Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pucon, Chile

Skied Pucon today. It´s a smoldering volcano in southern Chile. Quite the spectacular day -- clear skies, no wind, a few inches of new dust on crust (well, mostly just crust) and 100 mile views. Until the clouds rolled in and it got cold.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Chillan was a highlight in our still-new trip. Big mountain, big views, lots of runs, clear skies and enough snow.


We left Rancagua on Friday and had a really nice bus ride down to Chillan. Busses here work very nicely. You reserve the seat you want. They leave on time. You can order meals on board. There´s a bathroom. The bus is speed controlled to 60 mph and the drivers´drive time is limited to five hours. They have got things figured out here.

Chillan was not the most interesting town. It´s been levelled repeatedly by earthquakes, but we found a nice little room and the tourist info center and had some OK meals.

On Saturday we took a big bus up to Termas de Chillan, one of Chile´s major ski resorts. Chillan is at just 100 feet above sea level, and the valley was cloaked in fog. As we rose up the skies parted to reveal brillian and deep blue. The road climbed past villages and into foothills and through a deep canyon and then up a mountainside and past a checkpoint where men were installing chains on tires. We got to the base area at 10 am.

The base has a t-bar and a chair. The chair leads to a midmountain areas with a beginners poma and chair and two longer chairs, one of which goes to the summit and the other of which goes leads to more chairs and pomas and tbars. At the windy summit it feels like you can reach out and touch two volcanoes, one of which is smoldering and smoking. To the south stands and chain of mountains and volcanoes. The skiing is through channels cut into the volcanic rock and along wide open slopes well above treeline. Though a few clouds popped along in the afternoon it warmed up to freezing at the base and we had a sunny lunch as icicles dripped around us. We spent the rest of the day on the summit before descending when the lifts closed at 5 pm. What an incredible day!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Headed South

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

On Tuesday morning we scratched the dogs goodbye and headed out of town. Well, we tried to. First we walked an hour to a bus stop, rode that for 45 minutes, switched to a subway, and rode that for half an hour. We popped up above ground and walked to the bus station ... only to be told the bus we wanted to Rancagua did not leave from there. We repeated this several more times until we gave up and took a commuter train there. Towns in Chile have multiple bus stations and different destinations from each.

We arrived in Rancagua at dusk, ate, and set about to look for the bus stop for Chapa Verde, a ski area we wanted to go to. Everyone we asked had a great answer to where the bus stop was, but none of the answers were right. I was up early on Wednesday hoping to find it but after another hour gave up. Back at the room we decided to take the day off. Laura and I walked around town for three hours ... it is not a bad place. Then suddenly we saw a tourist office! I walked in and the woman behind the counter was as surprised to see a tourist as we were to see a tourist office. But she gave us a map and pointed us in the right direction.

A half hour later we were at the right spot ... an office in a mall with no sign ... only pictures of skiing and a backboard for decoration. The woman told us to come back in the morning.

We spent the day at a park and walking around more ... it was a spectacular day, bright and blue and cold with tons of new snow in the mountains.

On Thursday we caught a bus to the bus stop and I walked in to the mall. A line. I did not know what it was for but felt compelled to stand in it. Turns out it was to buy tickets for the bus. When I got to the front the woman told me there was a problem ... the bus is running but not all the way to the mountain. There is some problem with the road. I got the ticket anyway. We left 30 minutes late, climbed a pass, and suddenly there was snow on either side of the road. Checkpoints took up an hour ... the road to the ski area is also the road to a large mine and access is controlled. At 10.30 the bus pulled into an icy parking lot and everyone got off. A few minutes later a Nissan Pathfinder came in and began the first of four loads to get everyone and their gear to the mountain. When it was our turn we found out why the bus could not go all the way ... the road was deeply rutted and totally unplowed. We slid and skidded our way to the ski area base.

Chapa Verde is about the world^s saddest little ski area. The base area was a collection of dilapidated buildings. There was a grouping of brightly painted tiny homes, all of them anchored to the ground with wires. Windy does not begin to describe the place. Every loose granule of snow had been blown clean off the mouintain, revealing ribs of rock and ribbons of skiable icy snow. There was a tbar and a very old triple chair. There was also a beginners handle tow, another tow which had not run in a while and an upper tbar which was not running.

Though skiing obviously starts late around here, they make up for it by running the lifts until 5 pm at which time it is almost dark. We skied every little skiable line there was and ate lunch huddled from the snow behind a snowfence. More waiting to go down the mountain, but the bus driver, who was so incredibly friendly despite the hassles of getting to the place, took us directly to our room. Exhausted, but a fine day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A walk in the afternoon

Took the dogs out to Los Bravos, a new area.

Los Bravos, Santiago

Plan to leave Santiago in the morning, headed south.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Seeing Santiago

We took the day off from skiing yesterday as it was both a weekend and the middle of Chile's winter break. The Hatchers took off for Bariloche leaving us the keys to the house and instructions on how to feed the dogs.

We walked down to a bus stop and took a small bus to Cantagallo, a sort of suburban bus terminal, and from there changed to a bus which took us to the center of downtown.

First we walked around the market area and bought local olives (s0-s0) and then empanadas (nice!). From there we headed to the Plaza de Armas, which is really the heart of the city.

Plaza de Armas, Santiago

We strolled along the many pedestrian avenues leading off the plaza and south toward and then up Cerro Santa Lucia, a downtown hill full of gardens, fountains, promonotories and secret trails that lead to views of the city.


From there we backtracked a bit to the Palacio de La Moneda, where uniformed sentries guarded the entrance to what was the royal mint and was later an presidential office.

From there we headed underground to take the metro to the end of the line at Escuela Militar and then a bus up to our suburb, near Lo Barnechea. We got groceries in a spiffy supermarket and made it home as the sun set.

Laura has a lot of pictures on her site ... check it out at www.audipat.blogspot.com.

Also note that we likely won't be able to make updates as frequently as we've made them as we now have access to speedy and free Internet. That will likely come to an end as we move south.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good reds!

Staying at Casa Hatcher has been good in many ways -- Steve has a topnotch wine collection, and feels the need to share it. The past four days we've had more wine than I know what to do with ... and all of it unequivocally great.

Domaine de l'Esperouse Reserve 2004 Couteaux du Tricastin
A focused little beauty.

Vina von Siebenthal Carmenere 2006 Reserva Valle de Aconcagua
Holy moley! This is one of the small scale wineries becoming more common in Chile. Aconcagua is a cooler region and produces more delicate reds. Rich, luscious and beautiful. Smoky strawberries and chocolate. Aweswome.

San Vicente Rioja Tempranillo 2000
Normally I'm not a cork sniffer but this one had some mold on it so I decided to give it a whiff. Instantly I thought Bourdeaux. This wine is a stunner, and has aged very well. Tastes like putting a big old piece of aged leather in your mouth and sucking on it. Incredible!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

La Parva

Friday was our second day of skiing. We woke up to flat overcast. After a short breakfast Steven drove us to Mall Sport, a mall full of sports-related stores, where Ski Total has an office. We paid about $15 each for a roundtrip ride to the ski area. Just before 9 we loaded on a small bus. The conductor tied our skis to the roof and popped in a DVD for our "enjoyment" on the ride up -- "Fun With Dick and Jane." We got to the ski area about 10.15 and got tickets.

La Parva is one of the three Santiago ski areas all tied together. Next to it is El Colorado and next to that is Valle Nevado, where we were yesterday.

Welcome to Texas!

Welcome to Texas!

We liked La Parva a lot, though the snow was not as good as it was yesterday. La Parva seems to get a lot of wind, and many areas were scoured clean. Like the other two, it's totally above tree line and you can ski where ever you want.

Laura at La Parva

None of the runs are especially steep but there is a lot to explore and plenty of natural features to ski off and around.

From the summit

Most runs are wide open cruisers with lots of little dips and bowls. Fun skiing! There were 12 lifts, though just four were chairlifts. Laura fell off the first poma and it took a lot of sweet talking to get her on another. We had lunch in a midmountain restaurant -- a "Salchita Italiano" which was actually a hot dog with guacamole on it.

When we bought our bus tickets the agent told us the bus returned at 5.30. We figured it got back to Mall Sport then, but the conductor told us at the area that it actually left the slopes at 5.30! The lifts run until 5 p.m. We were in the parking lot by 5 and looking for our bus, which we realized we could not really remember. So I went up to every bus that pulled in and asked if it was the Ski Total bus going to Mall Sport. Finally, with the parking lot almost cleared out, our bus arrived. The sun set as we drove down the crazy canyon and the conductor played another video -- Michael Jackson live in concert. Eerily, Laura knew the approximate year of the show. I need to follow up with her on that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

"Snowy Valley"

First full day in Chile and Steven Hatcher took us to Valle Nevado. It's one of the three major areas fronting Santiago. We fell asleep to clear skies and a full moon and awoke to rain and 48. In the car by 8 for a drive that is only 30 miles long but covers 6,000 vertical feet -- no, more like 7,000 -- and 42 hairpin curves. Never been on a road like that. Up at Valle Nevado there was about 4 inches new.

Road to Valle Nevado

It's a big place, totally open.

Summit chair, Valle Nevado

Over there is Steven.

Steven on the edge in Valle Nevado

The skies cleared instantly and we were treated to an above the clouds view of the Andes, culminating with a view of a nearby 18,000 foot glacier clad mountain. Coolish and windy, which kept the lines freshly filled in. Wine and proscuitto for lunch in the snow.

Lunch, Valle Nevado

Wine made the walk back to the lifts seem shorter than it really was.

Laura at Valle Nevado

In all, the funnest day I've had in a very long time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Alarm was set for 7 but we were up by 6. Final packing, clean things up, and leave the house at 10.30. Uneventful drive through downtown Houston and stop at Taco Cabana, a longtime favorite. Eat but nervous. Parents drop us off at the terminal. Check in at Continental and computer happily tells us our reservation does not exist. Attendant tells us we need to check in at international, not domestic. Done. Fly to Miami skirting Chandalar islands off the coast of Louisiana. MIA is dark and overairconditioned. Four hour wait is not too long ... read a bit and walk around. LAN 501 for Santiago leaves at 9.50.


Plane is nice and new and full of all the gadgets, like remote controlled personal video monitors, and the stewards freely dispense the alcohol. Watch a few movies and listen to music and sleep for just a few minutes.

Lights turn on at 4.30 as breakfast is served and we begin to descend into Santiago. Darkness gives way to dense fog. Immigration and customs is totally hassle free, though to enter we each have to pay $131 for a visa 'good for the life of the passport' the attendant, who is updating her Facebook page, tells us. Baggage comes through without a problem.

We hang out in the airport trying to get our ATM card to work -- it won't. Steven Hatcher, who I know of from telemark circles, arrives with son Hank in his Nissan X-trail at 8 a.m. Drive the uncrowded streets -- today's a holiday -- and to a very nice place for breakfast. He also shows us how to get the ATM cards to work -- press the button that says 'foreign cards' you idiot -- and we drive to his beautiful house in a diplomatic community at the edge of the mountains. Snowcapped peaks all around. Fall asleep for two hours then begin to recover. Walk in the hills. It's a spectacular day -- all the more so after the hellish weather that is Houston. Crisp, clear, dry, 60s cooling a lot when the sun descends. Amazing! Steven is making dinner now and we plan to ski tomorrow. What a great start to the trip!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Tomorrow, tomorrow ...

We cast off at 2:10 p.m. tomorrow ... Houston to Miami to Santiago. So ready! Next update will be from Chile!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Homeless, Jobless and now ...


Thanks to craigslist, I sold my 1997 Nissan in a matter of hours last week. Actually, calls started coming in within minutes of the posting. Shows the power of craigslist and the challenges newspapers face.

The photo that sold the Nissan

Things are now almost wrapped up. Laura comes on Monday. We leave July 15 for Santiago.