Thursday, January 19, 2017

Farewell Valparaiso

For the last 5 days we have been perched on a hillside in the port city of Valparaiso, Chile. It is a jumble of historic Colonial history, architecture & cultural influence with colourful, often ramshackle houses tumbling down the many hills & ravines to the sea shore. This mix brings in many tourists who stay a day or two.
After our afternoon walking tour with a local guide, Filipe, a writer & cook, we felt very comfortable walking around ourselves, navigating via the major landmarks. The colourful murals are everywhere & various famous artists have contributed to make Valpo such an interesting destination. And getting fit walking the hills is a bonus!
We have feasted on fish dishes & thanks to Filipe got to know a super coffee spot! Coffee in Chile has largely been a poor substitute to our usual expectations. Caught a local bus to visit Pablo Neruda's house La Sebastiana, which has the most amazing view of the sea, in all directions. He was a famous poet in Chile & loved to entertain at his 3 houses.
Our departure today is by sea, as we board the Crown Princess for 14 days cruising southward to Patagonia, round the Horn to the Falkland Islands, on to Montvideo & Buenos Aires. More from this correspondent in 2 weeks time!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Terra Vina hotel

This beautiful 19 room hotel in situated in the grounds of a vineyard. From our fist floor balcony reached through the French doors we have a great view across the tops of the green vines to distant hills and the snow capped Andes. It is a quiet haven with bird song all day. This is the Colchagua Valley, a fertile place with fruit and vegetable orchards and this well-known wine route.
We enjoyed a very informative tour of Vina Montes. Our guide was so knowledgeable that we both learnt so much more about wine. The barrel room, with Gregorian chants playing all the time, to help the wine mature, with the vibration from the music, blew us away!
Being in this area of Chile, some 200 kilometres south of Santiago is also giving us a glimpse into rural Chilean life. Men in beautiful straw Sombrero hats are a common sight. Fruit stall vendors sell the biggest onions I have seen, some look like melon sized. The pollution of the city doesn't reach here.
We have a hire car to drive, although when we turned up at the counter to collect it, it turned out our voucher was for Santiago in the Domenican Republic! Luckily a car was available, plus a further injection of cash and we had wheels! Our slow travel is very relaxing and we will be here for a few more days.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Moving on

We have completed 4 tours & enjoyed them all. The high altitudes have been our favourites a& today we went to Tatio Geysers for sunrise. This required a 3am wake up for the tour bus to collect us around 4am. We slept as we drove through the dark & awoke to a landscape of steaming fumaroles at 4,300m.
It is hard to get one's breath at this altitude but our guide gave us handy tips & all was good with us. There were so many tour buses & cars at the spot for sunrise, a time when the steam is most spectacular in the cold. Needed to rug up before dawn!
Moon Valley is the opposite- a place to visit before so set & then watch sunset from Coyote Rock. The extremely windy conditions has sand grains blasting any exposed flesh.
A plane flight to Santiago awaits us early tomorrow morning & from there we drive to wine country! Santa Cruz here we come!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Flamingos and other things

It has been a busy time, with a couple of tours now completed and our appreciation of this majestic landscape fully realised. Getting out of town is easy with so many tour companies touting for business & many options available. But don't get on the wrong bus!
We did, due to the language barrier & our limited Spanish. We did wonder if we were going to the Valley of the Moon for sunset, when the guide began talking about swimming! However all was not lost, as this was a tour we had planned to do later anyway.
The Cejar lagoon is home to flamingos, as are most of the salty lagoons in the Salar de Atacama & the high plateau. Although only a few were present for our first sighting, one took off &  flew overhead. We were to learn there are 3 varieties in this area & this one was the Chilean variety , not Andean or James. It's all about the colours of the wing tips, which form the tail of the bird.
Our full day tour was the best! Lakes, small towns, high plateau, herds of  vicunos, flamingos & other water birds, smoking volcano and dormant volcanoes, yellow flowering bushes, wild quinoa, cactus wood, a llama, simple churches and lunch at 4.30pm! A wild, dry, salty, beautiful land.
We were so tired we didn't make it to see in the new year, but the party in the hotel courtyard & fireworks woke me briefly to announce it was here.
Wishing you all the very best for 2017! May your hearts, hands and fabric produce beautiful creations for yourself or the ones you love!