Patagonia: The conclusion

Buenos Aires Art Museum
Colored shirt exhibit at the Bella Artes

April 6
Disembark Punta Arenas Chile. They scanned our luggage coming through customs, but they never looked at our passports, that’s a first coming into a country. There were problems coming into the port (weather) so the ship had to sit out in the harbor for 3hrs. This killed most of the only day I had there. I basically ate dinner (4pm), picked up some snacks, bought more Sudafed and cough syrup, and back to my hotel.
April 7, 2013
Up at 3:50am to catch my 0625 flight to Santiago. LAN airlines- super nice, head phones, movies, great snacks, plus it was a really new plane. I’m not crazy about my Hostel here, my room is super small, kind of dirty, an open window to high to see out of, feels like a jail cell. And it’s on the 4th floor with no elevator to take my luggage up. I like this part of town, one end of the street is the old colonial, cathedrals part of town. The other end is young, trendy, and bohemian type area.
April 8, 2013
Up early again for a full-day tour of Valpariso a coastal resort town, more like a city, it’s huge. It’s about 1-1/2 hrs from Santiago. We also stopped and did a winery tour, very interesting, it was an organic winery. There are chickens all over the place, they are there to eat the worms that infest the vines. They also plant different herbs, plants, and bushes around the vines to keep unwanted pests away and they use Alpaca’s to eat the grass between the vine rows.
I’m sitting in the hostel main living room and all these 20-somethings are just sitting here playing on their phones. They don’t even talk to each other. What’s happened to the hostel culture I used to know? Where everyone would sit around the room talking about their travels?
So, today I was eating lunch in a restaurant and a man (who looked like Johnny Depp) came up to me and asked if I speak English. Wow, that’s a first, it’s usually me asking that question! He couldn’t figure out the menu situation, which I actually knew the answer to. I could hear him over at his table having a hard time communicating with the waiter. I was happy to know I’m not the only one.
April 9, 2013
I was a little weepy this morning, everything was going wrong. I checked out of my private room for a dorm room, just needing a place to basically store my luggage since I am checking out tonight. Front desk gives me a key to the new room. I walk in and it’s a small room, 6 beds, full of guys and their duffel bags. I didn’t know I booked a co-ed room, there is no way my suitcase is going to fit in there. Front desk let me keep my stuff in my old room for a couple hours, then I moved my stuff in with the boys after they’d cleared out for day.
Then my melt down happened when I went to Santa Lucia park. I walked a ton of stairs to the top of this hill and there is a man at a table set up on the sidewalk he was asking me to sign the log. Of course, again I have no idea what he is saying, I refused to sign it. I get into the park and looking around and a security guard comes up to me telling me off, waving his radio, yelling at me. Wow, I turned around and walked back down the hill. That was it, I had to cry for a while.
Today I bought a pass to the hop on/off tour bus. That was worth the 20,000 pesos ($40). I was out the whole day stopping and sightseeing at different parts of town. I had Indian food for lunch. Peruvian sandwich for dinner.
Headed home tonight, I’m ready.
Conclusion—

  • I’m getting old and have out grown hostels.
  • Work a little harder on my Spanish. I feel that I missed so much and it could have been a more full experience.
  • I miss traveling with my mate, but I won’t rule-out doing something like this again (with more preparation.)
  • Nothing weird happened, I never felt I was unsafe.
  • I did challenge myself and did things I normally would have whined about if Dan were with me.
Valparaiso, Chile
Looking over Valparaiso

More Patagonia, part 2

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Today I embark, Cruceros Australis. Here is a huge bummer—check out at the hosteria is 10:30am. My ship paperwork says I can check in for the cruise between 12pm-4pm, so I aim for 3pm. I check-in at an office in town, they tell me to show up at the pier at for boarding 5:30 or 6:00. You can only walk the streets of Ushuaia for so long it’s just one main street, it’s really tough trying to kill 6+ hrs. I had thrown everything into my suitcase, I didn’t even have a book to read.

I am starting to think that traveling solo is not all that it’s cracked up to be. My dining arrangements on ship is at a table with all French speakers. Wow, this makes dining a little stressful. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, stare at the ceiling, look around the room and chew my nails, or pretend that I am listening and just smile. They seem nice, but I can’t understand a word. This is where my husband that speaks several languages would come in handy. Then on top of that, they announce at dinner that there are 20 nationalities present on board. They name off each country and people cheer. They say” United States”—the room is silent, I wave my napkin and my table cheers for me. The host announces again “United States”, I wave again—that’s it, I’m the only American on the ship!

April 4

Another beautiful morning, they have us meet at 7:10am to take the zodiacs to Cape Horn. So cool– we walked up a ton of steps to a monument/statue to the southern most tip of land on the continent (AKA Lands End). Back to the ship for breakfast. It was a leisurely day of documentary films, reading, and watching the dolphins jump along the side the boat.

April 5

Lunch is my favorite part of the day. I love having a buffet, such a variety of strange things, I have to try everything. So many things I cannot identify, I was eating a salad, I think if was fava beans? They were huge and looked like clams, but tasted like beans. This afternoon we went out in the zodiacs again to see Piloto and Nena glacier. This glacier was sky blue, unbelievable. On the way back to the boat I saw a sea lion jump out of the water right next to our zodiac, I was pointing and oohing, no one saw it except for one guy who backed me up. I think people thought I was making it up.

I have been sleeping fantastic while on ship, I’ve even been taking 2 naps a day. It does get a little rough, as I write the ship is tossing quite a bit. I did need a Dramamine today.

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Arriving in Patagonia

South America
March 31 Buenos Aires
My first time flying with AeroMexico, I give them 2 thumbs up!
Arrived Buenos Aires, the line going through customs was a mess. It took me almost 1-1/2 hrs to get out of there. I found the Manuel Tienda Leon tranportation desk, I’d pre-paid for a shuttle to their downtown terminal and planned on taking a taxi to my hotel from there. But for 15 pesos more they said they’d take me straight to the hotel.
My hotel ended up being more like a B&B or a hostel. No sign out front, I’m dropped off at building in a residential neighborhood with a door buzzer. Bonito Boutique is only 5 rooms on the 3rd floor. A girl gives me a key ring with a key to the front door of the building, and a key to my room. Then the staff leaves. Neat old building, I have a window with old fashion shutters and no screen, it was great, I slept with the window open listening to the street noise.
I found a nice Italian restaurant were you could see them making pasta through the window. Of, course I just pointed to things on the menu, it was OK, and it cost me a fortune. I need to remember to bring my Spanish dictionary with me next time, since I have no idea what I’m ordering.
April 1
It is some kind of holiday today and tomorrow. I walked around the neighborhood and everything is closed. I am looking for an ATM, I went to 3 before I found one with money in it. I was getting nervous, I had no pesos for my cab to the airport.
Ushuaia, very touristy and feels like a Colorado ski town. I couldn’t resist a restaurant with a open flame spit roasting whole pig carcass. I just had to have a piece of that and spent way too much on dinner again. Oh well, I have left-overs for lunch anyhow.
April 2
My hosteria is a house in a residential area about 4 blocks from town, I think there are only 5 rooms in here.
Big day today. I took a bus to the Tierra del Fuego National Park where they drop off at a trail head and pick up at the other end. 5-miles is a lot for me, but I thought what the heck, I’ll take my time and make a day of it. It was a beautiful hike, and it got pretty strenuous at times. I had only packed a left over pork chop from last night and a granola bar. I saw some very large woodpeckers, noisy ones at that, they sound just like “Woody” from the cartoon. I was able to complete the hike in 3 hrs, boy was I glad to see civilization, my knees were killing me.
Still some kind of holiday, farmacia cerrado (I need some more Tylenol), restaurants closed, all I could find for dinner was a bar. I had a crab pizza loaded with crab meat.
April 3
Heading to the ship this afternoon. Stay tuned!
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Planning Patagonia part 2

I am about 6 weeks out from leaving on my trip and unfortunately I haven’t had much time to do more in-depth research on dining and things to do in each town. My travel business has been keeping me busy, and that’s a good thing.
The hotels/hostels are booked and I am excited about some of the interesting accommodations I’ve found-
Buenos Aires– Hotel Boutique Bonito ($60/night), this is very small (5 rooms) on the 3rd floor of an old style building. Each room is named and decorated by a different artist. The pictures on the web site look really neat and some rooms have balconies. Another thing the web-site says is each room comes with either a jacuzzi or a scotch douche? Hmmmm, I guess I will wait to be surprised.
Ushuaia– Hosteria Valle Frio ($100/night), This one I chose mainly for the price and location. Hotels in this town are very expensive. This is family owned small homey looking hotel close to the main street in town.
Punta Arenas, Chile– Hotel Rey Don Felipe ($117/night), Same with this one, best price for the location. I wanted to be close as possible to town. This one is probably the nicest of all the hotels on my trip. I am only here for 1/night. Punta Arenas hotels were pretty expensive.
Santiago, Chile– Andes Hostel ($50/night), I’m feeling young now- this hostel has really good rating and is very popular with the backpacker crowd. I’ve booked a private room with a shared bathroom. I like the idea of a hostel because they have common areas were everyone can mingle, and usually lots of other solo travelers. I’ve stayed at hostels several times in the past and it’s always been a good experience. I am here for 2 nights and on my third day my flight doesn’t depart until almost midnight. I decide to book a dorm room for that day @ $18/night so I at least have a place to plomp and store my luggage until leaving.
Yes, I will be a solo traveler for this trip. I have the best husband in the world for agreeing to this. He wasn’t crazy about visiting Patagonia anyway and I asked if I could go alone because I really want my own adventure. When I travel with him he makes it too easy for me. He can always speak the language, deals with the money, and I just follow along behind. I want to be on the frontline and do it myself, It keeps me sharp. The other reason I love traveling alone (and I used to do it a lot) it heightens your senses and you have to stay alert. I see and hear things that I wouldn’t normally observe when chatting with a partner. And for plain ole selfish reasons, I want to go/do/eat, whatever I want, whenever I want.

Planning Patagonia, part 1

How do I get there? The flight plan–
First I bought a ticket from San Antonio to Buenos Aires (EZE), return flight Santiago to San Antonio. I purposely chose AeroMexico because I like the idea of getting out and stretching after 2 -1/2 hours flying time. That way I’d only have a 9-1/2 hours left to go. As appose to flying United, where I’d layover after 40 mins flying time to Houston, and then another 11 hours to BA. If that’s any explanation as to what goes on in my planning side of the brain.  I will arrive in BA on Easter morning 11:25 am. Easter in a South American city should be festive, can’t wait. I will spend 1 day/night there.

Next morning, I fly Aerolineas Agentina. This flight leaves from a different airport (AEP) than I’d arrived, this is probably a regional type airport and it’s practically right in the city. Flight time is 3-1/2 hours non-stop and I arrive in Ushuaia at 18:00. I will stay in Ushuaia for 2-nights. April 3, I embark the Stella Australis ship mid-afternoon and we depart at 20:00 hrs. 100 cabins, 210 passenger capacity, this is a new ship built in 2010.

Stella Australis- Day 1: Cape Horn and Wulaia Bay, Day 2: Piloto And Nena Glaciers, Day 3: Magdalena Island then disembark in Punta Arenas, Chile 11:30 am. I will stay 1-night in PA. April 7, I have an early flight 06:30 (ick) LAN Airlines. There looked to be only 2 flights a day leaving Punta Arenas to Santiago, very early or late afternoon. Flight is about 3-1/2 hours and non-stop.

I will spend 2 nights in Santiago, almost 3 nights, since my flight doesn’t leave until 23:45 on the 3rd day, April 9th. Again, I change planes in Mexico City and arrive back in San Antonio 1:05 pm April 10 (notice, now I return to using the American time when I arrive back in the US:)
Next blog I will color in more details of hotels/hostels and what I plan to do. And the big question– Is she going solo? and why?  Stay tuned!

What was I thinking…Patagonia

Well this all started about 6 mos ago when I started to plan my 50th birthday. I had narrowed my list to Israel, Morocco, and Dubai. Then I was at a travel show and Cruceros Australis cruise line was there. This is an expedition, only 64 cabins, type cruise; and they have travel agent rates. I was intrigued and started reading up on this. I was wide awake at 5 am one morning thinking how does one even get there?  I got up and furiously started planning, my adrenalin was pumping, and by 0615 my route was planned.

My fascination with this area is that I can get as far away from civilization as possible. I love that it’s referred to as the End of the Earth, or Land’s End. What would it be like to be in such a pure environment, absence of noise pollution? I’m always wondering where can you go anymore where there are no planes in the sky, and no buzzing electric lines. What does silence sound like? I like to day dream that I’ll be on that boat and all you can hear is the wind, waves, and ice chunks clanking on the sides. I hope they turn the boat off so I can listen. Another thought that crossed my mind was that if you have a medical emergency and it’s your time to die, you die. No intervention, no ambulance to save you. That is a little scary.
Patagonia to be continued…

A very merry Palm Springs

Dec 25-Chrismas Day. Minor delays flying from San Antonio to Palm Springs. Used FF miles to get 1st class seats. PS is cold in Dec, low 60’s. We found a Carls Jr open for a quick lunch. Staying at the Palm Mountain Resort for 2 night and then moving to the Westin Desert Willow for 4-nights. Palm Mountain is not as nice as I hoped. It is definitely a 3-star, clean and friendly, just a little worn. Although, you can’t beat the location. Right in the heart of Palm Springs. We walked to dinner, restaurant called TRIO, it was very good. Calamari was excellent, soy ceviche with tofu, edamame beans, and avocado.
Dec 26
Dropped Dan off at Indian Wells Country Club. This place is immaculate, wow! I went to the Desert Memorial Park-AKA cemetery. I found Frank Sinatra and Sonny Bono. This was a surprise, a very small cemetery with the small simple in-ground head stones. The celebrity stones were exactly the same as the other folks.  Someone had put a York Peppermint Patty on each of their graves.
Palm Springs is more old school, old hotels, the area outside of the main tours drag is pretty poor and dilapidated. As you drive down Palm Canyon Rd through Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Desert Palm it gets nicer and more modern shopping centers, chain restaurants, resorts, and country clubs.
Lunch- Billy Reed’s. This was an old folks restaurant for sure. I had some strawberry-rubarb pie.
I also drove by Elvis and Pricilla’s honeymoon house. A house in a cul-de-sac neighborhood.
Dinner – We went back to TRIO for happy hour, calamari and fried artichoke hearts. Then we when next door to Thai Smile, which was also very good.
Dec 27
Dropped Dan off at Mission Hill Country Club this morning. I went back to the hotel and took a long walk through the neighborhoods. I dilly dallied and had lunch at Old Spaghetti Factory. Picked up Dan and we checked into our new hotel. Westin Desert Willow Villas. These are really nice! 1 bedroom, kitchen, living room, washer/dryer. I am going to like this place. Dinner- we found a little Persian restaurant “Francesco’s”  in a shopping center that was very good. I had caprese pizza, Dan had lamb Kabobs,
Dec 28
Today was a “10”, I was driving down I-10 thinking how I need to take more vacations. I appreciate my time off so much, I suck the life out of every day.
Dan- dropped off again for golf day #3 Rancho Las Palmas Country Club. I drove to Desert Hot Springs in search of hot springs pools and a massage. Desert Hot Springs is a pretty worn out town. There are a bunch of these resorts in a cluster that sit on the Miracle Hill Hot Water Aquifer. For dinner we ate the early bird special at Acqua Pazza.
Dec 29
I’m about vacationed out; laid around the pool in 2 sweat shirts and jeans while others were swimming, walked around El Paseo killing time before picking Dan up from golf day #4 Pete Dye course at Westin Mission Hills. Dinner- Shermans Deli, NY jewish food. Excellent corn beef on rye, Dan had cabbage rolls. This place was packed even at 5pm.
Dec. 30
Hiking along the foothills. Asian Buffet for lunch, they had gigantic sushi rolls as big as the palm of my hand, and jumbo sized oysters? a little weird.
Merry Christmas to us!