Sendero Group Travel Blog

Follow Sendero travelers on their adventures using accessible GPS.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


Vacation to Chile

It is quite the production to travel from California to Chile. According to my BrailleNote GPS it is 5975 miles line of sight so to speak from Davis California to Santiago Chile. In order to take advantage of United frequent flyer tickets, we were routed through Toronto Canada for a total of over 7700 miles. Add two airport transfers and delays and the trip takes nearly 24 hours. Probably a quarter of the air time was bumpy and that makes the trip long and stressful.

So why would one go through such a production for a holiday? As I sit on my balcony at the Valle Nevado ski resort over 10,000 feet in elevation, we are on top of the world. It is strange for us Northern hemisphere folks to experience winter in the midst of August. The snow stretches in all directions. We are above the tree line and beyond the endless snowscape are mountain peaks up to 22000 feet.
On our way to skiing in South America, we stopped for two days in Santiago. It is much like other big cities. It is in a bowl so it can be smoggy like Los Angeles but our timing was very fortunate, not a cloud in the sky with that wonderful contrast of crisp winter air and warm sunshine. Mostly we wandered around, eating and looking at people and doing some shopping.

The marketing here of goods is an intense form of one on one sales. People have all sorts of techniques for getting you into their restaurant or shop. I liked to listen to the different pitches as it was an opportunity to learn what was around and to meet locals.

We took the subway to the Central Market during what turned out to be a huge rally for a priest being canonized. There was a Christian rock band playing and thousands of people dancing, singing and throwing confetti. All the time we were walking, I was of course marking GPS points for future reference.

Mike and Wyndham cozying up to a llama

In one plaza, there was a guy with two llamas, and for 1000 pesos, the equivalent of 2 dollars, we had our pictures taken with the white llama, Sofi I think her name was. Her back was at my waste level and I was picturing a guide harness on her. Llamas are known for their fur and as good pack animals. I doubt they are bright enough to do much guiding. Still it was a funny thought to picture a guide Llama along with my GPS navigation.

People in Chile are among the friendliest on earth, right up there with Dublin but with Latin passion. I am talking about the taxi drivers, the shop owners, the hotel staff and the people I have gotten to know over the years in Chile. My mother was born and raised here so I am predisposed to this country. When I was VP of Sales at Arkenstone, I got an adaptive technology dealer started in Chile named Jean Paul Ohaco. He and his family have treated us like family. I have seen him several times over the past 10 years since we met and he has guided me skiing. We are still close friends after he nearly impaled me on a fence post. He is actually a snowboarder and his wife an excellent skier and member of a national Chilean sailing team. His family skis even more than ours.

Another wonderful friend is Andrea Mujica and her husband Dietrich. I met her through my mother’s side of the family and she has been incredible about staying in touch by email and very helpful in setting up our trip. It is amazing to be able to see someone after many years and instantly connect. These connections and the opportunity to ski amidst another culture is why it is worth the long trip to get here.

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