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Entries about traveling

Stockholm - Madrid

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Before this trip I had planned to take my car back and forth to Stockholm-Arlanda Airport to avoid missing the first flight due to train delay. Here in Sweden, SJ have had all but great critique in the media lately and statistic shows 1 out of 4 trains are delayed or doesn’t show up at all. So I played it safe this time by taking the car. Even though I got up extra early in the morning to finish packing down everything I ran late. So typical me! I did have a transfer to catch from the long-term parking lot to terminal 5 at the airport. But somehow I managed to catch up time during the way and embarked the transfer bus exactly at 11 am.

Finally at Stockholm-Arlanda Airport I sat down and chilled a little. Ate my sandwich, drank my yoghurt and just absorbed the atmosphere. Finally vacation! I was all excited and full of expectations and also happy to see my Italian friend in Santiago de Chile. I checked in through SAS self-check-in, printed my boarding card and got the tag for my baggage. Luckily it was only a short line to the baggage self-drop. But obviously people don’t understand that it is a maximum weight limit of 23 kg for international flights. The people in front of me tried to check in bags with weight over 27 kg! It’s obvious that you can’t do that. Then you must go to a manual check-in desk and pay extra… When I had checked in my baggage and passed the security check it was only an half hour left until boarding started at 1 pm.

The flight was fully seated when the flight attendants announced “Boarding completed”. The crew was Swedish except from one man who obviously was Danish (more about that soon). Time was 1.35pm when the flight taxed out (as scheduled) and one of the flight attendants announced that the safety demonstration would be in English, Spanish and a Scandinavian language… yes, exactly. I reacted as much as you probably did just now… what Scandinavian language!? It ought to be Swedish since the flight is between Stockholm and Madrid, right? But no! The English demonstration was performed by one of the stewardesses. Then it was time for the Spanish demonstration… oh my God! It was the Danish man who spoke now. Has anyone heard a Danish trying to speak Spanish?!? Ha, ha I almost laughed myself to death! It sounded hilarious! My first thought was… What language is that? I really had to make an effort to hear what language it was. And the demonstration with the Scandinavian language was in Danish – not Swedish. I bet it was not a single Danish person on that flight! Very impractical SAS!

Thanks to fair winds the flight landed around 5 pm, about half an hour before scheduled (5.35pm), at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport. The airplane was swirling around for 10 minutes before stopping at the gate. I disembarked the plane and got to the baggage belt where my baggage was one of the first to come out on the belt. Thanks for that ;) Then it was time to get from Terminal 2 to Terminal 4-S from which my next non-stop flight to Santiago de Chile departed from. Madrid-Barajas Airport counts as the largest airport in the world (counted in terminal area) and since I’ve never been there before I had of course planned for some extra time just to orient myself and for transportation between the terminals. Madrid-Barajas Airport is the most important airport in Spain and has the most non-stop flights to Latin America out of all the European Airports. Good to know for those of you who plans to travel to South America. Madrid-Barajas consists of four terminals; T1, T2, T3 and T4. The latest built one, terminal 4, is situated more than 2 kilometers away from the other terminals and the passengers are transported with free buses in-between. Next to terminal 4 is a satellite building called T4-S. To get between T4 and T4-S you have to ride with an underground shuttle train (without driver).

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Thus it was to T4-S I had to go… so after asking at the information desk about how to get to T4 (in the first place) I walked out of the airport and found the bus stop after a few minutes. The heat hit me and it was almost excruciating being outside. But the bus arrived after a few minutes and I dragged my baggage onboard. It took about 10 minutes before the bus stopped at terminal 4. I disembarked and stepped inside and found a LAN Airlines check-in desk. Checked in my baggage and got my boarding card. Yes, so now I only had to find that underground shuttle train. But I had received clear instructions from the man at the check-in desk. It took a while to get there though. The underground shuttle trains departure with only a few minutes apart so you really don’t have to worry if you just missed one. A few minutes later I was finally at terminal 4-S. Now I was so tired and hungry that I stopped by at the very first place which happened to be Burger King (not the best place to eat but at least a hamburger will satisfy your hunger). After eating my hamburger I connected my cell phone to the Airport WiFi and I had a few hours to kill before my flight to Santiago de Chile departed. I went to the gate a few minutes before boarding started at 10.55pm. and delightedly noticed that LAN uses a Dream Liner airplane for this flight. I really like that model since it is both roomy and airy even for economy class! As soon as I boarded the airplane and sat down in my seat, I felt how the tiredness hit me. Now I had ONLY been up for 18 hours… The airplane taxed out and departed according to schedule at 11.55pm. Total flight time calculated to 13 hours and 45 minutes.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged traveling Comments (0)

Viña del Mar and Valparaíso

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The reception desk had phoned up to my room in the middle of the night (!) to inform that my pick-up for today’s tour to Viña del Mar and Valparaíso was delayed by 15 minutes, so new time for pick-up was 8.45am. I woke up in time for breakfast and then waited by the reception desk. I waited and waited and even the academic quarter passed and finally at 9.10am the guide Samuel (“Sam”) showed up. I embarked the bus and the bus drove to a meeting point where even more people from other hotels embarked. The full sized bus was more than half full of people participating in this tour when we started the 1 hour and 30 minute drive to Viña del Mar. Sam, the guide, translated everything he said into 3 languages; Spanish, Portuguese and English. I honestly don’t know if I would be able to keep track of three different languages if I would be a guide. But Sam was great at it and also very fast changing between the languages so you really had to be focused and alert so you didn’t missed anything he said in your language.

The bus drove west onto Route 68 and passed two long tunnels through the Chilean Coastal Mountain Range. According to Sam 90% of Chile’s total land area consists of mountains and about 80 active volcanoes. Every 30 years Chile is affected by very strong earthquakes and Sam made a joke that today was exactly 30 years ago since the last big earthquake. Sam also spoke warmly about Chile having the biggest natural reserves of copper and constitute totally 40% of the copper in the entire world. According to Sam the copper mining also constitute up to 50% of Chiles entire economy. And may I surprise you by telling that Chile is considered the second largest exporting country of Kiwis in the world? At least according to Sam. The climate makes it optimal for viticulture and great production of wine. Viña del Mar and Valparaíso I situated in Casablanca Valley known for its white wine, especially Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Despite that Sam claimed the Chileans drinks more beer than wine.

The first stop for today was Viña del Mar, a city founded in 1874 and due to its geographical location by the ocean it was often plundered by pirates. Viña del Mar is a coastal city and municipality in central Chile, in the beginning situated north of the neighborhood city Valparaíso but nowadays the two cities have grown together and Viña del Mar is now included in the Valparaíso Metropolitan Region called Greater Valparaíso (Gran Valparaíso).


Viña del Mar, often called only Viña, means “the oceans vineyard” since the city is always surrounded by the ocean and the wine. The city also goes by the name “the Garden City” due to all the green areas and big green parks. As Chiles 4th biggest city, Viña del Mar offers El Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar (a very popular music festival), a casino, some of the longest sand beaches in the country and the famous bell made out of flowers “Viña Cuidad Bella”. The bus made a stop at Quinta Vergara Park, where you can see the palace Palacio Vergara where the city founder once lived. The palace was badly damaged in the last big earthquake and is now closed for visitors. In the same park you can also visit the Anfiteatro Quinta Vergara with its big stage where world famous artists like Roxette, Robbie Williams and A-Teens have performed.


After a while we gathered onboard the bus again and went to the second stop - the Flower Bell (Viña Cuidad Bella). The traditional story about the bell says if you photograph together with the Flower Bell you will revisit the Bell at least once more in your life. Sam, as the funny man he was, joked and said he had been in so many photograph with the bell and that’s why he keeps coming back time after time (and not because of his profession as a guide). Then it was finally time for lunch. We were driven to an Italian restaurant (don’t remember the name) where the tour company had a special menu for us guests to choose from. I ordered salad as starter, Spaghetti Bolognese as main dish and ice cream for dessert. And together with a drink it cost only 12000 CLP (12 Euros). Tip not included.


Then it was time to start heading for Valparaíso, a city built on top of 45 hills according to Sam. The city is one of Chile's most important harbor cities and even though Valparaíso technically counts as Chile’s 6th biggest city, Greater Valparaíso counts as the second biggest city in Chile. Thanks to its geographical location the city had a very significant role during the late 19th Century since ships could make stopovers here during their cruise between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by passing through the Magellan Strait. The city was also a big attraction for European immigrants and was called “Little San Francisco” and “the Jewel of the Pacific” during its blooming days. But when the Panama Canal opened the ship traffic abandoned Valparaíso and ceased the economy totally for the inhabitants. The wealthy families fled the city, but the city has since regained its status and tourists starts to find their way back to explore the narrow cobblestoned alleys and the colorful houses. During 2003 Valparaíso was declared as World Heritage by UNESCO and then got the name “Chile’s Cultural Capital”.

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But I guess everyone thinks about the colorful houses when they hear the name Valparaíso. The bus drove by lively colorful parts of the city and the narrow road meandered itself uphill on one of all hills the city is built on.

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One thing that caught my attention was all the doodles or graffiti if you like. Though many paintings were very well made and obviously had a message behind. As a true artist I took a lot of photos of just the graffiti since they got me thinking about all the different statements they were telling.

Pictures taken in Valparaíso often portray the clean and colorful houses which build up an impression of a clean and colorful city in general. But behind the most pleasant and well-photographed houses is a dirty filthy city hidden with abandoned broken-downed houses, street dogs running around and polluted air blowing in over the city from the harbor. I got very disappointed since I had painted up huge expectations of Valparaíso as a city but discovered a totally different reality behind the beautiful portraying pictures. When the bus reached the top of one hill we disembarked and walked for a while to one of Valparaíso’s many funicular railways. In the beginning a total of 30 funicular railways were built all over the city but during the years most of them have been taken out of service or destroyed so only 10 remains which only 5 are still operating today.


In Valparaíso we got one hour to wander around on our own. We had agreed to a meeting point at Sotomayor Plaza where a shopping mall was situated where you could buy souvenirs and food. Just outside the mall was a small marketplace and about 30 meters away from the harbor. A huge American aircraft carrier had just arrived in the harbor and was obviously the big subject in the city. I went to see aircraft carrier for myself and it was huge I can tell you. They do not only look huge in movies… they are huge in real life as well. I’m sorry to say but it wasn’t a pleasure to walk around downtown in Valparaíso since the air was so polluted and smelled bad from all the carriers and ships in the harbor. You really got a headache.


So with an ease sigh you embarked the bus again and started the return trip back to Santiago. I arrived at the hotel in Santiago at 7pm in the evening.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling Comments (0)

Wine tasting at Viña Santa Cruz

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The transfer picked me up at 8.30am and since none of the other transfers during the week had showed up time I wasn’t stressed about this transfer to be in time and had a calm and relaxed morning. BUT then the receptionist phoned up to my room at 8.20am and said my transfer was already here waiting for me! WTF?!? And that didn’t make me stressed or what??? Aaaaah, shit! But then I told myself to take it easy… if they had said 8.30am I then had 10 more minutes to get ready. So without stress I went down to the entrance at 8.30am. The guide, Angelica, welcomed me and we walked out to the transfer that was waiting for me. Obviously I was the only one doing the tour today. We started driving on Carretera Panamericana (Pan American Highway 5) and it would take us 3 hours before we got to the actual vineyard Viña Santa Cruz in Colchagua Valley. Pan American Highway is a network of roads that all together is about 48000 km. The Highway links North and South America together and reaches from Prudhoe Bay in Alaska (USA) to Ushuaia in Argentina except for an 87 km long section between Panama and Colombia where the rainforest is to prevent cut back of rainforest, drug smuggling and spreading contagious diseases.

We drove on Pan American Highway for a while and passed agriculture of peaches (blooming), cherries, grapes, alpha-alpha and wheat among others. We also passed two main rivers; Maipo River and Cachapoal River. The Maipo River is the largest source in the region for irrigation and drinking water while Cachapoal River has an important role for the O’Higgins Region. And suddenly a high security prison showed up in the middle of agriculture and blooming fields. It just didn’t fit in the surroundings. An area with Adobe houses showed up beside the road and Angelica told me that those “clay-houses” were common back in the days in Chile, but are nowadays being replaced with modern houses since Adobe houses can’t stand against earthquakes that well. We also passed haciendas that were introduced in Chile by the Spanish conquerors that built enormous haciendas to mark their status. When we drove by the village Lajuela she told me about the local straw hats that are handmade here that can cost up to 100000 CLP (100 Euros).


Eventually we arrived in Valle de Colchagua (Colchagua Valley) and this region has been prized for its world class produced red wines and the wineries are lining up, one by one, along the roads in the valley. In Colchagua Valley it’s typical to grow the red grapes in the central parts while the white grapes are grown closer to the coast. Ruta del Vino (Wine Highway) is very popular to drive in the valley since it is meandering from vineyard to vineyard. Back in the days guests and tourists could ride onboard a train along a railroad starting in Nancagua and passing through the vineyards, but since the last strong earthquake in 2010 the railroad was destroyed and no reparation has started yet to rebuild the railroad again. Best time to visit vineyards in this region is considered being from late September to May, and the harvest months are Mars, April and May. Chile was the only country to avoid the Phylloxera epidemic during the late 19th Century that was ravaging in the rest of the world (especially in Europe) and therefore the vineyards in Colchagua Valley are hundreds of years old. This could very well be one reason to why the wine from this region has been rewarded worldwide.


When we came onto Viña Santa Cruz land it felt like getting into another world. The road leading up to the main building was lined by vineyards like Petit Verdot, Malbec, Marlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère. From the main building the visitors can take a funicular up to Cerro Chamán (Chamán Hill) with historical flashbacks where they celebrated Chile’s native people’s heritage and cultures like Mapuche, Aymara and Rapa nui cultures. Like a moai within the Rapa nui culture they believe that a piece of Viña Santa Cruz’s soul is mediated through the wine produced on the vineyard. The Aymara culture is being celebrated on the vineyard because of their faith and ideologies while the Mapuche culture (Mapuche – people of the land) celebrates because of their heritage and knowledge about the land.


There are more than 140 hectares of land planted with grapes and the yard has 46 full time employees whereof 30 work only out on the yard. During the harvesting which takes place during the autumn (Mars-May) hundreds of workers are temporarily employed helping out harvesting the grapes. All the grapes harvests by hand early in the morning to preserve the characteristic aroma in each grape.

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The tour on the vineyard ended with a wine tasting: Rosé, Carménère and Cabernet Sauvignon.


After lunch in the city Santa Cruz it was time to pay a visit at Colchagua Museum that was just on the other side of the wall from the restaurant where we ate. A museum to preserve, cherish and spread knowledge about the Chilean cultural heritage. Unfortunately I didn’t get much time to spend in the museum and it felt like I almost ran through it but one of the most interesting objects in the entire museum was the Fénix 2 - the capsule that rescued the 33 trapped mining workers deep down at 700 meters after the strong earthquake in 2010. The dramatic rescue operation was followed by media over the entire world and got known as “the Big Rescue”.


Then, after a long day it was time to return to Santiago and after another 3 hour drive I was back in the hotel. Now it was time to start packing the bags again for tomorrows travel to Easter Island and the mythical moai.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged traveling wine_tasting Comments (0)

Easter Island

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I got up early as hell to be in time for the transfer leaving at 5am. Though I couldn’t find the new batteries I just bought here in Santiago for my portable baggage scale why I had to pack my baggage with my gut feeling and with a little anxiety for having to pay for over-weight on the flight. When time was 4.45am the receptionist phoned up to my room and announced that my transfer had arrived. Since I was already half stressed to death (over not finding the batteries) this announcement didn’t ease my stress at all! I pressed down the last stuff in my baggage and more or less forced the zipper closed. “Shit! I’ll never make the weight limit”, I thought to myself and shrugged… there was nothing I could do now. I wanted to bring everything with me back home and not leave anything behind. Took the elevator down to the reception and checked out, loaded the baggage into the transfer and sank down on the seat in the car. Boo so early in the morning it was!

I arrived well in time at Santiago Arturo Benítez International Airport. The flight to Easter Island (Isla de Pascua) was originally departing at 8am but was later changed to departure at 9.05am. I guess my travel agency forgot to delay my transfer to the airport with one hour as well… well, it’s better to be too early than late! I got in line to LAN Airlines check-in desks and nervously waited. Now for it! Not more than 23 kg was allowed for the baggage. And if someone wonders – yes, flights to Easter Island counts as international flights (even though the island belongs to Chile) so that’s why the weight limit for checked-in baggage is 23 kg. I was super nervous when they called me up to a desk and I told the man behind the desk that I had no idea what my bag would weigh in at before I it up on the scale. I saw how the digital numbers on the scale just went higher and higher to finally end up at 22,9 kg! Wow! I made it with a hairbreadth! Sometimes you need a little luck too ;) I got my boarding card and walked away to the security check with light steps and since it was so early in the morning there was no line. Nice! I bought myself a sandwich and some water that had to do as breakfast. Then I had some to kill and I barely could stay awake.

When it was finally time for boarding I was just as tired and slow-witted as any. The airplane was quite big though, a sort of Dream Liner model but with 2+3+2 seats per row and my travel agency had pre-booked window seats for me just as I wanted. Between Santiago de Chile and Easter Island the flight took about 5 hours and 45 minutes and therefore food was included onboard. I made a few attempts to get some sleep but as always it’s hard to get any quality sleep during flights. Finally when the plane started to descend for landing I couldn’t see any island in sight but that’s not so strange since Easter Island is a very small island with an area of only 164 km2. Easter Island is more or less shaped like a triangle and the islands only airport Mataveri International Airport is situated in the south corner. Since it’s a small island means practically that the runway starts at the southeast coast and stretches 3,3 km east and stops at the northeast coast. So the pilots can’t afford any mistakes during landing or take-off or they will end up in the ocean! So with delight mingled with terror I could only watch through the window and hope for the best when the ocean got more and more close underneath the airplane.


Eventually I could spot the coastline of Easter Island and reinsure myself that the island was within reach when the plane took ground and braked. Luckily the passengers cannot see the end of the runway (that ends with cliffs into the ocean) getting closer and how much or little marginal the pilot actually has.


I disembarked the airplane with tired legs when an intense moisture heat hit me and since I just had left a chilly and cold Santiago I had quite warm clothes on me. But here on Easter Island it was +25 °C, nice and sunny and freshly but warm winds. Mataveri International Airport may be the vastest airport in the world but I want to state one of the smallest ones too, since we had to walk from the airplane on the ground and in to a small wooden building that represented the actual terminal building. I was in a real hurry to get inside since I really needed to use the restroom, but I noticed people stood in line at a small booth just by the entrance to the airport. But I had to walk them by to find a restroom. Even though the airport is small they did have a baggage belt where all the bags arrived on but the space around the belt was too small so people almost stood on top of each other to get their baggage. When I finally spotted my bag I literally had to push myself through the crowd to get it. It was really hot inside the arrival area, just as hot as the outside temperature.

Now all tired in both body and mind I had to find my transfer and I started to glance through all the signs one by one and found a sign with my name on it. It was a relatively tall man that I assume was a native rapa nui, he gave me a flower-necklace and welcomed me and for a short moment I thought I had arrived to Hawaii instead. He loaded my baggage into his transfer bus and asked me if I had bought my ticket to the national park. “Uuuhm, what ticket?” I said and felt totally confused. Then I remembered that it was probably that ticket all the people in line was waiting for to buy, when I had just walked by in search for a restroom. Except from the airport you can only buy the ticket to Orongo National Park (Orongo Parque Nacional) in one other place on the entire island, so remember to buy the ticket on the airport if you plan to visit Easter Island. So I had to go back to that booth to buy the ticket (30000 CLP = 30 Euro) and then back to the transfer. I sat down in the transfer next to another passenger named Emily. While the driver was waiting for a third person Emily and I started to chat a little. Emily was originally from London and been travelling around the world for 3 months and now just arrived with the same flight as I had. When the driver had gathered all three of us he drove off the airport and towards Hanga Roa and our hotels. First stop was Hotel O’Tai, my hotel where I was staying. The driver thought that Emily was the one staying there so when I said “That’s also my hotel” he got confused. So he had to look in his papers and realized that yes, this was my hotel and Emily was staying at another hotel… I’m lucky I was alert and noticed it was my hotel. Who knows where else he could have dropped me off at?

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I checked in and got the key to my room. Hotel O’Tai is beautifully situated in a blooming garden decorated with native flowers, palm trees and small replicas of moai. The hotel’s 40 rooms are embedded in the lushly garden divided in separate buildings and my room was in a corner of one of the buildings – perfect! My room was in a clay-house-building so it was nice and cool inside and from my room you could hear the ocean but in order to see it you had to walk further away. There was no TV in the room and in order to get WiFi you had pay an extra fee. I quickly changed into more suitable clothes before heading out to grab something to eat. I found a restaurant on the main street Atamu Tekena. If you visit Easter Island it’s a must to try out one of all the local fish dishes they have to offer. I dared a tuna fish with rice and a tasty orange/pineapple juice. Then I walked down to the beach and walked along the coastline to Hanga Roa and photographed some moai.

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Unfortunately the sun shined from behind so I decided to get back another day for pictures when the sun shined from another angle. It was really windy along the coast, almost chilly, in the late afternoon but as soon as you got in lee it got hot again. I got to experience a beautiful sunset over the Pacific Ocean later that evening and soon thereafter it got really cold outside. The few street lights that do exist in Hanga Roa were lighted up and it was time to get back to the hotel again. If you plan to visit Easter Island, do remember to bring some kind of flashlight or your cell phone to light up the way in front of you after sunset. Because there aren’t many street lights in Hanga Roa and it gets dark really fast and on top of that the sidewalks are of insufficient quality, rough and edgy and along many sidewalks runs deep slots… so you really need to watch out where you’re walking in the dark.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged traveling easter_island moai Comments (0)

Back to Santiago

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I woke up to the bird-warbling outside and the last day here on Easter Island and even though the island has a troubled and violent history I felt sad to leave such nowadays calm and peaceful island. And when I’m thinking about it, the islanders were living a pretty calm and harmonic life and I never saw a clock anywhere on the island, neither in the hotel, restaurant or at the church tower. And the Rapa nui people were speaking great English which is, in a way, a condition if they want to continue living on tourism as they do today. The locals get around on the island by car, moped, motorcycle and bicycle or on horse. I think I reacted most to the horses. Not that it suddenly could appear a man on a horse on the street… no, but the fact that they just “parked” their horses like a bicycle outside the school or store (and the horses actually just stood there without being tied up) or on a lawn so they could graze. I was really fascinated by this. And the horses didn’t run away, they just stood there… During my staying here on Easter Island I managed to find the batteries to my portable baggage scale again (thank God) and after breakfast I weight in my baggage to 22,7 kg and my backpack at 7 kg. Check-out from the hotel was no later than 10am but since my flight did departure at 2.10 pm I had some hours left before my transfer pick-up.

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I left my baggage at the hotel reception and took the opportunity to go down to the moai along the coastline and re-photograph them with the sun shining in front of them. It was warm outside (especially in lee) but the wind was actually chilly and when I was walking around taking pictures a native Rapa nui approached me and wanted to chat and shake hands. This wasn’t the first time during my stay that had happened and they obviously were curious about where I came from since that was the first question they asked me (after asking about my name). Maybe they don’t have too many ginger-tourists visiting the island? Because pale faces were seen all over Easter Island even at this time of year, which by the way counts as low season, so it must have been something else that made them curious about me.

At 11.50am was the pick-up outside my hotel to the airport and I was happy to see Emily on the same transfer bus. We had the opportunity to chat a little before we kept on going on our continuously travelling in opposite directions. Emily was obviously stressed and she had just found out her flight from Santiago to Miami had been advanced and she was nervous she wouldn’t make the change of flight in Santiago. But since it was LAN Airlines operating both flights I told her to check in the baggage all the way to Miami, so she didn’t have to worry about re-check her bags in Santiago. When we arrived at the airport (as I mentioned earlier is very small) we had to x-ray our bags and then stand in line to check in. I had already a pre-booked window seat as I wanted. When I checked in my bag I did noticed they didn’t have a belt but wagons behind the desk where they put the baggage. Another sign that indicates how small this airport was (is). Then I had to wait in the departure area (that didn’t have any beverage or snacks for purchase) before they opened up the security check. Not until we got to “the gate” they had a little snack bar, where I bought a hot sandwich and water.

Boarding started at 1.25pm and almost every seat was full when the flight attendant announced “Boarding completed”. A few minutes later they announced that the staff would walk the isles and spray some kind of insecticide… and they stated that it was NOT harmful in any way. Then I felt like… WTF?!? First I felt like some kind of vermin being sprayed and then I got upset about how they dared to claim that the insecticide was NOT dangerous? Sure I understand the reason to why they did it… but it can’t be good for your health no matter what they say. And that spray was now suppose to circulate around in the airplane for 4 hours and 40 minutes and we all had to breathe that in? SIGH!
Then the airplane taxed out and got into position out on the runway for take-off. As I wrote before, the runway for take-off and landing on Easter Island is just as long as the island is wide, so the pilots cannot afford any mistakes otherwise they will have the plane ending up in the ocean. But the take-off went as planned and I managed to get a couple of nice photos of the island just after take-off.


Now only 4 hours and 40 minutes back to Santiago. During that time we got served with food (chicken with rice and apple cake as dessert) and I must say that time flew by and the plane landed at Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport about 9.40pm local time (there’s a 2 hour time difference between Easter Island and Santiago). If my travel agency had been smart enough they would have booked a hotel room for me at the airport. BUT for some reason they had booked a room at a hotel in Downtown Santiago… so I had to find my transfer and get to the hotel. Now afterwards I have e-mailed my travel agency and told them that it was very inconvenient though. So I checked in just after 10pm at Hotel Panamericano, nicest hotel so far during my trip but totally unnecessarily since now I had a transfer back to the airport at 5.25am. I wouldn’t even be able to have breakfast at the hotel so I had to order a breakfast-bag instead.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling easter_island Comments (0)

Atacama Desert – here I come!

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Had to get up unhealthy early to be able to catch the transfer at 5.25am back to Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport and the flight departed at 7.30am to El Loa Airport in Calama. It felt like the domestic flight terminal was separate from the rest of the airport and we had to embark a transfer bus to get to the actual airplane. It was bad weather, chilly and drizzling outside. Only problem was that all the passengers didn’t get onto the bus due to lack of space so the bus had to drive back and forth several times to pick-up passengers which delayed our flight. Though it wasn’t a long flight to get to El Loa Airport in Calama, it only took about 1 hour and 45 minutes. And even though it was such short flight we were served both snacks and drinks onboard… watch and learn SAS! Shortly after take-off and before getting into the clouds you had an amazing view over the Andes Mountain Range that proudly rose towards the sky. But even after flying into and above the clouds you could spot peaks of the Andes here and there that stretched all the way up through the clouds.


The closer we got to Calama the nicer weather it got and it got less cloudy and eventually it was a clear sky when we flew in over the Atacama Desert. The sand dunes and dry barren nature spread out underneath the airplane and I don’t know why but it was really beautiful to see.

Atacama Desert is an 181300 km2 desert area in the Antofagasta region in northern Chile and the area is a plateau of saltwater basins, sand and concreted magma and is the driest non-polar desert in the world. Average rainfall is 15 millimeter per year while other areas (Arica and Iquique) only has 1 millimeter per year and some weather stations in Atacama Desert have not received any precipitation at all since the measuring began. Some findings indicate that certain areas in Atacama Desert haven’t had any precipitations at all during 400 years (in between 1570 – 1971). Atacama’s extreme dryness is explained by its geographical location between two big mountain ranges (Andes and Chilean Coastal Mountain Range) and its high altitude which together prevent moisture from both the Pacific Ocean and Atlantic Ocean to reach the desert. Thanks to the location of the plateau and the extreme climate, the desert makes it very suitable for astronomical observations. It’s very few particles in the air and humidity of only 10% makes perfect conditions to study stars and planets. That’s why NASA and several other space organizations have observation stations here and even Sweden has two telescopes here in Atacama.


When the airplane had landed at El Loa Airport (2250 altitude meters) and I stepped outside and walked down the stairs to the ground, I felt the air was totally different. It was warm and dry compared to Easter Island which I just had visited for a few days. We passengers had to walk on the ground from the airplane into the arrival terminal, I got my baggage and went for the exit and looked for my private transfer. The driver was an older man who obviously didn’t speak a lot of English so I really had to focus to understand what he said and I finally got that San Pedro de Atacama was 1 hour away. The only things I managed to see of Calama from the air were that it was a small and sandy town that according to me looked very boring, in other words not much for tourists to see here. But Calama is a town in northern Chile that contributes very much to Chile’s economy year after year thanks to its high richness of copper in the surrounding mountains, and copper is (as I mentioned before) one of Chile’s most important exports. San Pedro de Atacama is southeast of Calama and during the drive we passed many beautiful natures. Can’t understand how such barren and secluded desert can be so amazing? San Pedro de Atacama is the oldest town in Chile (founded around 1459) and has an altitude of 2407 meters. The high altitude makes visitors suffer from typical symptoms like dizziness, headaches and apathy due to the extreme mild but dry climate. So tourists are recommended to drink a lot of water during their stay in San Pedro and both water and water bags can be bought in most of the shops and stores in town. Important is also to remember that you are in a desert (and should dress thereafter) with high temperatures during the day (up to +30 °C) that quickly falls down to sometimes below zero degrees Celsius during the night.


My transfer stopped outside Hotel Poblado Kimal and when I got out of the car it was like getting hit by a wall of warm and dry air. The intense sunshine was reflected by the sand on the street and it was almost impossible to see anything without sunglasses on. All houses I’ve seen so far were clay-houses with straw roofs which are very logical due to the climate here. Clay-houses make it cool and comfy inside during the summers and warm during the winters. Hotal Poblado Kimal has 21 wooden cabin-like rooms similar to bungalows with a terrace each. These have been elegant positioned out in a calm relaxing fruit garden in a pattern resembling of an old settlement called poblado. The hotel also respects Mother Earth (Pacha Mama) and Father Sun (Inti) by providing sun energy for all lights at the hotel complex and letting every tree stay in their original place when the hotel was built. I checked in at the hotel at 11am and the girl at the reception told me that the hotel did not only offered room service but also massage and daily tours to several attractions around San Pedro. I had a look at the price list for the massage and felt how badly I needed one, so I ended up booked a 1-hour-massage for only 30000 CLP (30 Euros) at 7pm later that evening. I also got to meet Jane, a British woman and also the one performing the massage. She was a positive down-to-Earth woman full of energy and it was nice to meet her so I had an idea of who would be massaging me later.


Since my room wasn’t cleaned yet I left my bags in the reception and got out on town. The hotel staff had printed out a map and marked some of the streets and places out that could be useful or interesting. The main street Caracoles was only a stone’s throw away from the hotel and since it was about + 30 °C outside most people (including me) walked along the street in the shadows casted by the houses on one side of the street. It was bearable in the shadow but as soon as you got out in the sun it felt like you boiled. I stopped by a store and bought water before I sat down on a bench in the shadow in the lushly town park. Notable was all the street dogs walking around, some of them did wear dog collars but they were so beat up and unhealthy that I assume they were dogs kicked out on the streets. It does hurt to see since I’m not used to street dogs back home.


Time struck lunch but the heat didn’t make me want to eat something though I drank water like crazy. I tried walking back to the hotel to see if my room was ready, but it wasn’t. I ran into Jane again and she told me there was a market today I could visit that was arranged only once a month. Jane tried to describe the way but then she said it was easier for me to go to the park and then just follow everyone else to where they were going. Ha ha, that sounded a little weird… just follow everyone else… But I did as she said and actually ended up at the market place. It was an open area without natural shadows but they had put up fabrics trying to cut off the sunshine the best they could. It was an amazing mixture of both new and second-hand things for sale and I’m pretty sure you could beat down the prices if you wanted to.

But I felt the heat and the strong sunshine and got very tired so I headed back to the town park and sat down in the shadow again. I drank up the last water and had and went back to the main street to buy some more. Now I felt I was starting to get hungry and entered a restaurant and ordered lunch. A delicious chicken lasagna that tasted superb. Just outside of that restaurant was a small ice cream store. I went inside and the man told me it was homemade ice cream and there were a lot of flavors to choose from. I even got to sample different flavors even though I hadn’t decided if I wanted to buy ice cream or not. But I ended up buying a cone with three different flavors (don’t remember what I chose). On the way back to the hotel I noticed an agency that arranged astronomical observation tours in the evenings to stargaze. If you visit San Pedro, one of the best places on Earth for stargazing, you have to take this tour. Only problem for me was that I had booked the massage at 7pm and this tour started at 8pm. But I took a shot and booked the evening tour anyway in hope of being able to re-book my massage.


When I got back to the hotel my room was finally ready! I met with Jane and there was absolutely no problem to change the massage to 6pm instead. I dragged my bags along and the receptionist led the way to my room and I got a little disappointed since I had expected a bungalow… but for some reason they had up-graded my room to a suite. The hotel has two suites, one with a Jacuzzi and the other one without and I had gotten the one without a Jacuzzi. The suites are also built in clay in difference to the smaller wooden bungalows that to me looked so cozy (from outside at least). But eventually I felt okay getting the suite since the terrace was bigger and more protected from insight than the small terraces belonging to the bungalows. Now I was so tired from both the sun and the thin air that I had to rest until my massage. Jane was a tiny woman and had a guy helping her carrying the portable massage table that was set up in my room. And obviously I had enough space for that in my little (big) suite. It was great getting massaged and releasing all tensions after carrying around all my bags and stuff for two weeks now.

I went to the meeting point for the stargazing tour at 8pm dressed in four layers of clothes, mittens and a hat… as I said before, at night temperature crawls down to around zero degrees Celsius and being outside, standing still, stargazing really needs many layers of clothes. We were about 15 people that had booked the same tour and we boarded the bus that took us to a building just outside the town. When we disembarked the bus we met Jared, our expert for the evening, and he brought us up on the roof where he had his two telescopes. He was multilingual and translated everything he said from English to Spanish so all people on the group would understand. Jared introduced himself and then asked each one of us where we came from. When he got to me he didn’t reacted until a few seconds later… “Oh, Sweden?”… and then he said in poorly Swedish: “I’m also from Sweden. From Norrköping.” Then he told (in English) that he was born and raised in Sweden and had a Swedish mother and Chilean father but wanted to move out of Sweden to Chile to reconnect with his Chilean roots.

It took a while for the eyes to adapt to the darkness up on the roof but once they did it was like looking at a sky full of crystals. Stars everywhere shining so bright and strong that the moon became un-noticeable and almost hidden behind the other stars and phenomena you could see. One phenomenon was the Milky Way that you can’t observe from Sweden and the northern hemisphere with your own eyes but here in San Pedro you could see it on your own. With help of two telescopes (one manual and one computerized) we could watch the moon, Mars and Saturn. According to Jared our moon is 1,3 seconds away from the Earth (in light speed) while Saturn is 80 minutes away. Since 2006 our own solar system consists of only 8 planets (again) after the definitions for a planet were changed.
1) The planet must have a sun/star to encircle.
2) The planet cannot be a satellite to another planet/solid material.
3) The planet must have solid material and the material cannot be moving inside the planet.
And since Pluto didn’t fulfill these criteria the decision was made that Pluto did not belong to our solar system anymore. Jared also meant that if those three definitions hadn’t been set up, our solar system had contained even more planets today.

During the evening Jared got the interesting question about how long it takes for us to notice that a star has died here on Earth. He immediately responded with the example of Orion itself. Orion is not visible from the southern hemisphere (except early in the morning) and is best visible from the north where we in Sweden can see it. But he claimed that the right shoulder in Orion already exploded and died but the distance to Earth will make it another 500 years before we can see that the star is gone. That’s actually kind of cool. A slideshow and coffee break were included in the tour and it was very interesting listening to Jared since he was so passionate about his profession as an astronomer. He was competent, experienced and had answers to all questions that were asked during the evening.


Got back at the hotel at 10.30pm, tired, cold and frozen (despite all the layers of clothes) so a nice warm shower and then went straight to bed.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged traveling atacama_desert star_gazing Comments (0)

Flamingos and high altitude

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Woke up in time for breakfast to catch the pick-up at 8.30am and the full-day tour today went to Atacama Salt Flat and the Miscanti and Miñiques lakes. I was in time for my pick-up but when nobody had showed up at 8.45am I asked the staff in the hotel reception if I had missed the pick-up somehow but she answered me that pick-ups are always late… so typical. I had been stressing to be on time just to find out that the transfer probably even won’t be there until later anyway. A few minutes later my pick-up arrived and the guide, Tote, greeted me. Today I was the only English-speaking person riding along but that was no problem for Tote who happily translated everything he said in Spanish into English, just for me.


We drove for 20 minutes to Toconao where we made our first stop. The town was inhabited already in 11000 BC and has today a population of 700 people. Toconao is characterized by being built up of only Liparita, a volcano rock. We had half an hour to wonder around in the town and those who needed to buy water or some kind of snack had to do it here, since we weren’t eating lunch until 2pm. Then we kept on going for another 25 minutes until we arrived at Salar de Atacama (Atacama Salt Flat).


Atacama Salt Flat is the largest saltwater basin in Chile and has an average altitude of 2300 meters. The basin has no outlet thanks to the surrounding Andes Mountain Range in east and Cordillera de Domeyko as well as Cordillera de La Sal (two secondary mountain ranges to the Andes) in west. The landscape in Atacama Salt Flat is dominated by volcanoes as Licancabur, Acamarachi and Láscar whereof the latter reaches 5592 altitude meters and is one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. These mountain ranges are dangerous because a lot of volcanic activities are captured inside and can explode any day, any time. Chile is not only rich of copper but also lithium. Close to 30% of the world’s lithium reserves exists in Atacama Salt Flat and counts as the biggest and most pure active source to lithium carbonate. Atacama Salt Flat divides into two subunits; Soncor and Quelana. Soncor in turn covers Chaxa, Puilar and Barros Negros-lakes which are all included in Los Flamencos National Reserve. You can find three out of six species of Flamingos here in Atacama Salt Flat; Andean, Chilean and James Flamingos. A distinct difference between the Andean and Chilean Flamingo is the legs; Andean has pink legs while Chilean has black legs.

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We disembarked the bus and started to walk in the barren landscape. Tote took the lead and the rest of us followed in his footsteps. There was a narrow path to hike and it was lined with sharp mineral stones that you definitely didn’t want to fall on, they looked like sharp knives. Tote told us the flamingo spend up to 16 hours a day looking for shrimps in the water and it’s not any shrimp but a special Brine Shrimp.


The shrimp is less than 1 centimeter long and has adopted themselves to live in the salty environment, sustain high temperatures and survive in extremely oxygen deficient nature. Before we started walking on this path Tote had showed me an aquarium full of Brine Shrimps and they were really small creatures, barely visible. Brine Shrimps also contain beta-carotene which gives the characteristic pink color to the flamingos. On top of that the shrimps contain a lot of protein giving migrating birds energy. The Flamingo chooses to sleep in the water (standing on one leg) so their main enemy, the fox, won’t be able to reach them. They also build their nests out on islands in lakes for the same reason. After walking the short path around, we had 20 minutes on our own to go around and take pictures.


I snapped a few panorama photos and then headed back to the main building and sat down in the shadow. Even though it was winter/spring here now it was really warm, the sun was broiling at the altitude of 2300 meters and the effect was thereafter – in other words high.

After that we embarked the bus again and Tote now announced that we would be going for another hour and a half to the highland and stop at Puna de Atacama (Atacama Plateau) at altitude 4200 meters. First part of the road was asphalted and the nature around full of volcanoes, mountains and wilderness. Then we turned off on a more narrow dirt road partially so bad it was painful sitting in the bus. It was a bumpy road meandering through the volcanic landscape and sometimes the road almost knotted itself. And up here you started to suffer from the high altitude and no wonder since we eventually stopped at 4200 meters above sea level.


We stopped at Laguna Miscanti (Lake Miscanti). As soon as I got out of the bus I immediately felt the wind blew like polar winds even though it was +15 °C! So freezing cold and the air was thin and difficult to breathe while moving around. But we got out there walking the path along Lake Miscanti for about 100 meters. Piece of cake! We all thought, but boy was it heavy to walk or what? It was barely enough oxygen in the air and the freezing cold wind didn’t make it easier though the scenery was amazing up there. Next to Lake Miscanti was the Volcano Miscanti and the clear blue color in the water against the surrounding barren nature were beautiful, and those 100 meters took like 15 minutes to walk.


The bus was waiting for us at the end of the path and we rode to the next lake, Miñiques, with its volcano Miñiques next to it. This lake was not as big as the first one but had just as impressive landscape around it. After that we turned around and started to traveli the same way back. We made a short stop just outside Socaire and Tote showed us a bush growing next to the road. My first thought was “Uuuuhm, just a regular bush, or?” He wanted us to smell it.


It was a distinct smell, hard to describe, but according to Tote this was a Rica-Rica bush that they make stomach medicine out of and the seeds are one of the ingredients in the drink Pisco Sour. We all went back to the bus and continued to the small village Socaire (only 250 inhabitants) to the longed-for lunch. We were starving and the hot vegetable soup warmed us all up and I had ordered chicken with rice as main dish. Great food after such long and strenuous day at high altitude and when we all had finished our meals we got back on the bus and kept on going back to San Pedro de Atacama. It took over an hour until we arrived and I think most of us on the bus fell asleep for a while, at least I did.

When I got back at my hotel I had no energy to do anything else that day, the air had run out so to speak. In my suite there was a gas radiator you could use during the evening and nights. To me everything that runs with gas (radiators, stoves etc.) is kind of scary in general, maybe because I’m not used to it… But it was necessarily here in the desert during nights when the outside temperature crawled down to like zero degrees Celsius, and then I was glad I had that source of heat to use. But it wasn’t easy to fire it up so I had to get help by the hotel janitor. He was a nice guy, even though he didn’t spoke a single word of English he appeared to be very nice but modest and almost didn’t dare to approach or interrupt us guests.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged mountains volcanos traveling atacama_desert Comments (0)

Allt for this time...

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Spoiled myself with another sleep-in this very last day in San Pedro and moreover Chile. I was a little sad to leave yet nice to get back home again. Ate breakfast at 8am and later went back to my room to pack everything down in my bags and since I had found my portable baggage scale again I could weigh-in my baggage to be sure to avoid going over the maximum weight limit. Check-out from the hotel was at 11am and I paid for the massage with all the Chilean pesos I had left and the rest with my credit card. It’s always nice to get rid of cash in currency that you can’t use back home. My transfer back to Calama and El Loa Airport was scheduled at 11.30am and a young Chilean man showed up to pick me up. I don’t remember his name but he was very nice and spoke well English. He had been working in New Zeeland for a year and therefore spoke well English. Chilean citizens can file for working visas in countries like New Zeeland, Canada, Germany and Denmark (if I remember correct). When I told him I would love to visit New Zeeland one day he recommended places for me to visit. Unfortunately I don’t remember everything he told me so I should have written that down – that’s me in a nutshell :P

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About an hour later I was back at El Loa Airport in Calama. I checked in my baggage all the way to Madrid (via Santiago) since it was the same flight company (LAN Airlines) and it’s always nice not to care about the baggage. My flight took off at 2.30pm and the weather was as nice and clear as when I arrived a few days earlier. You could see the desert extend underneath and when we started to approach Santiago you could clearly see the smog started to appear and stood out as a dark foggy shadow. Had I really been breathing that air for a week!? After descending through all smog and clouds the airplane landed at a rainy and gloomy Santiago Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport at 4.35pm. Even though I didn’t have to claim my baggage I still had to “re-check” myself so to speak and leave my tourist card at the border-control police booth and get a stamp in my passport that I was leaving the country. The line to the passport control was not long but shortly after about 200 people came, so I was lucky to get there in time. The flight from Santiago to Madrid would departure at 6.55pm so now I had plenty of time to buy something to eat, and shopping at Tax-free. I found a box of perfume with 5 small bottles by Calvin Klein… and yes, as a big fan of Calvin Klein I just had to buy it ;) When I sat down at the gate waiting for boarding to start I noticed it was going to be a big Dream Liner Airplane. Nice :) As I like that model. Big and spacey even for economy class. I had managed to get an aisle seat right behind business class so I had extra room for my legs. Great! So now I was looking forward to roughly 12 hours and 40 minutes in the air before landing at Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged cities traveling atacama_desert Comments (0)

Madrid - Berlin - Stockholm

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After both dinner and breakfast onboard the flight and some lame attempts to get some sleep the plane descended for landing. I must say time went by so fast… maybe because I was so homesick? At some point over the Atlantic Ocean the date switched from September 4th to September 5th so when I disembarked the plane in Madrid it was already September 5th and time was 1.25pm. Dizzy, tired in both body and mind I had to find the baggage claim but I just had to follow everyone else, taking the underground train from T4-S and back to T4, pass the passport control and then find the right baggage belt. It felt like forever until my bag came and the heat inside the airport was horrible. Now, dragging my bags along, I had to find the check-in desks for Berlin Airlines and that wasn’t easy. But I finally found them way back in a lonely corner.

The check-in opened up at 3pm and my flight took off at 5.45pm. After 2 hours and 55 minutes I landed in Berlin at 8.40pm for a short stop-over and a change of flight. My next flight to Stockholm took off at 9.25pm and even though it was the same company for both flights I had to run across the entire airport… I barely made it. But let me just be clear that I had over an hour to change flights when I originally booked these flights but for some reason they had changed the time schedule just a month before my trip. Ha, so next time (if I travel via Berlin) I’ll be sure to have more than an hour to change. It was fantastic that both my bags and I made it on the last flight back to Stockholm. So at 10.40pm I disembarked the last flight at Stockholm Arlanda Airport and could happily state that everything went well in the end. Checked in at Radisson Blu Sky City to rest and sleep for the car trip back home tomorrow… well needed since you definitely weren’t fit enough to drive home straight after 19 hours of flight.

Posted by bejjan 16:00 Archived in Chile Tagged traveling Comments (0)

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