Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back in Santiago!

After another all night, 12 hour bus ride we made it back to Santiago! Dan just left safely and should be in the air on his way to Chicago in a few minutes.

This is the point in my post where I like to complain about either the speed of the Internet or the speed of my computer. Today you are in for a treat because I get to complain about BOTH! I was hoping to upload all 200 or so of my photos, but they are taking about 5 minutes each. There will be a few up, but I think we'll have to wait for later to see all of them. There are also some exciting VIDEOS on the way!

Today in Santiago, we got in, helped Jess finish moving out of her apartment, found a place to stay and explored the city! Tomorrow we may be hitting up two coastal cities about an hour from here, Valaprasio and Vina del Mar.

I'll post more photos and videos soon! You can see my Chile set of photos in progress here:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

3 Days In Bahia Inglesa

We spent the last 3 days and 2 nights in Bahia Inglesa! Bahia Inglesa (or English Bay) is this gorgeous little touristy beach town. Food and lodging is expensive, but totally worth it because everything there is so beauiful and sunny. I think we all could have used about an extra week there!

Unfortunately, I´m currently using the same computer that the Wright Brothers used to run their aviation simulations. The historical value is interesting, but uploading photos is nearly impossible (as it pre-dates the Internet by about 80 years).

The last two days we went SURFING on the Pacific coast! We wore wet suits as the ocean is still pretty cold here, but not too bad. This was my first time surfing and I did a bit better than I expected (although I had pretty low expectations, since my goal was to not drown). It turned out it is pretty easy to "catch" a wave, but standing up on the board proved to be the hardest part... I got up a few times but nothing you´ll see on ESPN2 any time soon.

We also stayed in this awesome little cabaƱa. Well, not little, actually. It had 3 rooms and SIX beds, plus a living room and kitchen and porch! We bought groceries and cooked dinner and drank Chilean wine last night. I think they charge per person, and foreigners don´t have to pay the 19% sales tax so we ended up paying about $80 per night, split 3 ways!

Tonight, we´re catching an overnight bus to Santiago. Dan leaves tomorrow and Jess and I leave on the 29th. I´ll be back in Michigan on the 30th! Photos and even some exciting VIDEOS will follow!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

On our way to Bahia Inglesa!

We´re doing great and have left San Pedro de Atacama. We're currently on a layover and are on our way to Bahia Inglesa which is described as "beach nirvana". Still short on Internet time, but here are a few selected photos from the last few days!

Chile 001
Here we are in our beach clothes in 0 degree Weather! Actually, this is after the sun came up, so we were much warmer here.

Chile 002
Here is a shot of the mountain where we saw the geysers. Those are flamingos!

Chile 003
This is my feet as we are about to cross the Bolivian border. I didn´t sign up for snow!

Chile 004
Dan and I in the snow. SNOW? Seriously though... I didn´t sign up for snow.

Chile 005
This is a shot of the Bolivian customs building, which was more of a shack. To get here, we turned off of a nicely paved highway in what seemed like the middle of nowhere. I don´t even think we were on a road. We just drove off road for a while then got to this shack. (They did have two little gates, also in the middle of nowhere, as if that might prevent people from crossing or something). We actually had some trouble crossing. They said Americans had to get visas in advance, even though our tour booking guy specifically said we didn´t. Everyone else on our tour left and we were sitting there at this shack in the middle of nowhere, waiting for the Bolivian "boss" who was going to come sort it out. He actually did show up, and got us temporary visas. I have to imagine the tour company decided it was easier to have their guy bribe the officials rather than force American tourists to buy the expensive and time consuming visa. It would have been nice to let us know though!

Chile 006
The three of us in Bolivia in front of La Laguna Blanco

Chile 007
We drove around in Bolivia in these trucks for HOURS and HOURS and HOURS over virtually no roads. We all had serious headaches and car sickness by the end of the day. We also were in a BLIZZARD by the end and were concerned that we wouldn´t make it back at all. I certainly did not sign up for a blizzard.

Chile 008
Dan and Jess in natural hot springs in the middle of the Mountains! The hot springs were about 100 degrees here!

Chile 009
This photo doesn´t do this place even a little bit of justice, but it is a huge bright PINK lake with THOUSANDS of pink flamingos in the middle of gorgeous mountains. It was just really really beautiful, fertile land. Amazing stuff. And if you´re wondering how flamingo kebabs taste, they´re delicious.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Still Having Fun in San Pedro DE Atacama!

Today was a BIG day here in the "driest" desert in the world! Last night was actually capped off with RAIN here in the driest desert in the world. To be honest, we are not that impressed with the dryness. I´ve seen drier.

Last night was CLOSELY followed by this morning which started with a 3:15 am wake up call. That´s not "Chile" time where an hour is actually 4 hours or anything, Jessica actually made us drag our asses out of bed at 3:15 am. We did this to hit the Tatio Geysers in the best viewing time of between 6 and 7 am.

Our helpful tour booking agent informed us that these are HOT geysers that include a hot springs for bathing so we should make sure to bring our swim suits. Dan, Jess and I diligently dressed in flip flops, bathing suits and long sleeve t-shirts and our light jackets (in case it was cold). One point of interest was the native´s choice of clothing. While we chose "beach wear", they seemed to prefer parkas, long pants, scarves and hats. Apparently, when you are 5200 meters above sea level, in the desert, before the sun rises, 0 celcius is a pretty average temperature. We continually asked if we were in the right place for the beach volleyball tournament, but no one knew what we were talking about.

The geysers were hot, both literally and figuratively. We DID get in a swim after the sun came up! Our trip was capped by seeing some real live mountain llamas! Our guide then took us to a tiny local town where they were selling real dead llama-kebabs. He seemed to think it was hilarious to point towards the llamas and say "before" then point to the grill and say "after". If you are wondering how llama-kebabs taste, they are delicious.

Also: we went to the moon valley. We´re on a dial-up connection so more details and photos will follow! Tomorrow, we are heading to BOLIVIA, then a bus to Bahia Inglesa on Wednesday! I suspect they´ll have better Internet there.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

We're in San Pedro de la Atacama

After a 17 hour bus ride, we have made it to the Northern most point of our trip, San Pedro de la Atacama. The "Atacama" is the driest desert in world! Although, to be honest, I'm not that blown away by the dryness just yet.

The highlight of the bus ride was playing some mad boggle on the last leg (Jessica remains undefeated). The lowlight was the poop smell that engulfed us everytime another wayward passenger decided to venture into the unknown of the bus urinal. I personally made it all 17 hours with no potty breaks! Go blue!

Tomorrow we're getting up at FOUR AM to check out these geysers and hot springs and then doing a sunset trip to this famous valley area in the desert. The NEXT day we're going to Bolivia on a lake tour! That means I get one step closer to Jessica in terms of countries visited (proportionally, at least)

The Internet connection sucks here so no photos today! Hopefully in our next city! We'll be here for three nights, then off to Bahia Inglesa.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

In La Serena, Heading to San Pedro

We have finally made it on our way! We made the tough ¨Go North/Go South¨ decision based on a series of thougtful discussions, a few coin flips and a rousing game of rock/paper/scissors. We decided to head NORTH!

After one night in Santiago, we took a morning bus to La Serena, which is about 6 hours north. We checked out the beach, went to a nearby town and hiked up a mountain and last night we had a midnight trip to an observatory. Chile, according to our guide, is the best place in the world for observatories and coutries from all over the world are building telescopes such as the VLT (Very Large Telescope), the ELT (Extremely Large Telescope) and the OWL (OverWhelmingly Large).

We´re headed to San Pedro tonight on an overnight 14 hour bus ride. Apparently it is the driest dessert in the world. I´m skeptical... I think I´ll be able to spot a FEW puddles, at least... I mean, how dry can it be? My computer time today is pretty short so I think I´ll end it here with some photos!

You can see my photos here

Imagen 025

Imagen 001

Imagen 010

Imagen 033

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Made it to Santiago!

So I have finished the first part of my journey and made it to Santiago, Chile! I stopped in Atlanta, then a 10 hour flight to Santiago! Chile is actually 2 hours AHEAD of New York and 5 hours ahead of the West coast.

This is my first time in the southern hemisphere. Things are not nearly as upside-down as I imagined. Also, it's summer here, which would have been helpful knowledge to have before I packed. Oh well...

Ok... Short on time today but more posts and photos to come!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

FullSizePosters Review

I recently was looking for a way to print a reasonably high quality 24 x 36 inch poster to be placed in a frame in my living room. I checked out a ton of options, including getting ripped off by your local Kinkos or the vast array of online stores that claim to do it.

I finally decided on I made the decision based on their great prices, their focus on poster printing and a good feeling I got from the positive reviews on their site along with their phone number displayed at the top of every page. (I had read some horror stories from other printers where the print didn't show up for weeks with no way to contact the company)

The actual upload and checkout process was really nice. The site is strikingly simple, only a couple pages, but it's exactly what you want and need. They make really good use of Google checkout. I paid easily and quickly got a receipt by e-mail with a link to track the status of my order.

I placed the order around 1:20pm on December 28th and was thrilled that it was printed and shipped THAT DAY. They shipped via USPS 2-3 day priority mail with a reasonable shipping cost. (I paid $32.37 when all was said and done for my 2x3 poster)

I received my poster 2-3 business days later. It came in a really sturdy cardboard tube. Inside the tube, my poster was rolled in tissue paper and sealed in an airtight plastic bag.

The poster looks awesome. I mean... it's perfect. I've gotten used to being disappointed after ordering a print job, but this final product was exactly what I hoped for. The print is on really high quality glossy photo type paper. Kind of like a big version of a photo you might get developed, so it's thicker and heavier duty than a stock poster you would buy at the store.

ANYWAY, I was googling for "FullSizePoster Reviews" when I was making my decision, so hopefully this is helpful to others. Also, FYI, this is not a paid post of any kind. I'm just a dude trying to give back to the Internet community in my own little way. Thanks! :)

P.S. The poster was actually to play a prank on my roommate. Here is what I printed:

Catface couch final