Monday, February 18, 2008

Refuge in the Refugio

On the advice of Brett and Nicki we decided to escape the overdeveloped Pucon and head to the national park with the unpronouncable name of Huerquehue (a Mapuche name as most place names here are). We stayed at the Refugio Tinquilco just outside and surrounded by national park on the beautiful lake of the same name. The refugio was adorable and the folks who ran it super nice. We were in our own tiny bunkroom which the kids loved but wasnt great for adul sleep. The refugio had a great library with lots of kids books in english, total bonus! Dave and I traded off hiking days, on our first full day he headed up San Sebastian and the kids and I went up the waterfall. They ended up hiking almost 4 miles to get there and back, it was much longer than we expected. Chileans are definitely hikers. There were people of all ages shapes, sizes, and preparedness out on all the hikes we did (mullets included of course). Its great to see. The forest is wild, from the outside it looks like east coast temparate forest but up close the trees are totally unfamiliar, all like something out of doctor suess! The Auracaria trees, monkey puzzle trees, are the craziest with wild reaching branches and sharp spiky leaves. The San Sebastian hike goes up and up for 2 or 3 hours but rewards you with a view to the Pacific and over the Andes to Argentina, down on lots of lakes and 7 different snow covered volcanoes!!
We are back in Pucon for the night then headed by bus to Argentina tomorrow morning.

Friday, February 15, 2008


We left Los Quenes by the local bus. There were 33 people on a bus that seated 19 and we got there too late to get any seats. A nice girl gave up her seat to Toby and Cassidy. Toby promptly fell asleep despite the heat and bumpy dirt roads. So Cass and I sat on our luggage in the aisle and Dave stood, for an hour! We took a beautiful, modern train down to Chillan. We had a great ride through the Central valley. It looks a lot like Californias Central Valley lots of agriculture and really hot and dry. We got a bit sandbagged on a sleazy hospedaje but were rescued by the taxi driver who knew a better place. Our first real night "on the road"- a hostel room with 4 beds. A bit noisy but clean and safe. A wild goose chase to find bus tickets, a place to change money, and a functioning ATM. Chillan is a busy valley city- hot but reasonable. There was a really nice central park with artesanias and a place to rent little pedal cars. The kids zoomed all over I dont know how they avoided collision. The next morning we had a great adventure in the central market. There were fruit, vegetable, nut, spice, artisan, trinkets, and useless plastic crap from China. The kids had agreat time checking out everything. We found beautiful alpaca sweaters for reasonable prices dangerous. Then we survived a 6 hour bus ride to Pucon. The buses are amazingly comfortable but we were seated to close to the bathroom for comfort "huele mal" Now we are in the Lakes District of Chile at a supercomfy hostel "Donde German". A toasty day at the beach, it is beautiful, a bit like Tahoe with a live volcano in the background. We rented sea kayaks and paddled around. It is definitely tourist season but still reasonable. Perhaps it is because there are fewer cars but it felt nothing like Hampton Beach. We have adjusted to Chilean time, dinner last night at 8;30, kids in bed by 10. We are still early for Chile but a long way from our US schedule. So far so good, some of you will be happy to know that the mullet has made a strong comeback here. It is genuinely fashionable with the dinner at 1130, cigarettes and dancing til dawn set. I have seen several mullet dreadlock combos. We hope that the travel gods continue to smile on us.

Rafting with Toodles

We are certainly scoring with the friends connections so far in Chile. After a wonderful four days at Brett and Nicki's, Carolyn and Greg's friend Todd, aka Toodles, invited us and our Santiago pals on a rafting trip down the Teno river. We headed south with 6 in the Peugot early Tuesday morning and met up with Todd and a guide of his, Jonathan King, in the small mountain town of Los Quenes. Of course, the C and G connection wasnt enough, turns out Jonathan's brother is a student of Dave's at CRMS! They were wonderful, fun and attentive guides as they took us down the very boney (ie dry season lots of rocks to bump into) class III river. The rapids were big fun and the kids LOVED it. As Toby said on our break, this is like Disney World, Busch Gardens and a Waterpark, all together, only better!!!! I loved the vision of Cass in a grown up lifejacket that covered her bottom and Toby in Todd's styly kayak jacket. The trip was awesome and we decided to part ways with our friends in Los Quenes and stay at a hotel there rather than head back into the valley. Todd hooked us up with a great Hostal with a pool that looks up into the Andes and we eat out at what he terms the best pizza restaraunt in Chile! This is saying alot since Los Quenes is one dusty street long. It is the local vacation spot for Chileans who come there to camp and swim in the river and escape the heat. Cass and Toby had a great time playing with some locals in the downtown park. It cracks me up that they say we speak Castiliian and wonder why we dont speak the language of Chile. Chilean is pretty much unintelligible to me spoken at it normal speed. Hope Argentina is easier!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Santiago Amigos!!

We had the softest of all possible landings in Santiago. After an 8 hour overnight flight we were picked up by our friend Brett. For the next five days we were treated to five star hospitality at Brett and Nicky's apartment. We rode the funicular and telepherique up to the top of the Parque Metropolitano. We swam in the swanky pool at the top of the hill overlooking the city and the Andes. Brett chauffered us to an incredible beach. We watched penquins, played in the sand, and basked in the super strong rays of the Southern sun. There was an incredible path along the beach that we hiked to another beach where Shannon and I actually swam. A bird sanctuary just offshore was home to penguins and pelicans. We could see them very clearly hopping around. Brett certainly knows how to pick a fantastic beach. The ozone hole is serious here. The sun also means that fruits and vegetables here are fantastic. We got more fruit than we could eat at a little roadside stand>grapes, apples, peaches, nectarines. Santiago is an amazingly clean and modern city. A marked contrast to San Jose and Panama City. The kids coped beautifully with their first real encounter with a big city. It helped that Brett and Nicky were such patient hosts and were fantastic with the kids. The new schedule worked okay/ dinner at 830 or 9, asleep by 10 for the kids. The sun goes down late here and families are still hanging out on their towels at the beach at 730. It was nice to hear Brett and Shannon make a little music together in the evenings. It made us realize how much the Hellroaring String Band is missed in our lives. Maybe the band can meet up in Chile for a world tour/penguin watching safari/ outdoor adventure sometime. The initial part of the tour was busy but relaxed/ it is hard to imagine a better way to spend the first five days inside a new country. Our sincere thanks to some of the world's best hosts. I hope that someday we can repay the favor.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Hi all

We are literally an hour from departure so I dont have much time to write but wanted to post a few pictures on speedy US internet!! We had a great layover time with Dave's sister Susannah and her family. We went to Disney World which was complete culture shock but the kids were the perfect age for it. Watching their faces as they experienced it was of course the best part. We rode 15 rides including some of the classics that I remember from the same age - Haunted House, Pirates of the Carribean (totally revamped of course), Its a Small World etc. Even saw fireworks over the princess castle and a parade with all the characters. We also got a nice day in at the beach and some quality cousin time. Now we are headed off to Miami for our overnight flight to Santiago Chile. Wish us luck with sleep for the kids!!


Toby's Cloud Forest Page

Dear Class,
I was just in Monteverde Costa Rica for the last month. I climbed inside a strangler fig. A strangler fig is a fig that strangles a tree and the tree dies and the strangler fig becomes the tree that is hollow. Strangler figs start as a vine in the top of a tree and it goes down. The vines hit the ground and sends out roots. I am going to talk about epiphytes now. Epiphytes are plants that never touch the ground. They collect water and are good places for poisonous tree frogs. And their nickname is tree frog hotel, funny nickname!! Their other nickname is airplant but I like tree frog hotel best because they hold tiny tree frogs inside. I saw lots of epiphytes. I saw an epiphyte that had landed on the ground it was so big and heavy. Can I talk about seeing some ferns? I saw some very very big ferns, they were bigger than me if I was lying down. The fiddle heads look like clubs. Do you know what a fiddle head is? A fiddle head is a baby fern they call it that because it looks like the head of the fiddle if you dont know what that is.

We went into the rainforest that we have been sending our pennies in for. Please send other money that costs more such as dollars. Because then they can buy more rainforest quicker. It is called the Children's Eternal Rainforest. Here is a picture of my sister and I in the Childrens Eternal Rainforest.
The animals that I saw were mono congos which means howler monkeys - they howl really loud, you can hear them three miles away. Monocariblancas means white faced monkeys, we saw perizosas dos dedos y perizosas tres dedos that means three toed and two toed sloths. This is a picture of a coati mundi. Coati mundis are very silly animals they hang around where there alot of people and they are very shy. This coati mundi has more pictures taken than a model! We saw an Olingo that is nocturnal and endangered we saw it near the entrance and running around in the daytime! Isnt that very amazing? We saw lots of birds too. My favorite was the emerald toucanet.
Hope you are having a good year! See you next year!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Volcan Arenal

The photos on this blog page are all of Volcan Arenal because a trip to La Fortuna and Arenal is all about that - looking at the volcano!! We left Monteverde on Wed morning via the trip advertised as "Jeep Boat Jeep". This is the fastest way to Arenal because the only roads that go through go all the way around lake Arenal, and this trip takes a dead end road to the west end of the lake then a boat across the lake then another road into La Fortuna. However, the reality is it is a busette boat busette but I guess this just didnt sound interesting enough. The trip took only 2 1/2 hours and was really nice to have a variety of conveyances to interest the kids. The bus trip around would have taken 8 hrs!!! We had decided to spend 2 nights at the volcano on our way out of Costa Rica to try to ensure that we would at least have one night of visibility on the volcano. The first night we spent at Catarata EcoLodge outside of La Fortuna near the Fortuna Waterfall. It was a really nice place run by a local cooperative with a beautiful small pool, great views and a nice simple restaraunt. We would totally recommend it, rooms are in blocks of 3 and very good. La Fortuna itself is yucky - a definite example of how tourism unchecked can ruin a place. The main drag is filled with restaurants and hotels from tacky to worse. Ironically, as if it couldnt stand looking at the hotels any more, the volcan moved its action to the other side of the mountain after La Fortuna was built up. Now the only place to get good views of active flows at night is from the park, or the only hotel within the park, the Arenal Observatory Lodge. We decided to splurge and spent our second night at the Observatory. It was TOTALLY worth it because you are right below the volcano (see photo with our room and volcano behind it) and can hear and see 10 -20 ton boulders spewing out of the volcano all day and night. During the day you hear the loud rumbling nonstop and see what looks like plumes of dust rising from the boulder paths. At night, the boulders and plumes are all glowing red since they are hot lava!! Talk about ideal entertainment for a 6 year old boy! (Cass liked it too!) Periodically there would be a Really loud explosion and a huge plume of smoke would pour out the top, I dont think I would have liked to live there long term!! The kids spent a lot of time in the pool and hot tub with a perfect view of the volcano. They spent so much time in it that Cassidy's hair actually turned green!!
Volcan Arenal is one of the 10 most active volcanos in the world and we feel very fortunate to have seen it. From our rooms deck would sat out in the dark and watched the lava flow. Friday morning, I ran/hiked to Cerro Chato, the crater lake formed in the extinct Volcan Chato then we lucked out and found a taxi from the San Jose airport dropping a fare off at the Lodge so we got a really reasonably cheap taxi to the airport. The trip only took 2.5 hours as opposed to the 5 hour public bus ride we had been looking at. The road was so windy both kids got completely carsick and we had to stop multiple times . Good thing we weren't on a bus!! Flight to Miami was late and immigration took FOREVER so after getting our luggage and renting our car we arrived in our hotel room at 2am!! Toby hadnt slept at all and was totally cheerful and wired and before falling asleeep he sat up and said - mom, can I tell you one more thing? Its 2 in the morning!!"

Last Week in Monteverde