Thursday, 28 February 2008

792 nautical miles

Over the past four days we have travelled 1467km by ferry (called Evangelista run by Navimag) rrom Puerto Montt in the central lake district to Puerto Natales in Patagonia at 52 degrees south, further south than any other land mass before Antartica.

Sharon at check-in in Puerto Montt

Evangelista anchored at Puerto Eden (an isolated fishing community 2 days from Puerto Montt and 36 hours from Puerto Natales)
When we started from Puerto Montt it was bright sunshine
the next day it was foggy and wet, then it was cloudy and cool.

The passage took us through an inland passage down the west coast of Chile. At one point on day tywo we had to go into the Pacific Ocean for a twelve hour passage. The staff on the ship built the ocean passage up a being rough (up to 5m waves) but as it was the sea was calm (1.5m waves) and apart from some rocking it was not too rough.

The scenery was awesome and we passed close to a glacier called Pius Xl

through islands where there was only 20m clearance on either side of the ship,

past a ghost ship stuck on rocks and we saw whales (admittedly far away)!

We arrive in Puerto Natales. Next stop Torres del Paine

Sunday, 24 February 2008

A quick trip to the end of the mainland Pan American Highway

We took a 24 hour tour to Chiloe, an island that is reached from the end of the mainland Pan American Highway by ferry, 2400 miles from Arica (where we started our trip in Chile). The ferry trip crossed a channel with really strong currents and the boat was surrounded by sea lions, leaping out of the water catching fish in the currents. We went to see a penguin colony that had Magellan and Humboldt penguins, sea otters and sea lions.

The ferry where the Pan American Highway stops on mainland South America

Sharon looking at a beautiful bay on west Chiloe.
Reached by a 40km dirt road drive.

On the boat going to look for penguins and sea lions. We also saw sea otters.

If you look hard you can see penguins. Honest!

We camped next to the beach

Next morning we walked along by the sea and saw people picking what looked like rocks from the sea shore

Sharon asked the family camped next to us what they were? They were Piure or Sea Squirts which they ate raw with lemon. We tried half of one each... an aquired taste!

We returned to Puerta Varas the next day. Tomorrow we leave for a 4 day ferry journey to Patagonia and Tierra Del Fuego.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Volcan Osorno and waterfalls

We have moved from Pucon to Puerta Varas, which is dominated by another volcano, Osorno. So another day was spent exploring a volcano (although this one is not active) and the river that flowed past it. It was quite an eventful day. While waiting for Sharon to come out of a shop a policeman told me off for parking on yellow lines, we got stopped and had to show our passports to another policemen at a check point and then I got the truck stuck in deep sand on the way up the volcano. It required the combined efforts of six people a shovel and a plank to extricate it!

We went up on a ski lift to the snow line below the volcano where there was a view of a small crater. There was an amazing zip wire that descended 1500m in 4 stages. See a video of it here

Life on the Ruka

Ruka Rayen

Camping on a farm involves living with the animals. On Ruka Rayen there was a pig called Porkie that thought she was a dog and roamed free, chickens, horses, cats and dogs.

Sharon leading her horse back to the field after riding

Porkie the pig

The horses lived in a wood and I helped catch them for riding

Friday, 22 February 2008

Modes of transport

While camping for a week on the farm at Ruka Rayen we decided to try different modes of transport, so we went trekking to a lake, where Dick dropped the second digital camera of the trip in (the first got drowned in the monsoon rain in Australia) They don't work very well when wet :-(

As they haven't had rain for 6 weeks it was very dusty so to wash it off we kayaked down the Rio Trancura with our friend Wolfy.

Wolfy discovers the problem of canoeing a low profile boat without a spraydeck!
Then we cycled to the Thermas Trancura to sit in the warm thermal waters. Our bums were quite saddle sore by the end of the week!

Sharon arriving back at Ruka Rayen

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Volcan Villaricca

Volcano Villaricca

We are staying in Pucon under the 2804m high, active volcano Villaricca. It had to be climbed, so joined by our new friend Wolfgang we set off early one morning. A short cable car ride later we set off up the dusty and rocky track to the snow line. Hundreds of tourists are led up the volcano every day on organised tours all dressed in the uniform equipment of their tour company. We overtook all of them and after climbing through some steep snow slopes arrived at the top to have it virtually to ourselves. The cloud was building on this particular day so the view down the crater was restricted but when the cloud briefly cleared the views in all directions were amazing. The fumes from the volcano were sulphurous and when the wind blew it in our direction it stung your throat and eyes.

Our descent was faster than the ascent as it involved bum sliding down the snow slopes then running down rubble slopes!

Our car on a dirt track that defeated its climbing abilities

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

From desert to lakes

Us in Santiago with Richard and Vivien (right) and Nancy (left, the wife of the Head of Grange Prep School)

Five hours after we drank our last whisky we got up and took a taxi to the wrong bus station in Santiago. After a confusing twenty minutes when we couldn't find the right bus bay we were directed up the road to the right bus station where we boarded the Tur Bus for the 680km journey to Temuco. Luckily the seats reclined so the eight hour journey was spent snoozing and recovering from alcoholic excess. Every stop saw the bus invaded by sellers peddling their wears of food and drink.

The journey still following the Pan American Highway, saw us pass from desert landscape, through the Central Valley with vineyards into a more temperate zone with forests and vast corn fields. The journey down Chile so far has been a living geography lesson

At Temuco we hired a car and drove to Villarrica, a town under an active volcano.

Monday, 11 February 2008

We visit a Chilean School

We are staying in Santiago with Vivianne and Richard who are teachers at The Grange School. Richard visited Dallam in 2005.

Although their school is not due to return from their summer holidays until 1st March (they broke up on 21st December!) we were shown around the buildings. The Grange is a British school and they teach in English until age 12, then a combination of English/Spanish. The students do English GCSE and A level exams. It is a fee paying school and has 1700 students.

Friday, 8 February 2008

Boiling water and high deserts

‘Get there by 6.30am as the sun rises to see them at their best’ is the advice given to tourists who want to see the Tatio Geysers, the highest in the world. The problem is that every tour company in San Pedro de Atacama (and there are lots) offer the tour setting off at 4.30am (because it is a 100km drive out into the desert on dirt roads). The guide book notes that by 8.30am the geysers are virtually empty as the tour buses pour back to town. We set off at 7.30am!

After an exciting drive going up from 2600m to 4360m (no acclimatisation problems now, we are fighting fit) and following roads that varied from quite smooth to rocky, requiring Jimmies 4x4 again, passing many minibuses full of sleepy tourists going the other way, we arrived at Tatio Geysers.

The last remaining tourists left as we ate breakfast and by 10am we had the whole area to ourselves. The clarity of the air in the Andes is superb and the looming volcanoes formed a fantastic backdrop to the spectacle of water boiling from the ground. The end of the tour was a swim in a thermal pool, all to ourselves (at 7am there must have been hundreds in there!) where the water varied from a pleasant 34 degrees C to scalding hot.

On our way back we noticed a volcano with smoke coming from it. Our challenge became getting near to it to take a photo. We eventually found a faint track heading off into the desert so we followed it, passing around another volcano until we eventually arrived at an abandoned Sulfur mine. From here we got a clear view of the smoking summit of the volcano.

We drove over 200Km in the desert today, what a fantastic place, we love it.

Valle de la Luna

Sunset in the Atacama Desert is best seen from the Valle de la Luna or so we are told. We set off to see the sights … just as everyone else did. The falling sun light the rocks (that looked like a moonscape) beautifully.

We wanted to get away from the crowds to see the sun set so used Jimmies 4x4 capabilities to drive off the tourist road out into the desert to an abandoned salt mine. Here we cooked our tea and had an individual experience of the sun setting, far away in the distance we could make out the rest of the crowds watching the sun set from the top of the 150m ‘Great Sand Dune’.

Deep holes and vast profits

We visited Chiquicamata open cast copper mine today, the biggest open cast mine in the world, which produces 12% of the world’s copper and 27% of Chile’s GDP. The mine is 4.5km long, 3km wide and 1 km deep and produces 90k tonnes of copper a year. The amazing fact we found out though was that a by product of the extraction process was Molybdenum and the market value of this (of which they produce 18K tonnes) is so high it pays for all the production costs, the copper is pure profit!

The machinery was on a scale to match the size of the mine with trucks that could carry 300 tonnes of ore and diggers capable of shovelfuls of 100 tonnes.