A Travellerspoint blog

The road to Pucon

6 weeks of nothing but south

sunny 26 °C

I´d like to say I enjoyed the 10+ hour bus ride here with the 80s hits medley and the Adam Sandler movie dubbed into Spanish, but after one long night on a plane, a second long night of travel (even luxury bus travel) wore me down. I checked into the Nativa Hostel as soon as I could, waited for the owner to wake up, took a shower and slept for a few hours. After that, the day seemed much better.

So now I´m officially in Patagonia. This is the northern most part of Patagonia, usually called the lake district. Pucon is a big vacation town for Chileans. It has hiking/biking/canyoning in summer and skiing in winter. I´m impressed with the quality of nearly everything in Chile. The grocery stores are big and modern, there are multiple varieties of beer, including microbrews and imported German beer, and best off all, restaurants serve Avocado on nearly everything. But the high quality comes at European prices.

Pucon has everything a trekker-travellers needs. It´s compact, has lots of restaurants, a big supermarket, buses going all over Chile and even has a giant snow covered volcano puffing smoke out of its top. I organized my trip for tomorrow- a hike into the unpronounceable Huerquehue Lakes. I was able to enjoy the wonderful weather a little bit on the lakeside black pebble beach. I really appreciate this fantastic weather after living in Germany. Plus the further south in Patagonia I go, the wetter and windier it gets. I have to soak up this sun.

I´ll be on trail for 3 days!

Posted by ichbinmatt 17:08 Archived in Chile Tagged patagonia pucón supermarkets Comments (1)

Arrival in Santiago

next stop: Patagonia

sunny 25 °C

I am in Santiago de Chile after a marathon travel day starting yesterday at 7:00am and still not quite over yet. I met Mirja for one last goodbye in Chicago, then made my way to Atlanta and finally the long, long overnight flight to Chile. I feel pretty good even without much sleep, maybe because its so warm and sunny here. I´m bailing out of Santiago ASAP though because the mountains are calling my name and I´ve got no time for big smoggy cities. I have a few hours to kill before my luxury sleeper bus leaves for Pucon.

The travels went pretty smoothly, except for a little snag with the plane in Atlanta which caused us all of disembark and switch planes, resulting in a 2 hour delay. I was a little bummed that I had to pay the reprocicity fee of 140USD upon arriving in Chile. I thought I could get out of it because I was here 9 years ago and have a receipt in my old passport, but they say it expires when the passport expires. Makes sense, but I´ve read about people online who say it worked for them. No biggie. I´d rate the Santiago Airport as a 4 on the hassle factor: 10 being India, 1 being Kalispell, Montana. People walk up to you with a sign that says ´taxi´, but they take no for an answer pretty easily.

I´ll leave with my two favorite announcements of the day:

Public address on the train to Midway in Chicago:
¨Soliciting and gambling are prohibited on the CTA¨

Chilean Immigration form:
¨What animal products must I declare? .... semen and embryos....¨

Posted by ichbinmatt 07:54 Archived in Chile Tagged airport santiago Comments (2)

Things to miss in Germany

overcast 6 °C

I'm in Kentucky for a few days after an 8+ hour plane ride which gave me some time to reflect on my two plus years in Deutschland. I always say that there are good things and bad things about every land, but today I'll focus on what I'm going to miss about Germany.

Bakeries: Unlike the USA, there is an bakery on every street corner and in every grocery store in Germany. Bakeries in the US have mainly cakes and donuts and cookies, but in Germany there are dozens of breads available along with an assortment of sweet things. I don't think I was able to try half the things available in bakeries, but I'll especially miss Laugenbrötchen (little sour pretzel bread) and Quarkquinis (a kind of creamy donut hole). I think its especially funny that they call the crappiest, most over-sweetened donut the 'Americano'.

Hairibo: Every grocery store and kiosk has a huge selection of these gummi candies. My favorite is Frutti Bussi, which means 'Fruity Kiss' according to Miri. I wonder if every variation has a homo-erotic translation. Once we even went to the Hairibo facotry in Bonn. This was a huge mistake because we came away with at least 5 kilos (10 lbs) of candy from there and I couldn't stop myself from eating it all in about a week.

Sendung mit der Maus: This is my favorite German television show. It means 'Show with the Mouse'. It's a kids show, but that doesn't stop most adults from watching. The main feature of the show is a question from a kid (ex: How many grains of wheat does it take to make a loaf of bread?) A cast of characters then go out and visit experts and professionals to determine the answer to the question. I also saw one of the actors from the show in my local grocery store in Cologne and was totally star struck.

Umlauten: ä, ö, ü I can't pronounce them very well. I couldn't even hear a difference between a normal letter and an umlauted letter for most of my first year in Germany. Last week though I was on a train from Brussels to Köln (Cologne) and a group of Canadian tourists (complete with Canadian flags on their backpacks) kept saying 'Koln'. I think only then did I realize what a difference there is between Köln and Koln. This is also why in my early days in Germany, Germans didn't understand what I was talking about when I said I lived in Koln. But I still can't remember the difference between 'schwul' and 'schwül', so I never use either word. One means 'gay' and the other means 'humid'.

Shanty towns: On the edge of every city in Germany are clusters of little plots of land with a small shed and a vegetable garden. The plots are tiny- no more than 10 yards by 10 yards. They are usually near the Autobahn or train tracks- not a glamourous location, but easy to see whenever you travel. They look just like the shanty towns I've seen in 3rd world countries, but with better landscaping. Miri assures me that they are just garden plots from people that live in the city center, but I still love seeing them.

Of course there's a lot more to miss about Germany: the excellent public transit, well organized recyclng programs, beer, bike lanes, speaking German, but I have to get back to preparing for the trip. So auf wiedersehen, Deutschland. Wir sehen uns nächste Jahr.

Posted by ichbinmatt 09:45 Archived in USA Tagged germany miss Comments (0)


... für ein paar Wochen...

semi-overcast 8 °C

Morgen geht es für Matt schon los und damit trennen sich unsere Wege für ein paar Wochen.
Matt's Abenteuer beginnt in Patagonien und für mich fängt der Trubel des Umzugs und der letzen Arbeitswochen an... nächste Woche erstmal Messe in Chicago.
Gute Reise Matt und wir sehen uns im Feuerland am 6. April!

Posted by xmirjax 10:09 Archived in Germany Comments (2)

South American leg itinerary (bare bones style)

-4 °C

We're using a little foresight and our newly acquired Footprints South American Handbook to get some details in line for the trip. If any negative memory sticks out about my 2002 trip in SA, it is the über-long busrides on buses designed for not big westerners. I went from Santiago, Chile to Cuzco, Peru, back through Bolivia all the way to Buenos Aires then Patagonia and finally back to Santiago- all by bus. This time we're booking a few flights to avoid some 20-30 hour bus trips. Most of the details are still hazy, but we have a good framework for our trip based on fixed flights and required attendance at my sisters wedding in late June.

Here is the itinerary:

I'll arrive in Santiago in late Feb and travel south to the Chilean Lake District in Patagonia. From there I'll hike, border hop and and look for other creative ways to go south until I meet Mirja in Ushuaia, the far southern tip of Argentina. From there, the only way to go is north. We'll check out Torres del Paine and Fitz Roy before flying back to Buenos Aires a couple weeks later. We'll only spend a few days in BA, perhaps with a day trip to Colonia in Uruguay before flying to Iguazu Falls at the tri-border point between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. After checking out the falls on the Argentine and Brazilian sides we'll make our way to Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay.

From here the trip shifts in focus as we fly from Asuncion to Cochabamba, Bolivia. From here north, the countries are poorer, the altitudes much higher and the people more indigenous. We don't have a lot of this section mapped out yet. We'll probably visit the jungle in Bolivia, then move to Lake Titicaca, where we'll cross into Peru. Of course once in Peru, it's required as a tourist to go to Cuzco and Machu Picchu. We'll probably do some trekking as well. From here we may fly to Lima and continue on to explore the remote mountains and Inca/ pre-Inca ruins of northern Peru. I'm thrilled at the possibilities for adventure in this region. Somehow we'll make it all the way to Ecuador where we're pretty sure we'll visit the Galapagos Islands. The rest of the plan is murky from here, but we'd like to fly home from Bogota, Columbia, time and other factors permitting. That's the bare bones plan. Of course a lot will change.

Posted by ichbinmatt 11:22 Archived in Germany Tagged south itinerary american Comments (0)

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