Page 14 of Jabe Travel Blog Posts

South America » Argentina » Mendoza » Mendoza July 2nd 2008

To travel from this part of Chile to Mendoza means crossing the Andes via an extremely picturesque route. Initially you can only see the snowy mountains from a distance but then the road winds up through them, a series of switchbacks seemingly without end that takes you to the pass at just over 4,000m. The brightness of the snow is startling at these elevations, and a contrast to the clear deep blue of the sky. At this time of year, the pass is often blocked by snow, and it appeared that conditions were great for winter sports, with both downhill and cross-country skiers in evidence. Going by the number of lorries labouring up (and down) the road, it would seem that this is the major trade route in the vicinity. With not having done much prior ... read more
Ski run crossing the road tunnel
Bus whose fate ours fortunately didn't share

Home for me is a seaside town with a funicular, so the port city of Valparaiso, with its 15 ascensores, on the face of it had some similarities. After spending 2 days in "Valpo", I had to concede that the similarities were indeed purely superficial, with the lack of good fish and chips here a glaring difference. Valparaiso is spread over more than 40 hills, a Rome (or Sheffield) squared, and many of its residential areas are filled with the kind of colourful houses and street art that characterise the Bellavista neighbourhood of Santiago. Sadly, the smog that blights the capital is also a fixture here, and neither the dock area nor the busy streets running near it add to the city's appeal. With Chile's navy being based in Valparaiso, there are plenty of sailors floating ... read more
Ascensor Polanco
The lady IS red
Colourful buildings

South America » Chile » Santiago Region » Santiago June 29th 2008

My first taste of Santiago was negotiating its metro system during the morning rush hour, where the presence of both me and my rucksack no doubt made me several new friends. The crowdedness was at Tokyo levels, though tickets could only be bought by a decidedly non-Japanese "women in booths" paradigm. Speaking of tastes, Santiago has perhaps the single greatest collection of fast food outlets, both international and home-grown, in the known world. I could hardly turn a corner without the opportunity to put a sausage in my mouth (hot dogs have an unexpectedly high status in South American cuisine). Chilean empanadas have the edge on Argentinian ones in terms of size but they also contain a stoned olive which, for me, is not something I want to be sinking my teeth in to. My final ... read more
Lamppost shadow
Light and shadow
Sculpture detail

South America » Chile » Easter Island » Hanga Roa June 25th 2008

After 4,000km of little but ocean beneath the plane, I was excited to finally see a small island out of the window. Easter Island's human history is short, in all likelihood less than 1,500 years, however that history has generated enormous debate in circles ranging from the purely academic to the best-seller lists. The bare bones of the story are that a society arose in which the carving of enormous moai (stone sculptures) had a central role. Over a period of time, the society broke down and the moai were toppled from their ahus (stone pedestals), leaving the island's appearance pretty much the same as it is today. "All" that's missing is a consensus on the whys and wherefores of the detail. DNA evidence has shown that Easter Island, aka Rapa Nui aka Isla de Pascua, ... read more
Sunset and canoer
Moai lobes
Crater lake

South America » Chile » Araucanía » Pucón June 16th 2008

My arrival in Pucon was on a cloudy, cheerless day and I would have had little idea that one of Chile's most active volcanoes was lurking just 15km to the south if my guidebook hadn't told me (though it's possible I might have figured it out from the many tour agencies around town offering volcano climbs). Smart cafes and a wealth of lodgings indicated a tourist hotspot, and some of the first voices I heard were American. I somehow managed to pick a hostel that was both overpriced and underendowed with facilities, learning only after having checked in that strictly speaking they weren't lying when they said the place had wifi (it just didn't work), the "toasty" conditions that would apparently result from the wood-burning stove being fired up only extended about a metre away from ... read more
Araucaria branches at Laguna Verde
Volcan Villarrica
Wooden statue of Christ

South America » Chile » Los Ríos » Valdivia June 13th 2008

Valdivia is a university town founded by and named after Pedro de Valdivia, conquistador and no great friend of the local Mapuche people. Standing at the confluence of three rivers, it has recovered from bearing the brunt of recorded history's most violent earthquake in 1960 to be called the prettiest town in Chile, a title which would never have sprung to mind based on my two days there of rain and gloom. Perhaps because of the student population, I saw numerous fast food joints, with my first MacDonald's sighting for over a month. On the plus side, there were at least two Chinese restaurants in the town. Valdivia is also home to the Kunstmann brewery, producer of Chile's supposedly best beer. Kunstmann originally started beer manufacture when the town's main brewery was destroyed by the earthquake, ... read more
Happy couple
Glistening calories

South America » Chile » Los Lagos » Chiloé Island June 11th 2008

The Chiloe archipelago is the northernmost part of the frayed edge of Chile, that tattered jumble of islands and fjords that starts south of Puerto Montt and continues for nearly 3,000km down to Cape Horn. The blending of local and Spanish traditions has resulted in an identity different from that of the mainland, with the rural feel and beach-free nature of the islands keeping tourist numbers down. With home for me being in a coastal area of the UK with inclement weather and a fishing industry, it was going to be interesting to see if any other parallels could be drawn. Rain was to be something of a constant during my stay in the archipelago, and indeed it's viewed as part of the appeal of the region. I based myself in Castro, centrally located on the ... read more
Local potatoes
El Trauco

South America » Chile » Los Lagos » Puerto Varas June 6th 2008

I'd heard that Volcan Chaiten had been depositing ash on a couple of places further south that I'd intended visiting so, with no wish to look any greyer than I already do, I went west instead. The journey across the Andes and down into Chile provided some views of the volcanoes that punctuate the landscape here with a menace not conferred on mere mountains. Volcan Osorno, possessing a shape of which Hokusai would no doubt have approved and conveniently closest to the road, drew my eye for several hours. My chosen hostel had a name translating as "Blue House" in English, a description it fulfilled even down to the colour of the toilet paper. Other guests were scarce so, with the young dog's idea of fun being to try to bite me and cover my trousers ... read more
Someone's heart left on San Francisco

Though the scenery gradually increased in appeal as the bus homed in on Bariloche, with mountains, forests, and lakes appearing in the small square I'd cleared in the condensation that had fogged my window, the amount of rain descending from the heavens stepped up from a spatter to a drizzle to a downpour by the time we reached the town itself. Three of my first four days there were to feature constant rain, a miserable pelting torrent that made me regret my choice of a hostel fifteen minutes' walk from the nearest supermarket. The hostel staff's reactions to my aggrieved mutterings about the weather carried an implicit "Well if you will visit in May ..." Lake Nahuel Huapi, on whose shores Bariloche stands, swept frothing rollers into the rocky beach, dissolving my visions of an alpine ... read more
Small chocolate bear from Mamuschka chocolateria

South America » Argentina » Chubut » Puerto Madryn May 15th 2008

Puerto Madryn and its surrounds are a representative example of how Argentina's population has been shaped by settlers and immigrants predominantly from Europe. Seeking to escape oppression by the English in Wales, and encouraged by incentives from the Argentine government to colonise sparsely populated areas of Patagonia, a boatload of Welsh would-be settlers landed in what was to be Puerto Madryn in 1865. Unlike the catastrophic effects for indigenous people that other European incursions into South America often had, the meeting of the Welsh and the local Tehuelche was to result in an relationship of mutual respect. The Welsh recognised the Tehuelche as the rightful owners of the land, and the two groups were to remain on good terms, with the local tribe acquiring a particular liking for Welsh bread. On a headland at one end ... read more
Wood sculpture

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