Sunday, May 18, 2008

Home again, home again

The siblings and I made it safely back to the states on Friday night. Since then, I've been packing, satisfying a month long craving for peanut butter, French toast, and ketchup, and battling an annoying head cold that caught up with me. Today I drive to Yellowstone and jump right into work tomorrow. I'll post some pics of the trip when I get settled into the new job.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Armpit of Chile

So, if you ever decide that a slow paced wander up the coast of Chile toward Valapraiso sounds like a good idea don´t start your voyage in Cartegena. The guide book claimed that Cartagena had a special ¨soul.¨ I think they meant ¨sole¨as in the sole of my shoe afer I just took a run through a dog park. Seriously, don´t go to Cartagena.* Why you ask?
1. The town hobby seems to be rubbernecking at tourists, especially blonde and red haired ones.
2. The restuarant promoters are far more persistent even though their establishments are more shabby.
3. The town is small, but packed with taxis constantly honking at you in hopes you want to go somewhere.
4. The populace seems unable to understand simple directions, such as ¨dos noches.¨
5. The whole town has a feel like and X-files episode where the outward look is a facade to cover up some devlish cult that will eventually entrap you in order to use your body to incubate their alien overlord.

I could go on, but I won´t. The one day we spent near Cartagena was a few miles north in Isla Negra at the home of Pablo Neruda. This town had a great vibe. Our arrival today at Vina Del Mar has been a relief, even the weather is better. Our taxi cab driver gave us a discount and the hotel guy spoke slow enough so we could understand what he was saying for a change.**

*Cartagena is in no way representative of the rest of Chile. In fact it seems to be the exception to the rule that the Chilean people are welcoming, friendly, and the country is a pleasure to travel in.
** He informed us that people named ¨Mateo,¨in Chile, the Spanish version of Matt which I quite like, are nerds and when asked to go out and party say that they have too study.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A bit more relaxation

So the volcano climb went well, especially since our guide Klaus the German was quite a character. I think the ride up to the volcano in his white van was more dangerous than anything on the volcano. There was no liquid magma, just a lot of noxious smoke. We also did some good old fashioned relaxing in Pucon, where the volcano was. Fortunately it is offseason here, so happy hour at some places runs from 7:00-1:00am. The best deal going is the 2 for 1 ¨schop grande¨or big draught beer. Plus I enjoyed some of my first pisco, which is an alcohol made from grapes that tastes somewhat less sweet than rum, but without the bite of whiskey. The drink of choice is the pisco sour, but with its high price, the piscola (not pronounced piss cola, but with a long ï¨I found out) is a better option. Yesterday, B and I headed north for the next leg of our journey. We spent 9 hours in a bus, and were eventually just let out on the side of the interstate at our scheduled stop. Apparently it was not a scheduled stop at an actual bus station. We eventually found our way to the bus station and caught another bus to the coast. This bus was packed, and I had to stand for part of the trip. Fortunately there were TVs that played Ël Mariachi¨and some kickin´Buce Springsteen live performances. He really hit his stride with ¨Born in the USA.¨ We arrived in Pitchelemu at 10:45 and found a place to stay. We are right near the beach, which is great. We surfed for 2 hours today. I should say that I tried to surf. I did get up on the board once or twice, but as B put it ït´s all survival surfing for us.¨ Most of the time I spent trying to avoid getting thrashed by waves. It was fun, though because it is so novel. Plus we plan on drinking 40´s on the beach this evening, and the thrashing from surfing will make the beer taste better. And more relaxing is on the way in the upcoming week. I´ve been extremely happy with the first month of my 29th year on this planet spent traveling, but I´m feeling my age a bit. I think I´ll be able to predict the weather with my right knee when I get back. Sweet.