A Travellerspoint blog

February 2003

South America 2003: Arica and Santiago (redux)


View South America 2003 on GregW's travel map.

I have come to my last full day in South America. Tomorrow I board a plane in Santiago at 3:25 Chile time (1:25pm Toronto time) and will land (assuming all goes according to plan) at 6:30am on Thursday. So this is my final update. After the excitement of guns and tanks in the last update, this one will seem positively dull (as if they don't seem positively dull already).

We pick up the story in Arica, Chile (Ah-reek-ah). Arica is a small ocean-side town in a river valley of the Atacama desert. I had an impression upon arriving in Arica which my 5 days there could not shake. I was in Florida. Arica reminds me of one of those little towns that dot the coasts of Florida. Wide main avenues lines with palm trees, cute little bungalows painted bright colours, motels along the beach strip perfect for the "driving family vacation."

I was pretty worn out from the altitude sickness from La Paz, so I did very little in Arica except hang out at the beach and sit on the patios that line Arica's pedestrian mall. After the hustle and bustle of constant travel and exploration of the last 6 weeks, though, it was a welcome change.

As for my health, it improved almost immediately. My appetite came back and my energy level increased immediately. I was a little weaker than usual, though that was probably due more to my having not eaten in the past 5 days rather than any ill effects of the altitude. However, some facets of my health were longer to come back. For about a day and a half I still found it hard to quickly form thoughts. Speaking to people was a chore, because I paused so much to gather my thoughts. It would take me half a second to figure out what I wanted to say in English, and then another second to figure out how to say that in Spanish. I am sure people thought I had suffered a head injury. It actually was a welcome change from my usual spouting off without thinking though. However, soon my thought process was back to normal, and I am back to putting my foot in my mouth on a regular basis again.

The other thing which was slow to return was my sense of balance. For about 3 days I was walking around like a drunken sailor. I would often find that I had (unconsciously) leaned to far forward or backward or to the left or to the right and suddenly find myself stumbling in that direction. It was especially bad after I had been sitting or lying for a spell. In one of those patios I mentioned earlier, I rose after eating dinner and took my first step in about an hour. The first step was fine, but during the second step my right foot landed on my left foot, and thus during the third step I ended up tripping over my own feet. I stumbled through the patio, attempting to regain my balance without knocking over or crashing through any of the glass topped tables which adorned the patio. I was able to regain my balance without injury to myself or the furniture, however the two older German women at one of the tables gave me a "there's a man that can't hold his liquor" look, even though I had no alcohol at dinner.

After 5 days of relaxing, I boarded a bus for Santiago, stealing myself for a 30 hour ordeal. The bus started off inland and into the heart of the Atacama desert. The Atacama desert in the north of Chile is almost completely lifeless, just miles of sand and barren rock. Occasionally this otherwise lifeless landscape would be punctuated by a river valley. A river running from the Andes to the Pacific would pass through the desert, and create a ribbon of green in the otherwise brown landscape. The river valleys also tended to be 500 feet below the usual desert floor, so the bus spent a lot of time descending and ascending into canyons. Those were fun rides! The canyon walls are probably at a 60 or 70 degree slope, and thus off to the side of the bus was a very steep drop off.

The further south we got, the more the desert filled with life. Soon (and by soon I mean by hour 16) the brown sands were covered with cacti and small, gnarled trees. As we approached Santiago (hours 26 through 30) the landscape changed again to rolling hills covered with brown grass and small dark green trees. It reminded me of the hills around San Ramon, California, where (for those following my career will know) I spent the last 10 months (on and off) of 2002.

That's the amazing thing about this whole trip, how much the geography has ended up reminding me of places I have already been. Santiago is like Northern California, Arica like Florida, the lake district like Lake Tahoe, the Patagonian coast like the Pacific Northwest, Patagonian inland like Montana. It's a strong reminder that this truly is a small world (though I wouldn't want to have to paint it).

I had big plans for Santiago - going to Vina del Mar and Valpariso to see the beach and fishing ports, going to the mountains to horseback ride. However, when I arrived at the Marriott in Santiago (thank you Marriott Reward points!), I knew that I would do very little during my last 5 days in Santiago. My world has consisted of the hotel, the neighbouring mall and the middle-class suburban neighbourhood surrounding the hotel. Truthfully, I have been crashing since my last few days in Buenos Aires, and I have little energy left to be the great explorer anymore. One of the most important lessons I learnt on this trip, I am not meant to be the kind of person that spends 6 months backpacking around the world. I still love travel and seeing new places, but the energy required to be constantly planning your next move and the laissez-faire attitude required for the travel is just not in me. Plus, after about a month I start to miss things "North American." I miss Harvey's hamburgers and Swiss Chalet Chicken and TV in English and good Caesar salads. Don't get me wrong, I am glad I took this trip. But I don't think I will be taking another like it again. My next trip - shorter, more focused on a single location or task and planned in advance.

So that's it. Soon I will be home in Toronto. I am looking forward to being home, though not to the cold weather or my impending return to the world of the working stiff. I will have to play the lotto when I get home. So thanks all for indulging me and reading my little stories. I hope they were entertaining and maybe a little educational. Actually, I don't really care about the educational part. I just hope I made you laugh at least once.

P.S. In the last message (Chapter 4) I wrote...

And this is where you find me now, Arica, Chile. Population around 200,000 people with lots of great beaches. And so ends what I hope will be the most dramatic and harrowing of my updates. In fact, if all goes according to plan, my final update will say simply "spent 5 days in Arica, 5 days in Santiago. Saw some pretty girls."

Oh were I only so brief...

Posted by GregW 17:33 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

South America 2003: La Paz, Bolivia

Dangerous Days in La Paz


View South America 2003 on GregW's travel map.

There is a scene in The Princess Bride where the grandfather (the dude who plays Columbo) tells the sick little boy (the kid from the Wonder Years) "she doesn't die right here." This was something that was going through my head during my time in La Paz. I was thinking of writing my update, and perhaps people being worried, and saying to them "I don't die right here." So if you get too worried, remember that I don't die anywhere during this story.

La Paz, Bolivia is a city of 1.5 million people built into a chasm in the antiplano at 3600 meters (12,000 feet) above sea level. Flying into La Paz you land in El Alto, a city that lies on the plains (and thus has flat spots for planes to land) about 400m above the core of La Paz. A 30 minute winding route down the canyon's sides takes you into the heart of the city. The city stretches up the canyon walls, and from the base of the canyon, city rises away from you in all directions. One traveller described it as looking like the city were trying to escape the creator it is in. To me, it looked like someone took a flat city map and placed it on a rough surface and said, "this is where your buildings will be. If you need a 12 story building here on this 45 degree incline, so be it!"

La Paz is also much more "South American" than anyone of the cities in Argentina or Chile had been. Argentina and Chile had been very Spanish influenced (B.A. and Santiago) or very German/Nordic influenced (Patagonia). La Paz is all crocked and narrow cobblestone streets filled with native South Americans with booths selling anything from fruit and drinks to craft goods to CDs (no doubt not illegally burnt...).

And now you know as much about La Paz as I do, because during my 5 days there I could only manage about 4 hours when I wasn't lying in my bed wishing I were dead. I had figured that I would arrive in La Paz, take 2 days to get used to the altitude and be ready to move on to Machu Pichu. Instead, La Paz and the 12,000ft altitude took their toll on me. I suffered greatly from altitude sickness. I had no energy, my appetite disappeared, I had splitting headaches and weird semi-wake delusions (like I had two heads, or I was part of a group of 7 people trying to pull some weird scam). I arrived on Monday night, and by Wednesday night it was obvious to me that I wasn't getting better. In fact, I was getting worse. I had developed a dry cough. I had tried to eat, but my mouth would not produce saliva. I would consciously tell my body to do something (like sit up), and it would ignore me. I would require half an hour of prodding to actually do anything.

So I made one of the most heartbreaking decisions of my life. On Thursday morning I was going to force myself out of bed, to the bus station and onto a bus for the lower altitudes of Chile. I would have to skip Machu Pichu for this trip. Obviously the next time I came back I would take a slower overland route with a couple days built in at a lower altitude for acclimatization. I went to bed (early as usual) on Wednesday night to the sound of fireworks, no doubt the Bolivian people celebrating my remarkably sound decision (not bad for a guy with two heads).

Thursday morning I awoke to a very different sounding day than the previous ones. There was no traffic or people noise. In fact, there were those fireworks again. Why would people be lighting off fireworks in daylight? BAM! That was no firework. That sounded like cannon fire. I got dressed and made my way to the lobby. A couple of frantic backpackers were trying to find a way out of La Paz, the TV was playing pictures of crowds of people running through white smoke and buildings burning. "What’s going on?" I ask

"Everything," replies one of the backpackers. "They've got tanks out there."

The violence in La Paz began Wednesday night when 7,000 striking police officers and civilian protesters clashed with government troops over a new tax plan. The protesters left a dozen government buildings in flames after picking them clean, tossing chairs, papers and radios out of windows and walking off with computers. They shouted slogans calling for the president to step down: "Resign or die, those are your options!" As sirens wailed, bands of looters ran through central La Paz, where tanks and 400 heavily armed soldiers were deployed near the presidential palace. Over the two days, 22 people were killed, including at least nine police officers, and 102 were injured. (Facts from CNN.com - link at bottom of chapter).

All this was happening 4 or 5 blocks from my hotel. The buses and planes were all not running. Turns out that I was trapped in foreign country during a revolution. "This," I thought "is the perfect time to call the Canadian Consulate and see what advice they can provide." They were closed due to the unrest. Now, it would seem to me that the very day that you want your consulate to be open would be on the day of unrest in the country. So I was truly stuck in the hotel.

Around 3 o'clock things seemed to quiet down (at least in La Paz. In other cities the rioting continued). I ventured out to find some water and food. Most stores were still closed, but a few were open and I was able to buy some peaches and 4 liters of water. Walking back to my hotel it was interesting to watch the people of La Paz on the streets. Some young boys were playing soccer on a street that was normally bustling with traffic, groups of people were having casual discussions on street corners, a young couple walked by my hand in hand. Less than 3 hours ago armed combatants had been running down these streets, and now people used them so casually.

That was the most amazing thing about the whole "siege" incident was how incredibly boring and un-scary it was. There was nothing to do but wait, so you waited. There was nothing you could do, so you didn't worry. And now that it was over, the people of La Paz got back at living their lives. Maybe the Bolivians are more practiced at it, but I wonder what Toronto would be like 4 hours after tanks were called in to crush an armed rebellion.

Thursday night was up in the air as to if hostilities would restart, so I lay in bed waiting for the sounds of gunfire. Early in the evening I heard much chanting and some light gunfire, but then it started to rain, and the night grew very quiet. An interesting point on the whole rebellion thing is that Wednesday (the night it started) was the only afternoon that was didn't have rain. Most afternoons (certainly the ones I was there) it rains for a couple of hours. I could imagine protestors getting themselves riled up in the early afternoon drinking their Mate de Coca (coca leaf tea), only to have their rebellious fires extinguished by the afternoon cold rain. Wednesday, with no rain to make the lure of hearth and home more appealing, all hell broke loose. Pray for rain.

Friday arrived with no signs of further violence, so I forced myself (coughing and staggering) to the bus terminal to get myself passage out of La Paz and to lower ground. The earliest bus I could catch would be 7 the next morning (Saturday). The thought of getting up at 6 am was beyond belief when I couldn't even walk to the bathroom without a 2 hour windup pep talk, but for a chance to get down to a lower altitude, I was willing to try anything.

My alarm went off at 6 on Saturday and I went through my checklist of things to do:
- sit up
- turn off alarm
- put alarm in back pack
- put on pants (I wore my underwear, socks and t-shirt to bed to aid in the dressing process)
- put on sweater
- put on jacket
- put on backpack
- leave room
- descend 3 flights of stairs
- pay for room
- leave hotel and hail cab
- get on bus

Somehow I managed to do it all. I was so happy, I quickly drifted off to sleep. The bus left La Paz and rumbled along until we reached the border point. A few stamps and I had left Bolivia (and it's dizzying altitudes and armed rebels) and re-entered Chile (with it's white sand beaches and lack of armed rebels).

And this is where you find me now, Arica, Chile. Population around 200,000 people with lots of great beaches. And so ends what I hope will be the most dramatic and harrowing of my updates. In fact, if all goes according to plan, my final update will say simply "spent 5 days in Arica, 5 days in Santiago. Saw some pretty girls."

Oh, and one final funny note from my high altitude adventures. I have been carrying my shampoo and soap in a water tight container so they won't spill out all over my clothes. I sealed the container in La Paz, and when I went to open it today in Arica (altitude 0m above sea level), I couldn't get it open. The air pressure inside the container was much lower than the outside pressure, and it was keeping it shut. I had to dig out my knife and pry the container open to get at my soap and shampoo. There's a lesson in physics for you!

The La Paz situation: CNN

A shortened version of this blog was posted on the Pilot Guides website under the title Fracas in La Paz.

Posted by GregW 17:31 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

South America 2003: Buenos Aires

Tango!


View South America 2003 on GregW's travel map.

It's been a while since I wrote, and I have good reason. But I will cover that in the next chapter (which will probably be in your mailbox by now). I was going to write a single email about my experiences in Buenos Aires and La Paz, but then some amazing things happened in La Paz and I think that the city deserves it's own update. And while no one has responded with negative comments about these updates, if any of you find them boring, for sure read Chapter 4, because it promises things that have not been seen yet in my updates - extreme physical distress, gun violence and the use of military equipment on civilian targets! But all that will have to wait until you read my mussing on Buenos Aires...

Buenos Aires, Argentina is a massive city on the Atlantic coast, 13 million Porteños (port dwellers) live there. Seemingly, they all live in 5 or 6 story buildings on narrow streets. It is also an incredibly flat area, with no defining geographical features to help you find your way. These two elements make it very, very easy to get lost. The first night I was there, I wandered out of my hotel without my map, thinking I was just going a few blocks to look around. A left, a right, another left (or was that a right)... and how many blocks forward did I go back there? I was right turned around. And looking down every street I saw exactly the same thing, 5 or 6 story buildings stretching off to the horizon. Luckily I had picked a hotel at the intersection of two major streets and eventually was able to find my way back with the help of a subway map. Needless to say, I never wandered out without my map again.

My first full day in Buenos Aires was spent exploring its many historical and architectural marvels. Casa Rosada is the presidential palace, probably best known to us Westerners as where Eva "Evita" Peron made her famous speechs. The Obelisk is (as you would expect) a big pointy tower. It sits in the middle of Ave 9 de Julio which is claimed to be the widest street in the world. It has 16 lanes of traffic, which certain seems like a lot. I also checked out the Cemetery of Recoleta where many of Buenos Aires elite lay buried, including former presidents (like Julio A. Roca) as well as Evita. Interestingly Juan Peron (Evita's husband) is not buried in Rocoleta. He was not part of Buenos Aires society, and thus didn't have a plot in the cemetery. Evita's family did, and she is entombed in her family's plot. Her grave gets many visitors, and I had to wait around about 15 minutes to find a time to photograph it without people around (I felt it would be disrespectful to photograph it with mourners there). I ended the day in the Museo Nacional des Bellas Artes, which has an excellent collection of old masters, contemporary artists and Argentinean talents.

The next day was raining, so I decided to do some anthropological research on how contemporary Argentineans spend leisure hours (i.e. I went to the mall). Pretty much like malls in North America - Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. A cinema showing somewhat belated Hollywood releases in English with Spanish subtitles. In fact, I have seen 3 films since getting down here - 8 Mile at an outdoor film festival in Santiago, El Señor De Los Anillos (Lord of the rings) and Los Pandillas de Neuva York (Gangs of New York), all of which I had already seen back home, but you can only see what they are showing, right? The film (that day’s selection of LOTR) let out as night was coming on. I headed out past the obviously high end restaurant (the valets parking the Benzs and BMWs gave it away) and into the Buenos Aires night.

And I saw the same thing that I saw every night. 1000s of people out in the streets, opening up garbage bags and searching through them for something edible or sellable. As soon as a store put their garbage out on the street, someone would pick it up and start going through it. One very sad scene was as I was passing a McDonald's just as it was closing. The manager brought the bag out and handed it to a gaggle of 10 or so young boys. The boys tore into the bag and starting grabbing at the left over food. I saw one boy walking away from the bag very happy having half of an Egg McMuffin. It was around 11 o'clock at night, so that means that muffin had been sitting in garbage for probably 12 hours. Another depressing site was the homeless families, some with children still young enough to be breast feeding.

Buenos Airiens seem to have a general lack of respect for their city, and maybe those scenes of poverty breeds it in them. Every time I was walking behind someone I saw them drop something on the ground - the wrapper from their candy or a flyer they weren't interested in. There were plenty of garbage cans around, people just didn't care enough to hang on to the trash for the half a block that they would be required to carry it for. Because of this, Buenos Aires has the feel of a city on the slides, a place that used to be really, really nice and cosmopolitan but is now just becoming grimy.

Nowhere was this better reflected than my hotel, the Hotel Reina (Queen Hotel). Regally named, and probably back when it was built in the 30s it was a regal place to stay. Marble stairways, stained glass windows, wrought-iron elevator cage, 25 foot ceilings. But no one had bothered keeping up the place, and now it just was dark and dirty and dingy. But cheap and central, so I stayed.

I had wanted to spend 4 days in Buenos Aires but due to flight problems ended up spending 5 days. The fifth day was a horror show for me. The heat was getting to me, the noise and smog of the city was starting to annoy me, a bird shat on me (leaving a trail of oily black sludge in my hair and on the back of my tshirt). I was in a foul mood when I went to bed. As my regal suite at the Reina hotel had no AC, I slept each night with the window open to keep the room from becoming oppressively hot. My last night there was a thunder storm, and every time there was a big thunder clap I lurched awake. I had awful dreams of being chased through the streets of Buenos Aires and paranoid thoughts of people crawling through my window to murder me. I woke up the next morning feeling feverish. I was so sick of Buenos Aires that I left my hotel around 11 o'clock and spent 6 hours at the airport waiting for my flight rather than hanging around downtown.

At 5:15pm my LAB flight to La Paz left Buenos Aires, and I was on my way to the most exciting and at the same time most boring part of my trip...

Posted by GregW 17:29 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

South America 2003: Punta Arenas, redux

A look back one year later at my original comments on Punta Arenas


View South America 2003 on GregW's travel map.

Punta Arenas, Redux.

I am writing this addition in 2004 because I realize in re-reading my original email that I was unusually hard on Punta Arenas. It's not a bad town, actually.

Penguins.jpg

Punta Arenas has some nice turn of the century architecture. It used to be a big deal, sitting on the tip of South America on the Mageallan straight, as it does, with lots of ships passing through as they made their way around Cape Horn. Then the Panama Canal was opened, and things dried up for the prosporous town. It still was (and is) an important industrial port for Chile, and has come back in recent years thanks to tourism and especially the cruise ship industry.

The real reason that I need to revise my Punta Arenas story, though, is that it holds one of my most important memories of my trip.

There is one moment that really shines through whenever I think of travelling, and that was early morning in Punta Arenas, Chile. I walked out from my hotel to a bright sunny day (of which they had been few in Patagonia since I had gotten there).

I was suddenly struck by how happy I was. I was in a place as far as I had ever been from home. Everything was at the same time both so familiar and so alien. Everything that was worrying me back home was completely and totally off my shoulders. I was totally free to not worry about anything except walking around and checking out the town. It was a moment of complete and total freedom. And the sun was shining.

Whenever I am feeling low, I think back to that moment in Punta Arenas, and it always makes me smile. So Punta Arenas is not Sudbury on a bad day. It's the place that represents freedom to me. And that makes it one of the greatest places in the world.

---

A version of this blog was posted on the Solo Travel website under the title Sun on my face : The joy of being away from home for a backpacker

Posted by GregW 20:35 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

South America 2003: Patagonia

Puerto Montt, Navimag Ferry, Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas and Rio Gallegos, Chile & Argentina


View South America 2003 on GregW's travel map.

Hola Todos!

I have just arrived in Buenos Aires and have already managed to find a place to stay, drop off my laundry and eat lunch. A wholly productive day if I do say so myself. The sun is shining here and the temperature is about 25C, which is a nice change from yesterday and the last two weeks (but I will get to that in a moment). I will save my thoughts on B.A. until my next update (chapter 3, I suppose) seeing as I haven't yet seen much of it. But enough about the present, let us pick up where I last left off, in Bariloche, Argentina almost two weeks ago.

I have already described Bariloche, and only really have one point to add - ARGENTINA MEAT IS GOOD! Argentina is known for its beef (though I suppose if you didn't know that then the last statement would be false, no?). I spent four days in Bariloche testing all sorts of cuts of meat including beef, lamb and pork. And due to their economic woes, it is cheap too. The best meal I had in Bariloche was at a small parrilla (steak house) off the main street. I had a 1/2 bottle of wine, a sausage appetizer, a 10 oz filet (that was the small one!) and a side salad. Total of the bill was 34 Argentina pesos, which comes out to about 16 dollars Canadian. The saddest part about leaving Bariloche was knowing that it would be a week and a half until I would eat in Argentina again.

From Bariloche I took the bus across the Andes to Puerto Montt. The bus ride across the Andes was spectacular, though not as impressive as the boat ride over (see the first update for details).

Puerto Montt, Chile is a smallish town situated on the Chilean coast. It is a weird mix of cultures, being part naval base, part cargo port, part cruise ship destination and part fishing village. The most interesting thing in Pto. Montt was the fish market at the end of a pier. There were about 100 stalls each selling the catch of the day. In fact, many of them have small kitchens and a few tables were they will prepare a meal for you right there. However, this is not for the weak of stomach. The fish are removed from the boats and placed on watered boards to await sale. Every so often the fish are sprayed down to remain cool. There are no fridges, freezers or even ice on which the fish is kept cool – just the occasional spray from the hose.

Puerto_Mon..sh_Market.jpg

I must admit that other than a few seafood meals, I had a very American existence in Pto. Montt. As Pto. Montt has a mall with a food court selling KFC and McDonalds and Superbowl was on that Sunday, I decided to live American for the weekend, eating fried chicken and watching American football, though for a touch of local colour I did have to listen to the game in Spanish.

Monday, January 27th I boarded the Navimag ferry for a 4 day trip along the coast islands of Chile to Puerto Natales in Patagonia. The coast of Chile can best be compared to the Pacific Northwest (British Columbia, Oregon, Washington). Lots of mountainous islands covered with evergreens and waterfalls. We sailed for 4 days through the fjords and channels, only spending 8 hours in the open ocean. Though I didn't see killer whales or dolphins (both which occasionally make appearances along side the boat), I did see a number of sea lions both sunning themselves on rocks (when the sun made a rare appearance) or splashing through the ocean.

The Navimag ferry is also called the "gringo boat," due to the large number of backpackers which take the ferry down to Pto. Natales and on to hiking adventures in Torres Del Paine national park (more on that later). I must admit I met some very interesting people on the boat. Most people had been or were planning on backpacking for multiple months. I met one woman from Detroit who had just quit her job as an engineer at Ford and was spending a year hitting 5 of the 7 continents. I also met a couple that had driven their Range Rover from Alaska all the way down to Chile and were planning on going all the way to the tip of South America. Oh, and they had brought their two and a half year old daughter along for the journey. Listening to stories like these made my seven and a half week journey seem like a picnic in the park!

After 4 days we arrive in Pto. Natales, which is an unremarkable town. Its only function seems to be as a starting point for trekking expeditions into Torres Del Paine national park. Torres Del Paine is a large national park in Chilean Patagonia comprised of flat plain and towering mountains, including the famous "towers," three near straight up rock formations climbing from near sea level to a mile high. In addition it is home to a number of glaciers, which are constantly cracking small icebergs off to float in the numerous lakes in the park. Torres Del Paine is a fascinating place and encapsulates Patagonia to a tee - wind swept plains where no tree can grow more than a few feet high lest it be blown over by the wind. Soaring, snow capped mountains buffeted constantly by rain and wind. And cold. Overall, my impression was that it looked a lot like Montana, though I have never been to Montana and am basing this solely on things I have seen on TV about Montana.

Chile_Icebergs.jpg

For those of you who I talked to previously about my trip, you may have heard me mention a 5 day hike I was planning on taking. Torres Del Paine was to be that hike. However, once arriving in Patagonia I had a serious change of heart. I was prepared for a little cold weather down in Patagonia, but the weather presented to me was nothing that I expected at all. The temperature could be mild enough, rising to 15C during the day when the sun was out. But that was infrequent at best. Usually the sun was covered by black clouds spewing rain. And the wind was hellish, coming off the ocean and across the plain like a freight train. You couldn't even talk at times to the person next to you over the whistle of the wind. All this combined to make it feel close to freezing most of the time. Seeing the breath escape my mouth was a common occurrence.

My fleece jacket and wind breaker were no match of the Patagonia weather, and I had to abandon the planned hike. In fact, so wet and cold and miserable was I that I made it my mission to see how quickly I could arrange to get my shivering buttocks to Buenos Aires and the sun again.

My last act prior to leaving Patagonia behind me was to see some Penguins up close. I took a half day trip to a Penguin reserve. Fascinating creatures, and I could have spent more time watching them for sure. The first 45 minutes was spent watching them waddle around the beach and up along well worn paths into the grass lands. About that time I spotted a family unit, two parents and two kids. Watching them interact with each other and the other penguins was amazing. The parents are very protective of the young ones, often raising their heads and making a loud "wun-wun-wun" cry. While doing this, their small wings flap wildly at their sides, and their chests heave with the effort of such a small bird making such a big noise. And most amazing was seeing the penguin nests, which are burrows underground. Exact how a bird with short, stubby flippers digs a 3 foot deep hole in the ground is beyond me, but somehow they manage it.

And after a bus trip to Punta Arenas, Chile, another bus across the border to Rio Gallegos, Argentina (both towns not worth mentioning in a travelogue except to say that a fellow traveller I met from Hamilton compared Punta Arenas to Sudbury on a bad day, which was a very fitting description), I caught a morning flight to Buenos Aires.

And that brings us to the present. I am healthy other than a stomach virus I have been fighting for a week now. However, I think I have it on the run (or rather, the runs it was producing in me are fading - hahaha). Tomorrow I plan to do a tour of B.A., including Eva "Evita" Peron's grave and the place from which she (and Madonna) implored Argentina not to cry for her. As well, I will be planning my next moves - most likely a flight to La Paz, Bolivia and then buses to Isla Del Sol (the birth place of the Incas) and the ruins at Machu Pichu, Peru. So while this missive has been filled with the geographical and natural wonders of Patagonia, expect the next one to be focused on historical and archeological features.

Posted by GregW 17:26 Archived in Chile Comments (0)