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Patagonian Aventure


I was extremely lucky and fortunate to have two of my favorite friends from high school visit me in Chile these last two weeks. The first week we spent in Santiago and had an amazing time. We went to the market, ate Peruvian food, went to Subterraneo, basically just had a ball.

Then, last Sunday we headed off to Punta Arenas for an end of the world adventure. To be honest, none of us had really done a lot of research so we had to sort of go with the flow.

We arrived in Punta Arenas around 3pm, but had to kill about 3 hours till the next bus to Puerto Natales (we took Bus Fernandez). So….of course….we got pizza and drank beer. What could be better.

We arrived tired and cold into Puerto Natales and went right to our hostel, the Erratic Rock. This place was so great! Very warm and cozy, with a helpful staff and awesome breakfast. They even have a place next door where they give daily information meetings about the park at 3pm, and provide equipment for rent like tents, sleeping bags, etc and all at a good price. We spent Monday figuring out what we wanted to actually do in the park, getting groceries, eating dinner, and exploring.

We had a delicious dinner  at a place called El Maritimo which specialized in seafood. My paila marina was a little weird, but Elizabeth´s sea bass stew was awesome.

We finally decided we wanted to do two nights and three days in the park. Doing three days is a little complicated. The most common route is to do the 5 day 4 night W trail, but we just didn’t have the time and honestly were not really prepared for that. So, we decided to do the first day up to the Torres, then spend the night in a refugio. The next day, we would take the 9am bus to Lago Grey and stay a night at that regufio, then come home the third day. BUT. That´s not really how it went down. To be honest, the whole thing is really difficult because buses only run once a day at specific times, and you can´t just camp anywhere…so this is what happened.

Day One: We woke up early for the only bus into the park at 7:30. We arrive at the park, pay the fee, then head over to Torres Refugio and begin our journey at around 11am. This was a rough climb, but the weather was gorgeous. It took us 3 and a half hours of straight up hill climbing to finally get to the Torres, and our bags were heavy. But, the views were breath taking and we were in good spirits. But by the time we reached the Torres, Claire´s previously broken foot (a month ago) was killing her and my back was really in pain from climbing. Plus, it was already 5pm! It would be a challenge to do the 3 or more hour trek back to base camp before dark. We made the executive decision, after much ado, to finally just camp at the campamiento las torres (refugio Chileno was CLOSED…not helpful) and from then on the plan sorta fell apart…but in a good way.

Day Two:

We woke up around 8am, and it had rained and was still sprinkling. Cold and sore from sleeping on roots and rocks, we packed up our things and headed for the bottom of the mountain. This was not a fun hike. It was mostly downhill, in pouring rain. Claire´s foot was hurting, my back was spasming….just wasn’t working. We barely made it to the refugio, limping and cold and wet. That…was the end of it. We decided to stay in the refugio that night, which was actually delightful. We had a delicious chicken and mashed sweet potato dinner and hung out by the fire. Plus, the views were stunning! Overall, we were happy.

Day  Three: We headed back to Erratic Rock and went out for a spectacular burger and wings dinner at Baguales. Delicious. As you can see, hardcore camping went out the window….but we had a great time and to be honest, it might have been a bit ambitious in the winter season to try what we did without much experience….ah well.

We also really wanted to see penguins, but first, it costs like 100 dollars each, and also, apparently penguin season just ended! Sigh.

But, besides a few obstacles, the trip was amazing, the views gorgeous, and all of us had a great time together. Worth every minute!

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San Pedro de Atacama


After the flat tour I was very excited to go across the border back to dear old Chile. Within a one hour bus ride, the temperature changed dramatically to a hot, desert climate which was great after cold Bolivia.

A friend recommended a nice hostel called Sonchek which was the perfect option. It was budget friendly, but had nice hot showers and clean rooms.

The first day I spent walking around the city, enjoying some down time. San Pedro is mostly just a tourist hub and a starting point for tour operations, but I actually really enjoyed the town itself. It has a New Mexico vibe with white washed buildings and dusty roads.

That Sunday I booked a sandboarding tour which was really fun. It ended up being a lot more challenging than I thought  (There are no lifts up the dunes…you just gotta haul it) and kind of a bummer getting sand everywhere, but overall it was an awesome time.

After boarding, we had pisco sours overlooking the valley which was lovely.

That night I took myself out to a fancy dinner at a restaurant called Piedra Blanca. I ordered the Quinoa Cannellon which was like a crunchy  quinoa shell filled with pulled pork in a tangy sauce. It came with a sweet potato ginger mash, zucchini, and porotos verdes with merken.

This dish was a tasty blend of local ingredients with a gourmet twist.

Some people really dislike San Pedro because it is expensive and touristy but I really loved it. You can’t spend more than a few days there unless you want to do a bunch of tours, but I loved the atmosphere of the town and perusing the shops and cafes. It was definitely one of my favorite stops on the trip.

This concludes my travelogue, so to speak. It was an incredible trip and I highly recommend doing the same loop if you get the chance.

Now that I’m back in Santiago its back to teaching and back to cooking! Stay tuned for more recipes and dishes coming soon.

 

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La Paz, Bolivia


The bus ride to La Paz from Copacabana was pretty smooth and only took maybe 5 hours. However, we had to cross the lake as part of the journey, which I had no idea about. They made us get off the bus and get into a little tiny motorboat in the rain.

Meanwhile, all our luggage was still on the bus. I watched in horror as the proceeded to load the bus onto like, a wooden dock, that was powered but a tiny motor. The water was not exact tranquil. More like a frothy, turbulent whirlpool. The bus was rocking back and forth, and I was absolutely convinced it would capsize. Once we got to shore, I scanned the water frantically to see if the bus would make it to shore. It did, and it all worked out. But, I still remained baffled. Is this the only way to do this? REALLY?

Coming in to La Paz made for some stunning views of the city. La Paz is one of the highest cities in the world, and the houses sit on gigantic mountain sides. Really spectacular.

However, I did not really have a great time in La Paz. Shortly after arriving I came down with a burning fever and had to sleep for like 20 hours. I was worried Id have to go to the hospital, but it all worked out.

Meanwhile, it was Carnaval in La Paz, which meant the streets were filled with dancings, costumes, water guns (they shoot you with them….it sucks), trumpets, drums, and general chaos and drunkenness. In my bed, it sounded like a war zone and I remembered drifting in and out of my feverish naps to the sound of explosions and trumpets.

Once I did finally recover, and Carnaval ended, I could finally walk around and enjoy the city more. I especially like the Coca Museum, which guided the visitors through the history of cocaine in Bolivia and the coca plant which is sacred to the local people in the area.

I had a nice little lunch at a cafe where I ordered the daily special. Can anybody guess the name of this dish?

Honestly, I did not get to explore too much Bolivian cuisine because of being ill, but here’s a few traditional plates worth knowing about:

Chicharron – Pieces of fried pork, cooked with chicha and served with stewed corn.

Changa de pollo o de conejo – Soup make with chicken or cuy (guinea pig), potato, peas, avas and green onion.

Salteñas – Only eaten in the morning. A warm savory pastry that holds a juicy combination of chicken or meat, greens and sauce, and is cooked in an oven.

Pique Macho: It is a heaped plate consisting of bite-sized pieces of beef, sausage(hot dog type), and french fry-cut potatoes. Added to this mixture are onions, locoto, boiled egg, mustard, mayonnaise, and ketchup.

Generally, Bolivia is not renown for its cuisine, but it still has a lot of offer, and to be honest, I just barely touched the surface of the culinary world there.

Once I recovered and Carnaval ended I booked my bus ride to Uyuni and departed ways with Katie. I was on my own for the next stretch!

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Cusco and Machu Picchu


And so the saga continues.

Cusco was one of my absolute favorite cities. It’s very touristy, but I fell in love with the old churches and rolling green hills surrounding the Spanish style houses. There is so much to do in Cusco too; not just Machu Picchu. There is the Sacred Valley, horseback riding, and all kinds of adventures sports in addition to exploring the city.

First day in Cusco was spent meandering the churches and the city as a whole. All the the cathedrals were quite spectacular and had such an interesting history, combining local traditions with strong Spanish influence (to put it nicely).

I particularly liked the San Blas neighborhood, where we had a delicious aji de gallina lunch.

Speaking of Peruvian food, there was quite a slew of new foods I got to explore on this trip. Here’s a quick list for those interested:

Aji de gallina

Ceviche

Chicha (fermented corn drink, sometimes with other flavors like blackberry, or chicha de mora) 

Rocoto relleno, or stuffed spicy peppers

Guy or cuy (pronounced goo ey) (guinea pig)

Alpaca

Fried banana

Chupe de Quinoa

I plan on trying to make chupe de quinoa and rocoto relleno sometime soon.

Pictured below was a fabulous dinner out with ceviche, chupe de quinoa and alpaca! And of course, pisco sours.

Unfortunately, this dinner gave me food poisoning, but it was so good, it was almost worth it. Almost.

It definitely made the day of exploring ruins on horseback a bit uncomfortable.

Finally, we set out for Machu Picchu, and it was everything I wanted and more. After a difficult, hour long hike up steep, stone steps  in the morning in Aguas Calientes, we finally made it to the ancient Incan city. It was absolutely magical, surrounded in mist. Definitely a big highlight.

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Arequipa, Peru


I’m back! After two and a half weeks of wandering Boliva and Peru, I made it back to Santiago. After some rest, an emergency computer purchase, and some serious laundry doing, I’m ready to write about my trip. It was not always easy, but that’s why its travelling, not a beach holiday. I learned a lot in a short time, and came back overwhelmed by my experiences.

So, the beginning.

We took a 1am flight from Santiago to Arica. It was exhausting, but everything went smooth. At 4am, we found a “collectivo” (basically just a random van) and got dropped off at a sketchy bus stop. We waited two hours, cold and tired, among quite the colorful crowd (families with all their belongings, drunks, backpackers) for the gate to open. At 6am, they finally unlocked the gate and everyone rushed to get put into a taxi for the border. Once we got shoved in a car, they took our passports. This made me nervous, but they were returned, thankfully, and we headed towards the border. At border patrol, we had to wait another hour, in the middle of the desert, for it to open. Once it did, their was lots of yelling in Spanish, lines, getting in and out of cars, but we finally got through the border, confused but fine.

Once we got to the Tacna bus stop, we had to kill 7 hours for the next bus to Arequipa. I’m not really sure how we survived. All I know is I ate a lot of chicken empanadas, and we must have done 20 different word searches. But, after our long, hot, wait and a few Inca colas, we were on our way.

Arequipa was worth the journey. Our hostel (Flying Dog) was lovely and the city was stunning.

My absolute favorite was the Santa Catalina Monastery. It was so colorful, so drenched in history. I loved roaming this small city within the city.

The main plaza:

The market was also interesting. So many different varieties and colors of potatoes. Even some sheep heads, for those so inclined.

Our last day we did a day trip (3am wake up) up to the Cañon de Colca. It was a five-hour, cold car ride, but the views of the mountains were breathtaking and the canyon was gorgeous.

We were lucky to see many, many condors swooping around.

One of my favorite meals of the trip was the restaurant we stopped at for lunch, with a buffet style special.

Featured is a variety of goodies: fried bananas, alpaca, rococo relleno, papas fritas, beets, stews, and vegetable salad. So delicious.

We also had one fancy dinner out at a restaurant called Zig Zag.

I ordered the fish carpaccio and Katie got the quinoa gnocchi with pesto. My my.

We barely made our bus for Cusco in time (there was panic and running and gringa yelling) but then it was a comfortable Cruz del Sur overnight bus for the ten-hour journey.

Stay tuned for my Cusco blog!

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Echinuca: Celebrating Chilean Cuisine


Over the weekend, in Vitacura, there was a three-day food and wine festival called Echinuca. The purpose of the event was to celebrate  the best of Chilean cuisine and to promote Chile’s national dishes in order to push for more global attention in the culinary world. Amanda and I went Saturday afternoon excited to check it out.

The event consisted of a large, tented outdoor area filled with lots of individual vendor booths selling everything from artisan goat cheese, sea salts, olive oil, jams, spreads, ham, and much more. Most of the products were locally made and we had a great time going around sampling products.

Some of the larger stands served food like mussels, pastel de choclo, chorillana, etc. I ordered some oysters for about 4 dollars, which were okay. Not great. But I really enjoy eating oysters anyway.

There was also an outdoor grilling area with some seriously impressive meat displays and one larger than life paella bubbling in the corner.

Amanda and I both loved all the spicy jams and came home with two stellar picks. I got the smokey merkén flavored jam (merken is all the rage, don’t you know) and she got the rocoto jam (rocoto is a spicy peruvian pepper). Can’t wait to spread it on some crackers with crema de queso!

I ended up getting a little excited and spending too much money (I can’t live without artisan jam and a locally brewed beer! Whoa is me) , but it was basically like being in a little Grace heaven. The artisan goat cheeses  (there was one made with ají that was AWESOME) were especially mind-boggling.

I’m off to the beach in Viña to relax and enjoy my Sunday.

¡Hasta Luego!

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Valpo and Viña: Round 2


This weekend was a long weekend because yesterday was a bank holiday. Even though I’m poor, I decided it was best to take advantage of this and went to Valpo and Viña for the weekend with Amanda and her two Chilean friends Matias and Rocio.

We had a great time and it was fun not only to see Valpo again, but to get a little more in-depth tour from a native. Not to mention, the obscene amounts of food I ate. Whoops.

On Saturday, we walked around the city quite a bit and then had lunch at Cafe Vinilo (Vinyl Cafe). The food was expensive, but worth it, and I loved that they had the Beatles on repeat.

I ordered the pulpo al ajillo, but they were out and I got oysters instead. They came in a delicious creamy cheese sauce with a little spice and some toasted bread drizzled with cilantro oil. Oh, and of course, some Chilean wine.  Ooh la la.

Amanda got a tasty tomato appetizer  filled with carmelized onions and we shared some ceviche.

Matias got a meat dish (pork I believe..) that came with a quinoa, sausage and cilantro side dish and Rocio got the albacore with cooked  mix vegetables. The fish would literally melt in your mouth.

It was so nice to have some well made food in such a nice little cafe. I’ve been mostly eating lentils and soup for months now and this was probably the most expensive meal I’ve had to date. To be honest, I’ve been giving Chile a hard time, especially with the food. I’m constantly whining about how they use to much salt, not enough vegetables, etc. However, after this meal, I think maybe the key is to go all out. There is quite a difference between expensive Chilean food and sandwiches in the local diner.

After a long night of dancing at El Huevo (A dance club with like six different themed rooms) we ventured to Viña the next day to explore the beach and of course, eat more seafood.

After a beautiful day at the beach, we went to this cute little whole in the wall seafood place. It was cheap and delicious. Two of my favorite things. I ordered (thanks to some Chilean advice) the Chupe de Mariscos which is like a seafood chowder/stew with cheese and lots of mussels and clams. So good!

After our meal we headed back to the hotel (a cute little place run by an elderly French guy. It was maritime themed. So cute) and took a nap before heading out for Chorillana. That’s right, more food.

We started with pan and pebre, Cristal (beer of champions) and empanadas. Claro.

By the time the Chorillana came I was already full but ate anyway. Behold, the most unhealthy combination ever: french fries, meat, onions, spices, and eggs. In a heap.

After our coma inducing, one billion calorie meal, we walked up the hill to our hostel. No, it didn’t feel good. Worth it though.

A great weekend filled with great people and good food. What more could you want?

Chilean Empanadas

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