The continuing adventures of Steve

Sometimes I write things

Round the World 2: El Gringo va al Sur

Part 1 covered my trip through South East Asia, Australia and New Zealand. This part covers the first half of my travels in South America, starting in Santiago then heading as South as South goes before turning back Northwards.

Day 42 (Monday Nov 16, Week 6)

A view of Santiago from Cerro San Cristobal

Wake an hour from Auckland and have breakfast/dinner. Unplanned sleep until descent. Easy switch to next flight. Wash, sit and read until departure. Slightly late boarding/departure. Finish watching Jupiter Ascending (bad) over food, then read for a while before sleeping a while. Watch Antman (good) over breakfast then read until landing. Guy in front insists on reclining. Nap a little prior to landing. Andes through a far window as we descend. Easy immigration then minibus to hostel. Circuitous route but get there an hour later and chill before checking in. Chat with Texan Arianna then head up the vernacular to the top of the hill with her. Chat a while and explore the hilltop then back down to chill. Head out for food in nearby street then wander surrounding surrounding streets. Get lost briefly, but find street art and Pablo de Neruda house. The sky is flecked with pink. Shower back at hostel, chat, chill then sleep.

Day 43

A view over Valparaiso from a hillside

Wake slowly. Abandon plans for a walking tour. Breakfast of apple then head out to the metro to buy tickets for tomorrow. Lots of dogs. Ice cream en route. Get off too early (Unversidad de Chile, not de Santiago) but eventually get to Turbus terminal and buy tickets. Get on bus to Valparaiso and nap a little. Very comfortable. Lunch of chorrillana upon arrival. Wander around town center (?) and near waterfront before heading up a hill to grab views of the hillscape from an overgrown garden. I get called a gringo. Back into town, I grab some shopping for tomorrow then back to the bus. Much napping on the way back. Gridlocked near station, so we get out and walk. Rush hour walk to hostel, catch up with Arianna then shower. Mostly naked guy is laughing to himself in hostel room. Check in with hostel guy about drinks, then head to Peruvian restaurant for lomo saltado. Discover that tap water is de la lluvia. Back at hostel, sit down to drink with Arianna and Sylvia. Chat for ages. Joined by Wisconsin Eli (hostel man), Woking Emma, and Australian Luke. Luke doesn’t know about Pinochet. I unsuccessfully attempt to find wine, but then head out with Eli who helps. Chat with Columbian Eduardo and older bearded Argentino in Spanish for a while, occasionally joined by Luke. Apparently, we compare the prices of women.

Day 44

Painting of Volcán Villarrica in the Chili Kiwi hostel (art by Che Kumar)

Wake too early to alarm. Pull myself out of bed for breakfast. Chat with Luke, then goodbye as I head to bus terminal. Disappointing chorrillana at the food court then onto bus by 11. Nap a little then read. Andes prominent to start, but recede around 12:00. Stop near Molina/Curicó around 13:30. Up-market. We pull into Talca at 14:00. Reading, lunch then nap. The scenery is flat farmland as we pull into Chillán at 16:05. Overcast and rain by 17:00. The rain stops by 18:30 and the surroundings seem almost English. Rain starts again near Temuco at 19:50. Past Temuco, the foothills of the Andes finally reappear, albeit in the rainy haze. Drop off most passengers around 20:00 and leave to a bright double rainbow. Turning off onto smaller roads, a thin mist hangs over the fields as a yellow sunset lights up the sky. Darkness as we pull into Pucón. Cold walk through town to hostel. Checked in by Kiwi Alice then chat with Brazilian roommate. Shower, WiFi, then chat with 2 Swedish roommates. Chill downstairs next to loud Israeli group, then sleep.

Day 45

The icy waterfall at Termas Geometricas

Wake slowly. Room empty by the time I go downstairs. Head to the supermarket to buy cereal, then back to the hostel to eat. Start chatting with new arrivals then get introduced to the activities in Pucón. We chat and decide to head to the Termas Geometricas. Pack a bag then hop on a minibus. Nap after leaving the lake. Bumpy last segment of ride. Great time at hot springs. Misty gorge with waterfall. Jump in waterfall (knocked down), then hot springs. Very social. Chat with Alice and English Che about working abroad. Chill in the rain with Italian Lara a while. Everyone sleeps on return bus trip. Chill downstairs for a while then head out with Dillon, Sonia and Lara before heading to supermarket for supplies. Dillon intends to buy dinner but comes out with pisco sour ingredients and a banana. Back to hostel then meet with English dudes and Australian Phil at the restaurant. Excellent steak and conversation, then buy some wine at the supermarket to drink back at the hostel. More drinking then eventually head out around 2am. Wisconsin Nicole joins us. Have a dog escort around town. Wolf pack. First bar closes immediately but we are directed to another. Many pisco sours. Nicole hates bottled water. Pool. Jack pulls. On the way back, Dillon jumps the hostel fence to let us in. Sleep at 4.

The misty walkway leading away from the waterfall

Day 46

Group photo after hydrospeed

Woken by alarm. Lara is getting up below. Wash and head downstairs. Plans for waterfall walk are canceled as we decide to plan our next steps. Chill and plan. Chat with an Australian Trent who snuck onto the volcano yesterday. Jack returns at 11. Pop out for a supermarket run with Dillon. Book Puerto Varas hostel and bus. Try Mate from Dillon’s friend’s girlfriend. English dudes still asleep at 14:00. Barry Maniloche. Lunch then out to hydrospeed with Rich, Nicole, Sonia and Lara. Fantastic time, despite calf cramps. Back to hostel to chill and shower. Head out for a walk with Sonia and Lara, then grab salad ingredients and eat back at hostel. Chat, wine then homemade pisco sours and egg yolk pisco shots. Head out with everyone to Mamas and Tapas. Drink and chat with locals Axel, Alvaro and Fransisco “Amigos… siempre”. Johnny seems to be in trouble but we assume he can handle himself. Apparently, Jack annoyed some people last night when he pulled, so everyone comes back to Mamas and Tapas. Alvaro bad mouths Welsh mountains. Smoke with Axel. He’s the director of traffic in Pucón. Lara’s coat gets stolen. Back after closing time at 5am.

Day 47

The trail to Salto El Claro

Woken by Lara packing at 9. Apparently her alarm didn’t go off. Back to sleep until 11. Breakfast and slow hour of chatting before heading out to Salto El Claro. Long walk, but first clear day reveals mountains. Dirt track slopes upwards and cars diminish. Treasure map proves ambiguous as I miss the trail and go straight down to the river via a hairy descent. Return and descend proper route with a Spanish couple. Meet German couple from the hostel at the base. Moist. Climb up and start walking back when picked up by 2 Chilean guys in a truck and given a lift back to central Pucón. Buy dinner and walk back towards hostel, bumping into Phil, Jack and George on the way back, who have decided to stay another day. Cereal and chill near the lake for a while. Rich and co land back at the shore so I hop in the boat for the last hour before sunset. Calm water and serene out in the bay. Eat chocolate and watch the sun set. Shower upon return, then cook pasta.

Looking back on Pucón at dusk from a kayak on the lake

Day 48

My kayak parked for lunch on a quiet beach

Wake slowly. Roommates complaining about being drunk. Apparently, one of them woke up naked on the beach this morning. Breakfast, then buy supplies and head out on the lake for a kayak. Stop on a private black sand beach for lunch and joined by Bristolian couple from the hostel. Continue around the peninsula and head back after 3 hours on the water. Shower, chill and chat with Dylan and Jerry about plans in the South. Rich walks in bloody. Apparently be got blind drunk and Dylan had to drag him home, where he tripped over a stone bench. “Sometimes, I go there, have 1 drink and black out. Cheap though.” says Jerry. Make pasta and sit down for Villarrica orientation. Chill until space opens then pay. Chat then chill with the staff for a bit. Bugs in the sink. Chat with Texan Alison and Christina for a bit until sleep.

Day 49 (Mon 23 Nov, Week 7)

Me standing in the whiteout conditions on Volcán Villarrica

Wake to alarm. First downstairs for breakfast. Lots of paperwork and translation. Kit up and head out in a minibus. Stop at CONAF for more paperwork. Ascend to abandoned skilift and start walking. Rough start for some but we continue to snowed under top of skilift for a low visibility food break. Helmets and gaters on and continue up snowdrift single file in near whiteout conditions. Occasional glimpses of other groups, rocky outcroppings or the land below the clouds. Brief stop at old refugio after 40 mins. Apparently the guides use it for climbing. Lunch in whiteout conditions an hour later. Weather check means we start our descent. Toboggans with ice picks for brakes, skiers flanking us and 15m visibility makes for a surreal and incredibly fun descent. At the bottom, some of us climb up a small but steep slope to slide down. I flip, lose my ice axe and have to climb back a bit. Food and then easy walk down. Back at hostel I chill, buy food for bus and shower. Che compares cereals for a bit. Head to supermarket with Trent, Jack and the Israelis for BBQ supplies then back to hostel to cook. “I just love dead cow”. Chat and drink wine as we cook. Che runs outside “ Holy shit guys, come and check out this sunset”. Dog gets in and hangs around for a while. Bodok/Amirr tries to teach me how to pronounce his name and looks like Anthony Burch. Brilliant meal with homemade Israeli sauces. Continue drinking and smoking outside with Che and Dylan joining. Eventually turn in.

Day 50

Vivid orange sunset over lake Lago Villarrica (from previous night)

Wake thirsty to my alarm. Breakfast then goodbyes to Trent. Slow walk through town. I am genuinely sad to leave Pucón/Chili Kiwi. Israeli sauce still on my breath. Dogs fight at the bus station. Board and sleep for almost 2 hours. Passenger change at Osorno. Short walk from Puerto Varas bus station to hostel. Check in with Australian Chris and chill for a while. Head out to wander along waterfront and have excellent salad for lunch followed by milkshake. Chill back at hostel for a while, then head out with Chris and 4 Kiwi girls (back from Torres) to buy food. Chatting, cooking and drinking box-wine for a while. NZ vs Oz. “За зло!”. Team Tinder adventures. Message a Chilean midget for a while. Chat with British Sarah for a while then sleep.

Day 51

Us crammed in the back of a minibus with all our bikes

Wake groggily. Tea, breakfast and goodbyes with Chris. Joined by Oregon Jon and Californian Tatiana later. We head out to get bikes. Protest march about education en route. First place has sold out despite promises. Head around the corner and get good bikes. Meet Canadian Russ (Tatiana’s uncle’s friend) who takes us out. Ride along old railway, then field and onto road. At Llanquihue, an air raid siren alerts us of noon. Ride along easy roads for a while. Hills, then rain and hills. Sarah isn’t happy. More hills and views. Group stratifies with me and Russ up front. Russ owns a brewery and used to be a salmon farmer. We talk about trains with Sarah. Pull into Frutillar and wait for the others. Lunch of ceviche, pork chop, flan and whiskey. Buy pavlova/kuchen. Try and convince bus driver to take us and our bikes. Take apart bikes and occupy the back 3 rows. Driver is annoyed when we disembark. Return bikes, then off to hostel. Eat mashed kuchen, chill, shower then watch The Killing fields with Jon. Heavy. Chat with Jon and Tatiana into the night. Tatiana books San Pedro stuff. Sleep.

Day 52

Us buying fruit in Puerto Montt

Wake slowly. Breakfast with Jon. Packing and checkout followed by chilling in the common room with Sarah, Jon and Tatiana. Watch a bit of Whiplash then head off to change sterling to USD for the blue market. Hop on bus to Puerto Montt. Very large vegetables near the bus station. Find my room for tonight, ditch stuff and head towards the docks. I buy a fearsome hat. Head into waterfront food area. Dozens of tiny restaurants. We sit down with free pisco sours. Assorted fish for food. Table behind us gets giant mountains of fish. More pisco then off into the market with a nice buzz. Tatiana gets a jacket and I muse over mate mugs. Back through quaint market village, then supermarket and market street to get food. We split up and I head to my place for the night. Chill and recharge. Brief wander, then shower. Chill and sleep.

Day 53

An orange sunset from the deck of the Eden

Wake slowly. Good breakfast with homemade toast I can’t eat. Checkout, underpay and walk to the ferry terminal. Check in and read in waiting room until Jon and Sarah arrive. Wander along the waterfront and into the town centre. Check out a mall then a post office for Sarah to send cards. Off through the town square to another mall where Jon gets glasses. We chill upstairs and chat about upcoming life plans for a while. Back down and to a UniMarc for supplies, then pub for a cazuela lunch. Coffee and froyo follow as we chat about mountain climbing. Slow walk back to the dock via fruit stands. Buy oranges to stave off scurvy. Meet Lara at the dock, who managed to get a last minute ticket. Chat with German Zoe on the bus to the boat. We board the Eden. Check into cabin. Roommates are sardonic Australian and Austrian. Explore ship and find everyone else. Safety briefing with the excellent Percival. Chat on the front deck with British child psychologist Alicia, Austrian supply chain manager Marine and Jon about jobs and plans to move. Anchors are hauled in and we head inside for dinner just as we leave port. Simple meal. Later, talk with Alicia on the front desk about languages as the sun sets. Head in upon hearing a garbled announcement. Karaoke. Sarah gets whiskey and we chat until we head out for brief stargazing before bed.

Day 54

A narrow pass from the deck of the Eden

Woken from dream by alarm. Quick wash then downstairs to breakfast with Sarah and Jon. Out front for sightseeing with Alicia and Marine then up to bridge where the captain walks us through the charts of the upcoming voyage. Back inside for briefing with Percival, then back outside in time to see dolphins. Chat with British couple spending a year in South America then inside for lunch. Chat about children and schools with Alicia, Marine and Zoe. Chill out front for a bit then read our back with Marine. Listen to Percy give a fauna talk in Spanish. Understand most of it but return for English version with Alicia. Interrupted to see a passing Chilean navy vessel ‘Esmeralda’ (Percy’s former ship). Finish lecture then food and conversations about reality TV. Outside to whale watch. Sardonic conversations and we spot an Albatross. Rain sets in as the sky and sea form a gray gradient. Play the telescope game then head back in to chat with Lara and co about languages and meat. Read a while, shower then sleep.

Day 55

The wreck of the Leonidas in the Messier Channel

Woken from dream by alarm at 6. Head outside but too misty to see anything. Lara takes photos of the boat for a while and I head inside to sleep. Wake again in time to have breakfast with Jon. Wish Marine a happy birthday, find out Austrian roommate took the Trans Siberian then head out back to see the wreck of the Leonidas. Stay outside for a few hours as we pass through the narrows. Horn blast as we pass the virgin isle. Head out back to read a while then chat about travel plans. Strongly consider extending sabbatical. Lunch then a few hours outside in the rain watching the scenery. Pass through the narrows with echoing horn blasts at the narrowest part. Retreat to the dry inside and play card games with the Alicias, Katerina and Sarah. Torres talk with Percival then confirm plans for the W with Jon, Sarah and Alicia. Bikini contest in the rain, then reading before dinner with Jon, Alicia and other. Pop up to room to do medical inventory then downstairs to read. Pass through bingo and find a stowaway kitten. Play her for a while until bingo people flood into room for impromptu sing-along. Fun times. Chatting follows in which we decide I am the accidental proto-hipster. Sleep.

Day 56 (Mon 30 Nov, Week 8)

A golden sunrise as we enter Unión Sound

Wake to Australian faffing. Alarm later then back to sleep. Scramble awake at 6:40 in time to see sunrise. Percy: “Quite astonishing”. See a few whale spouts and eventually breaching minke whales. Reorganize back in room then chat with British couple and Alicia about TDP planning until breakfast. Interrupted by the narrowest pass. Beautiful scenery. Head back inside to finish breakfast then out back for a few more photos and inside to plan. Cards as we pull into port despite whisperings of an 18:00 arrival. Walk across town dropping off at various hostels. Check in, practice Spanish, shower, recharge and head to Base Camp to meet them. Seat at front and form plans for TDP. Head out for coffee and planning. Form shopping list then spend a while traipsing across town looking for 2 2 person tents. One is sold as 4 seasons but obviously not. We eventually find them just down the road from the girls hostel. Alicia rents one and I dash back to hostel to get credit card for my kit. Just miss them at their hostel, so spend the next hour running around town until finding them at an intersection. Grab last bits of kit and food then onto base camp for drinks with Katherina, Adam and wife. Get packing pointers, eventually head back with Katherina and later drunkenly pack until 1:30.

Day 57

Cordillera Paine from Lago Pehoé

Wake early. Light confuses me as to the time. Quick shower, gear check then breakfast. Checkout and walk to bus station. Jon is there and the bus is earlier than we expected so we board and leave with no sign of the girls. Jon seems stressed and I sleep. Cows block our drive briefly. Stunning Torres vista. Emus next. Car with destroyed tire, llamas and hares punctuate the approach to the entrance. Forms and safety briefing, then leave a message for the girls and board a bus to the lake. Wait a while, checking every bus but to no avail. Decide to take the catamaran and leave a note on the other side. Miss the first catamaran (overloaded) so nap/chill for a while before heading over. Beautiful views but fret slightly over separation. Leave a note on the refugio desk and set out. Easy walk to start, but rapidly uphill. Run out of water but refill at stream. Lago de patos impresses but the glacier does more. Jon likes photos of him walking away from things. Awe as Lago Grey mirador comes into view. Head downhill a while but decide to turn back on account of light and CONAF activity implying we might not be allowed back soon. Aimless chats about cosmology and space exploration as we walk back through lengthening shadows. Arrive back, note still on desk so we book a space. Find Alicia and Sarah at the back of the campsite and have a happy reunion. Cook food. Slightly burned rice with tomato sauce. Chat with Amsterdam man who has almost finished the W over dinner. Find Lara and co after food (they just returned from Grey). Lend them utensils and charge. Mareen describes plans for “Mouth Coffee”.

Grey Glacier from Lago Grey mirador

Day 58

Cordillera Paine from the Western shore of Lago Pehoé

Wake to snoring. Claw out of tent like an unwieldy birthing. View again takes my breath away. Quick shower then off to breakfast with the girls. Jon joins later and the girls head off to Mirador Grey. Read a while then repack a little. Head off on a short walk down the tail of the Q. See a goose and get some lovely lake views then head back in time to chill and snack before the girls return. Lunch, redistributing food then set out to Campamento Italiano. Easy hills with Paine Grande taking up our view first. Strong winds as we crest a hill and get views of a lake. Brief twister on lake. Walk through white forest as Valle Frances comes into view. Forest and rapids as we approach camp. Cross a rickety bridge and make it to camp. Spanish check-in then pitch tent in rocky earth. Wash feet near rapids, bump back into Lara and team who just returned from an incomplete ascent to Mirador Britanico. Jon and Sarah make dinner while me an Alicia chat about the perfect hostel. Dinner of rice and tuna with a tomato sauce. Chocolate and riddles from Jon for dessert. I wash up with dirt and ice cold water while the mountains distract me. Jon turns in, cards with the girls, quick wash then an early night.

The bridge to Campamento Italiano with Glaciar Francés in the background

Day 59

The view towards Los Cuernos from our secret mirador

Wake gradually to the sound of the river. Jon out first, then breakfast of potato puree and jam. Leave our bags at the camp and set out up Valle Frances. Photo stops and a rocky start. Thunderous avalanches punctuate our entire walk. Get to quiet point after 2 hours. We agree to go no more than 10 minutes ahead in an attempt to see over the ridge and Sarah stays behind. 2 minutes late we reach a stunning and empty Mirador. I head back to get Sarah and we enjoy the 360 views for a while before heading down and making excellent time. Talking with other downward groups we seem to have found to wrong Mirador as the ‘correct’ one was packed with people. We are OK with this. At the bottom we pick up our bags and have a quick lunch of ricecakes, eggs and meat before setting off for Los Cuernos. Easy walk with more stunning views and forests. Tent becomes loose on my backpack as we descend steeply. Stop and wash feet at a stony beach. Meet Japanese guy from boat who is studying insects and got access to the high camp near Torres. Little further to Cuernos where we check-in and pick a poor spot at the marshy lower end of the camp. Glorious shower. Cook food and chat with British lady from the base camp who is doing the Q. Eat food (rice with tuna and mushroom sauce + pickled vegetables) and reunite with Dan + son from boat who are doing the W in the opposite direction via refugios. Chat and share wine and pisco sours with Dan before checking out the waterfall and turning in.

Jon and Alicia in our secret mirador

Day 60

Valle Ascencio from the high pass

Sleep disrupted by Jon’s loud and erratic snoring. Get up early to wash and see British lady leaving. Breakfast of puree and jam again. Head off over a bridge towards Torres. Chat with Sarah about diabetes during a long ascent. Snack break at pretty spot at 12. Reach the shortcut early then picturesque grassy trail to the join with the southern trail. A swarm of flies has joined us by 14:00. Precarious trails along a steep sided valley. Passed by a train of horses before reaching Chilleanos nestled at the bottom of the valley. Late lunch in the shade then set off. As Dan described, the walk to Campamento Torres is like “walking to Rivendell”. Set up camp in a decent spot then head up to Mirador del Torres (Jon stays behind). Easy, but steep climb up boulders to the Torres. Everyone was exaggerating. Expected rock hell, got rock playground. Stunning views at top and reunite with British Q lady. Loud Americans. Get a few good lunges in the dying light. Walk back down as we talk about British towns. Jon has prepared first batch of rice upon return. 3 course meal of rice+tuna+sauce, soup, more soup and chocolate. Discuss the British being miserly about heat as we eat - Jon, who grew up in Alaska has never heard of hot water bottles “we just have heat in our houses”. Someone creates a small fireball while trying to cook outside “…this is why we can’t have nice things”. Early night.

Day 61

The Torres at dawn

Woken by alarm in the darkness. Outside muddled footsteps and headlamps fill the camp. Jon dresses first and I follow. Queue for the toilet so we head off in the dark. Sarah has decided that it is “too cold to appreciate the view” so stays behind, meaning I get a flashlight. Plod uphill following the glinting of the trail markers. See a procession of headlamps across the boulders. Breathtaking view as the light touches the Torres. Get some lunges in and enjoy the view for a while before heading down. Get separated on the descent but Jon is heating water when I get back. Sarah planned to explore to the clearing “Did you make it?” “Yes. Well… no. I made it to the toilet.” Breakfast then final pack up and head off downhill. Make it to Chilleanos in good time without stopping. Brief snack stop then off on the final leg. Pass horses on the way down. Mentally check out after snack at the bottom of the slope. Final slog to Los Torres. Crash on the grass outside, leave my stick for outward travelers. Alicia tells of a bar with cocktails “Are there other Unclean there?” We head inside for cocktails, blinking in the unfamiliar warmth of civilization. I get an excellent red cocktail. Chilean woman shares chips with us and we board the bus. Catch Alicia up on British politics then switch buses. Sleep on way back. Meet Adam and wife back at bus station - they did the back of the O. We split, I repack and meet others at Chafran to give back equipment. Shower and wash clothes. Meet everyone outside Jon’s hostel and head to BBQ we walked past earlier. “Tenemos carne. Solo carne” “Estamos buenos con esto”. We eat and drink red wine from metal mugs. Back at the hostel, Dave is hurriedly sorting out an Argentinean visa for his son. Excellent sleep follows.

The Torres a little later in the morning

Day 62

Cordillera Paine from the bus as we leave (previous day)

Wake slowly. Enjoy the freedom to lie in on an actual bed. Long breakfast followed by Skype with parents. Head out for some supplies then briefly dial into Darren and Nikita’s wedding. Terrible reception but good to ‘show my face’. Spend most of the afternoon planning onward travel. Read a while then head out for quiet meal before heading back to book more hostels. Read more then sleep.

Day 63 (Mon Dec 7, Week 9)

Mountain range from Cueva del Milodon

Wake later than expected. Breakfast pack then off to meet at Nancy’s. Join Jon and Alicia in the secondary hostel building then head off along with Sarah to Cueva del Milodon. Spend a while wandering around the caves and posing with the Milodon before going to a viewpoint up a hill. Back to the taxi and town, dropped off near a brewery for lunch, which is closed so we walk to another restaurant (bumping into Percy en route) and talk about interesting foods over Guanaco a la cacerola. Jon describes hunting rabbits “Rabbits only make a sound when they’re calling out for death… it’s the worst sound ever”. After lunch, I buy a battery for my meter then we change money. Search for leg brace for Sarah then back to Nancy’s. Drop Sarah’s sleeping bag at free box in Base Camp before heading to bus station. Can only get tickets for 19:00 so we head off for juice, salad and card games at a cafe until leaving time. Meet Tiwanese lady from Puerto Varas at the bus. On the bus, reading and watching flat plains roll by. God rays at sunset. Pull into Punta Arenas, struggle to find a colectivo so hop in a taxi to Hostal Entre Vientos. Check in, chill out and meet Chris from Puerto Varas who says that Chiloe was “a bit dull”. He’s heading to Natales/Singing Lamb tomorrow and planning on doing the W sometime in the upcoming week of rain. Shower, chill and sleep.

Day 64

A penguin on Isla Magdalena

Wake comfortably. Head upstairs for breakfast and marmite discussions. Goodbyes to Chris then head out front to play on swings. Walk along waterfront in strong winds until we get to the Penguin people’s office, which appears closed. We pop to a cafe, book tickets for penguins then head out to change money, buy food and get a taxi back to the hostel. Quick lunch, then wander along waterfront in the other direction. When it becomes apparent we won’t make it to the boat on time, we grab a taxi the rest of the way. Check in and board the Malenka. Nap a while then meet Tiwanese lady and Adam and chat for a bit until we arrive at Isla Magdalena. On the island, a lack of dock means someone has to shoo away the penguins lest they get crushed by the boarding ramp. Pengwings! Incredibly windy. Almost take off near lighthouse and have to group together with 4 French guys to make it the last few steps. Lose a tissue but genuinely fear death to get it off a railing. On the way back pass a family screaming as if on a roller coaster. Penguin almost crushed by boarding ramp when boat returns. Very rocky crossing with the boat violently shaking as waves crash across deck. Read, podcasts and nap. Grab a taxi upon landing and direct him to restaurant that Jon found. Driver tries to take us to another restaurant then tries to overcharge us. We have wine and lamb rack for dinner then walk back to hostel.

Day 65

A sign outside Hostal Cruz del Sur

Wake to alarm, wash and have a short breakfast of cold meats and avocado. Goodbyes to Jon then head off with Sarah and Alicia to the bus station. Find a taxi right outside the hostel but get taken to the wrong bus station. Get another taxi then settle in for a long ride. Reading and flat steppes until we stop for a break at cafe in Puerto Delgada. Board a ferry and sit in a cramped seating area for a short but choppy crossing. Back on the bus on the other side and onto more flat, dusty scrubland and gravel roads. Stop for food break 5 mins before the Argentine border at San Sebastian. Easy Chilean border crossing, a few minutes drive to Argentina then another stamp. Sniffer dogs eagerly exploring underside of bus upon return. Sleep through more dead flat scenery after we set off again. Pass briefly through the industrial Rio Grande. Twisted trees as we turn inland. Short snack break at Tolhuin, then passing by Lago Fagnano on the right and jagged snowcapped mountains on the left. As we turn into the mountain pass, a fine mist produces ghostly outlines of a rolling mountain range. In Ushuaia, we split off to different hostels. Check-in in Spanish, recharge then head out for longer than planned meal of trucha rellena. Bump into Dave and son leaving an all you can eat BBQ on the way back. Shower and recharge until sleep comes.

Day 66

A sign in Ushuaia giving distance to Buenos Aires and La Quiaca

Wake up very tired. Snowing outside. Breakfast, wash and planning in the common room until heading out for a wander around town a bit. Bitingly cold with snow covered mountains fading in and out of view beyond the edge of town. Very “At the Mountains of Madness”. Meet with Alicia and Sarah at the prison museum. Great museum and very detailed. We head off for a long/late lunch afterwards. Salad, chips and high quality submarino. Sarah heads off to Skype and I go to buy plane tickets for Saturday. Fail to find the correct office and realize that I need to alert bank of travel plans anyway, so head back to hostel to Internet for a bit. Head back out, find ticket place closed so head back to buy online via circuitous route around town. Read a while then chat with people from El Calafate.

Day 67

A view from the shore of Lago Roca

Wake seconds before alarm. Wash, breakfast and email Sarah to decide plans for today. Book bus to Tierra Del Fuego National Park. Get kitted up but bus arrives 5 mins early and I am rushed out of hostel, forgetting my water. Alicia and Sarah join the bus then we switch buses at a central depot. Joined by English guy we met coming down Valle Francés. Short drive to the National Park entrance where we pay entrance and get maps. Drive onto Lago Roca and heard north along the lakefront. Snowing. Into a deciduous forest as the snow gets heavy. Beautiful views as snowflakes fall in shafts to the forest floor. Continue along deserted trail to split up mountain. Mountain path closed, so we continue up coast. Sarah heads back on account of her knee and me and Alicia continue on a while longer. Lovely forest made more picturesque by intermittent snow flurries. By the time we return, we find Dan (Dave’s son) waiting in the cafe. We grab a quick hot drink then head off in search of Sarah, who we find promptly. We follow the trail she did, eventually making it to an island. Follow a path round, going round in a circle briefly then making it to the road. I hop on a bus back and Alicia carries on. Not the bus I have a ticket for but friendly driver takes us back to Ushuaia anyway. Wander just outside of town to try and get a decent shot of snow covered peaks, then back to hostel to book El Chalten hostel. Wash muddy boots and jeans at wash basin outside in the snow. Head out for simple dinner of omelet and chips then back to shower, chat and read until sleep comes. Unnervingly light at 22:00.

Day 68

Martial glacier covered in snow

Wake several times during the night, bus sleep comfortably. Talk with Canadian aboot El Chalten hikes over breakfast then walk up to glacier chair lift to meet the girls. Long walk through town first, then following a winding forest road. Many shortcuts through trees for walkers but take a very bad shortcut costs minutes and has me ankle deep in mud. My boots were so clean as well. Jog the remaining distance and find Sarah and Alicia emerging from a cafe. We walk up a broad gravel trail then across a bridge to a snowy tree covered trail along a ridge. Drop down and enjoy beautiful views of the Martial glacier and valley. Clear weather changes quickly and visibility drops as we walk down in snow. Quick stop in a cafe as we order a restaurant. Nic my jacket on the way out. Back at hostel, I wash my boots and jeans in the snow (again), then meet Sarah in a nearby cafe. Send postcards, then eat a cazuela-esque soup for lunch followed by a very decadent chocolate/banana-split thing. Grab bags from hostel then in a taxi to the girls hostel then airport. Quick look around, check in and Internet before boarding. I get a window seat with no one else in the row and read for most of the trip as fly over dead flat pampas until the last moments reveal the distant Andes. Share a taxi to hostel(s). Check-in, book bus to glacier for tomorrow and meet roommates (Italian Stefan and others). Head out to grab supplies and money before supermarket closes. Town seems touristy in a subdued way. Very different surroundings to Ushuaia. Wedding party driving around town honking horns. Quiet shower upon return, charging, Internet and sleep.

Day 69

Glaciar Perito Moreno looking south

Woken early by sun shining in face and roommates stirring. Head to breakfast and chat with Chilean taking a break from thesis writing and French roommate doing volunteer work. Walk to bus station, exchange ticket and board bus. After an hour of driving along side the lake, we pay the park entrance fee and drive to drop off boat people before finishing at the visitors centre and cafe. Start walking along walkways through forest, pausing often to enjoy the wall of ice and frequent thunderous avalanches. Bump into Sarah and Alicia on the circuit round. They managed to book onto the ice mini-trek, so we walk together a while until they have to meet the rest of their group. I continue around to the boat dock and steal WiFi before meandering back to the cafe at the top for food and reading. Meet one of the guys I climbed Villarrica with outside before the bus comes. He took a similar route south, sans ferry and is considering Ushuaia. Sleep on bus back. Buy El Chalten ticket for tomorrow and wander around town for a bit before heading back to hostel and making a light meal. All of my roommates are going to El Chalten tomorrow. Meet Alicia and Sarah by the casino later and grab a salad in El Bar followed by chatting and ice cream.

Day 70 (Mon Dec 14, Week 10)

Andes from the bus as we approach El Chalten

Very comfortable sleep, even miss roommates packing. Breakfast, chill and head out to wander around town. Acquire new temporary food bag and take out money in preparation for El Chalten. Meet Sarah, then Alicia at El Bar and have tiny GF empinadas before changing some money, having a quick ice cream and boarding the bus. Standard Calafate-esque rolling hills for a while, eventually turning into a mountain range and glacier. Pull into El Chalten park ranger station and get orientation and map from ranger. Dropped off not far away, then book Ruta 40 bus to Bariloche and head to supermarket to grab dinner. Cajero surprised about Welshness. Google Maps directs me to the wrong end of town for hostel but I eventually find it at the end of an unmarked road. Nothing here is labeled it seems. Check-in with owner “You don’t need your passport, only your money” he laughs, wryly. After handing me the WiFi code “Good luck…”. Austrian roommate has just come back from climbing mountains. I chill downstairs before making dinner. Chat with other hostel people about Buenos Aires and local trails. Free lentils, snippets of Ghost Writer and socialising follow. Colorado Alex and Suzie are fun. Suzie loves Herzog and hates Vegas. I might be in love.

Day 71

The glacier above Laguna Torres

Wake to wind, darkness and snoring below. Back to sleep. Woken by alarm later. Breakfast nowhere to be seen so I make do with supplies and set off on Laguna Torres walk. Few people and semi-pleasant weather on the walk up. Scree mounds as I approach the lake, then enjoy lunch on a rock overlooking the glacial Laguna Torres. After lunch, start walking along the ridge towards the glacier mirador. Strong winds. A few thunderous booms, but nothing visible and nowhere near as frequent as Valle Francés. Bump into Canadian from hostel on his way down from the ridge. Make it to the end of the treeline for excellent views down at the glacier. Most turn back earlier, but one French couple goes even further. I return when the weather turns blustery. Bump into Alicia at the bottom and walk back with her. Meet British couple from The Eden along the way and talk about super villainy for the remainder of the walk. Pick up food, briefly chased by tiny dogs then back to hostel. Make dinner, shower then chat about state of Venezuela and Turkey’s history.

Day 72

Viewpoint looking north from the El Chalten

Wake earlier than most roommates so sneak out for breakfast. Chat with the Canadian, repack, chill then head off. Get turned around by more incorrect Google maps directions but eventually find new hostel. Owner only speaks Spanish. Quick tour, hand over laundry and read in large common room until I head out for supplies in a mid afternoon rain shower. Back at room, I meet Russian roommate Vladimir, chat a bit then return to reading. Later, Vadim comes to the common room and we drink wine and chat for a few hours until he turns in early and I cook dinner. Heavy rain outside as I continue to eat and read into the night.

Day 73

The Fitz Roy range up close

Vadim leaves around 6:45 and I rise around 7:15. Breakfast, pack and head off by 8. Initial steep incline gives way to level, tree covered track. Catch up to limping Vadim around 3 km marker and head on to first mirador, where he catches up again. Continue along level track, with several Japanese tourists. Low marshes, distant glacier and a camp before starting the steep ascent to Laguna Tres. Overtake puffing Japanese man on the final stretch and spend a while having lunch at the stunning mirador. Many languages at the top. Mirror lake. Brief trip up to summit at the left to see the “Dirty Lake”. Bump into Che, then Dylan from Chili Kiwi on the way down. Chat hostels and plans before giving way to traffic. Further down the slope, Vadim is struggling up prior the very steep part. I wish him luck and continue down. Long, but easy walk back. Stop off at the supermarket, then shower at the hostel. Chat with American girls who I met at the mirador earlier, then make food and read a while.

Day 74

The Fitz Roy Range from Loma del Pliegue Tumbado

Despite early night, wake tired. Breakfast, pack and head off shortly after 8. Almost empty trail. Gradual, steep climb for 2 hours until we get a view of our target. Chat with an older Swiss guy after the trail splits and pass a small French group before leaving the forest and entering exposed slopes. Have lunch with Swiss guy and the French, sheltering from the wind behind a cairn at the Mirador. Swiss guy heads up Loma del Pliegue Tumbado first and I head up after, freestyling up the approach until I find a marked path. Steep going. Looking sideways is the most vertigo inducing. Incredible panorama at the top. Chat with Swiss guy. He’s an ex accountant called Stephan and his wife is ill in their hotel room. We take in the view and chat about jobs and languages until the French group and others arrive at the top. Goodbyes to the French, Stephan heads down first and rapidly pulls away during the precarious descent. More people around now, it seems we beat the crowds. Bump into Australian girls from first hostel on half way tot he forest, who wonders where I went. Catch up with Stephan after the trail splits and we chat and walk the rest of the way back. One of the French overtakes us on the way down. We get turned around at the end but find our way out via hidden bridge. Goodbyes and slow walk through town to supermarket. Vadim is back at the hostel, apparently he made it to Mirador Los Tres with the aid of some Germans. I shower, chill, then cook food. Begin chatting with Belgian Dirk a while. Dirk tries to convince old guy of an Israeli couple that maybe all Muslims aren’t out to kill. He is less than successful. Chat with Dirk for hours about travel and public speaking. Quick internet, then sleep.

Day 75

Banded mountains from the bus heading North

Vadim leaves early. I read in bed until 8, pack, dress and pay for room before heading to common room for breakfast and reading. Dirk joins and we chat about being social and jobs. I bequeath him my remaining milk. Israeli couple leave us their excess rice and an American group give us cooking supplies and fruit. Dirk heads off to waterfall and I read until 2:30 when I head out for bus supplies. Main market still closed for some reason. One shop pays my change in sweets. Back at hostel, I read a bit, use up the last of my food. Chat with Dirk before heading off to meet Jon at his hostel. Head to vegetarian restaurant with Jon and his new Canadian friend and catch up. Goodbyes to Jon, then almost immediately bump into Dylan and friends. Chat a bit, then to bus station. I am sad to leave this place, so beautiful and remote - I will return. Bus arrives late. Window seat surrounded by a group of 3 Israeli girls. Listen to music (Terra’s theme) as Los Glacieres banded rock formations roll by. Watch clouds and lengthening bus shadows until we drop someone off in a small town. Reading as the light fades. Podcasts, then sleep as lights of passing towns flash on the condensation covered windows.

Day 76

Lago General Carrera at dawn

Wake at 6:30 as we stop at a Los Antiguos bus terminal. After a false start, we drive along the lakeside in the early morning light and make our way to Perito Moreno around 7:30, where we stop a while. Flat scrubland for a few hours. Unpaved road starts around 9. Back onto paved-ish roads by 10. Landscape fluctuates between grey and greenish scrubland until 12 when it gives way to grassy scrubland and rolling hills. Short sanitary break near Tecka at 12 the on to more scrubland as the distant Andes draw closer. Closer mountains and fields as the afternoon draws on. Israeli girls (and many others) leave at El Bolsón at 16:30. After this, landscape turns distinctly lake county. At Bariloche bus station, discover special cards are required to use the buses here. Faf a little, but eventually make it into town and to hostel. Spanish introduction from friendly hostel guy, then recharge and chill a while.

Day 77 (Mon 21 Dec, Week 11)

Star Wars sign in Bariloche

Wake tired. Long breakfast, chat and checkout with desk lady in Spanish. Read and update travel insurance before heading off to 41 Below. Check in, chat with desk man over tea, have lunch-esque snack, chill a little then head out to explore the town. Head down to waterfront first. Blustery. Back in town buy toothpaste and immediately find meter strips. Expensive but I cough up and continue. Find shopping centre on O’Neill and check Star Wars times at cinema. Salad, then walk back via supermercado. Read a bit then Sarah turns up and we catch up over tea and salad. Planning and chilling until we head out around 20:00. Ice cream at Juajas on Moreno and chatting about futures before we head to the cinema to get Star Wars tickets. Grab some quick chips, wander and coffee before heading in. Huge queue for 3D screening, but plenty of space in our 2D English showing. Enjoy it, but talk structural failings and Star Wars ‘feel’ on the way back. Sleep.

Day 78

Mirador Panoramico on Circuito Chico

Wake, wash and head down for breakfast. Chat with Olympian Chelsea and Slovenian woman over breakfast. Head out to charge bus cards and wait for bus 20 with Sarah. We bump into Florence from the Eden who is taking the same bus as us but planning on hiking instead of biking. After chatting on the bus, she decides to join us. Book bikes easily and head off. Up and down, but gentle hills and we make excellent time. Enjoy some miradors, especially Panoramico, where we stop a few minutes. Return bikes and Florence decides to check out a walking trail. Me and Sarah hop on bus back to town and Florence gets on at the next stop because the fees for entry were too high. Chill at hostel a bit then get supplies for tomorrow, shower and make dinner. Chat with Arizonan guy over food, then chill and play a tense few rounds of Shithead with Sarah as the weather turns foul outside. Sleep.

Day 79

The lake at Refugio Frey

Wake with a slightly sore throat. Breakfast and out to catch bus. Sarah and I head to different bus stops. Windy but bus with wrong markings eventually turns up. Disconcerting as we go what looks like the wrong way at first but eventually make it to Catedral. Grab a walking stick from a statue and set out. Gradual climb with occasional scramble to start as the valley opens up. Into a forested valley and after a short while, come to an empty campground labeled Frey. Informed that it is not the ‘proper Frey’ and that is about an hour uphill. Snack then head up. Find a second camp site, this time with a building labeled ‘Frey II’. Follow the sign up to Frey (III?). Bump into Arizona shortly after leaving tree cover, warns of strong winds at the top. 30 mins later, make it to the top. Photos of the stunning but windy lake before a quick lunch in the shade of the refugio and heading down. More wind until tree cover, but easy walk. Longer than I remember. Suddenly gusty at most precarious point. At the base, I check bus times with a shop owner then chill out. At the bus stop a Spanish deficient NY couple ask where the bus is. The girl is not happy about the situation. Bus takes a different route back and I end up shopping at the supermarket. Massive queues. Sylvie greets me when I return and we chat a bit before I shower. Make food, then chat with Sarah, Arizonan Gabi and Genevive and Charlie the Arizonan from earlier. Chocolate balls, then sleep.

Day 80

The shoreline at Bariloche

Wake with a blocked nose. Breakfast, quick chill then out to nearby supermarket. Forget bag, so only get a few small things before heading out again to big market. Remaining vegetables and GF treats. Massive queue. Also buy bus ticket to Osorno before heading back. Chill a little, then wander down to beach to enjoy the weather. Make very healthy salad before settling down to spend most of the afternoon updating CV and reading. Help set table for big meal, struggling to find space for everyone. Fantastic meal of trout, potatoes and salad with a variety of sauces including Bavarian cheese and beer sauce from the German guy. Chat over diner and wine. Two Australian guys join and we start boys vs girls charades. Dutch girl’s Australian friends turn up as the charades become gradually drunker. We head out around 1 am to find a bar. Almost get run over but end up in Los Vikingos at the end of the road. In the bar some drunken Argentinians insist I am Mexican. Drinking continues and eventually we head back around 4 am.

Day 81 (Christmas day)

A giant white Christmas tree in Bariloche central square

Wake drunk. Slow breakfast followed by chatting with Sarah, Gabi and Gen for a while. Skype with parents at 10, then we all lounge around most of the morning. Sarah makes nachos which we all share. I apply to a job after lunch, read a bit then head out for a wander down to the beach then read under a tree for a bit. Sarah notices me and we head off for intimidatingly large ice cream then chat about future life plans on the grass for a bit. Back at the hostel, I find that I became Facebook friends with a Colombian guy last night and now have images from the party. Chill out and read a for most of the afternoon until making food. Sarah gets pizza and we drink and chat the night away. Eventually, sleep comes.

Day 82

Street art in Bariloche

Wake feeling better. Breakfast with Sarah, chill, then final goodbyes as she heads off to the airport. Hang out with the others for a bit then check directions to Cerro Leones with Leo and head off. Bus needs a different card and the office is closed so I wander then read under a tree a while. Head off to the Cathedral. “Cambio?” asks a desperate looking blue market changer. He was even wearing a blue shirt. Find a sad shop devoted entirely to a Tyr from a concert they performed here in September. Cathedral grounds have some nice sculptures and I sit and read in the shade a while before heading back to hostel. Chat with Leo, who tells me he is names after a famous actor and is confused that I was not named after anyone. Make salad, cut my hand and chat with the Australian about travel plans over lunch. Shower then reading. Play with Cero a bit, say goodbye to Sylvie and make dinner. Chat with Silvana and the 2 new Germans over dinner. Chill a bit then head out for drinks with Silvana, the Germans and the Australian husband and wife who were out on Christmas Eve. Drink and eat peanuts until Tobin and the new Australian joins. More drinks, goodbyes and good nights.

Day 83

Bariloche in the distance from Northbound bus

Wake early and humid. Quietly pack up and sneak out. Bus to bus station arrives late, but get there in time and board main bus to leave at 7:30. See Bariloche glinting in the distance and pass by the first of the seven lakes. Beautiful and framed by mountains. Start regretting not doing to full seven lakes to San Martin route. Cross the Argentine border at 9:30 the drive a while through a stunning national park before crossing back into Chile at Paso Cardenal Samoré. Arrive at Osorno around 12:30 and immediately buy next bus tickets. Layover until 16:45 so I wander around town. Surprisingly commercial. Find a sports bag for food, duct tape for shoes and grab a salad for lunch. No one sells Cola de Mono. Head back to the crowded bus station and board a stuffy bus to Pucón. About half way to Pucón, I reflect that I am sad to be heading north and leaving Patagonia. By the time we approach Pucón, Villarrica looks beautiful and lake glints in the dying light as boats skim its surface. I am happy to return here. In the town, I buy breakfast and notice lots more people and busyness, which takes me off guard. Simple check in as I know the place. Sort out washing, shower, catch up with Alice and chill. Florence turns up and we chat a bit, I pack up, head out to beach to find her and new Chilleano friends but I fail in the dark. Find her on the patio and chat with people for a while. Talk with Brazilian father/daughter combo about diversity and reverse backpack bombings in Brazil. Goodbyes for the night then sleep.

Day 84 (Mon 28 Dec, Week 12)

The view east from Cerro San Sebastián

Wake tired and quickly abandon the idea of getting up in time for the National Park bus. Breakfast then chat with Kiwi girl from last night and James about canyoning tomorrow. Find out a Brazilian group is heading to the National Park so hop in the car with them despite clothes still in the wash. Chat on the way there as we detour down back roads before eventually finding the Huerquehue park entrance. Orientation in Spanish, pay entrance and head off just after 11. The Brazilians aim for the lake route because their knees still hurt from the volcano so we say our goodbyes and I head uphill to San Sebastián. Steep start and I overtake a few people as the path zig zags up the hill, including a puffing Chilean. At the top it levels out and opens to a field before a slow ascent that rapidly becomes steep again. Approaching a ridge, skittering lizards and small tarantulas become very prevalent. After a final steep push, have leave the stick I picked up behind and climb to continue along the ridge. A few false summits before finally reaching the stunning panorama at the end at 14:00. On the way back, bump into a British-ex-pat/Polish couple and chat before continuing downhill. Upon re-entering the treeline, Michael the panting Chilean appears. Words of encouragement before finishing a quiet walk back. Almost delirious with thirst at the bottom and have the best drink ever at the info center. Chill with the rest of the hikers waiting for the bus. Bus is packed so have to stand for the return journey. Buy food on the way back, change rooms and get washing upon return. Shower, dinner, chatting and chilling before sleep.

Day 85

Me abseiling into the canyon

Wake and breakfast. Head out to buy snacks, cola de mono and get change. Chill until we get picked up for canyoning. Pick up 3 chileanos to compliment our 4 then continue along the bumpy road to the canyon. Unload, get into wetsuits and walk for 10 minutes to the canyon start. Abseil to start. Leaning back doesn’t quite work as expected “You’re too light, dude”. Tense, but fun. Swimming, clambering, and zip lining before chocolate at the half way point. One of my contact lenses come out half way through but continue through jumps, climbing and another zipline to the end where crisps, juice and olives await us. Ride back to hostel, get photos from the day and spend a while trying to Maguyver the SD card reader in the downstairs PC to get the Americans GoPro videos on my card. Head out to get food, then back to cook and hear from guide for tomorrow. Eat, chat and chill before turning in early.

Day 86

Looking up to the summit of Villarrica volcano

Wake early, head downstairs for breakfast, paperwork and kitting up. Fewer kit checks this time. We head up to the base, where we wait about 20 mins before getting the go ahead. After second thoughts, everyone gets the ski lift up and we set off with ice picks and helmets, but no other kit. Continue on to the base of the glacier (just past piedra blanca) where we snack. Far fewer stops this time. Setting off up the glacier is easy at first but gets steep as the cloud shrouded summit rears up in front. Final stop to gear up for final ascent and have lunch. Gabi and Gen pass by as we eat. Final push as we leave out bags behind. Stunning views and greenish crater. Fantastic slide down - much longer than last time. Dusty return and de-kit. Turns out one of the Germans in our group is an ex-IBMer. Back in the van and quick chill at the hostel before shower and trip to supermarket. I have a new German roommate, Constantine. Make food, then head outside to chat with Silvana, Constantine, English Jill, South African Collet at the two Italian guys from the volcano about the seedy underbelly of Penthouse 1004 in Bariloche. More talk about travels around SA and the Bolivian silver mine where the miners apparently worship Satan “There is no God down there”. Goodbyes from Rodrigo then people split for dinner. I score some free olives and chat with the American teacher in the garden for a while. James pops out to tell us about the new years plans, then I head inside, share the olives, have a quick chat then head upstairs to chill. Back downstairs, I drink wine and chat with Collet and Jill, who it turns out is quite the adventure tourist and recommends Antarctica strongly. Drinks, then sleep.

Day 87 (New Year’s Eve)

A vivid red sunset closes the year

Wake slowly in absence of an alarm. Read a bit then head down for breakfast. Repair shoes, pay for hostel and head to the market with Silvana. Silv then buys bus tickets and I get toallitas in a pharmacy that takes way too long. Back at hostel, I make lunch, chat with Silvana and Collete a bit before having a quick wander around town. Read in lawn chair then hammock for a bit. Shower, make food then sit down with Silvana, Jill, Collete, Ausie girl and Constantine. Later joined by three Irish en route to Canada with a working holiday visa, Iris, Caib from Bariloche and many more. Drinking and chatting intensifies until we head out to the pier to watch fireworks. Play with dogs on the pier, then drinking and hugging at midnight. Back to hostel then out to Black Forest. Free drink with wristband but I keep my token and get another later. Sushi served continuously. Much chatting and drinking. Get very drunk. Head home with Silvana around 5:30, who is surprised I am still around.

Silvana drinks in the new year

Day 88

Relaxing in a hammock

Wake late and drunk. Rise slowly and have breakfast with Silvana and the Irish. Charge, chat with English girl from last night then make salad for lunch and read alternately between front garden and hammock. English girl gets back and we chat a bit and advise her on Puerto Varas. More reading and tea, then off to cook dinner. Chat with Silvana, English and Iris before Silv leaves for bus and we say our goodbyes. Repack and charge. Say goodbye to English and the hostel couple and leave The Chilli Kiwi for a second time. Walk to the bus station and board after the bus almost crashes turning around at the station. Sadness as I leave again.

Day 89

Street art in Santiago

Wake early on the bus. Disembark around 6:30 at Santiago. Walk dazed around the bus station a bit then onto the subway to Republica. Find my way to hostel (after nonsensical numbering leads me astray) but no one answers so I wander a bit. Drunk guy talks about viajes and I have ‘breakfast’ by a fountain. Back at hostel, I check in, read and chill for a bit before heading out to El Museo de Derechos Humanos. Much warmer on the walk over and enjoy the shade inside. Well done exhibit, mostly in Spanish and mostly understood. Walk through park to science and technology museum. Bit run down, but some decent exhibits. Walk south and out of park to Matucana 100 where there is erotic art and experimental film. Not necessarily separate things. Wander south, stopping for Cazuela de Ave in a grotty diner. Buy suntan lotion on the walk back to hostel, where I chill out and apply for a job. Shower attempts are thwarted by lack of warm water, so head down the street for. Chinese food. Back at hostel a German guy recognises me from the Sleeping Lamb in Puerto Natales. We chat a bit then more chilling and a final shower attempt before bed.

Day 90

The Chilean flag outside La Moneda in Santiago 4 Wake early and tired and go back to sleep. Wake around 9 and head downstairs for breakfast. Move food bag to storage and head out to Republica station. 3 changes later I make it to Plaza de Armas just in time for the free walking tour. Chat with Dutch girl for a bit of the tour. Interesting to see places shown in the human rights museum yesterday. Gather a pack of dogs by mid day. Quick lunch stop where I find one of the tour people is an ex-IBMer. Chat with Londoners Liz and Raj and Canadian Erik until we head off. More greenery, culminating in a return to Bella Vista where the tour concludes. Grab a huge churrillana at a crowded bar then begin long walk back to hostel. Ice cream at one of the top 25 heladerias in the world. Frambuesa menata y Rosa. Lovely. Recharge back at hostel and let in a stranded group of Americans. Head out at last for walk to the bus station. People density increases getting closer but make it through and board bus. Couple opposite is a little too handsy for public transport. Little sadness to be leaving Santiago, but the South and Patagonia has been fun. Up through high pass and short stop before continuing North into the darkness. Sleep comes eventually.

Concluded in part 3.