Smells like Chinatown


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South America » Chile
December 29th 2008
Published: September 30th 2017
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Funny - the way some of the sea lions move reminds me of those cheesy animatronic shows at Disney World. There's almost something artificial about their movements.
Geo: -35.6751, -71.543

An early breakfast this morning in order to catch the tour to Islas Damas. The ham wasn't very good yesterday, so I opted for salami, instead. The cheese selection was the same, with a couple of chunks of smelly stuff, and a few slices of a better-tasting variety. And no more crappy coffee - tea is a much better choice! Of course, dirty dishwater is probably preferable to instant coffee ...

The tour guide showed up and told me to put on some pants and shoes. I wasn't very prepared today, and would pay badly for this later on ... ooh ... foreshadowing! We stopped first at a gas station to pick up some drinks and snacks, as we wouldn't be having lunch until 4 or 5 PM. The tour guide had some coffee there, and advised us that gas stations were some of the best places in Chile for coffee, because they actually make it fresh, and don't use Nescafe.

I sat next to a German couple on the bus - the husband was also a mechanical engineer and actually tried getting work in Calgary 12 years ago, with no luck. He would've had no trouble if
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More sea lions.
he tried a few years ago during the boom! He ended up becoming an SAP consultant when there wasn't much mechanical engineering work back home, so it probably worked out best for him.

There was an older couple from Newcastle who were in Chile visiting their daughter, who has been teaching English in Santiago. They must pay English teachers well here, because she lives in Providencia - an upscale expat neighbourhood!

The tour was in both English and Spanish, which was great practice for me. Apparently the guides here all speak very slow and clear Spanish, because they are quite easy to understand compared to the average Chilean. We drove out to the coast and took a tiny little boat out to Isla Damas.

I was glad that I had changed and brought a jacket, because it was a long, chilly ride out there. You could almost smell the sea lions before you could see them! It was pretty rank - every time I glanced at the German engineer's wife, she had this look of absolute disgust on her face. It was terribly fishy, and can only be described as smelling like Chinatown, but 10 times worse. Those of
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Asian descent, or that have been to Chinatown will know what I mean - it was a lot like the scent of the dried salty fish that us Chinese love so much.

The guide told us not to get too close to the penguins because they scare very easily, and have been known to either commit suicide or have a heart attack when threatened. I didn't think anything of it and took the guide at his word, but at a later date, someone told me it was probably just a scare tactic to prevent tourists from disturbing the penguins. They even used a personal example, saying that they were once told at a young age by their parents that they shouldn't get too close to the animals at the zoo, because they would die of fright. So apparently, I'm as gullible as a 5 year-old child!

After a spin around the island to observe the different wildlife, we were dropped off at one of the island's beaches. I wish I had brought my swim trunks! As I said earlier, I was ill-prepared for today. I did the quick hike up to the lighthouse, and then over to a larger, nicer
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I'm not sure, but these might have been a type of cormorant.
beach. I wandered back to the beach where the boat had docked, and sat on a rock, listening to music, and writing in my journal.

It was a beautiful setting, with a lovely crescent of sand framed by deep-blue waters, a refreshing sea breeze, the sun shining down, and several bikini-clad women - positively inspirational for a wannabe writer like me! While enjoyable at the time, I would later rue this time spent on the beach ... ooh ... more foreshadowing!

We hopped back on the boat, then subsequently into our bus and a short ride over to lunch. It was about 16:00 by the time we arrived at the restaurant, so I was thankful for the granola bars, cookies, and peach juice that I had been munching on at Isla Damas.

Back to the hostel for a shower, and the I was off to Jumbo, which appears to be the Chilean equivalent of Wal-Mart. After such a late lunch, I only wanted to have an early, light meal, so I figured groceries would be a good idea in lieu of eating at a restaurant. The Jumbo really was like Wal-Mart - it took forever for me to
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Our guide was excellent, and was quite knowledgable about the wildlife. But after a while, I got bored with taking photos of the animals and was more impressed by the beautiful rock formations.
find what I needed, and forever to pay! The early meal turned into a rather late one by the time I made my way back to the hostel.

It was a nice night to eat in the courtyard, though a tad chilly. A German girl (her name was Celia, I think ...) was sitting in a corner by herself munching on potato chips, so I offered up some of my food, since there was enough to make two meals. She gladly accepted, and we ended up chatting for a while, as she was simply killing time until her midnight bus. If only Spanish women were so easily tempted by food ... things would be so much easier for me!


Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


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Can't remember what type of bird this was, but it was still a cool shot.
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You wouldn't expect to see Penguins this far north, but they make this island their home. These are Humboldt Penguins, which can eat up to 3-4 kg of fish per day, even though they only weigh 3-4 kg themselves.
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This is the Canadian Benguin, which weighs about 80 kg, and is known to eat 80 kg per day in meat, cakes, cookies, ice cream, and small rodents. It's distinguishing feature is its oddly-shaped flippers.
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Standing next to the Chilean flag and wearing the blue cap, is our guide (Marcelo, I think)
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Dolphins - Marcelo made a funny, but true comment, saying that it's a waste of time taking photos of the dolphins, because the photos never turn out, and you won't even see them because you're too busy snapping pictures!
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View from the lighthouse at Isla Damas.
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Me at the lighthouse, when I still looked human ... ooh ... even more foreshadowing!!!
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Some very sweet, coconut cream biscuits. Not as good as the Filipino cookies that Ben loves so much. Be sure to ask him about those the next time you see him!
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Over at the island's larger, more secluded beach.
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Interesting foliage and rock formations.
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Outhouse on the island, with a very low doorway. Not a problem on the way in because you can see it coming, but when backing out from this narrow space, I smacked the back of my head pretty good.
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Our tour included lunch, and the meal began with a mussel salad, with rubbery mussels, some shredded iceberg lettuce, olives, and mayo. Pretty bland.
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I opted for the Reineta, a fish available only in Chile. Every other fish you get here has an equivalent English name, but not this one. A number of simple salads were served with the meal, and none of them were anything special. The reineta was simply done, and served with some mushy rice. Reminiscent of many so-so meals in Spain ...
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I'm sorry, I know this might seem creepy, but this was too funny so I had to take a photo of this - maxi pads called "Enjoy". Are these really items that can be enjoyed?
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I picked up some buns that looked liked the delicious ones served at the hostel for breakfast, but they were pretty hard, despite being fresh out of the oven. The crust essentially shattered when I tried to rip them in half! Some lightly-flavoured Chilean cheese, smoked pork, strawberry yogurt, tropical juice, and a yummy-looking fruit platter that I couldn't resist purchasing, rounded out the meal. The fruit platter was the highlight and truth be told, I knew there was no way I could finish it, but needed to have it after being fruit/vegetable deprived for the past few days. The sliced oranges were crap and the peaches were canned, but the melon, kiwi, and strawberries rocked!


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