DAYS: 000 | MILES: 000

// MY NAME IS DANIELAnd after years of dreaming I've sold everything I own and set off on the open road. I've made this site as a sort of photo journal of my travels. The map shows where I've been (red), where I've stayed a month or more (yellow), and where I plan to go (white). And so, armed with little more than a backpack, a camera, and a dream, I now take the road less traveled by. So it goes.


SANTIAGO SANTIAGO PROVINCE My plan to visit Chile was simple: take a bus from Mendoza in Argentina across that great barrier of jagged peaks and narrow passes known as the Andes Mountains and arrive in Santiago, the Chilean capital. But snow and avalanches blocked all the routes and I waited as long as I could in Mendoza, day after day, checking each morning to see if the passes were open, until finally I decided to take a flight between the two cities even though they are only 112 miles apart. I was really quite surprised by Santiago. Founded in 1541 by conquistador Pedro de Valdivia, the city was really a seamless blend between the ancient and the modern, fully surrounded by the breathtaking beauty of the Andes, with a great many pedestrian streets, an efficient subway system, a lively arts scene, and some lovely parks. For better or worse, Chile has adopted a more free market philosophy than many of its socialist-leaning neighbors and today has become the wealthiest country in South America. To that end, the Gran Torre Skyscraper below is the tallest in Latin America. I stayed a few days here, enjoying the city. You can see my apartment (and the views!) in the bottom two photos.
VALPARAISO VALPARAISO PROVINCE Valparaiso is a hilly seaside port city, once known as the 'Jewel of the Pacific' and 'Little San Francisco'. Before the construction of the Panama Canal, it was a major port for ships making the journey from the Atlantic to the Pacific by traveling around the bottom of South America. This made it a wealthy city, attracting immigrants from all over the world. But with the construction of the canal in Panama in 1915, the city fell onto hard times. Recently it has seen a renaissance with artists and tourists flocking to the city. Its historic quarter, which dates back to 1536, has recently been made a UN World Heritage Site, and once you see the photos of this colorful colonial city on seaside hills, you understand why.
VINA DEL MAR VALPARAISO PROVINCE Adjacent to Valparaiso, and connected by a modern train, is the seaside resort city of Vina Del Mar.
PUCON CAUTIN PROVINCE I actually visited Chile twice. On this second trip, I crossed from Bariloche and was fortunately able to make it across the Andes by bus, which was rather fascinating as the border posts are hours apart since neither country wanted to put their border crossing high in the actual mountains. On the Chile side there were several customs dogs searching for what I assumed were drugs but they were actually searching for fruits and vegetables (and the associated crop diseases) which Chile takes very seriously (on my earlier flight to Santiago we were sprayed with pesticides). The small Alpine town of Pucon is a nature lovers dream, set on a massive lake, surrounded by hilly forests, waterfalls, mountains, and always in the shadow of the great Villarrica Volcano (one of the few permanently active volcanoes in the world, so volcano evacuation routes are posted all over town). Things to note below, the black sand beaches from crushed volcanic rock, the weird footed alien birds, and the last two photos are not real flowers, they are painted wood shavings!
CALDERA COPIAPO PROVINCE Traveling much further up the coast, I came to Caldera which sits between a desert and an ocean, a rather unique ecosystem. It was a small, simple town but the gateway to several off-beaten-path beaches.
BAHIA INGLESA COPIAPO PROVINCE A ways down a small road from Caldera is Bahia Inglesa ('English Bay'), one of those off-the-beaten-path beaches and a cute little town in it's own right, with some quiet seaside cafes and beautiful ocean views. I even managed to get sun-burned here.
SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA EL LOA PROVINCE Traveling to the north of Chile, I came to San Pedro de Atacama, a oasis town in the vast Atacama desert, dating back to Pre-Colombian times when the Atacamenos settled the high arid plateau here (the town sits at 8000 feet). Native ruins can be found nearby and the Atacamenos still run craft markets here, demonstrating their unique basket and ceramic making. The town itself is small and charming, a true oasis surrounded by an inhospitable desert in all directions for hundreds of miles.
THE ATACAMA DESERT Surrounding San Pedro is the vast expanse of the Atacama Desert. This is perhaps the driest desert in the world (famed for a near total lack of precipitation) and has been used by space programs to simulate conditions on Mars. I rented a bicycle in San Pedro and spent the day touring the salt lagoons in the desert. I'd never before been to a place so quiet and peaceful. I learned I really loved deserts. But alas, it was time to leave Chile, so you can see photos below from my bus ride crossing parts of the Andes into Argentina and Bolivia. At first it's all flat and unending but note the serpentine roads later on.