Out and About Chivay

In South American small towns invariably have a square in the middle.  Even in the most modest of towns the square is an important place.  There will be a church, some restaurants and streets radiating out from the square where commerce takes place.

The hat is very important in Peru.  Each region has distinctive hats.  In Chivay they take it to another level with hat sculptures.  They are irresistible  to children and sometimes accidents happen.  Some child may have spilled ice cream on the last hat.  The sculptures are designed so you can sit on them and rest weary legs and feet.

If you’ve had a tiring day you can always take a taxi.  However don’t look for the standard black taxi or collectivo here.  Each taxi owner personalizes their ‘cab’.  It’s quite the creative use of a motorcycle.

Chivay’s marketplace is quite orderly.  In Chivay each area of the marketplace has a purpose.  If you want groceries you go to one area and for other items you find the area where it’s being sold.

We also went on a hike outside of town that took us up on a hill that overlooked the town.  We highly recommend taking that walk.  The views are great at the edge of town.

Those views get even better outside of town.  And if you go you may even see someone walking to town with child in tow and their llama.  We really liked the bridge and appreciate the amount of work that must have gone into building it.

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Chivay Surprise

I believe surprises can be placed in two categories – ones that are pleasant and ones that are not.  After the ride to Chivay there was still a lot of daylight left so we walked to the town square.  We knew the square is where all the action is found in small South American towns and Chivay is small.  On the way to the square we were pleasantly surprised.  The road to the square was lined with statues of folklore characters.  We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Torres del Paine’s Andean Condors

We knew the Andean Condor could be spotted at the tip of South America but we never expected to see them up close while hiking in Torres del Paine (TDP).  When TDP went on the bucket list we didn’t even know the condors were down there.  When we learned they were there we ‘hoped’ we would see one or two.

This wasn’t our first encounter with the Andean Condor but we think this one’s the best.  It happened in the wild.  In Peru we went to Colca Canyon and saw about 50.  This made us think that someone must be tossing dead animals over the cliffs of the canyon to keep the birds all bunched up there.  Here in TDP we only saw them in pairs flying many miles apart from each other.

But anyway, it was on our second day in the park when we saw them – first at a distance and further up the trail.  We kept our eyes peeled for them and Wooly had his camera ready as we hiked.  The spectacular moment happened just after we reached the high point on the trail and got settled in for lunch.

Soon we heard some people up on the hill cry out so we knew what was about to happen.  Wooly was able to turn around and snap off three shots as the condor closed in on us.  The condor had his eye on us as he flew directly over – no more than 20 feet (3 meters).  Then Wooly spun around and got the final shot.  Of the four pictures three turned out well. 

And with that we finished our lunch with Wooly hoping the pictures turned out okay.  Now it’s your turn to enjoy the experience.

No Ordinary Beagle

Nope, we’re not talking about Snoopy or that breed of dog.  We’re not talking about the ship Darwin made famous either.  Well, maybe a little.  The Beagle Channel is actually named after the ship Darwin sailed in.  But it had a history before Darwin’s voyage started in 1831.

The Beagle Channel was named after the HMS Beagle during the ship’s first hydrographic survey of the channel.  During that voyage the ship’s captain committed suicide and Captain Robert FitzRoy took the helm and finished the survey.

The channel itself is a challenge to navigate and the only way a large ship can pass through its waters is with a Chilean captain at the helm.  Even then accidents still happen due to rapidly changing conditions.  There are a couple of sayings in Patagonia which allude to how rapidly the weather can change.  You can experience all four seasons in one day and if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes.

We ventured out twice on the channel on the same day.  In the morning the wind blew, it rained and heavy swells tossed the ship about.  Anyone who was brave enough to leave the warm cozy confines of the cabin would have surely been soaked from the waves breaking over the bow.  We weren’t completely certain we were going to go on the afternoon cruise.

However we decided to test the 15 minute saying and sure enough, we got the summer season that afternoon.  The Beagle Channel went from waves breaking over the bow of the ship to being as smooth as glass.  It was simply amazing.  As a result of our bravery (foolhardiness?) we were rewarded with two fantastic experiences in one day.

You’ve already enjoyed the penguins photos from an earlier post – now you get to see the Beagle Channel in all its glory.  Majestic snowcapped mountains flank each side of the channel.  On the trip we saw cormorants (a penguin cousin that can still fly) and sea lions.  We also cruised by Puerto Williams, the southernmost town in the world and a rusting wreck of a ship that ran aground.

Happy New Year

In Chile there is only one place to be on New Year’s Eve if you like fuego artificiales (fireworks) and that place is Viña del Mar which just happens to be where we live.  Last night we were fortunate to be invited by friends to their apartment which has a great view of the bay.  From our vantage point we could see fireworks from six of the nine barges set up in the bay.  Thank you Marilynn and Leonard we were able to avoid having to mingle with over a half a million people lining the beaches from Valparaiso to Con Con.

Enjoy the show.

Peru – The road to Chivay

Many of you may have noticed I haven’t been entering photo contests recently.  Not to worry, after I catch up with processing photos from our previous trips I will start submitting to the challenges again.  I have over 1,000 photos from our trips to sort and process so for now I’m concentrating on documenting our trips.

You may recall that earlier this year we went to Peru.  After staying in Arequipa we went to Chivay.  It was a long day on the road but there was plenty to see.

We spotted lots of wildlife along the way through what is a seemingly desolate landscape dotted with volcanoes – some smoking, most not.

And we ran across a “must see/do” bucket list item.  The highest outhouses in the world located at Mirador los Andes.  Raeski gave one a try.  At 16,109 feet (4910 meters) you even huff and puff to do that.  🙂

Last but not least is the view of Chivay taken from the rim of Colca Canyon.  This is one of the deepest canyons in the world, even deeper than the Grand Canyon.

The town of Chivay from the top of Colca Canyon.
The town of Chivay from the top of Colca Canyon.

A Formal Party

There must be a party close by.  Everyone looks like they are dressed for a black tie event.  You know, a formal affair with the printed invitations and all.  But we crashed the party and had a lot of fun even if we weren’t dressed to the nines.  And with that, we checked off another item on the bucket list.  We traveled to the end of the world and watched penguins in their natural habitat.

If you’ve seen them on television or in a movie – know this – they are even more adorable and mesmerizing in person.  Athletes in the water and not so much on land which may be why we love them so much.  Their awkwardness on land completely belies the power and grace they possess in the water.

We feel fortunate to have seen them in person.  Sadly, as with many animals, the penguins are suffering from global warming.  Of the 18 species of penguins, 11 are declining in population and considered an extinction risk, two are considered stable and we don’t have enough data on the other five.  Magellanic are at risk because they breed in warmer areas and are susceptible to sunburn.

My hide gets chaffed when I see these magnificent creatures threatened by something we can do something about.  When 97% of scientists believe global warming is caused by man, you just have to wonder about the 3% who aren’t.  Back in the days of tobacco, 5% of scientists – funded by the tobacco industry – didn’t believe smoking was bad for you.  I have ceased calling these people climate change deniers or skeptics.  I believe the proper term for them should be CLIMATE DISINFORMATION PROPOGANDISTS (CDP).

Back in the 1980’s we did something about the hole in the ozone layer over the objections of industries that profited from manufacturing and using fluorocarbons.  Do we miss the jobs that were lost back then?  Or were those jobs really replaced with others that were more environmentally sound?

Anyway, the results are in.  We have succeeded and the ozone layer is rebuilding and the hole is shrinking.  If we choose to listen to reason and science and then act, we may be able to turn back the tide.  Hopefully the human race will wake up and see through the lies of the CDP’s and demand we take action.

And the penguins?  We could watch them for hours.  Waddling about on land, swimming, wading (yes, they do that) and greeting each other as they stroll by each other.  Most of the penguins we saw were Magellanic with the exception of one Gentoo penguin.  He is the handsome fellow with the bright orange beak.  Enjoy the photos.

 

El Fin del Mundo

Living in Chile this last year has enabled us to check off some of the places we have on our ever expanding bucket list.  For the last two weeks we’ve been traveling around the southern tip of South America and got to experience a few more things on the list.

Visiting Torres del Paine and seeing penguins in their natural habitat were on the list.  Seeing a glacier calve an iceberg is another truly worthy item on the list along with seeing really massive icebergs are a spectacle we wish everyone could experience in their life.

But today is all about the southernmost city in the world.  Ushuaia is affectionately known as the city “el fin del mundo” or “the end of the world”.  Chileans will say Puerto Williams is further south but it is a town built around a naval outpost, not a city.  So until Puerto Williams grows a lot more, Ushuaia has the honors of southernmost city in the world.

At the end of the world - iPhones work here too!
At the end of the world – iPhones work here too!

The setting is magnificent.  Bordered by the Beagle Channel and surrounded by snow capped mountains, Ushuaia is postcard perfect.  If you’re lucky the sun may come out allowing you to fully appreciate the splendor of the place.  We were fortunate to have a rare day coupled with mild breezes and relative warmth.   Well, at least for an afternoon.

For those who can afford the luxury; Ushuaia has a five star hotel.  Nope, we didn’t stay there.  However we did stay at a hotel with some great views of the Beagle Channel and surrounding mountains.

We walk a lot when on vacation and often stumble across things a bit off the beaten path.  Here are a couple of things we saw while walking plus a picture of Raeski all decked out in her finest summer clothes trudging up the wooden walkway to our hotel.

Checking off the bucket list

There haven’t been many updates recently and that’s because Wooly has been lazy.  However we have been wrapping up the school year and have completed our contract.

While we’ve been here we have checked off a couple of bucket list destinations – Easter Island and Machu Picchu.  Tomorrow we are traveling to another bucket list destination.  We are headed to Torres del Paine.

Along the way we will also tour Terra del Fuego, visit the southern most city in the world and the southern most continental city in the world.  Hopefully the penguins will cooperate and we’ll see a lot them while we’re down south.

We will be back in home just before Christmas.  Then we hope to get in a trip to the Lakes District of Chile before returning to the U.S. in January.  Happly holidays and safe travels everyone.

 

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“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

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