Category Archives: South America

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge – Green

It’s spring in the other half of the world and last month we traveled north to La Serena and the Elqui Valley.  Both places sit at the southern end of the Atacama Desert, the driest place in the world, So green isn’t the most ever-present color in the area.  But in the valley floors where streams and rivers might flow – green is everywhere.

In the Atacama wherever water can be found there will be green.
In the Atacama wherever water can be found there will be green.

The northernmost vineyards in Chile are found in the Elqui Valley.  These are the grapes which are crushed, fermented and then distilled into Pisco, a brandy-like elixir.

The northernmost vineyards in Chile
The northernmost vineyards in Chile

A big surprise for us was discovering papaya is grown here.  Grown on the steep sides of the mountains you identify them by their dark green color.

Papayas on a mountainside in the Atacama
Papayas on a mountainside in the Atacama

September is bud break time for grape vines.

Springtime bud break in September
Springtime bud break in September

As you drive closer to the Argentina border you leave the vineyards behind and enter into areas where the most green you may find is on a road sign.

Sometimes the most green in the Atacama is found on the road signs.
Sometimes the most green in the Atacama is found on the road signs.

El Diario – 18 Octubre 2014

This week when we got to work we were asked if we felt the tremor (check out the Earthquakes tab) earlier in the morning (we didn’t).    That got me to wondering what Chileans believe is the difference between an earthquake and a tremor.  They called this year’s 8.2 in Iquique and the 7.1 off the coast of Easter Island an earthquake and Tuesday’s 5.2 a tremor.

To further complicate matters – on the same day last August we had a 6.5 tremor while Napa had a 6.0 earthquake.  Confused yet?  Well this got Wooly thinking (oh, oh) about what the difference is between a tremor and an earthquake.  After checking numerous sites on the web that all disagreed about the intensity required to promote a tremor to earthquake status Wooly came up with one conclusion.

Armed with that conclusion Wooly decided to test it at work the next morning.  When he asked his gringo friends they pretty much concluded anything above 6.0 would qualify as a full-fledged earthquake.  A couple of them said before they came to Chile that number would have been around 5.0 or so.  Yet when the Chileans were asked they all pretty much agreed it takes a 7.0 or greater to be called a bona-fide earthquake.

So there you have it.  If you live in an area where ground movement is rare or occasional, anything you feel is an earthquake.  Yet someone living in an area with frequent ground movement it takes a higher number.  Or in the case of Chile with lots of large earth movements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_earthquakes_in_Chile) it seems a 7.0 or greater is required before the local folks grant a tremor earthquake status.  For those who remember, just think of the damage the 1989 6.9 Loma Prieta (the World Series earthquake) caused and how many lives were lost or the 1994 6.7 Northridge quake in the L.A. area.   I had to chuckle last March when a friend commented on the 5.1 earthquake they had in L.A. had him shook up.  Sorry, had to do that.

And what about the Valparaiso and Viña del Mar areas where we live?  Here is a list of Valparaiso earthquakes:

  • 1730 – 8.7
  • 1737 – 7.7
  • 1822 – 8.5
  • 1829 – 7.0
  • 1831 – 7.8
  • 1833 – 7.7
  • 1900’s – Nothing
  • 2000’s – Nothing

A 200 year gap without any significant earthquakes makes us overdue for a very large one.  It could possibly even be in the 9.x range.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t happen while we’re here, or if it does nothing falls on us or collapses underneath us.

Zapallar Flowers

It’s spring (Wooly’s favorite time of year) in Chile and nothing says spring to us more than wildflowers.  We recently traveled to a small seaside community called Zapallar.  (Sap-pie-yar)  By the ocean there are two restaurants and a very nice small beach.  The signs of spring were evident with bright blossoms everywhere you looked.  A nicely maintained path led along the shore past the sandy beach to a rocky shore.  It led further but we ran out of time to fully explore the place.  But there are lots of pictures to share with everyone.  Enjoy the show and please let us know your favorite.

Valparaiso’s Vintage VW’s

Valparaiso is a surprising city.  When walking the streets you never know what you’re going to find one weekend to the next.  It could be an art show in a square or a wine festival.  Or maybe even a protest. After all, the Chilean Congress convenes here in Valpo.  However, on this weekend it was a bunch of vintage VW’s in Sotomayor Plaza.  Just like in the States, they love their bugs too.

Peru Adventure – Arequipa, part one

Often overlooked and skipped on Peruvian tours, Arequipa is a treat to those who visit.  Ordinarily white, at sunset the buildings in the main square turn a vibrant golden.  Step inside the Santa Catalina de Siena Monastery and you enter another world.

The monastery has stood the test of time since 1579.  It’s survived countless earthquakes and still operates as a cloistered convent for the Dominican Second Order.   Encompassing 20,000 square meters, it takes a while to walk the corridors and peak inside the rooms where nuns used to work and sleep.  At its peak the monastery housed up to 450 people.  Today fewer than 20 nuns stay in an area that is closed to the public.

In early times it served as a place where the wealthy could protect their second born daughters.  To enter the convent a dowry of as much as 2,400 silver coins was required which is about $150,000 today.  At one time it was a wealthy convent until the money was sent to Rome.  Now they are poor.

The architecture is a blend of colonial and native styles – painted with bright and vibrant terracotta colors which happen to rub off on your clothes as Wooly discovered.  Every corner you turn and every doorway you step through is a treat.

After a major earthquake in 1592, the nuns built individual bedrooms since the dorm they stayed in was destroyed.  They built an arched sleeping area in each room.  The stronger arches provided early earthquake protection for the nuns.

Early earthquake safety - Sleep under an arch.
Early earthquake safety – Sleep under an arch.

Gardens inside the walled monastery are as peaceful as they are beautiful.  If you want to sit and contemplate you are welcome to do so after the tour when you are free to walk around on your own.  You can even sip coffee in a small courtyard featuring a snack bar.  And finally, when you come across a long and steep set of stairs – climb them.  The view at the top is worth it.  Just be careful because those steps aren’t uniform in size or height.

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Zigzag

Some roads in South America are noted for their zigzags with good reason.  You simply don’t want to take the fast way down.  Here are a couple.  The first is the main highway from Santiago that crosses over the Andes and takes you to Mendoza.  Raeski took this photo from the bus window.  The second dirt road takes you to Machu Piccu.  If you are like most, you wish the bus driver would take it a little slower.

Peru Adventure – Lima

As we flew in over the bay with long running waves that seem to stretch forever I thought this must be a great place to surf when the waves get heavy.  Our drive from the airport to our hotel did nothing to dispel this thought as we rode alongside the beach.  The next day we saw a surfer with his board heading to the water.

We stayed in the upscale Miraflores district of Lima.  Most of Lima’s population is poor and are unable to live in such a nice area.  Unlike the U.S., in South America the hills are where poor people live.  Yes, they have a great view from their homes, but poor construction and lack of utilities ensure daily living with hardship.  I know I wouldn’t like having to carry water up a steep hill every day to my home.  It’s a harsh life when you are poor and don’t have access to the things we often take for granted.  This is the life of many in South America that tourists don’t witness.

Where the Poor Live
Where the Poor Live

What most people see when they come to Lima are places like Parque de Amor where they see the famous Victor Delfin statue, “El Beso”, or in English “The Kiss”.  The views are fantastic from the park as are the tile mosaics lining the walkways.  Of course the people in the park are fun to watch as I suppose we were when we emulated El Beso.

Since moving to South America we walk a lot more than we used to and as a result we stumble onto a lot of things other folks don’t see.  In the Miraflores area there is a mall that is cut into the cliff.  What’s nice is the view on top of the cliff isn’t spoiled by a lot of buildings.  Above the mall there is a park overlooking the ocean with stupendous views of the ocean.

We also walked between Parque de Amor and the mall where we were rewarded with more sculptures, views and oddities.  Painted stairs, a beautiful divided roadway and a rather eclectic door were a few of the things we saw along the walk.

In Peru one of the methods people use to draw attention to their cause is by striking.  On the day we were in the main square doctors and nurses were marching for better medical standards, care and pay.  The police were ready and also ready to smile for the camera.  In the same square, as with many squares in Peru, was a cathedral.  There is an amazing amount of wealth to be seen in these churches – something that will be discussed in another post.

Finally there are Inca ruins being restored in the city.  Since granite wasn’t available in this area the Inca’s used adobe.  While adobe isn’t the best building material to use in a seismic prone area, it is what was available to the Incas and the Huaca Pucllana still stands.  The Incas were truly an amazing people.  Like Raeski, I too wonder what would have happened if the Spaniards and Church hadn’t destroyed their culture.

In Lima the modern sits next to the ancient.  You find a well-dressed business person rushing past a person in traditional dress.  Hills filled with the poor overlooking the Spanish colonial homes they can only dream of owning.  Street vendors hawking their goods across the street from a mall filled with efficient Norte Americano stores.  It’s a vibrant place where we started our Peruvian adventure.

Every region has its own hat style.
Every region has its own hat style.

7 Wonder of Wonders from our travels in Peru

Today Raeski is contributing a post about our Peru adventure.

Our seventeen day adventure to several cities and sites in Peru filled us with much wonder but left me with many contemplations beginning with “I wonder…”

We began in the capital and largest city of Lima, Peru where we stayed in the area called Miraflores.  This coastal site hosts a park inspired by Antonio Gaudi featuring a huge sculpture of a man and woman (the sculptor and his wife) embraced in a kiss and aptly named El Beso.  Wonderment #1:  How many people have been kissed at this location and who holds the title for the longest?

Parque_de_Amor_07b

 

Arequipa, ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ was constructed predominantly from volcanic silica and serves as the gastronomic center of Peru.  Curiosity #2: “Does alpaca taste like chicken, too?” was answered with a resounding “no” and left us considering ordering more.  Not only is the meat scrumptious, but also the fibers of the baby alpaca are extremely soft and warm so we also became consumers of the external product with the purchase of a beautiful sweater, hat and scarf.

AlpacaSteak

Mirador de los Andes and Cruz de los Condors presented magnificent views of the splendor of the seven snow-capped volcanic peaks at 5,600 to over 6.000 meters and the majestic flight of the condors scavenging the heights.  Here we were left wondering #3: “Do the local caballeros toss their dead livestock over the edge of a ridge to keep the condors circling and inhabiting this specific area?”

Condor_03

Exploring the inhabited areas of the highest navigable lake, Titicaca at 3,812 meters (12,507 ft) was an interesting marvel. In the village of LLacon on the peninsula we watched demonstrations of their textile handicrafts, and on Isla Taquile we participated in a ceremonial lunch event giving thanks to Pachamama or Mother Earth and the other gods represented by the condor, puma and serpent. On our final stop, one of the floating islands of Uros, we were welcomed by members of a family and treated to a visual demonstration of how the tortura roots and reeds are layered to create their anchored living platforms.  We learned they apparently chew the tortura reeds that provide a source of fluoride but we couldn’t help but wonder #4 if the coarse fibers couldn’t also be fashioned into toothbrushes, which by their smiles, seemed to be of great need.

Reeds of Uros

On our Inka Express bus trip crossing the highest point between Puno and Cusco we visited the panoramic vista and had the chance to use the highest public toilet (whole in the ground with planks and a hut for a bit of privacy).  A short distance later we caught the flow of the Vilcanota River, which spans over 6,000 km and connects to the Amazon, eventually emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.  That made us reflect on the fact that we pee’d at what would be the Continental Divide of the South American continent.  Wonder #5: which way the urine flowed?

Highest_Outhouse

Visiting the many ruins and foundations of the ancient Andean peoples emanating from the “obligo” or navel of civilization in Cuzco, one cannot help but be awed by what incredible engineers and craftsman the Incas were.  The planning, chiseling, movement and careful construction of huge rock structures that have withstood centuries and earthquakes were somewhat mindboggling considering the time and lack of technology for such feats. No mortar and not even a blades-width of gap between stones cut with nearly a dozen angles seemed unimaginable, so #6: where would Peru stand in today’s’ global economy had the Conquistadors not trampled the indigenous peoples and “enlightened” them? At Sachsayhuaman (fittingly pronounced ‘sexy woman’), I offered a silent prayer deep in her womb chamber for Peru to remain resolute to preserve its hundreds of varieties of corn and thousands of strains of potatoes against such enemies as Monsanto and persevere as the heartland of organic products to keep us nourished and healthy.

Sacsayhuamán1

But our final wonder was one on the list of the Seven Man-Made Wonders of the World #7: Machu Picchu, The Lost City rediscovered in 1911 by Hiram Bingham. Mere photos do not do the experience justice.  Everyone should touch the Inca construction; feel the reverence to the gods of earth, air and water and sense the community of the terraced farm areas, communal areas and urban planning features. How thankful the world should be that this 15th Century treasure remained unscathed and is now available for humanity to enjoy and relish in the wonderment!

WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge – Relic

Some relics we hate to see go because they remind us of a time when things moved at a slower pace and we didn’t feel so rushed.  Others are better at adding ‘character’ to fields and yards.  Those are probably best left where they are found.  Some become monuments leaving us in awe and wonderment.  And finally some remind us of a past taken from storybook pages.