Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of one month of travels;

I've been away from Seattle for one month now. I arrived in Chile on the 21st of March. I've seen only a small section of this country, but from what I've seen so far I love it. I've gotten to know Valdivia pretty well by now. I've walked through El Centro many times, and now that I have my bike I've been able to see some of the farther parts of the city.

Full moon rise from outside my window       From Chile W4

Lots of rain today left a field on campus flooded.  From Chile W4

There are still lots of new things for me in Chile. Just because I've been here a month doesn't mean that I've seen it all. I've learned a lot about Chilean culture and been able to use some slang here and there, but I still run across things that will stump me. My Spanish is improving everyday, but I'll run across people that try to ask me something and I can't even pick out a single word they have said. Everyone says Chilean Spanish is the worst, and I would agree. Everything is slurred together with very little annunciation. Luckily when people see that I'm a foreigner they speak a bit more precise. Usually I don't even have to get a word out before people know that I'm a gringo. Many people will just look at me and ask where I'm from. I guess I don't look that Chilean.

A fern from the botanical garden.   From Chile W4

Images and names scratched into the hill near Niebla.  From Chile W4

So far I've been to Santiago's bus terminal, Valpo and Vina, Valdivia, and Chiloe`. There are still more travels coming up. I till have 3 months before the program ends to travel around the south and then I'm going towards Uruguay and Buenos Aires.

 Old Spanish fort in Niebla.   From Chile W4
The Valdivian sea lions.   From Chile W4

I still need to ski on a volcano, and visit a monkey puzzle tree forest. I haven't done any hiking yet, but I've done some mountain biking. My tolerance for mayonnaise is going up. I'll have a bit on a hotdog, but I'm not slathering it on everything like many Chileans do. I'm happy that I love bread. There is so much bead to eat down here in Chile. My breakfasts and dinners are mainly bread. Thats the way they do it in Chile.

Street dogs  From Chile W4

The fish market after it closes down.  From Chile W4

There are plenty of things to miss in the States. My Chilean family and the street dogs don't quite replace my real family and dogs. I always want to pet the street dogs, but I know they are all infested with fleas. Cheddar cheese doesn't exist in Chile. I've been told the the McDonalds in Valdivia has a gross American type cheese for its burgers, but I'll save that for when I start feeling homesick. I do miss American breakfast foods. Luckily last week we had a gringo pancake party. Nothing beats a night of pancakes with manjar, choripan, and cervezas. It is difficult to watch my favorite American shows since Hulu doesn't support Chile, but Chilean TV loves the Simpsons. The voices don't fit my American ideas of the characters, but it is still entertaining.

I've been to a few pool houses now.    From Chile W4

Looking down at one of the beaches in Niebla.   From Chile W4

I try not to spend all of my time with the gringos down here. When we go out we'll usually have a few Chileans in our group. I've been going to the photography and salsa classes at the university to meet Chileans. I've also been volunteering with the American Corner program on campus where I give Chileans practice with English and show them a bit of American culture. In general the Chileans are all very nice. They are usually interested in hearing a gringo butcher his way through the Spanish language. I've been doing a lot of that. It can be hard explaining some things in Spanish when I don't have a huge vocabulary.

There are wood stacks all around residential areas because most homes and ovens are heated with wood fires.  From Chile W4

I small tourist boat cruising around Isla Teja.  From Chile W4

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Of my bike; of the Valdivian forest;

Earlier in the week I bought a bike. It took a lot of searching and visits to the bike shop before getting it. Now I can zoom around Valdivia on my nice used bicycle. This town is perfect for biking. Since it is a river town there is hardly anything for hills.

From Chile W3 Bike

On Thursday after my history class and lunch with the family. I set out to explore some of Valdivia on my bike. I had taken it out a bit in the pouring rain of the evening I first got it (and came home soaked) and then next day to give it a trial and make sure everything was working. For my adventure I wanted to find a good vista overlooking the city so I set out towards the nearest mountain.

Panorama Rio Cruces
I rode starting on the left hand side and made my way up the hill in the distance.

The road I got on went up and up and up through the Valdivian forest. It didn't take long till before it turned into a rough dirt road.

From Chile W3 Bike

Now and then there would be a car coming up the road behind me, but in general it was quite road. I was surprised to see a micro (bus) coming up the road behind me. But I guess there are people that live up there.

One of the many gate leading off into who-knows-where    From Chile W3 Bike

Eventually the road flattened out a bit and I passed through a small community: the Altos of Punucapa. Just a few houses, the sound of roosters, and a Mapuche natural healing center.

Panorama Dirt Road.

I went only a bit farther on the road before turning around to head back home. And lucky the whole ride back was downhill.

From Chile W3 Bike

I never actually found a good view point of the city from way up. I got some shots from a few hundred feet above the river where I could see Isla Teja and the city in the distance. It was a great ride. I was worn out after it. 28km through the Valdivian forest.

Panorama Valdivia
Click the panoramas for a better view

Panorama Cruces

The bridge back to Isla Teja and Valdiva city center    From Chile W3 Bike

I've been told that this is the national flower of Chile. I'll have to learn the name for it someday.    From Chile W3 Bike

Some of the trees of the forest.    From Chile W3 Bike

Map of the route


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Of day three on Chiloé; of Dalcahue;

These are from my last day on Chiloé. The day was mainly travel, but we made a stop in a small town for their Sunday market.

From Chile Chiloe W2
This is the town of Dalcahue. It is north of Castro on the eastern side of the island. It is a very small town but for market day it look big. Most of the streets were crowded with people selling their goods along the sides of the streets. There were several other spots where you can find the typical Chilean craft goods. Lots of wool and wood items.

From Chile Chiloe W2
This is the harbor. Lots of boats like just about every town in Chiloé.

From Chile Chiloe W2
And of course the city has a number of street dogs. I think that the small the town is the cuter the dogs will be.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Just helping out a local "fisherman"

From Chile Chiloe W2
We stopped back in Ancud for lunch before heading back to the ferry. This is the harbor area with an old row boat left to gather sand and water on the shore.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Then it was time to head back to the main land. I wonder if anyone could tell we were gringos?

Chiloe was a great trip. The is so much culture and history on the island. It is a unique place in Chile. It feels different from all the other places. It is more than just an island of fishermen and sheep ranchers. There is a unique environment, huge wooden churches, and stories of myths and legends all over the island.

Of day two in Chiloé; of the National Park of Chiloé; of Chilote Rhubarb; of the city of Castro

Chiloé Panorama 3
After the night in Ancud we headed down south to the National Park. It was a long bumpy ride on the bus as it was flying around blind corners on a small road. Eventually we made it to the park where we were greeted by a downpour of rain. I got to give my rain coat a good water test. We took a small hike through the natural forest, but rain hikes are never that great. You end up spending most of the time watching the ground for mud and puddles. But, when I did look up it was amazing. Lots of lush trees growing in this very rainy environment.

From Chile Chiloe W2
From Chile Chiloe W2
All over in the park you could find wild rhubarb native to Chiloé. It had huge spiney stems, gigantic leaves, and all of them had the big flower/seed stalk growing at the base.

From Chile Chiloe W2
From Chile Chiloe W2
Then we made out way to the coast. The rain had slowed down, but there was some serious wind.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Then we made out way back across the dune/pasture land. It is hard to tell distance in the photo. It looks like the landscape goes on forever.

From Chile Chiloe W2
We made our way to the city of Castro in the eastern side of the island. This city has the largest of the churches on the island. It is slightly more modern that the others and I assume there must be a nail somewhere in there, but there is still a lot of wood work.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Along the beaches of Castro the houses are built on stilts of the water. They are known as palafitos. It isn't like the states where docks and piers will be built out of perfect big pilings. Instead, in Castro it is done with natural looking logs. They have knots and many aren't even straight.

From Chile Chiloe W2
 Many of the houses have wood siding in Castro. Each one has a different patter of shingle too.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Of day 1 in Chiloé; of Caulin; of Ancud;

Well, this is a week late but I have pics of my trip down to the island of Chiloe.

From Chile Chiloe W2
The group of us American students went down for 3 day to see the sights and Chilote culture. We took a bus ride down to a ferry where we did a quick crossing to get to the island. I saw my first wild penguin from the ferry. It was chasing a small school of fishes along side the boat.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Our first stop was for lunch (the big meal of the day in Chile) in the small community of Caulin.

From Chile Chiloe W2
The restaurant we went to was a big seafood place with oysters, fish, and other fruits of the sea. They fed us very well on the trip. I had a crab pie with was pretty much a bowl of delicious crab dip. And for dessert - flan.

From Chile Chiloe W2
This was supposed to be the place to see flamingos in Chiloe, but they never showed. There were a lot of Black-Necked Swans along the beach. They were floating around  munching on seaweed.

From Chile Chiloe W2
All of southern Chile has colorful fishing boats.

From Chile Chiloe W2
Then we went on to Ancud where we would spend the night in a hotel. This is the port area of Ancud located on the north end of the island.

From Chile Chiloe W2
We went to a Church museum which had displays of construction techniques and models of 16 UNESCO heritage site churches. The churches are made almost entirely out of wood. They don't even have nails. They are still standing today after more than a century (or two) in an earthquake zone due to their sturdy construction and wood jointing.

From Chile Chiloe W2
We finished up the day with a gigantic meal at a restaurant right along the beach of Ancud.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Of the topography Chiloe;

Here is a map of some of the places I went in Chiloe with pictures. I'll be posting up more things with pictures so don't worry if you don't look at all the photos. It is just a map so you can get a bit of an idea of where I went. Chiloe is one of the largest islands in South America and is part of a whole archipelago. It reminds me of Vancouver island. The only thing missing is pine trees. There are a lot of small trees/shrubs and lots of pasture land. Now the farthest south I've ever been is 42 degrees S. That only puts me at the same latitude as Crater Lake in Oregon. I've got some work to do if I want to see the antipodal equivalent of Seattle down here.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Of the Island of Chiloé;

This last weekend I had my first excursion with others from my program down to the Island of Chiloé. It was about a 5 hour bus south and then a quick crossing in a ferry to get to the island. I've been busy getting settled into classes and everything in Valdivia that I haven't had time to post up pictures of the trip. I still don't have time, so here are just the panoramic shots I took. I'll make up a bit of a map and post more about Chiloé in the next few days.

Chiloé Panorama 1
This is the view from Caulin on the northern part of the island. We had a big seafood lunch here on the first day.

Chiloé Panorama 2
Chiloé is known for its wooden churches all over the island. 16 of them are UNESCO world heritage sites. This church wasn't one, but it was still impressive.

Chiloé Panorama 3
On the second day we went to the National Park of Chiloé. Pretty much the only rain we had on this trip was during our park day. It was a wet hike.

Chiloé Panorama 4
We also walked to the coast

Chiloé Panorama 5
Chiloé has a special variety of rhubarb which grows allover in the park.

Chiloé Panorama 6
This is the view from Castro looking at a harbor and the houses along the waterline build up on stilts.

Chiloé Panorama 7
More from Castro looking across the bay.

Chiloé Panorama 9
The small fishing and market town of Dalcahue.