Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Chiloe Island, Chile

I have just arrived here on the mystical island of Chiloe in Chile. The island is about in the middle of the country, very close to the mainland. It is the second largest of Chiles many islands in the Pacific Ocean. It is a place of magic and legendary,mythical creatures. It is said to be a center of Machupe indian Witchcraft. It is alos home to thousandsñ of Penguins and other birds and the main industry on the island is fishing and handcrafts, with the tourist industry a close third. I am staying in the city called Castro. It is the capital city of Chiloe. There are about 23,000 people who live here. It never gets real cold, and they fish all year round. I only just arrived at about 6pm this evening about 2 or 3 hours ago so I dont have any real ideas or opinions about the place yet. I have talked to many folks who have been here and everyone reccomends it to me so here I am. I was not really planning to come here but after hearing such good comments while in Argentina and while I was in Puerto Octay, I just thought well...why not?
Puerto Octay is a little (2500 people)village in the western foothills of the Andes mountains in Central Chile. Near lakes Llanquihue and Rupanco. Beautifully situated in the shadow of Osorno Volcano. The volcano is dormant and it is perfectly cone shaped. The cone juts up about 1000 meters above its surroundings so the volcano crater is at about 2500 meters above sea level. I stayed at a fantastic little hostel about 2 km out of the village. It is called Zapato Amarillo, which means the Yellow Shoe. It is owned by Armand and Nadia, a Swiss man and a Chilean woman and the real boss their totally cool 8 year old son, Dominic. They live on 4 hectares of farm land and have a few sheep and a cow and a lama, a very sweet german shepard dog named Sheila and her two perritos (puppies) and a grey cat. I had my own room and a bathroom, because it is now the off season and there were only a few guests. It cost 6000 pesos per night (about $10US) and included an excellent breakfast of coffee and teas, homemade breads fresh from the oven,homemade blackberry and apricot jams and local honey. Fresh butter, Chilean cheeses and sliced ham. TEN BUCKS U.S.!!!
There are 2 buildings on the property both built by Armand and his friends.Both made of beautiful hardwoods and polished partical board floors. There is a large Yurt which is of course, a round building with the kitchens in it, where they serve meals and people hang out at night, and there is another building also made by Armand and his friends where everyone sleeps. It also has a kitchen, and upstairs, free (really slow)internet. I stayed there for 3 days doing almost nothing at all!! Just chillin, taking walks and stoking the woodstove at night to keep warm.
The first night the only other guests were a german female couple and a german family of three who happily spent the evening in the yurt speaking german among themselves, and myself and a nice American woman, who is a college student from Berkely Califonia, Who was getting college credits for hiking with her professor and 10 other students in the Chilean National parks and keeping a journal of trees and other flora and fauna. You just gotta love Berkely!!
She was way cool and we made a nice vegetarian dinner together and stayed up till like 2 am listening to her life story and me telling here about Buddha and my goal of learning how to breathe and eating chocolate and drinking red wine and yerba mate.
Second night I was the only guest.
Third day, Bert arrived. At first I wasnt too sure about him.He seems so strait and "ordinary" but he turns out to be one of the most interesting people I have met on my trip. The guy is a career diplomat from Belguim. He was told about this way cool hostel in the middle of nowhere and he decided to come here for the peace and quiet and stay a few nights. He works for the Belgian Foreign Service and has travelled all over the world,and just completed a 2 year posting in Belgrade.He is gonna be in Brussels for at least the next 6 months. This is his first vacation in 2 years and he only has a couple of weeks. We made friends and walked into the town for a couple of beers, and he told me about his career and how he is trying to write down his collected stories and maybe put it all togeter for a book some day. Dude is really smart and knows everything about European Politics and history and World trade agreements and treatys and has some excellent and well thought out opinions and ideas. He knows a lot of the players personally that are shaping current world policies and politics. It was just a treat to talk with him.
I told him about my travels and how I too would like to write a book some day and include all these travel updates and about 30 good backpacker recipes and the coup de grace, my personal philosophy. But... where to begin.
Kimmy helped me sort a lot of this stuff out the last couple of weeks too and I think I finally have an outline. More on this later.
So my last night in Puerto Octay with Bert and two very together young Australians and a nice German man and we all just talked about personal freedoms and responsibilitys, world history, gun control, tyranny and the role governments play in all our lives and the need to just be and not do.Wrapped up at 3 in the morning. One of those magical nights in the shadow of a dormant volcano in the way-off-the-beaten track of Chile with a bright half moon and a hissing wood stove and some very special traveling friends.
Sweet dreams and Peace to all of you.
Rambling Robert

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Bariloche Argentina

Bariloche is a small city in the Andes mountains , more or less in the middle of Argentina as far as North South goes, about 40 kilometers from the border of Chile.Altitude wise I am at about 1,200 meters above sea level.It is Saturday the 19th of March and I have been here for 6 days. Tomorrow I will leave and go to A small mountain town in the lake district of Chile near Osorno, about 250 kilometers from here.
All in All I have enjoyed Bariloche. It is a little touristy but then again so am I. It is touristy because it is so beautiful. The lake here is just stunning with all these jagged mountain peaks in the background. There are several sandy beaches along the shore and a National park as well as a municipal park.The attraction for the tourists is the stunning mountain scenery, the excellent trout fishing and swimming in the lake, hiking and rock climbing in the mountains and the city sports an excellent nightlife if that is your thing. There are many bars and restaurants here and the prices are all quite reasonable. The two local beers are both lagers called Quilmes and Isenbeck, with Quilmes being by far the more popular. They cost about 75 cents (US) per liter. My own preference here in Argentina has been to drink the fine and inexpensive red wines from the Mendoza Region. There are also a few Irish Pubs here and since it was St.Patricks day two days ago it was quite a lively night in town.
There are 5 or 6 Irish people in my hostel and today Ireland is Playing Wales in Rugby at 12 on TV. There are plenty of Brits here and so I will go back and watch the match. Should be plenty of screaming yelling and chanting!! I dont really have a dog in this fight so I just want to watch a good match and enjoy the excitement as these two traditional rivals go head to head. It is an important match.
I have been spending my days taking slow long leisurely hikes in the mountain and enjoying the sweet smelling fresh mountain air and the stunning mountain vistas. Too bad the weather is become autumn and it is a little too cold to sawim in the lake although it sure looks inviting it just aint happening.
I have had to learn (the hard way) all about bed bugs. These nasty little creatures were in my bed the first two nights I was here. I didnt know what was biting me. I thought it was fleas or mosqwuitos but it is too cool for mossies and the bites were not localized enough to be fleas. Bed bugs bite you all over the place and fleas have a distinct preference for ones ankles. I had no bites on my ankels. The bites are in tight little patterns you get them in bunches. So I was examining some bites on my hand near my thumb and one of the Irish guys looked at them and nodded solemly and said "Bedbugs Mate."
I swithced beds and told the manager about it and he said he would clean the sheets and the bedding and I said the people in the other beds in my room werent getting bitten so when one moved out I just switched beds and now I dont seem to be getting bit anymore. I had thought of changing hostels but, I really like the place I am in it is called Perikos. Nice kitchen really friendly folks and it is a non smoking hostel. This is very unusual for Argentina and it is a real treat for me. I like to breathe here. So I stayed. Other than the bugs it has been a rather un eventful week. I will end this letter now and get some lunch food and go back to watch the rugby. Next Update from Chile.
Rambling Robert the traveling man

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Lakes, Penguins,and Bumblebees

In Argentina, when you see someone on the street or on a path or walking around, you smile at them and say "¡Hola!" and they smile back and reply "¡Hola!". It is a small thing perhaps but, I like that. When I was in Fiji you did the same thing only you would smile and say "Bula!" It means hello. If you dont smile it means goodbye. Hola just means hello, but it is better with a smile.
I am in a place called Angostura. It is about 90 kilometers from Bariloche in the Lake country in the mountains of Argentina near the Western border with Chile. I am staying in a FABULOUS resort called Los Balsas. It is a 5 star (cinco estrella) resort on the shore of a beautiful alpine lake. It is listed in a book called Relais&Chateau, which lists the most beautiful and exclusive small resorts of the world. How nice is it? The bath towel is so big and fluffy that if it were the only thing in my backpack, it wouldnt fit!! They have a spa, a sauna, an indoor swimming pool, a gym, A fabulous restaurant. I am in a room that is a suite. The bathroom has a huge bathtub and a huge shower. Sitting in our enormous bed with a dozen pillows, you look out on this beautiful panoramic scene of this gorgeous lake, (Long Indian name I cant pronounce it or spell it). Okay okay so what gives what is rambling Robert doing in a room that costs $200.00 US per night? Ahh the advantages of traveling with Kimberly.
She bought two room nights at a charity auction in California for a battered womens shelter and so (blah blah blah) here I am!! I went out for a long stroll/hike around the lake and in the surrounding forest today, took the binoculars and spotted some fabulous birds and some orange bumble bees. Way cool for me. I never saw an orange bumble bee before. Wonderful ducks and snipes and hummingbirds and geese and doves, Trout jumping out of the water on the crystal clear lake, 20 degrees (70F) and not a cloud to be seen.
Fantastic breakfast spread included with the room. Nice buffet with flavored yougurts and many cereals, fresh fruits, fruit compotes, fruit salad coffees teas, milk, croisants. You choose some stuff and sit down and they bring a basket of nice fresh baked toasted breads and these little ping pong ball size lemony scones. A nice ceramic 3 compartment tray with black raspberry preserves, strawberry jam and Rose pettle jam, ( Oh my GAWD) english black tea with cinamon cardomom,ginger and cloves added to it, local honey, sweet butter. A pitcher of steamed milk for coffee and a pitcher of cold milk for the tea! Then there is a little menu with crepes and eggs, omelets and bacon and hams and cheeses and you get to choose what you want off of it too. Sitting at a table that looks out on the lake (all the tables look out on to the lake here)Keith Jarret on the stereo.
I couldnt help myself, I had to count how many plates and saucers we had on the table, 23 not counting the lids or the stemware or the baskets!!! Im styling now huh kids??!! So anyway tomorrow we take a bus to Bariloche and move into a hostel into a mixed dorm with the usual 3 bunkbeds, for 20 pesos a night and back to Reality. But it sure was nice to visit FantasyLand!! Thanks Kimmy.
We arrived here from the city of Puerto Madryn in Patagonia on the atlantic coast of Argentina. Patagonia is mostly dessert and looks like Texas or Arizona for the most part not real pretty. Lots of Beef Cattle and sheep graze freely on the vast plains and there are at least 3 herd animals that look like Lamas in small medium and large grazing here . They are raised for the fabulous Patagonia wool to make textiles with. We were there for a couple of nights and went to Punto Tombo and visited the worlds largest Magellanic Penguin colony.
They say there are a million Magellanic Penguins who come here to mate and nest and raise their chicks and otherwise do their Penguin thing.Lots of the birds have already begun their migration north to the coast of Brazil but there were THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of these beautiful birds all on the shore and in the waters off the beach. You can watch them swim under the shallow waters and they swim with the grace agility and speed of a fish due to the ease with which they swim, but you like visualize them as like a bird flying, but flying under the water instead of in the air. Hard to explain but interesting and beautiful, a true wonder of nature, like a link between birds and fish.On land, they have no fear of humans (lucky for them they dont taste good) so you can walk right up to them and they dont panic. They are so cute!! they have wings but they dont have featheres on the wings and They are really more like fins on a fish. They are actually a lot like a seagull except for the wings and they are a little more...how shall I say?...Portly. They kinda have a bowling pin profile. They waddle more than walk and they have like little duck feet but with toe nails. Just beautiful creatures. The goddess had a great day when she thought of Penguins.
I am really enjoying Argentina. Too bad for the Argentine People that they had an ecomomic meltdown a few years ago but it is great for travelers. For the most part things are amazingly cheap here and the infrastructure is as good as Europe or New Zealand or America and the busses are very comfortable, and frequent, so it is very easy and pretty cheap to get around.The people are very friendly, and very pretty to look at. The women are just lovely. Many are of mixed heritage with the largest minorities being Spaniards, Welsh, Italian, and native Indians. Kim says the men are beautiful too. Harrummph.
It has been great fun traveling with Kim but our time together runneth short. We will most likely say goodbye in Bariloche. She can only stay there a couple or 3 days and I will probably spend a week there. There are many beautiful lakes here and I want to explore several of them. They rent these little paddle boats and I think we will try one out tomorrow or the next day. Too bad the water is a little cold for swimming.
Next update from Bariloche.
Ciao for Now!
Rambling Robert the Traveling Man (O el viajero del Mundo)

Monday, March 07, 2005

The end of the world

Tierra Del Fuego, the land of fire, is the end of the world, the end of the earth.
It gets its name from the Arora borealis or night lights that are sometimes seen here. These occur as a result of protons and electrons getting caught in the Magnetic fields in the skies above the north and south poles. it is a beautiful phenomenon but I have not seen one yet, though I am hopintg I will.
It is the land farthest south on our planet. Ushuia is the most southern permanant human settlement on Earth. I am in Ushuia. I have been here for 5 nights and 4 days and I will leave tomorrow to go to Puerto Madryn farther north on the Atlantic coast of Argentina.
The original human inhabitants were a human sub race called the Yamanas. Darwin didnt think they were actually human and thought he had found the "missing Link". They lived here peacefully and in harmony with nature until the 1890s when the white men came. There were about 10,000 yamanas in 1890-all were extinct by 1910. Most of them died from diseases introduced to them by Europeans for which they had no immunities. The chief killer was Measels. Some were hunted some were enslaved and some were killed when ranchers poisoned their food supply. In an effort to tke over their lands.
As a part of the Republic of Argentina, Tierra Del Fuego was lightly populated for decades. Then they built a prison here and made it a prison/work farm island. The town of Ushuia grew up around the prison where Argentina sent its worst criminals, mass murderers and the like. Its isolated location and the frosty subantarctic waters separating it from the mainland, made escape impossible and life rather dreary. Today the prison is closed as a prison but is open as a Museum of the Maritime history of the territory with replicas of famous explorers and pirates boats like The Beagle(Charles Darwins ship) and Sir Francis Drakes boat and many more. It is also a museum depicting the life and conditions of imprisonment for the inmates. It cost 15 pesos to go in, so in I went and it was quite interesting but a little depressing. I went with a couple of Israeli men and two Irish women whom I met at the hostel I am staying in and we all felt about the same.
Modern day Ushuia is a thriving tourist town for about 4 months of the year and I am here now in the last month of the busy season. All the shops and hotels, bars, restaurants and cafes are still open though many will close when the weather turns.
As far as food is concerned (my favorite subject) Here in Argentina Beef is king. The beef is excellent and very popular and cheap. I was given good advice from some locals in Miramar to try the Cordero (lamb) while I was in the south. It is superb. The best lamb I have ever had. Not to offend my friends in New Zealand or Colorado but it is just the tastiest and most tender I have ever experienced. Other highlights are the cheeses, Especially (my opinion) the local knock off of Port Salut. Although all the local cheeses I have tried have been very good this is my fave, so far. There are lots of ripe avocados in all the stores and fruit stands and I have probably had 5 or 6 avocado sandwiches for lunch in the last 3 weeks. They are also most excellent. In the fish world the two most interesting are the local Truche (trout) and the Albino Salmon.
Two days ago the weather was just breathtakingly beautiful and so I went south to Tierra Del Fuego national park. The largest National park in Argentina. I took a nice 6.5 kilometer hike along a well marked coastal trail. It was right on the water most of the way and when it went a little inland it was still fantastic. One of the nicest forest trails I have ever walked. The air this far south is remarkably clean and clear everything is very bright and seems, polished for lack of a better word.
Spotted some pretty critters including a few large golden brown colored rabbits, Some falcons, some geese not like any geese I had ever before seen, and many other Aves (birds) the names of which are unknown to me. Including some HUGE woodpeckers.
At one point as I turned a bend and there right in front of us blocking the path were a small herd of 8 ponies. They were just grazing naked no bridles or saddles or anything and they were not timid at all. I went up to one and petted her and she was cool about it. They were branded so they obviously were not wild but it was one of those beautiful moments anyway.
Funny thing I noticed that I will share with you all. The moon. The moon is differnet looking in different parts of the world. Down here, the man on the moon looks you square in the eye. not a profile but a full on frontal view. hard to explain but suffice it to say I never noticed the moons face look like it does here.
The stars are differnt than in the south east hemisphere too. And of course much differnt than in the northern hemisphere.
"I think to myself, What a wonderful world this is"- Louis Armstrong.
I met up with Kimberle and we have been together for 3 days now. We are going North tomorrow and so far we are getting along pretty well. I am a difficult man, but she is very patient with me and I am trying...
Well that is the end for now. I will update you all again soon.
Rambling Robert the Traveling Man