Puerto Montt (1/6/07 – 3/6/07)

The closest significant Chilean city to Bariloche was Puerto Montt which I decided would be my launching point to either Coyhaique or Puerto Natales… unfortunately, for my whole time there, the weather was kind of bad… The main industry here is Salmon and Trout and, naturally the seafood here is very fresh (guess what I ate every night)

I decided to take a little tour of some estancias – farm homesteads. The wildlife here really isn’t scared of humans… I saw some of these guys in Bolivia near the Salar de Uyuni but onlt from a distance. If I had been unfortunate enough to be carrying any food on me, I would have probably been attacked by this guy.

…and I finally got to see a Puma. An animal that inspired a brand of sportswear and revered by the indigenous people of South America… it was a little sad to see this fellow in a cage. Chiquita, as she is called, was found, abandonded, as a cub and it was apparently a great deal of trouble to find someone to take her in. She is very very tame… frequently pressing herself up against her cage to get her head scratched by her many visitors.

This guy wasn’t quite so tame… obviously displeased by the amount of attention the puma was getting, he did his utmost to grab my attention.

Hey there… what are you looking at?

Close to Puerto Montt, there are a number of lakes (this IS the lake district) and these lakes are surrounded by mountains (the andes). Among thos mountains is the volcano Osorno… unfortunately it was too cloudy to see (damn!!!) but some of the lakes immediately surrounding it were this peculiar green-blue colour because of the volcano.

Some of these lakes are also very big with impressively big waves for such small bodies of water.

Argh! More boats! Stupid lakes in the lakes district… we took a boat to the other side of one lake to eat lunch at an estancia…

…where we were greeted by this little perrito… (note the two “r”s in perrito, to distinguish it from Perito, as in Perito Moreno Glacier)

“Two legs bad, four legs good!” Can anyone remember the words to “beasts of England”? Hmm…. just looking at him is making me hungry.

This dog… well… you can see for yourself. Perhaps if you stare into his white eye, you will see how you die (anyone who hasn’t should watch the movie “Big Fish”)

Ha! And you thought I was sick of waterfalls… admittedly these weren’t nearly as impressive as Angel Falls or Iguazu Falls, but they were still pretty cool. Especially for the effect they made on the lake below… (mouse over the image)

The Plaza de Armas by night.

A view of the town by night…

Coyhaique (4/6/07 – 5/6/07)

The main reason I wanted to go to Puerto Natales was to do some glacier trekking and ice climbing on Glaciar Grey. However, when I called the company that runs that stuff they informed me that, not only was the season over (it is low season now), but nobody runs trekking or ice climbing on the glacier anymore. D’oh. This left me with little choice but to journey to Coyhaique… the launching point for trips to the San Rafael glacier… although, being low season, it was exceedingly unlikely that I would be able to visit it given my rather dire time constraints

The weather, as if you taunt me… turned good just as I left. Not only that… but the route from Puerto Montt to Coyhaique actually goes through Argentina… not only that, it goes THROUGH BARILOCHE! So I sat in the bus for 22 hours looking at the sky and shaking my fist at it – “Where were you three days ago when I was trying to climb Lanin!!!!”

Indeed, the occasional bits of leftover snow were the only evidence of the severe snowstorm which halted my ascent just days ago.

…I don’t really want to bore you all to death, but it is just way too much fun taking long exposure shots of the sky. The above constellation is, of course, Scorpio (mouse over the image)

Bored yet? For those of you who haven’t caught on yet… this is the southern cross (mouse over the image)

…and what do you know, just as I was about to arrive at my destination… the weather started to become overcast again. Although it did make for a pretty nice sunrise.

shame about those power lines…

This is not a forced perspective trick – this is a real condor feather…

On my first day, I took a three hour diverson to the nearby (1 hour drive) town of Puerto Aysen. Formerly, the foremost port in the area. Now, its only claim to fame is the fact that it has the longest suspension bridge in Chile. Although the weather wasn’t great, it was very calm, allowing for some spectacular photographs using the reflection of the river.

And there you have it folks, Chile’s longest suspension bridge. Not exactly golden gate, but fairly decent.

In the low season, Coyhaique is a pretty chillin’ town. Hardly any tours are running… so I just chilled out. Before long, I got itchy feet… then I looked up, and had an idea…

Just outside my hospdaje, the Plaza of the Pioneers. This sculpture depicts their Andean crossing, at the point when they got covered in snow.

Yes, Coyhaique is a nice place to just chill out, and not only because it is a fairly chilly location in Chile.

So I found my man… Jordi Andreu Simini Gracia (try saying that ten times in a hurry). Pilot. Here he demonstrates his skills on a volkswagen beetle which is at least twice as old as I am.

Gee… this hanger is a little stuffy, lets open up that door…

A two-seater Cessna… one if you’re BMI is over 30… and our transport for this afternoon.

The skies finally cleared up for us… good thing too because it was getting late (the sun sets quite early this far south in winter)

Ok Daniel, step into my office and we’ll get started.

He goes through the pre flight checklist… which doesn’t include “check that your passenger actually likes flying, and if he doesn’t, give him a sick bag”. Oh well… I’ll just have to keep it all inside…

It was a little bit windy that day… and the plane, at times, felt more rickety than the volkswagen… this would have to be one of the crazier things that I’ve done in my life.

Excuse me for stating the obvious, but everything looks really different from the air…

Oh, the Andes… conveniently located at the end of the armies… (bad joke, don’t worry). “Hey, can we get closer to those mountains?”

Oh yeah… lakes district, I get it.

Apparently the peaks aren’t as snowy as they usually are at this time of year. Indeed, we flew over a small ski resort and there was no snow on any of the runs.

Ok… that’s close enough… no really… that’s plenty close enough.

Coyhaique looks alot bigger from the air.

A view over the Plaza de Armas… the main town square which is… not actually a square, but a pentagon. Which was very confusing at first…

Oh thank goodness! Any more of that and I would have been ill. Mind you, my pilot was quite mad… he let me fly the plane for about five minutes while we were over Coyhaique… I mean… what the…?

After the flght, I did a little bit more sightseeing on the way back into town. Here is a curious rock formation which looks a bit like a face.

This is not the longest suspension bridge in Chile…

Valparaiso (6/6/07)

I arrived in the evening at this beautiful costal city. My hostel was not in the safest area in town… but it was quite central and it had a little hatch to the roof where I was able to climb up and take some… you guessed it, panoramic shots. (you know the deal, click the picture)

This building has a hole in it… how unsual. There is a building in Hong Kong with a hole in it too… for Feng Shuey reasons. I wonder why this building has a hole in it. Maybe it is holy?

Look! A cat on a cold tin roof…

Most of the architecture here didn’t survive past the 1906 earthquake which devastated most of Chile. In 1984, about half of the place was flattened by another earthquake… oh well. There are still an small handful of old buildings. This is the headquaters of the Chilean Navy

There are some rather nice walls near my hostel

…and from on top of one of them, one can get a good view of the plaza, and the top of the Naval headquarters

Of course, some of the architecture is also very new… and weird

A light rail track runs along the coast and on to Vina del Mar, a nearby city

Another lovely municipal building, recently restored

…and in keeping with the “I want to be a European city” theme, we have lots of fountains

…and obelisks

The main avenue is very picturesque, with lots of busts and statues of famous people (including captain prat…)

The observant among you will notice that the base of this statue bears a masonic symbol…

and occasionally, one has to stop and look up at the many cerros – hills surrounding the port town… it reminded me a little bit of… Guanajuato

…and we thought Melbourne Uni had funding issues…

If I’m not mistaken – “School of rights”

yeah… alot like Guanajuato… only not as safe. A few times I was told by passers by to watch my camera because snatchers on vespas were common in these parts

If the Essendon Bombers and the North Melbourne Kangaroos were to merge… and purchase a bunch of fire engines… then their headquarters would probably look like this

The universe laughs at me again… one last time before I leave for home… more steps! Well, at least I’m not at altitude.

Guess what…? Another panoramic shot. This time… its a 360-degree shot. (click the picture – this one is quite big, be patient)

Santiago (7/6/07 – 9/6/07)

I’ve been here before… so there wasn’t the manic urge to rush out and see as much as humanly possible in the limited time that I had. So I just chilled in my hotel… enjoying the view over Ave Providencia.

Although it was a bit cold, smoggy and hazy… unlike the last time I was here, in the middle of summer, the sunsets were still quite beautiful.

Later that night I was reunited with Nick… and the next day the weather cleared up, so we went for a little stroll.

Thinking that it would be nice to get a view over the city, we found ourselves a cable car to take us to the top of Cerro San Cristobal.

The view from the top was pretty nice… but… the smog obscured most of the Andes mountain range from view

The way down was a bit steeper… and we took the funicular rail. This one was very efficient, requiring only one set of tracks for most of the way except at the point where the cars cross, where it splits.

When we came back down, we wandered through this park, where this path seemed to go on forever.

And there was some strange and random art… which had lots of graffiti on it… which, in a strange way, added to the art.

On the way we were ambushed by some Gypsies… who offered to read Nick’s palm but instead tried very hard to steal his money…. the ploy almost worked, but didn’t quite.

Near the middle of town, there was another small hill… this time with a castle in the middle of it, amongst some lovely gardens…

And a very nice fountain… (see, I’m NOT addicted to long-exposure shots of water flowing… that sounded really wrong for some reason)

An interesting piece of artwork…

I never knew before, but apparently… Paris and London intersect… right here!

Returning to the Plaza de Armas was a strange experience. The last time I was here, in October 2003, I was in a very strange emotional place… just after my first comedy night, just after writing about 8000 words of assessment in 3 days with about 3 hours of sleep… and just before my first world championships in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. Oh well… interesting memories… and they still play chess here.

I wasn’t here at night last time… there was dancing in the streets when we got there.

And the ever-efficient metro system was still… ever efficient. Always nice to know that some things don’t change.

…and on our final night of the trip, we just chilled out in our little hotel…

which was actually quite a big hotel… the Ritz-Carlton… pretty decent actually, especially after five months of slumming it in dodgy hotels and youth hostels where the warmth of my laptop’s heatsink was the only heating available.

…and as the time for our flight approached, we just sat back and relaxed for a bit.

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