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Pucon, Chile plus photo link September 24, 2006

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We´re now in Pucon, Chile. We arrive after a stereotypically stinky ride on a crappy bus, however through rolling green hills and mountains, of farm land and forests, waterfalls and rain, contrasts of landscape and poverty and privilege. A really pretty resort resort town on Lake Villarica, in the shadow of Volcano Villarica … and again, in the low season, so we have it pretty good here…no muchas gente ahora, this is a good thing seeing as we´re not much into resort towns.  But very, very pretty and eww so chic too.  Still, it has the local contrasts that make this part of traveling so interesting. A funny surprise as our first two days we were like, ¨eh it´s okay, really pretty and scenic but…¨ and then one day I took a walk into smack dab of it, the Rodeo Drive of Pucon, casino and five star hotels, condos, stores and restaurants. Ha, that´s the way it goes sometimes. We stayed at a comfortablele hostel-vegetarian restaurant for the first three days, called Ecole and met a really neat guy, Fran, the owner. He is really well traveled, educated in the US as well as here and abroad, father worked for the embassy, his mother head of psychiatry at a university, Perdue maybe, I cannot recall now. Must check notes.  He told us  many of his travels, like the train from Moscow to Vladivostok and he has lived in at least four countries. Stories of life and death and things seen. Will detail later. Our travels are filled with meeting neat people, like Mathias the German horse farm owner, whose property we checked out as a possible place to stay but far too remote as we are now enrolled in Spanish school for a week here in glam central. I haven´t taken any photos of this resort part of town, because as pretty as it is, youve seen it all before´somewhere…google Pucon if you really want to see.

So…Pucon is small when the  throngs of summer people are not here… small enough that his Chilean wife, Karen is one of the Spanish teachers we learn once there.  Reminds me that  I need to write sometime of the irony of my being here from an oft overrun State of summer destinations and my own hypocrisy towards tourists, of which I now am. We are now staying at Cabanas Amorala, a really nice private house with a few rooms and more importantly, a kitchen for us (ahem, Kevin) to cook in.  Saves money on food and much better than always hunting down tea and whatnot when you need it. It´s great and a good bargain compared to what we get. Our own big space.  

We went for a bike ride, ah, my Chilean bike ride, 40 kilometers or so, on rented mountain bikes to Lago Caburga first day. It began to rain, pour heavily and windy…we went via the highway at first, easy and nice though a few uphill grinds and then the real Chile on the way back, down muddy, unpaved roads through the countryside and mountainside, wet and wild and so fun yet a wee bit terrifying at times when a car would come.  It was a riot but a bit of a drag at the time. You all know I like my feet dry and um, my pants dry and um, being dry and warm. About four hours or more it seemed of hell and beauty, steep and rocky, my muscles burned and we were soaked and cold, but it was great. And what else could you expect. It was a blast. I have pics.

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There was a huge car rally, like the Cannonball Run of South America sponsored by Mobil on that very road the next day, barring the property owners from leaving or coming to their own houses. We met one, they´re pissed…it comes every year. The town was abuzz with the sound of motors…another story I will soon tell.

Check out Kevin´s pix so far…he is shooting with a professional grade camera and I am really jealous. Good stuff…view nature as it was meant to be seen, through the lens of a Canon. 

www.kevinfinucane.zenfolio.com

I need to write a chapter about food by the way…we come across many new surprising and alarming juxtapositions of food stuffs. That is a funny entry in and of itself.  Soon…now if I only I could successfully post MY pics. Oh yes,  my time will come.

After Pucon, we head to Santiago.  Then to San Pedro de Atacama…then I go to Ecuador, behind schedule, but that is okay.

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Independence Day September 19, 2006

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Grrrrrrrrr. I had written a nice little update here from another internet cafe…about where we are now, some cool people we had met, a few funny stories, how we spent the Chilean independence day etc, etc and NOW I return to this page, it is blank yet the entry remains. Taking a brief break from updating to whine and pull hair, but will continue to try to post photos…I am quite pissed at this web site right now. Irrational I know but I did take some time to write for once and poof, vamos. We head for Pucon tomorrow. Anyone who knows me will know how excited I am about this crazily affordable place we found to stay a few days at: http://www.antilco.com/index.htm

More to come.

Border Crossings September 17, 2006

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We´re now in Puerto Varas, Chile and staying in a cute but touristy (low season now) German-settled town on Lake Llhallanque (spelled wrong here) with a stunning view of Volcano Osorno. We had some unexpected fun getting here. In one day we crossed the Argentina-Chile border four times, thanks to the excursion company not understanding their own reservations for us to stay one night in a secluded forest lake front hotel, tiny (I mean tiny, 40 people tops) town Puerto Blest (thus giving us another magnificent bus and then boat ride in a most unusual crossing that, I am pretty sure, we are the first to have had based on the baffled and amused reactions of the border agents and tourism staff). Long sentence, no? As a result though, we met some really nice people including a fascinating Argentine customs agent, Diego and the generous, informative Rafeallo, a guide from Tourism Puella…and extra time to practice our Spanish in many fun, new ways and locations. The story is really worth telling and when I have more time I will write it and post the shots that went with it. For now, I am at the mercy of the connection gods.

The day of the crossing was beautiful but chilly…

Two weeks in September 14, 2006

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Pictures are up on the obviously named `Photos´ page. More to come, the connection has gotten slow and it is time to quit while I am ahead here…you´ll at least get the idea of how things look through my lens (and three of Kevin´s, captions and info to follow). 

We came back to Sin Fronteras in Bariloche to stay and take a few more lessons after the peninsula trip. We are on on our way to Chile tomorrow, via the lake crossing (Cruces de Lagos)….two days of buses and boats, mountans and lakes, and an overnight stay in Puerto Blest…looks beautiful to do, so we do it. Should be in Puerto Varas, Chile after that excursion.

Oh yeah, new arty photo of my adventure self on the About page as well…îf only the rest would load! Soon.

On to Peninsula Valdes, Whale Country September 9, 2006

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Our first week was awesome: we did so much and I feel great! We decided next up was Puerto Piramides, on the famed Peninsula Valdes via port city Puerto Madryn, a 12 hour, overnight double-decker bus ride. I have never done that before so the first few hours I thought “this isn`t so bad” followed by the thought at 3am when I awoke sweaty and feeling smothered that “this is hell.” They serve food and show movies and overall nothing to complain about. We prevailed and arrived –  we decided to skip the city and hop onto another bus for another 1.5 hours to get right the peninsula. Sheep dotted the arid and bristly landscape like little grey and beige clouds, we saw vicuna and some horses too.  The Atlantic Ocean and this phenomenal landscape tell us this is the right place to be. Only 400 or so people live on the peninsula which is a protected nature preserve and home to right whales, seas and sea lions, penguins and desolate, vast beaches and giant sand dunes carved over time to create some of the most famous landscapes photographed. When I get mine up, you will see why. We stay in a cute, little beach cabana, greeted by the husky voiced Sonia who has likely smoked a lot cigarettes in her life. We must have the best spot, amidst the dunes and the we can see and hear whales, quiet and like it is all ours.  We stayed for four days and nights. We rented some mountain bikes to ride up the grueling and dusty roads to a quiet and outrageously scenic, amazing (i need a new word, i know) overlook to the ocean filled with a sea lion and seal colony. Hack hack hack, I did ride most all of it, though I had to get off a few times and push the bike up some steeper parts, which I kid not, were really f*ckin steep. I like downhill best but here those are few and far between…we are always going uphill. I am gonna be in some tight shape when I get back if this keeps up. Did I mention I fell off for a brief second into cactus like plant? Ouch but that cracked me up. Fleeting humiliation of defeat by Mother Nature. This place is just filled with the sounds of the wind, whales, birds, few people and that is the way I like it. Nature, pure and unadulterated save for the tiny village. The Peninsula is gigantic, check it in the map, so we will never seee it all, never, but what we have seen has been awesome. The people are cool, it is chill place and I have spoken to quite a few people in my bad Spanish, though I think I make more sense than ever before. When Kevin went to bike on more, after we had chilled for a bit after trekking about on them for about four hours or so I went to town and had a productive time making a few new friends later that afternoon – it was great to feel comfortable and confident enough to intermingle a bit. Some things are universal though, so I have found I can communicate competently even if my grammar sucks and I use the wrong words, or no words, at times. I could stay here for longer. We met an owner (the `island mack daddy´ as Kevin called him) of two of the hotels/hostels and he gave us a great tip for an unusual trek over drinks one night. We followed through. Ask me about it.

Parque Nacional Nauel Huapi September 9, 2006

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I will apologize for any spelling errors but this connection is so slow and spell check costs more pesos, darn it. We got up early to go on a bus tour through this national landmark, huge and vast and we only got taste but so worth it and beautiful. Yeah yeah, pix soon.  The tour went through the already scenic roads of Bariloche to get to the park itself, and once in, past winding roads with beautiful vistas and short stops for photo ops. The highlight was a long snow walk when the bus could go no further to see the glacier Ventisquero Negro, on Mount Tronador, made of volcanic ash, ice, snow and time. The pix will say more than I can right now. Time is money. We then took a walk back from Playa Bonito to our place at Sin Fronteras in Playa Serena. Walking on the roads is an adventure sport in and of itself as the buses and cars come inches of you but never quite touch. Long long day but much fun!

Bariloche: Cerro Otto, Cerro Caterdal, Llao Llao September 9, 2006

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Bariloche was beautiful and so much fun. Links to photos soon, I swear it. After our arrival we settled in to a non-routine of Spanish classes mixed with trekking about the area. We went to Cerro Otto, via gondola. That was a fun 1402 meters to the top. If you have never been in teleferico/gondola, it is actually a neat way to see the area from so high up contained in a little glass bubble transportation device. So beautiful and spectacular views of the lakes and mountains. Most of the trekking trails were closed due to snow but we managed to get around a bit, though I did get a whistle blown at me for taking one step past a sign that said don´t do that. They use Saint Bernard dogs as the Swiss do I suppose and we saw a few cute pups too, the marketing tools of Cerro Otto, but very cute. They even wear the barrels around their neck collars. We then ate at the revolving restaurant, yes, a revolving restaurant (Quote of the daÿ from Kevin: “Dare me to ask the waiter to slow it down?”) and got silly, drank wine, ate goulash, had a good time overall, returning to the base in the little glass bubble car. Did I mention they had disco up there? The self-billed “only mountain top discotheque.” We popped in and it was uh, 430 in the afternoon or so and a mass of kids were going to nuts having some good clean fun to good clean music. Watched ´Motorcycle Diaries´on DVD from Kevin´s laptop. Great movie and the way I´d travel if I had some real, or any, ahem, b*lls. We do a lot walking around and taking the Number 20 bus around…it is a cool place to be for sure.

The next day we went to Cerro Catedral to ski. Spring skiing, conditions sloppy but really fun too. In the right season, it must be phenomenol. Another fun day and a lunch of meat meat and more meat. Watched `Él Perro´ – a quiet and lovley film about a man and a dog on DVD that night. And yes, I have had plenty of Malbec!

Classes are good and low key. Rosana´s language excercises are interactive and creative, forcing conversation; a good way to learn. We have been to Park Llao Llao (twice), a nature preserve-park with arruynes trees, bamboo, dense woods. I expect to see a Hobbit – and even called to Pan and the wood nymphs to show themselves to me, but alas they did not. Also at Llao Lllao areas was a lovely departure point for lake tours, so we hiked a bit around that too and then up the magnificent and huge Hotel Llao Llao…we did not go in as the faithful Number 20 had arrived and it was close to 7pm. I have pictures, I really really do.

We are here September 1, 2006

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Hurricane Ernesto is no match for our will to get out! We made it after a few uneventful and decent flights. Long day that was.  After the Miami closings we were rerouted via Atlanta. And yes, I was again a selectee for special screening at the jet port. What is in my file? We were met at the Bariloche airport by Reins, pronounced “rinse,” our host at Sin Fronetras. He is Dutch and his wife Rosana is from Argentina. They run the school from their really sweet house. Very nice, cool people. It´s like a cool homestay, it is a cool hometsay, as they speak to us in Spanish mostly and really get us immersed into it, but they do break out the English too when we need so far. Bariloche is very Alpine, green trees, snowy mountans, hilly and quaint, like a ski town in Switzerland, and very beautiful. We are right on the huge lake, Nahuel Huapi, which runs along the whole city route, forests, mountain and water from all views. Last night, adventure number one, we walked in the cold rain and wind down dark and windy road to a fabuloso restaurant called Berlina (hmmm, all the dogs are barking wildly right now, Kevin must be back from the la tienda as he went buy more vino, more on los perros en uno momemto)….Berlina, a microbrewery with great food. What was best was the atmosphere…what is nicer than after an invigorating cold rain walk then to be faced with a cozy place where the music selection was Peter Tosh? Reggae in Patagonia. Our table was beside a beautifully masoned stone fireplace with an alter above us decorated with the large skull of a bull with red lights inset in the eyes, glowing red candles and a teeny tiny creche with the Virgin Mary. We felt at home.  Berlina´s staff were all super nice and we spent a moment debating if they were stoners or not, given that after Peter Tosh came Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon. The food was delicious and I had a great class of vino tinto, Norton was the vineyard. Will look that up. We then walked home and hit it. Spanish class was at 11, and that was fun. It is just us as students right now. Peace. After class we went for a walk to the beach, Bahia Serena hiked a bit and took some pics. Then took a bus into Bariloche, the town proper and explored. Ate en enormous, ridiculously large lunch of meats and cheeses and things unknown at another microbrewery, then proceeded to walk as high as possible up the steeps street to catch a nice view, as if that is an issue, every view is beautiful, which we did. Los perros…the dogs. Like Mendoza, there are dogs eveywhere, many belong to people but most don´t. They all look pretty well fed and seem to survive fine but it is a little sad for me still, being me and all…anyway, they bark and bark…most houses have a few dogs fenced in as all houses are fenced all that way around and many are just walking around all day night. Barking is a bit of a soundtrack here. Regardless, we have seen about five vet offices in the city and outskirts of Bariloche so they are well equippped to deal. Supply and demand. The house we are staying at is down a dirt road, a cute but rustic neighborhood and you can´t walk anywhere without a chain reaction of barking. More to come later; pics too…we have some fun stuff planned for the week in addition to classes. The most interesting part of this is realizing we are not on anyone´s schedule and the same obligations that haunt you on vacation do not really exist in the same way now. Weird, but cool.

Four Days Until Lift-Off August 25, 2006

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I have four days left and I feel as though I cannot wait much longer. Despite my number one fear being true (the backpack indeed weighs more than I do), I am ready to begin my trek. Over the past week I have been taking care of a lot details, doing some work for clients and having lots of lunches and dinners. Two or three months of unmapped travel doesn’t seem like that big a deal, so no need for too many farewells. I am coming to realize this IS a big deal, at least from other people’s perceptions. I do feel pretty calm though, like it’s just another day coming; just not a plain ole vanilla one. Also one that I can’t wait for and hope will open my eyes to opportunities and bring a fresh perspective. We’re going to have a blast, Kevin and I. Wooooo!

Special thanks to Justin and Josh for letting me stay in their swingin’ bachelor pad while I prepare to leave, seeing as my tenant now lives in my lovely house. And thanks too, to Aimee and Kristi for unwavering coolness as friends in my preparations. Well, thanks to every one of course.

Check out this map for the first stop:

http://www.spanishsinfronteras.tk/mapa.html 

I think I love maps. Can’t stop sharing ’em. Ciao.

Rough Route: Starts in Two Weeks August 1, 2006

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   mapa-patagonia-ing.gif    mapa1.gif    peru.gif    ecuador_and_the_galapagos_islands.gif

(Click to enlarge maps) 

We start in Bariloche, Argentina (via Miami, via Buenos Aires) to ski, stay/learn at Spanish school (http://www.spanishsinfronteras.tk/index.html) and unwind from the corporate grind to ease into nomad life admist the lakes and mountains. That’s all I know for sure.

I’d like to explore the region from Lakes into Patagonia (can’t do it all I know I know), cross over into Chile, work my way up into Peru and then to Ecuador and back home. You say “Dana, that is not enough information.” Here’s more then, but of course anything can happen:

Explore some of Patagonia, go over to Chilean side from there  (Puerto Montt?) and work way up through Lakes, Concepcion, Santiago (not for long, hate cities), Vin Del Mar or other beach vicinity a little, play polo I hope at Ocoa (Central Chile, Aconcagua valley, hour from Santiago), visit Easter Island, fly back for Calama, Atacama Desert then Arica into Peru, for Lake Titicaca not too far off from Chile, say goodbye to my dear bodyguard at some point in all this as he goes to Bolivia, and I travel solo or maybe with new friends I may meet to other sites, take jungle/shaman experience perhaps (Hamilton Souther or Gilber, Sacred Heritage – google them), then into Ecuador, Cuenca, Parque Nacional Sangay, Avenue of Volcanoes, Cotapaxi, Banos, Otavalo, maybe try surfing in Montanita, and yes, Galapagos, fly out of Quito…hitting unplanned sites/schools along the way…I have until October 26th for my return flight out of Quito, but that can be changed too. I may pop back into Northwest Argentina from the Peru or Chile but…I hope this is less of a race against time and more of a wander, but already this sounds nuts.