Chile

Last Days in Chile!

After two weeks exploring various areas of Chile, my time here has finally come to an end. It’s been amazing getting to explore the beautiful city of Santiago, and the even more beautiful park of Patagonia.

My last few days in Patagonia were quite eventful. We hiked through the French Valley and up to the French Glacier, went horseback riding around two different areas of the park, and I celebrated my birthday!

The French Valley hike was gorgeous (that’s where the featured image for this post is from), it had stretches of dead white trees that vaguely resembled the White Tree of Gondor, stretches of beautiful lively greenery, calm lakes that reflected the scenery as natural mirrors, and large glaciers always looming above us in the mountains. It was also not a strenuous hike, which was a nice added bonus.

Horseback riding was a fun change of pace, as normally I’m not a big fan of horses. It was fun to try it out and find out that it’s not so difficult if the horses are well trained (The second time we went, my horse was not well trained. I just had to let it decide where it wanted to go because it wouldn’t listen to me, which was pretty terrifying).

Chile has been an absolutely gorgeous and incredible country to visit. I can’t wait to come back!

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Chile

Parks in Patagonia

After a couple of days in Patagonia, we’ve been able to explore more and see more of what this beautiful land has to offer. At first pass it reminded me of New Zealand with its rolling hills and open fields, but I’ve seen that there’s so much more to it. Yesterday, we hiked for about 4 hours up to the ‘Mirador Base de las Torres’, a scenic overlook of the towers in the park. Rather than grassy hills, we were hiking up steep, rocky, mountainous terrain. We hiked so high that the mist became snow, and as the weather worsened we found ourselves hiking in a snowstorm up to a glacial lake and the base of the towers.

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The hike was gorgeous, and provided some incredible views of the park. We all felt the rough descent, and we were pretty excited to have beer waiting for us back at the van!

Today we decided to take it a bit easier, and went on a short two-hour walk through flat land and over to some cave paintings from 9-10,000 years ago. We saw quite a few guanaco (guanacos?), which were completely unafraid of us. We also saw quite a few guanaco carcasses, courtesy of the pumas in Patagonia. That attracted condors, so we got to see a bunch of them as well! Thanks guanaco! And puma…

In the afternoon, we went on a horseback ride through some flat areas of the park. While horses are pretty scary giant muscly things, it was actually a lot of fun riding around and seeing more of the beautiful park. And it was pretty nice to be sitting for a change!

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Chile

The Bottom (Or Top) of the Planet!

A couple of days ago, we finally said ‘Adios’ to Santiago! It was a gorgeous and all-around incredible city, and after 5 days we met up with our parents and flew down to Punta Arenas. It’s just about as far south as you can possibly go, and even hosts excursions to Antarctica! If we’re lucky, we’ll be able to snag a day-trip and check that continent off.

Ever since arriving in Patagonia, I can’t help but think about how much it looks like New Zealand. Between the rolling hills, jagged mountains, and abundance of sheep, it really feels like I’m back in the Hobbit’s homeland! The area is absolutely gorgeous, and we drove for upwards of 5 hours today without seeing any part of the land look any less beautiful.

After a long drive, we finally came to our home for the next 5 days: Tierra Patagonia. The hotel is incredible. From the exterior looks like an capsized boat, and the interior is beautifully decorated with local wood and walls full of windows. We did a half-day hike on arrival, walking around the area and taking in some views of the mountains and the lake in the national park. I’m looking forward to more of this amazing park!

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Chile

Around Santiago and Up San Cristobal

After a few days in Santiago, Lexi and I have been able to settle in and get a better feel for the city. While it’s ridiculously hot and I’m a bit sunburned, the city just gets better and better. We visited Lastarria, a small neighborhood of a few blocks near one of the Universities in Santiago, and tried out local beers and coffees. I also picked up a waffle full of strawberries, bananas, nutella, caramel, and whipped cream. It was incredible, and made the trip worth it on it’s own.

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The next day we got up and went to hike up the San Cristobal hill. It’s supposed to be a 30-45 minute hike, but we managed to get very lost. We took the wrong turn at every possible opportunity, and wound up in a construction site on more than one occasion. Somehow we still made it up in just under 45 minutes, but it was hot, steep, and overall very painful. Finally getting to the top was well worth it, though, as we were rewarded with gorgeous views of the entire city of Santiago!

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Chile

Santiago!

We have arrived in Santiago and spent two days so far exploring the city. It’s been amazing, and the city is very different from any city I visited in Colombia. The infrastructure seems more modern, and the drivers all respect the rules of the road! It’s great!

We landed some time around midnight on Sunday, and went straight to our apartment and to sleep. The next day I got up early, walked around the neighborhood we’re staying in, Las Condes, and checked out a rather giant shopping mall. Later, Lexi and I¬†went to a climbing gym, as it’s been a couple of weeks since we did any climbing and we were anxious to see what it’s like here. As it turns out it’s very hot, a bit slippery, but overall very familiar and everyone was very friendly. We came back, exhausted, and went to sleep.

Finally, we spent most of today on rental bikes, going up and down the main street through the center of the city. We stopped at the Plaza de Armas (I think?), went through a few different parks, and got to see how most of the city conducts a standard Tuesday afternoon.

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Colombia

Carnaval!

For our last night in Colombia, Lexi and I got to go to the first of the Carnaval pre-parties! We went to watch the Carnaval Queen, Marcella Garcia Caballero, read ‘El Bando’. Basically, it’s the presentation of the Queen to the people, and she tells them that Carnaval is starting and reads off some decrees. The whole thing is played out in the form of an hour-ish musical, with dances and instrumental music going through the history of each of the symbols and costumes associated with Carnaval. While I didn’t understand a whole lot of what the Queen was saying, I could still enjoy the crazy dances and costumes flying around the stage.

After the Queen’s musical-ish-thing, a couple of musical acts came on and entertained everyone until somewhere around 12:30, and people finally started to disperse. Lexi and I had been in the VIP section the entire time, and so we hadn’t actually seen how large the crowd really was. I thought I saw it all from where we were standing, but as we moved out to go look for our car, we saw that most of the side streets were absolutely packed with people. Thousands of locals had come out to dance in the street, drink, and celebrate the first days of Carnaval! It was really cool to see, and overall a fun and exhausting night.

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El Bando crowd stretching back to the Cathedral. It actually went down several side streets and around the Cathedral as well.

Our family gave us an amazing stay in Colombia, and a great start to our trip! Now it’s on to Santiago, Chile!

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Colombia

Trip to Cartagena

Today I left Barranquilla for the day to explore the nearby port city of Cartagena! This gorgeous city has an old castle (which once repelled a 3-month pirate siege), an old city, and a new section with high-rise apartments and a gorgeous bay. It’s incredible to see one city with so much history and also so much modern growth side-by-side.

The first thing we checked out was the castle. It was a terribly hot day, but the castle is alone on a large hill and has some great views of the rest of the city and the ocean. It was great to run around on the old walls and through the tunnels that connect various parts of the castle. We hung around for a bit and then left for the old city.

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The old city was amazing. The old Spanish colonial architecture is always fun to see, and it’s all over this section of the city. Brightly colored buildings line the narrow streets and squares, and an old wall wraps around the entire area. We stopped in for some delicious pastries and sandwiches, checked out the wall and other old buildings, and left to drive around the new city. While it didn’t offer as much for walking around and examining history, the new city still had plenty of beautiful new buildings. Overall, the city was amazing. I could easily see spending more than a week there, between all of the history of the old city and the beaches for relaxing and playing. Perhaps next trip!

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