this morning i searched (and found) the bakery for le fournil (the other places just sold the bread). the bakery is near the airport, in the outskirts of the city. the business park features organizations like FedEx, Rolex, FlowValve, etc. the area outside the business park is probably one of the more dangerous areas of santiago….but to me it looked like one of the safer areas of panama city, teguicigalpa, etc. instead of finding a quaint little bakery, i found a massive steel building with the logo of Breden Master. Le Fournil’s bread is still good, but it’s lost some of that charm. Breden Master sells their products under a number of different labels. i tried getting a tour or a job….but i was rejected. finally, after loitering around the reception for 30min, i got a phone number and email of some higher ups in the Breden Master bureaucracy. this afternoon i went to an indoor rock climbing gym. there were some very good climbers and i expect that this is one of the better gyms in Santiago (and thus Chile). The bouldering section was nice and big. The climbing area, though, had a few surprising differences from those in the US (and australia, according to the guy i went with). first, you don’t have to take a test to begin climbing (for liability reasons, in the us you always have to prove that you know how to belay, tie the knots, etc.) second, the climbing section had no floor padding (in the us, they always have some sort of foam/rubber). third, the gym was surprisingly cheap ($5 for an all-day pass). granted the gym was not as big or nice as the ones i’ve gone to in the states, but it was still fun.
note: location is santiago, chile
today started off slow. i ended up calling the very nice secretary at Universidad Catolica and she told me to hop on over. they seem to be the nicest university in santiago (they’re semi-private). there, i met with one guy and then hung around waiting for others to finish lectures, etc. it was nice hanging out with gloria, though….she’s really friendly and helpful. then, she arranged a meeting with another prof there….who seems smart and has the first exciting projects i’ve seen in all of chile! it turns out that they also have a vacancy. with such promising results, i rushed over the us embassy to learn about getting a work visa (and how to deal with the sentra) — they’re closed in the afternoon…so more on that tomorrow.
finally, i went to another meeting with an organization that i’ve been talking to over the last couple weeks. every meeting they lose a little more respect…especially at this one. but they mean well, so i’ll keep working with them…and maybe something good will come from it.
spending the night in calafate, about 1hr from the huge glacier perrito morenos…unfortunately, i didn’t have enough time to see it today, so i’ll have to check it out tomorrow morning….with all the crowds. then, i’ll probably drive a few hours up to chalten…which is another nice park with a lot of hiking options. i don’t want to eat another kiwi for a while.
two other anecdotes: 1) check out what’s on the cigarette packages here (pic)….on the back it says that tobacco kills 16,000 chileans every year. 2) south americans seem to love brazilians. for instance, tonight for lunch/dinner, i asked the waiter for a glass of water. it was against their policy. but once he found out i was brazilian, the water began flowing!
today i did nothing…well, practically nothing….and it was nice…which probalby means i’m ready to end the trip soon. but another friend might be hitching a ride soon, so maybe that will reinvigorate me. today i checked out the naval museum, duty free zone (which had nothing good, and was surprisingly expensive) and almost bought another tire at the supermarket (but it was overpriced at $40). however, i did buy 1 kilo of kiwi’s and another kilo of tangelo’s for about $3 total.
then, i went back and did nothing. and i decided to skip torres del paine and go straight to el calafate…which means i now have to eat 4 pounds of fruit between now and the border crossing tomorrow morning. and here’s something cool:
the ticket at the naval museum is also a postcard. well, almost. the idea is there, but it’s printed on paper (rather than card tock) and the picture is pretty bad, so it wouldn’t really work — but an awesome idea to turn something useless into something useful (+ free press for the museum).
this morning i got ushi fixed up a bit: patched up the two broken tires and the windshield ($30 for everything). miraculously, i didn’t get one flat on the drive back to the mainland today! i’m now in punta arenas (chile), where i’ll hopefully be able to find a cheap new tire (i got new ones for $30 in santiago, and punta arenas is a duty free zone).
but here’s another idea: why not sail ushi to antarctica. it may sound crazy…but so was driving from san francisco to argentina. granted, i don’t have the resources that the Top Gear guys did, but i’ve got chutzpa. i haven’t researched it much yet….but i figure that with a bit of sponsorship (maybe a donated kite) and some creativity, i could probably do it for $1-2k, and in about a week. granted, i know nothing about sailing, nothing about antarctica (or the wind/sea down here) and the car already leaks. so we’re not off to the best start. if you have any good ideas/info on how to do this, lemme know.
i always dread border crossings….in my experience, they’re ugly, confusing and sometimes expensive. i’m always surprised just how bad of a welcome mat they are for the countries. chile, however, has had really good crossings. up north, the crossing was modern (they scanned my car) and efficient (it took under an hour). and today, well….it may be the best border crossing in the world. let me try to take you through it:
the closest town to the aduana (immigration) is the quaint little town of entre lagos about 50km away. as you near the border, you enter the national park puyehue….which is a nice thick forest. then, you reach the chilean aduana, which looks more like a park ranger station. i entered, they gave me a small slip of paper and i got two stamps….5 minutes later and i was done. the no-man’s land between the two aduanas (about 20miles) is a really stunning landscape. i even got out of the car a few times to walk a bit and take some pictures. all of the snow was pristine (it’s a huge park, and not many people stop here) and you could hear the faint trickle of streams in the distance. the argentinian border is equally calm — one of the officers was even trying to set me up with his coworker…a young argentinian woman who has never gone to patagonia….or at least i think that’s what was happening….argentinians talk funny. 20 minutes later, i was on the road again….and in one of the (if not the) nicest parks i’ve been to in my life (parque nahuel huapi). part of it was my low expectations, but the landscape is really really beautiful: huge lakes, incredible mountains, snow, trees, rock faces, etc. i would love to come back one day and trek from argentina to chile.
tonight i had a really good chicken dinner at entre lagos, a small town just 50km from argentina. but let’s start with this morning, or maybe last night. i was having issues with the spot messenger device, and really wanted to get a reading from the end of the panamerican road. by the time i got a confirmation, it was dark and raining. so, i thought i might just sleep in the car at the end of the road….it could also be a good bonding experience. unfortunately, i was woken up three separate times by the cops (3am, 4:30am and 5am) — although they were just looking out for my safety and well-being. so, as soon as the sun rose, i hit the road towards national park chiloe, which was nice, although i prefer some of the other chilean parks i’ve seen (granted i only saw a small fraction of the park). from there, i quickly stopped by the darwin park (yes, he visited chiloe island too) which was very nice, and made me wish i had been there during the week and scheduled a guided tour. i also swung by some of the european inspired churches and houses (swiss/german).
then, a short ride on the ferry, a drop-in at puerto montt (hoping to find paul and his boat, but to no avail) and off to entre lagos. in puerto montt they had a strange (dangerous) three lane road, with cars going in both directions, but identical dotted lines separating the lanes. they also had a funny exhibit showing cartoons discussing male/female inequality. finally, just short of entre lagos, i swung by a car museum with tons of studebakers. i’m not much of a car person (…i know, i know), but one cool thing about all the studebakers is you could see how the same model car evolved over the years. as i neared entre lagos (and the argentinian border), i was greeted with mixed messages: a huge rainbow (like the kind in the lucky charms commercials) and a pretty serious car accident with an overturned oil tanker.
being a sunday and the holiday weekend (independence day), most places were closed for dinner — but i found one place, where i was offered meat, chicken or fish. she then proceeded to make the meal from scratch (it took 30min or so), but it was worth the wait…and a bargain at just $5. tomorrow: a good steak dinner?
i forgot to include the end of the road picture!
so, i’m not really sure where to go anymore…but i figured south made sense, so i kept on the panamericana towards the island of chiloe. if i had read ahead, i would have known that there’s no bridge connecting the island to the mainland…but i didn’t…after all, reading ahead can ruin the surprise. so, i kept driving until the road led to a ramp, which led to the ocean. i decided to stop. a few minutes later, there was a reasonable size queue of cars, and a few minutes after that, a ferry showed up. i drove onto the ferry, and it started moving. i paid $20, and before i knew it, i was on chiloe!
chiloe is famous for it’s national park, indigenous heritage and churches. it’s also where the panamerican road ends. who knew? well, apparently lonely planet; but, as i already established, i’m not the biggest reader. also, a cop yesterday warned me against reading…although i was driving at the time. anyway, mission accomplished!
and what’s the big deal with the panamerican anyways? i’m not even sure who, when or how it was formed. from what i can tell, it sorta just happened. neighboring countries decided to join their highways together (probably for transportation of goods/merchandise) and the idea of the panamerican sort of just evolved. and why didn’t argentina get any of the action? maybe just bad luck?
of course there are some gaps in the panamericana. the biggest one is between panama and colombia…and seems to be due to narcotics. another one i passed today, between the mainland and chiloe. which is kinda stupid actually. why not just end the panamericana on the mainland? chiloe doesn’t really provide much, and only adds an additional 150km or so.
oh well, i guess now i can move on to argentina.
today’s driving led me down to frutillar, puerto montt, puerto varas and parque vicente perez rosales — another huge and beautiful national park. frutillar is a small german village on the edge of a large lake. hidden in the clouds is the top of a snow capped volcano (can you spot it?). puerto montt is a small port town…vaguely reminiscent of fisherman’s wharf if it were a city, and not a tourist trap. puerto varas is a nice town about 50km further down the same lake as frutillar. but, those cities were all a bit dead, so i went instead to the park. here, i walked around for the afternoon (the park is very big, and includes the volcano visible from frutillar), then setup camp by the beach….by setup camp, i mean i parked, maneuvered the foam padded rear seats a bit and slept. i’m close, but still haven’t figured out the best way to sleep in the car.
so what’s the deal with chile’s obsession with 80s music? in some areas, over half of the stations are playing 80s. it’s like i’m constantly being rick-rolled. (not that i’m complaining)