Category Archives: adventures

Future endeavours

Yes, I am already thinking of my future.  Future travels, future endeavours.  I have made a big step today for my future!

 

Trips I have in mind already – Costa Rica is on my mind.  Northern Canada.  Norway.  But I have made a bigger step to my future today.  Something I hope that will bring on a possible new career.

 

I want to become a public speaker to high school kids and young adults, talking to them about budgeting and living without credit.  I have submitted a proposal to the public library to start with weekend classes!   I am very excited to start something that I really feel I can teach young adults about.  I have experience with this, many years of personal experience, so I believe I would be a good person to show this to people.

 

I really believe that high school students should be learning life skills that are going to help them in the real world.  Budgeting is such a big part of this, as well as teaching them that they can live without credit.

 

I am excited to be pursuing this next chapter of my life!!

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Best of Chile

My South American journey has come to an end.  I arrived back in Canada on Wednesday evening, after missed connections and travelling back to LAX and then to Toronto.  My son and his friend excitedly picked me up at the airport (to applause! – that was fun haha).

 

I had an amazing time in Chile, and can recommend to everyone to take some time to explore the entire country.  From Santiago north to Arica, there is so much to see and discover.  I have made a list of my highlights of my trip.

 

Santiago

Santiago was the first stop, and was a typical big city with some interesting barrios, delicious food and amazing scenery.

  1. The Andes – the incredible mountains looking over the city.  Absolutely stunning to see from all parts of the city.
  2. Cerro San Cristobal – the hike up to the top of the hill was breathtaking.  The statute was so amazing to see up close, and the entire trip to go up to the top was great exercise.  The ride down on the funicular was slightly terrifying for me, but was fun.
  3. Barrio Bellavista – the area at the bottom of Cerro San Cristobal is teeming with funky bars, restaurants, shops and graffiti filled buildings.

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Valparaiso/Vina del Mar

Second stop was Valparaiso.  The funkiest city I experienced in Chile.  It was cool, eclectic and had an edge to it.  I would travel back to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

  1. Graffiti – almost every other building had street art or graffiti filling it. Incredible art to see.  Every turn found more art to view.  Stunning!
  2. The beaches – Vina del Mar had the most pristine beaches, the incredible first views of the Pacific Ocean and the walks along the beach.
  3. The food – so many different varieties of food to try, the aromas, the taste.  It was delicious to wander the streets and try new foods.

Valparaiso

Vina del Mar

La Serena

This pretty little town set between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean was breathtaking.  The sunsets over the ocean, viewed from my terrace at the hostel, was my evening ritual.  I couldn’t get enough of walking through the streets and seeing the sites.

  1. The festival square – I arrived on a Sunday morning and wandered down to the main square, where a festival was taking place.  The music, the food, the crowds of people – it was a feast for the eyes and nose!
  2. The views – most impressive views of the ocean.
  3. The calmness – I was impressed with how calm the city was.  Everyone walking around seemed so relaxed and happy – I would be happy living there too.

La Serena

Antofagasta

The “pearl of the north”.  Antofagasta is a city that offers so much – it is on the edge of the Atacama desert, so it is a dry city.  Not much rain falls here, but it is fascinating.  It prepared me for the dryness of the desert.

  1. The sea life – sea lions, pelicans – but sadly no penguins.  The fish. It was very cool to see the sea lions and pelicans.
  2. Seafood – the seafood of the Pacific is the best I have ever had.  Antofagasta has many restaurants to sample so many different fish dishes.
  3. The wharf – I spent most of my days wandering down to the wharf, to watch the fishing boats, to eat fresh fish, to people watch.  Antofagasta was a very pleasant surprise!

Antofagasta

San Pedro de Atacama

San Pedro – the driest desert on earth.  It was dry, dusty, I felt like I was in the old west – the adobe buildings, the stray dogs – it had such an interesting feel to it.  I discovered a lot about myself here, and overcame fears I have had in my life.

  1. Valle de la Luna – the Moon Valley.  The most incredible part of my entire trip to Chile.  Sounds a bit corny but it truly was life-changing for me.
  2. Pukara de Quitor – a visitor’s area about 30 minute walk from San Pedro.  Walking across a river, climbing to the second rest stop, and looking out over the valley.  Worth the sunburn I got!
  3. The Milky Way – I  was lucky to have been in a hostel that I had another terrace to sit out on.  And we were far enough away from the town’s lights that I could look up in the sky and see millions of stars and the milky way.  Incredible!!

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Arica

Surf City!!  My last stop and I picked a great place to end my trip.  I spent almost every day on the beach.  Such a relaxing way to end this amazing trip.

  1. Playa Chinchorro – my beach of choice.  A 10 minute walk from my hostel.  A 5 km beach with white sand, warm waters, body boarders, and surfers.  Lots of fun to watch!!
  2. 21 Mayo Av – the pedestrian street in Arica – restaurants, little shops, street vendors, buskers (rapping in Spanish is always interesting to hear!) – something for everyone!
  3. San Marcos Cathedral – the Cathedral that was designed by Gustav Eiffel – such a unique cathedral to see.

Arica

I am now back in Canada for a couple of years – but I will still continue to take small trips while I am here.  For now, I am going to get back to being a Canadian and taking in all things Canadian.  I will enjoy being back with my family and friends.

 

So long Chile

San Pedro – more than just a desert town

My week started off with a late arrival on Sunday.  Monday had me wandering around the town, seeing what there was to offer and just getting a general feel of the area. It was dry and dusty – of course!  But there was a certain feel to the town.  A feeling, to me, that something was going to happen here but I just wasn’t sure what.  Monday ended with me sitting on my terrace of my two floor, apartment-style hostel (I really do love hostels!), watching the milky way and a million stars.  I had no idea just how spectacular it was to see the milky way!!

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The square of San Pedro

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The volcanoes of the Andes

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Tuesday I had booked the morning tour with Tours 4 Tips – again cannot say enough about this company!   If anyone is in Valparaiso, Vina del Mar, Santiago or San Pedro – book the walking tours with these guys!  Absolutely phenomenal!!  Anyway – it turns out I was the only one scheduled for the tour so I had the pleasure of a private tour with a lovely guide by the name of Pauline, a French girl who fell in love with an Atacamen boy and stayed in San Pedro.  She was full of knowledge and so much energy – I had such a lovely time – and what was supposed to be a two hour tour was almost a three hour tour because we talked about so many other things.  She deserved even more of a tip than I gave her!

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My awesome private tour guide Pauline

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A very salty tree that grows in the desert

Tuesday night a big windstorm happened, and it continued all day on Wednesday.  I am not a fan of blowing sand in my eyes, so the day was spent doing very little.  I managed to go out and get some fruit and vegetables at the monthly market that Pauline told me about – it was awesome!  Everything – and I mean EVERYTHING – was sold there.  Even a kitchen sink!!!  I spent about two hours browsing the market, sitting in the town square, getting some lunch, then headed back.  I had booked the Valle de la Luna tour for that night but it was cancelled because of the wind.  I re-booked for Friday afternoon.

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Licancabur Volcano in the distance

Thursday- I headed out to Pukara de Quitor, an area just outside of San Pedro.  I walked, and it took about an hour to walk there.  A local man said – oh just cross the river and walk for about 20 minutes – turns out you actually have to cross a river!  Good thing I was wearing my boots – my feet didn’t get wet at all traipsing through the river!  On to Pukara de Quitor – I had been told it was a hill you could climb and have a lovely view of San Pedro.  No one told me it was an actual visitor’s site that cost money – good thing I almost had enough – the lovely lady at the desk let me pay the student’s fee.  Gracias!  So, I headed to the “hill” – it was more than a hill but not quite a mountain.  I met a lovely mother and daughter and we ended up going up together.  I conquered a big fear that day – I normally do not climb anything that has no railing to grab on to in case I feel I need to – well there was no railing and I managed to get up to the second rest stop (almost to the top).  A HUGE feat for me.  I was very proud of  myself, and was also amazed at the view at this point.  Walked back down and headed back to town.  I was so proud of myself, that I took myself out to the best burger place in town – and it truly was the best burger.  Thursday, at that point, was the most amazing day of my entire trip.  Until….

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This view

Friday happened.  I woke up to a beautiful blue sky, no wind, the temperature was just right.  A perfect setting for my Valle de la Luna tour at 4pm.  I arrived, backpack ready with water, sunscreen and my coat for the cooler temperatures near the end of the tour.  With the group, we loaded on to the van to head out to the Valley.  I had asked if I needed to be in really good shape, was this difficult, etc., and I was assured that it was not that difficult.  Well, turns out, it was more difficult, both physically and mentally, for me than I had imagined it would be.  The beginning was easy, a nice easy sandy slope towards this hill.  As we got up a bit higher, I noticed that the people ahead of me were turning left, and some were stopping, gasping and looking up.  This did not bode well for my fear of heights!   As I got to that point – I stood there in complete shock.  This was not just a hill.  This was rock and sand, climbing up the side of the hill, about 200 metres (this is what Klaus, the guide, told us after).  I was petrified and frozen in the spot.  I looked up and just said No.  Klaus was encouraging me, saying I could do it, he would help me.  I just kept shaking my head and saying no.  I was so completely afraid, I didn’t know what to do.  But then I saw a couple about my age, maybe a bit older, going ahead and doing it and I thought I can do this too.  I just don’t look down.  Well, I got about half-way up – and couldn’t go any further.  I was frozen.  And on the verge of tears.  I was absolutely petrified.  And Klaus – my hero – told me to just wait and he would help me.  So there I was, on the side of a “hill”, waiting for someone to drag me up there.  He came back, talked to me, told me it was okay to cry, told me to take deep breaths, and that I could do it.  After several minutes (felt like hours), he finally got me on the right track, I put my foot and leg where he wanted me to, grabbed his arm and had complete faith in him that he was going to get me up – and I did it.  I made it up to the top.  The other members of the group were cheering me on, and congratulating me.  I just felt like crying and would not stand up LOL.  After that, there were two other hills but nothing like that.  I was shaking the whole time, but I DID IT!!!   I was so proud of myself, and proved to myself that no matter the obstacle, I can do it, with lots of encouragement and Klaus holding me up haha.  I made such a huge breakthrough that day – I have many fears and now I know that I just need to take deep breaths, tell myself I can do it – and just do it.  At the end of the tour, we went to the lookout to watch the sunset over the valley, and I said a little thank you to the universe/God/my spirits/my guardians.  Truly the best day of my time in Chile.

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The entrance to Valle de la Luna

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The three sisters

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The view from the “hill” – I made it!

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My hero, Klaus, and I standing at the top of the hill!

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The amazing sunset in the Valley

Saturday, it was my last day.  I did a final walking tour in the afternoon, enjoyed some lunch in the square and headed to the bus station for an overnight bus ride to Arica.

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After the Saturday tour, the group – three Canadians and two Australians!

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The square – one last time

San Pedro was amazing – I will never forget what this town, and this entire trip, has shown me about myself.  My strength, my attitude and my life – so many ways I have changed and all for the good.  I LOVE CHILE!!

Exploring the desert – San Pedro de Atacama

I arrived in San Pedro late Sunday afternoon, after an amazing drive through the desert.  I didn’t really know what to expect to see going through the desert – I had no idea just how awesome it really is!!

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San Pedro de Atacama is a small town located close to the Argentina and Bolivia borders, high in the Andes – I checked the altitude and it is over 2000 metres!  No wonder I had a pressure headache for the first two days here!  It is a very unique town with many interesting laws and rules – one being that there is no dancing allowed!  They have bars here, but in order to order an alcoholic beverage, you must also order food.  Apparently the small police force enforces this !!  And I found out that the fire department is hardly ever busy with fires, but are quite busy rescuing visitors from the desert who thought they could handle being out in the desert on a hike alone.  Not too bright !!!

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I have been a witness to a weather pattern that is apparently quite unusual for here – strong winds for three days, resulting in sand tornadoes (? – is that a thing?).  My tour out to the Valle de la Luna had to be postponed until Friday evening – which is okay.  I do NOT want to be out in the valley with this much wind.  The forecast is calling for the wind to die down tonight – I am crossing my fingers!  I am tired of having so much sand in my hair and in my eyes!!

 

I have learned some of the modern facts of the town, and tomorrow I will be going on another free walking tour to learn about the history of the town.  I am going to explore just outside the town tomorrow morning.  I really am enjoying it here – I just want the wind to stop!!!

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My time is quickly coming to an end in Chile though – in two weeks I will be back in Canada.  Wow, it has really gone by fast.  I still have more to see though and am looking forward to my last two weeks in South America!!!

 

Hidden Gems of Antofagasta

Most cities have their hidden gems – places that tourists aren’t likely to see but that the locals like to go to, probably to get away from the tourists!   I know a lot of tourists come to places to see the main sites, and then once they have seen them, hit a restaurant that has been recommended, and then they are done.  They start exploring elsewhere.

 

That’s what I love about the way I travel.  I don’t rush through cities.  I want to see what the locals do, so I explore down streets that you don’t see the tourists on.  I go into stores or markets that I see the locals going into, and not necessarily the tourists.  Today, I found some hidden gems in Antofagasta!!

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Shopping for the Fiesta!

One of the big tourist areas here is Arturo Prat Avenida.  I have heard the people I have met here simply call it Prat.  It is a big shopping street, pedestrian only, where you can see couples dancing to live music during the siesta, or people eating on the patios, or the dogs wandering around hoping for someone to drop some food.  I enjoyed walking down this street today – I took my time and even went into some of the stores to see what there was.  It is SO nice to be in a country where they have my actual size in clothes.  I cannot stress this fact enough!  I found an outfit that I think my son would look so handsome in!  HAHAHA

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Arturo Prat Square

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Awesome outfit!!

As I strolled around the area, as it was siesta time, it was quite busy and I was watching to see where the locals were walking to.  In a non- stalkerish way, I followed some of them into this building, where the aromas coming out of it were mouth-watering!!  It was the Mercado Municipalidad.  The scents of the numerous restaurants were delicious – meat cooking, chicken grilling, soups boiling – so many choices to make!!  After being gently (that’s a nice word – not really what she did lol) encouraged to enter this one restaurant, I was pleasantly surprised by the special of the day.  A chicken soup with vegetables and arroz and a chicken entrée, that came with arroz and sliced tomatoes.  Absolutely delicious!!  What a wonderful surprise for my lunch, and for only 3,000 pesos (under $6 Canadian).  It was just the right amount for me.

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This was soup!!

After my lunch (which because of the siestas everyone eats around 2pm and then has a late dinner at around 8pm – I cannot eat that late!), I went for a walk back to an area I have been several times already – the pier.  But I had noticed every time that I had been there that a lot of people walked down this road and I was curious.  So I walked down there today, and discovered a beautiful little alcove with a sandy beach and lots of families and teenagers there.  It’s an actual beach to swim in – and they were!  I don’t know if I’d be brave enough to swim in it (although it is shallow and, as you can see, protected from the big waves of the ocean).

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It is always so much fun to get out of the usual touristy areas and discover where the locals go to eat and relax!!

Observations of Chile

I have now been in Chile for two and a half weeks (seems like it’s been a lot longer!), and there are many things I have discovered about this beautiful country I am visiting.

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One is the stray dog situation.  Every city, town and village has them.  I don’t really understand this but these dogs are not starving by any means.  The people feed them, leave out water for them, and pet them when the dogs come up to them.  The dogs are not vicious by any means, at least not to people.  However, these dogs bark ALL THE TIME.  Constantly. Day and night.  I understand that this is the way they communicate with each other, but man it’s annoying at night.

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The food here is out of this world.  While I do miss the food in China (dumplings, noodles… I need to find a Chinese restaurant!), I just cannot get enough of the food here.  Empanadas, churrascos, posteles, and their own soda, BIlz (I am sadly becoming addicted to this – it’s like cherry soda – not cherry coke!).  Cheese is quite expensive so I only have things with cheese while I am out.  The soups are delicious, the “carne” is amazing – it’s time for me to get back into cooking I think.  Food is life!!!

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The amazing scenery here.  I am writing this blog today, sitting on my terrace in La Serena, watching the Pacific in front of me, and the Andes are behind me.  Sadly, this is my last full day in La Serena.  I really enjoyed Santiago, loved Valparaiso, but I think my heart is here in La Serena.  I don’t know how anything will top this city, but I am excited to find out!!  Tomorrow night, I head for Antofagasta, and the desert, and ocean.  I can’t wait.

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I love Chile!!!!

 

Vina del Mar

Vina del Mar is beautiful!!  I am in love with the Pacific Ocean, and if I could possibly afford to live there, I would be here.  But it’s expensive – but it’s nice to have been able to see it.

 

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A band playing at the front of a park

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The trees here are amazing and HUGE!

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Waves crashing

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Playa del Acapulco

 

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Valparaiso in the distance

 

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The beach

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I love this picture