Countries i will visit on my journey

Countries i will visit on my journey

Flags of all countries

Flags of all countries

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sky and Sand @ Atacama

Calama - Mine del Cubre
I made my way up from Santiago to the driest dessert in the world, the Atacama-dessert.
There I visited Calama, a town where you can hardly find any tourist. Except of the biggest open pit
mine in the world there is nothing to do there...
It is a copper mine, runned by a company called CODELCO NORTE which offers free tours to the mine. And the dimensions of this mine is amazing, 6km long, 3km wide and almost 1km deep.
The biggest hole ever created by human hand in the world.
 Also the 86 trucks, which have a weight of 20t each and carrying 360t raw material per ride, are gigantic. One wheel of this monsters has a diameter of 4m and costs about 15000€. They are all day in use, making 500km a day. The costs are enormous, with one liter of fuel this trucks can just run 250m!!
The copper content is just 1% so the most of the rock is just "waste" and need to be dumped somewhere. Because of the immense costs to run the trucks this place should be as close as possible to the mines. And that's why Cuquicamata, the town next to the mines was resolved and is now a ghost-town, slowly vanishing under a lot of dumped rocks...
CODELCO tells you that the people where happy do leave and it is unhealthy to live next to the mines, but for me it is clear that it was just strategic. It was the cheapest way to get rid of the rocks and it is always a question of money. Who wants to leave his hometown voluntarily and why are there a lots of patrols making sure this town remains to be a ghost-town??

San Pedro the Atacama
Spent one day in San Pedro the Atacama and visited the geysers "El Tatio". They are on the foot of the "El Tatio" volcano at about 4300m altitude. It was very early in the morning and freezing cold (-20°C). But that's when you can see the hot steam of the geysers best. After a breakfast where we used the hot water to boil our eggs we went for a warm bath in one of the hot springs. On the way back we visited some lagoons with different kind of wild life (ducks, flamingos, guanackos).
Back in San Pedro I rented a bike and a board and went for "Sand boarding". If you know how to Snowboard than Sand boarding is also not difficult...
It was great fun and I saved a lot of money by doing it on my own instead of booking a tour.
Hardly anywhere in the world you can see more stars and the milky-way so clear than in the Atacama dessert. In the night I spent a while and just stared at the night sky. It was indescribable, you have to be there on your own to know what I mean... =)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

On the Carretera Austral and the lake district

Spent the last couple of days in central Patagonia in a city called Coyhaique and the last 2 days in Puerto Varas, which is in the lake district of Chile.
Here in Patagonia you can already feel that the summer is ending, the leafs are changing their colours and it is freezing cold during the night...

Coyhaique as base in Central Patagonia
Once we arrived in Coyhaique Derek and me stayed on night in a hostel, dropped our stuff there and headed out on the next day to the Cerro Castillo national park. We camped there for two days and did the hike from "Las Horquetas" to "Villa Cerro Castillo".
Because of the bad connections (hitch-hiking did not work...) to the trail-head, we stared hiking very late, at 6pm. So after two hours we had to turn on our headlamps and after a long walk in the dark spooky forest we arrived at the camp side.
On the next day Derek and me did a pretty long hike, up to two passes we arrived totally exhausted at the camp side for the second night. But the views on this day were amazing. Glaciers, waterfalls, snowfields, colourful forests, emerald lakes are just a few of them to be mentioned...
On the morning of the third day we finished the trail, arrived in Villa Cerro Castillo and caught a ride back to Coyhaique, which was pretty easy that time... :-)

The marble caves in Puerto Rio Tranquillo
On the next day after the hike in Cerro Castillo, we took a bus to Puerto Rio Tranquillo on the General Carrera lake. There are marble caves in the lake, which can be visited by boat. Other than that is nothing to do there. And that's why Puerto Rio Tranquillo is not more than a small little village but surrounded by amazing landscapes.
A little bit out of town is a small Kayak-rental. Rented one and explored the caves called "Catedral de marmol" on my own. It was totally worth it, although when the water was freezing cold. With my small boat i could get into the caves where the bigger tourist ships could not enter. And this caves were really amazing... :-)

Animal cruelty and the ferry-ride to Puerto Montt
Back in Coyhaique I took the ferry from the close Puerto Chacabuco to Puerto Montt. The ride took 24 hours and was along the pacific coast of the Chilean Patagonia. During the day we had some nice views of the coast and its mountains.
Unfortunately I kept this boat trip not in good memory. Because there was also a truck stuffed with cows on it. (Imagine about 50 cows on one single truck!!) They could not move and if a cow would lay down the others would trampled it. That's why guys with long rods gave the cows electric shocks that they stayed awake. During the night when I was trying to sleep, I could hear the painful screams of those poor animals...

Back in Germany? - Puerto Varas
Stayed one night in Puerto Montt and made my way to Puerto Varas on the lake Tranquilla.
This town was once founded by German settlers. And today you can still see the German influence. Some houses were built in typical old German style, there is a "Club Aleman" and the church is more or less a copy of the "Marienkirche" in the black forest province of Germany.
Next to the lake are some volcanoes and I did a hike up to volcano "Osorno". But to reach the top you need a guide and special ice climbing equipment... So I just hiked as far as possible up the volcano on the "Desolacion"-pass which is in between the volcano and "Cerro La Picada" moutain. The weather on that day was awfully, it was very windy, rainy, cold and you could not see more than 20 meters...

The "monument" which should not be found
Maybe you will ask yourself why on earth I did this hike by that bad conditions?
Well, here is the story:
I met an Austrian guy (Arvid) who runs a hostel in town and he gave me the idea to do that hike.
He said to me, that he build a man out of stone on the top of the pass. And that nobody ever had made his way to this stone-guy to take a picture. He explained me the way to get there, as his "monument" is not next to the trail, you have to leave the trail and hike along some steep cliff for 30 minutes...
While Arvid was talking I already thought, Raphi, you will take a picture of this stone figure and bring it to him! And that was the only reason why I hiked up the pass. Not for the view (which did not exist on that day), not for the nice hiking trail on volcano-stones, the only reason for me was to just take a picture of that figure...
After 3h hiking, totally wet and freezing I think I was on the point Arvid described me, but never found "Stony"...
I finally made my way down to the valley and walked back along the emerald lake "Todos los santos". There it stopped raining for a few minutes and I could at least enjoy the last bit of my hike along the lake...
I once saw a nice little slogan, which does fit here: "Well, if you think I am crazy it is not really my problem..." :-)

Quarter of a hundred in the capital
On this day I made my decision to skip the rest of the lake district and visit northern Chile and Bolivia instead.
Right now I am in Santiago, peacefully and quite celebrating my birthday with my 2 new friends "cheap piece of cake from the supermarket" and "bottle of vino tinto". Lets see who else will be joining... :-)
By the way, thanks to everybody who think about me on this day!! Really appreciate that!!

I will head north to the Atacama dessert and Bolivia in the next days. There the weather is warmer and dryer than down in Patagonia right now... ;-)
Bolivia take care, I am coming!! Yess!!! :-)