Monday, October 27, 2014

South Central Chile

We are working a lot of seminars this month, so our area of travel will be here for a few weeks, allowing us to stay near normal sized airports.  It's not a bad area to be "stuck" in!  The Lake District is an impossibly pretty region of the bluest waters, perfect cone volcanoes, waterfalls, and ancient forests.  The next 2 weeks, we will be able to really explore the region between Pucón and Puerto Montt, to the East of Rt. 5 (basically the I-5 of Chile.)
Some interesting Chile facts:
  • Long and narrow, Chile stretches 2880 mi (4630 km) from   North to South but its widest point is only 265 mi (430 km). 
  • The Andes mountain range extends the entire length of Eastern Chile. 
  • The second highest point in South America, Ojos del Salado is found here, in the Northern region of Chile.
Chile has three main natural regions:

  • the arid North with the Atacama Desert. (This will be the end of our Chilean trip - likely in late December/early January.)
  • the fertile Central area, which is the population and economic heart of the nation - around Santiago.
  • the cold and humid South, with a landscape of lakes, roaring waterfalls, and fuming volcanoes capped with snow. (This is where we have recently entered and will be through November.)
Around Cape Horn, the Southern-most tip of South America, lie many thousands of islands and a labyrinth of fjords and glaciers.  (We hope to be here in early December.)


Closest I have ever been to standing up on a surf board!  And a quintessential image of coastal Chile - horses and beaches.

Markets where we try to buy our fruits and vegetables. These are in every town and city. Much easier than buying in the supermarkets, where we have been challenged by all the rules we are slowly figuring out the hard way - by getting in trouble at the cash register! Apparently you have to get your fruits and vegetables weighed by a person in that section of the store, get a ticket on each bag, and THEN you can bring it to the cash register. Those people are not always clearly available, but the cashier still does NOT like it if you try to bring her produce without the proper stickers! The farmers markets are much easier!
Every night's sleeping environment is different.  Tucked away behind trees on a hill in the farmlands, behind gas stations, in an orchard, camp grounds in little mountain towns, and maybe a little poaching along a river...

Volcán Villarrica - Snow capped Villarrica looms majestically over Pucón at 2,840 meters (9318 feet) above sea level. It is one of Chile's most active volcanoes.  We could see steam rising from its crater.  Our hope is to climb it in the next couple of weeks if the weather clears up a bit. (These pics were taken the day we had to fly to Santiago, of course!)

2 Santiago Level 1 seminars down, in a week's time!  Thanks to Ernesto and CrossFit 1810 for being such a great host and big thanks to Pablo, Fernando, Nuno and Adriana for being such a great team!

This "little" discovery set us back on our heels a bit.  We started hearing a terrible creaking one morning as we entered Pucón.  The sounds were echoing off the curbs, where we could hear them.  Mike parked and looked around and noticed the back bumper with the spare and our bike rack was missing a main bolt and we thought that was likely the cause.  He found a replacement and we got back on our way.  The creaking started again shortly after.  Looking around more and rolling under the van, he then nearly lost his lunch when he noticed the spare gas tank was about to fall off the frame.  I don't know if the bolts on our auxiliary gas tank were not installed well or if it's the vibration of the rough roads we have to travel, but the photo above shows that the nut on one bolt was gone and the 2nd nut was close to the end and the tank is separated from the frame already.  Once it went, the front of a gas tank holding 80L of fuel would have fallen and broken.  The front meaning the van would have driven forward over the top of it, likely flipping us and who knows what else.  Sheesh.  That was close. A little exciting. We now check over the entire van at camp every night.  All in a day's work in South America!
Pomaire, Chile - a little Chilean village outside Santiago, surrounded by hills composed of the clay the locals use to create a thriving pottery industry in the community.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Settling Into Van Life

From Valparaiso, we made our way South to our first camping spot in our journey - out on a lighthouse point where we surprised wild horses with foals, experienced the wind off the ocean, got in a great workout with our kettlebells and running shoes.

From there we have really put the van to the test with LOTS of rough, narrow roads winding our way through rural, coastal Chile.  These drives have been beautiful and picturesque along the coast and amongst the little rural farms where they still plow fields with horse drawn plows!  We often feel like we have stepped back in time.
Punta de Lobos: Where desert meets the sea...
Departing Pichilemu for the vineyards and wine country of Maule and Talca.
We think these should be the next gators used by staff at the Games next summer!
2nd camp spot - outside Chillán.  We are really off-season at this time, so this wedding destination spot was all ours!
Bright yellow fields of mustard growing everywhere!
After the coastal drives, we have arrived in more Southern-Central Chile in the Pucón/Villarrica region which is very reminiscent of Jackson Hole, WY with it's ski areas and touristy rustic look.  It's so beautiful here with all kinds of volcano mountains and the Andes range and lakes everywhere.  I think we will stay here for a few weeks and explore.  Unfortunately, overall, this is like trying to do things in early April.  It's still cold and dreary.  A little too cold to ride and hike comfortable, and not cold enough to ski any longer.  Hard timing.  We fly back up to Santiago this coming weekend to teach a seminar, so hopefully in another week things will be just a bit warmer and sunnier. 

Photo Album for the Start of our Journey

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Entry into South America

We have arrived in South America!  Great Level 1 seminar in Bogota and then a couple days in Santiago, Chile with our good friend, Danette, while we awaited the van's arrival.
LONG hours of flying from Kilimanjaro to Ethiopia, on to Rome, and then back to familiar turf in WA DC for 8 hours of layover!
Final leg from Washington DC took us to Bogota for the seminar, and then finally finished in Santiago!  We are finally here!
CrossFit Bogota Level 1 seminar!
The seminar staff had a great introduction to Bogota by dining at the EXPERIENCE restaurant, Andres DC - the city version of Andres Carne de Res, which is a huge restaurant on the outskirts of the city and has been a popular circus of an establishment out there for a long time.  This place is fantastic - 5 floors of colorful mayhem with TV's on each floor to show you what you're missing on all the others.  Super fun!  See it if you're ever in Bogota!

 Thank goodness for English Speaking translations on the menu!  I copied this and took it with us to other restaurants, later!
Adriana - The Queen (Burger Queen?)
Sangria in the heart of Colombia
Fernando, the King of the bread basket!
Lunching in Santiago with Danette!

Our hostel in Santiago gave us clear signage on what we needed to know!  What further clarification does one need, really?
Our bus ride from Santiago to Valparaiso was adventure in itself with all our loads of luggage we are dragging from the US to Kilimanjaro, trying to get to the van! Whew!
 Loved our hostel in Valparaiso!  Lots of fun artwork!
Angel Hostal, in the heart of historic Valparaiso, with tight turns and cobblestone streets, and graffiti art everywhere you look!
Valparaiso is the seaport city where the van was shipped to.  Very bohemian and artistic, graffiti artists took it over and have given the historic city it's own charm and character through the a wide variety of perspectives on graphic art, colorful houses, and little funiculars that transport you up the steep hills into historical neighborhoods!

Mike and our container roommate from Colorado got the van ok in Valparaiso, though it took all day because just as they opened the doors to the container, there was a spider glimpsed on the side of the van.  That threw Customs into a tizzy and they resealed the van and made Mike wait for hours while they discussed how the spider could have gotten in there if it was fumigated in the US.  They had to go to Agriculture and discussed re-fumigation.  Finally they decided to re-open the container and look again.  When they did, they saw the container has a hole in the ceiling, so they could see how the spider got in there after the container was sealed.  They finally released the van and shrugged it off.  Sigh.  Oh well.  At least we got it and all our stuff was intact!
Next adventure was to drive around the tight streets of Valparaiso and get this beast parked somewhere secure for the night!  Mike made several 3-point turns around hairpin curves and switchbacks, trying to figure out how to get back to the hostel on all the various one-way streets.  At last arriving there, we then had the challenge, much to the dismay and amusement of local residents, of getting the van pulled into the tiny secure parking lot, just below one of the city elevators!  After much ado, we got it parked and had a restful night before heading out of that crazy city!
Our last stop in this area was to visit CrossFit Reñaca in Viña del Mar/Valparaiso, where had 2 days of great workouts and instruction by one of the national Olympic Weightlifting coaches in Chile!  What a treat!  This gym has in incredible location right on the beach, with amazing views out it's panoramic windows!  Thanks to Lucas, Bastian, and Grisel for their warm hospitality and tolerating our spotty Spanish!