Sunday, April 30, 2006


Hi there!

I´m on my way home to Sweden now. My departure from Chile was delayed by the authorities because I hadn´t cared to maintain a valid visa in the country. So on Friday I tried again, and they let me go. However, my combination flight in Madrid was hopelessly lost. Have to stay here waiting for the next plane to Stockholm which leaves tonight, Sunday. Lucky for me, Macarena has a cousin in Madrid and she let me stay with her and her husband. This helps a lot.
Before it´s time to board, we will do a tour of the city on the lovely double deckers of MadridVision.

Don´t miss the upcoming summary of my time in Chile!

See you soon!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Lascar Erupts

The volcano Lascar, one of Chile´s most active, erupted yesterday after six years of silence (left). A loud explosion shook the surroundings, including the small village of Talabre with 12 families who live in the proximity of the mountain. Three eruptions followed, with decreasing intensity and left a 3000 meter high pillar of smoke and ashes. An area within 30 kms from the site was left with an unpleasant smell of sulfur.
Lascar erupts by average every 5.8 years since 1848, and it´s largest recorded outburst was in April of 1993 (right, below). At that occasion, ashes reached 22 kms of altitude and all the way to Buenos Aires, some 1500 kms away. The total amount of erupted materials was estimated to 0,1 km3.

Now why am I so interested in this volcano, you might ask?
It´s because I climbed it in November 2004. Let me tell you about this experience.

On the morning of the first day, me and my fellow adventurer Beat Baumgartner (a swiss) were picked up by the guide in his 4x4. We left the tranquil commodity of San Pedro de Atacama and headed for the high plateau, or altiplano. After travelling a while on well-kept, paved road we turned off and began to close in on our target. An epic scenery opened up with infinite, life-denying deserts to the sides and towering volcanic peaks confronting us. On the slopes we could spot shepherds grazing their llamas. We also passed Old Talabre, a village which was abandoned when Lascar threatened it´s people a decade ago.
We were headed to a canyon at the foot of the volcano which offered a suitable spot for raising a tent. It is important to give your body time to adapt to the altitude, and our guide had recommended us to do a two-day ascent. By spending a night on the altiplano your lungs learn to collect more oxygen from every breath and the final climb goes much smoother.
We raised our shelter, or rather the guide did; me and Beat just chilled, after all, we were paying this guy. After that we took an evening stroll to let us acclimatize more rapidly. We reached 3500 m, sat down and enjoyed our raisin-and-peanut-snack. This wasn´t so bad, I thought. The sun would soon set so we began to return to base. The temperature may drop rapidly since the atmosphere is thinner here. Indeed it did. When the sun was setting it became freezing cold, and my bowels did not feel OK. You see, the air which you carry inside your body expands when you go higher. So, you can imagine the discomfort. I returned quickly to the tent and refused to eat anything, hoping to keep everything "in-house".
After an incredibly cold night, morning came. It was also incredibly cold. Rapidly we deassembled our camp, or rather the guide did, and began the drive to where we would start the climb. On the way, we stopped at a lagoon for breakfast. On the menu was bread and jelly and chocolate cookies. We needed fast energy.
As far as our vehicle would take us we drove, stopping only at the wall which undisputably said "Volcano Starts Here". We were located at 4 700 m, and the guide estimated it would take us four hours to reach the crater by foot.
As we were going up my muscles became increasingly weaker and I seemed to be out of breath no matter how slowly I proceeded. Our feet stepped in volcanic gravel, there was no ice or snow on this side. The sky was completely clean-swept and if you managed to look over your shoulder, a breath taking view was awarded to you. But there was no time for sight seeing, the goal was up, up, up. It is just too exhausting to be looking around, all your energy must go into your legs.
Of course we made breaks, which I spent in horizontal mode (left, with guide). Annoyingly, the swiss didn´t seem affected at all by the altitude and strolled freely up and down the inclination.
He was also the first to reach the topside, with me and the guide following just behind.
A sensation of accomplishment, conquest and relief flowed through my aching body. It was all worth it. We were standing at 5 500 m above sea level, on the crater rim of one of Chile´s most active volcanoes. The last eruption had occurred in the year 2000, it could come again at any moment. But we were not concerned, and enjoyed the amazing view. We could see the peaks of the mountain range fade away in the horizon, glimpsing Llullaillaco, a volcano more than 150 kms away. In general, the view reminded more of what you would see from an airplane cabin than anything else. In spite of the severe dizzyness I was experiencing, I managed to take some pictures... or rather the guide did.

Beat Baumgartner and me.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Monday, April 10, 2006

Domingo de Ramos

Today was dedicated to Achao and the island it is on. (See map here)
After having breakfast with two nice australians and a swiss, I boarded one of the many charming small buses that provide rural transportation. The bus crossed over to the island and soon I was strolling through Achao. It was quite dead, apart from the Palm Sunday mass that was being held in the church. I continued strolling around, hoping to find something more and came upon a sign that indicated "Outlook this way", and off I went. I had been walking for quite a while when I asked a fellow wanderer if it was much left. "Some 7 kms" he replied. "But I´m being picked up soon, you can ride with us. I´m going to a meeting with the Algea-collectors union. I´m the president." He said he had quite a hang-over from partying last night, but had come up with the perfect excuse. He was going to say that he´d been at a baptism.
Sounded pretty good to me, and soon we were speeding ahead in the truck of his friend. They talked about all sorts of things, but mostly about how brilliant the excuse was. My friend said that the outlook was some two kms further away from the place of their meeting, but they would take me there anyway. "We´ve got time" he assured. "After all, you´re the president", said the other.
We arrived and the view was very impressive. Before me a multitude of islands vanished in shades of blue. A good place to have a picnic. Soon the good persons who had brought me there drove off, and I was left to enjoy the tranquility. Between the islands you could glimpse the infinite horizon of the Interior Sea and above it, just barely visible, the rugged silhouette of the Andes. In the air around me I could see and hear several birds of prey. They sure knew how to take advantage of the upstream winds from the sea.

I had gathered my things and taken a few steps down the hill when I noticed something in the corner of my eye. It was one of the birds, a sparrowhawk if I´m not mistaken, sitting on a pole some ten meters from my position. It seemed indifferent to my presence. I brought out the camera as quickly as I could. Changed the lens holding my breath. Aimed. Before I snapped the picture, I hesitated a second or two. It was the most beautiful thing I´d seen through the viewfinder and just had to savour the moment. Click.
The bird noticed that I´d become aware of it, and sailed away elegantly.
I knew it was best picture of the day.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


This morning I landed on the beautiful island of Chiloé, located south of Pto. Montt, some 1000 kms south of Santiago.
I dedicated the morning to Ancud, a quiet settlement on the northern side of the island. Among the things that this place has to offer is one of the last Spanish fortifications in America, with it´s cannons aiming solemnly into the channel.
I found a very bohéme pub for lunch and was able to inhale something of what was said around me. When one of the men chose the word "huevón", which is perfectly accepted in Santiago, the lady who owned the place was notably annoyed. The rest of us didn´t think more of it, until the same man said something much worse. The lady yelled "BUENA!" meaning "Enough!", and everyone was very amused, exchanging knowing smiles.
Next, I continued to Castro. This is the largest community on the island. Hoping to find some tours for tomorrow, I went to the only tourism information available (not official). The man said I was the first to ask for a tour. The fact that tourism season is over was made very clear. However, it´s quite nice not to be surrounded by germans for once and I have a good idea for a trip to make tomorrow, so all is good. Let´s just hope I´ll have the weather on my side.