Valparaiso / Chile

14 04 2011

Translation into English: Aygül Karındaş

For our Valparaiso photo album:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Valparaiso

For our Vina del Mar photo album:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/VinaDelMar

28.05 – 03.06.2010

Once again, we get our backpacks checked and enter Chile. We move down the Andes through the border and mountainous passage which is called “Caracoles” (“snail” in English). Each curve here is numbered. And I can only catch number 23. There may be more than 23 though. Valparaiso is one of the coastal cities of Chile.  With its elevators and pictured walls, it is the most popular city among tourists.

Our first host is Hernan. He lives at an old mansion in Valparaiso’s district with university. He teaches at that university. Seeing the house makes us excited; because, it is a perfect Valparaiso house with its pictured walls and ancient structure. Hernan lives with his brother. The mansion has 14- 15 rooms some of which are lent to students. We will stay in one of these rooms.

Valparaiso has 15 ancient lifts. The city rises rapidly starting from the coast and these lifts are for the residential places over the hills. They were made about 100 years ago. The oldest one was made in 1883. Most of them are used for transportation purposes. Only one of them (Cerro Polanco Lift)  ascends steeply. The others are funiculars.

There is a Maritime Museum and one lift near the house we stay in. Luckily, all museums are free on the days we stay there.  We take a short tour in the Maritime Museum. We are so hungry, though. As soon as we get off the lift, we rush into the first restaurant can find. Then that restaurant becomes the place we frequently drop by. We take some seafood and calamari empanada in return for 1000 Chilean Pesos (around 2 USD). Empadanas are so big that one or two empadana is enough for us.  Another time, we have the menu of the day at the same place. Almost all restaurants have menu of the day in Chile, so, it is easy to have really cheap meals there.

Valparaiso town center has many magnificent buildings. The parliament building and the center of navy are here. The city is made of extremely contrast structures. On one side are huge magnificent trade centers, banks, government buildings and on the other side are patchy suburban houses made of tin plates. Lots of homeless people reside in the streets; and this makes us just uncomfortable after seeing the sterilized Argentina. We just can’t feel that safe anymore.

In the evening, Herhan takes us to a social club called “El Rincon de las Guitarras”. This is a place where only Chilean people go; so, there is no tourist here. It is a café made out of a small house. There is live music and everybody does “cueca” dance.

The reason why we came here is to watch the dances, dance along and have “chorillana”. Chorillana is a meal made of French fries at the bottom and a mixture of eggs, onion beef and sausage on top. It has a thousand calories, but still delicious. It would go very well with beer, but we don’t drink beer.

chorillanas

We have “terremoto” (earthquake) which is a typical Chilean drink instead. It is made of white wine, rom and pineapple ice cream. It comes in a jug with a huge ice cream on top. First we blend it and then drink.

Afterwards, they order me a “pisco sour” shot. I just love it. It is so tasty. Pisco is originally a Peru drink. Peru has a city named Pisco. Pisco sour is made of pisco, lemon juice and sugar. It originally has a little bit of egg whites. We will go visit the guy who found this drink and have his pisco sour; which will be the subject of another story. I order a pisco sour. Hernan gets excited and orders a bottle of pisco. They mix it with coke and drink. It is stronger than vodka.

We eat and drink and watch the people dancing. And it is our turn. They insist and get us dancing. After watching the people such a long while, we dance very nicely and wave our scarves.

At the end of the night, live music is replaced with a gay musician. He dances waving his scarf; makes joke with everyone and makes us laugh. We go back home before the sun is up. And this is the best night since we have been in South America.

In the morning, we find out that the German CS girl (we expected to come at night) could not make it, as the road is shut down due to the snow. The road is shut down in one day; just after we passed by. It must be our lucky day once again.

As Valparaiso is a coastal city, the Mercado here is filled with seafood. The original Mercado was damaged by the quake in Conception, so it is empty inside. Seafood restaurants and salespeople fill this street. We pick a crowded restaurant on the street and walk in. I order “macha a la parmesana” (macha mussels cooked with parmesan cheese- 5200 Chilean Pesos) and Murat orders a “mariscal cocida” (mixed seafood with all kinds of shelled food- 3200 Chilean Pesos). In Chile, they always serve a tomato onion sauce as a starter. Unfortunately, we cannot eat this because of a herb like parsley. But the meals we have ordered turn out perfect.

macha a la parmesana
mariscal cocida

Afterwards, we try “paila marina” (2800 Chilean Pesos) at another place. This is also a kind of mixed seafood dish. And it has a huge mussel inside.

paila marina

We see older men playing bridge on the street.

And we spot a boat trip for 1500 Chilean Pesos while walking down the seaport. Then we walk in curiously. The boat leaves the port among lots of pelicans; moves by a shipyard afloat. We spot some marine ships and a submarine approaches to the port just as we are passing by. Then comes a surprise! Sea lions! There are sea lions just beside the port! It seems they have been waiting for us here all the time we were looking for them in the deserts of Cabo Polonio and in the roads of Puerto Mardyn. They are lying in a lazy mood.

Upon returning from the port, we see a man on a bicycle full of country flags. We approach and talk to him. He is travelling on his bike for a few years. He always meets with government people or military people there. We ask him if he plans to come to Turkey.  He says he plans to come to Turkey in 2013. Then we start following him on Facebook. We find out that he has crossed the wild mountains and caracoles borders all on his bike. He continues travelling while I am writing this. His last spot was Ecuador.

As we planned to stay at Hernan’s for only three nights, we change our host. We will stay at Josue’s place at the other end of the city. Josue lives with his wife Miriam and his two kids. One of his kids is at elementary school; the other is just four years old. And we will stay in their room which is the most colorful room we have stayed so far. It is filled with toys. 🙂

Josue and Miriam take us to the open museum. Almost all houses here have pictured walls. The paintings on the walls are a little bit faded; but still colorful and beautiful. Narrow, steep and pictured roads with steps… Ahead of these streets on the steepest spot is La Sebastiana which is the house of the famous poet Pablo Neruda. Another day, I tour the house when Murat enjoys the garden view.  The museum is nothing more than “Pablo Neruda would drink his coffee here and would bathe there”; but what impressed me here is Neruda’s love of life, joy, aesthetics and his creativity. At such a time when Chile only had three ordinary colors of bath tiles, and everyone had boring bathrooms, Pablo Neruda mixed a pinch of those three colors to form such a nice bathroom. Small details made his life joyful. The house looks on the whole Valparaiso and is filled with various stuff from all over the world. We greet Pablo Neruda, a close friend of Nazım Hikmet and leave.

On the way home, Miriam wants to know more about Turkey. She asks how women dress in Turkey. The general view about Turkish ladies is that they wear headscarves. People want to know about weddings. If we are around a computer, we show them videos about Turkish people on Youtube. When we return home, we show them slideshows about Turkey and some of our photographs. We often find ourselves doing publicity of our homeland. We are sure that many people will consider Turkey as a vacation spot next time they travel.. 🙂

Valparaiso’s street food is meat on skewers and “sopaipillas”. Sopaipillas is squash flavored fried pastry. As they use very little squash, it does not taste good; but still good for emergency situations.

The day after, we go to the place of the man who created “chorillanas” following advice of Josue. The place is called “J Cruz M Museum Casino Social”. It is a very simple place; the oilcloths on the tables are filled with the writings of the visitors. The walls are covered with the previous customers’ photos and much other stuff. It is a whacky place. Food is served in portions minimum for two people. The food is firstly for the sailors. Thinking of a cheap and practical food to give sailors energy; they came up with this dish made of potatoes, meat, eggs and onions.

On our last day, we go to Vina del Mar with Josue and all his family. This is another city 10 kilometers to Valparaiso. Vina del Mar is close to Valparaiso; but two cities look so different. Valparaiso is old, a little bit ragged and very crowded; but Vina del Mar has nice apartments rising by the coast. With its nice city arrangement and palm trees in rows; it resembles to Karşıyaka. Valparaiso is like İzmir, in this case. On the way to Vina del Mar, you can see one of “moi statues” on Easter Island. It is brought from the island. The statue only has a head. It is not as big as the ones on the island. Easter Island is one of the places we wanted to visit but could not; because of its cost. However, we are happy to see one of these statues.

On Valparaiso, Pablo Neruda said “Taking all the steps of this city means travelling the whole world”. But Valparaiso is not enough for us, so, we take a 1,5- 2 hours’ trip and arrive at Santiago, the capital of Chile.

For our Valparaiso album:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Valparaiso

For our Vina del Mar album:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/VinaDelMar

Gülen & Murat

15.08.2010





Mendoza / Argentina

23 11 2010

Translation into English: Engin Özsöz

For all Mendoza photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Mendoza#

19 – 28.05.2010

CAUTION: It might cause side effects to read this post with an empty stomach!!

Unexpectedly, Mendoza becomes our capital of food as we stayed here around 10 days, which was originally going to be 3 to 4 days. And for the majority of the time we were busy by eating and drinking wine. We stay at Gabriel’s house, in which he resides with his 3 friends and we kind of occupy the living room in the meantime.

Our first introduction to our continuous food adventures over here happens to take place at Gabriel’s workplace upon his invitation. The period we arrive at Mendoza, happens to be the 200th anniversary of Argentina’s independence with a 2-day official holiday, and there is a celebration party at Gabriel’s workplace. Actually, Gabriel and his colleagues, like a tradition, are used to prepare food every once a week but this time, the occasion takes place in a decorative environment where flags of Argentina scattered around with blue & white ribbons hanged through the ceilings. They have prepared “Carne a la olla”, a kind of meat with sauce cooked in a large pot and we like the taste of it so much that we eat one plate and another continuously, which is actually not surprising because everyone is already eating as if gone wild. After having consecutively three dishes of food, people still don’t stop and even the women jump into their fourth rounds. At the end, everyone stops except Murat 🙂 Actually in a polite manner, Murat also stops eating at some point in a full gesture but as the old man sitting next to Murat insists him to continue eating, Murat is “forced” to eat another round of dish. Gabriel’s work is at the old train station. Despite having a wide railway network in Argentina, the railroad agency has stopped operating them. Together with the new government, -at least some part of the- railway network is expected to be reopened.

The next day, we get together with folks from Couchsurfing. As being the only resident of Mendoza amongst the crowd, Gabriel takes us to a coffee house. We come across with the “Lomo” fact over here, which is a sandwich within a big loaf of bread stuffed with steak, lettuce, tomato, cheese and a special sauce. The Lomos are so big that they bring a small barbeque to everyone who order them, which helps the half of the Lomo to stay warm on the fire as the other half is being eaten. We stop by the same place couple of times more, later on, during our stay in Mendoza. The lomo that we eat can also be prepared at the size of a pizza, which is called lomo pizza and while the normal pizzas cost around 20-30 pesos, this one reaches up to 90 pesos. Since, the lomo pizza cannot be consumed by one person as a whole; usually 3 to 4 people share the pizza, which actually used to be a Friday ritual for Gabriel and his friends once as we hear. After the dinner, we stop by a house party at another CS member’s house. We kind of chit chat over the topic of ‘Vlad the Impaler’ or Vlad Tepes of Romania with a couple from Romania 🙂

lomo

 

The center of Mendoza consists of a square with 8×8 cuadra. To speak of cuadra, the city centers in Arjantina are built through parallel street systems and each block that is formed by the intersection of streets is called cuadra. Every cuadra is matched with 100 numerical systems and every point on the same line at each parallel street has the same door number. So in contrary to our address system that has building numbers in a consecutive manner like 1-2-3, this system has building numbers like 1-12-18 and thanks to this system every apartment or building at the same line at each parallel street has the same door number. All in all, Mendoza city center has 8 horizontal and 8 vertical main streets. At the corners of this big 8×8 square, there are four plazas – Spain, Italy, Chile and San Martin whereas right in the middle, there is the 2×2 Plaza Independencia.

In Mendoza, we join the Bicentenario (200th independence anniversary commemoration). The whole city is already covered with blue & white flags and ornaments and even the water in the fountains flow in blue.

There is big stage within the previously mentioned Plaza Independencia, where traditional Argentina dances are put into stage.

Actually, the most interesting thing is that the Plaza is all surrounded by asado, which are very big that there are whole lambs, pigs and beef ribs hanged through the grills.

In every stand, there are bunch of people lined up for the food while people also pay attention to empanada sellers. There are also couple places that prepare local food. We taste “locro” for the lunch, which turns out to be not very tasty and interesting.  It is a smeared cooked bean with sausage. For the first time in Argentina, a cuisine does not meet our expectations.

locro

 

Through the night, we try “humita”. This is cooked by smashed corn, onions and various spices. This is actually originated from Salta, in which they even use corn leaves to fold it while cooking. Despite ours is a similar version of the original one, it still tastes delicious. This is one of the cuisines that I am going to try to cook when we get back home.

humita

 

The level of the celebration parties get intensified during the evening. There are thousands in the plaza, and the dance acts still continue. At some point, many start getting together while carrying torches around the plaza while the band cheers up the people with songs at the four corners of the plaza. Each band walks in harmony by playing the same song one and another and approaches the center of the plaza. They all get together at the stage where they start playing marches all together which boosts the crowd eventually. Finally, the bands start playing the national anthem and we also join singing the anthem –actually try to sing as best as we can remember from the band at Puerto Madryn. At the end of the anthem, the crowd cheers “Viva la patria!” i.e. ‘long live the nation’ all together and the fireworks start, immediately.

The celebrations are over but our joy for eating does not come to an end. Since we kind of could not get enough from asado and try the meat over there, we get cow ribs from there. They cut the ribs with a special tool that we have not seen before. I guess there is more to learn from Argentinean people for us in the meat field.

In the evening, Gabriel mentions about the Mendoza-Santiago border crossing, which is called “caracoles” (snail). Since the road is full of turns, the road is called snail in short. The next day, at a restaurant at Mercado, we see “caracoles” on the menu and suddenly the topic of the conversation from last night pops in our heads and we decide to order snail (30 pesos) and a bottle of white wine (20 pesos) for the drinks. A full platter with full of snails with tomatoes, onions and peppers in a tasty sauce is served. Despite its beautiful taste, we especially like the way of eating the snails as the sipping and its sounds is joyful. One another nice thing to mention in Argentina is the availability of the wines and its cheapness. Despite the expensive prices of the wines in Turkey, one can taste better quality at a cheaper price. A wine that you can have opened at a restaurant for 50 Turkish Liras comes around just only 8 Turkish Liras over at a restaurant, here. In the meantime while speaking of wines; one cannot skip Mendoza, which actually I am going to mention shortly.

caracoles (snails)

 

There are two parts in Mercado. First one is the one where the restaurants are, where one can find everything, from snails to sandwiches up to 50 centimeters. The other one is the part where meat, vegetables and snacks are being sold. The meat is displayed on the hooks. People can choose whatever meat they want as if they are choosing fruits, from a variety of pigs, rabbits – on the hooks hanging from the ceiling.

In the snacks store, for the first time in South America, I am able to find sunflower seeds. They do sell it pure, not roasted as we used to in Turkey but still, I am able to get over my seed hunger up to a point. If you ever want to have some, look for “girasol” in the stores.

Our asado days in Argentina are not over yet as we experience another asado day thanks to Gabriel and his girlfriend. We go to a park where Gabriel cooks asado for us while telling the hints for preparing asado. He puts a sizeable cow meat to the grill for us whereas he informs us he is going to cook pork meat for him and his girlfriend. Considering the size of the meat, we let them know whether we can finish the whole meat or not but Gabriel seems not having any doubts about us as he points out Murat and adds together with the “aura” that Murat has around, that would not be a problem, which indeed becomes true. We finish all the meat that is offered to us. The meat is marinated with a special sauce called “chimichurri” and based upon desire, further sauce can be added to the meat after being cooked. The sauce is made of spices such as red hot peppers, thyme, peppermint; garlic and olive oil.

picture of happiness after another asado

 

After having such meat and getting all full, we stroll around the park and go to the city stadium. Some of the games during the 1978 Argentina World Cup took place here. The name of the stadium is “Malvinas Argentinas”, which stands for the Argentinian words for Falkland Islands. There is no fence between the field and the supporters but there is also a huge gap between the field and where the fan seats. We leave for home during the night with heavy smiles on our faces filled with the taste of meat and the dizziness from the wine. There is always meat and wine everyday during our stay in Mendoza, which gives us the utmost pleasure though having so much of meat and wine at one point brings also its side effects at one night as we cannot sleep due to our crumbled stomachs.

We decide to spent one of our days over here by eating light, which we prefer “empanada al malbec”, which is marinated meat with Malbec wine. We eagerly finish this dish as well with all pleasure. Fortunately, empanadas are being sold right beneath our house where we stay because we almost spent our whole day watching the last season of Lost. Without stepping out a foot from the bed, we are able to watch the last 10 episodes of Lost and we finally finish the infamous Lost that we have been waiting eagerly to see the end. At this point after through with Lost, we start watching another infamous TV series in Turkey. Every Thursday, right after the episode is being aired on TV, we able to watch the show thanks to YouTube.

While being at Mendoza, leaving here without doing any touristic activity should not be forgotten, thus we go to Maipu for wine tasting. Mendoza is famous for its wines and olive oil. The city is full of grape fields. Maipu, which one can reach by taking the city bus from the city, is famous for its best grape fields and well-known wineries (bodega). We take the bus for 2 pesos and rent a bike in Maipu for 15 pesos. We take a look at 2 wineries, a wine museum and 2 liqueur-houses. One got to pay 10 to 15 pesos per entrance for these places and can taste one or two kinds of wine or liqueur. Since the harvest season is over, we only visit wineries. In the liqueur houses, we taste olive oil first, second jam and the liqueur at the end. The most wanted is the absinthe but we would like to try something different that we don’t know the taste of. Murat tries a liqueur called “Russian Death”, which lives up to its name since Murat really burned out with it.

My favorite amongst the jams is the hazelnut “dulce de leche”, which is a milky caramel type. Being able to find a prior taste to Nutella, I buy a jar eagerly and also ask for two spoons to be able to taste it while we walk around.

We able to see the equipment used for wine making in the wine museum, but since there is only Spanish tour guide; we decide to take a stroll by our own.

After wandering aimlessly, we stop by a bodega called Trapiche. This one is the most industrialized and the famous one amongst all wineries. If I recall correctly one can find the same brand in selected stores in Turkey. Here, we both wander through the winery and also learn wine tasting. First the eyes, than the smell and finally the taste of the wine-the path to the wine tasting. We try three different wines and after drinking and tasting all various wines, we also come to a point where we find our favorite amongst the types. A white wine made from a grape type of Torrontes. Our beloved blog readers, we suggest you to go to a selected store such as Real or Carrefour and etc. and look for Torrentos grape white wine and buy it! While you start tasting it, please don’t forget to commemorate us with joy as the pureness of its color, its perfume like smell takes your thoughts away from wherever you are…

Having little dizziness due to the wine, we finally hand over our rented bikes in one piece. Even the bike store guy offers us a glass of wine to taste. The country is all about wine as if wine is flowing through the taps and actually it did sort of indeed happen as we happen to witness wine flowing through the rain drain pipes. We try various kinds of wine during our stay in Mendoza. If you happen to find a brand named Malbec with Mendoza sign on it and if you want to enjoy a stiff taste of wine, do not skip it… By the way, the tour that we just accomplished to finish is called “bikes & wines”, and is a very popular activity.

We return home tired and also hungry. Immediately, we go down to order our sandwiches beneath our house. Even the sandwiches are not in normal size, approximately 25 cm.

25 cm hamburger

 

Another dish that we taste in Mendoza is Shawarma. This is the Arabic style of our gyro (Turkish doner kebab) and little bit thicker. As being from a gyro country, we cannot even grade it as pass.

There are two interesting things that kind of taken our attention; first, every small shop – locutorio i.e. a place where cheap phone calls can be made – serves beer by placing tables in front of their stores; and second, the youngsters who gather around aimlessly at plazas that swallow lollipops…

Our days in Mendoza with little sightseeing but full of eating and drinking is over. Our next destination is Chile through Caracoles Border Pass.

For all Mendoza photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Mendoza#

Gülen & Murat

13.08.2010

Translation into English: Engin Özsöz





Patagonia #6: Bariloche / Argentina

9 11 2010

Translation into English: Gamze Demir

For all El Calafate photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Bariloche#

11 – 18.05.2010

We arrived to Bariloche after another 30-hour journey that we got already used to. It became evening already. Our new house is six kilometers away from downtown. We’re on the bus, adventure starts after getting off in the correct stop. Our home is not located on the map and there is nobody like grocery, greengrocery nearby the stop that we get off, whom we could ask the address. We are starting to go uphill in one direction by chance. It seems that we will stay in an uphill roaded house once more. I guess CS members always live on the top of the hills, to challenge us on purpose. Uphill that we tried doesn’t work out, we are climbing down. Finally we knocked on the door of a house and asked for address. They brought something like a phonebook and look at the map from there and then finally we were able to find the house on the map. Again we are in a top house of one hill!

Our home has a garden, calm, peaceful. We’ll stay here with Gustavo and his girlfriend. The most important feature of the house is that it has been built by Gustavo himself. Gustavo is not an architect or civil engineer or else. He began slowly to make house. He made there habitable in two years. When we go, he still had some more work to do.

ongoing constuction of the attic

Bariloche is one of Argentina’s most popular touristic places. It is possible to ski in the winter and sightsee the lakes in this city, which looks like a small Swiss town. Many people come here to do a tour of Seven Lakes. City is founded in the lakeside. Elevation begins next to the lake. Actually it rises suddenly, and almost all houses are in the slope. We see streets that has been made up of  interesting curved roads in the city center. During the period of our stay in Bariloche, we walked up and down these streets again and again.

I have said that it looks like Switzerland.. Not just buildings. Every place is full of Chocolate shops and chocolates are really delicious. One of the Chocolate shops is almost like a shopping center. Unfortunately it is too expensive. Saint Bernard dogs stand in the town square, everyone who wants is able to take pictures with these dogs. In short, they brought the symbols of Switzerland one by one here. It was the work of immigrants who came there from Switzerland years ago. Outside the city, near the national park there is a Swiss colony. All the tour companies organize half-day trips here. We prefer to go by ourselves. When we go, we don’t find anything. Just closed shops and signboards. Moreover, the signs are very interesting; fondues, hot chocolates, empanadas… We could’n find none of them. Moreover, we had to wait there three hours because of the rare bus schedule. Also, we are freezing when we are waiting.

There are 3-4 liftchairs in Bariloche. Each come up to the different hill. We pick one of them called Cerro Otto, which is the most scenic and touristic. Perfect lakes are just below us. Great views. Hawks flying above us. Only green and blue everywhere. A pure beauty without concrete.

The next day, we go to the lakes that we saw from this hill. Nahuel Huapi national park here. We are walking around a lot of lakes which is full autumn colors. We have a mood for making a full morning picnic, but we can not enjoy it because we have only chips and other snacks with us. There is one hotel at the entrance, and two in the park. The hotel at the entrance, becomes the symbolic hotel of Bariloche.  It was designed so good, that it doesn’t obbstrutive or disturbes the nature despite it was a big hotel. The interior hotels are haunted of Barilochers for over the weekend. We found dozens of people, when we go.

We have only one route left to complete all the trekking routes. We decide to do it. This is the most difficult route. We will climb the Llao Llao hill. We need to hurry because it becomes dark. Paths snake among the trees. We are climbimg rapidly, out of breathe. We can look down on the park, like a map…. We were in darkness on our way back, but without having trouble getting a flashlight. We had to go in the complete darkness to the exit of the park. Fortunately, going from the asphalt road,  afterall we have a habit of wandering about in the dark in the parks from Tierra del Fuego 🙂

We expect a nice evening with asado. In fact, we want asado this time, and Gustavo did not refuse us. We do the shopping. We buy about 3 kilograms of meat in the end. We have to show effort, because the butcher has a long queue. After all it is weekend and all Argentinians makes asado. There is a queue-matic in the butcher like our banks 🙂  We asked our host what kind of meat do we buy. He tells us to buy “Vacio”. A complete part without bones. Anyway it’s not common to put sliced meat in asado. Put them all in at once, you have to take when cooked. It’s not nice to cut it for a look to see if it’s cooked 🙂

happiness picture after asado

We have completed our Patagonia series with Bariloche.

For all El Calafate photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Bariloche#

Gülen & Murat

13.08.2010

Translation into English: Gamze Demir





Patagonia #5: El Calafate / Argentina

9 11 2010

Translation into English: Sinan Altıner

For all El Calafate photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/ElCalafate#

07.05.2010 – Friday

The road that travels from Puerto Natales to El Calafate is part of the famous Ruta 40. Ruta 40 is the road that spans all over Argentina from north to south. It is longer than 5000 km. Most of the road is not even paved. That’s why it is possible to encounter souvenirs that have “I survived Ruta 40” written on them!!

Unfortunately we are not as lucky and our bus breaks down on the road. Truly, in the middle of nowhere. For 2-3 hours the bus driver tries to fix the vehicle, he changes the wheels, but, alas, it does not work.

In the meanwhile, Murat goes for a lengthy stroll. He walks in the middle of utterly empty and plain Patagonia desert and encounters bodies of dead sheep!! By the time Murat returns from his walk, a new bus is already here, and we move on…

The city El Calafate seems to exist only because of the Perito Moreno Glacier. The “city” is very clean and neat, but at the same time very artificial. Gift shops abound here, and there are lots of decent restaurants and there is one five-star hotel. So our host here works in this five-star hotel. He is an employee in the reception of Spa. As soon as we arrive in the city, we stop by the hotel. I want to stay in the hotel for a few weeks and get some rest, because it is a very serene and beautiful place. Now that they also built a spa, it is perfect. We drop our stuff at Ariel’s, and explore the city a little bit. We do some research on trips to the glacier. The round trip to the glacier is 80 pesos! We figure we can try hitch-hiking on our first day, and if no one picks us up, we can always purchase bus tickets and travel there the next day.

When Ariel gets out of work, he takes us to the house that we will stay in. Our house is on the outskirt of the city and has a scene of a lake. I call it our house, because Ariel goes back to his family’s house after he drops us off. Apparently this house belongs to one of his friends, and he is gone for vacation. So the house becomes ours. My bones that were chilled in Patagonia finally begin to warm up here. In addition, we are able to hang out with t-shirts for the first time after a while of having 8 layers of clothing on us. We feel we are taking a vacation from vacation here.

the view from our window

08.05.2010 – Saturday

We rise early in the morning and walk towards the road to the glacier. We would like to hitch-hike somewhere far from the junctions. For about 1-1.5 hours no one stops. Because the weather is not so cold and we have pretty much nothing else to do, we keep waiting. In the meanwhile, I plug Dream Theater to my ear and begin to ramble. A minibus stops next to me. Minibuses are the only vehicles that we are not interested in, for they ask for money. The driver asks, “Are you travelling to the glacier?”!! We jump on. Our exceptional luck in this city continues. The people in the minibus happen to work at the construction of the hotel near the glacier. “Whoever accompanies us enters for free”, they say. Thus, we make our way in after greeting the officers at the entrance without having to pay the 75-peso fee per head. By the way, this is the most expensive park entrance fee that we have ever encountered.

Glacier is situated in the middle of a huge park. As we enter the colorful forest, the giant glacier suddenly appears. First, we halt at a scenery point and take some pictures. There is a hotel right behind where we are taking the pictures. It turns out that this hotel belongs to the same chain of hotels that our host works in. The hotel has the scenery of the glacier from the top. If you wish, you can pay 1000 USD per night and stay here!!!

As we did not have to pay for our trip and the entrance fee for the park, we decide to pay for the boat trip to the glacier. It lasts half an hour. It is such a spectacular moment. The giant glacier ahead of us (it rises 70 meters above the sea), the colossal creaks that we feel in our ears, and, afterwards, pieces of ice that break off the glacier with a sound that resembles a thunderclap are all etched in our minds…

Perito Moreno is a living glacier; I mean, it grows every year more, and advances further. Once it advances to a certain point, it can no longer bear the weight and a giant piece breaks off and falls to the water. The echo of the falling gigantic piece can be supposedly heard from El Calafate that is an hour away!! This event apparently happens every 3 to 7 years. I think the last time was witnessed in 2008. The length, the width and the height of the glacier is 30 km, 5 km and 70 meters, respectively.

Following the boat trip, we continue our trip on the walking paths. They have built several walking paths that enable the visualization of the glacier from different angles, and they are all connected to each other. That’s all fine, but they have used giant metal staircases to build these paths, and they look so ugly that it all seems nothing but a pile of metal. In addition, they were building even more of these when we were there. For about 3-4 hours we walk on these paths and behold the glacier, and witness new pieces that are breaking off from it.

For our return, we go back to the parking space and start asking the cars that are about to take off. The second car agrees to take us back to the city. For the first time in hitch-hiking, we do not utter a word to the people in the car. This is perhaps because of the impression that the glacier left on us. As always, retro is playing in the car, and we accompany the songs with the happiness of having encountered the most magnificent view of our lives.

In the evening we meet Ariel and we have pizza. As Ariel will go on a trip to Europe in March 2011, he became a member of the CS. We are his first guests. After we finish our pizzas, he pays the check, wishing it would go unnoticed. He approaches the situation with the Turkish mentality; he says that he cannot let his guests pay. We hope that he be treated the same way during his trip to Europe next year.

09.05.2010 – Sunday

Because we accomplished our sole goal in this city, we spend today at the gift shops. Finally I buy myself a set for mate. I purchase the mate (the glass), the bombilla (the rod through which you drink mate) and the flask. I can now continue my trip as a fake Argentinean. As I am travelling to Bariloche, my dreams of drinking mate become shattered, because I find out that the mate has to be prepared in a special way.  Mate (the glass) is made of calabash tree, and just for the first use one has to pour cold water and mate into it and have it sit for three days. After this, the color of the inside of mate changes somewhat and it becomes ready to be served.

All the souvenirs in the gift shops are very elegant, and it is possible to find everything. Clothes and jam of calafate are  the most commonly sold items.

As for returning back his favor, we decide to cook for Ariel. We buy steak, cucumbers and a decent bottle of wine from the market. Our favorite market La Anonima can also be found here. I don’t remember if I mentioned this before, but La Anonima is a chain of markets older than 100 years. They have a different way of practicing in El Calafate; they do not provide shopping bags. You either have to bring your own shopping bag from home or have to buy a recyclable paper bag.

We call Ariel many times for dinner, but cannot get hold of him. We finally give up and cook the food. As we are about to sit at the table Ariel comes home. It turns out that he was sleeping and did not hear our calls. He is saying that his friends are going to come home, and he sounds a bit panicky. Uh oh, he probably let us stay in the house without telling his friend. We let him know that we can move to a hostel. He says that’s not necessary. We later realize that the people that were about to come were two French girls from CS, and not his friend.

10.05.2010 – Monday

We leave behind our restful days back in El Calafate, and head towards Bariloche. As the summer season is over, we cannot find any vehicle that is heading toward Bariloche on Ruta 40. We have to lengthen our trip a bit, and go to Comodoro Rivadavia through Rio Gallegos, and then travel to Bariloche from there. Fortunately, we are able to find a bus that travels directly, and we are now ready for another 35-hour trip…

For all El Calafate photos click link below:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/ElCalafate#

Gülen & Murat

05.08.2010

Translation into English: Sinan Altıner





Patagonia #4: Puerto Natales / Chile

2 09 2010

Translation into English: Barbaros Kaçar

For all Puerto Natales photos click link below:
http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/PuertoNatales

04.05.2010 – Tuesday

Our next stop is a small town of Chile, Puerto Natales. Puerto Natales carries importance because Torres del Paine National Park is here. Also that’s the most important touristic activity in Chile. In every year thousands of tourists comes here for trekking. The route named “W” is the famous, it takes 4-5 days.
We stay in a very interesting place here. We found it from CS but it seems like a hostel. 10-15 CS members stays in the house at same time. It looks like house holders count on this provide for the family. In every night, someone in CS cooks for guests and the family or tip some cash in moneybox.

When we get there little girl at the house –she barely goes first class in junior school- introduce environment to us. The Family has three sons except little girl. Kids are used to having people in many different nations be in the house. Moreover a three-legs dog give birth to three puppies one month ago. Kids turn in to Elmyra when they enjoy with the puppies.

05.05.2010 – Wednesday

At night it’s freezing again. Our window doesn’t close accurately. The storm is coming up. Its winds like crazy when we go in to bed.

I wake up with diarrhea in the morning. I am offered a “folk medicine” again. Family suggests coal to eat. “No” I say and I refuse this offer politely.
But Dad doesn’t listen to me. He goes into kitchen, burns a piece of bread till it turns into coal and put it in a cup of hot water. After ten minutes he comes back with a cup of blacky water and they all try to force me drink that. And they win. But I don’t settle with it. I’m going to pharmacy and get some meds to use. Next day i feel better. But I don’t know which one did that.
Later we go downtown to find a touristic tour to Torres del Paine. Actually we want to camp there for a while but its freezing outside. Then we decide on the tour. Tour price is unstable. It changes between 13-21 thousand pesos. We take up the cheap one and pay 13,000 pesos (25 USD app.)

We visit a passage has gift shops inside. This is the only place we warm up here but it smells gas heavily because of gas heaters. We dont know how the people resist that smell all day long.
Chilean couple -they are both over fifty and they travel- cooks tonight with potato, carrot, onion and meat. Later on we see that meal in different Chilean restaurants. It is called “Cazuela”.

At the dinner we all having fun with chit-chat. By the way we realize that we improved well in Spanish. We can’t notice that but we speak Spanish reflexive in all dialogues. We gossip about Engin that he stayed here one month ago. The Family told us that Turkish people are very stingy. They’re rich because they don’t spend money. At same time kids sneak under the table and tie Murat’s shoelaces to each other. Anyhow he evades from that attack skillfully.

06.05.2010 – Thursday

Tour take us from home in early morning. We are only four in the bus living advantage with low-season trip.

We encounter with pack of sheeps on the road. Two shepherds and 5-6 dogs lead the pack. The communication between the shepherds and dogs is awesome. The dogs collect or lead pack by the whistle type of the shephard. This is the time that we are closest to the Patagonian sheeps.

After the sheeps, we meet cows, which are actually now imported by Turkey and greeted with surprise for their enormous sizes. It looks like when they are free to feed in nature, they get bigger too.


Our first stop is the Mylodon Cave. This is a major point of attraction for Patagonia and has an important part of Bruce Chatwin’s book named “In Patagonia”, too. Mylodon is a mammal, kind of sloth that had lived B.C. Nothing appears except Mylodon Statue in the cave at present. But this place still have something special inside.

Another advantage of the low-season waits us at the national park gate. The ticket price is 15,000 pesos each in high-season but we pay 8,000 each only, because it is low-season. In high-season, the people try different tricks to avoid this fee. A Chilean must pay “ridiculous” 3,000 pesos to get in anyway.
Our car breaks down after ten minutes we enter the park. Driver ride backwards to the entrance and fills water in watertank. “It’s OK now” driver says. But it stops again. After three times of trial, the employees at the gate join us. They all repaired the car in one hour then we continue the tour from where we left.
The Park have lots of beauties. Paine Towers –that named park- is the most important place that massive rocks shaped like towers rising above the snowy mountains. We take photos from different angles and convert the moment into the eternal.

We do short distance trekking through some landscape points. We see lots of Guanaco, pass some beautiful lakes. It winds like crazy at the same. Its difficult to walk again.

guanacos

In the end we arrive at the glacier. The wind increase its speed one step up. Its hard to stand against that force. The main section of the glacier is far away but we can see tiny ice bergs break off to it. Then Murat gets a little piece of glacier and he lifts it up as a display of power 🙂

We finish our tour to Torres del Paine like fast forwarded movie. We meet a Russian girl when we get back to the house. They tried to camp in Torres del Paine. They were almost frozen. In the end she gives up. She turns back Puerto Natales and leaves her friend behind in Torres del Paine. We are pleased about our choice about the day trip.

Murat flying in Torres del Paine wind

Its our turn to cook today. But the family guessed that we may be tired when back from the tour. They cooked pasta already when we get there. So we tip to their moneybox.

For all Puerto Natales photos click link below:
http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/PuertoNatales

Gülen & Murat

30.07.2010

Translation into English: Barbaros Kaçar





Patagonia #3: Punta Arenas / Chile

1 09 2010

Translated into English by Aslıhan Demirkaya.

For the album to the photos of Punta Arenas:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/PuntaArenas

30.04.2010 – Friday

The bus that we’ll take from Ushuaia heading to Punta Arenas is leaving at 5:00 a.m. Actually we don’t like the idea to get on the bus in such a cold weather and at such a weird time. Besides this, there is no bus terminal, we should also wait for the bus in front of the YPF gas station. The guy who sold the bus ticket is warning us to go there early because there is possibility that the bus leaves 10-15 minutes earlier!!!

We are running a little bit, then walking, of course freezing at the same time, finally catching up a taxi and heading to the place that the bus leaves. While waiting there for the bus, a North American girl is approaching us. In this freezing cold weather, she is wearing very thin tight pants, denim jacket with the t-shirt inside and the Converse shoes. At the time she sees me, she is asking me when I got my earlaps as if she was protecting every piece of body from the cold but for her ears!!!

Our bus is having a connection in Rio Gallegos. We are passing over the border one more time, and Strait of Magellan by the ferry. It is much colder than the day we came to Ushuaia.

When we arrived Punta Arenas, the first thing we observed is the power of the military.

The buildings, people and especially the soldiers walking around make us think that way. The soldiers are wearing calpacs. We are calling Juan from one of the “Locutorio”s (calling center). He is giving us a ride to our home. He has to leave just right after because tomorrow is May 1st and he has to do lots of preparation with the Human Rights Association.

In the mornings, Juan is working for the municipality about IT, and in the evenings he is doing a volunteer work for the Human Rights Association. During the night time, he is going to college. This kind of heavy schedule is one of the things we noticed since we came to South America.

Juan’s connection with the HRA is because of his father. In Chile, during the years 1973-1990, because of the military regime, there had been many people lost (!), tortured or killed. Juan’s father and his brother are two of them. They haven’t still heard from their father but his brother was found 2 years ago. One of the aims of HRA is to find the people who were lost during these years and make them gather with their families. It is almost similar to the Plaza de Mayo mothers in Argentina.

Juan’s house is literally the last one in the city. 🙂  When you take the ramp and go up to the very end, and take the last street, then you’ll see the house at the end of that street. He has two kids. We are witnessing the same thing that we did notice before. Even the people’s houses are not in the best condition (lacking heating system, etc.) they are much better socially developed than us. Juan’s family is also one of them. Their house is quite cold and does not have a proper heating system. However Juan is doing his MS in the university. Two of his kids are going to a French school. His son is playing drums, (yes, they have drums at their home), and his daughter is playing a violin. Juan is joining them with his flute. What comes to us in Turkey first is having a house. Once your house is not as comfortable as you wish, you can never socialize.

01.05.2010 – Saturday

What we dreamed was to celebrate May 1st in Santiago with the others but since we were a little bit late, we had to celebrate it in Punta Arenas.

A very big parade was not planned for May 1st. They just gathered to go the cemetery and leave some wreath to the monument that was built for the memory of the ones that were lost.  Since we left home lately, we missed that part of ceremony. However it is still a good opportunity to get to see the cemetery. Actually it is assumed to be one of the most popular touristic attractions. They even have a direction map for the cemetery.

I can definitely say that this was one of the most beautiful cemeteries among the ones we have seen before. When you enter, a big cross and interesting trees welcome you. Actually you see these trees almost everywhere in Punta Arenas.

Most of the graves look very fancy. Almost all of them had been designed diligently. The ones that attracted our attention most were the graves that looked like mortuaries. They are like drawers, 5 layers, all close to each other. In front of every grave, you find toys, doodahs and fake flowers.

One of the most important places in the cemetery is the mausoleum that is built for the memory of the ones lost after the coup. The most painful thing is losing someone you loved but not finding the corpse of him even you believe that he died. The other important place is the grave of Yamana. Actually we cannot figure out whether it is a grave or a sculpture but we see lots of thankful notes and the plates all over it. The ones whose wishes came true nailed their thankful notes around the sculpture. We saw the similar applications at different places, like around the holy icons.

After the cemetery, we attended the celebration ceremony in the sports center.  That was what Juan and his friends were preparing for. We spent some hours with some songs. Actually the celebration was a  little bit dull but the attendance to the ceremony was quite high.

We see a fantastic car on the way back to our home. The guy put the print of Yoda on the hood of his car and wrote Star Wars on the sides. The print looks like a very high quality such that the car had an awesome look.

We spent our best hours in the building of the association. We made a barbecue with the families of the lost guys. Most of them were old. In fact, the oldest guy was very interested in us. Even we missed the most of the part of his talk, he did tell a lot. Even Turkey and Chile are very far from each other, both countries experienced similar pains.

The two guitar players coming from Santiago accompanied the night with their songs. We had a night with lots of conversation, songs and wine. Since we are in Chile, every wine here is delicious.

We were almost flying while we were going back to our home. The wind was crazy. They say the speed if the wind reaches 150 km/hour. It is really hard to control the doors of the car. When we read the news the other day, we see that the roofs of many houses just flew away.

02.05.2010 – Sunday

We find one of the newspapers from Punta Arenas. Each city has its own local newspaper. The funniest part about the newspaper is it has one page of sex ads. Some even have pictures. The streets of Argentina and Chile are full of advertisements of prostitutes. You can also find their ads with their pictures on in the telephone booths, on the street lamps.

Since the city is along the Strait of Magellan, we suppose that there would be lots of different sorts of seafood in the market. However this is not the case there, we find almost nothing. The only thing we find is empanada. Bon appetite to us!

Even we are in Patagonia, we find kinds of tropical fruits. I choose one from each kind to try. My favorite becomes pepino. Avocado is also extremely cheap here. It is not surprising because the origin of avocado is Chile. If you say that you don’t like avocado, it is almost swearing to them 🙂 We are satisfied with the tropical fruits but not with the other fruits and the vegetables. The other fruits like strawberry and apricot are sold in cans.

Chile is the most expensive country among all in South America. One of the reasons of expensiveness is because we are in Patagonia.

We drink the corn soup made by Ana. The soup has chicken, noodles and whole parts of corn. Even it is hard to eat the corn, we think that it is one of the best soup we have ever tried.

In the evening, we go out one more time. This time our goal is to try the king crap (centolla). I think this crap is found mostly in the Strait of Magellan. We actually knew that many restaurants had this crap in their menu, but we even couldn’t dare to ask the price of it. This time we are eager to eat that crap. Before I started this trip, I watched a documentary on the National Geographic channel about the process of hunting this king crap from the Strait of Magellan. Now I feel so excited to get the chance to eat these gigantic animals.

We are going to La Luna as suggested in Lonely Planet. Inside is really cute and full of gringos. We order king crap, eel and beer. While waiting for the food, we take a tour inside the restaurant. There are beautiful details inside. They stick a table and a chair upside down. It really looks great. There are also two maps, one is world map, the other is European. Whoever comes in, pins the country with her/his name on a paper. Turkey has nothing on it. There is actually one piece of paper on Istanbul but the name is not Turkish. We of course write down our names on a piece of paper and pin it to the map. Thus Turkey is not feeling lonely anymore.

Finally our food comes. There is nothing special with the eel, but we love king crap. They cooked it with the Parmesan cheese in the stew. We learn that they put the whole crap whose diameter is nearly 1-meter inside the food.

We eat until we feel totally full. However we leave a huge amount of money there. One portion of king crap is almost 9500 Peso = 20 USD.

We have an awesome mood. We buy a cocktail from the market Unimarc and drink it on the beach. Even the wind freezes us, it is a great pleasure to sit across the Strait of Magellan.

03.05.2010 – Monday

This is our last day in this city. We devote ourselves to walk around the city, and eat. There are two restaurants that we want to mention about. We may even change our writing style to a parvenu one. I just wanted to warn you.

Our first restaurant is Lomito. Since we are unaware of the meaning of the lomito, we are thinking that it might be one of the special foods in the menu but it isn’t the case. This place looks like a British Pub. Actually it is full of foreigners. On the TV, there is a soccer game between the two top teams, Universidad de Chile and Colo Colo. We order lomito and beer. The food is prepared in the middle of the restaurant. There is one cook but a very efficient one. He is incredibly fast in cooking. Actually it is a mass production. I start watching the cook, not the game.

As I mentioned before, the avocado is really important to Chilean people. In every sandwich, you can find an avocado sauce. I love it, but Murat doesn’t. Lomito is a kind of hamburger, made from a whole beef, not a ground one. The portions are really big and satisfying.

Based on Juan’s suggestion, the second restaurant we went is the Chilean restaurant, “El Mercado Chilote”. The only people inside are Murat and me. The waiter is suggesting us to order “Curanto”. He says that the price decreased to 4500 pesos from 7000. Just to try, we order one. However there comes a giant food in the middle of our table. The food looks swanky. It has 15-20 mussels. In addition to that, it has chicken, beef, sausage and potatoes, just irrelevant meat to us. They make the meat by smoking it. The food also comes with the soup. It seems very interesting and the amount seems gigantic. The giant mussels taste just awesome. Hopefully we ordered just one menu, it is still hard to finish though.

The origin of this food is the Island Chiloe of Chile. The traditional way is they make this food by digging a hole, put all these kinds of meat inside then cover it with the bushes and then cook. Since it is covered with the bushes, the smoke is absorbed more. The more the smoky it is, the more appreciated it is.

For the album to the photos of Punta Arenas:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/PuntaArenas

Gülen & Murat

30.07.2010

Translated into English by Aslıhan Demirkaya.





Patagonia #2: Ushuaia / Argentina

19 08 2010

Translation from Turkish to English: Engin Özsöz

To see all the photos of Ushuaia:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Ushuaia

20 – 21.04.2010 – Tuesday & Wednesday

Our trip for Ushuaia, which we expect to take long, is about to start but in order to catch the front seats of the bus, we have to go to Trelew first and to avoid any delays, we leave early for Trelew. We have got approximately 2 hours of free-time and while leaving Murat by the backpacks in the bus station, I go to a casino on the road, which eventually make me end up losing all the money that I set aside for this gambling – luckily just only 10 pesos 🙂

Our journey to Ushuaia is going to take about 35 hours. We took Andesmar Bus Company for the road to Rio Gallegos. It is just an amazing road that we travel ahead, the steps of Patagonia, guanacos, nandus, the birds of prey, the road trip all in all worth it and there is plenty of time for deep thoughts – I guess, we are experiencing one of the best impressive moments of our lives. In the meantime, our bus company does whatever it takes to keep us entertained; movies one and another, snacks and food and even Bingo!! 🙂

After arriving in Rio Gallegos, we continue with TAQSA-bus company- to the road-trip. Since some of our route goes through Chilean lands, we have to stop by the customs where our backpacks and all belongings are examined carefully before we head into Chile. The point where we pass through the Magellan Strait that connects the Pacific and the Atlantic is the point where we get further close to one of the many places that we would like to visit and see; and this finally seems to turn into an achievement as we arrive Tierra del Fuego aka the “Land of Fire”.  We finally literally made it to the “End of the World” or “Fin del Mundo”.

Crossing Macellan Strait: 

In 1520, the explorer Magellan, when first came this place and sees the natives across the shore that carry torches at their hands named this place as “Tierra Del Fuego” so called “Land of Fire” for Spanish. Once we go through the channel, we again cross into Argentina border and just to visit from one city to another in Argentina, our passports had to be stamped four times in a row. In Rio Grande, we are asked to make a mandatory bus change that we have not been notified previously but this lead us to see the icicles that hang beneath the bus and the workers who try to clean them off. The scene just terrifies us regarding how cold the weather could be in Ushuaia.

Fortunately, what we hesitate of does not happen as we expect and see that there is neither snow nor icy weather just only cold when we arrive Ushuaia.

21.04.2010 – Wednesday

Our first host in Ushuaia is Lucia’s where she lives together with her daughter. This time, our host is from Hospitality Club. Lucia greets us with hot empanadas and we are given the very warm room of the house where we have bunks to sleep in 🙂
We happen to see an interesting exercise here that we would later get used to it since it is a common habit in Ushuaia. The heating systems of the houses are inadequate here that people tend to heat up the oven and open the oven cover in order to heat up the house. All the houses are already made of wood and easily transmit the cold weather from outside. At these circumstances we can’t hold ourselves from wondering how they would survive as the winter really increases its pressure over here.
22.04.2010 – Thursday

The next day, we head for the tourist info booth where we are amazed and shocked to see how well prepared and organized they are. They are so well prepared that if we ask for one thing such as how to get to Punta Arenas, they hand us a list that includes all the bus companies, the routes and the fees that go even up to Bariloche – much further north more than we ask for or if to ask for a price of a city tour, we are provided with all the tours and their listing fees. It is so amazing to be well treated like this 🙂 Worth to mention that one can have their passports stamped with the stamp of “Ushuaia-Fin del Mundo” (end of the world) over at the Tourist Info.
The city center is very pretty and so European. One can see many tourists over here with Gore-Tex clothes that makes it a bit artificial. When you leave the center and head for the back of the center 1-2 streets ahead, you bum into old tin boxes as used as homes. The houses are very interesting. Next to a well-build 2-floor luxury-looking house you can see an adjacent house made of wood and tinplate. And considering the cold weather, one cannot stop himself from wondering how these people survive in these harsh conditions.
One of the best attractions in the town is the tour of the Beagle Channel and the most entertaining part of the tour is the penguins. However, since the penguins have already started their travel and left for North, we change our minds and cancel our plan of taking the tour.
One another amazing thing to do in Ushuaia is to go to the Antarctica; which is however, only possible between November and March and kind of costly as it takes minimum 3,000 – 4,000 USD to pay for. We have also learnt that another way of visiting the Antarctica is to work in ships that set sail there. Hence, we end up cancelling this idea of ours but definitely make up our minds to visit that part of the Earth when we have enough money some day.
23.04.2010 – Friday

In the morning, we prepare our hot dogs and alfajores for the road ahead of us, and Lucia takes us to Glacier Martial where we would climb. The ice over here is not in the form of glacier. There is only a mass of ice at top of the mountain and that’s the Glacier Martial.
The beginning is an easy one, and there is already a trail to follow. One can use the chairlift but we climb to the chairlift station at the top. The view as we go further up gets much prettier. There are different trails over here and we took the one that goes to the glacier. Sometimes easy but other times in a bumpy style we follow the trail but as we further go, the road becomes more difficult to follow. Through the end of trail, we are mostly in snow up to our knees and more. As the conditions get worse and we start to crawl within the snow, we come to a point where further climbing would not be possible without the proper equipment. But still, where we have managed to come and thinking the fact that just a month ago we were on the shore swimming, this icy mountain and experiencing the beauty of it; is just so exciting and the further up, the view is amazing, the Beagle Channel and Chilean lands.
When we approach to the end of the climbing, we notice how enjoyable this was despite the stress which was due to the fact that walking in and out of the snow all the time, which was up to our knees, our feet and shoes all got wet and cold. At home, we manage to dry our shoes up on the heater but even though Murat’s shoes were easy to dry, we interestingly happen to smell rubber when my shoes are drying, which eventually turn into a small fire. That small of rubber was the sign of the fact that my shoes were burnt. The next day, I notice that the pair of my shoes that got burned, got tighten by almost 2 sizes 🙂 which unfortunately force us to cancel our Tierra del Fuego plan and go for shopping. Actually, this does not come up as a bad idea because after all that climbing and cold, the ache that our body and muscles experience is unbearable.

24.04.2010 – Saturday

We literally spent the whole day looking for shoes for myself. The city is full of outdoor gear and sports utility stores. Finally, we are able to find suitable shoes for myself, which leads my old worn, burned orange shoes to pay a visit to the dumpster.

In the meantime, since almost everything is highly costly, the convenience and supermarket snacks and sandwiches became our sole food source.

We stroll through the ports during the afternoon in order to find a ship or ferry that may take us to Puerto Williams which actually is costly if to take a ferry. Actually, even though Ushuaia is identified by the “End of the World” saying, technically Puerto Williams is the tip of the continent-South America, but since Chile does not advertise the place highly and there is nothing much to do over there with almost a deserted place with few residential population, the majority come to Ushuaia to visit. One can even sent postcards from Ushuaia with the phrase of “Fin del Munto” on it. By looking at the souvenirs and stores, it is just unbelievable over here to see how this place turns into as an attraction place.

While we stroll through the port, we notice that the port is almost empty since the season is out and we are able to find only one boat, which unfortunately goes to Florianopolis leaving our hopes deserted!

25 – 27.04.2010 – Sunday – Tuesday

Tierra del Fuego National Park, which is located 12 km outside of the city, is the most important attraction part of Ushuaia.  Every year, thousands of tourists visit this place for trekking and camping. You can reach the park via shuttle buses from the city while Lucia takes us to go there. Inside the park, we stop by the ‘train at the end of the world’. This is a touristic train that follows a path inside the park. It costs 90 pesos per person, which is very expensive for us. We do not take it as we already know it is possible to walk along its railways inside the park. It was built by the prisoners at Ushuaia Prison that we are going to mention later on. Due to the steam locomotive, the view of the train within the mystic foggy environment creates like an ancient poetic view for us.

The entrance fee is 50 pesos per person for the park. As a resident, Lucia only pays 5 pesos while Agustina due to her student status enters for free to the park. We do not have to pay attention to the money we spent for the park and do not think it as an unnecessary expense, because fortunately we are going to able to stay as long as we want in the park. Lucia gives us a brief tour of the park while we follow the 3079 km long Ruta-3 that we have been following since Buenos Aires. The legendary road ends at Tierra del Fuego Park.

Since we do not have camping equipment and the weather is cold, we have decided to stay in “refugio” in the park. This complex looks like a combination of a hostel and tent. There is only one room with bunks in it. One needs to also rent a sleeping bag for the night in order to stay. Fortunately, there is a stove inside. After Lucia drops us at the refugio, we head for our first trekking. There are many trekking routes to take and all of them are marked at the map according to their difficulty level – given by the officials at the gates.

In just 3 days, we manage to complete all the trekking routes except one, which is an uphill icy route and requires pre-notification to the park officials if one wants to go. During our 3 days stay, incredible view and scenes, we have the chance to see. All the beautiful colors of the fall are together over here making us glad that summer has not arrived yet. Within our trip over in the park, we come across with various animals such as rabbits, horses, big birds, foxes and etc. There are many different forests over here and each is different than the other and may be scary sometimes. For the first time in our lives, we have the chance to see a true and natural dam built by beavers. In one of our routes, we come across the Chile-Argentina border sign that gives us the chance of hopping in and out of Chile to Argentine instantaneously. The forest, the lake and the mountain all three as if in one camera shot, not too many opportunities exist to see all these together at one place…  The trip is just too incredible that one cannot put it into words and we happen to experience this environment for 3 long days.

While we mention ‘alone in the nature’-we literally can say alone in the park. There is only one camp official that stays in the park, who is also responsible for the place that we stay in refugio. And even, there is not a single security officer attending at the park during the nights. The whole park belongs to us, literally. In the meantime, I should mention that the area that is accessible by the public within the park is around 30-40 square kms.

We leave the park that we walked like crazy, eat our sandwiches in front of significant views, and could not heat up the stove that we slept in after three days. Actually, Murat wanted to stay one more night in the park, but since I do not want to be freezing one more day, we return for the city.

On the way back, we hitchhike and one family stops to give us a ride to the city. The mother of the family without any hesitation nurses her baby right next to us; something that we are not very used to see.

Since Lucia had informed us earlier that we can only stay 4 nights with her, we leave her house in order to go to Raul’s house, which is only 2 blocks away. This house is one of the very few interesting houses that we see in our lives. Raul lives with his 5 enormous dogs here, but luckily, the dogs are very friendly and calm…

28 – 29.04.2010 – Wednesday – Thursday

Our last two days in Ushuaia and we spent it in Ushuaia prison. The ticket purchased at the gates is valid for two days and actually it is almost impossible to finish seeing all the interior of the prison just in one day. There are various museums and displays inside the prison. At the entrance the sailing museum greets us. There are 1/100 scaled ship models inside the museum that show the chronological advancement steps of the shipbuilding industry during the last 500 years. All the details are well-built in the ship models. Sailing industry is very important for Tierra del Fuego because until 1948, which is the year that commercial flights started here, the only transportation method was through the sea.

The latter part of the prison is turned into a touristic attraction spot. All important prisoners’ casts were put in here with their stories. Even the famous tango person Carlos Gardel is told to be a prisoner here for a while according to the rumors.

At this part of the prison, one can learn everything about the living conditions and the daily lives of the prisoners. Starting from the hospital conditions to toilets, one can learn all the details such as the prisoners were the ones who had to build the hospital, which is kind of sad. We have been told that this is one of the few prisons with the most difficult conditions to live in and actually this can be proved by only seeing one part of the prison, which was left untouched. The halls that the cells face up have only two to three stoves that are put to heat all the building. When the night came and the 9-square-meters cell doors were closed; this, unfortunately, meant to loss of the connection to the heat for the prisoners, unfortunately.

The prisoners were told to be put in various tasks and it has been conveyed that thanks to these prisoners, electricity, telephone, the train and even the first newspaper of Ushuaia were made possible. And that train is the steam locomotive in Tierra del Fuego… The prison is shut down in the year of 1947 and all the prisoners were transferred to different prisons.

At the downstairs, there is an interesting art gallery that the tourists can visit.

At the upstairs, there are galleries and displays for the Antarctica, the world’s worst prisons and Yamanas. When we take a look at the Antarctica part, we feel sorry for ourselves. Every major nation in Europe, USA, Brazil, China, India each has their own research stations in the Antarctica and even made expedition trips to the ice continent in early. We wish there was at least one research station that belongs to Turkey over there.

“The world’s worst prisons” section can’t beat the information that one can find online and the part from Yamanas is very inadequate that one cannot stop himself from thinking that these parts were only built or placed there just to keep these areas filled. But if one has time, it is still knowledge that is contained there and worth looking.

Yamanas are another example that shows the wildness, ambition of the “modern” Europe at that time. There is another museum in the city about Yamanas. It is also possible to get information at the Alakush info center at the national park.

Yamanas are the natives or in other words could be named as the Indians of Tierra del Fuego. These people set sail by canoes in the sea, fishing for various fishes, penguins and sea lions and use sea lions fur to protect them from the cold. However, these natives interestingly walk around naked at most of times. Even though they could be considered naked, somehow they manage to protect themselves from the cold. Once Europeans arrive here and tries to start modernizing these people, they start by introducing the clothes to the natives. However, since these people are not immune to the bacteria that are formed within the clothes, they suffer death one by one and their numbers diminish rapidly. Europeans take four of them to Europe for education. Charles Darwin at this point refers the Yamanas with his comment of “subhuman beings without a spiritual life”. The Yamana population, which was around 3500 in 1886, drops to 300 in just 30 years in 1916. Their existence which lasted almost 60 centuries just comes to an end in 30 to 40 years. These are hard to believe sad life stories of the Yamanas on the display and show the humanity that how “modern” people could be very selfish and wild when it comes to themselves and mess up a continent for their own sake.

Yamanas, wearing clothes

Our Ushuaia trip is almost over. Our next destination is Punta Arenas. We need to speak with our next host for the details and thanks to our handy, light netbook, we manage to find wireless internet in one of the hotels on the main streets and enjoy the chance of talking on Skype with our upcoming host just on the street, outside. Actually, since our two hosts in Ushuaia do not have internet, we have used hotels’ wireless internet for most of the time while we were here… God bless wireless internet… 🙂

writing blog under tough conditions 🙂

Translation from Turkish to English: Engin Özsöz

To see all the photos of Ushuaia:

http://picasaweb.google.com/gulenandmurat/Ushuaia

Gülen & Murat

27.06.2010