Saturday, 4 February 2012


Last weekend Hubby and I set out for a photographic weekend in Dorset. The plan was to get up really early and get some shots of sea and the rising sun. Hubby had done his research and found an island called Portland which sounded ideal for our mission. It had a lighthouse and some interestingly shaped cliffs that seemed to be a promising backdrop for our photos.

When we arrived to the hotel it was all dark, windy and cold. The prospect of getting up at 6 o'clock in the morning was not very appealing! But said and done, at 6:45 am we were back in the car heading down to Portland Bill. It was still dark as we 5 minutes later arrived by the lighthouse. Heavily laden with tripod, camera and all its gear, wearing multiple jumpers, hats and gloves we stumbled our way down to the shore. And what a sight greeted us!

Portland is mainly known for its stone, so the island is more or less one giant quarry. For hundreds of years we have been hacking away the rocks from the Portland cliffs, leaving a half man-made and half natural eroded shoreline. This morning the sea was happily crushing itself against the shore whilst the occasional cloud scampered across the dark blue sky waiting to get lit up by the sun. Well worth getting up for :-)

Two and a half hours later we rolled back to the hotel for a well deserved breakfast, before heading back out again for a stroll around the island. 

Check out my flickr to see more photos from the weekend.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Atacama desert

After having spent five chilled days on the pacific island Rapa Nui (Easter island) we have now arrived to the desert. The Atacama desert to be precise.

As expected it is rather stark, which I think suits my minimalist streak. We drive through vast plains of sand/rock/salt. At first it seems all very uniform but the closer you look, the more variation you see. The way the rocks are scattered and formed, the ripples in the sand and the crust formations of the salt. It is all fascinating and rather soothing. And to add to the beauty, the peaks (some volcanic, some snow-covered, some neither) of the Andes borders the plains.

Most amazing are the colours though. The various shades of red, green and white. We were amazed by the Rainbow valley where minerals colour the mountains. It is hard to describe but the two shades of green rocks are etched in my retina.

The Atacama salt lake is equally amazing. As the salt layer is so deep, the surface is all crackled up in a salty crust shaping incredible formations. This is were the flamingos like to hang out. We visited them the other morning just as the sun was rising. We had the fortune to watch the flamingos changing colour as the first sun rays of the morning reached them. And yes, we did managed to capture a photo or two of the occasion.

But most amazing must be the lagunas up in the altiplanico, above the 4000 meter mark. We took our 'little' jeep and followed the tour tracks and beyond. Only meeting the odd big lorry driving from Argentina to Chile. (Ok, there was two other tourist cars but we left them by the first lake, so they don't count.)

Again the colours were amazing. And all the mountains and rolling valleys looked so smooth you almost wanted to stroke them. I'll have to let my photos do the talking now.

The famous Mo'ais on Rapa Nui

Pretty sunset on Rapa Nui

Rainbow valley in Atacama desert

Flamingos at sunrise

More sunrise

Laguna in Altiplanico

Monday, 21 March 2011

Musings from an airport

We are slightly naughty on this trip. We are using the airplanes as busses. But frankly there is no other doable way for us to travel as Chile is a rather long country and we only got three weeks. So we have to make do for the environment another way. Does the fact that we turned off the heating at home count???

Anyway, we are getting to know the Santiago airport a bit. Yesterday we found out that there are only two places to eat in the domestic airport lounge - Starbucks and a Chilean Cafe. Starbucks being completely discounted we tried the Chilean. It did very nice Chilean burgers - thinly sliced steaks and no mince meat in sight - however it wasn't the quickest. Don't think I've eaten that big a meal so fast in a long time...

We also learnt that the loos are being refurbished. Doh!

When writing this we are trying out the poshest looking restaurant. Mainly because they seemed to have the best wine list. It's not bad. The steaks are tender. They didn't have the wine we wanted though but we got to try a Pinot noir from Casablanca valley instead and it's good for people watching.

We've been watching an importer/breeder of Beagles arriving with three puppies. The puppies were so cute and well behaved. I just wanted to go up and give them a cuddle. We think the bloke came from America or Canada. He was very pleased when his fellow importer finally arrived after having called on the phone about five times. We got a bit concerned though when they left one of the puppies in his cage before one of them returned to pick him up after they had found a place to sit.

We then have the three guys working at the 'wrap your bag' station. Keenly looking for customers they approach most ladies walking past with a jammed packed bag. Are they their typical customer? Once they find a customer they skilfully wrap their bag in lime green cling film. I'm curious how you are meant to unwrap it once you arrive at you destination. Particularly if you're like us and don't travel with a Swiss army knife.

'Wrap your bag' men hard at work...

We have also got to try out the international departure lounge as we flew to Rapa Nui via Lima. Found a good restaurant there with very nice staff. But the best restaurant got to be the one in Lima. Had a delicious beef stir fry where they asked you how well cooked you wanted the beef! It was sooo yummy and cooked to perfection. A bit erratic service though.

Well I do start to feel like an expert on Santiago airport by now.

Chile, 7-21 March

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Torres del Paine

11 March 2011

Now it feels like the holiday has started. We've flown down to Punta Arenas and rented a pickup truck which we have driven north to Torres del Paine.

It is absolutely amazing here. Very pretty scenery and fantastic mountains. Today we hiked up for a closer look of Las Torres (the towers).

We set off at 9 o'clock and came back at 17:15 with rather tired legs. We had by then managed to cover about 20 km. Doesn't sound like much, but most of it was uphill/downhill. All in all we climbed about 750 m. That is a lot for little me. But I survived! And it was well worth it. The view of the three towers Torre Norte, Torre Central and Torre Sur was fantastic! And we were so lucky, the sun was shining and hardly no clouds covered the towers. All in all a very good day!

Our hike up to the Valle del France wasn't so lucky. We got the catamaran across Lago Pehoe to Guardieria Avanzada. As we got off the boat, the wind picked up and the rain started to pour down. Nothing to do but to get the waterproofs out and start the hike. For the first hour all you could see was the path below your feet and the feet of the fellow infront of you. Not terribly exciting, but a true Pantagonian experience according to the experts (i.e. hubby).

Once we rounded the corner and arrived at Lago Skottsberg the rain stopped and the hike started to become enjoyable. As we walked along the lagoon we spotted a wind. I'm not kidding you, I can now say that I have seen a wind!

As we were happily walking along the lake, enjoying the lack of wind and rain we all of a sudden heard a gust of wind approaching us. And it was approaching us fast. We looked up and believe it or not but we could actually see the wind as it approached us. It was like a lowish and fast-moving dust cloud swishing over the tree tops. It was incredible, the speed it moved with (windspeed here can get up to over 100 km/h), the sound it made and that it was visible to see as it moved across the valley. It was gone as quickly as it appeared. I was very glad I was firmly down on the ground.

Later on we saw some winds blowing across the lagoon. Again pretty awesome. The wind moved like a frontier, picking up water as it moved across the lagoon. At the end there was a wall of water probably 20 meter up in the air. Incredible!

As you might guess, the weather here is pretty varied and extreme. And what more, it can change within 15 min.

Coming back from our walk up the French valley, we had managed to get dry and started to look forward to a rest after having walked about 22 km. Guess what happened when we had only 2 km left. Yep, the rain started to pelt down. And it really hurts when the raindrops hit your face. So the only way forward was with the head down. I can't say I've seen much of Guardieria Avanzada.

So in between our two walking days we had a rest day. This meant that we piled onto two minibuses that slowly toured the national park. Stopping to watch 20 odd condors as they fed on a dead guanaco. I never thought I'd be lucky to see a condor up close and here I got to see a whole gang of them. They had several young ones with them. You can spot them as they are brown and not black and white as the adults. They also don't fly so well meaning that they have to stay with their mothers for up to two years.

Well, so far we have fully enjoyed Pantagonia. We have three more days to spend here. Right now I'm in a freezing cold dome, laying in a bed with fleece sheets, two blankets and a seriously thick duvet admiring the stars whilst listening to Bob Marley playing in the central dome. Time to sleep, tomorrow is another day.

Monday, 7 March 2011

A long way to Chile

At university I was taught a concept called situated planning. Loosely it says all plans are made to be broken. In each situation a plan is changed and adapted to the circumstances. Nothing could be more true than our trip to Chile.

It started all good, we arrived at the airport plenty on time only to be told that our flight to Madrid had been delayed. By the time we landed in Madrid we saw our plane to Santiago leave the airport gate. Doh! Luckily we got rescheduled for the next flight the following night.

After a bit of replanning and rebooking of our travel plans in Chile we got to explore Madrid for a day. And have tapas and nice wine :-)

So a day late we finally arrived to the Elqui valley. Our main reason for coming here is its clear night skies.

So Pedro took us up the mountains along a very wiggly dirt track to observatorio de Pangue where we met Eric. He showed us exploding nebulas, black nebula, a broken star, galaxies and as the finale the glorious Saturn! It was amazing! It is incredible how many more stars you can see in the southern hemisphere. And with an 12 inch telescope.

The prettiest were the millions stars of the Omega centuri. You look at the sky with your naked eye and all you see is a bright star. Next you zoom in on this star and you see millions of tiny bright dots in a weblike formation. It does put things in perspective.

After finishing our breakfast we will slowly drive back to the airport and start our trip down south to Torres del Paine.

Our hotel Elqui domos, well tent really...

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Very productive

We had a late holiday again this year. This time we decided to stay home though. Which meant it was time for some more decorating. With the music room all finished, the computer room/ office was next in line.

A fair bit of holes needed to be filled in before we could start painting the walls in a French! white. Luckily hubby is really good at filling holes. I spent the time sourcing the perfect wall paper to feature on the walls next to the chimney breast.

After a couple of days of painting we were ready to tackle the wall papering. This was the first time we were wall papering without adult supervision. We decided to play it safe (actually we were slightly forced by the hand-painted wallpaper I bought) and started by putting up an underlining paper. By the time we started putting up the proper wall paper, we had got the hang of it.

After a bit of hard work we managed to get it all done in time for starting the Christmas celebrations. All left is sorting out the furnishing.

Apart from home decorating I also found time to sort through all my photos from Iceland. It was hard work to whittle them down to a manageable number, but I think I've almost managed it in the end.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Christmas is coming

So it has started out quite promising. It's only 11 December and so far we have already had more then 10 cm of snow. Mind you it is all gone now, but they are promising more in a week's time. Maybe this will be a white Christmas after all!

Well, not to be deterred by vanishing snow! Christmas decorations can always help to get you back into the Christmas mood. Said and done, down from the attic came the Christmas tree and all the boxes with decorations.

A bottle of wine later and with some 'smakrÄd' (~advice) from hubby, the tree and the lounge were decorated. Doesn't it look pretty???