Travelogue: Valparaíso, Chile (Dec 2015)

We booked a tour through our hotel in Santiago (~$50 USD) to go to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso. Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. What I really wanted to see were the street art and wall murals!

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Isn’t he/she cute though?

Our tour guide picked us up with a small van.

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That’s not our tour guide, but it’s too adorable not to post.

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Quinta Vergara Amphitheater — where they hold the International Song Festival every year. It is the largest and best known music festival in Latin America.

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Legend has it that if you take a picture with this clock, you will one day return to Viña del Mar. We had lunch here and walked on the beach.

Without further ado, our next stop: Valparaíso.

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A city built on hills, people use these funicular lifts called ascensores (steeply inclined carriages) to get up and down.

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Colorful houses!

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Every corner there is art.

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We got on a funicular lift.

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Love the downtown architecture.

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Finally got one! It’s called “Mote con huesillos”. There’s a peach in there along with beans… very sweet and refreshing drink (and cheap too!). They sell them all over the streets of Chile.

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Chile: Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas, Santiago (Dec 2015)

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Breakfast at Refugio Las Torres was good. So much better than the other refugios.

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Our view from the dining area.

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We walked around the area before catching the shuttle to Puerto Natales.

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After catching the shuttle to get out of the park, we got to the bus station to purchase tickets (Puerto Natales –> Punta Arenas). There were lots of bus companies and you can pretty much get on any and it’s the same price.

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Buses Fernández.

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Buses Gómez.

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Since we had some time before our scheduled bus, we explored the city center some more.

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When we got to Punta Arenas, it was already bed time.

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Next morning’s breakfast at the hotel.

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I love these trees.

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We walked around the city. Yes, we do that a lot.

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At the airport going from Punta Arenas back to Santiago. Paro!

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Naoki in Santiago. Sushi in Chile? Why not…

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It was easy to catch a taxi back to our hotel.

We booked a tour through our hotel (about $50 USD) for our last day on this trip to Valparaíso. To be continued…

W Trek: Sunrise at Las Torres (Patagonia, Chile) (Dec 2015)

Trek time: 2 hours

So at 2AM, we woke up with our backpacks and clothes ready along with the most important things: headlamps & flashlights. Las Torres is what we came to here to see, since the park is named after the three towers.

Since we would be going back to the refugio after this sunrise hike, we left most of our things behind and carried only the essentials.

Tip: Bring hand warmers and a jacket, it is freezing up there at sunrise!

After a lot of scrambling in the dark (yay for headlamps) over large boulders, we got to the top to catch the sunrise.

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I love the color change

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You can see the moon. Turn 180 degrees and you see the three towers…

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Turn back around and you see Boo…

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As the sun beams touch the top of the towers, people are staring intensely.

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Some camp out on random rocks to sit for hours.

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After breakfast, we hiked to Refugios las Torres, which was to be the best refugio we stayed at with the cleanest facilities and best food!

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Refugios las Torres

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We were hungry so we got a chicken sandwich for pre-dinner snack, it was SO GOOD and juicy and tender.

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Menu

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Amazing pork for dinner. Definitely the best refugio in the whole trek.

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Finally, dessert that tastes like dessert.

We leave for Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas the next day. There are only 2 scheduled bus times that leave the park, so make sure you check the schedule beforehand!

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W Trek: Road to Chileno (Patagonia, Chile) (Dec 2015)

Trek time: 5 hours

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We start off the morning with another rainbow.

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Going back East was another 5 hour hike.

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Take the shortcut… no, really.

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Chilean firebush.

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Refugio el Chileno was so much better than los Cuernos! Food was better, rooms and bathrooms were better, cleaner, more light.

What I didn’t tell you was that I threw up the previous night at the Refugios los Cuernos. I was nauseous to begin with, and they served chicken that was so dry I couldn’t cut into it at all! They said they had miscalculated the amount of food so they had to serve us the chicken from their sandwiches from lunch (for people to take on the hikes). Gross. Chileno was so much better!

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Leave your bags and shoes in front…

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Check in…

They sell candy here!

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The lunch room.

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Dinner menu.

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Soup.

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Fish.

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Of course, the food wasn’t anything gourmet or amazing, but I was glad to have something edible.

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Bunk beds and sleeping bags on top of the mattresses.

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It was so comfortable!!!!!!!!

So we had to be well-rested this night because we were to wake up at 2AM to hike up Las Torres for the sunrise.

Stay tuned!

W Trek: French Valley (Patagonia, Chile) (Dec 2015)

From the previous post, after hiking from Las Torres to Los Cuernos, we stayed at the “domos” overnight. Breakfast was better than dinner, but as expected, it was not that great. The facilities were pretty standard. Bathrooms reminded me of camping.

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Here’s the dining area.

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We booked our meals ahead of time when we booked the refugios.

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We fueled up for our 10-hour hike!

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Waking up to a rainbow was pretty awesome.

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We started our trek towards the French Valley, and we were to go towards the direction of the rainbow.

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On the way there, it was so windy that people with bigger backpacks had to stop until the wind ceased to push them towards the edge. We layered up so that it was easy to take off or put on layers. The weather in Patagonia was indeed unpredictable. That wind was no joke.

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These were the markers that tell you you’re on the right path.

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We passed by signs to the other refugios.

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The glaciers! We actually caught a sight of an avalanche but it was done by the time I got to my phone (no picture, no proof!)

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There were some scrambling along the way.

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Most trails were well-marked.

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Here we are at the Mirador! (lookout)

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mirador

This was my favorite photo taken by my friend Olivia. We met a nice gentleman from Germany who helped us take photos too!

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Along the 10-hour hike, we ran into a bit of rain and it got chilly. Our Northface shells really helped.

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After this hike, I was exhausted. I liked that the refugios provided clean sleeping bags on top of the mattresses for us to sleep in. It was so comfortable I can’t imagine sleeping without them…

W Trek: Los Cuernos (Patagonia, Chile) (Dec 2015)

From Santiago, we took a flight to Punta Arenas and stayed at a hotel overnight. Cab fare from airport to hotel was 9000CP ($13 USD in Dec 2015).

To get to the park, we needed to take a bus from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales, then a bus that connected Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park, then another shuttle bus that took us to the actual hiking/lodging area. It’s a little complicated because you need to keep in mind that although buses run every hour from PA to PN, there are only 2 scheduled times for buses to go from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine National Park; one at 7:30AM and one at 2:30PM. So the best thing to do is to stay overnight in Puerto Natales and take the early bus, or do what we did and take the 2:30PM one — but I would suggest staying at las Torres for the night and hike the next morning. (We did not do this, as you’ll read later)

In the early morning, we took a bus to Puerto Natales. If you want the earliest bus (7AM), you should book ahead of time. They run about every hour and it’s about a 3-hour ride. A bus ticket cost (in December 2015) $12,000 in Chilean Pesos, which was about $17 USD.

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You can get food & supplies in Puerto Natales. It’s a small little town with some supermarkets and restaurants. I saw real backpackers stock up on huge bags of assorted nuts and dried fruits.

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From Puerto Natales, we took another bus to the actual park, and another shuttle bus (additional cost) to get to the actual lodging/trails area. On the bus, we passed by pastures of sheep, llamas, packs of horses… it was an unbelievable sight.

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Here we are at Las Torres.

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There are signs pointing to where the general directions are. We were planning to head to Cuernos, which was noted as a 5-hour hike from Torres. It was already 5PM.

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We had to beat the sundown.

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We were confused as to where to go, because there were no more signs. Luckily, a guide pointed us to the right way.

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He was going to Chileno so we parted ways shortly after.

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It was just us two now! (and a few stragglers behind, but they also went different ways)

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The color of the glacier water reminded me of British Columbia.

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The sun was peeking out of the clouds, soon to leave us. We had to hurry.

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We saw these little houses in the distance, maybe we’re close?!

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We crossed a lot of rivers by stepping onto rocks… some were slippery and some had very little exposed rocks.

We lost each other at the last part of the hike. I got to Refugios Los Cuernos and bumped into a very tall man who was staying there, and he told me to stay put while he ran towards the direction I pointed at while yelling out my friend’s name. I didn’t stay put. How do I know I can trust a random stranger?! But he actually brought her back to me. Hikers are good people.

It took us 4 hours and there was still light out at 9PM. Yay!

At Refugios Los Cuernos, they told us that dinner stopped at 9PM. But they were nice enough to let us eat whatever the staff was about to eat since we already pre-paid for our meals.

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I expected refugio food to be bad, and they were. No surprises there. This meat was pretty tough and dry, even with sauce.

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Plastic flan.

We stayed at the “domo” and at the “refugio”. Both of these are in the same place — you go to the same registration front desk to check in. The domos are the big white tents that look like domes (duh). Our first night there was horrible. It was so windy that the domos were shaking like crazy. I kept drifting in and out of consciousness and it felt like we were in the middle of an avalanche. Even the guy who worked there said he only had 3 hours of sleep. I can’t imagine how people who camped outside felt. It was also weird that the door couldn’t stay closed and nobody got up to close it. I guess they needed their sleep and just didn’t want to get up.

Next up: The Road to French Valley!

Travelogue: Santiago, Chile (Dec 2015)

The Chile series will take me several posts to complete, so bear with me!

In a nutshell, we flew to Santiago, spent a day in the city, then flew to Punta Arenas. From there, we took a bus to Puerto Natales, where we went on to hike the W Trek in the beautiful Chilean Patagonia. Afterwards, we also got to spend some time in Valparaiso, known for their street art and murals.

First, from JFK to Santiago.

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The mountains!

A taxi ride from the airport to downtown cost about $20,000 CP ($28 USD in Dec 2015). We took a ride from a rogue car (I don’t recommend it if you are traveling alone) and got it down to $15,000.

I’m not gonna lie, the first thing we did was go to a Starbucks for their wifi and frapp… Dark Cherry Mocha Frappuccino, to be specific.

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The good thing about downtown Santiago is that almost everywhere we went, there was free wifi at cafes and restaurants — you just gotta ask nicely for the passwords!

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There were many street carts selling this, “mote con huesillos”, a traditional Chilean summer-time non-alcoholic drink made from wheat and peaches.

By the way, $1USD was equal to about 700 Chilean Peso at the time of this trip (December 2015).

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Mercado Central, fish market, seafood galore

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We here for the empanadas.

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Cheese empanada. Certainly different than the ones we have in the States.

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We walked around and found some way to go up…

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You can see the Andes in the distance.

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There are sooo many good restaurants and cafes in the downtown area.

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And ice cream… at Emporio la Rosa 

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Pisco sour!

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This was one of the best fish I’ve ever eaten in my life.

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Another hipster cafe with free wifi.

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I looove the art all around downtown Santiago. Bellavista is a hip neighborhood with street art and bars and restaurants.

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We went to a wine bar/restaurant called Bocanaríz.

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That’s the flight I chose. Gotta have the Carménère!

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Loved my tasting flight and seafood!!!!!!! Prices were quite affordable, too.

Patagonia is awaiting… Coming up on the next post!

(All photos were taken with the Samsung Galaxy S5)