Chile – Days 10 & 11 – Travel Day, Punta Arenas and Puerto Natales

Today we both woke up at 6:45am. We finished packing our bags and had our complimentary buffet breakfast. Today the breakfast was much better than the previous two days with a better variety of food. Perhaps its because we went a bit earlier than previous days.

We drove to the airport and I returned the rental car to Budget. It actually went quite quickly without any issues. We went through security, which took about 2 minutes since we were the only ones in line. After heading through security we purchased some bottled water for the plane and then sat in a coffee shop and had some coffee’s before boarding a Sky Airlines flight to Santiago.

Upon arriving in Santiago we purchased some McDonald’s for lunch. I had a 1/4 Pounder with Cheese, while C had a Big Mac and fries. We both shared a cola. We had a few hours to burn at the airport so I did some photo editing, and C did some drawing. We purchased some sandwiches from Starbucks for dinner on the next flight. While waiting for the flight we noticed 8 PDI (Investigations Police of Chile) surround an incoming LATAM flight and wait for the passengers to deplane. They surrounded a guy and took him away from the plane. We were not sure what it was all about but I suspect he was a wanted person of interest.

The next flight was a Sky Airlines flight from Santiago to Punta Arena’s. The flight was one of the smoothest flights I have ever been on and the sky was completely clear with beautiful breathtaking views of Torres Del Paine National Park prior to our arrival at Punta Arena’s.

After arriving at Punta Arena’s airport I went to the Europcar rental check-in desk and the experience was a night and day difference to my experience with Budget in Calama. I was upgraded to a very nice fully loaded Nissan NV300 diesel truck and the whole check in process took less than ten minutes.

We loaded our bags into the truck and drove to our accommodation for the night; Hostal Ventisqueros. It was a cute B&B style accommodation run by this very nice lady who didn’t speak any English but we got by with Google Translate. One humorous thing to note about the hotel was the extremely small bath tub.

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After checking in we purchased some groceries for the morning breakfast and then went for a walk along the Punta Arenas boardwalk. The sunset was absolutely beautiful and we took many photos. Sadly it was then time to head to bed because we had to get up early in the morning for a Penguin Tour!

The next day we had to wake up at 5:00am, as the Penguin Tour started at 6:00am. We drove to a nearby coffee shop to get some coffees and we ate the food that we had purchased the night before. We drove downtown to the Solo Expediciones tour office. The tour was a bit late starting because of numerous late arrivals, but the buses eventually set off at around 6:45am. During the bus ride the girl next to me got sick and yacked all over the floor, getting a bit on my jacket. I felt really bad for her because she was about to be getting on a boat. Her dad took everything in good stride and helped to clean it up the best he could.

The bus arrived at the dock at around 7:30am. We boarded two large zodiac style boats and heat towards Magdalena Island. Before we head to the island we took a quick stop close to Isla Marta where there was literally thousands of sea lions and birds bathing in the sun. It was an incredible sight to see.

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The next stop was Magdalena Island. We were only allowed one hour on the island as they want to try to minimize the amount of distress that we cause the penguins. This was especially important at this time of the year because they were just having their baby chicks. It was such an amazing experience to see thousands upon thousands of penguins on the island. The average amount of penguins on the island is said to be about 300,000! Most of the island is roped off and people follow a set route that takes about one hour at a snails pace. This gives everyone ample opportunity to take photographs of the penguins.

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After boarding the zodiacs to head back to land we were greeted with pisco sour’s, cookies and coffee. The pisco sours were very strong! The seas were extremely calm today and we were told we were pretty lucky to have such a beautiful and calm day. We arrived back on land, boarded a bus (different one this time because we wanted to avoid the bus we took where the girl had her episode), and took the bus back to the Solo Expediciones tour office. We arrived back at the office at around noon.

When I went out to my truck I had a panic because I saw what appeared to be a parking ticket, but it turns out it was just a parking slip that I had to pay for parking in a paid zone. I wasn’t sure how this worked so I was a bit panicked. At first I decided that perhaps I would ignore it, but then I didn’t want to get into trouble. I decided that we should go for lunch and that I could ask one of the people there how the parking system worked in Punta Arenas.

For lunch we went to La Marmita. The server explained to me how the parking system works; basically you have to find a person that prints the slips to settle up the tab. I ran out to go find one of the people while C stayed behind at the restaurant. Turns out its actually harder to find these people than I would have thought. I spent a good 20 minutes literally running around to find one of these people. I eventually found one and settled the tab. While I was gone C ordered me a pisco sour because she could see that I was a bit stressed out. Upon my return I ordered a guanaco (llama) stew and she ordered some seafood soup as well as a delicious ravioli. We both agreed that this was one of the best restaurants that we’ve ever eaten at. The price for this reflected that at nearly $80 CDN.

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We spend the afternoon walking around Punta Arenas, before purchasing groceries at the local Unimarc. Punta Arenas has numerous very well preserved Art Nouveau and Art Deco style buildings, which excited me as both are my favorite styles of architecture. Art Nouveau was prominent between 1890 and 1910, and Art Deco was prominent between 1910 and 1939. I have wrote about these in detail in numerous other posts but two that come to mind with lots of photos are my USA Route 66 trip in 2018 (link), and my New Zealand trip in 2016 (link).

We purchased enough groceries for the next 3 days in Puerto Natales. Groceries down here are a lot more expensive; 3 days worth of food cost nearly $80 CDN.

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It was time to start our 3 hour drive to Puerto Natales. The drive was long and boring, but about 15-20 minutes away from Puerto Natales the scenery changed and became extremely beautiful and we were getting excited for what was the come for tomorrow!

We checked into our accommodation; DT Loft (Dorotea Loft), which is run by the local ice cream store in the front. The ice cream store runs four of these beautiful mid-century modern lofts. The price was actually very affordable at $360 for 3 nights. We both agreed it was the cutest place we’ve ever stayed at. The loft had a beautiful blue 1950’s themed kitchen and living room area. From the living room you step up into the bedroom loft area, which houses an exceptionally comfortable king sized bed. At the very back of the loft is a gorgeous well appointed bathroom with a rainfall shower.

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After settling in we made some gourmet nachos for dinner. After dinner I messed around on my computer for a bit while C messed around on her iPad before we both head to bed.

Check back tomorrow for our adventures to Torres Del Pain park!

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Chile – Day 2 – Santiago

Today we woke up at 7:00am. We got ready fairly quickly and then walked to a nearby Starbucks. I had a regular drip coffee and C had a Chai Tea Latte. We then walked back to Santa Lucia Hill and explored the hill. Santa Lucia Hill sits on top of a volcano that last erupted an estimated 15 million years ago. On top of the hill is a beautiful park, chapel, and Fort Hidalgo. Fort Hidalgo was recently restored and reopened to the public and traditionally a cannon shot is fired at exactly noon.

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After exploring Santa Lucia Hill we walked over to Plaza De Armas. Plaza De Armas is the main square of Santiago. It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago and the square grid pattern of the city was laid out from here. Santiago (officially known as Santiago de Chile) was originally founded in 1541 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro de Valdivia. Santiago has a population of 6.3 million people and is home to 40% of the entire population of Chile.

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Right across from Plaza De Armas is Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago which took 52 years to build and was first opened in 1800. Previous cathedrals stood in its spot but were destroyed by earthquakes. Chile is known to have some of the world’s largest earthquakes in recorded history, with the largest being the 9.5 magnitude earthquake on May 22, 1960 near Valdivia, Chile. That particular earthquake left 2 million Chileans homeless, killed approximately 6000 Chileans, and created Tsunami’s that reached as far as Honshu, Japan. The 18 foot high waves reached Honshu about 22 hours after the earthquake and left 1600 homes destroyed and killed 185 people.

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After visiting the beautiful Cathedral Metropolitana de Santiago we walked through the nearby Central Market and over to Centro Cultural Estacion Mapocho, which was a former railway station (built in 1913) that was converted to a cultural center/musuem. The beautiful semi-restored train station is built in Art Nouveau style architecture, which is some of my favorite architecture, alongside Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern. You can refer back to my France blog posts, among others to see some other beautiful Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture.

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We continued exploring the area and came across a hip modern area called Eurocentro, and narrowly avoided a protest in front of the University of Chile. There were about 30-40 armed military personnel with riot shields ready to pounce if things got out of control.

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After that we took the Yellow Metro line from Santa Ana station to Departamental station. Santiago is home to one of my favorite style of Metro systems; the rubber-tyred Metro. There are only about 25 systems like these in the world and I’ve been on about 1/4 of them. The rubber-tyred Metro was first applied to the Paris Metro in 1951, and is also used in Montreal, Canada. The benefits are better grip, quieter, and a better ride.

After exiting Departamental station we walked to the nearby community of San Miguel, which is a rundown lower income community with many tenement buildings. The appeal of this community to us was the huge open street market and the massive murals on the sides of the tenement buildings.

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We were getting hungry and were in search of Arepas, which is a Venezuelan & Columbian food that is fairly popular to Chile as well. Arepas is made of ground maize dough and is cut in half and stuffed with cheese, meat, tomatoes, etc. You can have it in many different styles. We took the Metro and walked to numerous places on google maps that supposedly sold Arepas, but sadly they were closed or didn’t sell them. We settled on some amazing freshly made pizza at a nearby restaurant. We ordered a Neapolitan style pizza, which absolutely delicious.

After eating we explored the rustic community of Varrio Italia, before walking back to the hotel and calling it a night. Originally we were supposed to stay one additional day in Santiago but we opted to go to Valparaiso a day early starting tomorrow.

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2018-05-22 – US Route 66 Day 6

Today we drove 230 miles from Clinton, Oklahoma to Vega, Texas. We ended up staying at The Days Inn. We saw the following sights today:

  • Glancy Motel, Clinton
  • Bess Rogers Drive, Clinton
  • Route 66 Museum, Clinton
  • Y Service Station, Clinton
  • Cotton Boll Motel Sign, Clinton
  • Canute Service Station, Canute
  • Tallest Oil Rig, Elk City
  • Old Town Museum, Elk City
  • Beckham County Courthouse, Sayre
  • Western Motel Sign, Sayre
  • Town of Erick
  • Water Hole Mural & Tumbleweed Grill, Texola. We had food here. Dad had Liver & Onions, and I had a Jalapeno Burger with Homemade Fries. Masel, the wonderful woman who owned the place, cooked us lunch and told us stories of her purchasing the place, fixing it up, and expanding it. She also purchased the bar next door and is going to fix it up.
  • Hot Rods Pizza, Shamrock
  • Big Verns Steakhouse, Shamrock
  • Conoco Tower Station and U Drop Inn, Shamrock. This beautiful gas station. Built in 1936 by J. M. Tindall and R. C. Lewis at the cost of $23,000. With its Art Deco detailing and two towers, the building was designed and constructed to be three separate structures. The first was the Tower Conoco Station, named for the dominating four-sided obelisk rising from the flat roof and topped by a metal tulip. The second was the U-Drop Inn Café, which got its name from a local schooolboy’s winning entry in a naming contest. The third structure was supposed to be a retail store that instead became an overflow seating area for the café.
  • Magnolia Gas Station, Shamrock
  • Devil’s Rope Museum, McLean
  • Cactus Inn, McLean
  • Phillips 66, McLean
  • Red River Steakhouse, McLean
  • Kiser 66, Alanreed
  • Leaning Tower, Groom
  • Chalet Inn, Groom
  • Cross of our Lord, Groom
  • Bug Ranch, Panhandle
  • Big Texcan Steak Ranch, Amarillo. This is the home of the 72 oz free steak if you can eat it in one hour or under.
  • Paramount Sign, Amarillo
  • Downtown Amarillo
  • Taylors Texaco, Amarillo
  • Helium Plant, Amarillo
  • Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo
  • Bonanza Motel, Vega
  • Magnolia Station, Vega

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September 2nd 2016 – New Zealand Day 13

Today I was woken up at 4:37am by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The van was shaking slowly from left to right, but I couldn’t hear any wind. This odded me out, so I tried going back to sleep, but the shakes kept happening. At first I thought it was some punks who thought shaking my van would be funny, but I looked outside and saw other campers also shaking. I thought to myself earthquake, and then went back to bed because I was in no immediate danger.
I woke up again at 7:00am to a message from my father stating that there had been an earthquake in New Zealand. I looked on the news and it was a 7.1 magnitude, which is a fairly reasonably sized on. It occurred over 300 km away from where I was, so I was surprised to have felt it. Upon talking with others throughout my day they also confirmed that they had felt it too. Some areas of New Zealand, specifically around Gisborne, where temporarily evacuated because of concern over a 1 metre tsunami, but were allowed to return later in the day.
I started my day by having a quick breakfast of yoghurt, and cheese on toast before hitting the road. Today was mostly a driving day. My first stop was the town of Waverly where I saw a war memorial tower.
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My next stop was Patea, where I saw a piece of artwork; a Maori canoe on top of an arch.
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The next stop was Hawera, which had a water tower that I paid $2.50 to go up. Hawera is Maori for “burnt place”, from fighting between two local sub-tribes, which culminated in the setting ablaze of the house of the tribe under attack. The name became apparent in 1884, 1888, and 1912 when extensive blazes occurred. It was decided that a water tower was to be built in the centre of town to increase its water pressure for fire fighting duties. The tower was closed to the public is 2001 after falling into disrepair, and after a vote to keep the landmark instead of tearing it down, it was opened again in 2004 after extensive restoration. The tower stands 55 metres tall and holds nearly 700,000 litres of water, but is no longer required due to having an adequate water supply now.
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From the top of the water tower I could see Mount Taranaki, albeit a bit a cloud cover. It looks like a mini Mount Fuji.
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My next stop was New Plymouth, where I walked around for a bit admiring more Art Deco architecture, and a mix of Victorian and Art Nouveau, the predecessor to Art Deco. I then made a special stop at Market Patisserie and Cafe to see Kira and her husband Chris, who own the place. My very good friends Marc and Jennifer at home told me I should visit them when I was in New Zealand. Jennifer and Kira went to school together in Calgary, before Kira moved to New Zealand. Chris wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but Kira and I talked for a bit before I ordered a grilled chicken wrap, and a coffee. She brought them over to my table, along with a delicious donut that I could choose how much cream I wanted to put instead. The food was very good! The lunch time rush was coming in so I said my goodbyes and went back to my camper.
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I had a fairly long two hour drive along a windy road to Waitomo, where I choose this adorable little place that has cute hotel rooms in an airplane, a boat, a train, a little hobbit houses. The camping was free for the time being because the site was currently being built and had no power, toilets, showers, etc.  I ended up finding a lot more about the site the next day, but more on that tomorrow!
Tomorrow I will be visiting the Waitomo glow worm caves!
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August 30th 2016 – New Zealand Day 10

Today I had a lazy start to my day. I woke up at around 8:00am. I made myself a home made egg McMuffin style sandwich, and a coffee before hitting the road. My first stop was Pukaha Mount Bruce, a wildlife and bird sanctuary that help to reintroduce and repopulate endangered species, such as the Kiwi, into a protected environment. I saw over two dozen birds, as well as Kiwi’s, including a rare white Kiwi. Their day’s are reversed so that we can see them (sort of), but my camera was unable to capture them very well. They are under an infrared light so I had to convert the images to black and white, and it was nearly pitch black and flash photography was not allowed.

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I spent a few hours walking around the wildlife sanctuary before heading on to my next stop, Castlepoint Lighthouse. The cast iron lighthouse was built in 1913, and originally used oil and a wick and needed to be manned continuously. As technology evolved the lighthouse was converted to run a 1000 watt bulb off of a diesel generator in 1954, and subsequently converted to run off mains in 1961, with the diesel generator as a backup. The facility was fully automated in 1988. The views at Castlepoint were amazing!

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I was pretty hungry after climbing up to Castlepoint so I decided to have some lunch, some leftover spaghetti and meat sauce from last night. It was now about a two and a half hour drive towards Wellington, but I decided to break it up by stopping in Carleton to see more Art Deco, and Greytown to admire Victorian style architecture, as well as some Art Deco.

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I arrived in Wellington during rush hour, but surprisingly traffic wasn’t that bad. That’s thanks to their proper planning and use of public transportation. They have the highest usage rates of public transportation in all of New Zealand. I visited a camper dump station to drain and refill my water before finding a parking spot overlooking the beautiful southern coast. The night sky was perfectly clear so I even had the opportunity to do a long exposure shot of the milky way!

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August 29th 2016 – New Zealand Day 9

Today I woke up at 6:00am, without the help of an alarm. I guess I was done sleeping. I made myself breakfast and then started up my camper. It was a very cold morning today, at only 2 degrees Celsius. The camper sputtered to life, albeit a bit miserable. Even modern diesels are not the happiest at cold temperatures. I let the camper warm up a few minutes before taking off on my journey towards Napier.
The trip to Napier took about an hour and a half, covering approximately 130km. I was absolutely blown away by Napier. This was the highlight of my New Zealand trip so far! I love Art Deco architectural styling, and Napier happens to be the best preserved city on earth. In fact it is unofficially the Art Deco capital of the world! It was even nominated in 2007 to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but was denied due to it not meeting all the criteria. Also, Napier, is the twin sister city to Victoria, Canada, but I don’t quite see the resemblance.
Art Deco, also just known in short for Deco, is beautiful style that first appeared in France just before World War 1. It became very popular world wide in the 1920’s and 1930’s, seeing its influence in everything from architecture, cars, furniture, trains, and even ocean liners! Art Deco features geometric shapes, clear and precise lines, and decoration which is attached to the structure, but not part of the structural load bearing characteristics. Art Deco is often represented with luxury, and glamour, but its time came to an end at the brink of World War 2 because it was considered to ostentatious and fancy. World War 2 hit in full force and “Modern” style architecture took over. Art Deco and Mid Century Modern, the successor to “Modern” architecture are my two favorite architectural styles.
I walked around Napier for a few hours taking in all the Art Deco I could get my eyes on. I came across a pie shop and ordered a $4 chicken, cranberry, and cream cheese pie. It was the most delicious pie I’ve ever had in my life. The flavours just melt in your mouth, and one pie is quite filling.
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After my delightful visit in Napier it was time to move on to my next stop, Hastings, which was the twin and bigger sister to Napier. Hastings had a completely different feel to it. Napier had more industrial activity than Hastings, but it felt cuter and had a more cozy feel to it. Hastings had better examples of Art Deco in my opinion, but the city felt a bit cold and I was harassed by a bunch of homeless people, and hooligans hanging around a central park so that didn’t leave me with a good feeling about Hastings.
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After visiting Hastings I meandered my way along Highway 2 towards Wellington. I came across the main Tui brewery so I decided to stop and check it out. The brewery was closed due to being upgraded, but the bar area was still open. I tried a few samples, bought a growler of their brew master’s special, and toured their museum.
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I continued along my journey and found a really nice paid campsite with electricity for $10 in the town of Eketahuna. I setup my camper on a gravel pad in the middle of the huge camp ground next to an electrical pole. I stuck to the gravel because the ground was extremely saturated with water and I felt the weight of my camper would be too much that I would sink in. There were only three other campers besides me. I was hungry so I decided I would use my built-in BBQ to prepare some spaghetti and meat sauce, but the BBQ had some issues. The right burner nozzle was clogged, and the left burner was suffering from some performance issues. I brought the food inside and used the stove.
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The owner of the facility came down on his scooter at around 7:00pm to collect the $10 payment. We chatted for about ten minutes, before he went and collected payments from the other campers. The rest of the evening was spent working on my photo’s and my blog.
Tomorrow I’m heading towards Wellington. Check back tomorrow!
If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards my travel, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.