Thursday, June 30, 2011

Of the road to Corral;

From Chile W14 Bike

This last weekend I decided to go for a big bike ride. I set off at about 10 in the morning after picking up a few empanadas and a bar of chocolate to put in my pack. It was a day of perfect blue skies, but it is also officially winter in Chile so it was very cold out. There was a bit of frost on the ground which is rare for Valdivia. It usually never gets below freezing here since it is so close to the cost. Anyways, I was ready to be biking for just about all the daylight hours. (Which isn't many since it is winter)

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

I decided to ride the road to Corral. Corral is a small town out on coast across the river/bay from Niebla and Isla Mancera. Most people just get there by boat from Niebla because the is is just a 15 cruise and then a quick road back to Valdivia. I took the old road which connects Corral to Valdivia by land. It is a small and rough dirt road that passes through the Valdivia forests, several small communities, and the coastal mountain range.

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

I love all the colorful Chilean fishing boats around Valdivia. From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

After about 5 hours of biking I made it to Corral. Now I know why everyone just takes the boat to get there. It is a LONG road. It twists all through the back country and the hills. It was amazing, but it wore me out. I had to make my way up steep muddy hills and lots of rough road. All that make it a slow ride. By the end my bike wasn't looking that great. But I'll be selling my bike soon since I don't have mack time left in Valdivia. For the amount that I've used my bike here, I don't care how much I can sell it for.

Corral was probably the town hit worst by the 1960 Chilean tsunami.  I don't think that this building was from that time, but arround the town they keep little plaques reminding people just how high the wave was when it hit. They say it was a 10-12 meter high wave.   From Chile W14 Bike

Corral also has an old Spanish fort along the coast.   From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

The town of Corral.   From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

From Chile W14 Bike

But that isn't the end of the day. I had done 72km and reached Corral, but I still needed to get back to Valdivia which is another 18km after crossing over the bay to Niebla. Luckly the road to Valdivia from there is paved. I was able to speed back home: getting back just before sunset. In all it was 90km or 55 miles of biking. I don't think I would ever do that ride again. It was amazing, but by the end I was tired and fed up with making my way constantly going up and down muddy hills. It was a good experience and now Chileans think I'm crazy when I tell them I took the road to Corral by bike. Not even many cars take that route. I only had about 8 go by me on that road and most of them were full of forestry workers.

Click below for a few panoramic shots and a map with the route traced out.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Of day three in Santiago; of museums; of the central market; of Cerro San Cristóbal;

I have so many pictures of this place. I never awake to get photos of it during the morning or sunrise, but I loved chilling on the patio of my hostel with wine meeting other travelers.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

Sunday was my third and final day in Santiago. Since the bus was to leave at 9:00pm to go back to Valdivia, I was still able to spend a full day in the city. I spent the day going to museums and exploring around. I went to the Pre-Columbian art museum with two French people I had met in the hostel the day before. It was an incredible museum. I was huge and filled with so many amazing artifacts from all over the Americas. Lots of ceramic, wood, textile and stone works from Incan, Mayan, Olmec, Aztec, and Mapuche cultures. I've always seen pictures of the old carved stone objects from the Central American Pre-Columbian civilizations, but the artifacts in the museum were much more amazing. They weren't rough and crusty bowls, statues, and chairs, but they were elegantly and precisely carved and polished stone works. With the ceramic works in the museum it was just as amazing that the objects were in great condition with stunning colors even after surviving through more than 1000 or even 2000 years.

The market. From Chile W12 Santiago3

The next thing I had on my list of things to do that day was to check out the central market. It is a big old building with many fish markets and a number of restaurants. As soon as I walked in I was greeted by people asking me where I was from and what I wanted to eat. I did a lap around the market and every time I stopped to read a menu posted on a wall I would be surrounded people trying to get me to eat at their restaurant.

el mercado central de santiago, la ciudad de damasco
The market in what looks to be the early 1930s.

The first course of my meal.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

Eventually I found a good looking place where I could get one of my favorite Chilean dish: Chupe de Jaiba. It started off with some bread, ají (salsa), soup, and a beer. Then they brought out the big bubbling bowl of chupe de jaiba. It is a creamy and cheesy crab dish sort of like a casserole and is probably one of the most delicious things in the Chilean food culture. Super rico!

And that is the chupe de jaiba (a direct translation would be crab stew)   From Chile W12 Santiago3

After my huge lunch I took it easy I went to the Museo de Bellas Artes or, in English, the fine arts museum. It was a cool museum. Lots of marble statues in the main room and then there were exhibits for two abstract artists. My favorite part was the museum building from the 1880s. I also don't think I've ever actually seen a real marble statue in my life before then. There weren't many plaster casts in the museum. Most everything was real marble bronze or wood. There were some interesting abstract pieces made out of styrofoam which I had never seen as a fine arts media before.

The museum building in the Parque Forestal of Santiago. From Chile W12 Santiago3

The main museum hall. From Chile W12 Santiago3

santiago 1915 (44) palacio de bellas Artes
A view from 1915 of the museum hall.

It is a close up of a bronze horse sculpture. From Chile W12 Santiago3

Twisted and tangled wood sculptures.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

From Chile W12 Santiago3

I still had time left in the day before I had to head back to the hostel and pack my stuff up, so I decided to hike up Cerro San Cristóbal. It is a big 1000ft hill in the center of Santiago. There is a tram that takes you up to the zoo, gardens, lookouts, and a large state of the Virgin Mary at the top of the hill. I didn't want to pay for the tram after dropping several thousand pesos on lunch and I had the energy from my big meal in me, so I took one of the trails going up the hill.

The hillside with the trial to the top.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

The statue of the Virgin Mary on the top of the hill. From Chile W12 Santiago3

From the city center I couldn't see this part of Santiago because Cerro San Cristóbal was always blocking the view. Also a good view of the Andes.  I hear it is amazing when the smog goes away.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

From Chile W12 Santiago3

Looking our towards the city center. Since all the rest of Santiago is flat, this was the first time I could actually see how bit the city is.  From Chile W12 Santiago3

en 1909 se instaló la Virgen en la cumbre del cerro San Cristobal
The 1909 construction of the Virgin. 

la cumbre del Cerro San Cristobal
An aerial view of the hill from back in the day before the city had fully expanded out.

I also had some good completos to eat during my weekend. Right below my hostel were many super cheap food places. Nothing beats the largest hotdog you can find, fries, and a drink for 1.500 pesos ($3USD).   From Chile W12 Santiago3

It was a great weekend in Santiago. I was able to have a vacation away from the cold of Valdivia and there was plenty of sun for me to enjoy. Many of my Chilean friends told me that Santiago isn't a good city. They said it was unsafe, dirty, and overcrowd. Most of that my be true, but it is still an interesting city. I had a fun time there. I never felt endangered and the city is perfectly safe during the day. There was smog, but it didn't affect me. I found that the smog makes some nice red sunsets. It was a fun time meeting people in the hostel, partying in the capital city, seeing the sights, having some great food, and being able to do some salsa dancing.

The view from the top of Cerro San Cristóbal. Click to see a larger photo of it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Of day two in Santiago; of the Iglesia de San Francisco; of Cerro Santa Lucía;

From Chile W12 Santiago2

On day two in Santiago I decided to see some of the areas which I passed by on my tour the day before. My first destination was the San Franciscan church. It is the oldest building in Santiago and also has a museum.

The church in 1872

The convent area of the church which is now a museum.  From Chile W12 Santiago2

1865 photo of the church convent yard.

The church was founded in the late 1500s not long after Santiago was founded. It has changed and been rebuilt many times, but It has always been in the same place. The tower which is still standing was added to the church in 1857. It still is functioning as a church, but beside it, in the convent yard, is a museum of colonial religious art. There are lots of huge painting of the life of St Francis, ornate statues, and various religious objects. Lots of several century old wooden alters and silver candle holders and incense burners.

From Chile W12 Santiago2

From Chile W12 Santiago2
I then continued on to Cerro Santa Lucia which is a hill in central Santiago covered with amazing fountains, old stone stairs and paths, and lots of amazing gardens. This was probably the most amazing place I saw in Santiago. It is an amazing ornate park in the middle of the city.

Lots of worn stairs to take you up to the top of the 300ft hill.  From Chile W12 Santiago2

la dama del Cerro Santa Lucia (esta al reves)
A woman making her way up the hill in the early 1900s.

This was the hill the Pedro de Valdivia climbed when he founded the city of Santiago in 1541. After that the hill became a grave yard. Eventually a small fort was built on the side of the hill. For a long time it was just a arid pile rocks. In the 1870s the bodies were removed from the graves (but there are legends that some still remain and the hill is haunted) and prison labor was used to create terraces, paths, and gardens.

los trabajos del cerro santa lucia vista desde el nor-oriente
The hill as just a pile of rocks and a fort.

desde santa rosa, el convento de Santa Clara, el cerro santa Lucia y la alameda 1874
The hill in 1874. The city and the trees have grown a lot since then.

From Chile W12 Santiago2

From Chile W12 Santiago2

From Chile W12 Santiago2

The stairs take you up to a number of view points and terraced plazas with amazing views of the city.

Panorama 1

From Chile W12 Santiago2

Hummingbird   From Chile W12 Santiago2

Sometimes in Valdivia I forget I'm so close to the Andes. I guess it can be easy to forget about these mountains when they are usually hiding behind smog.   From Chile W12 Santiago2

I was also able to find one of the popular Chilean street drinks on the hill. It is one of the national drinks and is great for a hot day. It is mote con huesillo. It is a preserved peach in a sweet nectar with wheat grains. It looks scary, but is very good. I've seen a lot of signs around Chile of places saying they have the best mote con huesillo, but I think they are all exactly the same.
From Chile W12 Santiago2

Near the base of the hill and to the north is a very nice neighborhood with a cool antiques fair. I was also able to find a place with falafel near by. Saddly it wasn't as good as the falafel I'm used to.

Out in the Plaza de Armas I watched a mime who was pretty good. And you can laugh at a mime no matter what language you speak.   From Chile W12 Santiago2

Smog makes some amazing sunsets.  From Chile W12 Santiago2

From Chile W12 Santiago2