Martin in Gatineau Park

Martin in Gatineau Park

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sunny Timperley

Hello folks

Here we are after an uneventful journey from the southern hemisphere.

It was summer when we left Santiago yesterday afternoon, but not unexpectedly winter in Manchester today, when we bade farewell to Chris and Wanda who dashed off to get a train to the Lake District. 

At least the sun is shining in through our back door in Timperley! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Valparaíso, and the end of a trip

We enjoyed our day in Valparaíso, but are sad that it marks our last full day in Chile before returning home.

A stroll down to Plaza Sotomayor with Morgan saw us join about 30 others for a three hour guided walking tour offered by the T4T team. That's 'Tours4Tips' - you just give them some money at the end. The guides all wore 'where's Wally' t-shirts.  They were led by Priscilla, aided by Ignatio and Philippe. Very good they were too. We spent an informative few hours walking around, hopping on and off buses, visiting the prison with a capacity for 300 inmates, where at one time the Pinochet regime kept 1200 political prisoners behind bars, and generally enjoying a morning in the bright sunshine that is symptomatic of Chile's unpredictable weather.

Anthony was also on the tour, and we had the pleasure of his company afterwards for lunch in a sandwich shop. The Chacarero and Barros Luco sandwiches were excellent. We hope to see you again one day, Anthony.

On return to Luna Sonrisa, Sue invested some time in checking in for tomorrow's flights, and perhaps more importantly sorting out collection arrangements for our hire car. The Puerto Montt company has no office at Santiago airport, so we have a rendezvous with someone at a petrol station, from where hopefully we'll get a lift to the airport before he takes the car back to Puerto Montt. Thanks go to the Luna Sonrisa staff who helped sort this out.

This faffing delayed a planned visit to one of the houses of the political figure and poet, Pablo Neruda, which was then shelved in favour of another walk around town. It's an eyecatching place, thanks to the variety of brightly painted buildings and the 'graffiti', otherwise and perhaps more correctly known as street art.

We took a funicular to a good viewpoint above the port, on the way down chatting at length to an interpretation and translation student, Andreas, born in Germany but taken to Chile at the age of one by his Chilean mother. He is excited by plans to visit his father in southern Germany in the next few weeks, especially at the prospect of seeing snow.

A fine meal at La Bruschetta marked our final repast in Chile.

Today's pictures are all taken around Valparaíso:
Hotel Reine Victoria, one of many fine old buildings
The prison, now used as a base for small artisan businesses
Priscilla explains 'graffiti'
A view of the port
Our street - Templeman (2)
Pannacotta - my last dessert...

Tomorrow we will try to find Santiago airport, where we will no doubt bump into Chris and Wanda again before a 13 hour flight to Paris, then onward to reach sunny Manchester on Thursday afternoon. 

It has been a great trip. We hope you have enjoyed reading about it. An index, and a few 'Hints and Tips', should follow in due course, as well as a slideshow at Hazel Grove Civic Centre are 8 pm on Wednesday 27 April next year.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Valparaíso

The 440 km journey could have been shorter had we not headed out of Santiago along a motorway with no discernable exits, signposted 'Los Andes'.

Valparaíso is in the opposite direction to the Andes, whose lofty summits accompanied us for the easy drive to Santiago, via an assortment of identical Copec service stations.

Toll booths were more frequent today, with at one point three in the space of just a few kilometres, possibly due to our bizarre route. We were also pleased to hear a bleep from a gadget in the car that confirmed that it was registered for Santiago's 'tag' equivalent of London's congestion charge.

We reached our destination, Luna Sonrisa Hostal, soon after 4 pm, much to Sue's relief - she had been navigating from a map in the Rough Guide, which was very economical with its use of place names.

Multilingual Alex soon registered us and showed us the ropes. She then left us enjoying the cups of tea that we traditionally savour when arriving somewhere new.

Then a quick stroll down to the port, admiring the colourful houses and the street art that Thomas regarded as dreadful graffiti. I'll let the images speak for themselves.

Returning up the hill we at first ignored a voice: "Sue, Sue". Who would know Sue - they must be calling someone else...

We turned around to discover Anthony, last seen in a pizzeria in Puerto Natales, sunburnt from a day on the beach and laden with a week's shopping. It truly is a small world. He flies to Honduras next week, but we don't expect he'll bump into us there.

Back up the hill by a devious route, we dined in the highly recommended Vinilo restaurant. A shared 'rock fish' ceviche starter, then rabbit from a local vineyard for me and tongue for Sue. The rabbits apparently come from a wine supplier! Then ice cream for Sue and a local version of banoffee pie for me. All very tasty and served by a jolly chap who had spent ten years in the UK before returning home. He recommended a Chilean  restaurant in Liverpool, and he had an eye on the football match between Chelsea and Leicester that during the course of our meal returned Leicester to the top of the Premier League with Chelsea almost in the relegation zone. Who would have predicted that?

The patio on which we were eating housed a table tennis table. It's a game that isn't so easy after a bottle of Casa del Bosque 2015 Gran Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, a most enticing tipple.

Today's pictures are of a Copec elevenses point and an assortment of images from Valparaíso. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Casa Chueca and Talca

December 12

Today was a restful day at Casa Chueca together with a 27 km bike ride to Talca and back.

With more cloud than of late, we had seen the best of the mountains and we've enjoyed our day off in the quiet seclusion of this excellent spot, built from scratch by the owners since they acquired the land in 1997.

On the way down to Talca we passed the university campus. Not a student in sight, but imaginatively designed buildings surrounded by the sort of sculptures that we have come to expect to see in such places. Within the campus are some botanical gardens, of interest as much for their displays of bird life as for the flowers. Sue had a long discourse with a parrot.

Talca was notable for its absence of tourists, closed museum and cathedral, and arcades full of Christmas shoppers. 

A Christmas tree had been erected at Casa Chueca by the time we returned, much to the delight of a six year old German boy who is bemused by our failure to speak his language.

We spent the evening with Chris and Wanda (both Munroists) and the other guests. More tasty veggy fare, but I'll be glad to revert to fish or chicken tomorrow. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay (Episode 3)

Here is Sue's version of today's events:

Saturday 12 December

We had a long and comfortable night in the tent, despite having to blow up the Neoair several times. A mouse (Martin) was eating chocolate at midnight!

Soon after 8am, a brew went on and we breakfasted on muesli and tea in the tent, having another brew to use up the last of the gas whilst we were packing up the tent. There was some high cloud today.

We left the campsite around 9.30am, and on the walk back down, met lots of people coming up; all Chilean, and including four horses, two with riders each leading one loaded with gear.

It was a peaceful walk out, seeing a female Magellan woodpecker, and a new variety of lady's slipper, tiny and pink. It was interesting for us to see how people carried their gear in; some carried their tent in their hands, others had rucksacks front and back, and one group even had an upright shopping trolley on wheels!

Martin recounted his vivid dream from last night, which entailed cycling to Mike and Marion's house in Patterdale, only to find them fully occupied by two rows of guests at a house party. Al Hinkes was the waiter. Martin was totally ignored and had his bike and all his gear stolen. Then, the car that he was using to get to the police station in Kendal ran out of petrol! That bit was quite close to home, as we have a nearly empty fuel tank in Sparky, and the return trip will be touch and go!

On reaching the park office, we deposited the form to let the authorities know we had returned, and had a conversation with a young ranger. He explained that although last winter there had been very little snow in Vilches Alta (around 1200m), during some winters there is 2 metres. He also told us that very few English come to the park, but more Germans, as the first stop on their trips, having stayed at Casa Chueca.

During the final 2km to where our car was waiting, we saw a large hairy spider crossing the track, this time with a round reddish body; he wasn't keen on having a boot placed near him to gauge his size, rearing up in defence! Just beyond, a small snake (perhaps a foot long and half a centimetre wide) slithered quickly in the other direction. Both were keen not to stay on the track for too long!

Back at the car, we detected an earth tremor as we sat in the front seats with the doors open. Then, lunch of tinned herrings in curry sauce, peanuts and chocolate before we set off back to Talca.

Due to the need to conserve fuel, we free-wheeled all the way down the dirt road and further whenever possible, only engaging the gears for less than 10km out of the 50km journey! Just before San Clemente, where we hoped to get fuel, we were stopped by the carabineros! All documentation was fine and we were on our way within 5 minutes. 

Thankfully, Sparky made it to the petrol station and it was with relief that we drove the remaining distance back to Casa Chueca for around 2pm.

We were soon back in our room, Rapa Nui, organising a bag of washing, followed by a relaxing afternoon in the warm sunshine. I used the pool and we chatted to Amanda, an Australian travelling for 4 months, and enjoyed a mug of tea. The lizards are zipping about on the terrace and the birds are tweeting in the surrounding foliage.

The grounds here were worth exploring. The land slopes down to the Lircay river and a winding path leads from the pool beneath fruit trees, to one enclosure containing a pair of pheasants, and another containing geese, rabbits, chickens and ducks, a tree house, and a suspension bridge built across to an island. There is also a miniature go-karting circuit of about 300 metres, complete with traffic lights, above which a platform gives a view to the snow-covered Andes above the trees.

Cold beers on the terrace preceded dinner outside, of soup, stuffed tomatoes, mashed potato and pumpkin sauce, with salad. There is a more international clientele here tonight, with two French, Bernard and Heidi from Germany, some Chileans, Amanda the Australian, and an English couple from near Staveley in the Lake District. They told us about the state of the Lakes following the recent flooding, and although their house is fine, it sounds like a nightmare, with Keswick and Kendal severely damaged, along with roads through the Lakes.

We headed for bed when it became a little too cool to continue sitting outside, after 9pm.

Today's pictures:
Chaos at Camp
The Magellan Woodpecker 
A Mirador View
Back at Casa Chueca