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September 2003 Archives

September 12, 2003


I live in the suburbs of Seattle with my husband. I love traveling, photography, hiking, cooking and hunting for wildflowers.

I developed my passion for travel when my parents took a vacation and drove down Hwy 1 in California. I was hooked. After I married, we took several road trips in the western US and Canada before taking the leap overseas to London.

Many of our trips involve our hobbies of hiking, photography, wildflowers and gardening. Our first international trip was to England to visit the gardens of Wales. We have also made trips to New Zealand, Spain, France and returned to England to visit gardens.

We love to hike. One of our favorite places is Mt. Rainier and my husband climbed it for his 50th birthday. The next year we climbed Mt. Whitney to celebrate my 50th. We try to include hiking in our travels. We have hiked the Maritime Alps of France, the Dolomites of Italy, along the Routeburn and Abel Tasman tracks in New Zealand and craggy spires of Patagonia in Chile. We have also kayaked in Mexico, snorkeled in in Hawaii and Belize and climbed the Mayan ruins of Yucatan and Guatemala.

Our best trip was an anniversary trip to South Africa and Namibia where we searched for spring wildflower on the veld and wild animals in Namibia. We have also spent our vacations visiting the different areas of the Mediterranean biome (Southern Europe, California, Chile, South Africa and Western Australia) to study flora and wildflowers.

I've also had the opportunity to live and work in Europe - another dream come true. I worked for three months in the Netherlands in 1990 and again for 6 weeks in 1996. We learned how to shop, use the appliances, live without a car and open our minds to other cultures. In 2007, I studied for 4 weeks at an intensive French language school in Villefranche sur Mer - Institut de Francais.

We have also traveled to more diverse locals. In 2009, we spent two weeks in Borneo - East Malaysia. In 2011, we spent two weeks in Western Turkey exploring Istanbul and the Aegean ruins. We have also visited the tropical US with several trips to Hawaii.

You can also find more photos on our personal website - MartaGeorge and check out my Flickr photosteam

Updated: Jan 2, 2012.


I am such a procrastinator. I don't know why, but I am. It has been over a year since our last holiday; Italian Alps and Venice in September 2002. We should have our next trip all planned but Nooooooooo.

After the trip to the Alps and Venice, we wanted something a bit more challenging . Europe has gotten to be too easy. Yes, there is stress dealing with different languages and different cultures but it is also very similar. You can find the same TV, the same fashion, the same music. We want something different. Also, married to a horticulturalist, you just can not travel in the Spring. But you can travel to the Southern Hemiphere in November which is Spring in reverse.

We started to talk about potential places last March. We tossed around several places. South Africa? Too far. New Zealand? Been there twice. What about Chile? We love the outdoors and hiking. It has always been a dream to visit Patagonia. We started doing a bit of research and it sounded perfect. Lots of different regions to visit, stable government and economy, and lots of outdoors areas to visit from the desert to glaciers.

But we also had to train for Mt. Rainier. We both turned 50 years old this year and as a challenge, my husband decided to climb Mt. Rainier in July. We spent every week focused on training, hiking, running and no time on a trip to Chile. He summitted in July and we slacked off.

Time is getting close and we finally sat down and started to plan. We now have airline tickets and a deposit down on a 5 day hiking trip in Patagonia. We will leave on November 20th and fly via Dallas. We will return on December 10th.

We want also want to visit the altiplano area in the north and the Lake District. It probably won't be 'Slow Travel', but we will only focus on three areas. Next step, finalize the days and get a LanChile Airpass. Also start checking on accomodations.

September 23, 2003

Atacama Desert

One of the biggest challenges when working on an itinerary for Chile is tackling the geography. Chile is over 4000 km (2500 miles) long but at most 180 km (110 miles) wide. The latitude near Peru border at Arica is close to the equivalent of Mexico City or Veracruz Mexico; 20 degrees south. Punta Arenas, the major city in the south, is at 53 degree south, which is farther south from the equator than Vancouver Canada is north. In Europe it is equivalent to the distance from Scotland to Nigeria. Think of trying to cover the whole West Coast of the US and into Mexico in three weeks.

Many visitors choose to focus on either the south portion of Chile or north portion of Chile. Santiago is mid-point and you either travel North or South. We love flowers so the idea of seeing the flowering desert first grabbed my interest. The flowering desert, desierto florido, actually does not happen in the Far North of Chile but in an area more in the mid North or “El Norte Chico”. The flowering desert is as unpredictable as the blooming Sonoran desert in Arizona. It also happens in September to October which would be too early for us. So we discarded the idea of trying to catch the desierto florido.

But the desert still attracted us. It may just be the contrast from the wet and mild weather of the Northwest US. Beyond El Norte Chico, along the very the northern border with Peru, is El Norte Grande or the Far North. The austerely beautiful, forbidding, vast area of desert stretching from the border of Peru to 1000 km (620 miles) south. Here lies the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. At the eastern edge of the desert, the Andes mountains climb to a high plateau; the Altiplano. The Altiplano is as high as Tibet, rising to 14,000 ft or more in elevation. It is about 180 KM (110 miles) from Arica on the Pacific coast to the small village of Putre at over 11,000 ft. We are planning on spending three nights in Putre and using it as a launching point to explore Lauca National Park. The village of Putre has about 1200 inhabitants. They have just gotten internet access through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. After doing a web search, I found Alto Andino Nature Tours. There is actually a house for rent so we can 'slow travel'. We have reserved the house, Casa Barbarita, for the three nights (November 24, 25 and 26th). We have also arranged for a naturalist to guide us and explore the botany of the region. Barbara Knapton who runs the tours has been very helpful.

Our challenge will be avoiding altitude sickness which is why we plan to spend three nights in Putre. The anticipation of an adventure in the high Andes is exciting.

But of course, we also want to visit the Lake District and Patagonia in the south.

September 30, 2003

Tickets have arrived

We are making progress. We now have our LanChile Pass and have reservations for the 5 legs of airflights. We are going to be doing both North and South Chile so the pass is going to save us money. We could have saved even more if we had gotten our flight from the US to Chile on LanChile. We decided on American because we were able to get a good consolidator price.

Our first leg will be from Santiago to Arica. We will go directly from Arica up to Putre for three nights returning to Arica for the last night in the North. The next leg will be from Arica to Puerto Montt in the Lake district. This happens to be two legs because each change of planes is considered a leg and we will have to change planes in Santiago. We will stay 4 nights here in the Lake district and probably split the time between Puerto Varas and Villarica. Next we will go from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas where we will meet up with the Cascada group. Finally after returning from our hiking trip, we will fly directly from Punta Arenas to Santiago.

We will spent two nights in Santiago when we arrive and before we leave. This may be a little too much in Santiago but it will give us a chance to get adjusted to Chile and practice a bit of Spanish. We will also use the last days in Santiago to do last minute shopping and visit a winery. The flight back to the US leaves at midnight so we will have almost a full day.

We also have our hotel in Santiago. We have booked rooms at Orly Hotel. It is in Providencia which is supposed to be a nice area.

This page contains all entries posted to Postcards from the Trail in September 2003. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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