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Valle De La Luna

sunny 75 °F
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This afternoon, I took a bikeride to Valle de la Luna, a 12 km ride from San Pedro de Atacama where I am staying. I started off with an argentinian couple and we got lost about 3 times trying to find the road and then they turned back when the road was uphill. Others were riding it so I kept going. It was a beautiful ride throught the desert but the wind was howling against me and sand occasionally in my face. The road stopped being paved at the entrance to the park and the trail continued uphill. There were salt coated rock and formations at first.
Then, there were black sand dunes too.

I went up to the duna mayor, about 7 km extra, the famous stop to watch the sunset. It was spectacular and reminded me of the american southwest a bit except for all of the volcanoes in the distance.
Afterward, windblown and tired, I treated myself to another good burgen and natural kiwi juice.
Chile has great juices (mango, papaya, pinapple, rasperry, strawberry, and kiwi). The variety in Chile has been so much that I have to remind myself I am in the same country as Torres Del Paine.

Posted by solorooster 13:11 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Now I am really in the desert

sunny 60 °F
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In the last 25 hours or so I have gone from Valle De Elqui, an oasis in the desert, to San Pedro De Atacama, the desert.

It all started with a 2 hour ride out of the valle de elqui. The morning sun highlighted the color in the rock.

Then, I had about 4 hours to hang around La Serena, a beach town of about 100,000. I walked the town ....
... and went to the beach, where I took in the faro de la serena and had some seafood.

Then it was a supposedly 15 hour busride to San Pedro de Atacama. The evening had views along the coast.large_DSC02496.jpg

I am glad I took the more expensive bus because there were only 3 seats per aisle and I never had anyone next to me.
I slept well and got up to desert scenery.
volcanoes showed up on the distance
and finally some interesting salt formations

Finally after 16 and a half hours we arrived in San Pedro de Atacama, a touristy town with an old spanish charm.

Posted by solorooster 18:05 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Valle de Elqui

sunny 65 °F
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The past few days I have been staying in Valle de Elqui, a valley oasis in a desert. It is a capital of pisco, a distilled alcohol made from grapes. I stayed in Pisco Elqui, a small laid back town which is a sharp contrast from the crowded cities I've been in lately.
After an overnight bus, I napped and signed up for a message on day one before heading to the Mamalluca observatory to see the southern sky. The moon was about half full, so the sky was not as dark as it could be but it was still impressive. I learned about the southern sky including the southern cross, which points to south a little bit like the north star indicates where north is. The constellations, like Orion are all upside down from the vantage point of the southern hemisphere. We looked at the moon, Jupiter, and the Orion nebula from the telescope. Photography was actually possible through the telescope for the moon.
Day 2 was an easy start followed by renting a bike. I first stopped off at the Los Nichos Pisco Distillery, dating from 1870. To make pisco, the grapes are mashed up and made into juice, which ferments into wine. Then the wine is distilled and the alcohol boils off and is stored in large barrels for at least 3 months. After this, water is added to create the 35-40 percent alcohol level and the pisco sits in oak barrels for 3 to 4 years. The tour capped off with samples. I like it best as Pisco Sour (with lemon juice) or Piscola (with Coke).
Afterwards I bike up the valley throught the towns of Horcón and then Alcohuaz. It was tough going uphill in the desert sun and I kept filling my water bottles on the way. There was an interesting church in Alcohuaz and it was cool seeing the vineyards up close.
It was then back to the hostel to take a dip in the pool and relax.
The hillside was neat at sunset.

Posted by solorooster 17:23 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

Viña Del Mar and more Valpo

sunny 70 °F
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I went with a friend to the neighboring city of Viña del Mar. It is a posh resort community 5 minutes from Valparaiso.

Then, in the afternoon, we took a boat ride into Valparaiso harbor. There were sea lions ... another San Francisco parallel.

After that, some more pictures from the streets of Valparaiso

I was told there would be a lot of stray dogs in South America and frankly the ones in Peru were scarier, but I finally got a decent photo opportunity here in Valparaiso. It is crazy.

Here are more street scenes from interesting Valparaiso

a street market

collectivos - taxis with predefined routes

some street poles in valparaiso have tile artwork like this one

this art was in a narrow alleyway on the side of a hill

this cemetary was on the hill in the middle of town

this gritty run down section of town near the port was once one of the most opulent

a new work being created

Posted by solorooster 14:57 Archived in Chile Comments (0)


sunny 60 °F
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I had heard many things about Valparaiso. I heard recommendations to skip it and people who loved it. It seemed like such a polarizing place. Thus, I decided to check it out.

Valparaiso a city of about a million people on the Pacific coast 80 miles west of Santiago. It is located on a bay surrounded by hills. Founded in the 1500s, Valparaiso became a prominant and prosperous world port between 1849 and 1914. During the California gold rush, boats had to come around Cape Horn and stop in Valparaiso. When the Panama Canal opened, Valparaiso's golden days ended. So, it is a city that has risen and fallen on hard times. Now, 2 hills are a UNESCO world heritage site and the city is coming back again. The vibe is a bit San Francisco with a gritty rough feel. there was even a devastating earthquake here in 1906, same as San Francisco. There are cable cars here too. I kind of feel like I am in a parallel universe or something.

The city is built all over 43 hills, the buildings are all customized to the countour of the hills creating very unique architecture.

With these hills, there are furniculars, or ascenders, in Spanish. This is El Peral, one of 7 functioning right now.

The city is known for its graffiti art. It is everywhere and tastefully done.

There are so many colors too, because fisherman long used colors to make their homes easy to recognize.

Down near the port, the architecture is amazing

I took a really interesting tour, run by donation only, which gave an overview of the city, allowed me to meet other travellers, and get a lot of the stories and history of the place. At the end, the guide recommended a local dish to try called chorriana, which is a heartly porteño meal of meat, cheese, onion, and egg over french fries. I tried it and it hit the spot!

After that it was time to head back toward the hostel as dusk fell on the city.

Posted by solorooster 19:22 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

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