Browse Month

October 2016

Picture perfect Patagonia

Even though this is pretty much as far away from home as possible, I felt a little at home. When I say home there are actually two places in mind; the first in Sweden on the farm where I grew up. A really small place with only dirt roads and this is where my heart is and where I go to find 100 % peace. My other home is Norway, the country where I’ve lived from I was 19 to 30 years and in my opinion, the best country in the world – but that’s another story.

Without exaggerating, it’s fair to say that the southern parts of Chile are almost like the northern parts of Norway. A long cold coastal line, small cosy cities and not the highest mountains but really scenic ones. You could say that this is the Lofoten of South America. A laid-back vibe with pleasant people on top of the surroundings and you have Norway in a nutshell.

I flew down from Santiago (almost 3,5 hours so it’s FAR south) to Punta Arenas and jumped on the first bus to the small city of Puerto Natales. This is the hub for adventures in Torres del Paine National Park – where I spent my time. Here you find scenic mountains, blue lakes and some wildlife too. The wildest and weirdest I came across was an armadillo. Never seen before and I must say it was really funny!

The season has not really started down here, it’s still spring and the trekking and hiking season starts around December. The good thing visiting now was there were no crowds at all – which I like when being in the wild. On the other hand, mother earth will grant you will all the 4 seasons every day and to put it this way; a really fresh breeze from Antarctica. It was windy and I had both blue skies and snow every day.

If you are in Chile and you like nature and hiking, Patagonia is a must. But if you are not in Chile or South America and REALLY like nature and hiking – go to Norway. Even though it was very scenic down here, I yet have to find a more beautiful country than Norway. And I’m not saying that of patriotism – remember that I’m not even Norwegian. The highlight of Patagonia is “Las Torres” and they are definitely on level with the sceneries back home. It’s three peaks looking like “horns” and they rise almost from sea level up to a staggering 2500 meters above sea level. Besides those; there is no place like home.

Next up is a 14 hour bus ride (including a ferry and big waves they say) in order to get to the southernmost city in the world, where you will  get a literally fresh update from me. It’s also the home country to one of my idols growing up, Diego Armando Maradona.

patagonia

Serenity in Santiago – insanity in Caracas

Surprise is not something we can seize; sneaking up from behind, it seizes us. This is pretty much how I felt after spending some days in the capital of Chile; Santiago. Coming from really low standards, bad food and cold showers in Bolivia I was certain things would be better in Chile and Santiago, but I did not expect a modern metropole with standards on level with big cities in Europe or the US.

The city itself is perhaps not the most beautiful nor has it the most attractions or things to do, pretty average I would say. But the feeling of coming to a place where the standard of living reminds you of home was a blessing. Except a few hill it’s a flat big concrete city surrounded by mountains. Usually not the kind of places I like, but I guess your preferments and needs can change based on what you recently have experienced – and I needed a break from all action to find some serenity. Perhaps the biggest “gift” was to finally have quality food! I have no problem with long hard days or bad sleep, but the food is important to me. I’m a pretty big guy and always active, so just like a sports car I need fuel to keep on going. When eating french fries, chicken, crackers and Snickers for two weeks both my body, brain and belly freaks out.

The days were spent without any big “wows” or super cool attractions – they were spent pretty much like if I would have been home. Working out, hiking, enjoying the nice weather (20-25 Celsius and sunny) and talking to lots of locals! It was actually really nice with some days not hunting the big “wows” and picture perfect adventures. The locals here were super friendly and I spoke to a lot of them; in bars and at the different out-door gyms I used. Friendly, talkative and interested in hearing my story about my home and my travels. At the same time I was interested hearing about theirs. It struck me that this is almost like my one home, Norway. In Norway we live good lives with a long stretched country, cold coast with seafood, mountains and lots of oil which people profit a lot on. Here it’s pretty much the same – except they have mining instead of oil, but the salaries are really high and reminds me of the oil industry back home.

Another fact that was a bit frightening was that there were a lot of people from Venezuela moving here to life and work. The people themselves were of course not scary, but the reason they had come here. It was nothing here that actually attracted them – but something back home pretty much forcing them to move. The capital of Venezuela, Caracas, is considered the most dangerous city in the world at the moment – and it’s history record is not very impressive either. It has been on the top 5 list for the last 10 years, but since the oil crisis started late 2014 it has got A LOT worse.  Did you by the way know that Venezuela has the biggest oil reserves in the world? Not Russia, US, Saudiarabia or Iran. There are of course many reasons for the violence and it’s not just the oil, even though of course a country so dependent of the oil will feel a crisis and make it even more poor. Colombia is the neighbor in the west and we all know the problems related to the drug industry there. This has of course affected Venezuela a lot and even if the drug war is more or less over, it has established gangs and a culture of guns, violence and people living their whole lives as criminals. In addition to this, the government has run the country in a really bad way! The corruption is said to be extreme and the way the government have tried to strike down on the violence has only increased them. When you think of it, it’s pretty logic: the criminal gangs have had weapons all for a long time and are not willing to surrender from their way of life without a real fight. So, the government forces staff up with bigger guns trying do defeat them – what happens? Of course the gangs step up their weapon arsenal too! Since the government has not managed to stop them, this has resulted in even more and bigger guns floating all over Caracas.

To put it all in perspective: there are about 50 homicides PER DAY in Caracas. Most victims totally innocent. It’s normal (even though it sounds totally sick) that if you walk around in Caracas it might show up some gangsters on motorbikes pointing their guns at you asking for your wallet and cell phone. If you not hand it over – you get shot in the open street! How sick isn’t that?! People actually kill another human without hesitating, just for a piece of plastic worth 500 bucks?! Another story that a young Venezuelan girl told me was that her mom every now and then were robbed walking from the grocery store. I mean, if you can’t even walk your milk and bread home from the store without getting robbed – it’s more than absurd. This young girl had a big heart though and was working in Santiago in order to get a better life and also to send money home to her mother. There is hope for humanity!

So, I hope you took time to read this and even if you wake up today wether it be in Oslo, Skövde, Stockholm, Moscow, Los Angeles or Sydney – I hope you will feel grateful living in a place where you can walk the streets without risking loosing your cell phone – or life.

My days in the big city are over for this time. It was nice, but now my adventurous alter ego has caught up with me and I’m off to one of the most southern places on earth; Patagonia and it’s mighty mountains. I think also this place will make me feel a little like home, I hope.

Gracias Santiago!

Link on the situation in Venezuela: http://www.businessinsider.com/caracas-yikes/#changa-tuki-gained-visibility-and-reputation-because-people-who-would-dance-to-it-or-practice-it-would-do-so-at-daytime-dance-parties-precisely-because-doing-so-at-nighttime-was-so-dangerous-especially-in-popular-sectors-velasco-told-business-insider-16

Santiago

Valparaíso – hipster heaven on earth?

If you read my post about hiking the Rainbow Mountain in Peru a couple of weeks ago, you could actually believe another rainbow fell in this city; Valparaiso in Chile. Perhaps the most colorful city I’ve been to. The name itself means Paradise Valley (Val for valley and Paraiso for paradise). And a paradise it is – for hipsters.

For about 15 years ago Valparaiso witnessed a big vegetarian trend among some new settlers. The “Valpo” locals called them “hippies” – but they determined answered that “we are not hippies, we are happies”. There is a graffiti wall saying this and it has actually become the most popular attraction in town. It was painted 10 years ago and is still in it’s original appearance. Personally I like the quote. I mean, is it really your business if other people want to eat vegetarian? “Whatever floats your boat” is a quote I like using. I’m not a vegetarian myself, but I’m trying to eat more and more green and less and less red meat. Mainly for two reasons: my own health and the health of mother earth.

Nowadays this city is an important port city for Chile and also a mecca for hipsters. Call me shallow and judging if you want – but I have to question this hipster trend. Of course, people are allowed to wear what they want and it’s not my business, yet I just can’t understand this trend going on. I mean; you actually strive to look as weird as possible with the beard of Santa Claus and your grand dad’s old clothes. Can someone please explain me why this by many is considered hot, cool, stylish and intelligent? Personally I think this is a trend that will be over in about 2 years and when looking back on it we/they will probably laugh and wonder what they were drinking to actually dress like that. Time will tell, but I just believe the human race will develop an other way regarding clothing and style. PS! I’m aware of my double moral here that I should not care how other dress, but can’t control my fingers on this point! 😉

So, what did I think of Valparaiso? I stayed there for two days and really liked it. After spending four days in the big and busy Santiago it felt good coming here. Not really many things to do other than sightseeing in the many funny, vibrant, narrow and artistic streets. I spend my days doing that, enjoying the fresh ocean air and eating good food including Starbucks (yes, I crawed it). After two days I returned to Santiago again, which I will come back to in the next post.

What do you think of the hipster trend?

Valparaiso