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Posts Tagged ‘Chile’

Futbol…..Finally!

Today is our 138th day in S. America. And until day number 137, I had yet to see a live futbol game, which should earn me banishment from the continent as it’s wildly popular here.

I’ve played soccer my whole life and started coaching a few years ago, something I definitely want to continue doing when we return. I love the game, always have, always will. And while professional soccer has gained some popularity in the States over the last 10-15 years, it’s still on the outskirts as far as being anywhere near any of the big sports like baseball, football, and basketball.

But here it’s different. Futbol is a way of life in S. America. And during our 2.5 months in Argentina, it was the offseason, so we weren’t able to go to a game.

But we arrived in Santiago, Chile this past Saturday, and I had one goal in mind before we flew to Colombia on Wednesday. Get to a futbol game. And yesterday, we finally accomplished that goal.

In the first division of the Chilean League, 6 of the 12 teams are from Santiago. There was one game yesterday that could be reached by subway from our hostel, so by default, that’s the one we went to.

Audax Italiano vs. Union de Espanola. Audax was the home team, but Espanola is also from Santiago, so the fans were split about 50/50. The match started at 7pm, so we took off from our hostel at about 5:30 since we still had to get tickets when we got there.

We got off the subway and had about a 10 block walk to the stadium amidst red and green clad fans of both teams chanting and singing with their team’s flags draped around their bodies like capes. The atmosphere got better and better the closer we got to the stadium.

We finally arrived and saw several huge lines and then a crush of people near the boleteria (ticket office). “Uh-oh” I thought as I looked at my watch, reading 6:30. So we joined the throngs of people going towards the ticket office.

When you hear about futbol in other parts of the world, particularly Latin America, you think violence and rowdiness. And while there was definitely rowdiness, it was in no way violent at any part. I was a bit worried during the ticket fiasco, but alas, there was nothing but smiling faces all around.

In the US, we tend to bitch and whine (I am definitely included in this collective “we”) about procedures for getting tickets to sporting events, concerts, etc. But while trying to get a ticket to this game, I started to realize how organized our culture truly is. If the ticket buying process was the same at home, there would be numerous fights, arrests, and just general chaos.

There was no semblance of a line anywhere. There were about 6 ticket windows, and just a throng of people moving in one fluid motion towards them. I felt as though we were in the middle of a mosh pit at a Rage Against the Machine concert. There were men, women, and children of all ages in the middle of this, and my initial thought was a fight was surely to break out.

But then I looked around. There was no yelling. No screaming. No scowls. No hostility. Only smiles and singing and chanting. It was the most unorganized organized chaotic thing I’ve ever been a part of. There was pushing and shoving and jostling for position, but it was all done in a friendly manner. If someone tried to shove you out the way, you just shoved back, and then you got a smile for your efforts. It was hilarious.

We finally made our way to the ticket window, and there was no one person at a time. It was everyone stick your arm in the window with money while shouting how many tickets you want. We finally got our tickets (at about a total of $13 (try going to a Cardinal game for that) and were on our way.

We both wore green as that was the color of Audax, the home team. We had no idea what kind of tickets we received, if it was just general admission, assigned seats, no clue. So we walked up to the nearest ticket taker and gave him our tickets, assuming he would tell us if we were in the wrong spot. He tore them and sent us on our way.

The game was about 5 minutes underway, and we walked through the tunnel into the stadium and saw a sea of red, much like Busch Stadium on a hot summer day. “Uh-oh,” we thought, wrong side. And this isn’t like home. You can’t just walk around the whole stadium as they have separate entrances for each teams’ fans and the rest is closed off to prevent fighting. So we were stuck on the opposing fans side wearing green to all the red.

After our initial hesitation, we decided to say “Screw it” and hoof it towards the section of standing, dancing, singing, chanting, drum-beating fans and get into the mix and truly experience Chilean futbol.

We figured we stood out as dumb gringos so the colors we were wearing wouldn’t matter, and we were right. I was quite surprised at the number of women and children in attendance, and while it was loud and rowdy, it was rowdy in a good way. There was no violence whatsoever, only wild fanaticism. As someone who absolutely loves all sports, I was in Heaven. These people were so loyal to their teams, and the constant singing and standing the ENTIRE game was an awesome sight to see (unfortunately we were advised against bringing anything of value, so we left the camera at home, thus preventing us from getting any pictures or video, so hopefully my descriptions suffice).

Each team had their own songs, complete with dancing and clapping. There were no alcohol sales and minimal food and beverages were available, which didn’t matter because NO ONE left their seats during the game. It was quite different from the drunken debauchery that goes on at American sporting events (I’m not criticizing here, because Lord knows that I have taken part in said debauchery on many occasions at games). The cool thing was that everyone was there for the game and only the game. That’s all that mattered.

We were lucky enough to see an exciting game complete with 4 goals. Espanola went up 1-0, and since we were on their side, it was madness when they scored. Audax tied the game shortly after the half, and the tension mounted on the visitor’s side.

Each bad call by the ref, each change of possession, each break or corner was met with collective cheers and groans, including the double middle finger extended towards the refs after a bad call by a 5-year-old being held in his dad’s arms. Dad didn’t bat an eyelash (I so wish I would have had the camera).

With about 15 minutes left, Espanola scored and went up 2-1, causing a near riot on our side. The man sitting in front of us with his 10-year-old son turned to his son and screamed at the top of his lungs with one of the most intense facial expressions I’ve ever seen. It was both awesome and terrifying at the same time.

The older man in front of us on the other side promptly fired up a smoke as he knew the last 15 minutes would be intense. The home team stepped up the pressure and pressed forward, despite being a man down because of a red card in the first half. The play went back and forth as Audax pressed and Espanola countered.

With about 5 minutes remaining, Audax scored off a corner, sending shockwaves through the visiting section. While people were noticeably pissed and disappointed, it took all of about a minute for the songs to start up and the fans to try to will their team to victory by chanting and singing and encouraging their side to put one more in.

But alas, it wasn’t enough. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, but it was a very exciting ending to a very exciting game in an electrifying atmosphere. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I was drained and tired from standing and clapping and trying to sing along and cheer. Megan had a newfound respect for the world’s game and realized why futbol is so beloved around the world.

All in all, a fantastic cultural experience that both us will never forget. We hope to catch another game during our month in Colombia because it left such a positive impression on us.

After the game we came back to our hostel and met up with our friends Nate and Sarah, who just arrived in Santiago from Easter Island. They ran into friends of theirs who they met and hung out with in Buenos Aires a couple months ago. We all went out for dinner and drinks and had a great time with a new group of friends. It should be a great next few days as I know we are all going to have a great time together.

We fly out of Santiago on Wednesday night and arrive in Bogota Thursday morning for nearly a month in Colombia before going to LA for a few days and meeting up with Megan’s parents, which is something we are both really looking forward to.

Not sure if we’ll update again before we get to Colombia, so until next time…

~Adam

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lago-nordenskjold-21

Torres del Paine. Although pronounced Tor-ez del Pie-nay, the fact that the name of the park is strikingly similar to “Tour of Pain” was not lost on me. We’ve already posted a description of the trek by the numbers, but have been sitting on the photos for weeks. (And for anyone who is wondering, the toenail count currently stands at 2 gone, 4 on life support, and two intact. Yes, this five day trek is going to cost me 60% of my toenails. ew.)

I found that when we were preparing for our trip into Torres del Paine, there was a fair amount of information online about the park and lots of different options on ways to hike the park, but not much in the way of personal accounts of how people did it. So that’s what you’re going to see here. It may be a little dry for people who aren’t planning on heading to southern Chile anytime soon. If you’re one of those people, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures. Go on, it’s ok, you won’t hurt my feelings. I’ll even close my eyes. 🙂

As background, there are two main ways that hikers tackle Torres del Paine–the full circuit and the “W” (so named because the trail is shaped like a W). You can also do day hikes, but that option makes it impossible to see the interior portion of the park. We decided on the W because we wanted to make the most of our time in the park, but we know our limits–the circuit is a 7-10 hike. We did the W in five days, but it can be done in 3 or 4 if you are more ambitious than we were.

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

The main trails of Torres del Paine, with the W highlighted in yellow

One of the great aspects, but also one of the aspects that increases the difficulty of trekking in Torres del Paine, is that it is completely independent. The previous overnight treks we have done have been with tours (Inca Trail and Colca Canyon), so all the hard work was done for us. With the W, you can do the trek completely on your own. There are, of course, expensive guided tours, but you are free to (and encouraged to) get out in the park and hike on your own.

Once you’ve decided to go it on your own, you need to decide whether you want to camp or stay in the refugios. The refugios are dorm-style accomodations located along the W which also serve food and drinks. They are expensive–like US$40 for a dorm bed (and you still have to provide or rent your own sleeping bag, pillow, etc.). However, they allow you to hike the trail without needing to carry a tent, sleeping bag, food or cooking equipment.

After considering our options, we decided that we wanted to do some camping but didn’t want to have to shlep a tent on a five-day hike. We settled on sleeping in the refugios two nights, renting tents from the refugios two nights and carrying our own sleeping bags, cooking equipment and food. This ended up being a good compromise for us. We booked in advance through Fantastico Sur and Vertice (the refugios are run by two different companies). As an aside–for anyone thinking of hiking it, if you are up to the task of carrying your own tent, I would recommend doing that because that gives you the freedom to camp in any of the free campsites, not just those that are attached to refugios.

Once you make your decision on accomodations, you’re still not done planning–you need to decide in which direction you are going to hike. There’s no right or wrong way to do it, but there are benefits to each option. The traditional way is east to west, starting at the main lodge, Refugio Las Torres. You take the bus from Puerto Natales (it leaves at ~7 am, picking you up at your accomodations), then take a minibus up to the lodge from the park entrance. The opposite route is becoming more popular, however, hiking from west to east. On this route, you take the same bus from Puerto Natales, but take it further into the park, all the way to the catamaran launch across Lago Pehoe. Then you load onto the Catamaran and arrive at Campamento Pehoe/Lodge Paine Grande in the early afternoon.

We chose the west to east route with our primary reason being that we wanted to flexibility to stay at the actual Torres del Paine for another night if the views were obscured by clouds. While we ended up being happy with our route, it is important to note our opinion that the towers are by no means the most spectacular part of the park. As such, it’s not really necessary to schedule extra time for them or to plan your hike to culminate with a visit to them. As always, your mileage may vary.

We arrived at Lodge Paine Grande at mid-day on the first day, dropped some of our gear at the luggage storage at the lodge (soo nice not to have to carry all of our food on those first two days), and headed off to Campamento Grey. It was about a half day’s hike with views of lakes, mountains, icebergs and finally, Glacier Grey.

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Patagonian clouds, looking ominous...

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

This intensely blue iceberg was the size of a schoolbus!

Glacier Grey

Glacier Grey

Yup, Puma tracks.

Yup, Puma tracks.

Lago Pehoe

Lago Pehoe

Los Cuernos at dusk

Los Cuernos at dusk

The following day we doubled back to Lodge Paine Grande and spent the night in the refugio. This refugio is pretty posh, and although you are in dorm-style bedrooms, it reminded me more of a ski lodge than of the “rustic accomodations” we were warned it would be. We were also pleased to discover that our chosen route allowed us to start out with two relatively easy days and to ease into the trek.

The third day was the longest and, in our opinion, the most spectacular. Regardless of which direction you are heading, the Valle del Frances is a beautiful hike, taking you through forests, along glacial rivers and providing breathtaking views of the Torres del Paine, the Cuernos mountains and the major lakes of that area of the park. Well worth the fourteen hours we spent hiking that day.

Lago Nordenskjold (say that ten times fast!)

Lago Nordenskjold

View from Valle del Frances

View from Valle del Frances

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine

Cerro Paine Grande

Cerro Paine Grande

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Beach of Lago Nordenskjold

Rio del Frances

Rio del Frances

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Torres del Paine and Los Cuernos

Hikers in Valle del Frances

Hikers in Valle del Frances

More beach

More beach

After sleeping in Refugio Cuernos on night three, we were off to Refugio Chileno, where we camped for our final night. It took us about six hours to get to Chileno, and it was another beautiful hike, along still lakes reflecting the clouds and the surrounding rolling green hills.

Reflecting lake

Reflecting lake

The lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

The small lakes were perfectly still that day--none of the typical patagonian wind

Loved these views

Loved these views

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The shadows of the clouds on the foothills were just gorgeous

The soft morning light took my breath away

The soft morning light took my breath away

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

More landscapes (sorry, it's so hard to choose!)

From Refugio Chileno, it is about a 1 hour hike to the base camp for the Torres, and then another hour or so on loose rocks up to the Torres (although my rockstar husband did the whole thing in an hour and five minutes).

The famous Torres del Paine

The famous Torres del Paine

More Torres!

More Torres!

Close up of the Torres

Close up of the Torres

The final day was simply a few hours’ walk from Chileno back down to Refugio Las Torres where you catch a minibus back to the entrance of the park where the bus back to Puerto Natales is waiting for you. That last day was not a technically challenging hike in any way, but it was oh-so-painful for me. My feet were so wrecked; I was thrilled to only have a couple of hours walk down to catch the bus.

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view.  Instead, I hopped one of those horses in the foreground and galloped off into the sunset.  Perfect ending for a perfect hike :-)

I nearly wept for joy when the final lodge came in to view. Instead, I hopped one of those horses and galloped off into the sunset. Yeah, that's just how I roll.

After completing the trek, we came up with a handful of things that we wish we’d known beforehand or had done differently, so I present to you the Torres del Paine Hindsight is 20/20 Short List

1. As I mentioned, if you can handle hiking with all of your own gear, I would recommend it. If we could have done that, we would have (a) camped at Campamento Italiano (at the entrance to the Valle del Frances) rather than going on to Refugio Cuernos, cutting two or three hours off of our 14 hour day and allowing us to enjoy the lovely Valled del Frances more; and (b) camped at the base camp for the Torres del Paine rather than Refugio Chileno. Our initial plan was to pick up a tent at Chileno and head up to camp at the base camp for the Torres so we could hike up to the Torres pre-dawn to see the sunrise. Since we were stuck camping three hours from the Torres, there was no way we were making it up there by sunrise.

2. Don’t stress about being able to get perfect views of the Torres del Paine. Unlike some other treks, you are not building up to the ultimate view by hiking toward the Torres. They are dramatic and beautiful, but certainly don’t overshadow the rest of the park. The Valle del Frances was much nicer, overall, in my opinion.

3. Keep your food lightweight!!! This is such an obvious tip, but we ended up bringing a boatload of trail mix, intending to eat it thoughout the day, every day, in place of lunch. It weighed a TON and we were so sick of it by the end that I swore I’d never eat another peanut or piece of dried fruit as long as I lived. A corollary of this is to be sure to vary your food. It can be hard to keep your energy up if you can hardly force yourself to eat the food you’ve brought.

4. Finally, and most importantly, for real expert information, check out the websites of the Erratic Rock, a trekker-centric hostel in Puerto Natales, and the Black Sheep, an english-language newspaper on Patagonia. Better yet, stop by the daily (free!) talk at the Erratic Rock to get the scoop directly from experienced guides.

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Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

Volcan Villarica (view from the start of the trail)

WOW!!

Out of all the awesome things we have done so far on this trip, this one ranks up there amongst the best.

We only decided to do this about a week and a half ago after talking to and seeing pics from a friend we met in Bariloche. Why we didn’t even know this was possible is beyond me given my affinity for volcanoes. Don’t ask me why, but ever since I learned about Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii back in grade school, I have always wanted to see a volcano (I know, kind of morbid, but you have to admit, volcanoes and magma are pretty freaking cool).

So when we heard about the possibility of climbing to the top of an active volcano in Chile only 10 hours away from where we were, I knew it had to be done. And the best part about this whole climbing a volcano thing was you got to sled back down after arriving at the top. That’s right, sled back down. How could we not do something like this.

So we arrived in Pucon, Chile a few days ago with the sole purpose of hiking Volcan Villarica. Luckily for us Pucon is also a charming little town set on a lake with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it. It’s quite beautiful. Also, because it is surrounded by various volcanoes, it has a volcano warning light system in the town center, which I thought was interesting.

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

I sure hope it's not red tomorrow

We signed up pretty much immediately when we got into town. Again, the weather gods were with us as we awoke to a beautifully sunny day with bright blue skies. There were some clouds, but that was all right because we were above them, making the scene that much more spectacular.

Above the clouds

Above the clouds

The first hour of the hike was on a sandy gravel, making it a bit difficult. There was nothing but beauty everywhere around us, including this interesting thing (not sure what else to call it) which Megan said looked like belonged on the Lost island (just one of the many reasons I love her; dropping Lost references while hiking up a volcano, seriously, she’s freaking awesome).

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

4 8 15 16 23 42 (if you don't get it, go buy season one of Lost-BEST SHOW EVER!!)

After the first hour, we came to the snow, which was quite interesting considering it was 70 degrees and I was wearing a t-shirt. But it was actually quite a bit easier than we thought it would be, and it was pretty cool being that the sun was booming and it was warm outside.

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It was about 4.5 hours total to the top. And I have to admit, I was pretty damn proud of us. While it was difficult, it wasn’t too bad, and we were a little nervous at the beginning of the day when we saw that we had four 20-year-old Brazilian boys in our group. But I guess Patagonia trained us well as we were right behind our guide while the Brazilian boys ended up 45 minutes behind us sucking wind the entire time. Every time it did get tough, all we had to do was stop and look around us, and then look at the smoke billowing out of the volcano we were climbing up to.

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Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

Getting closer--smoke billowing out of the crater

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If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

If you look closely, you can see the Brazilian boys down there somewhere

After leaving the snow briefly, we had one more short climb over lava rock and solidified lava flow (which we regrettably did not get pictures of as there was a logjam behind us making it hard to stop). We soon reached the top, saw into the crater, and admired the spectacular beauty all around us.

View from the top

View from the top

View from the top 1

View from the top 1

View from the top 2

View from the top 2

View from the top 3

View from the top 3

View of another volcano in Pucon area

View of another volcano in Pucon area

Close up of volcano

Close up of volcano

View from the top 4

View from the top 4

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Lakes, lakes, and more lakes

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

Inside the crater (unfortunately, no magma)

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the King of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

"I'm the Queen of the World"

Adam and Megan:  Owning volcanoes since 2009

Adam and Megan: Owning volcanoes since 2009

After eating a quick lunch at the top, we had to go back down (even though the views were amazing, the sulfur fumes were a bit much, so not much time was spent up there).

Now I’m not sure who came up with this idea, but whoever did deserves some kind of prize because he or she is a genius. While at the top, we had to pull out our awesome “costume” that would prepare us for our “ride” down.

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We had pants and a jacket, then a “nappy” (European word for diaper) that went over that. This “diaper” was made of fabric and was basically just there to try to protect us from getting wet. We had to walk a little ways down, then came to some luge looking grooves in the snow that we had seen our whole way up. This was our path down the volcano. What took us 4.5 hours to ascend took only 45 minutes to plummet back down to Earth.

Luge anyone?

Luge anyone?

More luge tracks

More luge tracks

We stood in line like kids on snow day hurling ourselves down the “luge tracks” with nothing more than our “uniform” between us and the icy snow. Each “track” was of a different length and steepness. Some were pretty slow, some were super fast. Our brake for the fast ones was our ice pick that we were given at the start of the day. It was an exhilarating ride down to say the least.

After getting most of the way down, we did have another short 30 minute hike to the very bottom, talking with one of our guides, Gabriel, along the way.

While the scenery and experience of climbing a volcano was beyond words (even though I’m going to manage to use 1000 of them to try), the little personal experiences are really making this trip what it is. The short half hour conversation with a local Chilean guide put the cherry on top of this spectacular day (we will have more on different examples of this in a future post because our personal experiences with all the wonderful people we’ve met, had conversations with, and befriended is definitely something that needs to be written about all on its own).

We finally reached the bottom and got one last picture to remember the day by.

Were we really just up there?

Were we really just up there?

And then it was off to our hostel for a much needed shower and some rest (Megan is napping as I write this right now; which I guess is OK; making 20-year-old Brazilian boys your bitch is tough work;)).

We have so much more to write about as we know we have not posted much these last few weeks. There are many reasons for this: business, laziness, travel burnout (which is another future post), a long week of drinking at an Irish-owned hostel in Bariloche, amongst other things.

But we are now reinvigorated, excited, and ready to jump back into the blogosphere and get everyone updated on the things we’ve done and the experiences we’ve had over this last month.

We leave Pucon in a few days and then head north to Valparaiso and Santiago, Chile, where we will meet up with our friends Nate and Sarah whom we wrote about in our El Chalten post a while back. Then we’re off on March 4 to fly up to Bogota for a month in Colombia.

So until next time….

~Adam

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