We have been back in the States for a few weeks and it’s been a very family time. You already know that we spent a week in Florida, but from there we flew to Baltimore for our granddaughter’s birthday and Mother’s Day.
It’s hard to beat having your 3-year-old granddaughter come running to you so you can save her from Grandpa Monster. Luckily, Nana bought a bubble lawnmower so Hannah could run over Grandpa Monster on her own (Grandpa, lie down so I can run you over).
We had family dinners, went out with extended family (hi Karl and Helen) and crammed in as much togetherness as possible while working. We’re not used to being around a lot of people anymore, so there’s always a bit of an adjustment when we have to consider other humans in our plans (actually it is kind of annoying), but we were really looking forward to seeing everyone (especially our granddaughter, who is the cutest person on Earth).
When we head to the States, we are reminded that we are a little snobby when it comes to food. The suburbs of Baltimore just don’t do it for us in that category, but we did find a great dinner spot called the White Oak Tavern where we could accommodate everyone’s dietary restrictions and they would take a large party who called on Tuesday for a Wednesday reservation. One of our culture shocks when we come home is the fact that dinner always feels rushed. The waiter brings the check while asking if you want dessert. We did not experience that this time, yay!
On Friday, we hopped in the car and headed for Pittsburgh, where Steven’s nephew was getting married. Big family reunion! We only had one major problem during the trip and that came from Judie’s sister from another mister, Tracey. The woman ordered a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream cheese!?!?!?! What? Get a pastry, I say. (Sue and I were discussing the appropriate penalty for such a travesty. I voted to have Tracey hung drawn and quartered. Sue suggested that the family shun Tracey until she repents and begs forgiveness from the Bagel Gods.)
Saturday afternoon we went to lunch at Church Brew Works. It comes by the name honestly as it is a deconsecrated church that still looks exactly like a church, except for the brewing paraphernalia. The food was good, the company better (I will take my IPA with a shot of heresy on the side).
Everybody looked fabulous for the wedding. The ceremony was touching and personal and we all had a blast. Hannah was the life of the party. She was the first one on the dance floor and we all joined in. I’ll say this: Steven’s family definitely knows how to have fun and Steven did yeoman’s duty by taking his aunt and uncle back to the hotel early since they were exhausted. The family can be a lot (and I mean that in a good way). We all had brunch together Sunday morning and then disbursed back to our corners.
Steven headed to Austin for work and I came to Chicago to see my family. At first, I was remembering all the great things about Chicago (food, friends, family), but yesterday, it got cold and tonight, my brother, nephew and I are going to the Cubs-Mets game. Why do the Mets always play the Cubs in May? It’s freezing (Because everyone knows that Mets fans are in league with the devil, so they don’t mind the cold! — said the Yankees fan who whines when they don’t win every game). Watching baseball while shivering will cure me of my Chicago wistfulness.
Update, since we didn’t post this yesterday: That was the best game! Mets win 10-1. So it was cold, who cares? The highlight was watching Daniel Vogelbach chug around the bases — oh, and seeing my Jakey.
We have reached point where we are panicking that we will miss something, mostly either some food or a cultural site. We started the weekend off on Friday night by re-visiting La Casa De Toño, a fast food place. We had tentative plans to see our friends, Stephanie, Teresa & Vanessa (henceforth to be referred to as the tres amigas), but they fell through due to work commitments. Stephanie & Vanessa are both accountants, so quarter end can be a busy time for them. Anyway, left to our own devices, Sue and I opted for an easy, fast meal.
Saturday, Sue and I decided to make it a full day adventure. We rode bikes to El Centro and headed to a restaurant called El Cardenal. It is a breakfast place that is in a very ornate building. It is one of the must does/sees in Mexico City. The food was fine, the building is nice, but in the end it wasn’t anything really special. Just something to tick off the list.
After breakfast, we walked around the corner to the central post office (this is in Spanish, if you would like to read it in another language, you can use a Chrome ot Firefox browser and select it to translate the article). It is a gorgeous building and while they say it is a museum, it is really just a showcase for the architecture. It was built during the reign of Porfirio Diaz, who is a very controversial figure in Mexican history. He became president following a series of uprisings and coups. He eliminated elections and ruled for about 35 years. During that time, he ruthlessly crushed rebellions, of which there were quite a few, and allowed little dissent. However, he also promoted modernization of the country and invested massive amounts into infrastructure and culture to build a cohesive society. As I said, he is a controversial figure.
We crossed the street and headed into the National Museum of Art. It is another gorgeous building, built around the same time as the post office. It was previously the Communications and Public Works Palace. (I guess it makes sense for the public works building to be one of the nicest buildings built by the department of public works.) While the building is very beautiful, the art that it houses is even nicer. It is full of the work of Mexican artists, including Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Jesse Orozo and David Siqueiros. Most of the work is paintings, but there are some sculptures. It is a great museum and we really enjoyed ourselves. A quick note for those of you who click the link and see the price of $80 per person. Please be aware that in Mexico, the symbol for the peso is $, just like the symbol in the United States is $ for a dollar. The U.S. dollar is worth about 18 Mexican pesos, so the entrance price in dollars is $4.44.
Once we had finished raising our cultural level, we did the only reasonable thing. We headed around the corner to Plaza Garibaldi and went to the Museum of Tequila and Mezcal. It is a small museum that describes the history of tequila and mezcal. They are essentially the same product, a distilled form of the agave cactus. Tequila is limited to only blue agave and is only made in the state of Jalisco. Mezcal is made elsewhere in Mexico, much of it in the state of Oaxaca, but not limited to there and is made from any type of agave. Mezcal tends to made by burning the agave and that gives is a smokier flavor. Tequila is usually baked or steamed, so it does not tend to be smoky. More importantly, the entrance fee of the museum comes with tastings of both. So after our (brief) tour of the museum, we headed in the bar and tasted a bit of both. Plaza Garibaldi is known for the roaming mariachi bands, who will serenade you for a small fee. Once again, it is one of the can’t miss things in Mexico City. The bar of the museum faces the square, so while we were doing our tasting we were serenaded by a mariachi band. It was nice, but we liked the bands we heard in Tlaquepaque, when we were in Guadalajara better.
After our tasting and musical interlude, we hopped on the subway and headed home for a quick rest. We had evening plans for dinner with the tres amigas, a postponement from Friday night. We headed to Teresa & Stephanie’s for a drink and then we went around the corner to Taqueria Tavo’s Buenavista for dinner. The food was perfect Mexican food. Fresh, cheap, fast and delicious. We had a quick meal and then headed out to sample the nightlife. Stephanie and Teresa took us first to one of their local bars, which was just a hole in the wall dive bar (una barra mala muerte en español). The best part about it was that two of the patrons were sleeping at their tables. The wait staff paid no attention to them and at various times the woke up, had a quick drink and fell back to sleep. I guess since no one was snoring, there was no need to bother them.
Our second stop was at a slightly nicer, much larger and much noisier place. They had a band playing traditional Mexican music and lots of people were dancing, some in front of the band, some just next to their tables. Stephanie taught (tried to teach) both Teresa and Sue how to dance, and she was assisted at some points by one of the other patrons. It was very fun.
We headed to another place with a rooftop bar that overlooked the Monument to the Revolution, unfortunately they were having a private party. We all decided that it was getting late, so we called it a night and headed home.
Sunday, Sue and I headed to Ciudadela Market, which is an artisan market in El Centro. We were tired from the late night, and the amount of exercise we got on Saturday, so we took the subway to and from market. It is tourist-focused market, meaning there are lots of Mexican crafts of all qualities from beautiful hand made copper pots to machine made woven blankets with American sport team logos. We wandered throughout the market, but nothing seemed worth buying (it’s difficult to think about buying decorative items or housewares when everything you own is in storage and you don’t have any idea when you want that to change) and we headed back to our neighborhood for lunch at a local taco stand (una fonda) where we ate the first day we arrived. We spent the rest of Sunday relaxing as it had been a busy weekend.
Yesterday, we went on a one day road trip with our friends Steffanie and Teresa, and their friend (and our new friend) Vanessa. Steffanie and Teresa rented a car and we decided to head to see the Popocatépetl and Itzaccihuatl volcanoes and then the Great Pyramid of Cholula.
Itzaccihauatl (which is dormant) and Popocatépetl, Popo for short, (which is not) are outside a town called Atlixco, which is about 3 hours outside of Mexico City. Well, more like an hour and a half outside of Mexico City, but it takes about an hour and a half just to get to the edge of the city. So all in, a three-hour trip.
We arrived at Atlixco at about 11:30 and quickly decided that it was time to eat. Vanessa found us a great place called Paraiso Palmira. We ordered a late breakfast/early lunch and enjoyed the lovely view of the restaurant grounds. After breakfast, we headed into the center of Atlixco, which has a cute little downtown and we wandered around the main square. Just outside of the center of town there is a large hill (500 feet or so high) and on top of the hill the Spanish quite generously built a very small yellow church that has great views of the volcanoes. Our first inclination was to walk up the hill, but then we remembered that it was in the mid-90s, it is a pretty steep climb and you can drive most of the way up. Steffanie guided the car over the single lane, cobblestone, switchback-laden road. Once we reached the end of the road (literally), we parked and walked the rest of the way up. It was a fairly easy climb with a combination of ramps and even stairs. The view from the top was pretty incredible. Popocatépetl’s last significant eruption was in 2000, but there was some minor “activity” last night.
After Atlixco, we headed to a Cholula, where somewhat surprisingly they do not make Cholula brand hot sauce. The city is home to the ruins of the largest pyramid in the world by volume (there is a great model of the site if you follow the link). We (and by we I mean Teresa) drove us into the city and we were very surprised by both the size of the city and the fact that the archaeological site was right in the center of it. The Spanish quite kindly built another yellow church on the top of the pyramid, perhaps on the assumption that putting a church on top of someone else’s sacred ground makes the church itself more sacred. The temple-pyramid complex was built in four stages, starting from the 3rd century BCE through the 9th century CE, and was dedicated to the deity Quetzalcoatl. We wandered through the ruins, which had very complete and interesting explanations. One of the things that made it so interesting was that you could see inside the buildings. At Teotihuacán, the pyramids have been restored, and so while you can see inside many of the living quarters, you cannot see what was inside the pyramids.
It was now late afternoon, and we decided that given the temperature (still mid 90s), the fact that we had been out in the sun most of the day and the sun was over the yardarm, it was clearly time to find a place for a nice beer. We walked back into town and settled into a place called Calfie’s Brewing Company (sorry it is a Facebook link). We relaxed, cooled down, had a beer and discussed the next important activity. Dinner. We decided that it was too early to eat, so we headed back to the car to drive back to Mexico City and have dinner there.
Steffanie, once again, did the heavy lifting of driving back to and in Mexico City. If we have not mentioned driving here before, the easiest way to describe it is bumper cars, driven by the blind on roads that go from 2 unmarked lanes to 6 unmarked lanes, back to 2 unmarked lanes in any given 500 meter stretch and just to make it more interesting, the signs align to neither the roads nor to Google Maps’ description of the roads. Add to that, there is no required driving test to drive a car and EVERYONE in Mexico City believes that they need to be driving somewhere at every moment of every day. Yes, it is easy and low stress.
We had decided that we would try an Indian restaurant for dinner. We arrived at about 9 p.m. and quickly order way too much food. In full disclosure I ordered a whole bunch of food and then asked what else anyone else wanted, Sue is used to my ordering technique, but everyone else was a little surprised. The food was at best mediocre, but it was still a fun meal and we closed the place down around 10:30. We were all exhausted by this time so we said good night and went our separate ways.
Last week my daughter Abi came to stay for a few days. She spent the prior weekend in Mexico City for work and visiting with some friends. Once all the fun had ended, she came over to our place and stayed with us. She lives in London, so we don’t get to see her that often; the last time was in August when Sue and I went there to visit her for a few days.
Monday and Tuesday were work days, so we mostly sat in silence and stared at our respective computer screens. We did manage to go out to dinner on Monday night to Páramo, where Sue and I ate the other week. We wanted to do something pretty fast and pretty close, both of which it was. The food was once again, delicious, and after a dinner we headed to Freddo’s for ice cream. We knew of Freddo’s from Buenos Aires. The store in Mexico City was much smaller, but the ice cream was just as good.
Wednesday we strapped on our walking shoes and headed back to Bosque de Chapultepec. Abi and I wandered through the Museo Nacional de Antropología while Sue hung out in the park and took some photos. After the museum, Abi and I visited the Castillo de Chapultepec. Once again Sue wandered the park as we had just visited there a couple of weeks ago. It is interesting, but apart from a couple of murals, it isn’t really worth a second visit.
On Friday, Abi and I had a tour of the Teotihuacan pyramids with Roberto from Cyrviaje Consultores De Viaje. (For those who do not speak Spanish, Consultores de viaje translates to travel consultants.) Sue and I went there last year and so she decided to pass on this trip too. (I suspect she was letting Abi and I get as much father/daughter time as possible. True, plus it was nice to have a few hours to myself.) Roberto picked up us at 7 a.m., so that we could get to the site before it got too hot. It’s about 30 miles north of the city, which meant that it would take about an hour to get there and nearly two hours to return. Mexico City traffic is just unbelievable.
We started at the south end of the site, near the Temple of the Feathered Serpent and walked the 2km north towards the Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramids are magnificent and there was much more to see this time as things continue to open after the Covid shutdowns. Roberto is a great tour guide, he had lots of information and at every turn seemed to have something interesting and relevant to say. He has traveled all over the world and when we weren’t talking about Teotihuacan, we were discussing where else we should visit, both inside and outside of Mexico. The entire story of the city is amazing and also very jarring: How could a civilization that could solve complex mathematical and engineering problems leave no written history and simply vanish with no trace? It is eerie.
Saturday we didn’t do very much of any note other have dinner at a Thai/Viet restaurant called Kiin that is literally (and I mean that in the literal sense) around the corner from our AirBnB. They have a website, but it’s just their menu, so I have linked to their Facebook page — sorry if you don’t have access to it. Sue and I have eaten there before and their food is fabulous, and appropriately spicy. Abi had a 6:30 a.m. flight on Sunday so she was up somewhere around 4 a.m., but her terrible father said goodbye before he went to sleep, just so he wouldn’t have a wake up before dawn to do that.
A week or so before Abi arrived Sue bought a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle based on a 1594 map of the world. She dumped out the pieces onto our dining table and has been diligently working on it. I don’t have the patience (nor the eyesight) for such things, so with the exception of maybe a dozen pieces, she has done all the work. I figured this was a good time to post a photo of how far she has progressed and will post more as the work continues.
Last weekend we decided to explore the city a bit. We started Saturday morning by going to the gym and following that, we ate desayuno (breakfast) at a little café down the street. We both had chilaquiles, which for those of you who don’t know, is basically breakfast nachos. Corn chips with salsa, and then some or all of the following: eggs, cheese, any sort of protein, refried beans, avocado and who knows what else. They are great, filling and the perfect food before our planned death march. Our goal was to walk over to the Bosque de Chapultepec which is a park in the middle of the city. It is huge, about 1,700 acres and is filled with museums, a zoo, lakes, a botanical garden and many monuments to Mexico’s history. The last time we were here, we visited a very small portion of the Anthropology museum which is fabulous.
Today, our target was the Castillo de Chapultepec, which is the former home of the Spanish viceroys, Emperor Maximillian I, a number of the Presidents of Mexico and is now a history museum. Interestingly, the emperor only ruled for three years before being overthrown and executed.
The castle is at the top of (you guessed it) Chapultepec Hill (really a rock formation) that was sacred to the Aztecs and one of the last places in Mexico City to be conquered. Of course, it’s up on a hill with an excellent vantage point.
I know you’re wondering what’s up with all the Chapultepecs, but you’re in luck because I’m about to tell you. Chapultepec means “at the grasshopper hill” in Náhuatl, a group of languages that includes Aztec and is still spoken by about 1.7 million people, mostly in Central Mexico. Nice that the hill, park and castle get an indigenous name since one of its claims to fame is that it is the only castle in North America to have housed royalty.
It is a beautiful building with gardens on multiple levels, lots of open space and beautiful architecture and furnishings. While we wandered in the upper gardens we found a quartet playing classical music, so we sat and listened for a while.
After a couple of hours in the park, we walked back through the city to our apartment. We always enjoy walking in cities, and Mexico City is one of the more interesting ones. There are lots of interesting buildings to look at, cool little shops and many, many, many street vendors selling everything from tacos to toys. We always talk about eating that the street vendors, but have not yet found the time to do so. Our path took us across a couple of other parks, which seem to dot the urban landscape, and they were all filled with people enjoying the beautiful weather.
Once we were home, we put our feet up, complained about how much they hurt from walking 10 miles, and then promptly started to plan on where to walk for dinner. Last week we attempted to find a restaurant called Páramo (sorry the link is to Google maps, because the restaurant has a Facebook page, and I don’t know if everyone has an account); however, when we found the address, it was occupied by a restaurant called El Parnita. We were a bit confused but figured, “What the hell?” and ate there. The food was good and we had a very nice meal. However, this weekend we were determined to find the right place. After reviewing the address more carefully, we realized that Páramo was upstairs behind an unmarked black door. This time we had no trouble finding it, and it was well worth it. We waited at the bar for about 20 minutes, and were then seated next to the couple who ad also been seated next to us at the bar. They, too, were Americans (although she is bilingual — I’m jealous!) and we struck up a nice conversation. The food and drinks were great, and we had a really enjoyable evening.
Sunday, we decided to take it easy by riding bicycles to fancy grocery store about 3 miles away. We have signed up for the rental bike program that the city runs (it is called Ecobici) and there is a bike stand just down the street from us. The way it works is that you scan the bike using an app, the bike unlocks, you ride it to your destination and then return it at one of their bike stands. Sue had used them before, but this was my first time, and lo and behold, I managed to screw it up. I scanned the bike, it didn’t seem to unlock, so I tried another one, but kept getting an error. Then someone else came by and took a bike. After a while (and trying another bike stand), I realized that my app was telling me I had a bike. We ran back to the bike stand but it was gone. It seems that the other person somehow got my bike from the stand and went off with it.
I am proud of myself because there was an Ecobici worker there moving bikes and I was able to communicate with him what the problem was and find out the answer, which, unfortunately was that we had to wait for the bike to be returned.
That caused two issues. First, I couldn’t get another bike so our plans were shot. Second, if the bike wasn’t returned, I was on the hook for it. I would have to report it stolen and fight with Ecobici about it. Using the app, I reported what had happened and waited. In the meantime, we decided to walk to Mercado Medellín, our local open stall market, to do some shopping. Just about the time we finished (and after many nervous checks of the app), whoever had the bike parked it back at a stand, and my app unlocked. Whew! We went home dropped our fresh produce and headed back out to the bikes to try again. I managed not to screw it up this time, and off we went to City Market. We did our non-produce shopping there and grabbed a cab home.
Saturday we once again started late. This time, our tour started at 2:30pm and we headed to the salt flats about 30 minutes outside of San Pedro. Our first stop was Laguna Cejar, a saltwater pond. The name laguna translates to lagoon, which to me (and Merriam Webster), is “a shallow sound, channel, or pond near or communicating with a larger body of water.” This was a small body of water, not near or connecting to anything else and fed by underground springs. [Late update – I asked my Spanish teacher how you would say small lake (and showed her the picture). She said laguna. So, I am shocked to tell you that google translate, may be wrong!] We arrived at the laguna and changed into our bathing suits, because, like the Dead Sea, you when you get in the water, you float. The temperature was hovering in the low 30s Celsius (about 90˚F) and so the cool water felt wonderful. Sue and I both kept our hats (and sunglasses) on for the dip and we all (us, hats and sunglasses) came out encrusted with salt. The park had showers (no soap or shampoo allowed) so we had a quick rinse and got changed back into our clothes.
After Laguna Cejar, we visited Laguna Tebinquiche, a small, very salty lake with a very unique ecosystem. The hard environmental conditions including high solar irradiation, extreme temperature differences between day and night, high salt, and arsenic content (related to the volcanic activity nearby), make the lagoon a very difficult place to live. Some of the things that live in the lake are closely related to the earliest types of single and multicellular organisms that lived on Earth. Flamingos are often found at the lake feeding on brine shrimp, but when we were there where none. (Our guide said that most of the brine shrimp were gone and the flamingos had moved on in search of nourishment.)
We returned to the hotel at about 7:30, had a quick meal and got ready for our “evening” activities. The Atacama Desert is very high and the thin air, lack of light pollution and clear skies make it ideal for observing the sky. Overlooking Laguna Tebinquiche is the Atacama Large Millimeter Array observatory. We did not go there. Instead, we booked a 10pm to midnight star gazing tour that was about 30 minutes outside of town. However, this tour, like so many other things in Chile work on Standard Chilean time. So, our scheduled 9:30 pick up was actually closer to 10:15 and our 10 p.m. start turned out to be just about 11 p.m. The “tour” consisted of three parts. First, a 30-minute introduction to stars, how they form, live and die. René, the “tour guide” described nebulas (nebulae?), various types of stars and some of the things we needed to look for in the night sky. It was quite interesting and tied in nicely to what we were going to see both with naked eyes and with the telescopes. Next, he pointed out various stars, constellations, and described how the path of the sun is tracked against the arc of the planets across the sky. (He also talked about the difference between navigating in the northern and southern hemispheres and how it was done. PLUS, we got to see the best constellation: Gemini!) To me, this was the most beautiful part of the evening as we able to see the entirety of the sky. It was simply amazing, and I cannot adequately describe (how often do I say this or something like this) how awe inspiring it is. For the third part, they had two telescopes set up and we were able to see nebulae (I am pretty sure it is nebulae, but maybe not, in which case just pretend that I wrote nebulas), a binary star, stars from various constellations and Mars (Yes, I know it is a planet). (The nebula looked like a tarantula – if you used your imagination, which all sky gazing requires.) All in, it was an amazing evening that ended at just about 2 a.m.
Luckily for us, we had decided that we would take it easy on Sunday and hang out at the hotel pool.
Only kidding, if you don’t know us already, we don’t do lounging very well, so when we planned this weekend, we scheduled a morning tour of the El Tatio geysers. The pickup time for the tour was 5:30 a.m. Just about 3 hours after we put our heads down, the F#%$^@$# alarm told us to get our ancient carcasses out of bed and find the nearest coffee. Not our happiest moment. The geysers (which in Spanish is spelled géisers and pronounced geezers, which is an English term for old people), are about 90 minutes directly north of San Pedro on a series of small, mostly (well, at least somewhat) paved roads. They are also at about 4,320 meters (14,170 feet) above sea level. Have we mentioned that Sue gets altitude sickness? I attribute it to the fact that her brain, unlike mine, needs oxygen to function (mine simply bypasses the need to function). She wears a patch that contains scopolamine and it generally works really well. However at this altitude, it seemed be losing the battle even after augmenting it with chewed coca leaves and some coca tea (I think these helped, because I started to feel better afterwards). Like always she was a trooper, even when she turned many different shades of gray. The area is a field of geysers, some of which run continuously like a fountain and others are intermittent. Sorry, but once again, like I seem to say so often, nature is just unbelievable.
After wandering through the geyser fields for an hour or so, we piled back in the van and started the return trip. Along the way we saw various types of waterfowl, vicuña (which are related to guanacos, our favorite from Patagonia) and wild donkeys. We stopped at a small lake and saw lots of flamingos, which are actually animals, not just plastic lawn ornaments for Florida homeowners. At one point I asked our tour guide about the weather and he mentioned that they were just about to enter the rainy season. The season lasted from the last week of January until mid-February and they might get rain. Wow.
We returned to the hotel just after 1 p.m. had some lunch (I tried cochayuyo, which we mentioned in an earlier blog and it was delicious! It tasted of the sea) and waited for transport back to the airport in Calama (about 75 minutes away), then after a couple of hours wait, our flight back to Santiago and onward to our AirBnB. We arrived home just after 11 p.m., the end of an amazing and wondrous weekend. We were, to put it kindly, just a bit tired. 😉
Before I finish: This is a naked and unabashed plug for Wikipedia. For those of you who regularly read our scrawls, you know that we often link to Wikipedia articles. It is a free, non-profit encyclopedia that is entirely funded by donations. There are no advertisements or paywalls and while it isn’t a research tool (yes, kids in high school and college, I am looking at you), it does have a massive amount of information for those of us who just like to learn stuff. If you can manage, please help them.
This was our last weekend in Santiago, while we are here for nearly two more weeks, next weekend we are heading to the Atacama desert, and then we leave the following Saturday for Mexico City.
Friday night we joined two of Sue’s school friends, James and Rania (friends from where she is taking Spanish, not friends from when she taught school in the U.S.) for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Quital. We arrived at 7:30, and were, of course, the first people in the restaurant. The food was typically Chilean, which means, that there is a reasonable menu of fish and meat plus a few things that Sue would eat. Interestingly, both of them are dietitians in London, although they did not know each other there. We had a very pleasant dinner and wandered out at around 11pm.
Saturday we rode the subway all the out to Los Domingos Park and Pueblito los Domínicos, an artisan market that is at the west end of the subway line that is right at the foot of the Andes. We grabbed our trusty Bip! Cards (so named because that is the sound that they make when you enter the subway) and walked over to the station. The 13-stop ride took about 30 minutes. The market is a former monastery and has about one hundred different shops selling everything from artisan crafts to fancy food. It was fun to walk around, but to be truthful all these places are beginning to look the same. Yes, here they sell Alpaca wool , in Brazil they sold hand-crafted knives, Buenos Aires has local leather goods, but all-in-all, the shopping experience is the same. We are not huge shoppers, so we wandered around for a while then headed to the Costanera Center (a short 6.2km walk – mostly downhill, but in 30˚C temperatures.
The Costanera Center has two attractions. First, at 300 meters, it is the tallest building in Latin America. They have a viewing deck at the top, the 62nd floor, that is glassed in, but open to the sky. As we all remember, heights are not my favorite thing, but I strapped on my big boy boots and we headed up the stairs – only kidding – we got into the elevator. The view is pretty astounding. There are very few buildings higher than 10 floors, and Santiago is surrounded by mountains. I will let the photos do the talking.
The second, very much less interesting, thing in the Costanera Center is a huge American-style mall that houses the nice grocery store that we talked about in our last post. We headed down to the first floor and did our grocery shopping. I know not very interesting, but the practical things need to get done. Loaded down with our groceries, we grabbed a cab and headed home.
On Sunday morning, we walked to the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. The museum commemorates those who disappeared or were killed during the Pinochet dictatorship, which ran from 1973 until 1990. The museum is very well done and we joined an English language tour for most of it. It is terribly depressing to see what people will do to each other in the name of power. I would highly recommend visiting this museum for anyone who is in Santiago.
We walked back home from the museum and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. I watched the American Football playoffs via a streaming service and Sue read a book that she has been slogging through for days. (Not really slogging, it’s just a long book —Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen — with only two formal chapters and that bugs me because I don’t like to stop between chapters.)
We had an early dinner with Ann, a woman from Spokane, Wash., who is at school with Sue and Ann’s husband, Kenn. We met at Le Bistrot Viet, a Vietnamese restaurant that Sue and I visited on our first night in Santiago. We sat down around 6 p.m., and didn’t move until after 10 p.m.. They are also digital nomads and we compared notes on places we have visited, plans for the next year and tips and tricks that we found. They are headed to Buenos Aires next and we are hoping to see them again when they pass through Mexico in late April.
I keep meaning to write a few things about Santiago that struck me.
First, the volume of graffiti is just staggering. It seems like all cities have their share of graffiti, but the amount and pervasiveness of it in Santiago is surprising. (While walking home the other day, Ann and I saw a man tagging just a few blocks from a demonstration that included police wearing riot gear.) It is everywhere, mostly tagging, rather than street art and there doesn’t seem to be any effort to remove it. It reminds me of New York in the early 1980s.
The second thing is how quiet the streets are. Most of the cities we have visited the streets are busy with people walking, but Santiago feels like a ghost town. We thought it might be because we arrived around the Christmas holiday, but it really hasn’t changed in all the time we have been here.
Third, nothing opens early. When we walk to Sue’s school in the morning at 9:30, almost nothing is open. There isn’t even any activity in most of the storefronts. Nothing seems to really get moving until the afternoon.
Fourth, many restaurants have a short dinner window. People don’t seem to arrive until between 8 and 9 p.m., but then many of the restaurants are closing up around 11. At dinner last night we were virtually the first people to arrive and the last to leave. They do generally serve three meals: lunch, once (which means 11, and so is served at tea time) and dinner, so perhaps dinner is not the most popular meal to eat out.
Finally, small stores seem to open and close randomly. There is a little corner store next to our building that was open for a few days, then closed for a while and now it is open again. When we walk around, we see stores open one day, closed the next, I suspect there is some pattern, but we don’t seem to be able to figure it out.
We said ciao to the end of the earth and headed to Puerto Varas, where we started with a short tour of two towns on the lake that were settled by German immigrants – Frutillar and Puerto Octay. Puerto Varas is a pretty big tourist destination and the “gateway to the lakes region of Patagonia.” If you need outdoor gear, this is the town for you. But it is on Lake Llanquihue (pronounced Yankee Way – just like the road in the Bronx to the greatest baseball stadium in the world)(it’s a very deep glacial lake – a great place to put the team), a glacial lake with beautiful scenery everywhere you look.
The first night, we went to Santo Fuego, a parrilla (of course), so Robin and Steven could eat meat for dinner. We left satisfied and tired after a long day. We were grateful because the pick-up time for our excursions for the next two days was a luxurious 9 a.m.!
Promptly at 9, Manuela and the driver arrived. Steven and I had been trying to figure out how to get laundry done, but in a harbinger of good things to come, Manuela said she would have the driver take us to the laundry service the hotel recommended. Hmmm, closed, but Manuela to the rescue! She knew a woman who did laundry and would bring it back to us at the hotel before we left the next morning. We dropped off the dirty clothes and started on the 1.5 hour drive to Parque Nacional Alerce Andino to hike through the temperate rain forest to a 3,000-year-old Patagonian cypress or Fitzroya cupressoides, named after Robert Fitzroy of the HMS Beagle and Tierra del Fuego expedition fame. He got a mountain named after him, too (seems like a worthy reward for the effort he put in to schlep Darwin far enough so he could change our entire thinking on the way the natural world works).
We lucked out with Manuela, because in addition to finding us laundry service, she was an excellent guide to the trees and flowers in the park. We had great timing because everything was blooming so the forest was a deep green, punctuated by tiny red, purple, yellow, pink, and white blossoms. The hike itself is what we have learned is “Patagonia flat,” meaning you won’t be climbing a mountain, but don’t imagine the Midwest either. Rolling hills are a polite way of putting it.
Both on the way in and out of the park, we passed waterfalls on Rio Chaicas. I know I’m starting to sound redundant, but everything we saw was on a grand scale and beautiful. I think part of it was that we didn’t really have any expectations, so we were just amazed at every turn.
Our excursions came with a lunch, so we sat at the base of the giant tree and ate. The whole hike was about 8 km or 5 miles. Perfect for enjoying the environment without overdoing it on our step count.
Back in town, we wandered a bit and then ended up eating at the Hotel Puelche (where we were staying) restaurant – a burger place that had veggie burgers, too.
Steven here – we have done some much in these last few days that we decided to split up the blog – I am taking day two.
The next morning, first the laundry showed up on time – whew! We had clean clothes. Manuela and Ronaldo (our driver, but no not the futbol player) showed up promptly at 9 again. This time we loaded all our luggage into the van because we were checking out. The plan for today was to do shortish (6km) hike along the base of a volcano. According to Wikipedia (which will tell you not to use Wikipedia as a source), there are 105 volcanos in Chile that have been active during the Holocene – which is the current geologic period and has lasted about 11,000 years. We were hiking around the base of Volcán Osorno, which is in the Vincente Pérez Rosales National Park. It is the oldest national park, established in 1926 after Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt visited the area and allegedly suggested that a park be established because it was the most beautiful place that he had ever seen. At least that is what they tell the Americans. The area is a temperate rainforest, so the forests are very green and lush. The hike took us through part of the forest and then across a lava field (the lava was no longer hot as the last eruption was in 1869, so it was safe to walk across) and then back through lower and more scrub-like vegetation. The entire hike was on black sand. We considered climbing up to the top (2,600 meters) of the volcano and sacrificing our cousin Robin to ensure that volcano didn’t erupt, but Manuela recommended against it, and we are afraid of Aunt Es.
After we finished the hike, we took the van to another part of the park (which is huge, something like 250,000 hectares or 1,000 square miles) and stopped to eat our box lunches at the Petrohué waterfalls. The falls are formed from the runoff of glacier water from the volcano so the water is a turquoise blue. As always, my words cannot express the beauty and power of nature, but hopefully these photos and videos will.
We walked a couple of trails near the waterfalls, one of which was full of a tree called Arrayan or Luma (Luma apiculate). The interesting thing about this tree is that it is always cold to the touch. We wandered the trails for another couple of hours and then called it a day.
Ronaldo drove us to the Petróhue Lodge, where were staying for the night. The lodge is on Todos los Santos Lake just on the outskirts of Parque Nacional Vicente Pérez Rosales and is rustic and beautiful. The owner is the great grandson of a Swiss archeologist and explorer who mapped the area and then settled here. He (the great grandson) has established a little museum next to the hotel about the history of the area and gave us a really nice tour of it.
Back to me (Sue, that is) – Yesterday was Robin’s last day with us, but we had time for one more hike with her. We couldn’t do the 7-hour Desolation Pass (oh boy were we sad we couldn’t do another death march), so we settled for a 3-hour loop which included the beginning of that hike and then headed back along the beach.
We were a little confused about where the trailhead was so we tried asking a park ranger. Apparently, my Spanish is very bad and I didn’t get across the point that we just needed directions to the trailhead, but he was very nice and used Google translate voice to give us a whole history of the park before pointing us in the right direction.
Wow! We had another perfect weather day in which the clouds lifted to reveal the Osorno volcano (among others). The hike took us from the lakefront, through the forest, across alluvial fields, and along the volcanic sand shores of the lake. We got back in plenty of time for Robin to get ready for her travel back to Atlanta and have a last lunch with us.
Steven and I had booked a hot tub for 4 p.m., so we relaxed for a couple of hours and puzzled over where to go instead of Peru, where there is a state of emergency. We are crazy, but not stupid. The hot tub is heated by a wood fire, so the staff tended it for four hours before it was the right temperature. The water was perfect and we sat in the wooden vats amid the trees feeling very lucky. The pisco sour and beer didn’t hurt either. Tomorrow, we go back to Puerto Varas for one last day of vacation before heading to Santiago and reality.
Today was the last day of our vacation. We spent the morning getting our last looks at Petrohue before we transferred back to Puerto Varas. We wandered around the town, admiring the cloudless view of the lake and volcanos and treated ourselves to T-shirts and ice cream. It is vacation after all. I had lemon with mint and ginger, which has become my favorite soft drink and Steven had something called harina tostada, which is toasted wheat. It doesn’t sound like a great ice cream flavor, but it was. Special shout out to our tour guide Manuela, who went out of her way to find us a special pepper made from leaves she pointed out on one of our walks. Can’t wait to see you again, Manuela!
This has been an amazing vacation. Tomorrow we fly to Santiago to begin the next phase of our adventure.
Friday was our last day at the Hotel Las Torres in Torres de Paine. Steven decided to take it easy, but as you know, I never decide to take it easy and so I didn’t. We had a part-horseback, part-trekking all-day trip up Cerro Paine to get a different view of the Towers and because I wanted to do a horseback trip. We thought it would be mellower than the hike up to the base since it was 4 km on the horse and 4 km straight up the hill.
No problem. Robin and I met another couple who were on the excursion and we headed to the stables with our guide, Valentina, to get our horses and a short lesson in how to hold the reins. (An aside: There were five women guides and four of them were named Valentina.)
First off, my pin head didn’t fit in the adult size helmets, so I go a child’s size and I believe my beige one looked way more professional than the bulky black ones everyone else had. Then we put on gaiters to protect our pants from sweaty horses. Finally, we were introduced to our horses and hopped on for the ride.
Everything was going great. The view from the horse was spectacular and we were just walking, so I wasn’t worried about how I would walk when we got off the horse. Only one problem: It had rained the night before and the ground was muddy and semi-impassable at one point. The baqueano (horse guy) found a spot that seemed OK and rode his horse across. Then it was my turn. Well, Blondie my horse had a different route in mind. A route that sucked her legs into the muck like quicksand causing her to fall and me to fall off into the mud. At this point, I am going to turn it over to Robin to describe what happened since I was in the middle of it. And, no, no one got video and I will not be a YouTube fail star.
From 8 feet above:
There was some confusion as to which way we should take the horses across the mud flats. The baqueano thought he found the best way, and proceeded to cross. Sue went next and I was behind her. before we knew what happened the front legs of her horse sank 3 feet and down to its knees.
The horse fell forward and floundered and attempted to get up, but then fell again launching Sue 10 feet to the right, and planting her face first in the mud. She was already fairly close to the ground at that point, so it was more of the side launch and the mud plant which made things so damn funny. It was hysterical.
But the grown-up part of me said repeatedly, do not laugh!! This can be a dangerous situation.
Sue struggled to all fours, and began to turn around in the mud in an attempt to stand up. Unfortunately the horse, who was also attempting to regain her footing fell backwards onto SUE launching her face first into the mud again, and this time, pinning her leg under its torso.
While the mud bath continued, I repeated my mantra, Do NOT laugh! Do NOT laugh!! I strove to be a bigger person. I mean, can you imagine if something terrible had happened to her and I had been seen sitting on my horse laughing my ass off and shooting a video. That would’ve been bad. I never would’ve been invited on another trip with them again.
Once she and the horse were out of danger I snapped a few shots which don’t even begin to do the story justice. Look at the ground, it’s the beginning clue to her state of her mud-caked self.
All that said she was a true champ, and incredibly gracious about the entire thing. She changed into some rain pants she had packed and a few extra clothes from the guide and carried on with a smile and a laugh and a great attitude, something that many people would not have been able to pull off!
You go girl!!!
I was not hurt at all. Mud is pretty soft, but hard to get out of once you’ve been sucked down to mid-calf. Valentina gave me a hand and Blondie and I stood and carefully made our way out the mud. Luckily, I had rain pants in my backpack, so I removed the mud- packed gaiters and my muddy pants and put on the rain gear. Don’t worry, I didn’t subject the group to my bare butt –I had another layer underneath. After I cleaned up a bit, I got right back on the horse and off we went.
(Steven’s comment – I am so disappointed that there is no video! Where is a 15 year old with normal TikTok skills when you need them? I am so sure our blog would go viral with video of my wife face planting off a horse into mud.)
The trail stayed pretty slick in spots, so we left the horses a few feet earlier than they typically would and set off on foot. My socks were a little squishy, but other than that I was fine. The trail was a steady uphill and started to look like a moonscape with lots of rock and scree. I never felt out of breath or like it was too difficult, but it was no stroll in the park. Of course, when we got to the top, it was well worth the trek. We ate lunch, took pics, and headed back down.
The way was a little slippery because of the scree, but I only slipped a few times and we were able to make it back down to the horses in about an hour. The way back down was uneventful since Valentina and Robin decided to take a less watery route. The view got even better when the clouds parted and we were able to see all three towers clearly.
I loved the trip, but couldn’t wait to get the mud off me and my clothes. That shower was one of the best of my life!
To end on an extra high note, Steven and I were sitting in the lounge area when a waiter yelled, “Puma!” We all ran to the window and saw the big cat strolling down the path at the hotel. It had just eaten a couple of baby birds and was happily wandering back into the wild.
Saturday morning we said goodbye to Torres del Paine and all three of us agreed that we wished we could have stayed longer. The scale and beauty can’t be conveyed in pictures. We took a four-hour van trip to Punta Arenas because I wanted to see penguins. We didn’t realize that there’s not much else to do here and that it is mainly a staging area for trips to Antarctica, but so be it. It really does feel like you’re almost at the end of the Earth. We are staying in a cute boutique hotel, La Yegua Loca, with a view of the Strait of Magellan.
Sunday we got up at what would normally be before dawn, but here is already full sun, 5:30 a.m., to make a 6:15 a.m. van pickup and head off to the penguin boat. Transportation seems to be the main issue we have with our tour. We really didn’t need the van transfer — we could have walked to the office and gotten and extra 30 minutes of sleep, but we didn’t know that. The boat trip is about 40 minutes and then you walk around Los Pingüinos Natural Monument taking pictures of Magellanic penguins, cormorants and other birds. Penguins can be loud! Just watch the video below.
It was fun and with the patch, I didn’t get sick at all on the boat. Plus, we were very lucky and had sunny skies and calm seas. yay!
After the penguins, we stopped at the only other attraction we were interested in, Museo Nao Victoria, which has replicas of one of Magellan’s ships and the Beagle. It was worth about 45 minutes.
Knowing what I know now, I would not have come down here just to see the penguins since there isn’t much else to do. An extra day in Torres del Paine would have been amazing, but I am not going to complain since I am the one who wanted to see penguins. We even got the timing right since the penguins were nursing their chicks. Overall, a great experience, but I’m just not sure the trade off of two days was worthwhile.
Tomorrow morning we fly to Puerto Montt and drive over to Puerto Varas for the last leg of our Patagonia adventure.
On Sunday, we did a full day tour to La Leona Petrified Forest. It is about an hour and a half outside of El Calafate. Our driver and guide, Leon, picked us up at the hotel and drove us north through the scrub desert. We stopped at roadside hotel/bar/restaurant/gift shop, and picked up another couple for the tour. The landscape is very similar to the desert in Arizona but without cacti, just low scrub plants and grasses.
We reached the petrified forest, which is much less of a forest and much more of a huge rock formation with eroded sandstone and basalt. It is very stark, beautiful, and extremely windy. We hiked along the ridges of several the rock outcrops and slowly headed down in the lower portion of the valley. Along the way, Leon explained the rock formations, how the different layers were formed, and how they are eroding at different speeds based on the type of rock that they are. We found dinosaur bones where you could clearly still see the marrow and he explained that one way to test if a rock is a dinosaur bone is to lick your finger and if the rock (only small ones obviously) stuck to your finger, it was likely to be a dinosaur bone. We also saw many petrified trees, some of which looked like they were just bleached wood. It is always incredible to see how well the organic material has been preserved by the minerals, the tree’s rings and features are clearly visible. As we circled down into the valley, I did notice that our van was significantly higher than we were, which gave me some minor cause for concern. Anyway, we hiked around the valley finding lots of petrified trees, interesting geological features and a few dinosaur fossils.
As many of you know, I am terrified of heights. It is quite frustrating for me. The logic and reason portion of my brain knows that I am not in any real danger, that I have great balance and never stumble or fall when walking, and just because I am near an edge, should not in any way make it more likely I will fall. However, the old reptilian, flee or flight section of my brain cannot grasp these details and just keeps shouting into my head NO! DON’T DO THAT! MOVE AWAY, DON’T GO THERE. Oddly, I have terrible balance, but no fear of heights or the edge of cliffs. Hmmmm, maybe I need more reptilian brain. I work hard to keep my mind quiet and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Our hike out of the canyon was one of the times that I could keep my mind mostly quiet. We zigzagged across one of the walls (which to be truthful was not a sheer drop, but it was a pretty steep drop) and up to the van, rising perhaps 300 meters. Neither Sue nor Robin were the least bit bothered by the climb, I on the other hand, needed a few minutes to collect myself after we reached the top.
We packed ourselves back into the van and Leon drove us back to El Calafate in time for dinner. Robin craved meat for dinner so she headed off to a parrilla (steak house) while Sue and I headed back to Pura Vida for another home-style dinner. We ordered a bottle of wine called Fabula, which sounded like fabulous to me, but actually means fable. Despite the disappointing name, the wine was great.
Monday morning, we checked out of Hotel Posada los Alamos in El Calafate and headed for Torres del Paine in Chile. It was about a five-hour drive, once again across the scrub desert. After about three and a half hours we turned off the road and down gravel road, and at this point, I thought to myself, sheesh, we are in a van with a driver we don’t know, we have no cell phone coverage, on a dirt road and have no idea where we are going. Sometimes I wonder about our decision making. However, it turns out that down the dirt road leads to the border crossing into Chile. We waited in a tiny shack for about 10 minutes for the Argentine immigration guard to do something with our passports and then finally hand them back to us and we were able to exit Argentina. We drove about a half a mile down the road, there was a sign that said “Bienvenido a la Republica de Chile” and the road was paved. We went another half a mile and reached immigration and customs for Chile. Once again, we entered a tiny shack where a young woman reviewed our passports and gave us some sort of paper. It appears that she has ample free time as there was a hair straightener plugged in next to her computer. We walked to the next little building which housed the police and customs. The police reviewed our passports and the piece of paper that the passport woman gave us and then stamped our passports. At customs, we put our luggage through a scanner, but the customs official didn’t seem to look at the scans. Once we finished crossing the border, our driver put our luggage back in the van and drove us about 50 feet to the next little building and put our luggage into a van run by our hotel which took us the rest of the way.
A few scenes from the drive
We are staying at the Hotel Las Torres, which is inside the national park, but still private land. They offer an all inclusive package that includes all food and excursions. The location in unbelievable and it is a perfect place for a respite from the outside world. We have no cellphone coverage and only have single digit speed internet in the hotel itself. Once we checked in, we talked to the excursions team and booked some hikes.
Sue and I decided that on our first full day, we would do one of the most famous hikes, called Mirador Torres del Paine, on our own. It is a 17km hike with about a 1,000 meter vertical climb. We woke up, grabbed some breakfast and hit the trail by 8:30 a.m. The hike is broken into three sections. Section 1 is from the hotel to the Chilean refuge (green circle with a white triangle on the right). It is 4 km up through the scrub desert and across the face of the mountain gaining about 400 meters, not particularly difficult, but there were sections with a 20%+ grade.
At about the 2.5 km mark, the course turned and there was a 300-400 meter stretch of very exposed, relatively sheer cliff. It is called Windy Pass, because typically the wind is blowing right through making it extra scary. We were lucky and had a calm day. Also, Steven is very brave. The path was easily two-people wide and while I was very uncomfortable, we made it through. The rest of the way to the 4 km mark was reasonably steep downhill to a refuge and we arrived there after a couple of hours. At the refuge, there is camping, bathrooms, a small store and picnic tables to sit and relax.
We rested for a little while then headed to section 2, the forest section. It is about 3.5 km, and as the name says, it is through a forest. It is a fairly easy walk, gaining only about 200 meters over the course of the entire section and it took us another hour or so. Section 3 is the tough part (starts at the green circle with a white triangle on the left). It is only 1.5 km long, but gains about 400 meters, with sections that are 40% grade and you are literally climbing over boulders. I hate boulders! The last 250 meters are once again across the face of the mountain, with a fairly steep falloff. This was one of those times that my inner voice could not be quieted. Yes, I know no one ever falls, that hundreds of people cross that rock field every day, that I should be more frightened crossing the road, but no matter what I was telling myself, I could go no further. I told Sue to carry on and I found a nice protected place and waited for her to return. I think she double timed it to the end of the trail, took a couple of pictures and double timed back to me. I am so grateful that she knows how to motivate me, when I need it, but also how to read the terror in my eyes and realize that I can go no further.
Once Sue had returned, we headed down. Now, my usual thinking is that down is always easy, but boy that last section was the hardest easy I have ever had. Climbing down rocks is nearly as hard as climbing up and I was especially glad we had our hiking poles. Once we hit the start of the forest section, we stopped and ate our lunch as it was just about 3 pm. The forest was relatively easy, although both of our quads had started to tell us that they were unhappy, we still had quite a long way to go and bunch of height to gain and lose. But mostly it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other to get to the Chilean refuge.
We arrived at the Chilean refuge at 4 p.m. and decided to rest for a few minutes. The remainder of the hike would be a climb of about 75 meters over a 300 meter stretch, along the exposed rock face, then about 3.5 km of relatively slow downward slope all the way to the hotel. We trudged up first 300 meters, reminding ourselves that we did this for fun. Once we reached the top, we turned the corner and were on the final downward stretch to the hotel. We arrived back at the hotel by 5:30 p.m. and collapsed into our room for a little while. We showered, headed to bar, had a drink, some dinner and were both asleep by 9 p.m.. It was a very long hard, but rewarding day. Even if I didn’t reach the end of the trail.
For our second day, Sue and I decided to do a half day excursion with a guide. Robin headed off on a full day excursion to another part of the park to see a glacier. Sue and I, along with about half a dozen other people, hopped into one of the hotel’s vans and headed for a hike that they describe as “Patagonia flat.” The walk is across the Patagonian steppes and features lots of guanaco, some cave paintings, and the possibility of seeing a puma. The drive to the trailhead took about 40 minutes and since it was drizzling, we all pulled on our rain gear. “Patagonia lat” means rolling hills, lots of 30-40 meter ups and downs and one big climb upward to reach the cave paintings. The “caves” are actually covered rock overhangs and compared to the cave paintings in France, they are quite limited. We rested there for a little while, then hiked back down off the rock outcrop and across the steppes. We saw lots of guanaco, learned lots about the plants and wildlife of the area, and happily, at least in my mind, did not see a puma. The whole hike took about 2 hours, it was a perfect amount of effort for us following the very strenuous prior day.
One more day here, then we are off to Punta Arenas.