Cast Off

Mom is relieved to announce that her cast is finally off.

It turned into a four-country trauma (Argentina, Chile, Peru, Morocco) but finally ended this morning at a clinic. After the cast was removed, her PT (Physical Torture) began. She now has to go the clinic three times a week for the next three weeks for PT.

We’re all glad that she can use her right arm– now she can wash dishes again!

South American Summary

After more-or-less three months in South America, we started to get the hang of Spanish and customs. We could go into a heladeria and order ‘dos bolas de chocolate y fresa,’ or go to the supermercado and buy huevos, leche, pizza, lechuga, choclo, chocolate, y pan. When Mr. Gooey in Arequipa told us a bunch of things about Arequipa and Peru in general (such as food, customs, etc.), we found that we already knew a lot of what he was saying.


We started off South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a ridiculously long set of flights from Dubai, UAE. We spent two weeks there, idling in the sun and our apartment. We also enjoyed the new types of ice cream flavors: lemon mousse, raspberry, and chocolate Suizo. In El Bolsón, we devoured ice cream at the rate of kilogram a day in between bites of super-cheesy pizza. Ethan and I befriended Juan, Paz, and the rest of their family, and we spent the evening with them when Mom broke her arm.

After a night in Bariloche, chocolate heaven, we rode a bus for eight hours to Chile and arrived in Valdivia, home of the largest-ever earthquake, at ten p.m. that night. Dad and Ethan got some Chilean pesos in exchange for some American dollars at a Chinese restaurant, and we used those pesos to pay for a taxi to take us to our hostel. The highlight of our time in Valdivia was the fresh-foods market, where you could buy all sorts of wonderful things. Because we didn’t have an apartment or kitchen, we only bought raspberries and blueberries.

Two things stand out for Valparaiso: having to walk up and down our hill multiple times each day to get to and from our flat, and the really good ice cream whose name I can’t remember. It tasted like cinnamon, and it was really good with the cappuccino flavor that was mainly marshmallow fluff.

In San Pedro de Atacama, we went on multiple tours up into the surrounding Andes and Altiplano before heading down to Arica, where, after an insanely long bus ride, we celebrated Ethan’s 12th birthday with a cupcake and presents. The next day we went up to Putre. During our time there, we went on two tours with Barbara, the Alaskan woman, and went up to about 5,000 meters above sea level—the highest point on our trip while standing on the ground. We also got to see some really cute vizcachas, which are related to chinchillas.

Back in Arica, we went to a mummy museum and then arrived about an hour too early at the airport two days later. We landed abruptly on Arequipa’s runway late in the morning, and Mr. Gooey was waiting for us. That weekend was spent enjoying crepes from Crepissimo and touring Mr. Gooey’s workplace. On Monday, we flew to Cusco. When we first landed, I thought, This is an ugly city.

We didn’t stay in the “ugly city” long, though—soon we were on our way to Ollantaytambo. After a night there, we were off to Machu Picchu. Somehow we made it up and down Wayna Picchu, the picturesque mountain in the background of just about every Machu Picchu photo.

After a few nights in Cusco, we were off to the Amazon Basin with Reve (the English-speaking guide), Paltacha (the cook), and a ton of stuff. It was hot and humid and we didn’t see any tapirs, despite going to the tapir clay lick two nights in a row.

On our last night back in Cusco, disaster struck. It began with the shower drain gurgling but ended with the floor of our hostel covered in 2-6 inches of brown stuff from the sewers.

We slept in a different hotel.

The next day we caught a flight to Lima Bean. That was yesterday. Tonight will be very short: our taxi to the airport leaves at 2:05 in the morning.



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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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!

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.


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


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.”


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.”



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.


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.


#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


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.


I Always Knew My Mother Was Cracked

Today a doctor discovered that Mom has a crack in her ulna (the bone next to your radius in your lower arm) and that there’s a T-shaped-crack in her radius. The crack in the ulna is not a problem; he said that it’s common for people to break both. Mom’s right radius is in three parts—one on each side of the T.

We learned this after (finally) getting to a clinic.

Once we had breakfast (carbs and cheese), we strolled down the river, through a fresh food market, to the center of town where Mom and I sat in a plaza while Dad and Ethan looked for ATMs that accepted American cards. No such luck, unfortunately, so we headed to the clinic. Along the way, we found a mall. Dad checked out the ATMs (no success) and Mom found the laundry place we were looking for. We also got water and cappuccino cookies. I pointed out the cookies-and-cream Oreos to Dad.

At the clinic, Ethan and I sat and waited while our parents went from one room to the other with different doctors. We finally waited outside the triage room. Outside was a chart, and we decided that Mom was T5. T1 was needing to be “reanimated”, which would be immediate. T2 was an emergency, and the wait is less than fifteen minutes. If your situation was simply urgent, you could wait up to thirty minutes. Next was “minor urgency,” a.k.a. T4, and the maximum wait claimed to be eighty minutes. For not-urgent situations, two hours was the longest you could wait. That was T5. While we waited, I watched the ladies behind the counter watch soap operas on TV while the sounds of fake crying and babies’ crying filled the room.

Mom eventually got her x-rays, which told the story. On the way home, we passed by a restaurant called Guacamole. After chilling in the apartment and returning to the clinic to discuss the x-rays, we ate there.

The invalid may or may not have surgery tomorrow. If she does have the surgery, then she will not have to have a cast, which would be great. On the other hand, there has to be a 2-millimeter gap between the main section of the radius and the part that the tendons aren’t holding in place for her to have a surgery.


American-Sniffing Dogs

We’re now in Chile!

Our Andesmar bus arrived in Valdivia two hours later than planned, so we skipped supper, had a few pieces of Bariloche chocolate, and headed straight to our hostel and bed.


Yesterday morning after breakfast we decided to spend our last Argentinean pesos on chocolate (yay!). After that we dropped Mom and Ethan off at the bus station. Dad and I returned the clunky Fiat at a car-wash place. We found a taxi and rode back to the bus station.

We had to wait an hour for our bus to arrive. We were in seats 4, 5, 7, and 8 on the bottom level, which was empty except for us and an older lady who spoke German and Spanish. On the bright side, Afrikaans is close to German, and my dad is pretty good at that language.

After a couple hours, we got to the Argentinean border. We got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed, and we were through—sort of. There were kilometers of road between the two countries, meaning that I’ve now officially listened to One Direction in no country. We finally got to the other side, where we got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed. My suitcase was pulled out, but once it became obvious that it was mine, everyone avoided eye contact. Coincidentally, the suitcases of the other three Americans on our bus were also pulled out.

We were eventually told to get back on the bus. We all found a box of carbs on our seat.

Hours later, we finally pulled into Valdivia. Thankfully, there was a Chinese restaurant that exchanged dollars into Chilean pesos. We piled into a taxi and rode off into the night.