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15th November 2009
Leaving Argentina for the time being, we crossed the Andes into Chile via a series of lake crossings and bus transport over 2 days with an overnight in Peulla.
The blowing snow made for a very nice lake crossing and we could still appreciate the high peaks all around us.
The next day we arrived in Puerto Varas, a pretty little town on Largo Llanquihue settled by Germans about 100 years ago. Many of the houses are built with wooden shingles and there is a wonderful view of Volcan Osorno across the lake (on a good day).
19th November 2009
The island of Chiloé lies just off the coast of Chile and is accessed by barge from Puerto Montt. It is lovely and green and rains all the time.
It is known for the many World Heritage wooden churches, some with pegs instead of nails. They were constructed by boat builders and are mostly located close to the coast facing the sea.
The houses are covered with brightly painted wooden shingles and ox drawn ploughs can still be seen in use. Here they prepare an unusual dish of pork, chicken, vegetables and shell fish called curanto.
27th November 2009
Not being able to walk because of the bad weather, we headed north to Valdivia. Here sea lions laze around on the banks of the river waiting for scraps from the nearby riverside fish market.
A short ferry ride away is Corral with its old Spanish fort.
We moved onto Pucón on Lago Villarica right at the foot of Volcan Villarica (2800 meters high). The weather did not improve. From here we visited a Mapuche village where we learnt about their culture and had a delicious traditional lunch of horse meat with puree of chestnuts and a soup made from pine kernel.
01st December 2009
From Puerto Montt we sailed south on the weekly Navimag cargo ferry for 4 days between the islands of southern Chile to Puerto Natales.
At first we had calm conditions and enjoyed great food and wine. On the 2nd day we reached the open ocean and were seasick for the next 12 hours. We woke to a better 3rd day back inside the fjords with an hour ashore visiting little Puerto Edén, then right up close to the Pio XI glacier (the largest in South America).
What a wonderful experience it was and we were sorry to have to disembark in Puerto Natales. We were free to walk all over the ship, including the bridge. The weather was crazy, sun, snow, wind, hail, rain all within hours and cold.
10th December 2009
Before we set off for 8 days hiking in the Torres del Paine National Park, we were warned that the Patagonia weather can change in an instant and that strong gusts of cold wind can come out of nowhere to blow someone over. The forecast is always the same – variable!
We were fortunate to have perfect weather.
We camped in some amazing places, the mountain scenery breathtaking.
16th December 2009
From Puerto Natales we went by bus to Punta Arenas where we visited the penguin colony of Otway Sound.
We boarded the Mare Australis for a 5 day expedition to Ushuaia, sailing down the Straits of Magellan, through the fjords of Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel to Cape Horn. We had many opportunities to go ashore by zodiac. The weather and sea conditions were perfect.
On a shore trip to Pia Glacier, whiskey with glacier ice was waiting for us. That evening the boat sailed down Glacier Alley. As we passed by German Glacier we were served German beer and sausages. A short time later we passed French Glacier and out came the champagne and cheese. Passing the Italian Glacier we had red wine and pizza, and the Holland Glacier it was Dutch beer and potato croquettes.
11th February 2010
Santiago is a pleasant city to spend a few days, with some leafy cobbled streets and interesting buildings. We were able to catch some street theatre, where a giant wooden puppet performed for the crowds.
There are vineyards to the south, easily accessable by public transport. We visited Concha y Toro as we have sampled a lot of of their Casillero de Diablo wines in Australia. We like the legend that the devil lives in the cellar. The owner started the rumour many years ago in order to stop his workers from stealing his best wines, worked too.
18th February 2010
We made a last minute decision to visit Easter Island during their annual Tapati Rapa Nui Festival, and on arrival became caught up in a parade of half naked, decorated islanders.
To see for ourselves those giant statues (Moai) was really something, and on a visit to the volcano quarry many unfinished heads could be seen scattered about. There are some 800 around the island ranging from 2 metres to 21 metres high.
The laid back capital Hanga Roa has no high rise buildings and it is not unusual to see people riding horses through town. The fat fried empanadas stuffed with fresh tuna and cheese were irresistible.
26th February 2010
Most of the wine of Chile is produced in the valleys within a few hours drive of Santiago. 85% of Chile´s wine is exported, and almost all the good stuff. If you want to try excellent Chilean wines you need to go to the wineries.
So we headed south to began our tasting in the Maule Valley around Talca, then moved on to the Colchagua Valley centered on Santa Cruz. These valleys are famous for their red wines, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère. The vines were full of fruit, ready to be picked in about 2 weeks. One winery (Viña Gillmore) started the tour with a tasting the various grape varieties growing in the vineyard, before moving on to sample the finished wines.
The Casablanca Valley, northwest of Santiago, produces some excellent white wines. We tasted some great Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay as well as a beautiful Pinot Noir at Viña Casas del Bosque.
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