Hop in, hop out

28 03 2010

Santiago de Chile is a warm relaxed, almost European looking and feeling  like city with a  perfect quarter with restaurants, bars and cultural life: Bella Vista. We had a hostel right there. Which meant we had only one minute to walk to sit and relax at a nice restaurant. And it also meant that we nearly did not sleep because our room was close to the lively street and it felt as if all the shouting, laughing people walked right over our bed at 3 o’clock in the morning.

We had to get up early because we had booked a flight to Caracas at 9.00 in the morning and – as rumours said – you had to be at the airport 3 hours before your flight left because of the chaos at the airport caused by the earthquakes some weeks earlier.  So we had to get up at 5 in the morning. Which brings me to the fact that travelling is not always holidays….  but, hey, no complaints.

Nearly asleep we arrived  at the airport just to learn that everything was working fine and there was no visible damage or problems – as we had also not detected any damages in the city at all. Trust only the facts you dramatized yourself … or so goes a journalist’s saying.

By the way: The food in Santiago was very good – I had mussels with cheese (yes) and Kim had a big salad with all sorts of veggies and  fresh green stuff. But the best was the celebration of the “wine month”: Buy a bottle from a selection of a special menu and you get a second one for free which you can either drink or take home with you. Feels like “Happy Month” instead of “Happy Hour”. We decided to take it to Isla de Margarita/Venezuela, our next station.

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Switchback heaven

27 03 2010

After a nice relaxing day at the International Hostel Uspallata we took a bus to Santiago de Chile which should have departed at 9.00 o’clock. At 11.00 the bus arrived at Uspallata. But this was really the first time that they were far from punctual. To travel by bus in Argentina and Chile is super comfortable and quite cheap.  The five hour distance to Santiago (including a time and paper consuming border crossing) costs around 20 USS.

250 km to Santiago means a 5 hours roadshow with panoramic views.

Besides you have a 180 degree panoramic view of the landscape – if you are lucky like us and can book the front row in the upper compartment. You also can see some nearly crashes and blood pressure rising manoeuvres of other drivers overtaking the bus.

Panoramic view from the first row in the overland bus.

Switchbacks for 2000 vertical meters downhill

The route from Mendoza to Santiago is amazing. You drive by the Aconcagua which you can spot from the road and after the border to Chile the road is winding down in inumerable switchbacks. A dream for every cyclist or motorcycle rider. The route passes through a ski resort with limited capacities and how it looked with unlimited freeskiing possibilities. We herad that they have up to four to five meters snow for two to three months in winter  and that the road is closed at this time. A little bit tricky to go there (especially when arriving from Europe) and the chairlifts looked quite old – but definitely worth remembering if you are looking for unusual scenery while skiing and good snow conditions. But that is another topic…





The international asado

26 03 2010

After our sightseeing tour we had a perfect easy day at the very nice International Hostel Uspallata where the usual-unusual crowd of backpackers  were hanging around. Besides the interesting places and landscapes you encounter while travelling you also dive into a mixture of people of countries from all over  the world with totally different backgrounds (students, ex-formula 1 engineers, ex-hedgefund brokers from London, artists, dive instructors from Israel ….).  What they have in common is their motivation to see parts of this planet, do strange stuff in remote places and to carry a netbook with them which they intensively use in all likely and unlikely spots like hostel lounges, toilets, bus stations, supermarkets, coffee shops and airports – thanks to WiFi.

How could you plan from day to day and book flights, buses and overnight stays the day before you decide to do it before the age of IT and bits and bytes? I don’t know. I guess you had to make a plan, book everything in advance and stick to the schedule. Now you are as free as a bird and can decide in a flick of your eyelid where to travel, where to stay and what to check out. And stay connected to your facebook crowd and tell the world what you are doing. I love the time we are living in….

Sorry for the detour. So in short another perfect day in the middle of nowhere – almost nowhere.

The International hostel is situated some miles outside Uspallata (which isn’t a big city either) and the manager Christian and his crew are the most polite, relaxed and helpful guys we met so far.

We had  a nice mountainbike trip of 40k to the seven coloured rocks about which Charles Darwin said:

We crossed the Uspallata range, and at night slept at the custom−house−−the only inhabited spot on the plain. Shortly before leaving the mountains, there was a very extraordinary view; red, purple, green, and quite white sedimentary rocks, alternating with black lavas, were broken up and thrown into all kinds of disorder by masses of porphyry of every shade of colour, from dark brown to the brightest lilac. It was the first view I ever saw, which really resembled those pretty sections which geologists make of the inside of the earth

We biked on to  the stone engravings of Cerro Tunduqueral (by the way  there are not so many more attractions around). We skipped rappelling, horse riding and river rafting.

Highlight and wonderful ending of the day was a big asado at the hostel with a combined wine tasting a la Christian: Everybody buys some wine (or let Christian do the job for you in a given price range), then you drink one bottle after the other with more or less expert comments on the quality, taste, colour etc etc on the wine. Much more fun (and much more alcohol intake) than a “real” wine tasting. In between you eat tons of great meat which is carried in from the asado (barbecue) every 15 minutes and after this smorgasboard you get a desert Uspallata style: Pückler icecream with Malbec red wine. Yummy.

We slept perfectly this night dreaming already from our trip to Santiago the next day. We would drive with the bus over the same pass Charles Darwin did (coming from Santiago) on “The Voyage of the Beagle” 1835.





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