Category Archives: Chile

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On the Road Again : Central Chile

We had been sitting still in Santiago for far too long. And as soon as we left the city we were seeking out campsites in the woods and trails into the mountains. I was on a mission to camp in the forest and cook over an open fire.

It didn’t take long to get back to van life the way it should be. By sunset on the second day, after a day of chasing waterfalls, we were popping the top in the winter woods and enjoying the alpenglow on the snow capped peaks.

But my mission was not yet accomplished… there were no fires allowed in this area.

Central Chile 01 Central Chile 02 Central Chile 03 Central Chile 04 Parque Nacional Siete Tazas

Central Chile 05 Central Chile 06Onion eyes

We couldn’t have been happier the next morning, brewing coffee  and having breakfast in the van while we planned a hike into the Altos de Lircay National Reserve. Since it’s still winter here, the park was totally empty. Just us, the mountains, and a few local critters.

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For some reason, people around here aren’t that keen to go hiking through waist deep snow. But it was definitely worth it for the amazing views and the beautiful afternoon light filtering through the naked trees. After a long day on the trail, we made it back to the van around sundown and stayed in the deserted campground of the reserve. Enjoying the absolute silence, we had the best sleep ever.

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On our way up to Chillán, we found a sweet spot by the river, just out of view of the highway. In the morning there was a blanket of fresh snow all around us, and it was still coming down. We haven’t seen snow falling since our last winter in Canada so we were super excited. Like kids on Christmas day.

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Our timing couldn’t have been better. There’s a pretty damn good ski resort at Chillan, but they hadn’t had snow for quite a while. We were waiting at the rental shop for the doors to open, and hit the slopes as soon as we could.

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There were only a couple of chairlifts open, but they give access to a lot of amazing terrain. And on a powder day like this, you don’t need much more.

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The snow was so deep and heavy that we had to zoom back into town so Bec could get some bigger skis. Then she really started ripping. We couldn’t wipe the smiles from our faces.  It’s times like these that we really wish all our friends were here with us. Carpark lunch breaks and after-ski beers just aren’t the same without them.

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And what better way to end a day than cooking over a camp fire. It took a few days, but finally… mission accomplished.

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All of this in just five days… it’s oh so good to be back on the road.

Posted from Bariloche, Argentina.

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Parts and Recreation : Santiago, Chile

“We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us… Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the glass bum relax and go along with it. Only then do the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.”  – John Steinbeck.

Sometimes we have to remind each other that even though our plans change, we can still have fun in the moment.

We only planned to spend a few days in Santiago, get a few repairs done on the van, buy some spare parts, and then get the hell out. This was pretty optimistic. Ten days later, we are finally ready to hit the road again. We fluctuated between frustration with the current situation and making an effort to enjoy ourselves.

Mark spent most of his time like this …

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On the other hand, my time was spent a bit more like this …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACruising the ‘burbs’

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWarming park benches

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoffee shop hopping – at my second favourite place, Faustina

Mechanically, the van was still running great, but we tend to push it harder than most vintage car owners. The brakes are now in good working order and Mark fixed lots of the little annoying things that have been on the ‘to do list’. Luckily, Santiago is a gold mine for VW parts. Thank you Velizwagen!

Mark and the mechanics replaced all the shockies, the brake cylinder, and the busted engine mounts. Then, we discovered that the transmission mount was also broken. This part is held on with two pathetic little bolts and looks like it should be simple to replace. As it turns out, it is a really difficult job. When the threads in one of the bolt holes stripped, they had to remove the entire engine to finish the job.

IMG_3090The boys at Retro Garage  – mechanics numero dos.

We have been dreaming of wilderness camping and cooking over an open fire, so the big city isn’t exactly where we want to be right now. It didn’t take us long however, to realize that Santiago is a pretty nice place to be stuck. On a clear day, you can see the Andes as they rise up in all their glory above the city.

Santiago is very live-able by our standards. It is really bike friendly and has fantastic parks everywhere. The weather was perfect, so we were able to make the most of being outdoors, exploring our neighbourhood with morning runs, afternoon bike rides and leisurely strolls.

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There are some pretty old buildings too…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMuseo Nacional Bellas Artes

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We have a hard time being budget conscious in cities. There are just too many tasty temptations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFavourite coffee shop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Benevento – our local 

IMG_3080BACO – getting awkward with oysters

Still, we did try to balance things out with a few hotel room picnics at Posada del Salvador in Providencia.

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I’m usually not a big hotel fan, but this place was great. It’s in a good location, the staff are super friendly and most importantly, they have parking. It was pretty cheap by Santiago standards, especially since we got a little discount for having a VW bus. Also, it was just a short walk from lots of yummy restaurants, like La Gloria (sandwiches) and Liguria (fancy pub food).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe view from our room with Mark’s thrifty finds

Steinbeck was right. This trip has definitely developed a personality all of its own, and it has taken us on one royal ride. It has ebbed and flowed and changed with our expectations, and despite them. Sometimes we are all in sync and life is a dream, other times our personalities are clashing like titans.

As we move into the last month of our travels, it is hard not to have mixed feelings. But for now, we are just happy to be on the road again.

Posted from: Chillán, Chile

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Ski Bums : Portillo, Chile

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

And by the same token. When life gives you winter… go skiing.

Portillo 15Not bad… for a snowboarder

It was never really in our grand plan to be travelling through the southern Andes in mid winter, but maybe it should have been. After a few years of living in Alberta we have really grown to love a white winter. Freezing our butts off in the altiplano of Bolivia just didn’t feel right without the snow to make it all worthwhile.

So we were pretty stoked when we crossed the border into Chile and stopped just a few minutes later at Portillo. The little ski resort of Portillo is high up in the Andes, with a beauty of a lake nestled between the jagged peaks.

It’s not a particularly big ski resort by North American or European standards, but it sure is pretty.

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We camped in the carpark for a couple of nights and had a great day of skiing.

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There hasn’t been a whole lot of snowfall this year, but the icy slopes softened up nicely after a few hours of bright sunlight. Just like spring skiing in the Rockies.

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And really, is there a better place to enjoy a beer and a burger than on top of a mountain, with the warm sun beating out the cold? Not many, if any.

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Although I make it sound like an ideal stopover, it wasn’t without hassles.

I was still battling some unknown illness and spewed from the chairlift.

On top of that, we’ve had a leaky rear brake for weeks now and have had it checked out by three different brake ‘experts’ already. We thought that the last guy in Mendoza had replaced the cylinder with a new one, but we dismantled the brakes in the carpark and found out that this wasn’t the case. This has been incredibly frustrating.

Some amigos in Portillo assured me that the next 60km of descending road wasn’t as bad as it looked. So we pushed on.

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Luckily, they were right. We made it Los Andes without hassle and finally took matters into our own hands. I was working on the van in front of a brake workshop and the guy there recommended a short term solution. Plug the brake line with a nail and keep moving until we can find the part we need. The brakes actually work a lot better now, and we should find what we need to fix it properly in Santiago.

All part of the fun, onwards and forwards as always.

Posted from Santiago, Chile.