Archive for the ‘Chile and Patagonia 2016’ Category

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Buenos Aires and Home!

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Dates Explored/Endured (this last regarding Air Canada F-Ups): February 18 – 21st

My last blog post about our four-week trip to Chile, Patagonia, and Argentina!

It was a wonderful trip, but Air Canada made sure we were extremely glad to be home. Talk about a cluster-frick.

But first, Buenos Aires!

We decided to fly from Ushuaia to Buenos Aires and stay a couple of nights before beginning the long journey back to British Columbia, because otherwise it would have been too exhausting. It was exhausting, anyway. That’s about the only downside to traveling to South America–it takes so long to get home. Otherwise, I love South America.

The flight to Buenos Aires is about 3.5 hours. We were already settled at the Ushuaia airport when I realized I had left my headphones at the Mysten Kempen B&B. This caused me much anxiety, because I was pretty sure I had left behind the headphones but I wouldn’t know for certain, having already checked my bags, until we arrived at Casa Calma in Buenos Aires. You can read my last post about how the Mysten Kempen and Casa Calma staff worked together to get my headphones back in my possession before Steve and I needed to fly back to Canada. Our travel-mates stayed two nights in Buenos Aires with us. The day we left for Canada, they continued on to Iguazu Falls. I would have loved to see the Falls, but four weeks was the longest my husband could take off work without them thinking he might have suddenly booked early retirement. So SILly and BILly continued on without us.

First, it’s a superb idea to stay in Buenos Aires before returning home. The Casa Calma is a wonderful little boutique hotel within walking distance to shopping, people-watching at outdoor cafes, steak houses, and about two kilometers away from the presidential palace known as Casa Rosada, or The Pink House. The folks at the Casa Calma can hook you up with whatever you want to do while you’re in town, whether it’s a half- or full-day city tour, restaurant recommendations, Tango shows, etc. They provide you with a list when you arrive, so you don’t have to book in advance.

We decided to book the half-day city tour for the morning after we arrived. It was raining, but the tour took us through the various neighborhoods, of which there are a ton. Steve and I returned to some of the areas the following day, once the sun was out. The half-day tour ends at the above-ground cemetery where Evita was buried (although I think her body was later stolen…). From there, we walked back to the hotel.

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. :)

The San Telmo neighborhood of Buenos Aires. Steve bought a soccer shirt in this neighborhood, featuring a local junior team. He made the locals happy. 🙂

San Telmo is very colorful, a really fun neighborhood to explore. I love this next photo. It’s a window in a bathroom:

Juxtaposition of "old" and "new."

Juxtaposition of “old” and “new.”

"The Pink House," the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

“The Pink House,” the Argentinian version of The White House, the presidential palace. BILly and SILly had left for the Falls, so we just strolled around for the day.

One of the things you can easily do from the Casa Calma is walk Florida Street, which is supposed to be very elegant, but it was more like running the gauntlet when we did it. Constant hawking of wares. It’s an experience, but not one I necessarily feels needs to be experienced. You’ll be offered so many opportunities to exchange money, it’s not funny. And I have a hankering there’s a good chance you’ll be ripped off. But there’s an exchange kiosk in the Galerias Pacifico shopping mall, on Florida. We primarily used Santander Bank ABMs, both in Chile and Buenos Aires. Yeah, it’s a PITA because the banks only allow you to take out a wee portion of money and then slap a tourist tax on top, but at least you have funds. It’s Argentina! Take the hits and soak up the atmosphere!

It’s also a good idea to take along U.S. dollars. We didn’t use them a lot in  Chile, but in Argentina they were very handy.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That's what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

The food in Buenos Aires was excellent. We only had one crappy meal, and it was during our only day on our own! We had lunch on the sidewalk near this beautiful park where we spent most of the day (our flight left at 10 p.m.), and it was the worst meal I had in South America. That’s what I get for making fun of BILly. He cursed my meals after we parted ways.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia.... Ahem.

We returned to our room to find this nice note reminding me not to forget anything like I had in Ushuaia…. Ahem.

As for the trip home, don’t get me started. I’ll try to make this short.

We booked our flights on Air Canada through Expedia, and even though we booked them like eight months in advance, for some reason we weren’t assigned seats for one of the legs, between Houston and Calgary. We didn’t think much of this until we couldn’t print out boarding passes, because 24 hours before our flight, we still weren’t assigned seats.

So we decided to go to the B.A. airport early. It was very confusing, as most airports are when there’s a language barrier and your first flight leaves at 10 p.m. We did have assigned seats for the B.A. to Houston leg, thank God, because it was 10 hours long. The lovely Air Canada clerk in B.A. assured us in her broken English that we would be assigned seats for Houston to Calgary once in Houston. We settled in to be called for our flight when, in typical Cindy fashion, I stood up and turned and walked into a short table, and near about split my shin bone (I have a mark to this day).

We boarded our first plane–and noticed a woman was trying to sneak our entire row, LOL. We had made sure to leave an empty middle seat between us, crossing our fingers it would not be sold, and it wasn’t. But it’s not so unusual in South America for travelers to sit in the wrong seat on purpose. I’m not sure what they mean to accomplish, but we experienced the same behavior on our flight to Easter Island weeks earlier.

At first we thought we had suddenly gained a row companion, but she fled as soon as she realized the row wasn’t empty.

Ten hours is a long flight, but we’ve done this several times now, and if you can fly 14 hours from Melbourne, you can fly 10 hours from Buenos Aires. No problemo! Until we arrived in Houston.

There, we raced to get to the Air Canada counter (where we had been told we would be assigned seats), but the clerk said we were “too late,” even though we were well outside the 90-minute window. We headed to the gate regardless. At the gate, the Air Canada staff informed us, with no apologies or even a smile, that the flight was overbooked. We came to learn that the flight from Houston to Calgary is routinely overbooked, but this flight was overbooked by a dozen people! We were numbers 7 and 8. A single female traveler was #6, and she told us this had happened to her more than once in a two-month period.

The three of were sent to the United Airlines counter, a partner to Air Canada, and the single female arrived before us so managed to snag a seat on a United Airlines flight leaving a couple of hours later. The United Airlines folks were very nice and tried to help us, which is more than I can say for Air Canada (for shame). They placed our luggage on the next flight to Calgary and said to pray for a cancellation. We made it to the gate, but only one seat was available. Would I leave my husband behind in Houston to catch up with me later? Uh, no. We were either going together or not at all.

Lo and behold, at the very last minute, a passenger didn’t make his connection, so both Steve and myself got on the flight, just several rows apart.

The very first thing one of my row-mates asked was if I would take the middle seat instead of the window, to accommodate the fellow in the middle, who she didn’t know at all. Note, she wasn’t giving up her aisle seat for him but thought I might give up my window seat at her behest.

Uh, no.

LOL!

We wound up in Calgary to discover our luggage hadn’t made it onto the plane. Don’t ask me how, in this day and age, we managed to travel internationally without our luggage, but we did. It arrived home a day or so after we did, much bedraggled but with a wealth of memories I wouldn’t trade for anything despite the Air Canada travel woes.

But will I travel Air Canada again unless forced to because of scheduling restrictions? Uh, no. Now I understand why A.C. is my dh’s last choice in travel. Sorry, Air Canada, overbook your seats if you must but let the travelers know that’s what’s happening. I guess I should have clued in. A less expensive seat bought through Expedia meant…not much of anything at all. Too bad it wasn’t another country’s airline that treated us so shoddily, and at least we got home. But, man, that customer service sucked, Air Canada.

Adios!!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Ushuaia, Argentina, The End of the World

Friday, June 17th, 2016

Date Explored: February 17, 2016

We last left off exploring Wulaia Bay on our Patagonian cruise. The next morning, a Wednesday, we disembarked in Ushuaia, Argentina, on the southernmost tip of South America, otherwise known as The End of the World. It was during embarkation that we let one of our guides know that “Canadian beaver” might be slang for other than the animal. Throughout the four-day cruise, Cristobal had been telling stories about “getting chased by Canadian beaver” during his visit to the Great White North. Did his eyes ever widen we finally told him the slang meaning. He had been speaking about encountering the animal in one of our national parks.

A view of Ushuaia just before disembarking from the Stella Australis.

A view of Ushuaia just before disembarking from the Stella Australis.

Ushuaia is beautiful. The only problem is it’s tough to get pictures of the gorgeous mountains without phone wires, etc. getting in the way, so I didn’t take a lot of photos. You can arrange flights over the mountains and nearby glaciers, but we only had one night, so we were up for some good food and relaxation.

We guessed the Stella Australis would feature some fine accommodation, so for our overnight in Ushuaia, we decided to take it down a notch and went through Booking.com to reserve rooms at Mysten Kepen B&B. Mysten Kepen is a lovely B&B, but be forewarned that they don’t offer shuttles or taxis from the port. While we could have easily arranged a taxi at a taxi stand we found after finding the B&B, for reasons that made sense at the time (as in we didn’t realize how far we would be hiking), we decided to drag our suitcase the “few” blocks to the B&B. “A few blocks” wound up being a hike up steep roads. Finally, just when it seemed all hope was lost, we found the Mysten Kepen. SILly and BILly had a room in the main house while DH and I were in a lovely newer room with a private bath at the top of an outdoor staircase. Definitely, I would recommend asking for that room.

There’s a very tiny house beside the B&B. Animals might be in the yard next door and such. If that sort of thing bothers you, Mysten Kepen is not for you. But we found Rosario, our hostess, delightful. She and I were able to communicate through her rusty English and my awful Spanish. Plus, she really went aboveboard when I accidentally left my headphones in our unmade bed the following morning, when we flew to Buenos Aires. Both thanks to Rosario and also to our hotel staff in Buenos Aires, Rosario arranged for another traveler to bring my headphones to Buenos Aires the following day, where we took a taxi (while en route to dinner, exploring a new neighborhood) to pick up the headphones at the other traveler’s hostel. So I had my headphones for our long flight back home from Buenos Aires! Truly exceptional customer service on the part of Rosario of the Mysten Kepen as well as the Casa Calma in B.A.

"Beagle Beer" spotted in the Mysten Kepen. We didn't have time for a brewski, so just took a photo. Also, look, Cape Horn beer!

“Beagle Beer” spotted in the Mysten Kepen. We didn’t have time for a brewski, so just took a photo. Also, look, Cape Horn beer!

Booze seemed out to get me in Ushuaia!

Booze seemed out to get me in Ushuaia!

For our one night in Ushuaia, we wanted to go to dinner at this little place called Kalma Resto, which might now be in a different location (Jorge, the chef and owner, was busy fixing a new place after his shifts at the restaurant). We found it after storing our luggage in our B&B and walking about town, visiting a museum and searching out wine for those in our party who could not do without. 😉 SILly and I walked into Kalma Resto to arrange reservations, but unfortunately the place was booked solid with a group of about 20 either on their way to or back from Antarctica. The lovely hostess discussed our situation with Jorge (that we only had one night in town), and even though he needed to work on renovating his new place, he asked us to return at 9:45 p.m., once he expected the large party to be gone. We did, and only one other table was still occupied. Once that couple left, Jorge put out the Closed sign, and we basically had the entire restaurant to ourselves. He was our chef and server, and it was like being on The Food Network or something. Truly a wonderful experience. Like Rosario at the Mysten Kepen, Jorge of Kalma Resto went out of his way to accommodate us. What exceptional people! And Jorge is an amazing chef and an amiable fellow. I wish him much success in his new endeavors!

Next and final stop, Buenos Aires, a beautiful city, certainly my favorite of the major South American cities I’ve visited so far.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Wulaia Bay, Australis Cruise

Friday, June 10th, 2016

Date Explored: February 16, 2016

Following our excursion to Cape Horn, the Stella Australis took us to Wulaia Bay for the afternoon, where we had a choice of three hikes. The Captain gave a compelling lecture (previous to our visit to Wulaia Bay) about the Yamana aboriginal settlements. Wulaia Bay was the site of one of the largest Yamana settlements, was also sketched by FitzRoy and described by Darwin during their voyage on board the HMS Beagle (yeah for beagles!). Here’s another link for more information.

There is an old radio station at Wulaia Bay that has been converted to a museum, and it’s very good. For the hikes, BILly decided to take the Difficult option while SILly, DH and I opted for Medium. Really, BILly’s hike just took him to a higher vantage point.

This would be our last time setting forth from the zodiacs. Awwwwwwwww….

Everyone drops their life jackets somewhere they are apt to remember them for picking up later, but it really doesn't matter whose lifejacket you pick up. Some folks were no so great at remembering where they put theirs. :) But I love this shot showing both the Chile and Argentina flags.

Everyone drops their life jackets somewhere they are apt to remember them for picking up later, but it really doesn’t matter whose life jacket you pick up. Some folks were no so great at remembering where they put theirs. 🙂 But I love this shot showing both the Chile and Argentina flags.

Breathtaking views! If you look very hard, you can see the old radio station/now museum in the lower left hand corner of this photo. Our hiking group visited the museum following our hike.

Breathtaking views! If you look very hard, you can see the old radio station/now museum in the lower left hand corner of this photo. Our hiking group visited the museum following our hike.

Patagonia really reminds me of British Columbia. It's not the same, yet it is. Depending where you are.

Patagonia really reminds me of British Columbia. It’s not the same, yet it is. Depending where you are.

"Us".

“Us”.

On the last evening of the cruise, the crew auctioned off the navigation chart sued for sailing to Cape Horn. My motion sickness was still bothering me, though not as badly as the first few days. I’ve done three cruises now (Galapagos 2012, Cuba 2014 and now this one), and the Australis Cruise was by far the shortest, at only 4 nights. It’s a great cruise, not cheap but was well worth it for us. Since we backpacked through Europe and touched the westernmost point of Europe in the 19080s, we have wanted to check out other “direction-most” points. We’ve been to the easternmost tip of North America (Cape Spear, Newfoundland) and to the highest navigable body of water (Lake Titicaca), so visiting the southernmost point of South America was definitely on the Bucket List. Now, I need to get to the Dead Sea, but no idea when that will occur!

We had one more night on the Stella Australis before she docked at Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on the continent, the following morning. We disembarked and had some more adventures before flying up to Buenos Aires for a couple of days. So we’re not finished yet!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Cape Horn

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

Date Explored: February 16, 2016 – In Other Words, 02-16-2016. Kinda Cool.

Last I left off, we were visiting Pia Glacier and cruising through Glacier Alley. Preparing for today’s post, I see I noted in my travel journal for the night before February 15 (Pia Glacier):

Had some rollers during the night –> my full water glass fell to the floor, not sure where the water went!

Funny how we forget the little things. It’s a good thing I can read my handwriting (it’s very messy).

For Tuesday, February 16th, I wrote:

Woke @ 6 a.m. after a night of huge rolling waves and suited up only to receive the disappointing news that the winds were far too bad to go on Cape Horn. We got great views & photos but it’s not the same as stepping on the piece of earth itself.

  • 200 km/hr winds was the max. they hit charting the course during the night.
  • Gusting to 88 knots/100 km an hour in a.m.

So there you have it. Yes, a bit disappointing, Cindiana Jones did not get to walk on Cape Horn! But thanks to her (well, my) zoom lens, which is actually pretty old in the scheme of zoom lenses, she/I managed to get some great shots from the ship. The captain made every effort to circle the Cape and allow for amazing photos (considering it was such a blustery day) and we had some wild fun when the ship, um, leaned a little more than perhaps was anticipated. We were told that there was no way the zodiacs would stay afloat trying to get us to the stairs up to the Cape. Even if the zodiacs managed to get us to the stairs, the winds were so strong we wouldn’t be able to walk on the Cape.

Everyone was a good sport about it. There was one fellow who decided to take the return trip from Ushuaia (our drop off point the following morning) for a second run at the Cape, because he had piloted (I believe was the word he used) ships himself and had never landed at Cape Horn. It was on his bucket list, as it was on my mine. But Alan was very determined. I wonder if he got there?

Trying to remain standing on deck as we circled the Cape! Not pretending. Really trying to stand. They wouldn't let us stand on the very top deck. We were up there, but got shooed down. I guess it wouldn't do to have one of the guests flail around in the drink.

Trying to remain standing on deck as we circled the Cape! Not pretending. Really trying to stand. They wouldn’t let us stand on the very top deck. We were up there, but got shooed down. I guess it wouldn’t do to have one of the guests flail around in the drink.

If we look a wee bit chilly, it's because we were!

If we look a wee bit chilly, it’s because we were!

Oh, if you look back up at Picture 1, you can see I’m wearing gumboots. The Stella Australis provides gumboots throughout the expeditions, if you wish, but I chose only to take some for the Cape Horn excursion, and then it didn’t work out. According to this article I found about the Via Australis (sister ship to the Stella), the Via manages to land at Cape Horn around 75% of the time. I believe we were advised that the Stella manages to land (lately) around 70% of the time. So we were among the 30% of the time where the weather conditions do not permit landing.

Would I take another cruise that offered the opportunity to land at Cape Horn? If I were independently wealthy and could combine another shot at Cape Horn with a trip to Antarctica, definitely yes. But unless I win the lottery, no. I consider myself very lucky to have circled the Cape. I would love to land there, but…funds.

If the weather had been more cooperative, the zodiacs would have taken us to this staircase.

If the weather had been more cooperative, the zodiacs would have taken us to this staircase.

Here’s a cool video of folks aboard the Stella Australis landing at Cape Horn the month before us, January 2016. The crew determines whether or not you can land, for us, at about 2 a.m. So even though the passengers, at 6 a.m. thought, “We can do this!”, they said no.

So imagine if these folks on YouTube were able to land and we weren’t a month later…how extreme our weather was when they were charting the possibility of landing.

I am a little jealous of those people. If you visit the YouTube video, that’s what the wind sounded like as I was trying to remain standing on the ship.

A view of the lighthouse with my zooms lens.

A view of the lighthouse with my zooms lens.

Yes, I am pretty amaze-balls. I wasn’t standing very steadily when I took the shot.

I love this shot as we're moving around the Horn. It was both light and dark at the same time.

I love this shot as we’re moving around the Horn. It was both light and dark at the same time.

Agh, I wish I could have gone up top to the monument and signed my name in the book! Oh, dear, it seems if I were a millionaire, I would go back.

I’m wondering why they didn’t let us sleep in instead of making us get up and be on-deck at six only to find out we couldn’t disembark. I guess it’s like allowing a woman to “try and push out the baby” if he’s, say, a surprise breech, like my first one was, so she’ll feel like she actually accomplished something. If they didn’t get us up so we could see for ourselves how windy it was, and if they didn’t give us the report from the weather station about the 200/km hour winds during charting…maybe we wouldn’t have believed them?

I do know from my experience giving birth that, yes, as the OB said, it was advantageous for me “to try” pushing out my baby, even if I didn’t succeed.

And so it is with Cape Horn. “That Cindy, at least she tries.”

Et, voila, to show for it:

By the way, if you are lucky enough to get Captain Juan Carlos, he's excellent at what he does. Very informative talks, very personable...and not bad to look at (for those who make travel plans based on such things).

By the way, if you are lucky enough to get Captain Juan Carlos Vargas, he’s excellent at what he does. Very informative talks, very personable…and not bad to look at (for those who make travel plans based on such things).

The rest of our morning was spent having a siesta, which I sorely needed. My motion sickness was having a great time with my head and stomach. It was like being spun around on a horizontal Ferris wheel at high speeds. My head hurts just thinking about it.

But, yeah, I would go back if I had the chance.

Next time, our afternoon excursion at Wulaia Bay, which was beautiful. The weather had cleared completely and we had a wonderful time.

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Pia Glacier and Glacier Alley

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Date Explored: February 15th

Day 3 of our Australis Cruise was pretty much the reason FOR the cruise. Overnight, the ship makes its way around the western end of Tierra del Fuego and into the Ballenero Channel. It’s pretty exciting to look out your cabin window and see bits of ice beginning to show in the water. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience in colder months (but I’m a wimp so we went during their summer). The closer the ship cruises to Pia Glacier, the more you can feel excitement mounting on-board. Pia Glacier is one of the few glaciers accessible to humans that is not in retreat, but instead is advancing (this is when a glacier grows faster than it’s melting, whereas the Columbia Ice Fields in my home province are melting faster than they are growing, hence they are in retreat).

When Pia Glacier first comes into view, it is just breathtaking. It’s surreal to be among such beauty, and in today’s day and age there is a pretty somber realization that seeing a glacier calve (which we did, several times) as the ice pushes from the back and huge chunks split off into the ocean is a rarity. You truly feel like you are at the mercy of Mother Earth.

When you visit the glacier, you can choose to just stay at the viewing area or to hike to gain “better views.” The hike was pretty slippery, over large boulders, and it was muddy. They warned us it would be muddy, and it was! I had rain pants and gators. We were in Chile and Argentina for a month, so I didn’t have space in my luggage for hiking boots. You can borrow gumboots off the cruise folks, but I thought they would be too slippery on the rocks for this excursion. I just used my hiking runners with the rain pants and gators, and that combo worked great.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

In the zodiac en route to the disembarkation spot for Pia Glacier. The zodiac engines churn through the ice. It sounds like a big blender.

I am "enjoying" a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a "better viewing area," which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the "easy" landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I'm proud of myself that I made it! But I'm not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn't, on the slipperiest area.

I am “enjoying” a glass of scotch with glacial ice. This was after our hike to a “better viewing area,” which is really, in my opinion, a way to not have too many people on the viewing rock at once. The folks who take the “easy” landing just stay here as long as they want. Meanwhile, the rest of us are hiking up the slippery boulders. The view was very nice, and I’m proud of myself that I made it! But I’m not so sure I would have made it back down if not for my husband telling me (and others) where to step and when. I seem to have a natural inclination to step exactly where I shouldn’t, on the slipperiest area. But at least I didn’t fall off the path like I did hiking down from a volcano in the Galapagos four years earlier.

I had to put quotation marks around “enjoy,” because I am not a scotch drinker. I just wanted my picture taken like everyone else.

See the blue area of the glacier to the left? That’s where Pia Glacier was calving during our visit. We didn’t think it was going to calve at all. Then we started our hike and as the day warmed, you could start to hear the rumblings of a potential calve. Once we returned from our hike, I forgot about taking pictures or even attempting to get a calving on video. I just stood there and watched in awe. A couple small chunks calved, and a big one calved. See that icy water just behind me up above? As the glacier calves and drops into the ocean, it creates this “down the sink” effect, which shoves and swirls the water just beyond our viewing rock. The force of nature is awesome.

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn't use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say "egotistical twit."

The final ascent was up to a viewing area to see a fjord. It was pretty crowded by the time we got there, with a group that had arrived previously. Now, most of the folks you will encounter on the cruise are cognizant that everyone wants to take pictures, but there were a few who felt their photography skills were of paramount importance. Really, a couple of fellows could have just moved a wee tad to allow, say, SOMEONE ELSE, ANYONE ELSE, a chance to take a photo. While I wouldn’t use the term Asshat to describe an individual in particular, I might say “egotistical twit.”

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, just in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and others' attention was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn't you know it, that's exactly what happened. All I could get out was a "Holy crap!" and before the camera could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Heading back to the cruise ship, DH and I wound up in the last zodiac with a bunch of photographers with massive cameras. Most of them were quite nice (like the gentleman with his back to us) and the zodiac captain was very accommodating driving the zodiac to a vantage point from which the photographers with their massive zoom lenses could take pictures of the ship. I had long since decided just to watch the glacier instead, in case it did a massive calve while I was watching it and the attention of my zodiac mates was diverted to the cruise ship. Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. All I could get out was a “Holy crap!” and before the massive cameras could turn toward the noise, a building-sized piece calved off the glacier.

Sometimes it pays to just enjoy the moment instead of recording it for posterity, you know?

GlacerAlley3

After you return to the ship, the boat cruises through “Glacier Alley,” which features tidewater glaciers coming down from the Darwin mountains and the Darwin Ice Sheet. Most of these glaciers are named after European countries, and the ship serves you a drink reminiscent of the country as you cruise past a glacier in question. Excuse my photos, because I took them through the window. It was quite blustery outside by this point. So I can’t tell you if this glacier is France, Holland, Germany or Italy, but I can tell you I enjoyed sips of champagne and beer (I think I ran out of steam after that).

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

This glacier is obviously melting, which was kind of sad.

More glaciers!

More glaciers!

During the cruise along Beagle Channel (beagle!!!) and through Glacier Alley, my sea-sickness was taking its toll. This was the night before we would reach Cape Horn, another reason to take the cruise – a chance to disembark at Cape Horn!! The success of the landing depends entirely on what the weather is doing around midnight to 2 a.m. the night before. The ship guys (captains, whatever) are in contact with a weather station that alerts them to the probability of landing at Cape Horn. But of course they don’t tell you whether you’ll land or not until the next morning, because how else will they get the entire boat into life jackets otherwise?

Did we land at Cape Horn? Did I fall overboard and need to be retrieved? Or did they toss me a rope and allow me to barefoot water-ski through ice chunks? These and other questions will be answered next week on another installment of Cindiana Jones Does Patagonia. Stay tuned!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Australis Cruise, Day 2

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Date Explored: February 14th

Our Australis Cruise, “Fjords of Tierra del Fuego” on the Stella Autralis, departed Punta Arenas on February 13th, “Day 1,” but we didn’t have any excursions on that day. You’re led to your cabins, settle in, then assemble for an intro talk, drinks, and decide which expedition excursions to sign up for the next day, Valentine’s Day for us! The morning excursion featured two levels of difficulty for hiking/walking. We signed up for “Difficult,” but they also offered a Moderate or Easy route (I can’t remember which). Let me say, if you can’t hike up a slippery path, even with a rope to guide you, you have no business signing up for Difficult just so you can get a “better view.” I guess you don’t know until you try, but if you don’t hike in your regular life, opt for the Easy or Moderate outings. Opting for Difficult when you can’t handle it just takes the guides’ attention away from other guests. And I say this fully knowing there are times I shouldn’t elect the Difficult hike myself.

Saturday morning, when we departed on the zodiacs for Ainsworth Bay, was chilly but sunny. The afternoon was overcast. I want to show a photo of the Stella Australis. It’s from the afternoon excursion, thus the clouds:

AinsworthBay_Ship

Can you see that little craft to the very left of the shot? Those are the zodiacs, on which you travel for your excursions.

Here is a shot of our zodiac traveling to Ainsworth Bay, off the cruise ship:

AinsworthBay_Zodiacs

Isn’t that beautiful? You can see two more zodiacs in front of us. Luckily, even though I get seasick, going on a two-week Galapagos expedition-style cruise in 2012 taught me how to handle myself on a zodiac, and it all came back to me, like riding a bike. 🙂 So this time I could be brave and sit on the edge without death-gripping ropes, and take whatever pictures I wanted.

Note: If any rapids were around, I would have been hanging onto the ropes with the aforementioned death grip.

Travel Tip! If there are rapids, you are likely on a river.

Cruise Ship Tip! We selected deck 3 of the Stella Australis, and it was perfect. I don’t like to be too far up, because it’s better for motion sickness to be a bit further down, and mid-ship is also advised. We were in room 327, beside the stairs, and we had no issues whatsoever.

The view from our hike at Ainsworth Bay, along the glacial moraine (returning from the hike):

AinsworthBay_AMHike2

So beautiful and peaceful! That’s the Darwin mountain range in the distance. Remember, we went during their summer.

The weather can change quickly in Patagonia. We had a wonderful lunch back on board the Stella Australis, sailing west along the sound before traveling via zodiac again in the afternoon to the Tucker Islets, where we saw lots of sea birds and cormorants nesting, but, really, everyone’s there to see the penguins!

TuckerIsletsZodiac

En route to visiting the penguins. You can see there are four zodiacs ahead of us.

After traveling to Galapagos, where we saw cormorants drying their wings in the sun, seabirds weren’t really on our agenda. We did see a couple of penguins in the Galapagos, and unfortunately we didn’t book ahead enough in advance to see the Magdalena penguins on a day trip from Punta Arenas, but none of that mattered now, because we saw penguins galore at Tucker Islets.

Penguins for your perusal (this one guy wanted to pose for us very badly!):

TuckerPenguins1

The giant penguins are at Antarctica. I don’t know if we’ll ever go there. I love expedition-style cruises, where you launch daily on zodiacs to view wildlife, but there are a lot of other places in the world to visit, and I’m happy we chose the Patagonian fjords. Leaving you with my favorite penguin until next time, day 3 of the cruise….

TuckerPenguins4

TuckerPenguins3

TuckerPenguins2

Penguinnnnnnnn….out!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – To Punta Arenas and the Patagonian Fjords

Friday, May 13th, 2016

Dates Explored: February 11-13

Last I left off, we were exploring Castro and Quellon on Chiloe Island, which I am really glad we visited, even if we had to sacrifice time in the Lakes District to do so. We needed to return our rental car to the kiosk at the Puerto Montt airport on the mainland of Chile on Thursday, February 11th, and catch a flight to Punta Arenas, from where we would begin Leg 3 of our journey on a 4-night cruise through the Patagonian fjords. Just in case something went wrong, we left our B&B in Ten Ten, Castro pretty early. We were again lucky to catch a ferry without waiting in line. On the ferry back to Pargua, we saw some jelly fish. It’s a very short trip, just a commuter ferry, but very pleasant. You are expected to pay on-board, and they do come around and check. So make sure you have pesos handy.

We knew where the airport was, but we now had time to kill so decided to look for a place to have lunch. Unfortunately, we wound up in a light industrial area of Puerto Montt that wasn’t very appealing. I was beginning to understand why I had been advised to head straight to Puerto Varas when we first arrived in Puerto Montt a week earlier. In fact, we were mighty tempted to drive to Puerto Varas for our lunch! But we got so lost in Puerto Montt, needing to hang out our window and beg directions from a nice fellow who turned out to be a taxi. He was generous enough to let us follow him around construction detours to get us back to the road to the airport. We stared driving to Puerto Varas, then thought better of it. You just never know what might go wrong. So we headed back to the Puerto Montt airport, settled things with the car rental agency, and ate in the airport. Not a first choice, but honestly we couldn’t find anything else that looked decent and didn’t have the time or inclination at this point to continue driving in circles.

I don’t want to do Puerto Montt a disservice. For us it served as a base to land and then visit Puerto Varas, see the volcanoes, and circumnavigate the lake. Once you’re at Puerto Varas, the inclination is strong to head north and keep exploring the Lakes District, so I didn’t research Puerto Montt at all as a travel destination. For us, it was a means to an end.

Our flight to Punta Arenas went off without a hitch, and we had booked a transfer in advance to our hotel, Boutique La Yegua Loca. This beautiful boutique hotel was a splurge for us. It wasn’t cheap, but we really wanted a nice place at this point in the trip (not knowing where we were going to be for those two nights in Castro in advance). And it was worth it. I get motion sickness, and between the ferry and the flight and tiredness, I was pretty bagged by the time we had dinner at the hotel (very nice small restaurant).

Here’s me outside the hotel the next morning:

PuntaArenas_hotel

A well-worth it splurge! My Liege and I were in El Carpintero with a lovely view of the water, and BILly and SILly were on the same floor, across the way. We could hang out on the top balcony and there was a little sitting area between the rooms.

Too late on Thursday night, I remember SILly and I were thinking of doing the Magdalena Penguins tour on the Friday, our “rest” day in Punta Arenas. I knew we could book once in Punta Arenas, but you really need to book a couple of days ahead. The tours were all full by the time I looked into it, after we’d settled into our rooms. It’s a six-hour tour, and I knew I was heading for motion sickness on our small cruise ship, so we decided to forgo the penguin tour (not that we had a choice, considering everything seemed booked), knowing we would get to see some penguins, if not as many, during our Australis cruise.

Travel Tip! It’s very easy to book the Magdalena Penguins tour once you are in Punta Arenas. Here are a couple of spots. Viator. Solo Expedicions. There’s no need to book weeks in advance UNLESS it is something you simply must accomplish. Then, maybe book a few days to a week in advance. Or months in advance. Up to you. We wanted to play this leg free and easy.

Punta Arenas was a pleasant surprise (visit that link for a list of things to do). The flea markets were reasonable, you can visit a statue of Magellan and rub his toe for good luck on your seafaring adventures, there’s a wide boulevard with lots of sculptures, a maritime museum, a lot of replica ships that you can visit if you have a rental car or book a tour, plus the aforementioned penguins. We only had so much time, so we visited the Naval Museum (totally worth it) and then walked to the Sara Braun Municipal Cemetery, which was beautiful. An above-ground cemetery, again worth the visit.

My Liege at the Maritime Museum.

My Liege at the Naval Museum.

Between the hedges at the Saran Braun Municipal Cemetery in Punta Arenas. Photo Credit: BILly

I did take lots of pictures at the cemetery, but whittling down, they aren’t the sort of pictures I usually keep. We had a brisk walk back.

Cute door returning from cemetery.

Cute door returning from cemetery.

There are plenty of nice places to eat in Punta Arenas, but the place revolves around the cruise ships either docking for a day or departing, as ours was, so you’re not likely to get a great deal on a meal, shall we say, but the food was great.

Olive Di Oyl enjoying cheesecake and hot chocolate (or latte, can no longer remember) in Punta Arenas before the cruise.

Olive Di Oyl enjoying cheesecake and hot chocolate (or latte, can no longer remember) in Punta Arenas before the cruise.

For our cruise, we chose Fjords of Tierra del Fuego on the MV Stella Australis. This 4-night expedition cruise departs from either Punta Arenas or Ushuaia, Argentina, or you can elect to do a round trip of 5 or 7 nights, but a couple of the excursions will duplicate. A 3-night option is also available.

Check out the Australis website for the various options. I would definitely recommend this cruise. It was top-notch.

For our one-way trip, a few days before our sailing date of February 13th, I received a PDF from the Australis folks with instructions for boarding, but it would not open on my iPad and I did not receive an email back when I tried to contact someone to see what it was. So we dragged our suitcases from the hotel down to the address we had on our tickets, only to discover that the “office” was closed. We knew there were souvenir shops around the corner, and folks were coming and going from another ship. BILly and My Liege went ahead and tried to find out how we were supposed to board the Stella Australis when the office was closed. It took a lot of rig and a ton of marole, but finally they found where we needed to go through, and then we basically backtracked to eventually discovering a big waiting room and souvenir shop just for the Australis cruise folks. I am thinking it might have been nice to learn what had been on that PDF, but oh, well….

There was a huge lineup of folks checking in, so we just hopped in line and resigned ourselves to a lot of waiting. Eventually, we made it through to the souvenir shop, where we ultimately discovered we had to board buses to get driven down the dock to the cruise ship. It was easily walking distance. Not sure why the need for buses, but I guess it helps them organize.

Once on the ship, each couple is greeted by one of the expedition guides and taken to your cabin. This was a very nice touch, very personalized, and we came to realize that the Stella Australis is a beautiful small cruise ship. Ours featured a big window for viewing.

You settle in for a short period and then we were invited to the Darwin Lounge for a short briefing and welcoming. I am not much of a drinker, so did not research the liquor rules in advance, but we found out that all booze throughout the 4-night cruise was free. The Pisco Sours were delicious, but I can only manage one. The meals were all delicious, as well.

If you suffer motion sickness, make sure to bring supplies. I was using the ear patch, which I used to great success in Galapagos in 2012, but this time the side effects were nearly as bad as motion sickness itself. Our Galapagos cruise was two weeks, and by the fourth day I had settled in with the patch nicely. The Australis cruise wasn’t long enough for me to settle in with my motion sickness, so my stomach felt pitchy the whole time.

Another traveler advised to cut the patch in half, which I tried, but then some of the medicine leaked out and stung my skin. I would try the patch again (after having success in Galapagos), but would cut it in half and then cover with one of those little round bandages.

However, I’m come to realize over three small cruises (Galapagos, Cuba and the Patagonian Fjords) that no motion sickness system works for me entirely. I’m still trying to find the best solution.

Do you suffer motion sickness? Any tips for my next cruise? (Likely a couple of years from now, hopefully to Alaska.)

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Quellon and the End of the Pan-American Highway

Friday, May 6th, 2016

Date Explored: February 10th

On our second day in Castro, my husband declared he wanted to “go to the beach.” So we set off to find a Chilean national park with beach access. We did have one in mind, but we wound up taking a road trip instead. On our way south out of Castro, SILly and I spied another of the UNESCO World Heritage wooden Churches of Chiloe. We had only seen the one, in Castro, and we knew we wouldn’t have time to see another if we didn’t stop at Iglesia Nuestra Signora de Gracia. The construction is amazing, and we managed to squeeze in our visit before a tour bus pulled up. Score!

A nice little above-ground cemetery is to the left of the church, looking straight on.

A nice little above-ground cemetery is to the left of the church, looking straight on. Chile has a lot of beautiful above-ground cemeteries. We visited super-large ones in Punta Arenas, before stepping aboard a four-night cruise, and we visited another in Buenos Aires.

Yes, I'm making a big deal out of the wooden churches of Chiloe Island. Look at the little pieces of wood!

Yes, I’m making a big deal out of the wooden churches of Chiloe Island. Look at the little pieces of wood! That’s a lot of work.

And do you know how they created these domed interiors?

The marble look to the columns is drawn on. They aren’t really marble. The columns would have looked just as nice without the drawings, IMO. Do you know how they created the domed interiors?

Thus:

Courtesy of upkeep efforts, we can see that the churches are built upside-down, like ships. Well, the roofs anyway. That's how they get the concave wooden ceilings. Then they flip them.

Courtesy of upkeep efforts, we can see that the churches are built upside-down, like ships. Well, the roofs anyway. That’s how they get the concave wooden ceilings. Then they flip them.

SILly and I were able to climb the bell tower and walk along inside the shaped dome from one end to the other, where we looked INTO the church through a peephole. The guys, meanwhile, were having a siesta in the car. Silly men.

The church is about 4 klicks south of Castro, so don’t miss it if you’re in the vicinity.

After the church, SILly and I were ready to take Steve and BILly to the beach, but the guys had decided we might want to drive south to Quellon instead. I knew this from my research, but had forgotten — the highway we were on stretches 21,000 kilometers from Anchorage, Alaska to Quellon, Chiloe Island, Chile. When would we get another chance to drive to the end of the highway?

Never, my friends.

So instead of going to the beach, we drove to Quellon. It was a bit of a tricky business because, like on Easter Island, we were following our noses with no real clear plan of what was occurring. Were we on the right road? Did we take the proper turn? Turns out we were and we did. We arrived at a monument heralding our destination:

And it's on a beach!!!

And it’s on a beach!!!

The very end of the Pan-American highway. We didn’t have time to drive back up to Anchorage and back, so we stopped in Quellon for lunch instead. Everywhere appeared to be closed (damn siesta). But finally we found a restobar filled with locals, and I made fun of BILly’s “cheese soup” lunch until all the locals started ordering the same thing. It was delicious.

Here’s a view across the road from our restobar:

Quellon_view

I had read that Quellon was a small place not worth a stay, but we liked it just as much, if not better, than Castro. You can use Quellon as a base to take a 5-hour ferry to Chaiten, from where “the boat sails through the inner channels of the Chiloé archipelago” (taken from the ferry link). When we were planning the Chile trip, we knew we wanted to do the Australis cruise through the Patagonian fjords, but BILly kept whining about a place called Tic-Toc. I researched and researched and researched “Tic-Toc,” which I finally discovered is in a new Chilean national park that was so new during my research period that I couldn’t find out anything about it.

But now, now, thanks to me (not really, thanks to Google catching up with BILly’s ideas after we came home), you can find out about Tic-Toc Bay. If our group was serious about seeing Bahia Tic-Toc, we wouldn’t have had time to do the Patagonian cruise. Things turn out like they’re meant to. We left Quellon and revisited our quest to find My Liege a beach. We used our wily skills to make our way to Cucao, where we spread out on the sand along with quite a few Chileans, with the big difference that they would go in the water and we would not. Way too cold for us wimpy Canadians!

We did put our feet in the ocean. Ya gotta.

Then it was back to our B&B in the Ten Ten area of Castro where we had a relaxing night and left the next morning to catch the ferry back from Ancud to Puerto Montt. We needed to be at the airport in time to catch our LAN flight to Punta Arenas, from where we would begin the cruise that inspired us to visit Chile in the first place. The entire trip up to the cruise was an effort of backward-planning. Very handy and simple. Choose a primary destination where you HAVE to be somewhere at a specified time, then explore options previous-to and afterward. If you’re like me, you wind up in the country for a month. So much fun!

Any questions?

Stay tuned!

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Castro, Chiloe Island

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Date Explored: February 9th

Yi-yi, what an adventure! We set forth from Chepu Adventures EcoLodge to a completely mysterious B&B in the Ten Ten area of Castro, which is the major city on Chiloe Island. We were extremely lucky to find accommodation. Upon arriving at Castro, we took the very first opportunity to stop and gaze at the palafitos (houses on stilts) while the tide was in:

These were on our left as we drove into Castro with our horrible directions to the B&B. Our directions consisted of an address in “Ten Ten,” but we had no idea what “Ten Ten” was. Turned out it was an area on the outskirts of Castro, before you get to the palafitos.

Palafitos on the right, later when the tide was out. There are restaurants on stilts in Castro, even a gym on stilts! The architectural style has existed in Castro and other Chiloean cities since the late 19th century.

We had decided that we weren’t going to book ahead for our two-night stay in Castro. Instead, we would stumble upon whatever we found once we were there. That was before we discovered we were traveling at the height of Chilean travel season (for Chileans). On the advice of our host at Chepu Adventures, we went ahead and found a B&B on Booking.com the night before leaving, and, let me tell you, the Interweb pickings were slim. When we arrived in Castro, the traffic was crazy, it was hot, and the little hotels along the main drag looked hot and sweaty and noisy. Our B&B sounded fantastic…if only we could find it.

We stopped at a gas station to ask directions. The guys were pretty sure the gas station attendant said to head back out of town and take “the second right,” but for reasons unknown to SILly and Moi, the guys took the first right, “just to see” if they could find the B&B that way, you know, not trusting that they heard “the second right.” Hey, I wasn’t driving. I had to leave things in the capable hands of our resident experts.

We drove a lot of dusty gravel road. Finally, when we began to wonder if our B&B existed, my dh, who was in charge that day, noticed a Castro police car on the side of the road. So we stopped, and he attempted to communicate in his lousy Spanish (have I mentioned we neglected to bring our handy little Latin American Spanish guide on our trip?).

My poor dh! He couldn’t understand the police officers’ Spanish well enough, and they couldn’t speak or understand English at all. So he got the bright idea to take my iPad to the police, so they could look at the address. They understood immediately where it was and attempted to communicate the information, but alas, alack, amiss, it was not to be understood. These police officers would not let a little language barrier stop them from helping us! First, they called the B&B to ask questions and let them know they had their guests. Really, they were looking for a stolen car, but I think we were more interesting. Because next thing you know, they volunteered to escort us to the B&B!

The coppers turned on the lights and drove very, very quickly toward our destination, which consisted of several twists and turns on the dusty gravel road. BILly (a “professional driver”) kept up rather well. FINALLY, we arrived at our destination, which was a one-bedroom plus loft guest house, I guess, on a larger property.

If you’ve been following my Chilean adventures, you might remember that my husband brought two gifts from Canada to give to folks who he felt went above-board. One he gave to our wine tour guide around Santiago. The next he gave to the officer who helped us, and the officer was very happy. 🙂 🙂

Too bad, so sad, we found our destination but our hosts had not finished cleaning it for our arrival. No problem, we went back into town for lunch. We parked down at the water and found a place called Nueve Galicia. It was excellent. If you’re in Castro, you have to eat here! We sat at the very back, which meant we had a view of the cooks:

“BILly and me” eyeballing the cooks.

BILly had “Curanto,” a traditional southern Chile dish, which consisted of mussels and potato and dumpling-thingies and ham and pork and sausage and…you could go on!

After lunch, we visited the Church of San Francisco downtown, which is famous for being constructed entirely of wood on the interior (we would see another church like this the following day). Exterior:

The nice bright yellow begged us to enter!

Pictures can’t do the interior of the Chiloe wooden churches justice. It was just breathtaking.

Finally, remembering our directions from the kind police officers, we returned to The Loft at our B&B, and discovered, to our delight, that it was practically brand new. DH and I took the bedroom, and BILly and SILly took the loft. We shared the fashionable bathroom. Everything about the place was funky and fashionable. The Loft came with a little fridge and sink and stove, and also with a wood-fired hot tub that had never been used before. It took quite a while to get going, but eventually those of us who wished were able to enjoy a soak.

Trying to get the hot tub going!

Yes, I found it necessary to cackle loudly and pretend to be a witch preparing to stir her victims. Yours is not to ask why. Yours is to simply wonder...

Yes, I found it necessary to cackle loudly and pretend to be a witch preparing to stir her victims. Yours is not to ask why. Yours is to simply wonder…

 

Chile and Patagonia 2016 – Chiloe Island, Chepu Adventures

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

Dates Explored: February 7 – 9

Originally, we decided to visit Chiloe Island off the coast of Chile so we could visit the town of Castro and see the houses on stilts. That led to us discovering Puerto Varas (discussed in last post) and also a place called Chepu Adventures, where you can stay overnight and arrange to kayak at dawn amidst the dead trees and sunken forest of the Chepu River. Now, I am not athletic and have only kayaked a couple of other times in my life, but the story of the sunken forest had grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go.

In 1960, Chile suffered the most massive earthquake of the twentieth century. Magnitude 9.5, the strongest quake ever recorded. It hit the particular region we were traveling in hard, and the effect was devastating. Our host at Chepu Adventures described how the earth dropped around 10 feet in the area of the Chepu River where we were, and the resulting tsunami rushed in and swamped the forest, the salt water killing the trees and bleaching them white, which is how they remain to this day.

Now imagine getting up at 5 a.m. and heading down a path to the river to go kayaking. And the only people doing this are you and your three travel companions. It’s not the sort of opportunity I am good at missing. 🙂

There are directions to get to Chepu Adventures from the mainland on their website. Basically, you drive from Puerto Varas or Puerto Montt to Pargua, from where you can take a short ferry to Chiloe Island. They leave every 20 minutes or so, and you don’t have to reserve in advance. It’s a commuter ferry, always on the go. There is a lot of gravel road on Chiloe Island, so keep that in mind when booking a rental car. Ours was a little low to the ground (a typical sedan).

We arrived at Chepu Adventures after a bit of a confusing journey, because we felt it necessary to have lunch in Ancud first. But we finally found the place. There are two matrimonial cabins for rent (as in they have a double bed).

The view of our cabana from SILly and BILly's cabana.

The view of our cabana from SILly and BILly’s cabana.

Be prepared for bugs if you travel there in Chilean summer!

Also be prepared to see tiny Chilean dear called pudu. I didn’t see any pudu myself, but everyone else in my party did. I was back in my cabana when the pudu decided to make themselves known. Sorry, no photos of the Pudu from Cindiana Jones, who is embarrassed, but such is life. I did get to see some really cute cats.

And here is the interior of our cabana:

It was quite comfortable, but one of the goals at Chepu Adventures is for the guests to use as little water as possible. Apparently, they have a way to track if you are using too much. It's supposed to be fun, competing to use the least amount of water, but in the end I guess we didn't use our allotment because it was never nastily turned off. But we were very good. So good that I needed to take a shower at the very next accommodation opportunity....

It was quite comfortable, but one of the goals at Chepu Adventures is for the guests to use as little water as possible. Apparently, they have a way to track if you are using too much. It’s supposed to be fun, competing to use the least amount of water, but in the end I guess we didn’t use our allotment because it was never nastily turned off. But we were very good. So good that I needed to take a shower at the very next accommodation opportunity….

It was nice to have a little patio and the table and chairs, but there were too many big bee-type bugs to encourage me. I spent most of my time at the main lodge, where you have dinner (big dinners!! Way too much food. We overate trying to be accommodating to our hosts). My time at the main lodge was spent gazing out at the view. Because it was incredible, and pictures can’t do it justice. It was like looking out at a beautiful oil painting.

The stretch of river upon which we would kayak at dawn the following morning. Alack, I am not being a very good travel blogger, because I did not take a camera on the kayak trip. I figured I would be lucky not to drown. So I just enjoyed the experience.

The stretch of river upon which we would kayak at dawn the following morning. Alack, I am not being a very good travel blogger, because I did not take a camera on the kayak trip. I figured I would be lucky not to drown. So I just enjoyed the experience.

The next morning, you get up at a time agreed-upon the night before with the host, and this fellow named Carl magically showed up. We hadn’t seen Carl before this point. There was another fellow who magically showed up when it was time to serve dinner. Otherwise, we saw our hosts. There are a lot of great photos of the kayaking experience on Trip Advisor.

We happened to have a rainy day. That’s just the way the ball bounces. So we kayaked, and it was eerie and surreal and quiet. BILly, being an experienced outdoors-man, spotted an otter, but by the time my husband and I made our way over, BILly had scared the otter away (my theory is he scared away the pudu, too). BILly and SILly got very close to a heron or crane (it was very dark when we started out, so we were guessing a lot of time where we were supposed to go, what sunken tree branches to grab and sit for a spell, etc). You guessed it, the crane/heron/bird thing disappeared as soon as my husband and I kayaked along. I am beginning not to believe BILly’s fishing stories as a result…

A close-u (with my zoom lens) of the view of the Chepu River sunken forest, taken from the main lodge).

A close-up (with my zoom lens) of the view of the Chepu River sunken forest, taken from the main lodge. You are not allowed to kayak into any of the tributaries. There is a vague route the hosts explain, and you stick to that. These people are very passionate about the river, so I wouldn’t want to tick them off and venture out of bounds, but that’s me.

After the kayaking trip, you’re left with a whole ‘nother day. You can choose to stay only one night, but we had opted for two. And, really, even though it rained a LOT on our kayak day, it was comfortable hanging around the lodge and just soaking up the gorgeous views. Our host packed us a light lunch, and we followed directions to drive to a point where we could walk down a very steep gravel road (not suitable for our rental vehicle), and the idea was to walk to the ocean. But it was cold and rainy, and the ocean, she seemed very far away. Maybe we turned the wrong dune.

Here I am on the dunes:

We could see the ocean from this dune and we could hear the waves, but we didn't want to walk to the two joined rivers, we specifically wanted to walk to the ocean, and after lunch we decided it was time just to return to the lodge and try to squeeze in a hot shower.

We could see the ocean from this dune and we could hear the waves, but we didn’t want to walk to the two joined rivers, we specifically wanted to walk to the ocean, and after lunch we decided it was time just to return to the lodge and try to squeeze in a hot shower.

Dune foliage ready for its close-up:

Chepu_Foliage

Would I recommend Chepu Adventures? In the end, I would have to say, yes, it was a good experience. The one night would suffice, I believe, as long as you arrive early enough the first day to get enough of the view. We strictly didn’t need the second night, but to me in the planning stages it seemed odd to go all that way and then only stay one night.

While we were there, we saw evidence of perhaps a ferry crossing being constructed, and we also saw more construction along the river. But the spot itself felt very isolated. So you go for the kayak adventure and a hike, and then you continue on your travels.

Thanks to our host Amory, we came to realize that it was high tourist season on Chiloe. We hadn’t booked accommodations in Castro, to where we would drive the next day. She recommended that we should, and so SILly and I found online what appeared to be the only spot available in an area of Castro called Ten-Ten. We wound up with a police escort to our bed-and-breakfast.

But that’s a story for another time!