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Chile

Six mois plus tard, petit bilan de voyage...

English version of this post available here.

Le temps est maintenant venu de jeter un coup d’œil sur ces derniers 6 mois (et demi) car c'est maintenant la fin de mon voyage en Amérique Latine... :( Franchement, je n'arrive toujours pas à croire que cela fait déjà 6 mois que je quittais Paris en ce matin gris et pluvieux. Le temps passe si vite...

En 6 mois, j'ai donc parcouru plus de 14 000 kilomètres (sans compter l'avion) et visité 13 pays différents, parfois juste en les traversant très rapidement, mais parfois en y restant plus d'un mois. A l'exception du Bélize, tous sont des pays hispanophones mais malheureusement je dois avouer que je ne parle toujours pas l'espagnol couramment, même si je peux maintenant me targuer de pouvoir tenir une conversation basique (c'est déjà ça). Il est sûr en tout cas que le fait de maitriser le français me facilita les choses (surtout quand je compare avec mes amis anglophones), français et espagnol étant assez proches.

J'aurais sans-doute aussi dû l’écrire plus tôt mais par le biais de cet article je voulais remercier toutes les personnes rencontrées durant ces derniers mois, ami(e)s de quelques heures ou pour certain(e)s, ami(e)s pour la vie. Quelques amis en France me demandaient avant que je ne parte à l'aventure si je n’étais pas un peu effrayé de partir tout seul, et bien sûr que je l’étais quelque peu. Mais je dois dire que je ne me suis rarement senti seul durant ces derniers 6 mois. Voyager seul ne vous force pas seulement à vous ouvrir à toutes sortes de voyageurs rencontrés sur la route, mais aussi à interagir avec les habitants locaux et ce dernier point est sûrement la chose la plus importante pour un voyageur. Parler la langue locale rend votre voyage totalement différent et j'aurais aimé pouvoir communiquer encore plus en espagnol dès le début mais je suis sûr que je reviendrai un jour... J'ai n'ai seulement fait qu'effleurer la surface de l’Amérique Centrale et du Sud et il y a encore tant à découvrir!

Donc merci à tous!! :) Je suis tellement reconnaissant de toutes les expériences et moments partagés ensemble et espérons que nous puissions garder contact dans le futur.

Je voulais aussi revenir sur quelques paroles que j'ai entendu plusieurs fois durant cette première partie de voyage. En effet certains voyageurs se plaignaient du fait que beaucoup de leurs "interactions" qu'ils avaient avec d'autres durant leur périple étaient pour la plupart "superficielles", car étant des rencontres de quelques heures ou de quelques jours, avant que chacun ne continue vers un endroit différent. Bien que cela ne soit en partie vrai, je ne qualifierais pas ces amitiés de "superficielles". Bien sûr qu'il est impossible de garder contact avec la centaine de personnes que vous allez rencontrer durant un long voyage. Même aujourd'hui avec l'aide des réseaux sociaux, il est impossible d'envoyer un message régulièrement à tous ses contacts, mais personne n'attend aussi de vous que vous le fassiez. Qualifier ces relations de superficielles c'est aussi nier un point important je pense. Le fait que tout le monde puisse vous enseigner quelque chose (directement ou indirectement) et que vous ne saurez jamais exactement quoi avant de faire ces rencontres.

Tout au long de mon parcours j'ai rencontré tant de personnes qui ont partagé leurs histoires avec moi, que j'ai en fait plus appris en 6 mois à propos des différentes cultures du monde que durant mes dernières 29 années. Et en voyageant il n'y a aussi plus cette "pression sociale" qui vous fait vous comporter de la manière dont tout le monde (famille, amis, collègues, etc...) attend de vous, ce qui fait que vous pouvez vraiment être vous même sans avoir à plaire à tout le monde autour de vous. Par ceci je ne veux pas dire que chez vous, tout le monde est un peu "faux" mais vous voyez ce que je veux dire, il y a des conventions sociales qui vous font parfois agir d'une façon que vous ne voudriez pas, qui pourraient vous empêcher de dire tout ce que vous voudriez (au boulot, dans vos cercles d'amis, etc..). Et en se libérant de ce carcan social vous réalisez en fait qui vous êtes vraiment, ce que vous aimez vraiment, ce que vous n'aimez pas, et plus encore... En d'autres termes vous vous découvrez vraiment (ce qui est aussi pour moi une des raisons de voyager).

D'un coté vous êtes plus égoïste mais d'une bonne manière si je peux m'exprimer ainsi. D'un autre coté vous devez aussi garder à l'esprit qu'il est possible d'apprendre de tout le monde, et même de certaines personnes dont vous ne vous attendriez pas (c'est d'ailleurs probablement de ces personnes-là que vous pourriez être le plus surpris). Et inversement, il est aussi plus que probable que beaucoup de monde apprendra de vous et de vos expériences, aucun doute sur ce point-là.

Tout cela pour dire que voyager est avant tout partager, s'ouvrir au monde et aux autres. De ne pas juger les apparences. Et comme souvent dans la vie, les meilleures choses et expériences arrivent quand on s'y attend le moins...

Pour finir cet article, voici quelques statistiques à propos de ces 6 mois passés sur la route:

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Posted by manolo84 15:51 Archived in Chile Tagged french review Comments (0)

Six months later, trip review...

Version française de cet article par ici...
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Time has now come to look back on the last 6 months (and a half) as this is now the end of my trip in Latin America. I honestly cannot believe that it has been more than 6 months since I left Paris on that grey and rainy morning. The time flew so quickly...

In 6 months, I have covered more than 14,000 kilometres on the road (without counting the flights) and visited 13 different countries, sometimes just crossing them, sometimes staying more than a month. At the exception of Belize, all were spanish speaking countries, but unfortunately I have to report that I am still not a fluent speaker, though I can now manage a basic conversation. Certainly being a native French speaker helped a lot as the two languages have a lot in common.

I should have probably wrote it sooner as well but by this post I want to thank all the people I met during that time, friends of a few hours or for some, now friends for life. Some of my friends back home were asking before I started travelling if I was not actually scared to travel alone, and of course I was a bit, this being the first time I was going to travel by myself. But I have to say that I hardly felt alone during the last 6 months. Travelling alone not only forces you to open up with all kind of travellers you meet along the way, but also to interact with locals and the latter is probably invaluable as a traveller. Speaking the local language makes your whole trip totally different and I wished I could have been fluent in spanish from the start, but I know I will come back one day. I have only scratched the surface of Central and South America and there is still so much to discover!

So thank you all, I am so grateful of all the experiences and moments we have shared together and let's hope that we can keep in touch in the future.

I also wanted to come back on some words I heard several times during this trip. Some people I met were indeed complaining that a lot of the interactions they were having during their travels were superficial because most of the time when they met other people, it was only for a couple of hours or a few days, before each moved on to a different place. Whilst this is partly true, I still wouldn't call these interactions or short friendships "superficial". Of course it is impossible to keep in touch with the hundreds of people you meet during a long travel. Even with the help of the social networks, you cannot send a message regularly to every contact you have, but no one expects you to do so as well. Calling these relationships superficial are denying one important fact I think. The fact that everyone can teach you something and that you will never know beforehand what it is.

Along the way I met so many people who shared their stories with me, that I have also learnt more about the different world cultures in 6 months than in my previous 29 years. And while travelling there is also no "social pressure" of having to behave like everyone (family, friends back home) expects you to, so you can really be yourself without constantly trying to please everyone around you. By this I am not saying that back home, everyone acts "fake" but you see what I mean, there are social conventions which make you sometimes not behave like you would like to or to not say everything you would like (at work, in your friend's circles, etc...). And by freeing yourself from these social chains, you actually realise who you really are, what you really like, what you really don't like, and many more other things. In other words you really discover yourself.

In one hand you are a bit more selfish but in a good way if I can say so. On the other hand you need to keep in mind that you can actually learn from everyone, even from the people you wouldn't expect to (it's probably those ones who will surprise you the most). And it is also likely that some people will probably learn from you and your experiences, no doubt about it.

All that to say that travelling is all about sharing, about opening up to the world and to the others. About not judging on the appearances. And as usual in life, the best things and experiences happen when you least expect them...

To finish this post here are a few stats about these 6 months spent on the road:

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Posted by manolo84 15:49 Archived in Chile Tagged english review Comments (4)

Santiago de Chile, end of the road...


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

A few days later, after a short stop in Punta Arenas in the south of Chile, I decided for once to throw my principles out of the window and to take a plane to Santiago, to avoid spending again hours and hours in buses and also avoid having to cross again the border between Chile and Argentina (the whole Chilean region in the south being full of fjords, there is no direct road that links Punta Arenas to the cities north of Puerto Natales). One option would have been to take a cruise boat and admire the magnificent fjords of Patagonia but alas there was not enough time for me to do so and this would have been quite pricey as well.

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So once arrived in Santiago, I decided to spend the next few days to relax whilst waiting for my flight to New Zealand. In 6 months and a half I had seen countless museums, taken 10,000 pictures, hiked I don't know how many trails, so it was enough and I really felt the need to not to anything. Funny fact, when I had first arrived in Mexico city, I had met two guys from Chile in my first hostel. We had exchanged our contact details when I had told them that I should be finishing my trip in Latin America 6 months later in their capital and they had offered for me to contact them at that time. So instead of spending a few more nights in a hostel, I therefore stayed with my friends Walter (and Max), which also offered me the possibility to test my new spanish skills... Well, hum... I still have some progress to make but at least I can have now a (very basic) conversation! :)

The feeling I got from Santiago was actually quite good. The city is surrounded by high mountains offering a nice sight (according to Walter, the views are also more amazing in winter time when snows cover them all) and even though it is a big city, there are lots of local bars and restaurants which give you a true feeling of the Chilean culture. Apparently the Chilean capital is also economically booming so I will definitely keep an eye on it in the future. The weather was also a lot warmer than the previous weeks spent in Patagonia so definitely a good place to spend my last days on that continent.

The last few beers in South America with Walter

The last few beers in South America with Walter


Punta Arenas

Punta Arenas


Cormorants colony in Punta Arenas

Cormorants colony in Punta Arenas

Posted by manolo84 23:28 Archived in Chile Tagged towns english Comments (0)

Torres del Paine


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

Happy new year and all the best for 2014!! It's been now a bit more than 7 months that I have started my travelling quest and I have to say that I have never seen the time flying so quickly... There is so much to discover in this world and I have only started to realise that probably a whole life is not enough, so my advice for this year to all of you who are reading me, is to get out and do things you've never done before or go where you've never been, should it be 10km from your house or in an exotic location! There is little chance that you will regret it and who knows, it might convinces you to keep on trying new things or start travelling? ;)
Anyway I wish to all my friends (old and new) as well as to my family, all the happiness possible for this new year! Some people already told me that my blog (especially the pictures taken) really gave them new ideas for future travels so thank you, it really makes me happy when I hear that! Keep on reading, there is more to come! :)

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When it comes to Patagonia and its national parks, Torres del Paine in Chile receives a lot of praise. Praise which is really well deserved as the landscape can definitely blow your mind off. Besides, add extreme weather conditions and you will understand why hikers from all over the globe come to challenge themselves here.

There are two main ways to walk Torres del Paine (unless you only want to do a day-hike and therefore only seeing a small part of the scenery), the famous W trail or the full circuit. The W trek, as its name suggests, has a shape of a W and can be walked in 4 to 5 days, in opposite to the full loop "the circuit" which will take an average of 8 to 9 days to be completed.

With my new friends Matt and Gerry we decided to opt then for the W trail, not that the idea of doing the full circuit wasn't attractive but we all didn't have enough time to do so. I just had a bit less than 3 weeks left to spend in South America and I still had to go down to Ushuaia and then go back up to Santiago. We then packed up our food for 5 days, rented the camping equipment, and set up early morning for the bus which would take us to the start of the trail.

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And this trek really didn't deceive our expectations, on the first day we set up for a gentle walk, a bit windy sometimes but totally bearable and arrived in mid-afternoon to our first campsite, next to the glacier Grey. This allowed for a bit of time wandering around and taking a few shots of the second glacier I was seeing in my life, after the Perito Moreno. I also realised pleasantly that compared to the long trek I had done in Peru, the sun here sets very late, which allows for late cooking and especially allows you to start walking later in the morning as you have more daylight.

The following days would see us walking a bit more, through rain or really windy conditions (a few times the wind was so strong that we were blown away into the bush or pushed to the side of a mountain!), but always allowing us to see amazing mountains, rock formations, forest, glaciers, sunrises, etc... The nights were also actually quite cold, definitely colder than we expected, with a +3 degrees being recorded the last night and forcing us to sleep in our thin sleeping bags with all the clothes we could possibly wear....

But at the end of the fifth day, we had to recognise that we had been lucky with the weather and that the whole trek had been really smooth (maybe at the exception of a dodgy knee for Matt and the oat meal and tent pegs we had forgotten along the way...). There were also definitely more trekkers than in Peru and the last day was a bit of a motorway because of all the day-trekkers who took the opportunity of the nice weather to climb up to see the "towers". Therefore if you are thinking of trekking Torres del Paine and enjoy being alone in the nature or with very few other trekkers, I would definitely recommend doing the full circuit which receives less attention from the hordes of tourists.

Anyway to sum up, great adventure with great people! Patagonia rocks!

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Glacier Grey in sight!

Glacier Grey in sight!


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Backpacks really loaded!

Backpacks really loaded!


Chilean and Patagonian flags

Chilean and Patagonian flags


We can start seeing one of the famous towers...

We can start seeing one of the famous towers...


The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

The water from the streams is so clear that you can even drink it "from the source" ! :)


One of our "friends" met during the trek

One of our "friends" met during the trek


Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told

Weird shaped mountain, which has a volcanic origin I have been told


A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive

A rainbow suddenly showing up with the wind gusts blowing the water off the lake's surface... Really impressive


More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later

More wind gusts, the same ones which will blow us off into the bush a few minutes later


Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible

Waking up at 5am and climbing up to see the sun rising on the famous towers, just incredible


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Our fine team

Our fine team


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The End!

The End!

Posted by manolo84 02:10 Archived in Chile Tagged mountains nature glaciers english treks Comments (0)

The desert of San Pedro de Atacama

sunny 40 °C
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After a few days spent in the Salar de Uyuni and the desert around, in Bolivia, we ended our 4WD (4x4) tour by crossing the Chilean border to arrive in San Pedro de Atacama. This little oasis village, located in the centre of one of the driest deserts, with its narrow dirt streets and attractive adobe houses, has transformed itself, since the 1990s, into the tourism centre of Chile. Sitting at an altitude of 2400m between the desert and the altiplano, or puna (the high basin connecting the two branches of the cordillera), this has been an important settlement since pre-Hispanic times, originally as a major stop on the trading route connecting the llama herders of these highlands with the fishing communities of the Pacific.

But because of its proximity with Bolivia and Argentina, and the amazing landscapes the desert nearby has to offer, this little town was literally full of Chilean tourists and gringos, and prices for accommodation and food come quite as a shock, overpriced and with poor quality.

But anyway, as I wasn't going to stay too long, I booked in the cheapest place I could find (about 14$ US...) and went to admire the Moon Valley and the sunset in the desert, as well as going to an observatory to look at the stars, the desert being one of the best places to watch them as there are no clouds and very few city lights.

After this, I spent some time struggling with my guidebook trying to establish an itinerary which would take me to Ushuaia by doing some kind of zigzag between Argentina and Chile, whilst seeing the more I could, all that in one month. Basically what I needed to do was to follow the Andes but with looooong bus journeys...

Salt caves in the desert

Salt caves in the desert


El Valle de la luna (the moon valley)

El Valle de la luna (the moon valley)


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View of the Licancabur Volcano (5916 m) from the Valley of the Moon

View of the Licancabur Volcano (5916 m) from the Valley of the Moon


Salt rock formation, "Las 3 Marias"

Salt rock formation, "Las 3 Marias"


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The Valley of the Death

The Valley of the Death


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With the stars...

With the stars...


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Posted by manolo84 13:09 Archived in Chile Tagged desert english stars Comments (2)

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