Sunday, April 30, 2006


We’ve been finished up with our time in Valpraiso for about 2 weeks now, so there is plenty to fill you all in on. Our last few weeks in Valparaiso were fine, not much to mention about them, except that after spending two months in Valpo, we were very ready to move on. In general the city, though somewhat charming, is overall a bust. That might be a little too harsh…I guess it is a city to spend a few days in, but not more than that. In the end it seemed very dirty, noisy, full of stray dogs that attacked in packs (think of an urban Call of the Wild), dirty, full of patos malos (robbers, assailants, and general bad people), and did I mention dirty?
We headed out of the city on Thursday, April 20th, making our way to Los Andes, a city about 3 hours northeast of Valpo. It would have been a very enjoyable ride if the young boy sitting across the aisle from us hadn’t had lost his breakfast early on in the trip. We learned that Chileans have an extremely insensitive sense-of-smell on the trip…no one decided to open a window, and instead, settled down for 2.5 hours of pure putrid milk sensations…and as those of you who were with us Hydrospeeding know, that is not a good sensation. After several close calls of losing our own breakfast (which as always consisted of white bread and caramel which goes straight to your belly) we finally arrived in Los Andes. We looked around for a while, decided it was still too big, and decided to head to a smaller town that had been described to us as the very definition of calm…or something like that. So, we headed to Putaendo, a small town of about 1000 that was in the foothills of the Cordillera (Andes mountain chain running N/S). There, we did indeed discover the very definition of calm. It was very nice, people were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and also mystified by why we would come to visit their small sleepy town. We went for a couple of hikes there, in the foothills to an interesting art exhibit on top of the local hill, as well as a huge catholic memorial that featured a 15ft high Jesus on the cross out of a solid piece of pine. Plenty of fresh produce as well, especially gigantic raisins and olives…amazing.
We ran into an easter vigil at the huge catholic church on Saturday night, and on Sunday we spent the morning next to a river even closer to the cordillera. All said, it was a lonely strange easter for the both of us…we promised that the next would be with our families back in the states. We hitchhiked back down to the village and caught a ride with a young couple from Santiago, very interesting pair. A story in itself, maybe later. Emily headed back to Valpo on Sunday to catch up with her group from school who were heading to Iqueque in the north via Santiago on Monday. Me, being my cheap self had wanted to save 60 bucks or so, so I wasn’t going to fly up there until the following Thursday. I spent the next 4 days or so in Los Andes, and had a great, if a little lonely time enjoying the city. Los Andes, unlike Valparaiso, is a city to visit. The setting is spectacular, with vineyards in many directs and the Cordillera running north south as far as you can see. The largest mountain outside of the Himalayan range, Aconagua is visible from the city…pretty formidable. The city is there because of both agriculture, and mining, so there is a plethora of fruits and vegetables, as well as above average stores and restaurants. However, with all of this Los Andes manages to retain a unique feel about it, and with the general lack of tourists, it really is a great place to spend some time….which is just what I did.
I met up with Emily and her group in Arica, after a day to myself getting to know (briefly) the city of Iquique. Arica is the northernmost city in Chile, with a similar latitude as Guadalajara mexico…but even hotter. It is on the coast of Chile, with the sand of the Atacama desert shrouding it down to the sea. The 5 hour drive from Iquique to Arica is something else I should mention. I got a window seat, and as we climbed the switchbacks out of the city, everyone closed their curtains and started to sleep, but not me…I figured I wasn’t going to get to drive this road again, so I had better look out the window the entire way, after all, there would be plenty of country to see. However, after about 45 minutes of nothing but absolute flat sandscape, I decided that a little sleep couldn’t hurt. The ride had a few highlights, a few old mansions in the middle of nowhere that could be traced back to nitrate barons during the 1890s-1940s, as well as interesting shapes and figures formed by wind erosion.

Gotta run, more later (pics as well)