Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Chile Trip: Part 5 - Glaciers & Stuff!!

So a posting that’s somewhat out of place now that I’ve been back almost a month, but I’m going to finish this Chile write up if it kills me, if only to have a personal record of my trip, for when my memory completely fails me. Anyway, here goes.

Friday 16th November was our last day in Puerto Natales, so it was up early, yet again!! Early rising was definitely a theme of our trip, we were either on flights that left first thing, or on tours that departed at the crack o’ dawn. I think I get more sleep on a typical work day than I did on this holiday, but the beautiful scenery, company, Chilean wines and not having to go to meetings or analyse data all day certainly made up for it, so I can’t complain.

So as I said, it was up with the larks on Friday to check out of the hotel, store our luggage, before strolling down to the docks to catch an 8am boat for our tour of Bernardo O’Higgins National Park, Chile’s largest national park and inaccessible except by boat….or helicopter, but we were fresh out of those, so boat it was.

I had my concerns about the boat given my memories of the jalopy we’d taken out to Isla Tobago during our trip to Panama, which had ripped up seating, water all over the floor, and life jackets strewn about the cabin, but the cutter, the 21 de Mayo - assumedly named for the Battle of Iquique which took place on May 21, 1879 during the War of the Pacific between Chile and Peru. (Guess who knows how to look things up in Wikipedia) – was a nicely maintained wee water craft which, in addition to the sights – cormorant colonies, glaciers, seals and condors - promised complimentary tea and coffee and an intriguing sounding crumb sandwich. You can probably tell that I’m very easily intrigued, especially when it comes to food. I was looking forward to some kind of Chilean take on a crumb cake, however I was most disappointed when the aforementioned crumb sandwich turned out to be a corn muffin – where’s the crumb component in that eh - and not even a good one at that, it was hard as a rock!!

Thankfully we’d already had breakfast back at the hotel, so we didn’t require the crumb sandwich for sustenance, and I have to say that it was really the only negative aspect of the tour, well…that and the fact that the pushy elderly French people were there from the hotel, the ones Melissa loved so much. Ahem. As you can imagine she was just THRILLED to bits to see them pile onto the boat after all their shoving she’d endured at the hotel.

Anyway the tour is best told in pictures. After a few hours sailing along the Ultima Esperanza Fjord enjoying the stunning scenery - such as the cormorants which are the black dots you can see in the photo on the top left, the boat didn’t get very close to the cormorants so as not to upset them, and waterfalls, such as the one on the bottom left - and avoiding the French people who were clustered at the front of the boat, we arrived at the Balmaceda Glacier, a hanging glacier 2,035 m (6,674 ft) high, which has been receding for the last 15years or so, shame on us with our global warming shenanigans.

Can you tell how blue it is? The photo doesn't capture the colour especially well. It was freezing cold by the glacier, I’ll tell you that much. I was colder here than I was walking around in that extremely windy bay on the shores of Lago Grey in Torres Del Paine. I had my scarf pretty much wrapped around my head so that just my eyes peeped out. I had to hurriedly take my gloves off to snap a photo as I could only withstand flesh being exposed for a few seconds, but I suppose that goes with the territory with glaciers eh, being ice and all.

Or so I thought….

After admiring the Balmaceda glacier for 15minutes or so, we sailed around the corner and docked for a 5minute walk through 'a leafy forest of coigües and cinnamon trees' to the Serrano glacier. I dressed up in all my layers, only to find it was extremely warm and sunny and I had to strip down to my t-shirt and carry everything. Weird, because it was literally around the corner from the Balmaceda glacier. I suppose it was sheltered, being in a cove and all as opposed to open water. Anyway here are some pics...

That's me on the top left in my black and blue - I'm dressed as a bruise - Michelin Man stylie ensemble for the walk to the glacier. I'd stuffed my wallet and camera in my inside pocket which makes me look like I have lopsided pregnancy going on in that pic. It was quite a tricky walk and I was very glad I had on proper footwear, unlike many of the French people who had obviously gone with style over substance and were wearing puma like trainers or slip on loafers. Slip on loafers!!! I ask you, it's a wonder some of them didn't slip and fall on the rocks and plunge into the icy water. I think Melissa was hoping after one rude woman pushed past her as she was trying to climb the stairs to the top deck of the boat earlier.

Main pic is obviously the Serrano Glacier. Small bits kept falling off this one as we admired it, it wasn't half noisy. Bottom left pic is the glass of Pisco - Chile's national drink; Peru also lay claim to Pisco as their national drink - with a 1,000 year old ice cube made from Serrano glacier ice. The guys on the boat nabbed one of those floaty bits you can see above and used it for our drinks. So, now you'll know that if this particular glacier recedes it's because they nabbed one too many bits of it for ice cubes.

After the Serrano glacier we headed back to Puerto Natales, with a stop at an estancia for a late lunch, finally arriving back in town an hour later than scheduled at 6pm. 'Let's blow this coconut stand' said Melissa as we made a mad dash off the boat, and raced, like Linford Christie, back to the hotel - looking a lot like those mischievous penguins that we saw at Seno Otway - to grab our luggage and hot foot it to the bus station for the 6.30pm bus back to Punta Arenas - otherwise we'd have been on a 9.30pm bus and we wouldn't have got back to Punta Arenas until close to midnight. Fortunately we made by the skin of our teeth.

Four hours later we were relaxing in the bar of the Jose Nogueira hotel with a Pisco sour and a salmon ceviche in front of each of us. Delicious. Probably the tastiest food we'd had in Chile, since if we have one niggle it was that the food, although very fresh, was a bit on the bland side. Not so much as a bit of lemon on your fish. If you ever decide to go to Chile Melissa and I recommend taking a bottle of Tabasco in your suitcase.

Saturday morning we were up at 5.30am for an 8.25am flight back to Santiago, dressed in Santiago appropriate clothing, e.g. one layer and a jacket. Unfortunately when we got to the airport it was to discover that the plane had a technical failure and was awaiting a part from Santiago. We wouldn't be flying until 3pm at the earliest and were herded onto waiting coaches for the trip back to Cabos de Hornos hotel in Punta Arenas for a complimentary breakfast. The hotel guests who were enjoying their first meal of the day looked rather startled when we stormed the dining room.

Afterwards we left the hotel to wander around and I have to say it wasn't much fun wearing Santiago appropriate clothing in Patagonia, but our delayed flight was to the gain of the stall holders in the town square as we stocked up on lapis lazuli gifts for friends and family back home and then afterwards warmed up by touring the Sara Braun and Magellan museums before heading back to the hotel lobby to wait for our complimentary lunch - it was pretty decent food considering, a 3 course meal of tomato soup, pasta bolognese and fruit salad. To quote Melissa "this tomato soup is pretty good. I think this is one Chilean chef who found the spice rack." After lunch we were bundled back onto the buses back to the airport and happily this time we did get to leave for Santiago for one more night there before a 10.30pm flight back to New York.

We spent our last day in Santiago basically just killing time until we were ready to head to the airport. There wasn't much left to do, since we'd pretty much covered all the sights of the city in our first few days, but we did visit a lovely sculpture park that we liked a lot and took a few photos (below). All in all it was the trip of a lifetime and Chile is a country I'd definitely recommend visiting. Melissa and I certainly plan to return.


Ha Ha Sound said...

Sounds like an amazing trip. What does Pisco taste like? And, like you, I'm somebody who thinks with his stomach. Now you've got me craving salmon ceviche!!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hey Ha Ha, it was an amazing trip, I can highly recommend it. After I got back I was bitten by the South American bug and was looking to see what other trips I could do. I'm considering Iguazu Falls :-)

Pisco is a brandy, although it didn't taste as strong as French brandy, but I did have a particularly large bit of the glacier floating in my drink which probably diluted it a bit. I liked the stuff we had. I'm sure you can get it here, although I'm not sure which are the good brands to look for.

Amel's Realm said...

You're SO funny, Fish!!! Just my type of gal he he he he...I mean for a friend, not for anything else hi hi hi hi hi...

You're dressed as a bruise? LOL LOL!!! I couldn't believe my eyes when I read it HA HA HA HA HA...

The glacier photo looks VERY blue. WOW!!! I love the other photos, too, but I never thought Chilean food could be bland!!!

I can't stand going anywhere by boat, though, even though there aren't big waves. I get sea sickness very easily. Ugh!!!

And I can't stop laughing reading about the French women HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA...oh dear! ;-D

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Amel, don't worry I knew what you meant :-)

Glad you enjoyed the post. That's a shame you get sea sick as you would have missed out on seeing the glaciers. Fish x

Amel's Realm said...

Yeah. Never tried seasickness pill, though. Maybe it'll work he he he...

kitty said...

funny/strange to see ice and green in the same bunch of photos. what an interesting place.

so Chile is Chilly!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Kitty, I was constantly surprised by how lush and green Chile was. It's a country which seems to cover all the bases climatically (is that a word?). Fish

Blur Ting said...

Thanks for showing us more of your trip. I have that same urge finish blogging about teh entire trip. It just doesn't seem right to stop halfway.

I would love to see the glaciers! That's something I haven't done. It must be awe inspiring. But the cold...brrrrr!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Hi Blur Ting, you can survive the glacial temperatures as long as you have the right clothes and we were able to go inside the boat and heat up. The second glacier we saw was much warmer, I was stripped down to a t-shirt :-)