And now for Peru

Today we left Arica in northern Chile. After a few hours in the airport and a few minutes on the plane, we arrived in Arequipa, Peru. We will be staying here a few days before heading up to the highlands, Machu Picchu, Cusco, and the Amazon jungle.

With Mr. Gooey

We’re now with our uncle, the Mr. Richard Gooey (at least that’s how his name is pronounced here, according to him). Mr. Gooey has been kind enough to let us stay in his apartment during our time in Arequipa.

We woke up way too early this morning. I’m actually being serious—we didn’t need to be up for at least an hour-and-a-half. Dad actually took Sky Airlines seriously when he read that you had to be at checked in three hours before an international flight. The counters didn’t even have people behind them until about an hour til we boarded. Ethan and I played Temple Run upstairs for a while, and we eventually made it past the police.

The ride was short but sweet, but had some turbulence and the plane tilted all the way over on its side as we neared Arequipa, which was startling.

We saw Mr. Gooey as we waited in line, but we didn’t actually get to talk to him until about an hour later. The line moved slower than some members of my family.

The apartment has a kitchen, bedroom (maid’s quarters), dining/living room, and bathroom downstairs and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Mr. Gooey, the parents, and I have bedrooms upstairs. Ethan took the maid’s quarters and was thrilled.

We eventually left for crepes (lunch) after See’s Candy (breakfast) from California. I had the Indiana crepe, which was an Indian curry with pineapple and chicken folded up in a crepe. It was so good! While we were waiting, Ethan and I taught Mr. Gooey how to play Parcheesi. After helping Mr. Gooey finish his dessert, we finished the game. Ethan won, unfortunately.

Eventually it started raining. We were in Monasterio de Santa Catalina at the time. It was (and still is) a convent. However, in the past it was for rich, rich women who brought their servants (and sometimes children, if they were widows) with them. They usually each lived in four-room houses. At the its largest, the convent held 174 women in 80 rooms. The greatest number of people in a house was three. Well, the greatest number of rich women (usually family members). The servants didn’t count.

When we left, we walked around the area, getting Claro (cell phone chips) and looking at nativity scenes in a store, including one with an Eskimo family and a polar bear and her cub, a walrus, and a penguin. That could never happen. Polar bears don’t live in Antarctica, and penguins don’t go to the North Pole.

Because the brochure that Mom was using to cover her cast ripped, we splurged on a two-dollar bright yellow poncho for her and a five-dollar rickety umbrella for the rest of us (namely me). We went on to the grocery store, where we got essential staples such as strawberry jam and Special K.


‘The Only Vegetarian Restaurant in Chile’

That is what my father called the restaurant that we went to for lunch/dinner today to try to get to bed earlier. It didn’t work. It is 9:35 PM according to my watch and I am still writing this. The reason for that is because a man name Jack from Washington (state) played the banjo while I played one of the guitars that the hostel provides.

For the sake of my readers, I will start at the beginning of our day: As we are in Arica now, we decided to sleep in to get a little bit more rest. After waking up and getting some food for breakfast in the café downstairs, we stayed inside well past 11:30 playing scrabble, labeling pictures, and reading.

When we finally left the house, we went to the restaurant mentioned above in the first paragraph and ate some vege-meat, rice, and vegetables. When we left, we decided not to buy some of the scrumptious looking pastries behind the counter at the door, even though we were still feeling a bit esurient.

After getting back home, we decided to go back to the market street and get some helado to eat. Eryn and Father shared a bowl of three flavors, while my mother and I shared another. When we finished, we went back home and I played the guitar with Jack on his banjo.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Chatting About Chile

My time in Chile opened with One Direction singing.

Seriously: we were on the bus from Bariloche to Valdivia and, after twenty minutes in no-man’s-land and of listening to One Direction, we crossed the border, reading the sign that said “Beinvenidos a Chile!

After all the border hassle, we arrived tired and hungry in Valdivia, home of the biggest earthquake ever recorded. We spent a week there, taking a boat through seven rivers and enjoying the fresh food from the market. Next came another overnight bus and then a long wait at the Santiago station, waiting for our van to arrive. It finally did—just with a different driver than expected.

He took us on a tour of Chile’s capital, Santiago, and eventually drove us to Valparaiso. We passed another happy week there, especially enjoying the dogs (Harvard, Yale, and Avery) and cats (Olga, Bassy, Pillar, Azul, Midnight, Pineapple, Mickey… I’m sure I’m forgetting some). After all the delicious ice cream we enjoyed in Plaza Victoria, we didn’t really want to leave. But there we were—up at 3 in the morning so we could get to Santiago in time for our flight to Calama: we just barely made it to the gate on time.

From Calama we rode in a van up to San Pedro de Atacama, where we spent a couple days at 8,000 feet in elevation, admiring the flamingoes and poisonous pools. After another night in Calama, we rode in a bus on Ethan’s 12th birthday to Arica. We had a supper of (not-so-good) pizza after we found that Jalapeno was closed. For dessert, we had really good ice cream, and Ethan opened his presents (shirts, colored pencils, candy, sunglasses case, Parcheesi). The next day we went up 11,500 feet and found ourselves in Putre. We were lucky enough to see four carnivores (all foxes—unfortunately. We were hoping for cats) with Barbara and on our own high in the mountains, higher than the top of Mount Whitney.

Yesterday we drove back down to Arica, and we’ll be here til noon tomorrow, when our Peru-bound flight takes off.

As you can see, our time in Chile has had its ups and its downs, but the best part has been the ice cream.


Night of the Dancing Skeletons

Hello from down low! Yesterday I could’ve said ‘hi from up high,’ but I wasn’t thinking about rhyming then.

We’re about 11,680 feet lower in elevation than we were in Putre this morning. We were actually higher at the vizcacha place than at Putre, but I don’t know how high that was.

At the vizcacha place, our first animal was not a vizcacha or a bird: it was a mouse. A dead mouse, to be exact. A dead mouse hanging from a fox’s mouth, to be totally honest. That was pretty exciting (even though Dad thought it was part of a vizcacha). We followed it with Dad’s camera for a while, but then it disappeared. Dad intended on taking a dip in the hot springs, but he decided there was no good way to dry off. Meanwhile, Mom saw foxes on the hill where we saw the three yesterday.

“Foxes, Ethan! Give me the camera and binoculars,” she exclaimed breathlessly.

“Mom, they’re not foxes.”

“Well, they’re red—”

“Those are vicuñas.”

You can blame it on her age. Well, you could technically blame it on anything: the hill was rather far off, and red blobs moving around could mean just about anything.

We finished the loop, seeing more vicuñas and vizcachas and vertebrae but no more zorros.

We got back to the hotel at 11, just in time to collect our luggage for the ride down to Arica, which claims to be the driest city in the world. On the way, we stopped at a museum and looked at mummified bodies. The air is dry enough here to preserve the bodies almost perfectly.

After chilling a bit in the hostel, we left for supper at a place called T&T. But we should have guessed that it would be closed (what with our luck at Jalapeno). So we wandered around for a while. Finally, leaning against a lamppost, Ethan pointed our attention towards the man with the skeleton puppets.

“Aren’t they cool?” he cried. The man was making the puppets’ mouths open and close when the “music” in the background produced a human voice, and both were “playing” instruments (guitar and drum). At the end of each song, of course, the man walked around with a purple felt hat, asking for money.


Mas Zorros

Or ‘More Foxes’

The time for us to leave was rapidly approaching when we had finished packing everything into bags into the dining room and left off in our gray car up the mountainside to where we saw the foxes yesterday. When we got up to the top, we went over to where we had seen a lot of viscachas yesterday, and low and behold, there was a fox, or zorro in Spanish.

It had what we think was a dead mouse in its mouth and it went up to a little cave and the mouse disappeared. When the fox got back out of the cave and walked along the rock-strewn hillside towards where we saw the three yesterday. When it got out of our line of site, we went across the small bridge and across the road.

Across the road, we saw some more viscachas and that was about it. After my father took several pictures of a mouse, we went back across the road to our and down the hill back to Putre to get out stuff and go down to sea-level and Arica. When we got to the bottom, we went to the place where we had stayed last time and lounged around before going to dinner.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Carnivores from the Car

We went to the same place (Cantaverdi) for supper. I had the same meal (salmon with ensalada Nortina [grain, olives, lemon]). Our drive with Barbara wasn’t the same as on Saturday, though.

We actually saw carnivores! Looks like our luck is holding…

We saw twenty-five vizcachas (the chinchilla-like mammals), one guanaco (the same as yesterday), three tarucas (which are otherwise known as north Andean deer), three Andean foxes (cubs), and one rare diademed sandpiper plover. We saw some other birds, too, along with plenty of vicuñas, alpacas, llamas, and cows. Barbara was shocked (shocked!) to see the foxes, but we could tell by the bones littering the hillside that they’d been there a while.

Once our drive was over, we dropped off Barbara at her house and went back to our hotel, where Ethan and I did schoolwork (yuck) and eventually looked at the videos of the fox and cutting off Mom’s cast, among other things (those were the most hilarious).


Viscachas, Vicunas, and Zorros

Parinacota. The name is the name of a town, volcano, and province. All of which are in Chile. The town has an old church. But the guy that runs the place went on strike when a new cell phone tower went up a ways away from the church yard. The bell tower has to working bells and two without clappers. The stairs up on the inside were very short. Even I had to duck down to get up to the top and look out over the small town.

Parinacota was on our tour with Barbara today. We went out in our Nissan X-Trail up the shortcut, and almost got hit when a red mining truck came screaming around the corner. Luckily, both the driver and my father had good reflexes and while he went off the road on our side, we went over to the other side before continuing on. After driving for a while, we got to a hot spring and got out to walk for a while. On the way to the springs, we saw several viscachas sitting on rocks alongside the path. After feeling the water, we went across a bridge, and on the other side, Eryn spotted some movement. I identified them as foxes through Barbara’s scope and with my eyes, and it turned out to be 3 cubs playing around on the opposite hill.

After watching the foxes disappear and seeing some vicunas run around a bit, we went out to the other side of the rod and saw some viscachas again and then, in the distance, some rheas. After doing the necessary ‘oohing’ and ‘aahing,’ we went back to the car and drove away towards Parinacota. After Parinacota, we went back to Putre.

That’s all for now, Folks!



The sign said 5200 m.s.n.m., which I think means 5200 meters above sea level, but according to our GPS, the highest that we went today was 4795 meters above sea level. However, I am not just writing this post to argue about what signs and electronics say, I am writing this post so that anyone out there who wants to learn more about our trip can do it without leaving the comfort of their office chairs.

We drove up the hill this morning from Putre, without guides or other people, just us. We went up on the dirt road and saw some Andean Deer eating from farmers’ terraces, but those were about the only animals that we saw for that time. After that, we turned left off of the main highway and onto a road that went up towards some snowy peaks and pinnacles, up north.

After getting up to the summit with the aforementioned sign, we started down the other side, figuratively speaking, as we were still way below the top of the mountain, barely above the desert-like plains down below us. After driving for a while, we got to a large stream, , where everybody got out to see what it was like. Eryn and I crawled through the culvert. It was fun, and we were really glad that we had been wearing hiking boots to go through it, not shoes that were for running and were made of foam.

While we drove from town to town and back on that road, we saw a lot of vicunas on either side of the road. At the end, we turned around and went back the way we came, seeing-again- lots of vicunas alongside the car. When we got back to Putre, we did some work and then ate dinner.

That’s all for now,  Folks!

Pathetic Playgrounds and Other Putre Pleasures

Barbara probably thought we were going to see guanacos yesterday, but we didn’t see a single one. Today we saw a single one, right outside of Putre on our way up to the mountains.

We kept driving til we were at the highest point of our trip: 5,200 meters (if you can believe the sign). Before that, we had looked at a marsh where Dad got his feet all muddy and Ethan and I walked through a pipe. It was slippery in some parts, and my hair got dirty from bracing against the top of the pipe, but now we can say we did it.

We drove down (to about 3,500 meters) where we looked for rheas and foxes and found neither. Instead we found chalky caves in the salmon-colored rock. One of the caves had bones with skin still attached. However, there were only a few bones, so we knew that the puma hadn’t been around recently.

Ethan really wanted us to cross the river in the valley, but we didn’t (thankfully) since Dad didn’t trust the X-Trail. So back up the hills we went. We decided to go to a town called Colpitas. It had about five buildings and eight activities advertised on a sign: bird watching, flora seeing (I guess that’s what the flower means), hiking, picturesque views, a playground, bathrooms, music playing, and old buildings. The playground was rather pathetic: a yellow swing-set structure with two rings and a bar that was way too high for anyone to reach.

While we were in the car, Ethan and I worked on memorizing the Periodic Table of the Elements in the order of atomic number. So far I’m up to zirconium (number 40), while Ethan’s still at krypton (number 36).

On the way home, the dark clouds started to gather. Even though there was thunder and a few drops of rain, the power didn’t go out.


Barbara and Break-Downs

Barbara, the American woman from Alaska, sat shotgun in the X-Trail while Dad drove around on the Altiplano. Well, tried to drive.

After about an hour, Dad stopped to take pictures of the Andes and vicuñas. Barbara, Mom, Ethan, and I waited in the car while Barbara talked about vizcachas, which are closely related to chinchillas. We had seen about five vizcachas on a rocky hill about ten minutes earlier, and Barbara claimed that they were one of her favorite animals.

Dad got back in and turned the key, and we were off.

Except we weren’t.

There was a grating noise and then silence.

The battery was dead—that’s not supposed to happen in a rental car (but Dad already dislikes Europcar).

Lots of semis passed us before a van finally pulled over. It was one of Barbara’s friends from Putre, and he helped Dad start the car. As he left, he said (in Spanish), “Don’t turn it off.”

That meant that one of us had to be babysitting the car at all times, so all six of us couldn’t go down to Lago Chungará at the same time. At Lago Chungará, we saw one Chilean flamingo, lots of giant coots, and some other types of birds, along with the snow-capped mountains. The tallest mountain in Bolivia, just over the border, was hidden by the clouds. Barbara said that the pass between us and the base of the mountain used to be the main Chilean-Bolivian border, but now it’s mined. De-mining efforts are underway, but “no one remembers where the mines are any more.”

On the drive home, we saw llamas, alpacas, and rheas, which were important to me because just two days ago I used the bird to stump Ethan in 20 Questions (I usually win anyway).

Once home, we waited for the thunder to boom, the power to shut off, and the rain to pound on the roof. The first two happened, but, surprisingly, it didn’t rain.


Rheas, Roads, and Rain

In the morning waking up,
showering and eating food,
Drinking juice from a cup,
trying to be in a good mood.

We drive to our guide’s house,
pick her up and drive down, the road with my mom’s spouse.
Away, away, from town.

Seeing deer in numbers,
driving down the road,
trying not to slumber,
seeing fields that were sowed.

Seeing an animal,
right alongside the car
a rodent and mammal,
off of the roadside tar.

Going past the police,
Stopping for some llamas,
Seeing Andean Geese,
Alpacas and their mamas

Looking at flamingoes,
and coots of different kinds,
our time draws to a close,
a rhea we might find.

Reveling in no rain,
coming home and reading,
Wetness would be a pain,
But not at all would eating.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Games & Guanacos

We slept through the alarm again this morning, so Ethan and I got to breakfast a few minutes after eight. We met Barbara, our Alaskan tour guide, there. She drank coffee and talked while Ethan and I munched on crumpets and toast.

After breakfast, Barbara went back to her house near the police station and we got into our car with down jackets, rain jackets, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, and cameras for a drive of a few hours. We decided to go to Belen, which is Spanish for ‘Bethlehem.’ After missing the turn, we got onto the road with curvas. We eventually got to the tiny village of Belen, which was quiet in the early afternoon sun.

Ethan and I climbed the short red bell tower, still covered with confetti and streamers from Carnaval two weeks ago. There’s lots of pink confetti in the gutters of Putre, too, especially the “river” that goes down O’Higgins, the main street. Barbara called it a river—it’s really just a large ditch that divides the muddy road into two lanes.

We didn’t stay in Belen long. Soon we were back on the road on the way back to Putre. It started raining, of course (it is the rainy season. However, it’s also nearly freezing and it’s summer). We passed the construction zone, the tank from a semi that fell down the hill, and where we had seen nine or ten guanacos early this morning. Guanacos are one of the largest species of mammal in South America, along with the manatee, tapir, and jaguar. Their only real predator is the puma, which is, unfortunately, rare.

Other animals in the area include three types of flamingoes, vicuñas, foxes, and viscachas, which are similar to chinchillas.

When we got home, Ethan and I did schoolwork and, once again, played Parcheesi.


Cars and Camalids

Just like yesterday, Eryn and I slept through Eryn’s watch alarm, and my mother was late in trying to get us up. After taking showers, my sister and I joined our parents in the café, and just as we were getting our food, Barbara, an Alaskan and our tour guide, arrived. We chatted with her for a while about what animals we wanted to see, and then she left and we got in the car for a drive.

We went for a while on the rode that we took into town yesterday, and then, at a truck stop, took a road south. We were in the ‘zonas de curvas’ and there were a lot of very pretty flowers. From pink to blue to red, there were lots and lots of different colors that brightened up the day, unlike what would happen if there was only the usual arrangement of dead grass and cactus.

Eventually, we got to the town that we had been driving to; Belen. In Belen, we got out of the car and walked around some of the 4 churches in the central plaza. At the top of a flight of stairs, my sister and I climbed up an open bell tower and looked out over the town that was even smaller than Putre. When we got down, we all hopped into the car and started the drive back home, passing by a hydroelectric plant.

When we got back, Eryn and I worked on schoolwork while my father worked on labeling pictures. When we got bored of that, we took a walk through the rain towards town. In town, we got some fruits for tomorrow’s tour before going over to a restaurant. After the restaurant, we went to a shop, where I bought an alpaca wool scarf while Eryn and Father both bought some ice cream.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling Bird

A red headed condor flies up, up, up. Being the bird of Chile, condors are protected, and Joyjon the condor knows that, but he still remembers the days when people hunted his kind and vultures for feathers. It is nearing evening, and the bird flies over the coastal town of Arica, which sees the least precipitation of all the cities in the world.

Joyjon is a well-traveled bird, having gone from the southern tip of the new world up to Peru to see his relatives and Machu Picchu. He has been to most cities, from Valparaiso to San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago. Now, he was back in his home city, Arica, where he was born on the large rock that overlooks the city.

He flies over Arica, seeing people with blue and black suitcases board onto a taxi and drive off. Joyjon decides to follow them, and follows the four people to number 602 on Chocabuco. It is a rental car place, but there is no one there, and they go off to the Arica Surf House, check in, and go out to eat dinner. When they come back, they act all festive, like it is someone’s birthday, and Joyjon goes to sleep in a park.

When Joyjon wakes up, he decides that he wants to follow the family of four from the Arica Surf house, and sees the man go back to the rental car place and get the car, and when he gets back, the others come with 30 liters of water and some food.  Then they get into the car and drive east towards Putre.

Up on the high Andes, the air is thin, but it felt good for Joyjon to be up there after so long of being around sea level, stealing some fish off of fishing boats when he became really desperate. He tracks the silver SUV up the mountains and to the little town of Putre, where they get out and check in to a lodge. Joyjon decides to see if the hunting is any good, and heads off for the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Arica to Andes

We’re 11,000 feet higher than we were this morning—and it only took three hours of driving for us to go from beach to mountains.

Ethan and I accidentally slept through our alarm this morning, like we did on what we thought would be our last day in Bangkok, Thailand. However, we could still come to Putre, unlike that July morning when we couldn’t get to New Delhi.

We stopped at several viewpoints on the way, but mostly we just sat and drank water to keep off altitude sickness. I’ve had way more water than usual today, as should the rest of my family. Once we got to our hotel in Putre, Ethan and I played Parcheesi (with condors, llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas). He won, unfortunately.

After about two hours, we left for walk in the rain through town. It’s very small, but bigger than I was expecting. I was expecting a small San Pedro de Atacama, but instead it was white (not brown), rainy (not dry), and really, really cold (not warm). We found a place for supper, where Mom and Ethan had vegetable soup and Dad and I had chicken.

So although it sounds like we didn’t do much, our little X-Trail had a huge job.


Ethan’s Getting Old…

Ethan’s birthday is here today

So we all had better say ‘Hurray!’

We rode a bus for eleven hours

And all started off with cold showers

We waited in a bus station

Waiting for some information

About the bus that was going to

Arica, and the desert too

We played Temple Run too long

And I listened to 1D’s song

We each died hundred of times on

Temple Run but kept playing on

In evening light we reached our place

Of destination, hoping for space

In a taxi to Europcar

Where we watched the man go afar

We watched for his counterpart

Who must have decided to depart

While her customers were waiting,

Waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting

Our driver eventually took us out

To our hostel, where we had a bout

With the woman who gave us a key

To room number five-plus-three

In it were only two twin beds

Nowhere for two to put their heads

She went back to the counter and looks

To see if she did it right with the books

Apologetic, she came back

Apparently they seem to lack

Two rooms for a family of four

Ethan and I went knocking on the door

Of number nine, while the parents came up

Then I realized we had nowhere to sup

And that there was only room for two

So there was some more hullabaloo

We finally got a second room

Dad found a place for supper and zoom!

We were out the door and walking

Stopping, seeing it closed and gawking

Gawking at the sign that said,

‘Closed til March 4’ in big red

So off we went, right down the street

Looking for some place to eat

We decided on some pizza

And got it with pig meat- some

Person behind the counter had

Apparently understood them bad

So we all looked forward to the ice

Cream with glad and tired eyes

We took a half liter home with us

Mom bought a muffin in the fuss

We ate the chocolate ice cream

Manjar chips and mango dream

And the banana split til we

Were ready for the birthday he

To open his gifts and watch

The slideshow, made with no botch

By Eryn dearest who sacrificed

Hours of time that were painfully iced

We all got to bed far too late

And wished for morning please to wait

But sun will come how it knows how

And I will say good-night and Ciao!

When in Calama

Pancho, our host in San Pedro de Atacama, told us that he would have recommended us to skip staying the night in Calama, and just take the night bus up to Arica from San Pedro de Atacama, but by then, we had already booked everything that would happen to take us into Calama and out again the next day. Pancho also said that Calama was the ‘ugliest city in Chile’ but that it would be good for us to experience that.

Today we left the hostel and went to town. My father and I rented bikes to ride for an hour, while my sister and mother went out shopping. Father and I went out towards the geysers, and then, about 40 minutes into our hour, we started coming back. Back at the bike rental shop, we got my father’s driver’s license and started towards the hostel. On the way, we stopped and chatted with our Canadian friends from yesterday’s sandboarding.

When we got back to the hostel, my mother and sister were already there, so my mother and I played a game of chess. I won. From there, I watched the Simpsons on the TV while my father chatted with the Brazilian man that went with us three days ago on the full day tour. After that, we got on a bus and went to Calama, where we checked into our hotel to spend the night.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Fire and Ice (Mostly Ice)

Mom and I went shopping this morning in San Pedro before returning to the hostel and surfing the web, waiting for Dad and Ethan to return from their bike ride.

When they returned, Dad struck up a conversation with the Brazilian man who had gone with us on our tour three days ago. All five of us left on the same van to Calama at 1 pm. The ride across the desert lasted about an hour. We got to the Calama airport, where we found a taxi and rode to our hotel.

Our hotel, which is orange and green, had locked doors, and we waited awhile for someone to arrive behind the counter and buzz us in. Eventually they did, and we were shown our room, which is actually two floors and has two bathrooms.

After lounging around for a while, we walked out to the mall. We found a place for supper called ChoppDog. None of us had any dog: Ethan had the Pollo Supreme, Dad had the Mediterranean salad, and Mom and I each had a Pollo Gourmet. My agua sin gas arrived. Thirsty, I eagerly undid the lid only to be soaked with ice-cold water.

“Well, that would explain it.” Ethan pointed out that most of the water was ice. Our waitress offered us a new bottle, but at a price (and it was frozen, too). So we said gracias, but no gracias, and ate our meal.

We went to the supermarket to get breakfast for our long bus ride tomorrow. We didn’t get anything but ice cream, which we ate in the plaza next to the church. When we got back to our colorful hotel, Ethan went to look at the game room. While he was gone, a woman came and gave us breakfasts for tomorrow: chocolate milk, crackers, cookies, bread, and a cereal bar.

At least there’s chocolate!


Sand and Sunset

We went sandboarding today with six other people. The six were as follows:

  •      A couple from Toronto, Canada, named Ted and Jen
  •      A Spanish-speaking threesome of “chicas” who were Diana, Ogre (at least that’s what I heard), and “Ella.” The name Ella comes from the fact that she was the skinny one of the three, and skinny rhymes with Minnie. Minnie Mouse is at Disneyland, and the first Disney character I thought of was Cinderella
  •      Another woman with a shirt that read “Made With Love,” so she is Olive (because it sounds like I-love. Sort of)

The guide only went down the hill once because of his knees. I went down seven times, and I would say that the first and last times were the best. Ted was definitely the best of our inexperienced little group. Jen was second, Ethan was third, and I don’t know the ranks from then on because Diana, Ogre, and Ella only went down a couple of times, and I don’t remember Olive going down. (Mom and Dad didn’t ride.)

We used wax every-other-ride (so you could call it wax on, wax off). I didn’t really notice a difference, but that was fine with me. I never did get the hang of leaning forward and stopping. Some of my friends snowboard, and I’m really, really glad I ski.

At about eight, we all got back in the van and drove along the road. It was kind of scary seeing the drop-offs that were created by the rain. San Pedro de Atacama normally receives 2 millimeters of precipitation a year (yes, 2). They received 43 millimeters in one day, which is insane by comparison. So there are lots of ruts, wash-outs, and places where the road was.

We drove to a look-out point above Valley of the Moon. We watched sunset from there, drinking jugo de piña and cerveza.

For supper, we had the delicious pizza. While we were standing and waiting, our driver from two days ago- Felipe- drove by and said hola.


Speeding with a Sandboard

Jen, Ted, Eryn, Mother, Father, three young women, and I went sandboarding today. Jen and Ted are backpacking around the world for six and a half months, ending up in Sydney, Australia, where they plan to live and work…For a little while at least. The three young women spoke mostly Spanish, but knew some English.

We all got in a van at the office and went off to Death Valley, where we planned to sandboard. The road was very washed out, but by going in a zig-zag line and not looking over the edge, we made it to the dunes.

The first thing that I noticed was that it was a tall dune. Tall dunes are nice when one is at sea level, but up at 7500 feet, it is less fun. We went up the dunes and got our bindings on, before I zoomed slowly down the hill. At the bottom, I climbed back up again, starting a cycle where I went down and then up, over and over again.

On my last run, I went from a high point and did spins, going down, down, down, trying not to get sand in my eyes while still trying not to slow down too much. At the bottom, we packed up the sandboards and left for the Moon Valley, for sunset.

While waiting for sunset to happen, I made a stack of rocks almost as tall as I was, testing its strength by throwing rocks at it and watching it not fall down. After sunset, when we left, I saw an annoying man tossing rocks at my beautiful tower. I hope it is still standing.

That’s all for now, Folks!

So Long, Farewell

After two days of doing almost the exact same thing, the Australians split from our schedule. Joy, the sister-in-law of David, left early this morning before we even woke up, but we saw David and Gloria, his wife, at breakfast. During breakfast, we talked about their schedule, they were leaving at two.

We spent the whole morning vegging around, poring over our electronics. My mother and I went out and did some shopping, and my mother got a table cloth at a local shop. When we got back, we talked about what to do, and in the end we voted to go on a sandboarding trip tomorrow evening, with the parents just watching the kids go sandboarding.

On our walk to our daily ice cream, we stopped at several sandboarding places and got some information about times and such before finally eating our ice cream in the plaza. When we got back to the hostel, the Australian couple was gone, and we got ready to go on a walk to an abandoned city, which we did, after a 3 km walk, and then we ate dinner, which was very delicious, with quinoa and other scrumptious items.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Panting in Pukara

The Pukara of Quitor was our destination today. We only reached it after about four kilometers and fourteen hours of dithering.

According to the brochure, it was builit* on a splope of the Cordillera de la Sal. These buildings on Cordillera de la Sal included rooms like kitchens, patios, and roofles estructures.

We were told not to follow the arrows through the ruins but to just go up the path quickly because the area closed in one hour (8 pm). Up we went on the switchbacks. It took longer than we had thought it would. Dad and I zoomed on ahead while Mom and Ethan brought up the rear. It took about forty minutes to reach the top. This time included admiring the views and panting (just not in my case. The panting part, I mean).

At the top we took a few pictures, and Dad pointed out that we could almost see Bolivia. It went around the opposite edge of a caldera on a volcano we could see (according to him), meaning that Chile owns the whole caldera.

We walked down, Mom holding Dad’s hand so she wouldn’t fall and Ethan and I talking about what to do when we get home—a common enough subject.

It’s now 10:20 pm and we’ve finally had supper. My chicken and salad were very good, but my favorite part was the quinoa that Mom and Ethan ordered.

*this spelling (along with splope, roofles, and estructures) was used in the official Chile Turismo Rural brochure


Isn’t it CUTE!

The baby vicuña ran down the dusty dirt road, going this way and that, trying to find a way out of the road and up the hill to where its parents were. The driver was unsympathetic, driving the baby down the road away from the others. Suddenly, out of the shadows, there rang a high-pitched voice,

“Isn’t it CUTE!!!”

The light changed and the new lighting showed that the speaker was my mother. We figured that she wasn’t talking about the driver, but we couldn’t be sure, so we kept our mouths shut. Eventually, the vicuña found a spot where it could scramble up the slope and all was well.

That is what happened during our full day tour in the Atacama Desert and Salar. We started out in a large van with the Australian man and women, another man from our hostel, a Bolivian woman, and a couple from London. We started out by going to a town where we saw some llamas and some hand knitted sweaters, blankets, and mittens. After that we went to some flamingo lakes out in the salt pans, and then went high up into the mountains.

After going far up and seeing two lagoons, we went back down, and that was where we saw what happened in the first paragraphs. Then we went down to the valley, ate lunch, and drove back to our hostel, where I played chess with David and Joy, his sister-in-law, the teacher.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Flora, Fauna, and, Foremost, Flamingoes

We went to yet another lagoon today. Actually, it was just one in a system of lagoons in Parque Nacional Los Flamencos. It was called Laguna Chaxa, and it’s home to three types of flamingoes: Andean flamingoes, Chilean flamingoes, and James’s flamingoes. James’s flamingoes only come down to Chaxa in winter when the lagoons at which they normally stay have frozen.

Andean flamingoes are considered one of the rarest types of flamingoes on Earth. We have no idea which type we saw today—either Chilean or Andean, obviously. Looking at my pictures, I believe we saw both.

Besides flamingoes, we also saw some three lizards and vicuñas. Vicuñas’ wool is very, very expensive, more so than that of the llama and alpaca. (We got to see some wild llamas and two in the back of a store in the town of Toconau, which is also the name of the street on which we’re staying.) Because of poaching, in the 1970s, the numbers of the vicuña were down to 6,000, at which point they were recognized as an endangered species. In both the times of Inca rule and now, vicuñas were protected by law. There are now over 350,000 in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, with an introduced colony in Ecuador. Peru is home to the most of these mammals.


There were eleven tourists, one driver, and one guide (Felipe) in our van. There was an older couple from London, the three from Australia who we met yesterday (Joy, Gloria, and David), the four of us, and two Brazilians who are, as far as we know, unrelated. The Brazilian man is from Rio de Janeiro and he is staying at our hostel. He speaks English. The woman does not.

After the lagoon, we stopped in a town to place our lunch orders and look at an old church. Then we went higher up into the mountains in the little van that could, passing vicuñas and various types of birds. We eventually stopped at the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons. Miscanti is the bigger one of the two. Cerro Miscanti and the Miñiques volcano loom in the background. Miscanti was separated from Miñiques when Miñiques the mountain erupted and lava came into the lagoon.

We drove back down the mountains from 12,000 feet to about 9,000 feet where we had lunch. All four of us opted for the vegetarian meal: soup, rice, quinoa, tomato, an omelet, and, for dessert, bananas with jam. Everyone else got all that except for the omelet—some got beef, some got chicken. We talked to the English couple. Her favorite place is Sri Lanka, while he likes Peru.

On the drive home we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn and took pictures. Now we’re back at the hostel. Ethan’s playing chess with Joy (one of the Australians) while Dad naps and Mom tries to use the iPad.


Salty Seas in the Salar

A lagoon was our destination today. It is in Salar de Atacama. It was about 30% salt, making floating easy and swimming next to impossible (according to Ethan—the rest of us declined to do anything but wade). Towards the bottom of the lagoon is lithium. Salar de Atacama is, in fact, the world’s best (largest and purest) source of lithium. It produces 30% of the world’s lithium carbonate, followed by China.

We rode in a bus there with twenty of our new best friends after a rather uneventful morning. Well, there was one exception: Dad cut part of Mom’s cast off with a table knife.


“When you write your post, make sure the audience knows that he had the doctor’s permission,” Mom told Ethan and I at supper. “Don’t let them think that it was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on my arm.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “It was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on your arm on doctor’s orders.”

Mom’s doctor in Valdivia gave permission for Dad to cut the cast down to below the elbow as he was worried about elbow movement. This was last resort—he expected there to be a doctor in San Pedro de Atacama with a saw. He was wrong, but several inches of the cast were removed, along with zero bits of flesh.


Once we got home from the lagoon, Ethan rinsed off the salt and Dad asked Pancho, the owner of our hostel, about a place for supper. We went to a pizzeria that, much to Dad’s delight, had thin crust. We ordered two family sized pizzas and a salad. The pizzas were chicken, corn, and red pepper and avocado, palm heart, and mushroom. Both were very good, especially once thoroughly doused with vinegar.


Cast Cutting Cast

Jerry: Doctor, Orthopedic Surgeon, Steak Knife Wielder

Susan: Patient, Cast Owner

Ethan: Assistant Doctor, Holder of Gigantic Scissors and Steak Knife

Eryn: Media

On doctor’s orders, my father cut some of my mother’s cast off today, making her be able to bend her elbow, and she is very pleased with that. The time that we did the operation was about midday, when the sun was shining directly on us. My father got a plain old steak knife from the kitchen and I got a pair of scissors from the laundry room, before going to the operating chair, where my mother was seated and wincing in anticipation.

My father began by cutting horizontally around where he was going to make the final cut, and then did a vertical cut. With a rip, he took a chunk of the cast off, tossing it in the trash can that I had brought along. He continued on doing this until he got it close down to the first cut, and then used the scissors to cut off the final bit off cotton and cast.

After all of that was done and another few hours had slipped away, we went on a tour with some Brisbanites from Australia. They were very talkative once we got to the lagoon, and David talked about his home in Queensland. His wife and sister in law, pharmacist and teacher, respectively, were with him on an annual 4-week trip around South America. They were all very nice.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Traveling on Thursday

This morning I woke up and lay in my bed, looking down at the pillow and seeing the light spill into my room from the bathroom. I heard my sister get annoyed and heard the words ‘water’ and ‘not working.’ So I literally put one and one together and figured out that the water was not working. I didn’t get to take a shower.

After lugging all of our luggage down to the bottom of our staircase, our driver, Louis, came and picked us up to take us to the Santiago Airport. I slept the whole way, so I don’t know what happened, if anything. When we got to the airport, we got in the line and waited our way through to the check-in, where we checked our bags and got our boarding passes.

Security was fast, luckily, so when we got to the gate, they were right about to leave, and we weren’t left behind to find another way to Calama. As I said, we were right on time, and we caught our flight to Calama. Calama is a mining town, popping up when there was a mine of copper found nearby. When we touched down in Calama, we saw that it was a small airport, and when we got inside, we had no trouble locating our travel service to San Pedro de Atacama.

I, as usual, slept the whole ride, and woke up when we arrived, seeing mud and brick walls, bicycles, dogs, and people. For a population of about 1500 people, a lot of them are dedicated to the tourist industry. The hostel that we are staying in is nice, nicer than in Uluru, but not so nice as, say, the MD House. But it is okay.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Sky Plane to San Pedro

We got up way, way too early this morning to not take a shower: there was some maintenance work down the hill and I’m pretty sure they thought that no one in their right mind on Cerro Bellavista would be having a shower at 3:30 a.m.

Our driver came, thankfully, on time and we arrived in Santiago on time to catch our short flight by Sky Airlines to Calama (also in Chile). From there we rode in a van to San Pedro de Atacama, just a few kilometers from Bolivia.

We caught up on some rest at our hostel before looking up things to do and heading out to the town. What do you do here? You go on tours to see nature. And you sleep in hostels, drink coca tea, and eat llama burgers. (We are not going to do that! We know a llama near our house. I am not eating llama.)

We did none of the above. Instead we looked at the clinic (where Mom will visit again tomorrow), ate ice cream, and watched National Geographic in Spanish. It was about crocodiles in Australia—making us think, We’ve been there! One even ate a kangaroo, which would have been pretty awesome. Not for the kangaroo, I mean. For us.

Anyway, we made some reservations for tours and then went out for supper. Dad and I had vegetable soup, salmon, and rice. Mom had salad, chicken, and rice, and Ethan had soup, chicken, and rice. For dessert we all had a spongy square of something lemony.

“It tastes like soap—which makes sense, since it’s a sponge,” I commented. Everyone else enjoyed theirs. (Mine was okay too, once I got used to it.)


Walking on Wednesday

The most interesting part of our day was spent doing something that is not very interesting; walking. When we left this afternoon to get some sandwiches for a lunch-dinner to get to bed early tonight, my mother had picked the place where she thought we should go.

Of we went…We went over to another street and then down some of the ubiquitous steps. Before we went down a set, though, my father pointed out another direction that we should go to get to where we wanted to go. We went down the hill for a while before arriving at a street. We decided that we were on the wrong street, and went down the hill to a large intersection and then up a one-way street. After following the twists and turns through a neighborhood, we decided that we were on the wrong street and that, actually, the one that we had come in on was the correct one.

Back in the intersection, we went up the one that had brought us there in the first place and up. It seemed like a more likely place to have the restaurant, but there was no restaurant in sight, even though we went up a long ways. We finally all agreed that we were on the wrong street (again!) and went back down and to the other street that went up the hill that we hadn’t been on.

About one block up, we came upon the restaurant that we had been searching for one hour. Sadly though, after all of that walking, we were barred from the entrance and shown a sign that said that it was a bar and there were no children under the age of 18 allowed, but in Spanish.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Disappointments on a Down Day

Today was our last day in Valparaiso, so guess how we spent it?

Looking for lunch!

Mom chose El Pimentón after hours of lounging around, doing schoolwork, drawing, and typing (and all sorts of other exciting stuff!). Oh, and Dad napped (even more exciting!).

Anyway, this morning was kind of low-key.


On TripAdvisor, someone said that the rush at El Pimentón started at 1 pm. We left at two so as to (hopefully) get there after the rush.

We walked up Rainbow Alley (really called Santa Margarita) and up to Hector Calvo. After a few blocks heading downhill, we turned off onto Chopin (another side alley). Then we turned onto Walker Martinez (another alley), passing Strauss on the way. Finally we got down to Yerbas Buenas. Dad, looking at a map on his phone (which is not exactly correct) said that it was down a few blocks. So we went down and got to a four-way intersection. We decided to go General Mackenna. After about 100 meters or so, Dad realized it was the wrong street. So back we marched up Yerbas Buenas, passing Walker Martinez, Julio Caesar, and, finally, Eden.

“Okay, so you know that intersection back there?” Dad asked.


“Well, we were supposed to take the other street.”

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo… back we went down Yerbas Buenas and up Ecuador. It was just one block up. And then we read the sign: (in Spanish) No minors under the age of 18 permitted.


We went down to the plaza where we had the (not very good) raspberry-mint ice cream a few days ago and found a place for lunch. Dad and I shared a salad and spaghetti, and Mom and Ethan had pizza. While we were there, we finally looked up maneki-neko. Maneki-neko are those cats that wave their arms. White symbolizes luck in general, black is for good health, and gold means monetary fortune.

Plaza Victoria was our next destination, and I got my typical cinnamon ice cream. Dad ordered a cup with chocolate, cherimoya, and lucuma. I didn’t really care for the latter two, but the chocolate mixed with the cinnamon was, as always, delicioso.


Pen Names and Puro

Well, it seems like Valparaiso is a pretty good place for “down days.” Today the only touristy thing we did was go to La Sebastiana, the home of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Before that, Dad and Ethan mailed home our box while Mom and I went shopping.

Pablo Neruda was originally the pen name and eventually legal name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose the name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.

We went down to Puro Café, where we ate three sandwiches, one quesadilla, and one baguette along with Dad’s mocha and four 350-milliliter bottles of water. We sat around the table talking for a long time before going to get ice cream. Dad was majorly disappointed in the flavor selection but went ahead with getting the half-liter anyway. He ended up getting coconut, cappuccino, raspberry, and Italian chocolate. I got Cappuccino, and Ethan chose Italian chocolate and raspberry. (Dad had been hoping for cinnamon and orange.)

Apparently Carnaval ended today, which is when we thought it was starting. Oh, well. I guess the people here don’t do much for it anyway.


Posting and a Poet

We left around noon, as usual, and went down the hill with a large box to mail home. We talked as we walked and named a new cat, which is on the top of the list:

Name Description
Tiger Black and orange stripes, white belly
Olga Black with white feet
Azul Gray and black spots on brown with a blue collar
Rosetta Gray with a Pink collar
Pineapple Black with orange spots
Midnight Black
Bassy (short for Basket-Case) White with orange back; sleeps in a basket most of the day
Jasmine White with gray spots
Micky White with orange back, really skinny
Africa Black with orange spots, smooth fur, skinny tail
Pillar Black with orange spots, askew fur and wide tail


As you can see, we have named a lot, and we have also named some dogs, but I have decided not to go into that today. As I said: We were walking down the hill, and then, my father, who was carrying the large, heavy box, slid on the slippery tile work that goes down the center of the sidewalk and fell. Luckily, he never let go of the box and fell on his butt, so it wasn’t too bad, but his left leg got all bloody.

After dropping off the box at the post office, we went all the way up the hill to the house of the poet Neruda. The house looked large from the outside, but on the inside it only had one bedroom. Still, it was a cool house because each floor was smaller than the one before itself. On the very top, there was only one room, which was the poet’s study. It had a very good view.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A-rhyming Ascencors

In the morning we got out of bed,
lined up at the table to get fed.
Doing some schoolwork to get ahead,
trying not to just go back to bed.

Leaving around noon or there about,
Going to the stairs for another bout.
Walking, walking, always towards the hill,
we always seem to be staying still.

From then on we went towards the hill, finally stopping where there was a tunnel going straight into the side of the hill like a wound bleeding humans. We decided to go in and when we got to the end, we took an elevator up. The called the whole thing an Ascensor. It was probably my favorite one that we have ever rode.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Sweets and Sandwiches

We walked alllllllll the way over to Ascensor Polanco, which is actually an elevator. First you walk up a hill to get to the bottom. Then you enter a long, damp tunnel and walk to the elevator. It goes up to floors and voila! You’re at a wooden platform with telescopes surrounding a yellow tower. Floor 2 led to a street that we used to go back down the hill and to the post office.

I finally found the church near our house after much exasperation on the part of the rest of my family at my apparent blindness. We couldn’t find out house, but that was expected.

After the post office, where we bought a box, we continued on our way to ice cream at Plaza Victoria. Mom got Italian chocolate in a cone, Ethan got mandarin orange in a cup, Dad got mandarin orange, Italian chocolate, and marshmallow-cappuccino in a cup, and I got marshmallow-cappuccino and banana in a cone. Mom’s cone dripped all down her hand and ruined the napkins, so those were no help to her or me, either, since mine dripped. The people at the ice cream place don’t know how to squish ice cream, apparently.

Dad and I got some more cash at Ripley while Mom went with Ethan to buy juice. Ethan got a cup of orange-raspberry juice that was very, very sour.

For supper, Mom wanted us to go to Color Café, but it was full. After some more looking around in the Concepcion area, we went to La Belle Epoque. There we ordered sandwich: avocado and palm heart for Mom, gouda for Ethan, and avocado and chicken for Dad and me. Thankfully Ascensor Reina Victoria was still open at 10 pm.


What’s Shakin?

Today held the first earthquake of which Ethan and I have been fully aware. It happened while we were standing in the produce department of the grocery store and wondering what to get for supper (it ended up being broccoli and pasta). It was either a 5 or a 5.7—both happened at the same time in about the same place.

We also found out that Chile is the home of three of the top 10 biggest earthquakes ever—including number one, a 9.5. It happened in Valdivia, Chile, where we were just a few days ago, in May 1960. The most recent big one was 8.8 in 2010.


Mother said that it sounds really sad that first we had the brownie course, and right after that we had ice cream. Well, that’s not fully true: I had a few bites of brownie, a bottle of water, and a sandwich. So I deserved my calories. I was not, however, expecting the raspberry-mint sherbet, that was not very good. The orange-chocolate and pepper-chocolate ice creams were good, but there wasn’t enough to go ’round.

From the café on Cerro Concepcion we walked to an ascensor, Reina Victoria, and rode down. It was actually the first time we rode down on an ascensor. The beginning was a little breath-taking, but it was only forty meters long.


Quakes, Rides, and Sugar

We left the house this morning at about noon. We first walked up and looked at a large church right up our hill that had been ringing its bells recently before going down another street until its end. The end of the road was actually just the end of where one could drive, and there were stairs going down the hill from there on. We took a staircase down and passed a cat eating leaves off a bush, though it could have just been scratching.

At the bottom of the stairs, we took a right and then took a left, heading towards the port. We passed by a plaza called Plaza Anibal Pinto where there were good looking ice cream flavors. We voted to keep going towards Cerro Concepción, a hill that we had been to a few days ago with on our walking tour, also holding the number one rated restaurant in all of Valparaiso and its 43 hills. We went over to the Ascensor Concepción and paid 300 Chilean Pesos each to go up the hill the fast way. With a lurch, we went up the hill.

We walked for a while before arriving at the door of the Baker Street Café that wasn’t on Baker Street. Inside, we ate sandwiches and brownies and drinking chocolate submarines (chocolate and hot milk), Mochachinos, and water and sugaring ourselves up before deciding to go back to the ice cream plaza and get some more sugar. Yum!

After the ice cream, we decided to go to the supermarket to buy supplies and food to eat at home tonight and to have actual cereal, not just cereal that tasted like the box it came out of.  At the market, we were buying some vegetables when suddenly, the ground lurched, and all the ceiling signs and the bananas started swinging back and forth but it stopped just as abruptly as it had started. I thought it was really fun, as it was my first earthquake, but my mother wasn’t as enthusiastic about the quake.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Swinging in a Ship

Back when we were in South Africa, in Cape Town, the reader may recall that we went to an amusement park called Ratanga Junction. There, and other places as well, there were large ship-like rides that worked like giant swings. Well, there is one here in Valparaiso that is only about US$1 to ride. It is in a park near our apartment and is very fun: I know that because I rode it.

After eating breakfast this morning, we vegged around a while on the couch doing crossword puzzles and such before finally deciding to go out on a walk to see the ocean, see the arch, look at some parks, and eat ice cream. We achieved all of those, but the part that was most interesting to me was when I went on the swinging ship.

We had walked down the hill and had completed the last thing on our list; eating ice cream, and were browsing through the parks. We went through the one that we had been by earlier and then went on to the one on the other side of a far street. There were several swings and a couple of small rides, the one that looked the most fun was the swinging ship.

I coughed up my $500 Chilean Pesos and got my token to ride. When another person got their token, she and I got to ride on opposite ends. It started up, and with a creak and a groan we started to swing higher and higher and faster and faster until we were nearly vertical. With that vertical swinging, I was very glad that there was a bar across my lap holding me down. Eventually, I was brave enough to hold my arms up for two full swings at full power before holding onto the pole again.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Gatos and Great Food

I always thought that dogs howling to the sound of a fire truck’s siren was an urban legend. Well, today I was wrong—someone should write that down; it doesn’t happen very often. It was startling to hear that as I typed away on the computer, Dad napped, and Mom and Ethan read.

After I had been on the computer a while, we left for supper at Espiritu Santo. We tried to eat there last night but they were fully booked, so its English-speaking owner reserved us a table at Amaya and we made reservations for tonight.

There was only one vegetarian dish: a plate with an orange sauce and eight pieces of ravioli. Ethan chose that. Then there were three fish dishes without any other type of meat: two dishes of rockfish and one of Patagonian toothfish, a type of sea bass. Dad chose the last option and enjoyed the warm salad (originally I thought our waitress said “worm salad”) more than the fish itself, which he said was bland. Mom and I chose two separate dishes of rockfish.

Mom’s was a filet on top of mashed potatoes in a pool of a spicy orange sauce. It was spicy as in it had lots of different spices, not as in it was hot and burning. I chose the rockfish filet on a warm salad, but mine was in a lemon sauce, unlike Dad’s, which had a sweet sauce.

Mom’s pineapple juice was good, too, and each of us had a sip while we talked about Yellowstone National Park and what we want from home (things like all the boxes in the tower and Emma won’t fit in my uncle’s suitcase).

We walked home the long way, through the alley, onto Rudolph, then up Ferrari and our own Rainbow Alley (that’s what I’m calling it now, because of the painted stairs). Our friend the “grrr…BARK! BARK! BARK!” dog wasn’t there, sadly. The way he growled before he barked at us two days ago kind of endeared him to me.

Ethan and I did, however, find three of the cats. The fourth one wandered by, and we decided to name them. First was the fat yellow cat: Bassy, short for Basketcase because he spent a lot of time in his basket.

Next came the black cat, who jumped so elegantly onto the next house that I named her Olga, after gymnast Olga Korbut. She was followed by Pillar, the brown, black, and white cat who sat on the pillar, and Mickey, who was the thin yellow cat. Unfortunately, Bassy is the only one who was brave enough to be petted.

“Did it bite you?” Ethan asked as I came up Rainbow Alley.

“No,” I said, “but its mouth started following my hand, so I left.”


Waking and Walking; a day in Valparaiso

Today was a day where we got some of the exercise that the body needs every day. The reason for that is that we went up and down the long flights of stairs near our house to get away and to it 3 times throughout the course of the day when the sun was in the sky and when the first stars were starting to come out of the blanket of darkness that had settled around us, blotting out all glimpses of the sun as it continued to light other parts of the earth in our continuing circle around the star.

We woke up and ate the breakfast that we had bought at a supermarket last night before sitting around and reading books. After that, we arranged a tour from ‘Tours 4 Tips’ with Nacho, and then went into town to look for money to pay our guide, Benjamin. When the guide arrived and after we had gone up the flights of stairs once to get back from the bank, it turned out that he was not Benjamin, that Benjamin was busy, and that our new guide’s name was Francisco. As the tour was a walking tour, we went by foot until reaching the bottom of our hill (one of 43 in the city) and taking a trolley bus over to the port. The reason for the trolley bus, our guide had explained, was because it took a long time to get to the port by foot and he didn’t want to use up our precious time of 3 hours.

At the port, we got off the bus and looked out across the blue-green water filled with boats of all shapes and sizes, from great cruise ships, to small fishing boats, to cargo boats, almost every type of boat was accounted for. While he explained how there were a lot of poor people around begging and pickpocketing from people, a beggar came up as though top prove his point. We looked out over the Navy building, which was blue, and under one of the arches, an ornate plaque with curls said ‘Armada de Chile,’ the Armada of Chile. Out in the harbor, there were also several large, gray, metal, dull, Navy ships, sitting by the edge of the port, as if being springs, waiting for someone or something to push their luck to far and have them push them away, maybe down to Davy Jones’ locker, but who knows?

From there on, we walked along one of the streets and imagined it in its former glory, all stonework, buzzing, humming, and alive with people, sounds, smells, and sights. All normal sights, except now, instead of having people on balconies lining up their laundry on a line or listening to the radio with a beer and a friend or two, there is nothing but boarded up windows and crumbling banisters, supporting arches cracked under their weight that they have been bearing for years, not complaining as they are stone, unyielding until the end. Another house that we went into also used to be full of glory, though it had not lost as much of its grandeur. It still had green onyx steps and English oak floorboards, still carved doors and banisters and wall panels. But in the end, under it all, there was an incompleteness;  the onyx was cracked, the floorboards faded and scuffed, the carvings on doors were, in some cases, almost completely rubbed away by people touching them. The roof used to be glass, classy and in style. Now someone has replaces that style and touch with some thin corrugated material, yellow and blue and hardly held together. In the end, it was an almost pitiful display of what was once one of the richest streets in all of Latin America now reduced to shambles.

We went back out of what used to be the rich section and went up an ascencio, which is like an elevator that goes up hills on a track like a train on a very steep incline. At the top, we paused for a minute and marveled at the architecture of a building that turned out to be a free museum that we didn’t have time to go to at the moment, but planned to later. We then heard about how graffiti artists respected the street artists and if you had your house painted by a street artist, most of the ‘taggers’ wouldn’t touch your house. We walked past several up-to-date restaurants with views and a large selection of wine and immersed ourselves in learning why there were small, de-elevated sections in the middle of some alleys; they were for horses and rainwater and horse poop, to wash it all away when the rains came, letting there be a clean slate to start over again. We then walked down several streets and into a trolley car and then back up our hill, making it twice. Eventually, we went out to eat, and then down the hill for ice cream, having to come back up again to get home for the night, making it three times coming up the hill to go home.

That’s all for now, Folks!

San Francisco

Francisco took us on a three-hour walking tour of part of Valparaiso. He met us in our flat at 3 pm and we walked down the rainbow staircase, down the streets, and onto a trolley. Apparently, we rode on the oldest one in the city. We rode it for a few minutes to the port, where we got off and Francisco led us down to the water where he gave us the official introduction to the tour. There were three boats in the water with Canadian flags and similar names: I Love Nikol, I Love Jennifer, and I Love Nikol Teresa. Francisco said that the names and flags were just to make the town feel multicultural.

Valparaiso has many cultures because of the California gold rush of 1849. Valparaiso was a stopping point on the route around the tip of the continent, and it was a wealthy city until the Panama Canal was built. Francisco showed us a hotel built by an Italian the same year as the Canal was finished (1914). The Italians packed up and left, and the building now looks like “a nuclear bomb hit it.”

We crossed the street and went to Guillermo Rivera’s house. He was very rich as he was influential in a war and creating school uniforms.

As we stood next to the square, listening to Francisco talk about the square and monument of Arturo Prat, there was a loud beeping.

“Helado! Helado-lado! Beep! Beep! Helado-lado!” a man called, toting his freezer on a dolly. “Helado!” (That’s a common sound here—almost like “Chai-chai! Chai-chai!” at the train stations in India.)

We went on a funicular and rode up instead of taking the stairs. It is 111 years old and called El Peral. At the top, Francisco explained that if you let street artists paint your house, you can avoid getting graffiti. We then turned onto an alley.

“I wonder why there’s a sidewalk on a pedestrian street,” I said to Dad.

“Can anyone tell me why the sidewalk is a lot higher here?” Francisco asked. Ethan piped up with “Trash!” Francisco beamed. “And what else? There are horses here. And what to horses leave?”

There was a long pause before Dad answered, “Poop.” Francisco seemed proud as he sa9d, “That’s right! But what wouldn’t use the low part?”

“Dogs,” Ethan replied.

“Excellent! You are very bright.”



2 Days ago, Yesterday, and Today, or an Adventure to Valparaiso

Two Days Ago:

We woke up and ate pie and fruit for breakfast before waiting outside of the hostel for the man with a tour bus to take us away from Valdivia for a day and go around to waterfalls and such. When our tour guide arrived, he was with a lady who, unlike himself, could speak some English.

We were off. Our first stop wasn’t really a stop as such, we just waited for a ferry to come to our side of the river and take us to the other. From there we went to a gravel bed in a turn of the river and climbed up past blackberry vines, eating some, to the railway bridge that spanned the bridge.

The bridge was not in use anymore, and José, our guide, and I walked along the ties, jumping from one to the next all the way across the river. Everyone else walked along the edge where there was a handrail. At the far side of the river, we went by a house and ate some apples, took pictures of flowers, and then walked back across the river on the bridge.

From there we went to several other places, not the least of which was Huilo Huilo, a waterfall that had enough mist to make a rainbow visible through a camera. Other things that we did included walking by a church, walking on the beach of the lake, kicking stones off a cliff, and eating dinner near Argentina.


Yesterday we didn’t do much; we walked along the waterfront in Valdivia and tried out the regional drink-Mote con Hueslos or something along those lines- before walking to the mall for some ice cream.

After ice cream, we walked for a while before going back to the hostel, getting our stuff, and going to the bus station. At the bus station, we waited, and right on time, in one of the slots, appeared our 2130 hrs. bus to take us to Santiago. We got on the bus and went off to sleep, and when we awoke, we were in Santiago.


We waited…and waited, but our appointed driver never showed up. Eventually, he called back and said that he sent a representative for himself to take us to where we needed to go; Valparaiso.

The new driver showed up soon, and with his good English skills, began to show us around Santiago in his van and walking. After walking around for about an hour, we got back in the van and started our drive away from Santiago. Eventually, after a very long tunnel, we got some lunch-chicken legs. From there we drove all the way to Valparaiso and got checked into our apartment, where we are now.

That’s all for now, Folks!

Leonardo, Leoncio, and Leonardo DiCaprio

The bus was waaay too hot. It was nice and cool in Santiago, though, where we waited for two hours for our no-show driver Leonardo. He did send in his friend Leoncio Carrasco Jaque, though, who took us on a tour of the city for a couple hours before we headed into the countryside and toward Valparaiso.

We learned that the judicial and executive branches of government are located in Chile’s capital, but the legislative branch is in the seaside town of Valparaiso.

On the way out, Leoncio told us that the ninjas (police on motorbikes) and female cops are stricter than the others. After about an hour, we got to a restaurant where Mom had chicken soup, Ethan ate chicken with papas fritas, Leoncio ordered beef with salad, and Dad and I chose chicken with salad (and lots of vinegar!).

It was delicious, but the mora meringue  we had after was too sweet for me.


Valparaiso is very pretty at night. It’s also very hilly, and the door to our apartment is in the middle of a staircase. The stairs are decorated in squares of pink, yellow, green, orange, blue, and white paint. Because of our large lunch, we didn’t have any supper. We did, however, enjoy ice cream in the plaza after getting groceries. Dad had coconut, frambuesa, and Italian chocolate, Mom licked away at her frambuesa cone, Ethan got something else instead of papaya, and I enjoyed my coconut ice cream heartily.

The plaza is a great place to experience the life of Valparaiso in the evening. It may also be a prime Carnaval spot—Carnaval starts in less than a week, and we’ll still be here.


Tights-Rope Walker

It was nice not to be blinded by the lights outside last night or awakened by yowling cats.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel before heading out, knowing we had to have mote con huesillo now or never. We walked along Rio Calle Calle, rounded the corner, and found a vendor selling mote con huesillo. Dad sent Ethan over to buy the drinks. He finally returned, the cups full to overflowing, and we walked over to the steps to sit down so that Mom could handle the spoon. The syrup originally seemed sickly sweet, but the peach juice started to seep into the sugary water, and it tasted better.

When we were done, I noticed that some foolish pedestrian had spit their gum onto the step where my leg was. That was so gross.

We walked farther down the river to a man who was helping kids walk across a two-inch belt of elastic. It was four feet in the air and not very comfortable to fall upon with it between your legs. At least, I’m assuming that. The guy who did that didn’t look very happy.

Ethan did it, and the man who helped him was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and black tights. So Ethan and I dubbed him The Tights-Rope Walker. Ethan only fell off once, but there is photographic evidence. We walked around aimlessly some more, had pizza on the island, and eventually wandered back to the hostel where we got our luggage before trudging down the street to the bus station where we got on the Tur-Bus. It actually wasn’t late!


All About Eve

Today we woke up really early after a bad night’s sleep. After showers and the same old breakfast, we got in José’s van with Evelyn, who speaks English. Evelyn’s boyfriend is from Croatia. They met on a cruise on which she was a photographer. She’s very well-traveled; Venice and Costa Rica are among her favorite places. (Her list of Countries I’ve Been To would include Montenegro, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Mexico, USA, and Bermuda.) She’s also traveled to Tunisia, as she was on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

“It was hot as anything,” Evelyn assured us. “We rode camels. I thought they were nice, but mine tried to bite me.”

Our first stop was an old train bridge that we crossed. Mom, Evelyn, Dad, and I stayed near the edge while Ethan and José walked in the middle where there were empty spaces.

Obviously we survived that “ordeal,” and we continued on to the next bridge. We didn’t cross this one (except in the van), but we did walk down the ravine to the riverbed. It had gotten cool and misty, and I was shivering.

Back in the car, we rode for a few more hours, stopping several times, before getting to Puerto Fuy, where we had lunch. All of us had the same thing: chicken with rice, bread with chancho en piedra (a sauce made with garlic, onion, tomato, chili, and cilantro. Literally, it means “pig in stone”), and Tuttifrutilla juice, which was a mix of plum, apple, and strawberry. José discovered that something was wrong with the AC in the car that presumably had to do with the person who backed into us in a town near the lake. Oh, well. We could live without it.

José drove us to Salta Huilo-Huilo (our original destination) where Ethan was disappointed as there was no place to swim. The falls themselves were impressive, but I liked the two nearby hotels, connected by swinging bridges, better.


The drive home was a long one. The only interruption was when a cow jumped in front of the car and froze like a deer.


Playing in a Park

We woke up this morning and did everything as usual right until we walked out of the electronically-opening gate. The only exception was that my mother and I walked to the laundry facilities and dropped off a load to be washed, dried, and ready to pick up at the end of the day.

We walked down the river towards the omnibus terminal where we had come in at night, and went past that a ways. When we got to a street corner, we looked at our map and there was supposed to be a tower right at that corner, but it had seemingly disappeared. We walked up this new street, and there another block up the street was a small tower that had been a dungeon.

We saw a park nearby, and presumed that it was the large park that we had seen on the map. It wasn’t. After sitting on some of the benches for a while, we saw some trees that looked like the park that we wanted and went over there, stopping on the way for some ice cream. At the large park, as it was the large park, we lounged around on the exercise equipment and the playground and did flips. Eryn was interested in hanging by the back of her knees from a bar six feet above the ground, while I preferred to climb some poles that were very tall.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Pretty Poem por Hoy

This morning we did basically nothing (except schoolwork, but that doesn’t count)

Work done, we walked to the tower that served as a prison to one man

Our next stop was a plaza, that we thought was the park we were looking for (it wasn’t). So we had ice cream


Parque Harneker was where we eventually found ourselves. Ethan and I used the playground, flipping and flopping on the bars

Attempts to climb poles were also made (we failed). However, we (ahem… I mean “I”) succeeded at doing sit-ups on the exercise equipment

Running away from the black dog was what we tried to avoid doing, but sometimes I felt like it as we tried to find a way out of the park

Kids ran wild in the arcade at the mall

Supper was at El Rincon Italiano. We chose the Primavera Pizza Familiare, which had palm hearts, green beans, and corn on a wonderfully thin crust. Eventually, it was time to get our laundry and say, to the mall, Ciao!

Mote and Monologues

We did absolutely nothing this morning.

At twelve-thirty, we left for the waterfront, where we saw lots of vendors selling mote con huesillo. Dad looked it up on his phone, and it’s really whole grains with dried peaches cooked in water, sugar, and cinnamon. And here we’d thought people were eating Cornflakes in Coca-Cola.

We eventually got on the Reina Sofia, which we would ride for six hours.

Our table partners were originally a mother, her three-year-old daughter, and her teenaged son. On the way back, the mother’s English-speaking husband took the son’s place and talked to Dad about Valparaiso. The little girl munched on bread rolls while the rest of us ate empanadas (except Dad, who had his ears plugged). A man spoke one long, virtually uninterrupted monologue solo en Español.

A waitron (South African word!) served us drinks, and Mom accidentally chose the alcoholic beverage. The other six of us had Fanta. Our meals were eventually served: large platters of cheese and vegetables, except for the son, who had a plate piled high with shellfish.

Meanwhile, we were cruising up and down seven rivers: Guacamayo, Calle Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces, Tornagaleones, Naguilán, and Valdivia. After about three hours, we got off at Isla de Mancera, where we stayed for forty-five minutes looking at the fort ruins. Our next stop was Puerto de Corral, and we climbed up a hill to the fort, where we watched a staged fight.

Once we got home, Dad tried to negotiate a way out of town with a tour guide before we went to Agridulce for supper. Ethan and I chose sandwiches while Mom and Dad chose salmon. The salmon was delicious and in a small portion. The chicken sandwiches were good, smothered in mayonnaise, and huge. And I had chosen the sandwich because I wanted something small.


Boats and Battles

I watch it through a haze, as though other thoughts cloud my vision in a way of trying to get to the forefront of my mind so I might focus on them, the sad thoughts, the proud thoughts, and the boring thoughts, all trying to get accepted. But I need to focus, everyone around is staring at the men that march in black, white, and red uniforms with an orange and red striped flag that they raise to a flagpole.

I remember what had happened for us to arrive here, and I review it unconsciously in my head while I watch what is happening. My family and I woke up and ate this morning and then sat and read for a while. I read a book called Dodger and everyone else did their own thing. We finally left for a boat tour that we had booked yesterday that had ‘no announcements and the only time that someone talked on a microphone was when questions were asked.

They were wrong. I think that as I watch the soldiers march up the stairs to where we are, the drummer tapping a steady beat on a drum, while the men hold either swords of muskets, while the man at the back only holds up his pants. When we had gotten on the boat, we were privy to loads and loads on announcements by a man who though he was funny in Spanish, but since we couldn’t understand a word of what he said, it wasn’t funny.

We had sailed for a while before docking in a town and seeing a fort before going back to the boat. From there we went across the bay to a town called Corral and went up to the fort there, where they were just about to do a show. The men now get called to arms and crowd next to the guns with their old muskets pointed down to below. Suddenly, there is a shout, and a unit of men in blue rush up the slope. As opponents and protectors of the fort that we are standing on, the men in red are bound by duty to do what they have to do to keep the fort.

There is a scuffle and suddenly, after a sedate swordfight of only four metal clangs, the men in red are standing before us, heads down, defeated. Their swords, what little of them are left, are taken away, along with flags, muskets, and a derringer from the captain.  The blue captain sheaths his broadsword and points his ceremonial sword to the top of the flagpole as the red and orange flag goes down and the Chilean flag goes up.

That’s all for now, Folks!

A Message about a Market

We have gone to a market several times, and each time has been different. The market in question is the disputable fish market, disputable because it sells lots more than fish; from flowers to blueberries to lettuce. So, in theory, though it would probably be considered to be a fish market by some, I believe that it would be a public food market.

Today we went to the aforementioned market, and, like yesterday but unlike the day before, we bought something, but not before we did some other things. Those ‘other things’ are something like this: We walked through the market and watched people sell fish. Once through the open air market with the colorful roof, we continued on past the main tourist area to where there was a map of the world, well, at least a world that had only Chile and Antarctica in it. From there, we watched a silver pendulum swing back and forth on some sort of compass which we couldn’t figure out.

From there, we went to the edge of a submarine and looked at the black metal and the seal at the end before heading back to the market. At the market, we bought a kilo of cherries and a kilo of blue berries before going back to the room. The cherries and blueberries are very good.

That’s all for now, Folks!

#Highlights #and #Hashtags

Highlights of today:

  • Got to really sleep in
  • Walked to the market
  • Bought chocolate
  • Chose which boat company we’ll use tomorrow
  • Purchased cherries and blueberries in the market
  • Death-marched to the mall to buy ice cream
  • Stopped on the way to get ice cream
  • Looked for a tourist information center at the mall
  • Didn’t find one
  • Gladly went back to the hostel
  • Lounged around like lazy bums
  • Got back up
  • Crossed Rio Calle Calle to take pictures of Valdivia
  • Sat on a bench for a long time, watching the seals and birds and boats
  • Decided to walk to a pizza place
  • Pass a bride and groom getting their pictures taken
  • Order pizza, salad, and pasta
  • Dig in
  • Overeat
  • Watch a white limo try to parallel park
  • Watch a white limo fail at parallel parking
  • Pay la quinta
  • Stroll back home, going across the bridge and talking about counterfeit sunglasses.
  • See two different newly-married couples in white cars with horns honking


Seals, Clinics, and Fish

S– Showering early to face the day

E– Eating breakfast, before us lay

A-Arriving home, the parents come,

L-Laying out the work to be done

S-Schoolwork for now for one and all


C-Cold rain feeling good to us,

L-Dad and I walk to get a bus

I-Inclined to travel, someday soon

N-North towards Peru, whistling a tune

I-Instructed by the doctor how,

C-Cut off some cast, but not right now

S-Sad that mother didn’t get cut


F-Following our instinct to walk

I-I go to the river and talk

S-Saying to my sister dearest

H-‘Hey, let’s go to the restaurant nearest’

Life’s a Circus

My day started when Mom and Dad got dressed, ate, and left for the hospital, leaving Ethan and me to get dressed, eat, and do schoolwork, which we did. They eventually returned, saying that the doctor would call or email the results of the scans. So Ethan and I did schoolwork, Mom supervised us, and Dad napped until about 13:30, when we left. It had been raining when Mom and I had taken the laundry to the lavadero, but it was cloudy when all four of us left, and it was sunny when Mom and Ethan left to pick up the laundry at six in the evening.

We walked around the point and into downtown Valdivia. Mom stopped to find out about the boat tours and Ethan disappeared, so Dad and I hung out in the general area where we’d last seen them. After about fifteen minutes, Ethan re-appeared and told us that Mom was at the other end of the fish market. So he left and returned, this time bringing his mother with him.

Dad decided to ask about bus tickets and things to do at the tourist office, and while we were there his phone rang. It was the doctor. He told us to go to the clinic immediately—which we did. Unfortunately, it was only to tell us that the gap was less than one millimeter. So Mom’s not going to have surgery. We walked some more and, after lots of asking around, waited outside a store til it opened at 15:30. Then we went inside. The three of us stood awkwardly to the side while Mom found a bright orange sling that fit her needs. Once that was over, we got chocolate ice cream and ate it in the plaza. While we ate, Mom and Ethan talked about circuses, rodeos, and cowboy boots.

“And cotton candy,” Dad added. “Cotton candy is an essential part of a circus.”

So it was fitting that, not one hour later, Ethan bought blue cotton candy from a man selling it on Rio Calle Calle. We ate it under the blue sky, staring at the blue water and avoiding Ethan’s blue eyes.

Now our tongues are blue.