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Tag : chile2018

10 Dec 2018

Looking forward to returning to southern Chile and the solar eclipse

Now that I am back home and had a chance to catch my breath and reflect on my quick southern Chile adventure, it seems unreal that how far away

I went to the lake district of southern Chile to scout photographic locations for a workshop I’m leading in December of 2020. Several years ago a friend told me about this area, her husband is from there and they had a house in Pucon. She told of the beautiful lakes in the edge of the Andes mountains and how great the climate is. Her husband Fito still visits family regularly and will be my guide in 2020, it will be great having a native along side, I hope to be able to communicate better in Spanish but I have a long way to go. Fito will solve that problem and many others I’m sure. The reason I’m holding a photography workshop there in December of 2020 is that is dead center of the path of the total solar eclipse. After seeing my first total eclipse last year I decided to see as many as I can in the future, I can’t put into word, or pictures, why, but believe me that experiencing a total eclipse is something special. I’m going to the northern part of Chile for another eclipse this July, it will be a totally different experience than this area since that is in the desert and during their winter months.

My friend Bob Wagner was kind enough to join me on this scouting adventure, I don’t think he knew what he was getting into, this wasn’t a normal vacation. There is always a lot of driving when scouting because I want to see as many sites as possible so I know if they make good photo locations. That means going to places a person might not normally go, which is good and bad. I’m sure there were times when he wanted to stay in a place longer to make more photos but I needed to get one decent shot and seek out another location. Several places we went weren’t what we hoped for but the drive was alway lovely. Bob is a good travel companion and it was great having him along. 

This part of Chile didn’t disappoint, the scenery is stunning. The people were friendly and even though there wasn’t a lot of English spoken, they tried their best to communicate with me. They are proud of their area and it will be fun bringing more people to their country. I found a great hotel for us to stay at right on the edge of the large Lake Villarrica with a great view of the iconic snow capped volcano. The hotel is dead center of the eclipse’s path, we can even photograph it from the hotel’s deck but we’ll probably walk down to the beach. It will be a great way to end a week long workshop in a stunning place.

Below are some photos from my adventure that didn’t last nearly long enough. It will be fun returning in two years. I hope you can join me, I’ll have details posted in early January.

Click on a photo to see a larger version then you can scroll through the images.

09 Dec 2018

Taking in southern Chile’s coast

Today I drove from southern Chile’s lake region over to the Pacific coast. I had seen some pretty cool photo of the unique coastline and thought it might be a good day trip during my workshop here in 2020. Where I wanted to go was a little over two hours from Pucon and the drive was pretty easy. The land was fairly flat and this is cattle country. We had steak for dinner one night in Pucon and it was great and this was where it came from. 

Bob’s research turned up a little island of Maiquillahue that looked pretty cool and we made that our destination. We pulled into a little fishing village with a small harbor filled with boats. These obviously weren’t for recreation, they were working boats but there were colorfully painted. One boat had a couple of men working on their nets but the rest were just floating. The road went right along the ocean and just across the street were 25-30 picnic tables with small roofs over each one. It being about noon on Sunday they were filled with families picnic, laughing and some kids were kicking around a soccer ball on the not too level ground. I wished my Spanish was good enough to talk with them and make some pictures but I didn’t want to intrude. 

Interestingly, the town’s name is Mississippi. I have to do some research and see what that is all about and I saw a couple of signs that didn’t have enough s’s and p’s but most of them did.

The beach was gravel and stones and there was one little boy playing around several ropes tied to boats. He was cute and didn’t pay any attention to me with my large tripod, the boats were much more interesting. His mother was back up by the road in a stand selling fresh fish and vegetables. Several woman were working cleaning fish and cutting the veggies, I guess they didn’t get Sunday as a rest day.

We could see the island from the beach and it was much small than we thought. The map showed a road that would up a mountain and back down to another beach near the island so of course I had to take it. It quickly turned to dirt and we started climbing. There were several vantage points to look back down on the Mississippi beach. We got to the top of mountain and started heading back down. Google Maps said it was only 1/4 mile down and we had driven several miles up some pretty steep inclines. I knew this would be pretty steep but what the hell. As we were driving down the very steep dirt road I had flashbacks to the rental car’s tires spinning in the dirt a couple of days ago. There wasn’t any turning back now and when we got to the bottom there were a couple of four wheel drive SUVs and a boat. We had thought we could go out on the island but there wasn’t any way. It didn’t have any beaches we could see, only rocky ledges. We shot some pictures but it wasn’t anything great. I figured I better try getting the rental car out of there while there were still a couple of vehicles that could help. The dirt was tightly packed and the little Peugeot climbed right up. We got to a sharp turn and I could see the gravel was loose there from other vehicles spinning their wheels. I told Bob to hang on and got as much speed up as I could. The front wheels spun a couple of times but we had enough traction to make it out.

We went farther north along to the coast toward some other places we had scouted. We stopped at a couple of scenic overlooks that were pretty nice. We were getting pretty hungry and fine eating establishments weren’t plentiful. As we were driving along a nice looking restaurant popped up. It didn’t seem to be near anything but looked nice from the outside. We went in and it was empty, but it was around 3 p.m. and we were famished. The sweet young woman gave us a nice Hola! and we took a seat. Once again she spoke no English, which is what I expected. The menu was on the wall and I could read enough to know a little what they had. I thought salmon would be good since I had seen some fresh back at the little roadside stand. The waitress starting talking fast, smiled when we didn’t understand each other and asked us several questions which I always answered Si! I asked Bob if he would like some empanadas, so I ordered some, which thought were salmon. She asked a few more questions and it seemed like our order was complete. In a while she brought out a large plate of empanadas, which didn’t seem like salmon but were pretty good. Bob and I thought a meal of empanadas wasn’t bad and as we nearly finished the waitress brought out a large salad. Ok, that’s good. We started into the salad and then came plates with large portions of salmon and french fries for each us. I guess I did order salmon after all! Now we were getting stuffed and then came the dessert. It turns out the waitress upsold me on a five course meal! But it was good and only cost about $20 for the whole thing.

We went to the coast where there was rocky ledges and black sand. Some men were fishing on the rocks and kids were playing in the surf. It was a lovely scene and we made pictures there for a while. As we were leaving I saw a lone tree that was wind blown along the beach. We stopped and made some photos and I could see more unique trees in the distance near the water. The map showed a road being there and I put the rental car through a little more than I would my own car. It was a long day and time to head back to Pucon. 

08 Dec 2018

Exploring a thermal spring in southern Chile

After leaving the large lake today I went to one of southern Chile’s more popular attractions, a thermal bath. Since this area sits on an active volcano, there are many hot springs and baths around. Termas Geometricas is one of the more popular ones and there are plenty of tours that go there. That usually keeps me away, I try to avoid the crowds but the photos I saw of this place were pretty unique. Getting there required another long drive over dusty dirt roads that wound through the mountains and were only one lane at times. Once my Google map said I was there it was still another 15 minutes of kicking up dust, thankfully there were signs.

It was fairly late in the afternoon when we arrived, there were a couple of tour buses in the parking lot and quite a few cars. More people were leaving than arriving so Bob and I went to the entrance booth where I hoped to talk them into letting us go photograph the area without paying. Once again the young woman spoke less English than I do Spanish but I was good enough to be able to say that we only wanted to take pictures. It was a nice try but we needed to pay, so we kicked over the $30. An interesting thing in Chile is they use the $ sign for pesos and one American dollar equals about 650 Chilean pesos. I had to look that up when I hit the ground at the Santiago airport because I was buying a sandwich and the sign said it was $3,000. That must be a good sandwich.

Anyway, once we paid our fee the woman gave each a big thick towel and pointed up the boardwalk. We didn’t bring our bathing suits and we both wished we had. The boardwalk is painted red and runs along a stream up a narrow canyon. As you walk upstream they have built lovely pools that fill with hot water coming out of the mountain. There was a fairly large pool right away with several people in it and a nearby grass roof lodge building with a bar and snacks. Several more pools were right there but the boardwalk kept going and after taking a few shots I followed the boardwalk. Smaller pools were dotted along the boardwalk and it kept going. Each pool had a sign showing the water temperature. As I walked up the boardwalk and the canyon got narrower and more lush. Steam was rising from hot water and it made for a wonderful scene. I finally came to the end and it had to be almost 1/2 mile from where we started. The walk was worth it, there was a beautiful waterfall dropping out of the lush green growth. I checked to see if it was hot water but it wasn’t, it was pretty cold. The hot water was coming from springs in the mountain and being diverted into the pools. But the sight of the waterfalls, beautiful green plants and the red boardwalk was quite a sight. 

07 Dec 2018

Dust, waterfalls and lakes in southern Chile

The purpose of my trip to southern Chile is to scout the area and see what great locations I can bring clients to in 2020 when a total solar eclipse passes through the area. Well, I saw plenty today. I had done extensive research before coming and had a pretty good idea of what is here and where I should go each day. About 15 minutes into my planned course I saw this dirt road along a beautiful river, so of course I had to check it out. I wanted to head north of Pucon to some large lakes but we were suddenly heading south with no other roads around and I didn’t feel like back tracking. The road went for miles along the river offering occasional views of the volcano but mainly fenced properties. It seems that every property, even in town, is surrounded by a fence. They have some grand entrances and some of the fence posts are thicker than utility poles back home.

After driving for an hour on the dirt road we finally came to another road and I pulled out my Google map to see where we were. I had marked several waterfalls on the map and we were fairly close so we went that direction on more dusty, dirt roads. There was a sign to one I didn’t have marked and the picture on the sign looked pretty cool so we drove down another dirt road to check it out. We got down to what looked to be a parking area and several signs in Spanish and nothing in English. I could make out enough words to know that somebody wanted paid but there wasn’t anybody around and no other cars. A guy came out of a house up the hill and he broke into fast Spanish. I didn’t have much idea what he was saying and my cohort Bob didn’t have any clues. I finally figured out the waterfall was a 15 minute hike up a narrow trail and he wanted about $3 each. It turns out that most of the waterfalls around here are privately owned, or at least managed, and you have to pay to go look at them.

The hike was a little steep in places but not bad, even while carrying camera gear. When we could hear the falls I knew it was going to be worth $3. There were railings and steps down to an overlook that had a couple of viewing platforms with railings made from small tree branches. The falls was fairly large but the way the sun was hitting one side of the gorge it didn’t make for great photos but I was fairly happy with the shots I made.

We stopped at a couple of waterfalls I had marked on the map and they were the same, we were the only ones there and the person collecting money didn’t speak any English, but we made. The last one we went to was a huge falls and you hiked to the base of it. The wind was blowing all the mist from the falls right where you wanted to be to make pictures and I went back to the car to get my raincoat so I wouldn’t be drenched after going to the end of a boardwalk. The sun was shining bright from right above the falls and with the heavy mist it wasn’t possible to make a shot. On a cloudy day with the wind in the other direction it will be a great photo, but not today.

Last night while watching the sun go down I talked with a guy from Argentina who told me there was a big road race the next few days with 3,000 runners. He said they were running up toward the volcano. I knew I didn’t want to get caught up in that mess and my plan to head north fit in perfectly. My detour to the south was a different story. On my map I had located a thermal pool I wanted to see and we headed that direction right into the race. We didn’t see 3,000 runners but we were driving on a very dusty road and kicking dirt in their faces. I went as slow as I could and eventually there was a fork in the road and I went the direction that they weren’t coming from. The bad part was I didn’t know exactly where it went. It headed deep into the Villarrica National Park and the dirt road became a path that wasn’t much wider than the small rental car. At one point I was spinning the wheels in loose rocks getting up a hill. I had to back down and take a second running start at it, made it up around a corner and the road was basically two ruts in the dirt. That was far enough. I turned around and went back and kick up more dust in runners faces. 

I got back to civilization and went toward the large lake that I originally planned on visiting today. I had read about a beautiful white sand beach on one side of the lake. Like a lot of lakes back home, access wasn’t easy. To get to the beach I drove through a narrow residential area that had no parking. There was an access path to the beach between houses and I found a little spot to stick the rental car. It was a beautiful, sunny days, this is summer after all in Chile and the temperature was in the mid 80’s with a nice breeze and no humidity. There were quite a few people on the beach but it was expansive. It turns out it to be a place that would be great to have a picnic, relax and enjoy the scenery but wasn’t a tremendous photo location. I made some shot but didn’t stay very long. I drove to a little town that has what looks to be the only other beach on the massive lake but this beach wasn’t nice sand and you could drive right up to the water. Fun but not what I hoped for photography wise.

I took the scenic route back to Pucon to stop at a set of three waterfalls I had read about. Again, I had to drive a dirt road that wound between a house and their back. There were some pylons in the road and as I approached a very old lady came out to collect our fee. She wasn’t overly friendly but pointed me towards the falls. The first one was next to the parking around and again it wasn’t the right time of day to be there. There was a sign pointing up the hill to the second and third falls. I hiked up the path a ways and then got into the switch backs and noticed my heart rate has accelerated. This was a pretty good climb! As I puffed up the trail there were some tremendous views of the valley and the volcano in the distance. Well worth the hike. The second waterfalls had a couple of viewing areas with railings but you couldn’t get a clear shot of the falls, so I didn’t even shoot any pictures. I decided to take my chances and check out the third falls, hoping it wouldn’t be as far as the second one. It wasn’t too far but it was very cool. It wasn’t a large waterfalls but the scene couldn’t be nicer. The only sound you could hear was the water and everything was green. It would be a great place to go and just ponder. 

06 Dec 2018

Venturing to the lake area of southern Chile

After my experience photographing 2016’s total solar eclipse in Oregon, I decided I was an eclipse chaser and made a personal pledge to see as many total eclipses as I could. Since the experience was so cool I want to share it with others so I came to Chile today to scout locations for the eclipse coming through here in 2020. This is the beautiful lake region of southern Chile, a long way from home. It took 24 hours, three flights and a long drive get to the resort town of Pucon but boy is it worth it.

Pucon sits next to one of the five most active volcanoes in the world, Villarrica, and on a large lake of the same name. This is where many people from South America and around the world come to enjoy pure nature at its finest. This is a mecca for outdoor adventure activity, the ultimate being hiking up the volcano and looking inside. I won’t be doing that, it is quite the hike and even though it is summer here, plenty of snow caps the mountain. It doesn’t really take that long to do the hike but everything I read said you better be in pretty good shape. I’m thinking that being in shape ten years ago doesn’t count.

I came with my friend Bob Wagner who is excited to make some photos of this part of the world. Our final flight landed in Temuco, about a 90-minute drive from Pucon. Before getting to Pucon you drive through the town of Villarrica, which is also on the lake and has a magnificent view of the volcano. We went to our hotel in Pucon and immediately came right back to Villarrica for a lovely dinner along the lake and photographed the volcano and lake as the sun set. The light was magical, especially after sunset when amazing colors filled the sky and lit up the water.

We did plenty of shooting, made the drive back around the lake to Pucon and after editing some photos, I’m ready for a good night’s sleep.