The Nomads Again Fly South for the Winter !
Ahh! Summer in South America !
The Nomads have again flown south seeking summer and avoiding winter. In recent years, this has become our normal routine since neither of us enjoys cold and snow that much.
After spending a delightful northern summer in the Netherlands, France, and England, we returned to the USA to embark on an itinerary of visits to family and friends on the east coast and an Amtrak trip to Chicago for more visits.
Then, on to Albuquerque, where we were welcomed warmly to the Jordan Bed and Breakfast! Our good friends, John and Beth, opened their home to us as if we were family and the four of us shared good food and drink, ideas and conversation, feelings and hopes, fun and work, and more! Add quality visits with other good friends and before we knew it, a whole month simply flew by.
It was now on to Phoenix to stay with Hilarie for a while. We perched there, savoring quality time with her, walking Boo, and enjoying pleasant autumn weather. Highlights of our stay were a Brown Family gathering and a return to the Grand Canyon, as spectacular, vast, and deep as we remembered.
It was now time to embark on our migration plan
It began with a month in Buenos Aires, where it is summer, with long pleasantly warm days. We arrived and moved into a cozy studio apartment in Barrio Palermo, just a few blocks away from our two earlier apartments. Sometimes it's nice to return to a familiar place where we can just live.
As it turned out, we managed to arrive just as Argentina was making some BIG Changes!
We savored the holiday season in BA, one of our favorite cities, reading, writing, and making further travel plans. On Ano Nuevo we raised our glasses to toast the new year (with yummy Argentine wine) and hugged each other to celebrate the beginning of our 32nd year together.
Next stop was Mendoza, a delightful small city nearly 1000 kilometers to the west in the foothills of the Andes. We had spent some time here on an earlier visit and again enjoyed savoring the wine and street life, strolling around the shady streets and plazas, and this time learning to use the complex bus system to visit a winery and a small community in the nearby suburbs.
On to Chile
Chile is a country with amazing geographical diversity! From north to south, the country extends 4,270 km (2,653 mi), slightly more than the distance across the USA from east to west! Yet it only averages 177 km (110 mi) from east to west. On a map, it looks like a long slim ribbon stretching from the middle of South America's west coast straight down to the southern tip of the continent.
After a brief stop in Santiago, we began our Chilean Journey in Antofagasta in the Norte Grande for an exploration of the great Desierto Atacama, the driest place on the planet! We came here to visit the Atacama Desert Museum which presents information on the geography and mining history of the region. This was valuable preparation for what were to see.
We then boarded a bus that took us from the Pacific coast, east to Calama and on to San Pedro de Atacama, a verdant oasis in this driest desert. From here, we took tours into the surrounding desert to marvel at the astonishing geologic forms sculpted by the collisions of continental plates, volcanic eruptions, erosion of wind and snow, and evaporation of water over the millennia. These actions have left vast salars (shallow salt lakes) as well as sculpted rocks in a myriad of forms and colors. Flora thrive on the higher slopes of the Andes and anywhere else that moisture may gather. The fauna that have adapted to this inhospitable environment include flamingoes, vicuņas, guanacos, foxes, and vizcachas.
We returned to Santiago to continue our travels in Chile. Santiago, the capital and largest city, is about in the middle of this long, narrow country. Amigos had suggested we select a place to stay in the barrio of Providencia, east of the centre, so we settled in a cozy hotel there. With a metro population of about 7.2 million people sprawled over 640 square kilometers, a visitor cannot hope to see everything, so we focused on the centro historico district and then expanded our explorations to nearby mercados and parks. The public transit is excellent with a Metro system and plenty of buses that run frequently so we were able to explore easily.
We also took a couple of days to travel to the coast for a visit to the port city of Valparaiso and neighboring beach resort Viņa del Mar. Valpariso is a fascinating place to visit as much of the city is set on bluffs above the narrow strip of land along the ocean. Many of these bluffs are reached by historic finiculars that hesitently but safely lift citizens and visitors up and down, much as they have for the better part of a century.
After about a month in Chile, we were feeling fairly comfortable about being here, but perhaps not exactly "at home." Few Chileans speak much Ingles and Chilean Espanol has on occasion been a bit difficult for us as it is spoken rapidly and with a unique accent. Our Espanol is pretty limited but with a little work we are still able to communicate sufficiently well to get along. Chileans are definitely carnivores but since it is summer, salads are always available and quite yummy. A few cafes even offer veggie options, the names for which we quickly learned!
South from Santiago
By late afternoon, we arrived in Santa Cruz, a small town, known for its vineyards and bodegas. The Museo de Colchagua offered an amazing range of Chilean information and insight, and we savored just hanging out in an authentic Chilean town enjoying their superb wines.
Then, on to Chillan by bus. Click here to read our story of this not-so-routine adventure.
Chillan, with a population of 175,000 people, is an important market town, the birthplace of Bernardo O'Higgins, Chile's national hero, and Claudio Arrau, the great pianist. It is also prone to earthquakes and following a big one in 1939, Mexico sent a grant to rebuild an escuela. The great Mexican muralistas, David Siquieros and Xavier Guerrero came to paint stunning murals on the walls and ceiling of the stairway and biblioteca.
Next stop was Temuco where the Nomads came to a halt! We found that accommodations in Valdivia, our next destination, were all booked due to a local festival, so we decided that it was time to perch for a bit, think about all that we had experienced, do some writing and research, catch up on news from family, friends and the world, and just live life. Temuco turned out to be a consummate choice for this. It's a truly authentic Chilean city, pleasant, lively, comfortable, friendly, and far from an international holiday destination, except that we have met quite a few Argentine tourists here!
Feeling refreshed and rested, we headed to the bus terminal and boarded a big comfy bus to Valdivia. This ride took us into a region of more hills and forests. Valdivia is closer to the Pacific coast and sits at the confluence of three major rivers so life here was focused on the riverfront with excursion boats, a fish market where some of the best customers are great sea lions and flocks of sea birds who hastle each other for scraps. The city had a definite German flavor since many German immigrants arrived in the 1840s and after. The greatest influence felt was BEER! The Kunstman Brewery, located just outside the city, is the most famous beer in Chile, and here, more beer is savored than wine.
From Valdivia, we headed deep into the Lake District, spending days in Villarrica, a town that celebrates its location right on Lake Villarrica with amazing views (on clear days) of Volcan Villarrica. WOW! We relished walks along the lake, took bus rides to neighboring (and more famous) Pucon where we hiked through a small patch of forest and marveled at the tourism development here.
Back to Argentina
We traveled on south through the famed Siete Lagos region where the views of lakes, deep green forests, and Andean peaks were stunning! Arriving in Bariloche, a city perched on the shores of Lago Nahuel Huapi, we settled into a cozy apartment with awesome views over the lago to the peaks on the opposite side. On a short walk from town, a funicular whisked us up to a mirador for awesome panoramic views of the town, the lago and surrounding mountains.
The next day a tour enabled us to explore the region, following the Circuito Chico, along the shores of the Lago, past the elegant Llao Llao hotel and resort surrounded by its golf course, and into verdant forests with occasional miradors for views over the lagos and the surrounding mountains.
We also discovered that the public bus system's routes would take us out along the lago, so that we could visit Llao Llao hotel, and then hike the Sendero de los Arrayanes through a bosque of beech trees to a special grove of arrayanes trees whose convoluted cinnamon tinted trunks and glossy leaves offered an almost magical experience for us.
Another bus ride took us up to Catedral, the ski village of Bariloche, now in summertime, fairly quiet. The cable car was operating so we climbed aboard to glide further up to a chalet for lunch and amazing views in all directions. We attempted to imagine these peaks white with snow. Blair even caught a glimpse of an Andean condor, whose wingspan was broader than that of a California condor!
After Bariloche, we continued south by plane to El Calafate, admiring the high altitude panoramas of the mountains, lakes, and ice fields of Patagonia as we flew. The ride from the airport into town introduced us to the geology and vegetation of the Patagonian Steppe, a vast expanse of brown hills and mesas, covered with vegetation of varying shades of gray and tan with touches of drab green. Perhaps this does not sound too lovely and yet the landscape has a certain austere beauty, especially with the lago and the mountains in the distance.
In town, we began to search for a tour to Glaciar Perito Moreno, the reason for our pilgrimage to this frontier. We found one that we liked and signed up. Early the next morning, we boarded a van and headed east toward the cordillera traveling first through the steppe, and then into the foothills where brown was replaced by green bosque.
The van stopped at the first mirador above the lago where we had our first view of the glacier! WOW! It's an amazing sight! Continuing on, we stopped at the edge of the lago with the walls of ice towering in blue and white splendor. A boat ride took us even closer.
After the boat ride, we returned to walk the boardwalks to the miradors, amazing views at every step. From time to time, the glacier groaned or cracked and small chunks of ice splashed into the water. As we climbed higher, the views of the top of the ice and the expanse to the mountains took our breath away. This was why we came!!
While it is impossible to truly experience the spectacular beauty of this place without being there, we offer our pictures to help you understand what we saw. Click here
From El Calafate, we returned to Buenos Aires for our last days in Argentina, seeing friends and feeling we'd come home after an amazing and wonderful adventure.
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