Varas has quite the large number of gringo restaurants, hostels, and tons of tourist agencies ready to set you up on any type of adventure that you could imagine.

There are tons of hikes to do in the area, as is typical in Chile, but we had just come from Patagonia, so we were not looking for any more long or crazy hikes.

We decided to do a short hike to a waterfall that was located about an hour outside of town. This was just the kind of adventure we were looking for. We were able to take local transportation and do the entire trip on our own.  This not only keeps you away from the tourist hoards, but it also saves a lot of money.

This hike was so short that the ranger actually laughed when we asked for a map of the area.  He simply said to follow the trail for 300 meters and “you couldn’t miss it.”  We have been told these fateful words before, and yet somehow ended up confused, but it turned out there really was only one paved trail, and no chance of getting lost.

River and Volcano

The waterfall is not the highest we had ever seen, but it was still beautiful. It is fed by glacier water, so it has a great greenish color. The river really bottlenecks here, so there is a lot of water is making its way through this narrow area.

Petrohue Waterfall

Good shot, Kris

There was a jet boat ride offered at this waterfall, but after seeing it make the quick 10 minute run, we decided to save the money and stay on dry land.

In typical Chilean fashion, a nice bus driver picked us up and let us join his free “tour” of the area as we were trying to make our way back to town. We boarded the bus heading in the wrong direction, on the request of the driver, and got a tour and pit stop in a small town along the lake at the end of the road.

Kris by the lake. Beautiful, but oh, so windy.

This is the lake that feeds the waterfall downstream.  You can rent kayaks and paddle around, or take a boat trip from here, but it was so windy and cold, that we decided that returning to town on the warm bus was a much better option.

This is a very gorgeous stop with an excellent volcano view.

Nice little church- really gives you something to pray for. Osorno volcano in the background.

After our little pit stop, we got back on the bus and the driver took us back to Puerto Varas, without charging us for the extra trip. He was one of the happiest bus drivers we ever met, and he waved and shouted greetings at just about everyone we drove by.

We decided to trade up one super touristy destination for another, but this time in Argentina, the ski town of Bariloche. The drive to Bariloche was very interesting because it passes through an area which has been effected by the recent volcano eruption. There was so much ash in the area that it looked like dirty snow drifts.

Ash!

All along the drive, road crews were cleaning up and clearing out rivers, and you could still see a few houses with lots of ash on the roof.

Similar to Puerto Varas, Bariloche sits on a lake and enjoys volcano views. It has a strong German influence, it seems that every other store downtown is a delicious chocolate shop. Kristen would have been happy just walking down the street, sampling the wares of each store.

Again, there are a lot of pricy tours that you can take (and each town seems to offer some version of the same activities), but we just opted to visit a look out, stroll around town, stuff ourselves with chocolate, and enjoy some famous Argentinean wine and steak. We also spent a lot of time in our hostel, which was one of the best of our trip.  The weather was not the best, so sleeping in and taking it easy was high on our to do list. Antiguo Solar had almost the perfect trifecta as we call it- a nice bed, good internet, and a kitchen.

We were able to again take the local bus and visit the lookout without a big tour.

Great view from Cerro Campanairo

There are two options for taking in the view:

1) Walking to the top

2) Taking the ski lift

Any guesses what we did?

Chair lift ride, way better than walking.

The views from the top were spectacular and we spent a while taking them in and relaxing in the warm sun.

Kris

Joe

We also found some of the youngest kittens either of us had ever seen. They too were enjoying the sun and the view.

The black one has the most amazing eyes. Despite Kristen's allergies, she was tempted to put one in her purse to take home.

The weather had not been the best during our time in Bariloche, but this day was perfect. We couldn’t see the mountain peaks, but the clouds added something to the view.

One more view.

Kris taking a break from all our strenuous activities.

We heard about the city having Saint Bernards roaming the plaza with barrels on their collars, so it was off to find them. These guys were cute, but if you wanted a good picture you had to pony up some pesos.

Now we have often succumb to taking pictures with cute and cuddly animals (like in Peru), but something about this just felt wrong. We opted to take the free picture from far away with telephoto lens. You had to time it just right when the owner was not looking and the dog was paying attention.

It was hard to resist running over and giving this guy a hug.

Both of these towns were good stops, even if they were a little overrun with tourists.  We enjoyed excellent parrilla (Argentinean BBQ), wine, chocolate, and great views.  We might have wimped out on the hikes, but it felt good taking it easy for a few days.

Joe and Kristen

On a side note, recently, our blog statistics report added a new section where you can see how many views you are getting in each country. Joe loves to check this each evening and report on what countries are checking it out. For the last few days, Ukraine has been leading in the amount of views per day, per country, and is second in overall standing only to our home country, America.

We would like to send a little “shout out” to our readers in the Ukraine, courtesy of Google Translate.  Дякую, сподіваюся, вам сподобається в блозі.  Hopefully we didn’t just say something bad.

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Chiloe: It’s Chile with an extra O!

Feeling relaxed and refreshed from our trip sailing “on a northbound ferry” up the Chilean Fjords, we set our sights on the island of Chiloe.  The island is known for its excellent seafood, natural beauty (which is absolutely striking when the sun is out), and more wooden churches than you can shake a stick at.

The majority of the islanders work on the high seas as fishermen or they cater to the many tourists.  With its lush green hills and blue water, Chiloe looks very similar to the Pacific Northwest.

Fishing boats in Chiloe.

With such a large number of fishing vessels in the area, the seafood was bound to be amazing.  We happened upon one restaurant in Castro with an amazing dished called curanto.  This meal is full of muscles, clams, chicken, ham, and a few other special ingredients.

Curanto - an unforgettable meal.

This meal could easily cost you an arm and leg at home, but next to the source, it was only around 9 bucks, and that was at a “touristy” restaurant.  It was more than enough food for the two of us.

Bags of fresh shellfish in the harbor.

The city of Casto has come up with an interesting solution for finding land to build houses on.

Palafitos in Castro

Some of these houses were in better shape than others.  Certain ones looked like it might be a good idea to wear a life jacket at all times when inside.

We took a tour of the harbor with the most experienced guide we could find.  He was about 11 and gave a great canned, but funny, presentation of the harbor while his Dad drove the boat.

Our guide showing off his muscles while giving us a tour.

We're on a boat! Again.

Chiloe is famous for its numerous wooden churches.  We drove by many during our time on the island, but were only able to check out a few.  Most of the times, we were not too impressed with the outside, and we started to wonder what all the fuss was about.

Wooden church in Chonchi. This one has a new steeple as the old one blew off in a storm.

Wooden church in Castro

Church in Dalcahue

We tried to get into the Castro church a few times, but we always showed up when it was closed for cleaning or for some other unknown reason.  Luckily, we were finally able to get inside the church, and it became clear why everyone could not stop talking about these churches. The woodwork inside was incredible.

Inside of Castro's wooden church.

This island is full of spruce trees and it seems that many have been put to use in creating these intricate buildings.

Notice that there aren't any candles lit in here. Probably a good idea.

The amount of work and attention to detail that went into these churches was insane.  We would just hate to be around the day the wood needs to be polished, although that might explain why it has to be closed so much.

In addition to checking out the churches, we visited the Chiloe National Park.  This national park is on the Pacific, so we hoped to sit on the beach and enjoy the sun, but it turned out that we had to settle for strong winds, blowing sands, and overcast skies.

Our warm beach.

The wind was blowing pretty strong at the beach so we got a free exfoliation while attempting to relax in the sand.  “We” also had to cross a river to get to the beach, but Kristen found a better way to get across the river.

Kris working hard. Hey, holding on and taking a self-portrait is actually pretty difficult.

We took a short hike through the woods near the ocean before heading back to the hostel. This was a very interesting forest, as the trees keeping growing over their old roots.  It would have been impossible to walk around, had not been for the pathway.

Kris in the forest.

All in all, we had a good time visiting the cities and National Park on Chiloe. The small towns were fun to wander through, and each had their own charms.  Joe really liked the strong maritime presence in this area, and even tried to bring home a souvenir.

Having a little bit of trouble getting this anchor to budge.

Just a boat waiting for some water.

Chiloe is a great place to relax, enjoy the beautiful scenery and visit some interesting sights. We especially enjoyed hospitality at the hostel Torre de Babel in Castro, that was provided by Luis and his family. We felt so welcomed that we had a hard time tearing ourselves away. We didn’t think it was possible to find nicer Chileans then the ones we have previously met, but all the people in Chiloe exemplified such kindness, friendliness, and helpfulness that made it much harder to leave.

A special gracias goes out to the man selling popcorn on at the bus station! He saw that we missed a bus by a few minutes (no big deal because there was another in 30 minutes), but he insisted on calling the driver, and then he walked us 3 blocks to make sure we got on OK. People like this will make it difficult to leave Chile.

Fishing boats in Chiloe.

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Chilean Fjords: We’re on a Boat!

Finished with Patagonia, we needed to keep heading north, and what better way than by booking a passage on the Navimag ferry through the Chilean Fjords.  This trip intrigued us because many people described it as the poor man’s alternative to an Antarctica cruise. We, being currently jobless,  jumped at the chance to live like the (backpacker) elite.

A Navimag ferry: looks fancy huh.

On this trip, we sailed through the Chilean Fjords for four days and four nights, leaving from Puerto Natales and arriving in Puerto Montt. We passed through narrow channels, searched for wildlife, viewed glaciers, and took in all the beautiful scenery. Oh yeah, and we also took plenty of naps and played a lot of card games (there was a lot of downtime).  This ferry has berths for around 300 people, and it was by no means fancy, but it sure was relaxing.

We somehow scored big time when we checked in, and we were upgraded from our original 4 person bunk room with no window and shared bathroom, to a 2 person room with window and private bathroom (worth double the price we paid).  We couldn’t believe our insane luck! The room was still basic, but it was nice to have it all to ourselves.  Joe and Kristen arm wrestled over who got the top bunk, and Joe of course lost out (Kristen has been doing a lot of push-ups recently), and he had to always climb up the ladder for nap time.

Home sweet home. Made Joe feel like he was back at work. Low light picture- sorry for the poor quality.

This ferry had more of a “real” ship feel, rather than the traditional cruise ship luxury.  The meals were fulfilling, but nothing too special, and we never found the pool or lido deck.

The lower decks of the ferry were filled with trucks full of cargo, and even some livestock who made the trip with us.  You could sometime hear the animals voice their displeasure with the rough seas, and it seems that a few times we dreamed of being on farms.

As you can imagine, the views were amazing, even if the weather did not cooperate with us very much.  We passed through some tight channels, one being just 80 meters wide.

Of course, this made Joe as giddy as a school girl.

Are we sure we fit through there?

A little too close for comfort. At least Joe thought so. Those trees look like they see their fair share of poor weather. Can you guess what direction the wind usually blows?

Joe was even lucky enough to sneak into the bridge and spend some time with the officers.  He was happy to see the Chief Engineer giving the 3rd Mate a hard time (something about his butt getting too big because all he does is sit). Ahh, the love between the Deck and Engine Room is universal.

This also is a great trip if you are addicted to napping, as there is quite a bit of free time on the ship.  We would get up, enjoy the view, eat, play cards with friends, nap and repeat.  With the weather being cruddy, it gave us even more of an excuse to hide out in the warmth of our bunks.

Sailing the Fjords

Small glacier. Wait is that the SUN?

One thing that ships generally avoid is ice, but not on this ferry.  We took a small side trip to a glacier which reaches in to the sea.  It already looked big from the water, but the clouds were hiding its full size, as it actually stretched far into the mountains.

Iceberg dead ahead.

Kristen with the glacier and some rain.

Ahh, what fine weather!

After our brief glacial pit stop, we continued on our way and everyone retreated to their bunks to warm back up.

Along the way there was always something to look at and the “guide” did an okay job letting us know what was coming, most of the time.  We hoped to see a lot of wildlife on this adventure, but we only saw a few birds, a few dolphins, one brief whale, and a couple seals.  These guys would come and go so quickly that we never got a good picture of them, despite our best attempts.

Along the way, Joe also found a ship that he wanted to work on, but unfortunately the birds have already taken command.

Ship aground in the middle of the Fjords.

This ship ran aground sometime in the 60’s, and hasn’t moved since then. Joe imagines some engineer was distracting the poor watch officer when it got stuck.

For most of the trip we were sheltered in protected water, but we did head out into the open ocean (i.e. the Pacific) for about 17 hours.  The weather and waves picked up a bit and lots of people hunkered down in their beds (Kristen included).  The lines at meal time were much shorter during this passage, Joe had a good time watching people pinball down the passageways in the rough seas.

Heading back into the Fjordes the weather started to lift for our final full day onboard.

Clouds and fog lifting away.

This brought everyone out of their rooms to enjoy the sun on the upper deck.

Kris and one of our new friends, Franzi.

The weather might not have been the warmest, but it was nice to feel the sun on your body.

The bar did an amazing amount of business on this day, as everybody found a soft piece of steel to spread out on and enjoy the views and sun.

Sun worshipers in full force.

We were treated to a good time with our new friends on our last day.  We spent the majority of the day on the upper deck enjoying the weather, playing cards, and drinking cheap boxed wine.

Sea and Volcanoes.

Also, on our last night, we had one of the most amazing sunsets we have seen.

You know it's a good sunset when the workers leave their posts to take pictures as well.

Riding on the Navimag was a great way to travel back up Chile and recharge our batteries.  It was nice knowing we didn’t have to pack or unpack our bags for a few days and all the meals were taken care of.  We did an excellent job of taking advantage of the prime nap opportunities and we were rejuvenated after a busy few weeks in the Patagonia area.

Sunny fog bank.

Definitely beats the bus.

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