The view of the beach from Mary's Resort
The view of the beach from Mary's Resort
A light breakfast as we cross Botswana
A light breakfast as we cross Botswana

The Trip Home

Bolivia, Chile Comments Off
Jul 292011

As I had mentioned in earlier posts, we ran into some problems with entering Peru due to a mining protest that closed the Bolivia-Peruvian border for a number of weeks.  The detour we selected was to travel back to Chile by bus and then fly to Lima with a stopover in Santiago.  We would have preferred to stop in Lima instead but there was no award availability so we just had to make due with Santiago.

After our visit to Lake Titicaca and Isla del Sol, we returned to La Paz and spent one last day there.  The next day we were booked on a 10-hour international bus from La Paz to Arica, Chile so of course this had to be the time when I was to come down with some sort of stomach bug.  Fortunately the bus was mostly on time and we had saw some nice volcanoes along the way.  The only glitch was an extra hour at the border thanks to some older Bolivia lady who thought she could bring a huge load of merchandise (snacks, bottled drinks, etc) into Chile without paying import duty.  Removing her and all her merchandise from the bus took far longer than it should have!

The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.

Arica, the northernmost city in Chile and just a few miles from Peru was pretty nice as border towns go.  The city has a lively harbor with more than its share of sea lions and pelicans.  We found it entertaining to watch the fishermen feed fish scraps to the sea lions as well as the pelicans’ unrelenting efforts to steal some for themselves from the clumsy yet powerful beasts.

Me hungry!
Me hungry!

Flying from Arica to Santiago was uneventful.  It was a late-night flight with LAN Chile that departed around midnight and arrived around 2AM.  It was still much better than a bus ride, that is for sure!  In Santiago we had a day to kill so we visited one of the produce markets.  Lots of vendors were selling fresh fruit juices so we ordered up some lucuma – a new fruit for both of us.  This may sound strange but the juice tasted like cake batter with maybe a hint of maple syrup.  It wasn’t tangy at all nor was it overly sweet.  Lucuma is truly strange fruit and I have to say I rather liked it.

The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.

We took another flight with LAN Chile to get from Santiago to Lima.  This time around I discovered that I could request upgrades through the LAN website prior to check-in thanks to my recently-comped Comodoro status in the LANpass mileage program.  I was shocked when I checked in and was given a business class boarding pass because we were traveling on award tickets issued using British Airways miles.  Normally, when you redeem miles for free flights they are strictly non-upgradeable.  Maybe it was a glitch, but either way I wish I had known to try this before our flights out to Easter Island and back!

Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile

Our connection in Lima was an 8-hour overnight one so we opted to camp out in the airport.  We were able to use the airport’s shared lounge (Sumaq) but unfortunately some displaced passengers from a delayed Delta flight had already occupied all of the nice sleeper chairs in the lounge.  All in all, it was a pretty sleepless night but we did get to take some showers just prior to boarding our flight to Miami.

My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami

We arrived in Miami and within the first two hours of being “welcomed” home we experienced a lengthy immigration queue, enhanced pat-downs, and a full-on TSA meltdown whereby they yell for everyone on the concourse to freeze where they are until the alert is over.  I sure hadn’t missed this circus over the past few months!  What I had been missing, however, was some tasty American fast food.

...and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
…and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
The Trip Home
Food poisoned on the bus, again.  At least I had some Coca-Cola in a little bottle.
Food poisoned on the bus, again. At least I had some Coca-Cola in a little bottle.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The reason for our lengthy delay at the border.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
The tourists watch the sea lions while the pelicans watch the tourists.
Me hungry!
Me hungry!
Arica, Chile
Arica, Chile
The coastline around Arica
The coastline around Arica
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
My very first flight on American Airlines! Lima to Miami
At last, a burrito the size of my head.
At last, a burrito the size of my head.
...and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.
…and an enormous hot dog with a couple piece of deep-fried macaroni and cheese as its wingmen.


A slight detour

Bolivia, Chile Comments Off
Jun 012011

Our time in South America is rapidly coming to a close.  We are scheduled to fly back to the States from Lima, Peru on June 7th for my brother’s wedding.  We thought we had everything planned out, that was until a good old South American protest got in the way.

After leaving La Paz, Bolivia we had hoped to cross into Peru and hit up some of the major sights.  A few days around Lake Titicaca then a short flight over to Cuzco to check out Machu Picchu followed by another short flight into Lima to link up with our award ticket back to the States.  Unfortunately, the border between Bolivia and Peru was closed by large scale protests (about mining rights) in Peru about three weeks ago.  From what we read in the news, all of the possible land border crossings have been closed by the protesters.  Looting, burning cars in the streets, gunfire and what-have-you are the sorts of things in the news.  Not exactly where we want to be.

Most of the other travelers we have met are planning to detour through Chile in order to continue their trips into Peru.  Flying is also possible but prices are sky-high due to the increased demand as well as Bolivia’s crazy ticket taxes.  The vast majority of Peru is still safe for travel but we decided it would be too much of a rush to fit in this detour.  Instead, we opted to visit the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca and then use some miles to get from northern Chile (Arica to be exact) to Lima for our flight home.  It is an 8-hour bus ride from La Paz to Arica but that hopefully won’t be too bad.

The only routing available was via Santiago but that was still preferable to many hours on Peruvian buses and giving up our visit to Lake Titicaca.  We will be making a two-day stop in Santiago and then will continue on to Lima, Miami, Denver then finally Montana.  Peru will just have to wait for another trip.  Of course the blog posts will keep coming over the next few weeks…I have quite a backlog of stories and photos to share!


May 082011
Just after takeoff from Santiago.  Sunrise over the Andes
Just after takeoff from Santiago. Sunrise over the Andes

On April 23 we finally squeezed the last segment out of our LAN award ticket that carried us all over Chile.  The final flight was from Santiago to Antofagasta in the north.  It was a pleasant early morning flight on a cute little Airbus A318 (first time on that aircraft for me).  Service was the usual drink and snackbox affair and arrival into Antofagasta was a little ahead of schedule.

Desolation
Desolation

We bought tickets for a shared taxivan to the center and were dropped off at Antofagasta’s bus terminal a short while later.  We had tickets to take us from Antofagasta to San Pedro de Atacama high in the Chilean Altiplano.  The drive took us across some spectacularly desolate landscape.

The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.

San Pedro de Atacama is a nice little desert town that thrives off tourism.  We stayed at Hostal Sonchek, run by a Slovenia/Chilean couple.  Like most of the buildings in San Pedro, our hostal was built of adobe and had a great open air courtyard in the middle.  We stayed a total of five nights and saw some amazing things out in the desert.  Stay tuned!

Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama
Just after takeoff from Santiago.  Sunrise over the Andes
Just after takeoff from Santiago. Sunrise over the Andes
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
Sandy cliffs on final into Antofagasta
The humorously short A320 variant...the A318
The humorously short A320 variant…the A318
Predeparture snack.  Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Predeparture snack. Pancho con ketchup, mustaza y palta (avocado)
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Quite a nice bus terminal in Antofagasta
Those are some big tires!  Mining is big in this area.
Those are some big tires! Mining is big in this area.
Desolation
Desolation
The ruins of some town.
The ruins of some town.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
The last stretch of road into San Pedro de Atacama.
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Courtyard at Hostal Sonchek
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Documenting San Pedro de Atacama
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro
Enjoying a delicious mote in San Pedro

Santiago, Chile

Chile Comments Off
May 062011
Santiago and its smog
Santiago and its smog

To be honest, Santiago was a bit of a let-down for me.  It is mostly my fault as I had a preconcieved notion that it would be a mountainous version of Buenos Aires!  Though it is a lively and clean city, it just doesn’t have the same flair as BsAs.  Nevertheless, we still had some great food and fun adventures there.

Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners

On our first full day in Santiago we got up at a decent hour and headed over to Plaza de Armas, the main square in Santiago.  We wanted to take one of the “free english tours” that we saw advertised at the hostel.  There are actually a couple organizations running these tours and they are indeed free though you are expected to tip the guide.

A few minutes in to our “free english tour,” a group of Spanish speaking ladies walked up and pretty much demanded that our guide give the tour both in Spanish and in English.  Surprisingly, he complied.  Now I don’t mind listening to both languages (it is good practice, after all) but the way in which this ladies approached the situation was amazingly tactless.  There were a few occasions when we were making small talk with the guide and the ladies marched up and demanded a translation.  Awesome.  I sure hope they tipped well at the end of the day.

The tour lasted about 4-5 hours and took us past the main sights in the centro, Santa Lucia and Bella Vista.  There was a short 20-minute stop for lunch at some cafe (in cahoots with the tour guide, no doubt) but we escaped that trap and got some cheat eats at a kiosko nearby.  The tour provided a nice overview of the city but if I had to do it again I would seek out the organization that runs the shorter 1-hour version.

Mote vendor
Mote vendor

Amy and I went to see a Chilean movie called “La Vida de Los Peces” that won the Spanish equivalent of an Oscar last year.  Thanks to the Chilean Spanish I barely understood what was going on and even Amy said she only understood about half of what was said.  Chilean Spanish is a good bit faster than Argentine Spanish as they are very fond of slang and shortening words.

Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago.  Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago. Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries

Food-wise, Santiago treated us well.  My favorite (and cheapest) meal was at a stall at the Mercado de Flores where many of the pushcart vendors seemed to be eating.  I had cazuela de vacuna, a soup with beef and a mix of veggies.  Amy managed to find herself some vegan empanadas at one on of the city’s vegan/vegetarian cafes.  Another culinary highlight of Santiago is a drink (or snack?) called mote con huesillo.  It is served on the street and is something in between a drink and a food.  When ordering mote you get a cup filled with cooked wheatberries, a few pieces of peach and then topped with lots of peach juice.  It is a sweet and filling cheap snack that you can find just about everywhere in Santiago.  Perfect for hot afternoons!

Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins

The blog is starting to run quite a way behind our travel progress.  We reached Bolivia yesterday and will be leaving on a 4-day circuit tour to the Salar de Uyuni starting on Saturday.  We will be way out in the boonies for this tour but I am going to do my best to get some posts scheduled today.  That is, if this Bolivian internet connection cooperates!

Santiago, Chile
Climbing Cerro Santa Lucia
Climbing Cerro Santa Lucia
Santiago and its smog
Santiago and its smog
La Moneda - the government palace
La Moneda – the government palace
Amy and the rest of our tour group
Amy and the rest of our tour group
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Santiago has plenty of shoe shiners
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago.  Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote con huesillo: the street drink of choice in Santiago. Peach juice, some peach pieces and wheatberries
Mote vendor
Mote vendor
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Cazuela de vacuna: a soup with chunks of beef and all the fixins
Parque Forestal
Parque Forestal

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