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First of all, it should be said that we are healthy, have no corona and have survived our self-chosen quarantine period in the motorhome well. When we flew to Santiago de Chile on March 3, 2020, the world was still halfway in order. There were first infections in Germany, but there was no sign of a pandemic or travel warnings to South America.
Unfortunately, our planned 7-week tour through Chile and Argentina only turned into 4 weeks. Two very nice weeks in Patagonia (as planned), one week escape to Santiago de Chile and one week there in hotels with curfews and waiting for a return flight.
But one after anonther. The view on the flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago de Chile was terrific. The Andes, the "backbone of South America", run through Chile for the full length.
With their steep ridges, glaciers and valleys carved in by ice masses, they are reminiscent of the Alps, but without peaks 5000 or 6000 meters high and active volcanoes.
One and a half days stay in Santiago de Chile. 40% of Chileans live here (around 7.4 million people). The urban flair is in stark contrast to the settlements and villages in the north and south of the country. We use one day for a 6-hour city tour at a mere 37 degrees with our guide “Nelly”! Our international group of 14 starts on Mercado Central.
The exhibition hall for artists is an iron structure cast in Scotland from 1872. Here you can not only buy fish, mussels and fruit, but also eat them freshly prepared on the spot.
So that you know what you are ordering, there are sample plates! Better than a photo :-).
A bridge leads over the Rio Mapucho to the picturesque flower and vegetable market La Vega Chica.
There is always a supply!
This can be reached via an extensive park Museo de Bellas Artes with a large art collection.
Since November 2019, there have been regular mass demonstrations in the Chilean capital against social inequality and cost increases in the public sector. Everywhere you saw slogans on house walls and barricaded shop windows and doors. This memorial stone of the Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdavia and his engraved historical letter shows how relentless the demos were. Sprayed with the number of protesters killed so far - 357!
The mounted carabineros look really terrifying.
Back to the more pleasant side of Santiago. One of the most beautiful districts in the city center: Barrio Bellas Artes - Lastarria. There are numerous cozy cafes and restaurants, pottery shops and modern art studios.
A few streets away is the public park of Cerro Santa Lucia. A haven of calm with a pleasant coolness!
No city tour without a view of the government palace La Moneda and the monument to Salvador Allende. The palace is said to be wide and low to provide greater security against earthquakes.
An exhausting day, full of impressions and nice incidents, thanks to the very nice guide from Strawberry Tours and our interesting multicultural group. In the evening we really deserved the most popular aperitif in the country - Pisco Sour 🙂
After a 3 hour flight along the Andes, we land in the cool and rainy Punta Arenas. The southernmost continental city in the world and the most beautiful city of Patagonia (?!) Is located directly on the Strait of Magellan and opposite you can see Tierra del Fuego (in good weather!).
At the supposed end of the world, the place amazes with an attractive plaza, the Plaza de Armas. Here a bronze Magellan strides over two indigenous people. If you kiss your big toe, you are said to be returning to Patagonia. As I said, Corona was not yet an issue :-(.
The fresh wind of the Strait of Magellan blows around your nose on the promenade. Old jetties, hundreds of cormorants, maritime monuments and beautiful murals on dreary buildings - a nice walk.
Best view from the Cerro de La Cruz.
The most beautiful and interesting cemetery in Chile is just outside and has even been declared a natural monument. House-high mausoleums of rich sheep barons meet simple grave sites of poorer residents.
We'll take over our companion for the next few weeks: Chevrolet Blazer 4WD.
On the way to Puerto Natalas, we get our first impressions of the term: "drive through the pampas!" Or even "live in the pampas!"
The only change is the occasional appearing rheas or guanacos, the largest species of Andean camels. By the way, they taste good!
After a brisk 250 km through the Patagonian steppe landscape we reach Puerto Natales. The port city is the best starting point for excursions to the great attraction of Patagonia - the Torres del Paine National Park.
We have three whole days around the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine to explore. In an hour and a half we will be in the park and hike to the Salto Grande waterfall. Here the Rio Paine falls over a step and in the background you can see the "horns" Cuernos del Paine.
Since the weather prevents us from a boat trip to the Gray Glacier, we take a tour directly on the shores of Lago Gray, the blue-green glacier lake.
The mood is good, especially since the weather forecast allows us to take a boat tour to the glacier the next day.
In front of the glacier, thick white-blue blocks of ice float in bizarre shapes and all of them are photogenic!
After such an impressive day, carnal refreshment is very welcome.
Now it goes over the border to Argentina through the middle of the pampas. The guanacos are constant companions.
the goal is El Calafate, nice little place on the edge of the Los Glaciares National Park. The name of the town comes from the shrub plant Calafatewhich grows to a height of 1.50 m and has hard-skinned blueberries with an intense taste. There is Calafate - jam, - jelly, - liqueur, - beer…. By the way, it should be digestive! The place is located on the largest lake in Argentina. The milky green glacial lake has an area of 1600 km2. There is also the "Grand Beef Argentina" - delicious 600 gr. Steaks! Of course, Stefan took a photo of it, not of the lake 🙂
The highlight of our “short trip” was certainly the visit to the Perito Moreno Glacier.
A crested carakara greeted us as a parking lot attendant. Very photogenic! Otherwise you can often see him as a scavenger on the roadside.
The glacier can be viewed from an extensive network of metal walkways and viewing platforms. It is an extension of the Patagonian Ice Sheet and belongs to the largest contiguous ice mass on earth (22,000 km2), apart from the polar regions.
The ice wall, the so-called glacier tongue, rises 60 meters high and 4 km wide from Lake Argentino. The Perito-Moreno is certainly the most spectacular Patagonian glacier, especially since it is also one of the few growing glaciers in the world. Watching him “calve” is really fun and very impressive.
The coronavirus catches up with us in the evening. Our ContactChile office recommends that we leave Argentina earlier. Now team spirit was the order of the day.
We're going to El Chalten at the foot of Monte Fitz Roy. It belongs to the northern part of the NP Los Glacieres and is the dream destination of many mountaineers and hikers. Dense natural forests, raging rivers, glacial lakes with icebergs, above the pointed granite needles of the mountain range. Unfortunately that was our weather!
Before we could plan our day trips, the bad news came that the national park closes the next day and that we should leave Argentina urgently because the borders will also be closed. We left El Chalten two days earlier than planned and raced 750 km, 250 km of which on gravel road via Paso Roballo towards Chile, Cochrane. At the border crossing in Argentina it was said: be patient.
At the Chilean border crossing we were supposedly the last ones allowed to pass (7 p.m.). Then the padlock was attached. Lucky :-).
The landscape is fantastic. It's just a shame that we didn't have any more time to enjoy it. What followed were hotel cancellations, closings of national parks and other attractions, restaurants and cafes. Our goal was: as fast as possible in the direction of Santiago de Chile. Filling up was given a completely new dimension.
Welcome change in the driving stress! Short breaks in beautiful places. Take a break from everyday life and have a cup of coffee.
The Carretera Austral to travel is an adventure. It is about 1200 km long and partly leads through the deepest rainforest, straits have to be crossed with ferries, petrol stations are rare and part of the slope consists of gravel! Some sections are well maintained, but some are full of rain holes, tight bends and inclines. “Washboard” slopes make the car lurch. You had to plan two hours for 100 km. The tires are extremely demanding.
Our last planned and booked stop was in Puerto Tranquilo. The place is on Lake General Carrera. This blue-green giant octopus is the largest lake in Chile at 2240 km2. In addition to organizing a new Bridgestone 265 tire, a boat tour to the “marble chapels” was a must. Extravagant rock formations near the shore, rock caves made of light, multi-veined marble, which reflects the lake in iridescent colors, ”says the travel guide. What he doesn't describe is the adventurous boat trip, at least in windy weather! But since it was our last tourist action (excursions were also discontinued), we gave everything again.
You are dressed accordingly and look like a hooded terrorist :-).
Admittedly, the rest of us didn't look any better either :-). The “Capillas de Marmol” are also photogenic. My God, making a choice here is really difficult.
This Indian TukTuk of a Mexican had a punctured tire on his tour from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego and now on the way back, one!
We did our last hike in that Valle Exploradores. The tour through the rainforest with giant ferns and creepers leads to a viewpoint with the panorama of the Exploradores glacier.
After three relaxing days in the Hostal El Puesto we started north to Coyhaique. After an hour's drive on our beloved Carretera Austral - tire damage! This time back right 🙁. Why don't we actually drive a TukTuk? We would like to take this opportunity to thank the three helpful Chileans who changed our tires in half an hour, who proudly refused to give us a tip when it rained on muddy ground.
What follows now is actually just a stressful drive in the direction of Santiago de Chile. Thank goodness the reserved ferry to Hornopiren goes over the Golfo de Ancud, without this 6 hour journey we would be really stuck.
Our hotels have canceled in a row; You are happy about a moderate replacement, because it is still better than sleeping in the car :-). Here, too, we get to know the hospitality of the Chileans, who really share the proverbial “last shirt” with you!
Since the restaurants were also closed, fast food is the order of the day; so that you don't lose any time, the hood was our dining table :-).
After various roadside checks with police in white overalls and fever measuring devices, we reached Santiago de Chile, which looked like deserted, with relief. Here we encountered curfews and suddenly closing hotels.
You go to the supermarket to shop or store groceries for several days and come back to your hotel at 30 degrees, packed like a donkey, and see this facade ?! “Please leave our hotel, we have to close! “Those were moments when you can feel how resilient you are. Our replacement hotel was, thank goodness, great. We were the only guests and four nice employees of the UGO hotel took care of us. We wanted to stay here - until our return flight five days later! Pool, bar, good breakfast - even the Pisco Sour tasted good again.
To say goodbye - despite Corona - a photo together in front of the hotel, which, by the way, we can highly recommend!
The return flight with LATAM via Sao Paulo didn't go completely smoothly either, but it doesn't matter, we are now back in our beloved Germany! Spent our self-imposed 14-day quarantine in our motorhome with dear friends in the private property entrance. Like all of you, we hope to relax soon so that we can travel a bit again. Germany would be enough for us, because our wanderlust and the thirst for adventure are satisfied after this trip :-).
See you soon and stay healthy !!!!!!!
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