I already know what you’re thinking, but you gotta believe me when I say this post was complete and ready to be published months ago. It had been sitting in my drafts folder, complete save for a paragraph or two, collecting pixelated dust as my laptop rotted on some shelf in the gloomy depths of Fry’s Customer Service Department.
Okay, so that was back in October. But you still gotta believe me: I really did try.
It’s been a little over a year since I published my post about Perú and Machu Picchu. This one contains the remainder of the photos from my travels abroad, and my backpacking adventures in southern Chile (Patagonia and the Lakes District).
I was going to publish two posts, one about central and southern Chile, and a second about life post-Chile, but knowing me I’d never get around to it; I’ll resurface every few months with a weak “It’s such-and-such holiday in Chile so I’m going to post something” or “I ate a chili today and it reminded me of Chile so here’s an update” and things will get even more ridiculous than they are now…So this will be a long post, but it will be the last post (about my Chile adventures at least).
Getting my laptop back with the content still intact was a good omen, but so were two other events that happened after I came back to the land of the eternal 75° weather, non-fat lattes, and vegan food.
In July (yes, that’s last July, as in July 2013. I know I’m behind okay!) I had the marvelous opportunity to see Chico Trujillo, a popular Chilean band, play at The Independent in San Francisco (side note: that theater has to be my favorite one. So what if I’ve only been there twice. It’s charming). Chico Trujillo is a “New Chilean Cumbia” band and they sound incredible. Here’s a link to one of their most popular songs, “Loca”:
After coming back from Chile I was often asked what Chilean music sounds like. That’s a little tough to answer since I saw, or heard rather, a little bit of everything. Something everybody noticed right away was how big 80’s music is down there. Seriously, about 50% of the songs we heard were from the 80’s. 20% of the songs were from mainstream culture (the likes of Lady Gaga, reggaeton, etc) and the remaining 30% were a mix of traditional/folk genres, including the cumbia. La cumbia has its origins in Colombia and is heavily influenced by Caribbean rhythms and beats. Over the centuries it has also acquired indigenous and European musical characteristics.
So I went to the Chico Trujillo concert with a couple of friends who studied with me in Chile and we had a blast dancing, singing, and catching up. We also bumped into the brother of one of our Chilean friends and now we have some Chilean connections in the Bay! So it was a pretty fun night :)
Shortly after I participated in the EAP Chile study abroad orientation at school as one of the study abroad alums. I, along with four other girls, answered questions about our experiences abroad and gave the next group of students tips and advice about everything from traveling to partying to studying to making friends…the whole enchilada (or as they’d say in Chile: the whole empanada).
I hope you enjoy the (long) read. Thanks for traveling with me to the ends of the world–and back!
If you remember, one of my goals at the beginning of my semester abroad was to hit every single region, a feat that seemed daunting after actually looking at a map of Chile. It took me six months but I was able to do it! Huzzah!
The part labeled Centro (green area) is where Santiago is located; in the first week of January my father and I traveled down to Punta Arenas, a city in Patagonia (purple area); after he returned to California I went on ahead to the island of Chiloé followed by Puerto Varas, a city in the Sur (blue area) region, where a friend of mine was working in a hostel and had invited me to stay for a few days.
I said it when I was up in the north, but Chile’s outdoors is seriously underrated. If you’re a fan of nature I’d highly recommend quitting your job, making a trip out here and exploring this country for a couple of months. Patagonia in particular is a real knockout. Although I would rather jump in the cold Magellanic water than have to decide which of Chile’s five regions is the most photo-worthy, southern Chile has an incredible, unparalleled natural beauty and is a mecca for outdoorsy people.
Punta Arenas is the southernmost city on the South American continent, and is the second southernmost city in the world (after Puerto Williams, which is a tiny town on a small island at the very end of Chile; and not counting the research facilities–which aren’t really cities anyway–in Antarctica).
The distance from Santiago to Punta Arenas is about 3400 km (2113 mi), or four hours by plane. It’s possible to bus/drive down as well but in the interest of time my dad and I decided to fly. The city is located on the edge of the Straight of Magellan, right across from the archipelago Tierra del Fuego, or the “Land of Fire”. Although my dad and I were there during the summer season it was still quite chilly and overcast, though there were one or two days that were clear, sunny, and warm.
The centro is small and compact, spreading out from the Plaza de Armas for a few blocks in every direction. Since Punta Arenas primarily functions as a departure point for various other places such as Tierra del Fuego, Puerto Natales, and Antarctica, there isn’t a whole lot to do/see in the city itself, but it may be worth exploring for a couple of days if you need some downtime in between backpacking treks.
My dad and I were in Punta Arenas for five days. Two of those days were spent exploring the city: checking out the vista points, the local artisan fairs, etc; the other three days were spent on excursions: one to Torres del Paine, another to the small Isla Magdalena Pingüinera (a penguin colony) and a third to the city of Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego.
But ughh I’ve been doing an awful lot of talking…er, typing. So here, enjoy some pictures (hover over the image to read its caption)!
(Still to come: pictures of Torres del Paine)
I had about a week’s worth of travel to do after my dad headed back to California. Since I hadn’t seen the Sur region of Chile I decided to spend a few days exploring the island of Chiloé and hanging out with a friend of mine in Puerto Varas.
After landing in Puerto Montt, the nearest airport, I took a bus and a ferry over to Ancud, the northernmost city of Chiloé. Once I checked in at the hostel, which was conveniently located right across one of the bus stations, I set out to explore the city. Ancud is a small town with colorful houses, pretty shorelines, and a long maritime history.
My first stop was the local museum, el Museo Regional de Ancud. It was founded in 1976 and is responsible for the rescue, investigation, and conservation of Chiloé’s patrimonial, cultural, and natural history. The museum houses archaeological, religious and ethnographic collections native to the island. Pieces range from the history of the first indigenous tribes to inhabit Chiloé, to the moment of their first contact with Europeans, to the arrival of the Jesuits and the colonization of Chiloé, to the construction of the railway between Ancud and Castro (the capital of Chiloé) and the 1960 earthquake. I really enjoyed this museum for two reasons:
- It was interactive. There were things to click, push, turn, flip…great for kids.
- It was spread out. Collections were on two floors, organized chronologically. There was also a full-size replica of a ship outside, which was super cool to look at (you could get really close to it too!).
Next, it was dinnertime. If you ever go to Chiloé you have to try the curanto, a Chilote dish. It’s traditionally cooked in a hole in the ground; you coat the bottom with heated stones and throw in shellfish, meat, potatoes, and vegetables. Each layer is covered with rhubarb leaves and the entire thing is covered with dirt and grass. Curanto can take about an hour or two to cook depending on its size and the size of the bonfire. I ordered, thinking it’ll be a decent-sized plate with a little bit of everything. Instead I got this monster:
I met two Chileans when I was in Chiloé (we bonded while waiting for one of the rural buses to pick us up and take us back to Castro), and later one of them sent me pictures of a curantón his family had made earlier that week:
The following day I took a bus to Castro, the capital of the Chiloé province. I wanted to check out a couple of churches, UNESCO heritage sites, which were conveniently located near the city. Here’s a look at one of them:
The churches themselves were beautiful, but getting there was half the fun. Every hour or so a small, a 10-passenger bus would leave Castro heading for some village or town. You’d get on and then hop off wherever you wanted, paying the driver as you dismounted. It’s an easy system to master, and it can be quite an adventure in itself, but be cautious–buses return to the same towns in a couple of hours, usually only once a day, but the drivers will never be able to tell you exactly when. As you’re walking around make sure to keep an eye out for the bus. The drivers can, however, tell you where the stop is (it’s not always where you’re dropped off), so at least there’s that.
Naturally, I learned this the hard way.
When I was dropped off in the small town of Tenaún I was told by the driver that the only other bus would arrive in two hours. That was perfect; it gave me enough time to explore the church and then grab some lunch before heading back to Castro. As I was enjoying my freshly-caught-and-grilled fish I heard the familiar crunch of tires on gravel and froze. I got up, went to the door, and stared in dismay at the back of the bus, which was now jaunting merrily up the dirt slope from where it came. It was clear that it hadn’t actually stopped in Tenaún at all; it had merely looped around the plaza once and left.
The owner of the restaurant, a kind lady in her 40s, probably noticed the stunned look on my face and told me kindly that the driver was mistaken, there were always two buses that passed through the town, and I’d have to wait a few more hours for the next one. Panic subsided, my heart rate slowed, all was well.
That was where I met Robin, Yanette, and her young daughter Amelí. All three were from Punta Arenas and were really excited to hear I was there just a week earlier. They were traveling to Santiago and had decided to stop in Chiloé for a couple of days to sight-see. They had also missed the bus, so we spent the next few hours walking around the small plaza and chatting. We’re still in contact (through Facebook, naturally), and every so often they ask when I’m coming down to visit them. Their friendliness is super sweet, and I’m excited at the prospect of having some connections in Punta Arenas for when I go there again! :)
I made it back to Castro just fine, and spent the remainder of the afternoon and evening walking around the city. Perhaps the most well-known structures in Castro are the colorful palafitos, or wooden stilt houses. When the tide is high the water reaches the wooden docks in front of the homes, and fishing boats are tied to the posts. When I got back to the main plaza there was some sort of a concert in progress. A couple of local bands were playing a mix of traditional folk songs as well as more contemporary/rock songs. It seemed like most of the city had turned out that evening: the plaza was full of families chatting with one another, having dinner, and enjoying the music. It felt great to be in the midst of all that buzz and excitement.
After two days I took a bus up to Puerto Varas to stay with my friend. My time there was blissfully chill. I had spent the past two weeks in a travel frenzy so I let myself be lazy for a bit. My friend, a fellow study abroad student, had decided to extend his stay another semester (lucky duck). Since it was summer vacation in Chile, he was working at a hostel to make some extra money. The perks of being friends with him meant I got a room discount, fresh eggs for breakfast, and the opportunity to make some new friends!
Puerto Varas is similar to Pucón, but a little less touristy. There are a ton of outdoor activities to do in/around the city, like hiking and water sports. My friend and I walked around a bit, explored some “museums”, the lake, and ate lots of alfajores (dulce de leche–or manjar in Chile–cookie sandwiches). This was also where I heard Punjabi MC playing in a discoteca so that was interesting…
After a couple days in Puerto Varas I was on my way back to Santiago. I had two more days in the city before my flight to California, so I booked a bed at a hostel, hit up a few of my favorite places, and spent some time with friends.
As you guys might have guessed I’m not that good with conclusions, with putting things to rest. Originally I wanted to end this post with a bang!, write an ending of epic proportions….but then I thought about it some more and decided it would be more fitting to avoid any hullabaloo; after all, my final days abroad were ordinary days, quite plain, nothing too special. And besides, I get super emotional and rather not be seen crying in public (I’m at my friendly neighborhood Starbucks right now). Ughhhh and all the feels…
But seriously, y’all have been great, really. Thank you for all your support–things would have been awfully lonely without you. Ughhh the emooootioooon. Okay I’m gonna let my homeboy Pablo Neruda finish it up for me (the following is an excerpt from one of his well-known poems):
“Goodbyes” by Pablo Neruda “Adioses” por Pablo Neruda
Goodbye, goodbye, to one place or another, Oh adioses a una tierra y otra tierra
to every mouth, to every sorrow, a cada boca y a cada tristeza
to the insolent moon, to weeks a la luna insolente, a las semanas
which wound in the days and disappeared, que enrollaron los días y desaparecieron
goodbye to this voice and that one stained adiós a esta y aquella voz teñida
with amaranth, and goodbye de amaranto, y adiós
to the usual bed and plate, a la cama y al plato de costumbre
to the twilit setting of all goodbyes, al sitio vesperal de los adioses
to the chair that is part of the same twilight, a la silla casada con el mismo crepúsculo,
to the way made by my shoes. al camino que hicieron mis zapatos.