Only 16km from San Pedro de Atacama, the Valle de la Luna (or Moon Valley) is named appropriately so, due to the strong resemblance to the surface of the moon. Much of the dramatic landscape has been created over time from erosion. There are sand dunes, surfaces that look similar to Cappadocia in Turkey, and interesting salt/dirt caves.
Archive for the Chile Category
From Santiago we took a 22 hour bus to Calama. The trip should have been 20 hours, but the bus broke down adding another 2 hours to our already long ride. The Bolivian Consulate in Santiago ran out of visas (the actual sticker that goes into the passport), so we headed up to Calama to get our visa. Obtaining the visa turned out to be a pain, and we later learned that you can bypass the system by booking a Uyuni tour, and the tour operators will get you the visa at the border. I wish we knew that before we went through all the trouble.
I wish we had more time in Chile to eat…Chileans love seafood. It’s no wonder as the country is basically all coastline. Mussels, crab and fish are on most menus. Congrio, a white fish similar to kingclip (or cod), is national favorite prepared a number of different ways. The stew version is delicious–onions, tomatoes, potatoes. The other ingredient that is commonly found in Chilean cuisine is algae or seaweed. This is mostly used in soups and salads. When I first saw these dried bundles of algae at the market, I thought it was raw hide.
Valparaiso, located on the coastline of Chile, is not more then 1.5 hours by bus from Santiago. An old port city built on the edge of the water with hills running right into the ocean. The city has 15 funiculars, which were built between 1883-1914, and are still in use today. Costing anywhere from 100 to 250 pesos per ride (22 to 53 cents), it’s a steal if you don’t feel like walking up one of the 42 steep hills of Valparaiso.
Small independent boutiques and cafés add charm to the city, along with graffiti that is ever present. Also interesting are the houses are mostly all paneled in corregated metal and brightly painted.
Valparaiso is an easy town to navigate and explore day and night. Saturday we stopped at Cinzano for lunch at 4pm and listened to an old time guitarist play traditional folk songs. In the evening we went out for a nice dinner at 10pm, then out to a club until 2:30am. It was a late night for us, but for Chileanos it was just starting to get going.
Since we were short on time, the following day we spent our day taking an organized tour around the park. The Patagonia region is beautiful, and Torres del Paine has more than it’s fair share of amazing views, teal and turquoise lakes, glaciers and icebergs, the towers of Paine and the horns of Paine. The sights are dramatic and ever-changing. One minute it’s sunny and brilliant, and the next it’s overcast and ominous.
Because we sometimes wait until the last minute to figure out where to go next, we sometimes have scheduling problems…wait a minute…that happens almost every other day…only this time it worked in our favor, giving us the opportunity to head to Torres del Paine. We couldn´t find a flight out of El Calafate, so instead we decided to head south into Chile. A few hours later we were in Puerto Natales, a not-so-pretty touristy town that gives you access to Torres del Paine. Our plan was to spend two days in the park, before taking a flight north to Santiago from neighboring city Punto Arenas.
The following morning after arriving into Puerto Natales, we took an early morning shuttle bus that dropped us off at the Laguna Amarga entrance of Torres del Paine. Two days before our arrival marked the “off season” for the park. For us meant that the shuttle buses within the park were no longer running–ie. instead of a shuttle bus, we had to walk 7km to our accomodation. I guess the park rangers figure, you´re there to hike, so what does it matter where you are hiking. And it´s true, walking along the dirt road, we were able to appreciate the beauty of the three ¨towers¨of Paine, all the same.