Thursday, June 23, 2011

EPIC - the movie

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Villarica Volcano Climb - Lake District Chile

The Lake District of central Chile is one of the most beautiful regions in the country. The most popular tourist towns are Pucon and Villarica. The lakes and termas (thermal pools) offer boating, fishing & swimming. The rivers offer amazing white water rafting, kayaking, and "hydrospeed" (see post previous post). You also find zip-lining (called canopy in Chile), horseback riding, trekking, etc.
The Villarica Volcano climb was amazing. This is an active volcano that you can climb (and ski in the winter). Not technical, but definitely difficult. If you are slightly out of shape, you may struggle a bit on this climb, especially if the weather is less than optimal. The guides will tell you you need a "basic level of fitness" for this climb. What they don't tell you is that only about 60% of the recreational climbers make it to the summit, which is at 2847 m, 9340 feet. Our group started out at the base of mountain at around 8 am and we summited around 2 pm. If the ski lift is running you can save yourself a couple of hours by taking it from the base. The lift wasn't running the day I was there. Even though it would have felt like cheating, I would have taken it to better my chances and save myself a few blisters.

Here's a little video of the crater...too windy to hear what anybody is saying
I asked Ricardo (our guide) how it is possible that he has a large gut when he climbs the volcano 2-3 times a week. He said: "Dos cosas...Pan y cerveza"

This is how you get down the glacier

Photos are in reverse order
Looks a bit like the moon up there.
So that's why my heel was hurting for the last 6 hours...
Geared up for the descent.
Villarica Lake from the top of the Volcano

Getting ready for the fun part: sliding down the glacier on your backside. Ice axe is your brake.
Staring into the crater..every few minutes lava flies through the air.
Celebrating our basic level of fitness
Another volcanic peak in the background. This region reminds me of the Pacific Northwest in the U.S.

At the top.
At the bottom of the glacier...time to put on the crampons and bust out the ice axes
Looking out over Lake Villarica. You can see the lava flows from the last eruption
About mid-way to the crater...almost to the glacier
Our fearless guides.
Starting the trek: Me, Jake, my niece Alysa and her friend Kaitlin.
Gearing up for the climb with my friend Jake. The tour company said making it to the top requires a 'basic level of fitness.' I can honestly say that physically it was one of the most difficult things I've ever done. The gigantic blister I developed on my left heel didn't help. Later they told us that less than half of the climbers make to the top (they tell that after you pay).
Villarica Volcano...doesn't look so menacing from here
Elevation 9341 feet, Last major eruption was in 1971. It is an active volcano, as you can see from the smoke rising up.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Easter Island - August 2009

Easter Island is a pretty fascinating place - it's basically in the middle of nowhere - about 2100 miles west of Chile in the middle of the pacific. This is the kind of place you should visit as part of a tour of Chile, or perhaps Tahiti. Lots of people spend a couple of days here on their way to or from Tahiti. Bottom line, it's not worth your money to do an exclusive Easter Island vacation, unless you are an archeologist or something. This island is not very developed, there are no large hotels or resorts here (yet). The locals are nice Polynesians and the feeling is laid back. There is some tension between the native Polynesian people and the Chileans who migrate there as well as the Chilean government. This is similar to the tension that exists with certain Hawaiians against the US.

I recommend spending no more than 3-4 days here. In that time you can see everything there is to see. All of the lodging here is small, bed & breakfast, family run stuff. Nothing fancy. There is really only one decent beach for swimming/snorkeling. I didn't have the chance to scuba dive there - but I've heard it's pretty good. Our itinerary was something like this:
Day One: rent a car - drive around the island, see all the Moais (stone head carving), checked out Anakena beach. Ate some fish. Took lots of pictures of the Moais
Day Two: Horseback riding excursion. Saw several caves along the coast. Nice scenic ride.
Day Three: Rented ATVs. Absolute blast. Where else can you ride ATVs over sacred archeological sites. In the afternoon we checked out the largest of the volcanic craters.

Tearing the landscape on 4
Hailey and Mya in front of the crater
Una cabalgata
the Moais

Riding cross the land, kicking up sand, sheriff's posse on our tail cause we're in demand
Archaeological sites, kids, and farm animals
These 5 Moais represent our family...I'm the fat one with the cool hat.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Patagonia - Tierra del FUEGO

In March we took a trip to Patagonia, at the southern tip of Chile. It's an amazing region with lots of mountains, lakes, glaciers, and wildlife. We flew to Punta Arenas, which is the southernmost city in the world. From there we rented a car and drove to Puerto Natales and then on to Torres de Paine national park. Great trip.

On the boat on Lago Grey...Glacier in background

Lago Grey beach...swimming not recommended


Tiffany took this in Puerto Natales...really nice shot.

Tiffany on Lago Grey

The glacier at Lago Grey

Torres del Paine National Park

View of the Torres from our cabin on the Rio Serrano

View of the Torres from inside the park

Rooftop pool at our hotel in Puerto Natales

Friday, December 26, 2008

Navidad en Argentina

Just got back from a family trip (I call it a 'trip' instead of a 'vacation,' because 'vacation' implies relaxation) to Argentina over the Christmas holiday. In spite of the inevitable inconveniences and outbreaks of insanity that come with international travel with 3 small children, we had a good time. You may have seen those picture perfect families with the really well-behaved kids and the really patient parents during your travels...that is not our family. But somehow we made it work and nobody was seriously injured.


The first leg of our trip was to Iguazu Falls. If you don't know anything about Iguazu Falls, it is located where the Argentine, Brazilian, and Paraguayan borders meet. There are 2 major rivers that come together there and it creates some spectacular waterfalls.

The coolest part was taking a powerboat up the river right up to the base of the biggest waterfall, la 'garganta del diablo' (devil's throat). Everybody gets soaked, which is good, because it is jungle, crotch-pot cookin' hot there!!


The second leg was a day trip we took from Buenos Aires to Colonia. Colonia is a little Spanish/Portuguese colonial town that is directly across the Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires. To get there you take a high speed ferry boat (cool). The town itself is rather sleepy, with lots of antiques stores, tourist shops, and old architecture. Cool if it's just you and your spouse enjoying a nice meal and shopping for antiques, not so cool if you have three kids in two. We went with our friends the Gibsons (2 kids). All told, Colonia was just OK for me, but at least I can cross Uruguay off of my countries to visit list.


Buenos Aires is great city. I'd been a few times before, but this was the first for Tiffany and the kids so we did a city tour. We took in the full flavor of the capital, including a little neighborhood called La Boca, which is really a lower class neighborhood made famous by it's colorful houses, tango clubs, and artists.

Gringos en la Boca

Here I am showing off my mad tango skills...

As you can see, I have some serious moves...

this Argentine girl was blown away.

Tiffany got so insanely jealous...

that she started to tango with this rico suave tango maestro


Have you ever had the desire to sneak up behind a 400 lb sleeping tiger and pat him on the belly? How about putting your little children into a cage full of lions? No? Then the Lujan Zoo in Argentina is just not for you.

I heard about this place from a co-worker. Only in South America (or perhaps Africa) could a place like this exist as a legitimate business. They actually let you physically interact with wild beasts...under the supervision of teenagers who probably make about 3 dollars an hour and receive about 3 hours of formal training. The place is AWESOME!! I won't lie, sidling up to the big cats scared me...(visions of Siegfried...or was it Roy?).

"He's gonna kill you"

Elephant rides...

2 chicks holding chicks

nice monkey...please don't poop on me

nice tiger...see that white stuff on his leg?

They sprinkle milk on his paws so he 'perks up' for the photo op

Not so perky here...

Mya playing with the lion cubs

Is he dead?

Me and Jake riding camel back