Plants? What’s that? Welcome to Chile
May, 18th, 10pm, bus from Arica to San Pedro de Atacama and I feel the strong urge to keep my seat neighbor from sleeping by using a shamelessly bright phone screen, writing my newest blog entry. So far he didn’t hit me which let’s me assume he does not understand english.
Leaving behind my saddistic tendencies and back to where we left off last time.
I – Intro
So yeah, I made it back to Andy in La Cumbre who was nice enough to not only repair my ripped brakeline but also introduce me into some amazing, advanced ground handling tactics.
Of course a speed dating with my shiny, newly updated wing 2.0 was adue so once more I tried to conquer Cuchi Corral and failed miserably. Thanks to newly met Andres at least I was in good company as non-toplander.
A stick figure animal to distract from failed toplanding Mendoza take off
II – How to maximize bike accident probability or get naked after landing – Welcome to Mendoza
The famous wine capital is my next and last stop in Argentina. It starts with a suboptimal hostel choice (completely empty) and a diplomatic “Sorry, I won’t stay” which triggered a “I understand you”. While checking into the cool Mora Hostel I feel just a little bad for using that last place’s sockets to charge my fancy electrica. ‘Take that for being empty!’ comes to mind. But hey, electricity is not the scarce resource here, it’s water. Mendoza would be more of a desert without irrigation. But low and behold, Patrick indeed manages to catch the statistical one day i the year with rain in Mendoza. But my real desert deflowering is still ahead of me.
The free hostel wine makes it impossible not to meet new funny acquintances. What first seemed like a registration for empanada dinner turns out to be an hour long cooking class with resulting 2 mini empanadas – looking a bit like ‘please kill me’ genetic experiments gone terribly wrong and of course far from covering the gaping hole in the stomach. Good that pizza delivery is a universal business.
My first day is dedicated to the sky, of course. I meet Mario and the local paragliding gang – very awesome even though I pity them a bit for the business driven shortness of each flight while I let my butterfly rise close to the highest radio antennas higher and higher. The view is ecstatic with complex interconnected valley structures far below me. Thankfully before starting I was told about that nicely looking landing spot that lies next to a favela. Landing only recommended if you want to walk home naked after being robbed and/or stabbed and then robbed again.
The second day is a bike tour to the wineyards of Maipú. Naive as we were, our hostelgang including birthdaygirl Rose, Elena, Amy, and some dudes my brain does not recall by name, assumed we could cover more wineries by going rouge. We didn’t even get to 3 yards but two we rocked as much as the saddles did our bums. And the wines were indeed delicious.
Drink, drive and doing selfies, not the healthiest strategy
Back at the hostel: Now comes a weird part: I meet a guy in the dorm: We find the following similarities:
– living in Zurich
– bearing extreme sports equipment (he climbs)
– on the way to Santiago
– at the same time
– on the same busline
– on the same bus
– on the same seat
the last one is a lie, but they are next to each other. The best upper floor seats. (in Santiago, we’ll find out that we choose the same dish on a 40 dish menu, so much about separated at birth twin brothers).
So after a meticulous border control to Chile – where an old lady keeps insisting “hay nada más” while the border control guy pulls one illegal substance* after another out of her bags – we decide to hit Santiago’s Eco Hostel together.
[ * ] Fresh food and food proceedings.
I can’t help but imagine that woman ruling a banana black market as head of the fresh food mafia. But the reality is just that Argentinian food is way, waaaay cheaper than the Chilenean one.
III – Hello $$$antiago
First time I feel like at home? Within a grand mall that lacks not one single western good in top luxury. Incredible to see this in the middle of South America. Chile is rich, no doubt. Funny currency xr effect: With 600 CLP equalling 1 CHF, you can imagine, that my wallet felt like monopoly money madness.
No shave november? All year round for this house And once the smog lid is lifted a free city tour is a great start into getting to know this gem between the Cordilleres and the Andes – and its attractive and stylish people, of course. Spot the weird bird
However, rain again and bad conditions make this a no fly zone for me. So off to Valparaiso! My artsy sister would love this place which is radiating the student vibe. But I’m here in May 1st and my number one concern is not getting showered in brickstones or dumdum shots. I’m exagerating, nobody shoots anything, because of too many innocent, cute doggies as collateral damage, probably.
Artsy Unesco world heritage equals: you can’t change the fassade… well played, Valpi, well played
IV – Sea, salt, sand & stunning sites: Sick Iquique
Wow, a pilot’s wet dream come true. Iquique does not only host an amazing and seemingly endless XC (cross country) fly ridge and beach landings but also an out of town sandy, mystical dune playground to rise, acro and play around with your glider until the sun sets and the beer cans start popping.
In the local flightpark – a mighty castle of freight containers with sea view – not only do I get introduced to the concept of accepting daily earthquakes as massages but also Dani, Allan and Philipp. 4 swiss paragliders on one spot, how amazing. Dani introduces me into the art of extremely low ridge scratching, speed xc to the beach and how to despair because of lack of height in front of electricity lines…What I did not learn from him, I learned from Honko from Norways like how to land behind the dragon dunes in the middle of nowhere or the stamina to wait for 1.5h at the start for good wind. Yes, I will get the receipt for these statements but it was worth it. Burn, bridges, burn ;-)
Mr dune fox himself and lovely miss I-learn-to-fly-in-a-day ;-) Wind pirates of Palo Buque
But seriously, those were 10 magical days and I thank all of you for them.
After I have soaked my glider enough in sand and salty wind, it’s time for a venue change.
V – Arica (the ‘f’ for ‘f’ing dry’ is silent), unchained
Well, sympathic spontaneity strikes again: Local pilot and dedicated border military lieutenant Sebastian shows me the local dynamic spot with seabreeze pushing me up the hill so strong, my cheeks and my glider start vibrating and my speedbar becomes the most important instrument. After the newly expanded comfort zone I really start enjoying: The darkness breaking over sea, wide away, huge ships and a glowing city behind the white hill statue and endless dune hills further back. Ears-In landing in darkness at the beach: Another checkbox crossed on the list of things I never thought, I’d ever be doing.
Arica is also the place where double fisting, alcoautopilot and ceviche deflowering become part of my vocabulary thanks to some really fun hostel noses.
Great ad positioning near Arica
Next morning, 7:30, start of the 2x 4600m height difference travel to Lauca national park with the highest lake in the world. That’s probably why its water never reaches Arica, thd driest city on earth with 0.7mm rain per year.
Rarely see something as beautiful, great secret hint I got. National Parc Lauca
The sleep deprivation and hangover do not help a lot in my ability to adapt to the pressure difference. But since I’m almost the only guy under 65 on this tour, my dignity is the least of my concerns. A few coca leafs, respiration techniques and a myriad of diffent animals left and right later, the world looks bright again.
They told me, I might come back from South America with a girlfriend. Guess, they are right! Meet Coco, my new corazon
Talking about comfort zone: My next days lunch is about 80% saltwater and 20% beachsand while I try not to die on a surfboard the devil himself must have baked.
I belong in the air, at least now I know for sure.
VI – intermezzo
Flash forward, Jack asks Kate to come back to the island (Oh come on, guys, that show was awesome!). It’s 02:40 when suddenly our bus stops and the lights go on. I can’t barely realize my drooling and that I must have fallen asleep in the middle of blogging when I hear a loud “ABAJO” and the cattle starts to move. Look at that, we’re at the border to… oh it’s still Chile but they control between each region? Yupp, that’s right, my old imaginary friend, Chile wants to take that dirty, voyeuristic x-ray look at my paraglider not once but 3 times. Paraglider cancer is not that common, but the other potential question boggling in your mind bears indeed some merit: Why 3 times? The reason can be found in my never depleting lust for zigzagging: I crossed that border from the Santiago to the northern region twice. This time back from northest Arica. Damn salt flats, but crossing you seems more fun than just touching you from one side and I want to take Bolivia counter clockwise. Which… I guess, probably sounds kinkier than it’s actually going to be.
Alas, let the travel continue next time when we’ll find out, for what stupid overpriced San Pedro activities I will have thrown my precious dinero out of the window and how flying in Cochabamba, La Paz and over the lake Titicaca feels like.