Monday, March 23, 2009

Adv #7 Continued.....Life around Santiago and up into the Andes Mountains!

Another episode of “Travels with Eric,” coming to you live from Santiago, Chile!

I’ve been settled into the Santiago/Valparaiso area for the past 8 weeks already, which is 4 times longer than I’ve spent in any one place for the last 9 months. (Enough with the numbers, Eric.) There are plenty of reasons to stay here as I’ve written about previously, but the main reason is that the Chilean people have been absolutely wonderful to me. Sure I could find work in other countries down here, but instinct is telling me that Chile is the place to be. Plus, I look forward to seeing in person these amazing places I've heard so much about and seen so many pictures of in the rest of the country. (Have you seen pictures from the Atacama Desert or Torres del Paine? Yep.....look at the pictures and you'll see why I'd like work and live here for at least the next couple of years....)

I’ve sent out a bunch of resumes for Adventure Tourism work, and a few interviews have come up as a result (none that are turning into opportunities I want though.) Friends here are all reminding me how much native-English speakers are needed for these tourism jobs….so I’m quite sure I’ll find the right opportunity eventually. Right now I have two obstacles though: First, even more so than in the U.S., Chile seems to operate on face-to-face introductions. Just sending my resume alone doesn’t seem so spark much interest from companies, so I’m being reminded that I’ll actually need to drive up to San Pedro de Atacama or down to Patagonia to walk in and introduce myself. (Patagonia in the south is becoming less of an option this time of year though with winter setting in.) The second obstacle right now is my weak Spanish. Yes, these tourism companies want English-speakers, but I’ll need a better foundation in Spanish to compliment that. Reading Spanish? No problem. I can work through printed text quite well. But my speaking and understanding have major room for improvement.

It’s tough to leave the Valparaiso/Santiago area because I’ve met so many great people in my short time here. In about a week though, I’m going to start the 2 or 3 day drive up to San Pedro de Atacama and start checking things out for adventure tourism. The best part about all of this is that I’m still having fun! I love seeing new places, meeting new people, and travelling around, so after “cooling my heels” for a while in the Santiago area, I’m excited to head out on the road again.

Now about the pictures below……

Though I have yet to see the most beautiful and scenic areas of Chile, it’s no secret that this country is a nature-lover’s paradise and virtually every type of terrain and scenery can be found. Much like the U.S. in this regard, Chile is just more “compressed” in that you can be hiking in the Andes Mountains in the morning, and then enjoy a Pacific sunset on the beach in the afternoon. (The country is only about 100 miles wide on average.) In short though…anyone who wants to be active outdoors can really soak it up in Chile.

Most of these outdoor activities require some sporting goods and equipment, and I can’t deny that I am CRAZY about sporting goods. Coincidentally, just outside Santiago lies one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to called “Mallsport.” ( To prepare locals and tourists for their adventures in Chile, Mallsport is basically a collection of retail stores that offer every sporting good and outdoorsman could ever need. Camping, hiking, biking, rafting……..sailing, weightlifting, climbing, or horseback riding….it’s all there in this perfect “Mecca” of sporting goods. I love it!

Originally I just went to Mallsport thinking it was time for a new pair of trail running shoes, but that visit has since turned into 4 different visits, each about 3 hours long. I’m not much for hanging around malls, but if there’s an exception to that rule, this place is it. Check out the pics below of the wave machine where they give surfing lessons and the climbing wall inside the main building. Even though I’ve been in Santiago and Valparaiso mostly and not out “adventuring” as much as the previous 8 months, just being around all this equipment is another good reminder to me that I need to be out of the city….and into nature, being physical, moving an Adventure Guide!

I've always thought I would steer clear of climbing like this.....but seeing how many people are into this sport....hmm.....maybe I'll give it a shot sometime.

Aside from shopping around a bit, and checking out the city, there's been plenty of opportuntities to get out on my bike. Remember Jaime and Lucho from the last blog post? They had a great idea for another ride up into the ski resort area called “La Parva” which is just to the east of Santiago. Getting us out of the traffic by creeping up into the Andes Mountains sure was a nice change of pace from being around the city. We had met Mike Verbunt, a BMW rider from Holland just a couple of days earlier as he was passing through Santiago on his way to Ushuaia. Mike had been riding for about 8 months at that point through most of the U.S., Canada, and then down through Mexico and Central America just like Peter and I did. He joined us for the day-trip up the twists and turns to about 10,000 feet above sea level before heading south to finish his trip to the south.
(Above, Lucho arrives on his "around the town" bike.)

Just seeing the ski lifts in the background sure does bring back some memories and spark some ideas. I can't believe this.....but I haven't been on my snowboard since my trip to the Swiss/Austrian alps in 2003! Something must be wrong with me. I'm going to have to fix that...

Not to be forgotten are the dinners out with the guys, including Felix, another motorcycle rider and friend of Lucho’s going back about 40 years. Plus we had the chance to meet Martin and Patric, both from the Montreal area who were riding to Ushuaia on their BMW’s a couple of months at a time. They have an interesting approach: With limited time off from work, they started riding as far as they could from Montreal and store their bikes when they have to return home for work. When more vacation time becomes available, they fly back to Texas, Costa Rica, Peru, or wherever their bikes are in storage and continue riding. How's that for an example of diligence?
Life around Hostal Providencia back in the city has made it quite easy meet people in the 5 weeks I’ve spent living there. With new faces passing through all the time, occasionally an English-speaker is amongst them and we always appreciate each other’s company and the break from struggling with our Spanish.

Such was the case with Hiten and Smita from England, two travelers in the middle of their 4 month journey around the world. They came to Santiago having just spent about 3 months in New Zealand, Fiji, and a handful of other exotic countries, and Chile was on their list of countries to see along with Peru, Argentina and Brazil before heading home to England. Since we all had some time on our hands, and were pretty new around Santiago, soaking up the cultural experience of “La Piojera” sounded like a perfect plan for one Saturday afternoon.

La Piojera is a fairly famous tavern in Santiago, and their house drink called the “Terremoto” (meaning “earthquake”) is part of the reason why this place is so famous. The drink is made from some kind of a house wine, and some other unknown spirits and then topped with pineapple ice cream. Granted, I don’t drink as much as I did back in the college days and my tolerance is not what it once was, but after just one and a half of these terremotos, my eyes felt like they were crossed and I was back in college! I’ve seen people passed out on the couch at the hostal after supposedly drinking only two of them.

Above is the table-side entertainment at La Piojera the day we were there. Normally, I really don't like table-side musical acts (and I know I'm not the only one out there!) They're always too loud, interrupting conversations, and they're never playing music I wanted to hear in the first place. Such was exactly the case again with this father and son act yelping away in awful voices, with dad on the guitar and his son pounding away on a drum. Interesting thing was, this kid was detirmined to entertain us whether we wanted him to or not. That commitment...that absolute detirmination to entertain us became evident after a while and it was amazing to see our attitudes about his performance change so much. We ended up adoring him! Something to be said about
(Below: the view from atop Cerro Santa Lucia in Santiago.)
Then later that night, how's this for a coincidence? I said goodbye to all my new friends on the Cap Blanche on February 1st, figuring we had exchanged email addresses and if I ever make it to the Ukraine or France someday, I'd have a chance to visit with these folks again. A full month after I left the ship, I opened the door to the hostal I'm staying at, and Daniel Derrien, one of the passengers amongst us on the ship was there! I knew he'd been travelling Chile and Argentina with his wife since we left the boat, but with all the hotels and hostals in all of Chile and Argentina.....what are the chances he circled back to stay at the same one I'd been living at? Small world....great to see you again Daniel!

More news will come along soon, including many other pictures that I have yet to share. It's impossible to write about every single thing that I've been doing, as each day seems to be full of different things I'm doing. As explained above, the next posting should be coming to you from San Pedro de Atacama, a place that people say is absolutely incredible....and pictures I've seen help support that!


  1. Eric, this is awesome Thanks for the updates and have a great time. Was hanging with Marcus tonight and he told me about the website. Scott G from Woodstock.

  2. Big E,

    This is amazing. Saw your blog when I was looking up House's e-mail address on Linkedin (I ran into him last night). What an interesting tale. I've spent the last hour captivated by your travel stories instead of doing the work I'm supposed to be doing. Good luck out there. I'll follow along on the blog.

    A to B,

    Mike Fredrick (