Archive for the ‘Chile’ Category

LAN Airline

I’m afraid I have some bad news. My surfboard and I are no longer an item.

Once I had handed all my baggage and surfboard over at the check-in for Chile’s LAN airline I was told that they wanted $180 just to take my surfboard to Tahiti. It is a frankly ridiculous amount for something that weighs 9Kg, and given I only paid $500 for the board there was no point paying to get it to the island (and of course a similar expense to get it off again.) I could buy a brand new board whilst here and then throw it away at the end of my stay and not be much worse off!

Broken Heart

When I bought my board I made it clear that we would not be together forever, and for some time now I knew a break up was coming but didn’t want to say anything in case things just worked out.

However I told the staff at the airport to take it off the plane because it was the right thing for me to do. They told me I needed to collect it from the offices downstairs, but I already had my boarding pass and there was no time for me to do anything with it other than just dumping it by a bin, and I didn’t have the heart to do that. Instead I chose to leave it at there office, almost jilting it at the altar, just when we were about to get into something special together here in Tahiti. 

sufboard

So many cliches apply: It’s not you, it’s me; I’d like to stay friends; We’re just at very different points in our lives right now; I need my space; I’m just not ready for this kind of relationship; You deserve better than me; and I think we should see other people.

Given the option I would have preferred to have handed it over to a local grommet in a Big Wednesday style, ‘Perhaps one day it will be big enough for you to ride yourself,’ but I didn’t even get to say goodbye.

Sometimes a clean break is best though. However I think I am going to have to go out and find an ugly board for a surf to try and numb the pain. At least for a little while.volcano

As for the money grabbing bastards at LAN. A volcano is about to explode in their airspace, which will ground all of their aircraft due to the associated dust cloud. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-22684322

They will lose millions in lost revenue. It couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch, and their frantic work in their offices to remedy that situation will be further impeeded by a 7’10” trip hazard which is going to get in everybody’s way. I intend on indefinitely getting a little pleasure from that situation by continually promising to collect it tomorrow. There’s mud in your eye!

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The AmericasI have travelled the length and bredth of the Americas since I started this trip back in December, but the time has come for me to move on.

It also means that I will no longer need to keep butchering the Spanish language that I have learned to some degree as I have moved south from the USA.

There have certainly been plenty of highs as well as a few lows to keep me grounded on the road, but as ever it is time to move on because the planet has so many more waves on offer for me to enjoy along the rest of this trip.

Las OlasRather fittingly I saw this road sign next to the pizza place on my last night in Chile.

It translates to The Waves, which is an odd name for a road if you ask me, but the sign was pointing westward towards the east and that is exactly where I am going.

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Division ChampionsWhen I moved to London I played 7-a-side football for a team that used white t-shirts as its playing strip, because most people generally have them and we would at least match. (Of course after the laundry incident in Lima I would now clearly have to go in goal if I wanted to play!)

We eventually bought a kit which was supposed to be the third strip of the football team from Chile’s capital city and renamed ourselves Santiago Saints. The new kit worked wonders and you can see us here proudly lifting our bronzo-plastique trophies for being division champions. 

Santiago Skyline

Other than that I really dont have much connection with the city, but wanted to see how good it looked against it’s Andean backdrop while I was in Chile.

I had time on my way to Santiago airport so called in on the modern city and did a bit of sightseeing. 

Coffee-with-legsNot much to report from there but thought some of you might be interested in the concept of ‘Cafe con Piernas’ which are very popular in Santiago.

It translates as ‘Coffee with Legs’ and is exactly what you get. This was one of the more upmarket versions of the shops

However there are also shops where the miniskirt and heels have been replaced with bikini or lingerie clad waitresses, some of whom offer far more than coffee.

I’m not sure Starbucks or Cafe Nero would ever take this theme on though.

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CarabinerosToday’s surf trip did not start very well. I had not gone more than a mile from the hostel before I had been pulled over by a motorcycle policeman.

It appears that the local carabineros took a dim view of me turning left into a one way street then proceeding to drive the length of it travelling in the wrong direction scattering pedestrians as I went, all of whom had understandably been looking the other way when they tried to cross the road. 

Naval Headquarters

The situation was not aided by me not being in possession of either my passport or driving license at the time, and because of this I thought it best not to explain that I had been taking this picture of the wonderful Chilean Naval Headquarters building during my erroneous manoeuvre!

The policeman then followed me back to my hostel, but after I produced the necessary paperwork he was good enough to let me off with a warning and the suggestion that I be more careful.  

Maintencillo 11On of the locals I have met had suggested I head for Maitencillo, as opposed to the two breaks which are available a short distance north of Valparaiso.

It was a glorious day and I was delighted to arrive and only see a handful of people in the water there, unlike the hundreds I had seen at the beginners beaches on the way past. 

DCIM100GOPRO

This was going to be my last surf in the Americas and I wanted to go out with a bang.

The waves were about chest high and although a bit cold the water was beautifully clear.

I caught loads in the late afternoon sun and this is probably the best picture of the day. 

Humbolt Penguin 1I was about to get out quite pleased with myself when the Americas provided one final surprise for me.

A Humbolt Penguin popped up next to me in the water. Now you know you must be quite far south when that happens!

The little bird then hung out with me in the line up for about five minutes. He was swimming around and underneath me, all the while checking me out, whilst I basically did the same in return. A wonderful experience that I suspect will never happen again in my surfing career!

Surf's UpI knew that no matter how good the waves were I would not top that, so caught a last wave in and got changed.

It was a fabulous way to end my time in the water on this side of the Pacific, and as I drove back to the hostel I couldn’t help thinking about the animated movie about surfing penguins ‘Surf’s Up’.

A quick pitstop to buy pizza and beer on the way home, and I then had a great evening  basking in the days events. I can admit to getting more than a bit wobbly from drinking the Stella Artois and some Jack Daniel’s supplied by Natalia who runs the hostel.

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Atacama Large Milimetre Array

The Atacama desert in the north of Chile is the driest place on earth and as a consequence has clear skies on 360 days a year.

This and the altitude of the desert that is 5000m up in the Andes makes it perfect for Astronomy, and a number of large telescopes are already in place there. 

ALMA

The Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) is an astronomical interferometer of radio telescopes and is the project which has taken away funding from the UK’s Infra Red Telescope that I saw on Hawaii back in December. It consists of 66 12-meter and 7-meter diameter radio telescopes observing at millimeter and sub-millimeter wavelengths.

It is the most expensive ground-based telescope in operation, but ALMA is expected to provide insight on star birth during the early universe and detailed imaging of local star and planet formation.

south_skyI don’t have the time to go and see this science marvel but to be honest would settle for a clear night because since I have arrived in South America it has been overcast everywhere I have been.

The southern sky will be keeping me company for the next five months and I want to try and pick out these constellations.

Maybe tomorrow night!

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Fishing Boats 2

The British owner of the hostel I am staying in here in Valparaiso told me something I should check out out at breakfast this morning, so I went off to see if it is true.

The first thing was an elaborate drive to find the fish market, which is adjacent to where all the local boats come ashore. 

Fishing Boats Pier

The fish are gutted straight off the boats so they are ready for sale, and you can ask the fishermen for a bag of entrails, heads and spines.

Take my word on this, it is at least as grotty as it sounds!

You then take your bag of fish bits along the fishermen’s jetty and then peer over the side at about 11am. 

Sea Lions 2

The local sea lions have long since realised that the fishermen will be throwing their waste over the side when they finish work at this time, and turn up regular as clockwork looking for an easy meal.

As a consequence the whole group of them will then follow you up and down the length of the jetty, all the while barking at you to throw more fish guts their way. Despite ending up with fingers that are not at all pleasant it is so much fun and really worth the effort if you are ever in this part of the world. It is like getting to take part in feeding time at the zoo!

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Colourful Valparaiso

After landing in Santiago Chile I picked up my hire car, but only after:

  • Having to try and sleep stretched out on my surfboard on the floor of the airport as the cleaner repeatedly went past my head with an industrial buffer
  • Waiting more than three hours for the AVIS office to open despite all the other being open through the night.
  • Refusing to accept the 50% increase in price they tried to add onto the booking I had made online.

I then drove to Valparaiso, which is a short distance away on the coast. Chile is actually quite wealthy compared with most of Central and South America and you can see that in the wonderful buildings throughout the town. 

Ascensores 2

Almost all of them are painted with bright colours, which makes and impressive sight stretching up the hill away from the ocean.

To save wearing out their shoes on the cobbled roads leading up the hills throughout the town thirty of these ‘Ascencores’ or funiculars were built for he benefit of the population. 

Hostel View

Checking out this view from he street outside my hostel you can see why the novelty of the daily climb up the hill would inevitably wear off.

Thankfully I have my hire car to make scaling the hills completely painless, but I have to say that the vivid colours of the town are like a breath of fresh air, even at times if some areas are a little dusty.

Graffitti 1The locals have spiced things up further however by adding graffitti to a great many areas around the town.

From what I can gather it is embraced rather than being frowned upon because it adds to the character of the place.

Such a funky town!

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Chile Flag

Chile is the final country of my American odyssey. It is 3000 miles long and never more than 200 miles wide.

It stretches from Peru all the way down to sharing Patagonia with Argentina (although sadly not the Welsh speaking areas which I would love to have seen on this trip.)

Chile Map

It’s recent history is dominated by Augusto Pinochet who was the leader of the military junta who doesn’t seem to have had the best interests of his country’s population at heart.

Far more entertaining however is the wonderfully named Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme the Chilean independence leader who is considered one of the country’s founding fathers. He was the first holder of leader of a fully independent Chilean state. O’Higgins was of Spanish and Irish ancestry.  

150 foot waveAll this is wonderful stuff but we all know why I am here.

This picture of two guys managing to catch a 150 foot wave off the Pacific coast of Chile was taken earlier this year.

I’m not sure I want to be out seas quite that big, but think you would be walking on air after bagging such a monster. We will see what I am offered.

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the-andesFlying from Brazil to my next stop in Peru I have to cross the longest mountain range in the world, the Andes. 

They are over 4,000 miles long and extend through seven South American countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela.

The Andes range is the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia and I have learnt that the peak of Chimborazo in the Ecuadorean Andes is actually farther from centre of the Earth than any other location on the planet’s surface, due to the equatorial bulge resulting from its rotation.

AliveIn October 1972 a plane carrying a rugby team from Uruguay to Chile crashed in the Andes. The survivors had to fend for themselves amidst the freezing weather at altitude with a very limited supply of food, after the search and rescue operation for them was called off. Only16 of the 45 on board actually survived, and they had to resort to eating the flesh of their team mates who had died to do so.

It is common knowledge that rugby clubs foreign tours can get a little out of hand, but this took things to a whole new level!

The movie Alive told the story of these events, but I am hoping not to have anything similar happen on my own flight. The plane seems to be full of Japanese tourists, most of whom are pensioners. I doubt they would feed a big lump like myself for long! 

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