Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Testing ‘Open Live Writer’

1705sunset5

A statue of Timperley comedian, Chris Sievey, in his Frank Sidebottom guise was unveiled in Timperley town centre on 20 October 2013. It remains free of graffiti, if not of a Father Christmas impersonation. It’s pictured above in view of a Timperley sunset on 17 December 2015, shortly after we returned from Chile.

This seems very similar to WLW, but there is no list of ‘labels’ so I’ll have to label the posting later.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Christmas 2015

This has to be my favourite present!

Thank you to a particularly observant and generous 'Anonymous' follower for this touch of genius.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Merry Christmas Everyone

Happy Days in 2015 - the summit of An Riabhachan on 9 May

Hello All

I’ve been resting from blogging since returning from Chile. I expect readers need that as much as I do. Certainly nobody except Dot has complained.

There’s a bit of a backlog that I will catch up on in due course, but in the meantime Sue and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, insofar as is possible under some trying circumstances involving bereavements and health issues for some, and devastating floods for others.

Here’s hoping you get some quality time with those you love.

With Very Best Wishes

Martin

PS Windows Live Writer doesn't seem to be working again. Does anyone know why?

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sunny Timperley

Hello folks

Here we are after an uneventful journey from the southern hemisphere.

It was summer when we left Santiago yesterday afternoon, but not unexpectedly winter in Manchester today, when we bade farewell to Chris and Wanda who dashed off to get a train to the Lake District. 

At least the sun is shining in through our back door in Timperley! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Valparaíso, and the end of a trip

We enjoyed our day in Valparaíso, but are sad that it marks our last full day in Chile before returning home.

A stroll down to Plaza Sotomayor with Morgan saw us join about 30 others for a three hour guided walking tour offered by the T4T team. That's 'Tours4Tips' - you just give them some money at the end. The guides all wore 'where's Wally' t-shirts.  They were led by Priscilla, aided by Ignatio and Philippe. Very good they were too. We spent an informative few hours walking around, hopping on and off buses, visiting the prison with a capacity for 300 inmates, where at one time the Pinochet regime kept 1200 political prisoners behind bars, and generally enjoying a morning in the bright sunshine that is symptomatic of Chile's unpredictable weather.

Anthony was also on the tour, and we had the pleasure of his company afterwards for lunch in a sandwich shop. The Chacarero and Barros Luco sandwiches were excellent. We hope to see you again one day, Anthony.

On return to Luna Sonrisa, Sue invested some time in checking in for tomorrow's flights, and perhaps more importantly sorting out collection arrangements for our hire car. The Puerto Montt company has no office at Santiago airport, so we have a rendezvous with someone at a petrol station, from where hopefully we'll get a lift to the airport before he takes the car back to Puerto Montt. Thanks go to the Luna Sonrisa staff who helped sort this out.

This faffing delayed a planned visit to one of the houses of the political figure and poet, Pablo Neruda, which was then shelved in favour of another walk around town. It's an eyecatching place, thanks to the variety of brightly painted buildings and the 'graffiti', otherwise and perhaps more correctly known as street art.

We took a funicular to a good viewpoint above the port, on the way down chatting at length to an interpretation and translation student, Andreas, born in Germany but taken to Chile at the age of one by his Chilean mother. He is excited by plans to visit his father in southern Germany in the next few weeks, especially at the prospect of seeing snow.

A fine meal at La Bruschetta marked our final repast in Chile.

Today's pictures are all taken around Valparaíso:
Hotel Reine Victoria, one of many fine old buildings
The prison, now used as a base for small artisan businesses
Priscilla explains 'graffiti'
A view of the port
Our street - Templeman (2)
Pannacotta - my last dessert...

Tomorrow we will try to find Santiago airport, where we will no doubt bump into Chris and Wanda again before a 13 hour flight to Paris, then onward to reach sunny Manchester on Thursday afternoon. 

It has been a great trip. We hope you have enjoyed reading about it. An index, and a few 'Hints and Tips', should follow in due course, as well as a slideshow at Hazel Grove Civic Centre are 8 pm on Wednesday 27 April next year.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Valparaíso

The 440 km journey could have been shorter had we not headed out of Santiago along a motorway with no discernable exits, signposted 'Los Andes'.

Valparaíso is in the opposite direction to the Andes, whose lofty summits accompanied us for the easy drive to Santiago, via an assortment of identical Copec service stations.

Toll booths were more frequent today, with at one point three in the space of just a few kilometres, possibly due to our bizarre route. We were also pleased to hear a bleep from a gadget in the car that confirmed that it was registered for Santiago's 'tag' equivalent of London's congestion charge.

We reached our destination, Luna Sonrisa Hostal, soon after 4 pm, much to Sue's relief - she had been navigating from a map in the Rough Guide, which was very economical with its use of place names.

Multilingual Alex soon registered us and showed us the ropes. She then left us enjoying the cups of tea that we traditionally savour when arriving somewhere new.

Then a quick stroll down to the port, admiring the colourful houses and the street art that Thomas regarded as dreadful graffiti. I'll let the images speak for themselves.

Returning up the hill we at first ignored a voice: "Sue, Sue". Who would know Sue - they must be calling someone else...

We turned around to discover Anthony, last seen in a pizzeria in Puerto Natales, sunburnt from a day on the beach and laden with a week's shopping. It truly is a small world. He flies to Honduras next week, but we don't expect he'll bump into us there.

Back up the hill by a devious route, we dined in the highly recommended Vinilo restaurant. A shared 'rock fish' ceviche starter, then rabbit from a local vineyard for me and tongue for Sue. The rabbits apparently come from a wine supplier! Then ice cream for Sue and a local version of banoffee pie for me. All very tasty and served by a jolly chap who had spent ten years in the UK before returning home. He recommended a Chilean  restaurant in Liverpool, and he had an eye on the football match between Chelsea and Leicester that during the course of our meal returned Leicester to the top of the Premier League with Chelsea almost in the relegation zone. Who would have predicted that?

The patio on which we were eating housed a table tennis table. It's a game that isn't so easy after a bottle of Casa del Bosque 2015 Gran Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, a most enticing tipple.

Today's pictures are of a Copec elevenses point and an assortment of images from Valparaíso. 

Monday, 14 December 2015

Casa Chueca and Talca

December 12

Today was a restful day at Casa Chueca together with a 27 km bike ride to Talca and back.

With more cloud than of late, we had seen the best of the mountains and we've enjoyed our day off in the quiet seclusion of this excellent spot, built from scratch by the owners since they acquired the land in 1997.

On the way down to Talca we passed the university campus. Not a student in sight, but imaginatively designed buildings surrounded by the sort of sculptures that we have come to expect to see in such places. Within the campus are some botanical gardens, of interest as much for their displays of bird life as for the flowers. Sue had a long discourse with a parrot.

Talca was notable for its absence of tourists, closed museum and cathedral, and arcades full of Christmas shoppers. 

A Christmas tree had been erected at Casa Chueca by the time we returned, much to the delight of a six year old German boy who is bemused by our failure to speak his language.

We spent the evening with Chris and Wanda (both Munroists) and the other guests. More tasty veggy fare, but I'll be glad to revert to fish or chicken tomorrow. 

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay (Episode 3)

Here is Sue's version of today's events:

Saturday 12 December

We had a long and comfortable night in the tent, despite having to blow up the Neoair several times. A mouse (Martin) was eating chocolate at midnight!

Soon after 8am, a brew went on and we breakfasted on muesli and tea in the tent, having another brew to use up the last of the gas whilst we were packing up the tent. There was some high cloud today.

We left the campsite around 9.30am, and on the walk back down, met lots of people coming up; all Chilean, and including four horses, two with riders each leading one loaded with gear.

It was a peaceful walk out, seeing a female Magellan woodpecker, and a new variety of lady's slipper, tiny and pink. It was interesting for us to see how people carried their gear in; some carried their tent in their hands, others had rucksacks front and back, and one group even had an upright shopping trolley on wheels!

Martin recounted his vivid dream from last night, which entailed cycling to Mike and Marion's house in Patterdale, only to find them fully occupied by two rows of guests at a house party. Al Hinkes was the waiter. Martin was totally ignored and had his bike and all his gear stolen. Then, the car that he was using to get to the police station in Kendal ran out of petrol! That bit was quite close to home, as we have a nearly empty fuel tank in Sparky, and the return trip will be touch and go!

On reaching the park office, we deposited the form to let the authorities know we had returned, and had a conversation with a young ranger. He explained that although last winter there had been very little snow in Vilches Alta (around 1200m), during some winters there is 2 metres. He also told us that very few English come to the park, but more Germans, as the first stop on their trips, having stayed at Casa Chueca.

During the final 2km to where our car was waiting, we saw a large hairy spider crossing the track, this time with a round reddish body; he wasn't keen on having a boot placed near him to gauge his size, rearing up in defence! Just beyond, a small snake (perhaps a foot long and half a centimetre wide) slithered quickly in the other direction. Both were keen not to stay on the track for too long!

Back at the car, we detected an earth tremor as we sat in the front seats with the doors open. Then, lunch of tinned herrings in curry sauce, peanuts and chocolate before we set off back to Talca.

Due to the need to conserve fuel, we free-wheeled all the way down the dirt road and further whenever possible, only engaging the gears for less than 10km out of the 50km journey! Just before San Clemente, where we hoped to get fuel, we were stopped by the carabineros! All documentation was fine and we were on our way within 5 minutes. 

Thankfully, Sparky made it to the petrol station and it was with relief that we drove the remaining distance back to Casa Chueca for around 2pm.

We were soon back in our room, Rapa Nui, organising a bag of washing, followed by a relaxing afternoon in the warm sunshine. I used the pool and we chatted to Amanda, an Australian travelling for 4 months, and enjoyed a mug of tea. The lizards are zipping about on the terrace and the birds are tweeting in the surrounding foliage.

The grounds here were worth exploring. The land slopes down to the Lircay river and a winding path leads from the pool beneath fruit trees, to one enclosure containing a pair of pheasants, and another containing geese, rabbits, chickens and ducks, a tree house, and a suspension bridge built across to an island. There is also a miniature go-karting circuit of about 300 metres, complete with traffic lights, above which a platform gives a view to the snow-covered Andes above the trees.

Cold beers on the terrace preceded dinner outside, of soup, stuffed tomatoes, mashed potato and pumpkin sauce, with salad. There is a more international clientele here tonight, with two French, Bernard and Heidi from Germany, some Chileans, Amanda the Australian, and an English couple from near Staveley in the Lake District. They told us about the state of the Lakes following the recent flooding, and although their house is fine, it sounds like a nightmare, with Keswick and Kendal severely damaged, along with roads through the Lakes.

We headed for bed when it became a little too cool to continue sitting outside, after 9pm.

Today's pictures:
Chaos at Camp
The Magellan Woodpecker 
A Mirador View
Back at Casa Chueca 

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay (Episode 2)

December 11

Despite a sloping tent, Sue's leaking airbed and the dawn chorus of whistling birds and munching cows, we managed to snatch a few hours sleep before breakfast in bed well after 8 am.

Thus we set off after 9 pm on another 'Blue Sky' day of Chile's unpredictable weather. We had several physical objectives, only one of which was achieved. Our main aim though was to enjoy our last full day's walking in the Andes. We succeeded admirably. This was a highlight of our entire trip.

After rising a couple of hundred metres in shady woodland, passing a small yellow flower with a brutal sting, we emerged into heat, with purple and yellow lilies that were new to us.

Views towards the coast stretched lazily into a distant heat haze wherein no particular features were discernable.

A small volcano that we passed on yesterday's mirador walk soon appeared as a shrinking pimple below us as we climbed higher. We also enjoyed good views across to the 2458 summit of Cerro Peine, one of our objectives.

As we climbed towards a ridge we found ourselves regularly pausing to admire the flora and fauna - exceptional on today's walk. Purple flowers with rock coloured leaves, skylark sized birds with white breasts, black and white birds of prey, fat lizards and grasshoppers scurrying and hopping about their business.

Above 2000 metres, patches of snow and a cool breeze. We were walking on the Sendero El Enladrillado, which took us up to the ridge and then down a few metres to a spectacular plateau that amongst New Agers and some locals is a revered site of UFO landings, a UFO landing pad no less. UFOs clearly like to land on high lawns! The area is called Enladrillado, which means 'brick paving', which is what it looks like.

Meandering across to the lily strewn 2225 metre summit of Cerro Divisadero, we got to appreciate this sizable plateau covered in multicoloured volcanic pebbles, enjoying views down to a new aspect of the Rio Clara, before returning to the Sendero Laguna - Enladrillado which should have led us to our next objective, Laguna del Alto. We had hoped to camp there but it's only permitted if you have a local guide, hence our adjustment to a day walk from the campground.

It was a lovely walk along a broad rocky ridge for over 4 km, with good views in all directions but in particular to the white coated volcanoes stretching into the distance behind us. After a couple of path junctions we descended a snow slope to a small tarn, from where Laguna del Alto lay a rocky 150 metres below.

Lunch as out of the wind as we could manage saw another tin of herring and a packet of biscuits bite the dust. Then we descended to a great viewpoint above Laguna del Alto. So good that we decided that the views we'd get at the lake would be an anti climax, so we turned around without visiting our second objective.

Back at 2150 metres, we headed north across Vega El Arriero to a path junction that would take us back to the long ridge we'd come along. A little further on would be the left turn up a route to the summit of our next objective, Cerro Peine, a 300 metre climb. But hadn't we already seen all the views, albeit from a slightly lower stance? Yes! So we turned down the path to the ridge and reversed the morning's route.

The path doesn't actually go over the summits as they are composed of a maze of huge chunks and pinnacles of solidified lava. So it was an enjoyable scramble to reach the highest of a series of unnamed summits. At 2459 metres it sported more fine views. We stayed there for some time, having displaced the resident buzzard, celebrating having reached the highest point of our entire trip.

From there it was a leisurely stroll with a magnificent Andean backdrop, to reach camp by 4.30 pm and enjoy a leisurely meal at the picnic bench. The king crab was especially tasty.

Today's stats - 19 km, 900 metres ascent, 7.5 hours, 6 people seen. A classic mountain day.

Pictures are difficult to choose today, but are shown chronologically and are hopefully self-explanatory.

Reserva Nacional Altos de Lircay (Episode 1)

December 10

There will be more about Casa Chueca in a future posting. Suffice to say we left our little house (Rapa Nui) there after an excellent buffet breakfast, sourced a few essentials from the local supermarket, and headed off some 75 km to the Altos de Lircay National Reserve, where after a 2 km walk from the parking area we were enthusiastically welcomed and registered by Jabriella.

Jabriella was amazed to hear that European national parks are free to enter. Here we are paying about £5 entry fee and a further £3 per person per night to camp on a site with a tap and a toilet. Jabriella reckoned that Chileans might soon wreck their national parks without the controls that are in place.

The camping spot we had chosen was available, and we were soon heading up a rough 8 km track towards 'Point 6'. Purple flowers, Bittersweet perhaps, lined the path together with a multitude of yellow 'lady's slipper' type of plant.

We met half a dozen folk coming down, including a young guide with his client. He enthused about the wonders of his 'small' country. "Come and live here" Jabriella had said, and with all the problems in Europe that might not be as ridiculous as it sounds. We won't be moving, but others may well find a more satisfying, albeit probably not more affluent life over here.

The path rose slowly from 1200 to 1700 metres, contouring high above a deep valley, mainly in woodland but with occasional open areas with miradors (viewpoints).

The camping place is over a wide enough area to be away from the very few other residents, none of whom appear to speak English. The tents are pitched on earth (as usual - ours will need a good wash when we get home), the grass being reserved for a not so well behaved tinkerbell of cows.

Having set up camp, we set off on a short stroll to Vega Los Treiles, a path junction, and on to Mirador del Venado. From here there's a fine view to Rio Claro in the depths of Valle del Venado, and to the summits beyond, notably Volcán Descabezado Grande - standing proud at 3953 metres. We spent some time admiring and photographing the panorama before us, before returning to camp for an excellent pasta meal.

Today's pictures:
The Park entrance
The track
The woods
The camp
The Mirador del Venado
View from the Mirador
A panorama - click to display on a wide screen for best effect!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Salto Del Laja and la Casa Chueca

December 9

We drove for 350 miles today, heading north towards Santiago along the plain that runs between the snow capped volcanoes of the Andes and the much lower coastal hills.

The Pan American Highway was much like the dual carriageway of the A556 road that links the M6 with the M56 near Manchester. Except that here there are no traffic jams or traffic lights, but there are fruit trees roadside chickens and volcanoes, cloudless skies, children and bus stops, and the occasional dead dog or cat, but unlike the UK road, no dead badgers, and sadly - what looked like the components of a wind turbine were travelling south.

On a happier note, we passed some beautifully preserved (as national monuments) yellow railway viaducts, on which the train to Santiago was running.

A short diversion at lunchtime took us to Salto Del Laja, billed as "amongst the most impressive waterfalls in Chile, cascading almost 50 metres from two crescent-shaped cliffs down to a rocky canyon". Today's top two pictures show the falls. Not quite as impressive as Malham Cove in full flow, or even High Force, we have to admit. But there are no clouds, and with about 15 hours' sunshine we know where we would rather be...

The afternoon drive saw us here at La Casa Chueca by 4.30 pm. Time for a cuppa, then a dip in the pool for Sue, then a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, then an excellent vegetarian dinner in the company of Bernard and Heidi and various others. It's a great place apart from the mouse that bit me when I tried to rescue it from the pool.

Sue is pictured, bottom, outside our room.

We received a surprise today that means we'll probably be touring car showrooms when we get home! We'll ponder that (there's a very simple explanation) over the next few days, when you won't be hearing from us as we plan to be 'back country' again.