Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Cooking Days
Only on our second day in Santiago, we met our host, Paul Beelen (, for just a few minutes before he ran to work. First thing on the morning, we went to buy groceries for the whole week we planned to spend in Santiago. We came back with 30 kg of food, mainly fruit and vegetables which were very cheap. We spent the rest of the day with 2 other CouchSurfers, Daniel from Mexico and Antoine from France, who are planning to sell original educational toys made in Mexico to rich Europeans. They have a side volunteering project of documenting big cities all over South America ( For lunch we cooked spaghetti with a light sauce of spinach and peanuts.


For dinner, we baked bread (graded "excellent" by the French), and made salads: pumpkin Chutney, dried tomatoes paste, Humus, Peas paste, Aji Pebre and a rich pasta salad. For desert we had Chinese fried bananas.


The following day Paul returned very early from work as he was feeling sick. We decided to make him chicken less Jewish chicken soup with Kneidalach and a vegan apple cake. During dinner we discussed the laziness of Chileans, and their inability to save money voluntarily. Paul had a nice anecdote regarding this subject: A friend of his offered a new payment system to a group of construction workers. He gave huge bonuses to the employees who worked harder. Indeed they worked much more for the first 2 weeks. But after getting a doubled salary for these 2 weeks, no one showed up for the next 2 weeks, as they already earned the usual monthly payment.

Early in the morning, we took a metro to the city center. In Santiago there is a very sophisticated paying system for public transportation. In order to use buses you need to have a card (1,300 CH$) and charge it with money. Because we used just one card for both of us, this smart system didn´t give us the discount we deserved for the continuing ride in the metro. For this you should have one card per passenger. In Plaza del Armas we spent a few hours watching street artists.


One artist drew with chalks on the floor in front of the cathedral, and was beaten and arrested by the police.


Then we visited the cathedral and saw mediocre Gothic Frescoes. We spent an hour in the free post museum, where we saw a huge collection of stamps, and old telegraph machines. We watched the sun set from Cerro Santa Lucia, which is a small hill you can climb and get a nice view of the city.


After our bad experience with the public transportation paying system, we decided to walk home. It was a 10 km walk which took us 2 hours to complete. On the way we passed some nice parks and neighbourhoods, and watched a water-light show in the Bicentenario fountain.


We also saw a large group of cyclists gathering next to the Teatro Universidad de Chile, which reminded us of the much smaller "Critical Mass" cycling events we joined in Haifa.


Pizza Night
Most of the following day we spent again cooking. We made pizza - one for each of us, and fruit pies.


We had time to get to know our host better. Paul is a Dutch web consultant, which means he was so good in what he did, that he started selling his advices for companies. About a year ago he started competing in triathlons, and lost 15 kg of his weight on the way. He has 3 professional bicycles, each of them costs 3 times of ours. We also got to know better Prolux, the lazy cat that owns the apartment.


He lets Paul share his room and bed with him. His likes to eat tomatoes, but is willing to taste everything else that is on the table or the floor.

Science Museum
In the southern part of Santiago, you can found MIM (Museo Interactivo Mirrador), next to the Mirrador metro station (green metro line). Unfortunately, we forgot our student cards at home, and so we didn`t get the discounted price (2,500 CH$). We didn´t come on Wednesday, so missed the 50% discount they offer. For the entrance fee (3,900 CH$), we could choose 2 activities from of a list of about 10. We chose 2 3D movies, as the rest of the activities were for children.


The museum itself is not huge, but you can definitely pass the whole day there. The most popular section of the museum is the soap bubbles.


Shoham had to drag Amit out of there so that we could see the rest of the museum. They have nice mirror tricks, and Spanish explanations for all the devices.

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San Cristobal Park
We hiked to Cerro San Cristobal from the northern entrance, we passed a few botanical gardens and got to the top where there is a virgin statue and a small church.


On our way up we saw many cyclists enjoying this quiet road which offers great view of the city.


We hiked down to the southern entrance, instead of taking the Teleferico train. We had lunch in a great spot where we could watch the whole city.


Then we decided the fish market but we never reached there. Instead we passed the clothes market near the park. We walked on San Pablo avenue for a while, until we found a nice park next to another cathedral, where we ate Churasco and Empanadas.

Taking Paul`s advice, we went to the sport mall, in av. Las Condes. There are about 30 shops there all selling sport and camping equipment. One of the is selling small yachts, and just for them there is a pool.


This mall attracts also punks that come for the skateboard park, and bicycle track in the middle of the mall. Other fun stuff you can do there is wall climbing, and a remote controlled car race. We ate a great sandwich in the expensive cafeteria there. After searching for gloves for Shoham for 4 months, we finally found the perfect ones in the mall. We also bought some bicycle gear there.


Surprisingly (?), we crossed again with Philipp and Ilsa from Switzerland. They just got to Santiago, but are staying in an expensive hostel, so they wouldn`t stay for long. They plan to go back to Argentina, right after Santiago, to practice cycling at heights: The pass to Mendoza is 3,900 m high, and goes near the highest mountain in South America, Aconcagua, which is almost 7,000 m high. This mountain can be seen from Paul`s 15th floor apartment.


After debating this for a long time, we decided to continue through Chile all the way to Bolivia, to see the coast line. On our way back home we stopped at the Hiper Lider. There we found a huge Jewish section which included the worst Israeli products we know, as well as some strange ones we didn´t know that existed. We also found really cheap long sleeved shirts in the kids section, and bought 3 of them.

This was officially the slowest take off ever. After not getting up too early, we cooked both breakfast and lunch for the way. Then we went to search for bicycle shops in order to fix some strange problem in Shoham`s bicycles` handlebar. In one shop we were told we would need to leave the bicycle there for a week, and in another, the mechanic fixed our problem in 30 seconds. Then we packed our bags for 3 hours, ate lunch, and did the mistake of checking our email...


Amit had some work to do for the admission to his Master`s program in Sweden, including reading a 15 pages long boring document, which has to be printed in 2 copies, signed and sent back to Sweden. At this point we decided to stay another day. As Paul is a very cool guy, he didn´t have a problem with it. Throughout our stay at his place we didn´t hear NO from Paul. He was always willing to help in every need or problem we had. We plan to leave tomorrow morning, through a quiet road to avoid the terrible traffic of Santiago. We will continue our way up north through the Chilean coast.


You can read previous posts on our blog:
Photos from our trip can be viewed in our Picasa albums:


                     Shoham & Amit

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Rush to Santiago

Jose Luis
Before leaving Bulnes in the afternoon, we bought some cookies (enough to feed 50 children for a week).


We tried to find a place to camp in a village, but as there was no public terrain we had to knock on doors and ask people for permission to camp in their gardens. After a few slamming doors, there was one man who dared to say yes.


This was Jose Luis who is a merchandiser selling shoes, ice cream and yeast. He is currently building his second house in the garden. He spent a lot of time talking with us and raising financial and cultural questions about Israel. While talking, we had a glimpse of his nephew, on his way to hunt rabbits with a dog and a flashlight. Jose Luis explained that to hunt they point to a rabbit with the flashlight, and the dogs runs over to it and kills it. We discovered he is also a fan of the soccer team Colo Colo like Ernesto from Caleta Tortel, although they are still last in the league.

COPEC Nights

For breakfast we had great grapes from his tiny vineyard. After seeing thousands of vineyards we finally stopped for lunch in the town of Longavi.


There we ate in the best bakery we had in our trip so far, we tried everything they make there: Empanadas, donuts, lemon sponge cake, apple pie (kuchen), and Alfajores. We found out you can camp in COPEC gas stations, and camped in the one near San Javier, where we paid only 200 CH$ for a hot shower.


After more vineyards, we stopped in one of many of stands selling Mote con Huesillo, which is a typical Chilean summer drink made of wheat and peaches. Shortly after that, we camped in yet another gas station, but here we paid 500 CH$ for the hot shower.

Free Night - Long Day
When we started cycling, we noticed some huge mountains in the horizon. According to the map they are 5,000 m high.


We also enjoyed on our way the smell coming out of the many wine factories.


We bought 10 avocados (it was on sale), and ate most of them at lunch. That night we slept in a service station, where we could use the shower and bathrooms for free.


We got up at 6 AM, and at 9 AM we were on the bicycles, ready for our long ride to Santiago. The road was much busier than before and we had to pass through a tunnel (illegally), which was luckily very short.


We took the connection highway to the South of Santiago, which was luckily empty. We stopped in a great restaurant in the entrance to Alto Jahuel.


There they grow and sell exotic birds as well.



We got to Santiago very fast, following the "poop canal" taking the sewage out of Santiago. We got to a frightening tunnel, and we escaped it at the first exit. From there the traffic on the highway was too much for us, so we left it, and had to ride some 30 km in the busy streets of Santiago.


No one we asked knew the street of our CouchSurfing host, except for one taxi driver in a 5-stars hotel. We got to our host after a long day of 130 km in 8 hours of pure ride. We plan to spend a few days in Santiago, and we still need to decide from where to continue our trip, because the following few thousands of kilometers are desert.


                     Shoham & Amit

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Via Panamericana

Graveyard camping
On the way from Pucon to Villarica, a car stopped next to us and the driver shouted from the window that they saw us before, and they were really enthusiastic about it. Villarica seems like a wonderful town to spend some time in, but unfortunately, we choose randomly which towns we stay in, so we just enjoyed the nice promenade near the lake, ate lunch in the park and left towards Temucu, on road S199.


As dark fell, we had to stop next to the graveyard of Freire, where we could at least fill in water, and put a tent in the woods.


Luckily we found there mint we used as a refreshing fragrance for our water.


Panamerica Highway
Taking Naoki´s advice, we entered Ruta 5, which is the highway of Chile that crosses the country from south to north. This road is a part of the Pan American road crossing America (Via Panamericana in Spanish).


The maximum speed limit on this road is 120 km/h, and we tried our best not to pass it. The traffic there is not as heavy as we expected, and the edge of the road is huge and paved. We didn´t have to pay the entrance fee that every other motor vehicle has to pay (100-1600 CH$ for a part of the road). The wild life near the road must be abundant and diverse, as we saw corpses of many road kills: rabbits, rats, cats, dogs, foxes, sheep, birds, lizards, crickets and one truck driver (he was still breathing when we passed his turned over truck).


We also saw many other living creatures such as: egrets, falcons, hawks, many enthusiastic drivers that honk when seeing us on the bicycles and lazy road workers that are always on a break and stare at us in amazement.

All the villages on this road have the same structure depending on their size. Big cities, like Temuco, consist of a disgusting entrance road that costs money and has more cars than on the highway. There you can find easily Empanadas and gas stations. In Temuco, we couldn´t find a big supermarket like we hoped to find, instead there was only a small and expensive one in the center. There was a catholic university there, which was the nicest part of the city. After getting into Temuco, we decided not to do this mistake again (until Santiago). A hotel on the road where we filled water cost 6,000 CH$, so we decided to try and sleep for free somewhere nearby. We entered a small and promising gravel road, and asked some lady if we could sleep in her field. She wanted money, so we asked her neighbours that gladly let us stay at their field and offered us hot water, and anything else if we need.


Their son, Carlo, came by after we set our tent, and from chatting with him, we found out the names of all their 8 dogs and a few other interesting stuff. They go hunting every day for rabbits and that is why Mini and Cueca are so thin. They produce about 1 ton of wheat flour from their small field, and it is enough for them for the whole year. During the night we had different dogs visiting us, some to sleep near our tent, and others to bark at us. In the morning, Mini came and followed Shoham picking blackberries for our porridge.


She liked it so much, that she continued picking and eating them alone.


Smaller towns look different: A few kilometers next to the entrance you would find a cheap motel, in the center you would find drunk local hillbillies, 4 supermarket selling exactly the same things, and at least one Locutorio where you can use the internet, phone and machine-gamble. One of them even had Facebook and Google!


We spent the whole afternoon in such a town called Ercilla. At sunset we went out to look for a place to camp and we found a nice noisy place, between the highway and the train rail.


Los Angeles
The following day was sunny again and our lunch went bad again before Amit ate it, so we decided to stop keeping prepared lunch. In the village of San Carlos we found very good figs. After passing around Los Angeles, we found a place to camp in the forest, in front of the Forest Firemen Brigade.


There we found a small waterfall with clean water, and a typical mushroom that grows under pines (Suillus granulatus, or Ornia in Hebrew), and used it for our peas stew.


We rode by an amazing waterfall, Saltos del Laja. The road going there was very touristic and full of campings and hotels.


We reached the town of Bulnes in late afternoon, after skipping lunch. It took us more than an hour to find a cheap hotel (10,000 CH$ for a double room) right at the central bus station (there are only two hotels in town, but no one knows the cheap one). We arranged for our laundry to be done cheaply (3,000 CH$ for all our things) by the woman who does the hotel´s laundry. We then went on a quest to find food. There are no Empanadas in that town, so we had to settle for rice and pork steak, and a sandwich of beef steak, avocado and tomatoes (we took off the cheese).

We are now 420 km south to Santiago, and we found a CouchSurfing host there. We plan to arrive there in less than a week.


                     Shoham & Amit

Saturday, April 2, 2011

San Martin de los Andes to Pucón

Slow takeoff
After leaving San Martin de los Andes at 1:30 PM (late), we reached Junin de los Andes quickly, with the help of an endless descent and strong back wind. This town was apparently established for the military base surrounding it. Accordingly it is boring and uniform. As we couldn´t find its center or any other nice place or park there, we chose to eat lunch at the exit from town. After lunch, Shoham had her second flat tire for this trip, and again it was the fault of the protective (?!) silicon band. We found the perfect place to camp next to a river.


Border Crossing
On the following day we got up early, and managed to leave before 11 AM. The way to the border was, as usual, the best natural reserve, as no one lives there (except for some Mapuche who sell stuff to tourists). The fauna was astonishing: dears (first time this trip), different kinds of huge birds, and many parrots, and all this we saw from the road.





The topography was also very interesting. We had a combination of cliffs, desert hills, forests and one huge snowy volcano. This is Volcán Lanin (3,750 m) which is the highest mountain of this active volcanic region.


10 km before the border, we reached the worst unpaved road, when we entered Lanin NP. There is a nice camping there, recommended by our Japanese friend, Naoki, who is now in Santiago. We skipped it because of the early hour and went to the border. This was our first time (out of 3) in which our bags where checked while entering Chile. Fortunately, they scanned just our backpacks, so we managed to smuggle some forbidden food products into Chile (some spices, oatmeal, corn meal, dried tomatoes, peanuts, etc.). We had to eat the apple and carrot we had at the border so they won´t be thrown away though. From there there was a frightening descent of 17 km on a worse road full of stones. When we reached the paved road, we still had some time before sunset, so we continued riding. Unfortunately, there was no place where we could camp, as there where fences and farms all over the road. Eventually, we had to ask a local family in Caren, a tiny village that doesn´t appear on any map, if we could camp in their garden (30 dunam).


Raul Heladio and Sunilda gladly gave us water and told us we could camp wherever we wanted.


In the morning we picked blackberries, which upgraded our usual oatmeal porridge. We cycled all the way to Pucón with just one stop to eat some more blackberries. We passed many long villages which reminded us of Romania. Suddenly we saw Volcán Villarica (2,850 m), with an impressive amount of snow covering it.


We planned to eat fast food in Pucón, so we tried 2 good Empanadas places. We looked at some very disgusting campings, and finally we chose the more expensive one, that has a kitchen, apple and prune trees and lots of cats and dogs. We bought Shoham new handcraft socks in one of the many artesanal markets in town. We also enjoyed the low prices of fruit and vegetables in town. We even found some "Oznei Haman" in the supermarket.


We hope we manage to leave tomorrow, towards Temuco.



                     Shoham & Amit