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04/02/12 - Valle de la Luna - Part 2

The Valley of the Moon has other surprises, including strange pillar like formations carved from small hills by the wind, heat, cold and rain. The loop road was closed by the recent rains. It was covered with salt, not snow, and under the salt, water was on the move.

We could hear the water under the salt before we saw it. If you want a short movie, we have it here. (It's about 2.3MB).

These cliffs look like the walls of Assyria.

Another field of mineral deposits

The Three Marys (or is it Maries?) - carved from hills like the one behind them

The Three Marys and their brother (or perhaps Joseph)

The closed road - It sure looks like snow, but it is salt.

More salt - Imagine shoveling that.

A waterfall under the salt crust

More salt deposits

More water under salt

More fascinating formations

More water under salt

Keywords: chile, waterfall

04/02/12 - Valle de la Luna - Part 1

We've made it to the Atacama Desert.

The Valle de la Luna is not far from San Pedro de Atacama where we are staying, but it is an exotic landscape as the name implies. The hills are covered with crystals of salt, calcite and gypsum, or common sand depending on the wind and weather. Despite being in a hard desert, there are rains, and they, with the wind, shape the land.

Calcite and salt

A large salt crystal embedded in rock

One of the sand dunes

Sand dune and salt deposits

Erosion, the effects of water

Another view of the desert

Layers of sedimentary rock

A medley of "lunar" formations

The volcano Licancabur and his brother

The mineral deposits almost look like a flow of water, because they were made by the flow of water.

The ridge of this dune was closed after a recent earthquake.

Keywords: chile

04/02/12 - The Old Bus Route Through Death Valley - Calama to Atacama

The first three photos here are actually from the Valle de la Luna, but the rest are from a bit of the old highway linking Calama, the big city, to San Pedro de Atacama, our oasis. Our guide says his grandmother remembers the three hour bus ride. They put in the new road in 1983, and it is a real improvement, though not as picturesque.

Mineral deposits

Some roadway in the valle

That's an old miner's cabin down there.

This is from along the old highway.

The old highway ahead

The old highway cut through the mountains.

More of the old highway

Keywords: chile

03/31/12 - Valparaiso - Part 2

Valparaiso is a little like Venice. It was hard not to find something amazing to look at, so we took lots of pictures.

Exhausted from pressing the shutter of our camera, we collapsed in a charming family seafood restaurant in neighboring Vina del Mar and loaded up on razor clams, mussels, scallops, congrio and reinata. Chilean portions are quite substantial, but it was hard to resist.

Another view

A street scene

Another promenade

A little restaurant

Pastels predominate

One of the hillsides

A view downtown

Yet another street scene

Up the hill

It's a vibrant city.

A view from our window

Keywords: chile

03/31/12 - Valparaiso - Part 1

We took a tour of Valpairiso, Santiago's port city, and it was just as well because Santiago was very hot and humid while Valpairiso, on the sea, was cool and even a bit foggy. It's an old city and the center of Chile's naval power. It's also a working port with cargo ships, cruise ships, naval ships and pleasure ships all using the port. We explored the city and the steep streets leading up the hills that surround the harbor. There were spectacular views and wonderful old buildings in pastel colors. There were also terrifying funiculars which ran up and down the side of the hills. We were offered a ride but declined.

Wine country, en route to the sea.

An old Victorian building

One of the many views

Another view of the working port

The naval museum, the exhibit on the war with Bolivia and Peru in 1879

Up the steepy mountain

That's a Chilean palm

Yet another view

One of the promenades

One of the many city dogs, fast asleep

Inside one of the hotels

Keywords: chile

03/30/12 - Patagonia Medley

We are in Santiago now. These photos are a quick summary of all the hikes we took and adventures we had in the land of guanacos and rainbows.

Guanacos everywhere

Lago Nordenskjold and the mountains behind

More mountains

Rio Pingo

More Rio Pingo

The waterfall (cascada), our goal for the morning

View across the guanaco filled planes near Aonikenk

More mountains and plains

Some petroglyphs

Mountains and a rainbow

Laguna Azul, the blue lagoon

Keywords: chile, waterfall

03/29/12 - Lago Grey - Part 3

To make a long story short, the boat took us to the face of the glacier that is feeding Lago Grey. We passed among the icebergs and sailed close to the wall of ice. The ice was blue, a bright, almost unreal, blue. There isn't a whole lot to say other than that this was one amazing hike.

P.S. The boat took us into a mysterious cove alongside a gravel beach which was an adventure in and of itself, but it pales beside our encounter with the ice.

The wall of ice

Close up

More ice

Even more ice

Guess what

Some parts of the glacier are more crumpled than other parts.

The rocks glistened

More glistening rocks and ice - sort of the theme of this post

More crumpled ice

More glistening rock walls

A rainbow at our parting

Keywords: chile

03/28/12 - Lago Grey - Part 2

Yes, we are milking this.

Here are some more photos from our walk along Lake Grey. There were magnificent waterfalls, great old trees and autumn color, but everywhere there were memories of the recent fire. Everyone we spoke to remembered the shock, the decision to evacuate and all the loss. We are new to the area, so it is all new to us, but we can feel their sense of loss second hand.

We made our way past the viewpoint and followed the shore of the lake, but inland and much sheltered. We had a steep descent along a rocky trail. Near the bottom, we saw a female Magellanic woodpecker. She was a big bird, maybe six feet above us, pounding on a branch. We were in danger of getting hit by wood chips, but she wasn't bothered by us at all.

There was a shelter at the end of our hike, complete with bathrooms and running water. There was even a little store. We ate our lunch and made our way down to the beach. There, our boat was waiting. Cautiously, we made our way down the rocks to the Zodiac launch.

Stay tuned. We said we are milking this.

Lago Gray

Memories of fire

More memories


More survivors

The icebergs below

One of the waterfalls

A female Magellanic woodpecker

Someone looked up this hawk for us, but we forgot what kind it was.

Glaciers above

Our ship

Keywords: chile, waterfall

03/27/12 - Lago Grey - Part 1

We began our mission before dawn without a flashlight. This meant feeling our way down from the hotel to the pier with our hiking sticks, as if we were blind. The launch headed towards the distant lights where we began our walk through a dimly lit valley. There were mountains beside us, capped with glaciers, and we walked through a valley among the burned trees from the recent fire. Then we climbed out, over a saddle to Lago de Patos (Duck Lake). From here we headed towards Lago Grey, following its shore several hundred feet above on the forested slopes. We took a side spur to a viewpoint and had our first glimpse of the glaciers. They blocked the far end of the lake. These were our goal. We pressed on.

Our hike began at dawn.

The day brightened as we hiked.

The forest

The mountains

Lago de Patos (Duck Lake)

Great trees of the forest

Autumn color

A view across the lake

More autumn color

The glaciers


Keywords: chile

03/26/12 - Lago Sarmiento

Lago Sarmiento is one of the lakes not fed by a glacier. It is the home of a blue green algae that grows in layers to form calcified structures that look like corals, but are structured like stromatolites. The lake is much lower than it was. It has been shrinking since the last ice age, so it is now rimmed with exotic calcium deposits.

We walked down from the road. The vegetation is mainly bushes and grasses, the bushes clustered against the wind and guanacos. If you look carefully, you can see that the gentle hills are full of guanacos, relatives of the llama. There were also a number of birds, including a large snipe with an extremely long beak.

Our guide told us that there was a family of foxes living at the entrance station to the park which was where our hike was going to end. We really didn't expect to see them, but there they were. We almost tripped over them, so our hike ended with a lovely surprise.

A guanaco - a major theme of our hike

A large snipe

The view back

One of the many plants growing in a tight cluster

The lake proper

Another view of the lake

The calcified deposits line the shore.

They do look like coral.

One of the beaches

Another view of the calcium deposits

One of the foxes, posing nicely for us

Keywords: chile

03/26/12 - First Dawn

Here are some pictures of our first dawn in Torres de Paine. That's the view from our window, the dining room and so on. It really is that pink.

Rosy fingered dawn

More rosy fingers

Maybe fifteen minutes later - still spectacular, but not as rosy

Keywords: chile

03/25/12 - To Patagonia

We made it to Patagonia. That was 3 1/2 hours by air, but back in time to saner security screening and flight attendants in high heels, who change into more sensible shoes once aboard. Then came the four hour drive, broken by a stop for lunch. The braised lamb was exquisite, if you must know.

The pampas

As we head north, the land gets greener.

A far glimpse of the mountains

Wild country

One of the many beautiful lakes

A lake and the mountains

A view from the car

We arrived towards sunset.

The hotel, sturdily built

The view from our room

The trails beckon, but first to bed

Keywords: chile

03/24/12 - Santiago

We've made it safely to Santiago and are resting from the heat of the day after our walk around town. It's a fascinating city, and much of the central area near the cathedral and museums is closed to cars. We explored a bit, checked out the central market and did some exploring. Our Spanish is neglible, but what we have is useful.

UPDATE: Did we mention a 5.5 Richter scale earthquake on our first night in town? That's terremoto in Spanish.

It's just like us to check out the fish first.

That's interesting looking corn there.

The Farmers' Market

One of the statues

The Mapocho River in autumn

Another scultpure in a local shopping plaza

The view from our hotel, right near the zoo

City streets

The park

Keywords: chile, farmers' market

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