The Heart of Chile

For week’s I’ve debated on how to sum up/write about the areas of Chile that we visited outside of Patagonia.  For a country that stretches 4,300 Km in length, with climates ranging from the driest desert on earth to the third largest glacial ice field on earth, it is hard to sum it up by just visiting two regions.

While we spent nearly 2 weeks exploring some of the best sights that this wonderful country has to offer, I feel that we barely scratched the surface.  What I can say is that modern Chile has a lot to be proud of: a stable government,  South America’s strongest economy, friendly people, an embrace of their history, wonderful traditions, and great food…There is nothing quite like a Chilean sandwich anywhere else on earth!

I think one of the things that I like the most about Chile is the immense pride that their people have in their country.  Driving down any road, there are bright Chilean flags flying outside of just about every house.  While at a bar here, the native Chilean bartender was trying to one up his Argentinian coworker by crafting a perfect cocktail.  I have to admit he did a good job…It was probably one of the most beautiful drinks I’ve ever drank.

As passionate as Chileans are about their country, they are passionate about religion.  It is impossible to talk about the history of Chile without involving Catholicism.  The biggest crowds that we saw while in the country were gathered around churches and religious monuments.

We were fortunate enough to experience Chile’s culture in the sprawling capital of Santiago and the nearby coastal city of Valparaiso.  Each of these cities is unique and it is easy to tell that Santiago is the economic and political powerhouse of this part of South America.

While Santiago packs in the masses and serves as Chile’s economic & governmental capital, Valparaiso packs in the charm.  Some have called it the San Francisco of South America.  The great thing about this city is that it has garnered enough attention to preserve the unique buildings, but not enough attention to ruin the unique local culture.  Walking down the streets in Valparaiso is like walking through a history museum turned art museum.  Photographic opportunities abound around every street corner…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patagonia: The Land That [Far] Exceeds Expectations

Since I received my first “Patagonia” brand fleece as a little kid, I have been intrigued by the mountains on the clothing brand’s logo. However, I never dreamed I’d have the opportunity to visit this remote land.

Then, two years ago I started researching locations for my wife and me to travel on our next “big adventure” and I was instantly hooked when Patagonia popped up. I spent countless hours since then researching when, where, and how to go. So much so that I began to think, “Is there going to be much more to discover than what I’ve already seen on Google image search?” Luckily, I was wrong and I could not have prepared myself for the land that many say is a true “landscape photographer’s dream.” My wife fell in love with the landscape, too, and she expressed interest in returning before we even left, which certainly says something given the often “less than ideal” weather conditions and many challenges with traveling to and around this remote land.

For those who might be unfamiliar with the region, getting to/around there isn’t the easiest of tasks. It took no less than three flights  with 15+ hours of total flying time for us to arrive in Punta Arenas from Washington-Dulles International Airport. And, even after arriving at the airport, there were still hundreds of miles to drive between the individual destinations. To make matters more difficult, the wind is so great that it tests the skill of even the best drivers, blowing the car all over the road. The wind literally caused our Toyota Corolla to blow apart, causing me to do emergency roadside maintenance on the side of the road as local drivers whizzed by at 90+ mph (normal cruising speed on the straight Argentine roads). Since the next settlement, let alone gas station, may be more than 150 miles away, pre-planning is a must when visiting the region.

The same climatic engine that drives the “less than ideal” weather also creates unimaginable natural lighting. During our trip, we observed some of the most stunning lighting while 70km/hr winds were ripping across the landscape, and keeping a tripod steady, let alone hand-holding a camera, was often challenging in these conditions.

 

While most people (including me!) come to Patagonia for the landscapes, the wildlife certainly does not disappoint. My wife commented when driving through the Eastern entrance to Torres Del Paine that it felt like we were on a South American safari. The variety and number of animals in the area was a surprise since many of the animals–including flamingos, rheas, and armadillos–are animals normally associated with warmer climates. This coupled with cold weather animals, like penguins, creates an amazing biodiversity.

My wife and I have been blessed to travel often during our marriage. Our Patagonian adventure, coupled with the amazing experience we had the week prior in central Chile, certainly made this a trip of a lifetime.