Tuesday, July 21, 2009

one more for my baby, and one more for the road

Hello follower of Hello Lovely Chocloate People. today is unfortunately the last day of my travels in South America as I have to cut my trip short and head back to the US for personal reasons (don´t worry I´m fine). Thus I had to cancel the Peru part of my trip. But don´t worry I plan to keep you guys updated on my future travels while in business school. I mean i´m going to italy in 1 month for school so i should be back then.

Take care,

Monday, July 20, 2009

It was bound to happen

So this morning Thomasin and I realized that we had to get our rental car back to
Budget in Santiago in 4 hours before it was late. We were 3.5 hours away from the airport. For an entire week we've aggressively disregarded the speed limits, to great effect. We spent days watching other's get pulled over, and laughed heartily. So heartily I almost vomited.

Of course that's why there's a thing called Karma. On the way back to Santiago this morning I got "waved" over by a cop. Yes you read that correctly, waved over. The cops don't chase you with a siren, they expect you to politely pull over. Several days before, we were told by our concierge in Santa Cruz that if we get pulled over to tell the police we're American and don't speak English. And presto it worked!! They were so frustrated with us repeatedly saying "no comprende" that they just let us go. They also thought I was Brazilian, but I said NO, I'm American, or whatever.

So we were on our way....until 1 hour later another group of cops pulled me over for going
9 miles over the speed limit. 9!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Then the cop wouldn't give me back my ID until I paid the fine at the municipality which we had no idea where it was. I was more angry because they were making us late turning in our rental car. But I was going nowhere without that license and after 20 minutes they decided to escort us to the municipality to pay the $80 fine. I drove 1 kilometer under the speed limit the rest of the way to the airport. And luckily the lady at the rental car desk didn't make us pay the late fee. I think it was because I'm Brazilian.

All up in that volcano

Because too much happened yesterday on our 5 hour hike on the volcano I'm really just gonna post pictures. We used the same company as before (it's a French run company) and we were lead by our guide Alex, who was awesome and very French. I mean that in the best way possible.

There aren't really words to describe the experience except that it felt like we were explorers. or at the very least like we were in the movie The Day After Tomorrow and had to improbably trek across the snow from DC to New York to rescue our son who's trapped inside the New York Public Library eventhough half the wold has died. Cause that could totally happen.

I'm not going to business school anymore because now it's gonna interfere with my desire to be an explorer. Could you imagine?

It's gettin' hot in herrrrreeee

We were gettin' so hot we decided to take our clothes off....well not all of them. we had to leave our bathing suits on in order to go into the famous natural hot springs of Pucon. Our muscles were so sore after rafting that we figured that this was the best way to do it. However, it almost didn't happen.

We drove 1 hour to find the really nice hot springs, but due to the poor signage we missed it entirely and by the time we found it, it was closed. Needless to say I was angry. So we drove 1.5 hours in the other direction to go to the 24 hour hot springs, which was a nice back up. We almost missed that one because ironically the steam from the hot springs blocked the signs. twice.

But the journey was totally worth it. unfortunately it was night and steamy and the pictures came out terribly.

Rolling, rolling, rolling on a river

Pucon is an outdoor adventure paradise. If there's anything you've wanted to do in the wild and were too afraid or embarrassed to do it before, well then Pucon is the place for you. ewww, no not that thing. or that thing either. I'm talking about such things as white water rafting. This was Thomasin's first time and she LOVED it!!!

We went through a great agency called Aguaventura (which i think means either water adventures or donkey's breath. We'll never know). Anyway, for some reason they let us start out with Class IV rapids even though most of the people had never done it before. Our guide spent most of the trip either trying to knock people off the boat or run into large rocks. I don't know a lot about rafting or appropriate guiding techniques, but pretty sure that's not in the manual. Irregardless, it was ridiculous. And yes, the water was freezing. I fell in once, and jumped in once. I couldn't feel my feet for 3 hours.

We even made friends, who said they were going to add us to their Facebook page, but they totally haven't yet. WTF?!? guess we'll never find them since we actually never introduced ourselves.

Btw, the photos of us don't even come close to capturing the trip.

Life is a highway, I want to ride it all night long

After a day at the volcano we headed down to Pucon, the beautiful nature region in Southern Chile. On the way there we stopped on the side of the road at what appeared to be some lady's house to have our 150th empanada for the week.

Then we got back on the road of endless tolls. Based on my calculation, we spent about, let's see....carry the 1, divide by Pi, distribute the coefficients, and, yes we spent about $70 going from Santiago to Pucon. On tolls!!!! I'm telling you Chile, these toll fees better be going to good use rather than supporting Juanita's empanada stand on the side of the road.

We arrived in Pucon at dusk, and just in time to take incredible pictures from our hotel room. We basically lived in an amazing log cabin that faced the lake and the volcano. We forgot what fresh air smelled like. It smells like volcanic ash.

Remember Pompeii

Well this is not the same, but Laja is an insane volcano. It would have probably been better (read: safer) to navigate the volcanic rocks in an SUV instead of a Toyota Corolla, but, ummm, the Corolla was so much cheaper. Thomasin was afraid the entire time that I would drive off the cliff, but that was not to be. I'm not stupid.

The scenery was breathtaking and kind of scary. There were little memorials and flowers everywhere in remembrance of people who died. It is completely unclear how and why these people died, but I think it had something to do with the volcano. Either that or gout.


So the last 3 days have been pretty non-stop, leaving little room for uploading and updating and whatnot. So I issue this apology to my loyal reader.

After quickly getting the hell out of Los Angeles, we headed due east to the Volcano Laja, about 1 hour away. We knew the trip would be exciting when, upon entering the national park, we were stopped in our tracks by a hoard (swarm? pride? pack?) of mountain goats. I assumed that they were heading up the hill to do battle with another animal species like in Lord of the Rings. Unfortunately they were just heading to the waterfall to drink. But they didn't so much drink from the waterfall, as logic would dictate. Instead they drank the water off the rocks and ate garbage. stupid goats....oh and there were pigs. But they totally looked gross

Thursday, July 16, 2009

My my my my my my my my poker face

or Poker Sandwich. Whatever you prefer. Can't wait to eat there tomorrow. And get a disesase. Los Angeles your offerings know no bounds.

There are no words

After dropping our suitcases (and anything that wasn't bolted down in the car) in our hotel room, we headed to experience the culinary delights of Los Angles. It was either McDonald's or Bavaria. We chose Bavaria, an empty diner which can't be described in words. It's the place that time forgot. But on further consideration, it looks like the diner in movies where the out of town couple goes before they're killed in the crappy Hotel Dikran across the street from the rape-y men. There was a table with a reserved sign, which I think now might have been ironic. However our wiener schnitzels were edible. Then we went for drinks at the bar (read: basement) next to our hotel to numb the pain of this town. We ordered a 40 and got drunk with the 3 guys there watching tv and betting on the horse races. Thomasin and I sang to the tunes on one guys cell phone while helping them pick horses to bet on. I'm still not sure if Ying-Yang or Back King won.

The picture on Thomasin's face captures our emotions over the past 5 hours. Fear, confusion, exhaustion, hunger, anger, fear, delirium, fear. We CANNOT wait to get out of here tomorrow.

How far we've fallen

Within the span of 3 short hours, we've gone from the nicest hotel to the WORST, Hotel Dikran. We're now in Los Angeles because it is the only town to stay in if you want to see the volcano tomorrow. After what seemed like endless driving and terrible radio, we arrived to what we assumed was the set of Thriller. What we initially thought was fog turned out to be smoke that currently blankets the whole city. We're not sure where the smoke comes from, but it's horrendous and no one else seems to notice it. The city is so small that Lonely Planet didn't bother including a map, which made our hotel that much more difficult to find in the dark. It was only by the sheer grace of God that we stumbled upon it.

We were frightened to get out of our car, but the guy at the front desk secured our car in their parking garage. Their parking garage is an unfinished construction site guarded by a suspect chain length fence. We're praying that the car is there in the morning. The staff however is quite friendly, though the men standing across the street looked quite "rape-y" as I think Thomasin put it.

One more for the road

Included in your stay at Casa Silva is a tour of the winery. It was beautiful but the info was the same. There's not that many ways to make wine really.

However, I cannot recommend this hotel enough. Our guide was supremely friendly and knowledgeably despite the fact that we may have asked too many questions (most of which weren't related to the winery, or wine in general). As you can see, Thomasin was smelling the wine real hard.

Hung like a horse

Now I know what that statement truly means. While Thomasin was too slow with the camera to capture the true essence of this horse, I've luckily added my own recreation before the horse's, ummmm, "retraction".

And the winner is

We decided that last night in Santa Cruz was the best meal we've had since being in Chile. It was also one of the cheapest. It was a simple seafood restaurant recommended by the hotel staff and it was incredible. Ceviche, octopus, Albacore, and whatever it was that Thomasin ate. All washed down with Chilean wine.

The Viu from the top

We went to Viu Manent Winery shortly after arriving in Santa Cruz for our first wine tour, but mostly to get so drunk. Santa Cruz is absolutely stunning with continual views of the Andes. As you learned from my travels in Australia, I don't like people, so it was great that we were the only ones on our tour. We just drove up with no reservation and politely asked for a tour. Our guide took us around the plantation, er, winery in a horse drawn carriage and then it was off to the tasting. We came, we drank, I bought wine. what more can I say?.....well I can say that I will stop wearing that white cap because I look like I'm a cancer patient.

Casa Silva you are so sexy

Despite misleading and poorly placed signage, we arrived at Casa de Silva, the nicest place we've been so far. It's the family's old estate that they turned into a hotel/winery. It looks like a stable and the rooms were incredible along with the food and service. And that's Thomasin standing in our bathroom. it has mutha f-in windows. Our extra toilet paper even had handmade quilted holders. I didn't even know that was a possibility. The best part, they had Direct TV.

I'm pretty sure we were the only ones there besides our drunk Norwegian friend who we met in the living room after he finished his 2nd bottle of Champagne. Did I mention he was by himself and drank 2 bottles of Champagne. by himself?!?!

The hardest part is the tip

So yesterday we made our way to the Santiago airport to acquire our rental car and make our way 1.5 hours south of the city to Santa Cruz (better known as wine country). Driving in Chile is more or less like a video game from the 80's with obstacle courses at every turn to thwart you from getting to your final destination. It's like Super Mario Brother's except there are no dragons throwing fireballs at you, and when you eat mushrooms you don't get special powers. Our rental car is the cheapest one they had meaning that we have the most basic accoutrements, just barely. Luckily there was a radio with a amazing music and a disproportionate amount of Reggaeton.

Our obstacles (read: enemies) included the following:

1. A man on a bicycle in the middle of the highway
2. Chilean men running back and forth across the highway
3. large trucks with either fruit or papers falling off the back
4. at least 20 toll booths (we've spent at least $50 in tolls so far)
5. Chileans (lots of them) selling peanuts and whatnot at the toll booths (we would have none of that)
6. poor directions provided by google map (they are the worst), and
7. incoherent roads signs

But finally we arrived at our hotel Casa de Silva which is like heaven on earth. More on that soon.....