• Category Archives Chile
  • Over the Hills, the Road to the End of the World, Four Flights and Three Drives to Thanksgiving

    Palm Desert, CA

    It was 42 hours door to door to get from Torres del Paine, Chile to Palm Desert, CA for Thanksgiving. It was a pretty morning in Patagonia. I took a two hour or so ride to Puerto Natales, changed vehicles and driver. We then took the “Ruta del Fin del Mundo” to Punta Arenas airport, where arrived two hours in advance of my flight.

    The Punta Arenas airport is pretty small, though the plane was pretty big. There’s a very small lounge and a couple of coffee places that also sell sandwiches and a gift/snack/drinks shop.

    Three hours after leaving Punta Arenas, I was in Santiago where the temperature was nearly 80. Chile is VERY long and narrow, with huge climate changes from north to south. At the Santiago airport I retrieved a bag I had stored there, thinking I could then check in my bags and relax…alas that was not the case. Check in is only three hours in advance of a flight and I was there five hours early. So my luggage cart became my lounging area in a relatively deserted part of the busy airport. Having not had internet access for a week time passed pretty quickly. The Santiago airport before security though is pretty basic anyway, not enough room for all the people entering it.

    I finally was able to check in, got past security and wandered around the airport a bit. Pro tip: Don’t buy any drinks before boarding the plane to the USA in Santiago, as there is a secondary security check just before boarding and they will confiscate any liquids exceeding 3 ounces/100 ml. On the other hand my laptop never had to be removed and my shoes and hat stayed on my head and feet respectively at all times.

    I had a long flight, about 10 hours, to Houston, a three hour flight to LAX, another three hour layover home, a Lyft ride to my house, then a three hour drive to Palm Desert…left at 7am, arrived in PD around 9pm.

    Getting home for Thanksgiving Day with my parents and cousins was worth it though.


    • It takes a long time to reach or return from Patagonia, plan accordingly. It took me 42 hours without any issues. I could have saved some time not flying via LAX (but it was much less expensive doing it that way)
    • Do not buy liquids before boarding the plane to the US in Santiago (other than Duty Free which is delivered to the plane in sealed bags)
    • Do not wait too long to go to Patagonia. You can see much of the park without rigorous physical activity, including Grey Glacier but to see some of the best views, hiking is really necessary

  • Hiking to the Mirador of the Base of the Torres del Paine

    Santiago Airport, Chile

    Today and tomorrow will be marathon travel days: two different 2+hour drives to get to the airport in Punta Arenas, a two hour wait for a three hour flight, followed by five hours in Santiago (and I can’t check my bags till 3 hours before the flight…😡…then three flights home followed by a three hour drive to visit my parents for Thanksgiving! However, the trip was worth it.

    Yesterday we did the hike to the base of the Torres del Paine, about a 16 mile hike (I had over 40,000 steps by day’s end). We gained about 4000 feet overall in elevation even though our peak was around 700-800 meters…we did a lot of up and down.

    Yesterday was the first day we had rain in Torres del Paine, which is amazing but unfortunate, as the view at the top, instead of the towers was of…clouds, though we could see the unnamed lagoon at the top.

    We started early, 7:30am. I wore rain pants over shorts and a rain jacket (over a t-shirt and long sleeved shirt). It wasn’t freezing, but wasn’t warm either. Our fearless leader Claudio wore shorts, no rain pants and a rain jacket…he’s a native Patagonian and used to the weather.

    The walk up, though lacking clear views, had its beauty. We walked through a beautiful forest for quite a while, across too many small streams to count, over several small wooden bridges, some with rails…some without. The moss covered tree trunks were so beautiful. After exiting the forest we walked down windy point, which luckily for us wasn’t really windy. Then the last 8/10 of a mile was rock climbing basically…..not the kind where you need handholds, more like doing step ups of various heights and stability. I didn’t mind the ascent. At the top we added a layer or two of clothing and had lunch by the aqua colored lagoon. The towers were covered with clouds but the weather kept a lot of people away and it was still beautiful. It was snowing very lightly at the top…brrr!

    It was amazing how many people we encountered hiking in jeans, hiking in sneakers, hiking without any rain protection…(that was not us). I can’t imagine they’d woke up today feeling very good and their jeans and sneakers were pretty much trashed, mud covered up to the knees, and feet soaked and dirty.

    So…after the ascent there was the descent…through that rock forest. I was pretty slow at that part of the walk. We all got down and then it was up and down again. We stopped halfway down at a refugio, a hostel with flush toilets. :-).

    The rain had pretty much stopped by then and the views opened up some, though at that point the towers weren’t visible. We made it down around 5:30 pm, tired but happy to have survived and seen another beautiful area.

    Of course, by the time we were down the towers were somewhat visible again and this morning it was sunny again (but really cold).

    Things I learned:

    1: Claudio Silva is a superb guide for anything Patagonia. Energetic, speaks English and Spanish well, patient, extremely knowledgeable and always upbeat. Loves what he does and loves where he lives.

    2: You can go to Patagonia and just stay at a hotel and walk up to the base of the Torres del Paine, and take the boat ride to Grey lake to see the glaciers, but you won’t learn as much as if you use an experienced guide and you won’t see the less populated areas we saw

    3: The standard domes at Ecocamp…great beds, but it’s really cold in the mornings! Really good dinners too.

    4: This was an REI Adventure trip. It was a good experience, my first but Claudio made it wonderful.

    5: Don’t wait to do this, you can take buses around the park and see beautiful places, but the hike to the base of the Torres is not super easy. And it’s 16 miles…

    6: Patagonia is more beautiful than I expected.

    7: I am not a bird person.

  • Kayaking Among the Icebergs

    Punta Arenas Airport, Chile

    Photos aren’t loading well…I posted the ones that go with this post also on FB and Instagram (@seniortennisblog)

    So while we had no internet, how was Davis Cup? (I did read today that Rafa beat Canada).

    Sunday afternoon we had “Kayaking Take 2” and it went much better than “Take 1), which you may recall ended up with us dressing in the kayaking gear only to end up taking a hike (too windy to kayak).

    Dressing consists of donning a base layer, a neoprene suit and booties, then a jacket and a “skirt” (something that goes around first one’s midsection to the ribs, then attaches to the kayak’s opening to keep water out and feet and body warm), a helmet, and putting one’s phone (photos you know) in a wet sack which is hooked to the kayak’s hood).

    Sunday it was quite calm so we were able to start at Grey Lake (where we boated on Thursday to see Grey Glacier). I was, to say the least, apprehensive. The only kayaking I’ve ever done was at Lake Tahoe as a kid, where our goal was to tip over our friends’ kayaks and dump them in that cold water. But it was not bad…we were pushed into the water. The back person (Zahid), was the driver, and both of us were to paddle. I don’t think I paddled too well, but I tried. In the one day we got to 1: Kayak on a glacier lake among icebergs 2: Touch and iceberg 3: Kayak on a glacier river and 4: Drink the water from a glacier lake and river. No one was tipped over and everyone finished the ride. There were six of us plus two guides. The river portion was about 20 miles and took a while. There were some rapids…several, but not heavy duty ones.

    I’m lucky I could do the kayaking this time because the company does not let anyone 65 or over do this activity.

    On the way home we had one last stop to see this view:

    And in the evening there was a pretty special sunset.

  • Patagonia Hike Day 4: 360 Degree View

    Patagonia, Chile

    This morning we had a drive with stops for photos and at a lovely waterfall, before a hike up above condors’ nests. There we had a 360 degree view of Lake Sarmiento and another lake and beautiful mountains of Torres sel Paine.

    Last night I took a walk towards the start of the clime to the towers of the park, over a stream and through the campgrounds, & past a nice hotel. I saw gauchos returning for the night leading their horses.

    Next we are trying kayaking, if not too windy, then tomorrow there’s a 14-16 mile trek to the towers.

  • Mountain Biking..or Not & Lamb Barbecue

    Patagonia, Chile

    Today, Saturday was the mountain biking day, which I did try, but flunked. So I walked the same route, which was lovely. We went through moss covered forests, past cattle and horses, and saw beautiful vistas. I waded through streams, my shoes and socks are soaked and muddy.

    We had a lamb barbecue on a working ranch, with sopadillas, and salsa for lunch. The lamb was barbecued over an open fire.

    More hiking tomorrow and kayaking. 😳🤔

  • Patagonia!

    Torres Del Paine, Chile

    Quick post, have an hour with Internet.

    Patagonia is amazingly beautiful. From the high peaks to the green valleys, blue lakes and glaciers.

    We saw dwarf owls, called Pygmy owls (really tiny), a mammal related to Llamas called guanaco (and it’s baby), a condor and a miniature orchid, Palo it’s, or dog orchid.

    We are staying at the eco amp in Patagonia in the standard domes..beds but no bathrooms or heating, very comfortable. It’s a complex without cell service or WiFi , but with a beautiful view and great food. I had eel for dinner (did NOT taste like chicken!)

    Today we drove to Grey Lake to see the glacier. It was cold but beautiful. We saw pieces of glacier, floating in the lake. The pieces had this bluish glow and they were so pretty. The glacier itself at the edge has a really interesting texture and has been receding in recent years.

    Our drinks on the boat were served with glacier ice.

    Torres Del Paine park, which we are exploring translates to Blue Towers more or less.

  • Penguins, Cemetaries and Graffiti: One Day in Punta Arenas

    Punta Arenas, Chile

    From the bottom of the world (where no one seemed to be worrying about how to watch Davis Cup/World Cup tennis).

    Note: I have put photos into this blog post but the internet is very slow…they may load eventually…otherwise, check instagram, @seniortennisblog for photos.

    Q`1First thing in the morning (6:15am) I went to see if the penguin tour was a go today…it was, starting around 7pm. We were bused to a boat (about 30 minutes), then had a smooth, hour long trip to Magdalena Island where the magellanic penguins were. We had about an hour on the island to view the penguins. They seemed to be mostly in their burrows, probably taking care of recently hatched offspring, but some were frolicking in the water. There were tons of seagulls, way more than penguins. It’s always fun to see penguins, they look so funny walking and have great facial expressions.

    After seeing the penguins, we boated over to Magda Island where there were lots of sea lions. However, there are also lots of sea lions where I live in the States and it’s easy to view them up close, so that wasn’t too exciting. The Chilean sea lions though are just as noisy as the California ones.

    We returned back to Punta Arenas around noon. We had to be dropped off at a different spot because of another group of demonstrators. There is a lot of graffiti everywhere in Chile, some pretty and artistic, but now, some is just angry.

    I walked up to the highest spot in Punta Arenas, where one can see the entire city. Then I went to another tourist attraction, the cemetery, which is large, with some huge mausoleums. It also had an area of small graves of babies and children which was pretty sobering, and some nice monuments to soldiers. There were lots of crosses, some vertical, some angled (which apparently is called a Portate Cross or cross of St. Gilbert), of various materials from metal to granite.

    I wandered back to the main square, then down to the waterfront, where there’s a promenade, complete with concrete chairs, though it’s hard to imagine the weather being warm enough to sit and watch the water.

    This may be the last blog for a week…off to Patagonia and Torres del Paine where we won’t have internet access unless we walk a mile or so to access it. I’ll write my blog but may end up publishing them all next Wednesday. Have a great week!

  • Flying to the Bottom of the World

    Punta Arenas, Chile

    I flew from Santiago today where it was going to be in the 90s, to Punta Arenas (via Puerto Montt). It’s around 50 and breezy (for a high) in Punta Arenas, which is right on the Straight of Magellan…closest land mass is Antarctica.

    Puerto Montt is a port city about 1000 km (600 or so miles) south of Santiago, which has a population of over 200,000. I booked a direct flight…just not the nonstop I thought I’d booked, but it was fine, the flight wasn’t full and the stop was short. Most of the people exited the plan at Port Montt.

    We flew first over Santiago, then over the lake country (Port Montt is the capital of the lake or Lagos region of Chile, the entrance to Patagonia). It was another 2+ hours after leaving the port city till we reached Punta Arenas. The weather wasn’t bad today but it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. Hopefully the penguin tour won’t be cancelled.

    I saw my first group of people marching and chanting today in Chile, walking along the waterfront. The taxi driver had to make several turns to avoid them. I didn’t really expect to see problems here and the march appeared spirited but peaceful.

  • Hiking in the Andes

    Santiago, Chile

    Today I went hiking in Cajon del Maipo in Chile. Cajon means canyon. There are a lot of hikes in the area. I went on a small group tour…there were 8 of us and 2 guides for part of the tour; then 2 people split off with a guide to go to hot springs and the rest of us continued the hike.

    The area we were in was about 2500 meters above sea level; around 8000 feet. It was pretty cold and windy up that high. The area is rocky and pretty dry…this part of Chile has a Mediterranean climate, so not much rain in late spring to mid-fall. We could see the snow on the glaciers. We walked up first to a small stream for lunch (basic sandwiches) and then split off and went towards a big meadow. We saw horses and their foals, and lots of mountains.

    At one point I stopped to take photos for a moment and when I looked up I couldn’t see anyone…they had turned to the left and out of sight. I didn’t know if they’d gone down towards the river or to the left…the “trail” wasn’t much of one. I eventually saw them and caught up but it was a bit eerie being out there all alone.

    The main industries of Chile are mining and agriculture. The red in the mountains is iron, the white is gypsum and there is also copper mining. There was silver mining but a large earthquake in the 1950s pretty much destroyed the industry.

    The trip took all day, from a 7am pickup to a 7pm drop off. It wasn’t all hiking; we stopped for breakfast and at the end again for a snack and the drive each was was a couple of hours.

    It was really nice to get out of Santiago and see some of the countryside. There are lots of other hikes to do and I’d recommend going to this area if you are in Santiago.

    Tomorrow…off to Punta Arenas on the Straight of Magellan!

  • Santiago Champion

    Santiago, Chile

    The final day was a big letdown. I got to the club early for my 10:30 match (8:30) to warm up because there was only one warm up court after 8:30 and I hadn’t reserved it. I warmed up, then went to check in…and saw I had won by walkover (no one told me). Apparently Fritteli had a pain in her shoulder and decided she wasn’t fit to play today, though I saw her practicing a lot yesterday.

    So I practiced some with Shirley Friedl and Marc Pepin and a little more later with Shirley, and waited for the awards ceremony. I also watched some of the women’s 35 final, which was very interesting in a crash waiting to happen way. Rous Lorca is a club member or local anyway. She moved well and hit deep topspin strokes, never came voluntarily to the net and wasn’t able to flatten out the ball to finish a point but had a nice dropshot at times and a good slice and 2 handed on the backhand side. She pummeled her opponent’s backhand. Loreto Painmill, her opponent had a more well rounded game but by the time I started watching, deep in the second set (about 2.5 hours into the match), Loreto was cramping after points frequently. Loreto would grind, then play a short point (which was frequently successful). Rous won the first set 75 and then 76 (7). Loreto had at least one set point, and I think she was way up in the breaker. But Rous just kept grinding…oh, and she only served underhanded, a big topspin underhanded serve, which wasn’t too attackable. Anyway, it passed a lot of time.

    Around 1:30 they started putting out some food, small sandwiches, and a big paella was being prepared, and was ready around 2pm. There was also an open bar and champagne. Then there was a pretty long awards ceremony, with trophies for first and second and for the singles winners, a bottle of wine and a box of knives (for the women) and a big knife, for the men, and quite nice knives.

    I found new areas of the club today I hadn’t seen…the gym, racquetball courts and some other racquet sports court which used a small ball and tennis racquets and playing off the wall. I watched a lesson but don’t know exactly what they were doing.

    And that’s a wrap on the tennis portion of this trip. I have a hike in the Andes tomorrow and am off to very southern Chile on Monday where instead of 90 it’s going to be in the 50s and windy.

  • Last Practice Day, Santiago

    Santiago, Chile

    Today was a pretty mellow day. I practiced with Andrew M and Marc P in the morning, ran a few errands…got a little currency, hit the Unimarc supermarket, and did some tennis writing.

    Tomorrow I play the final around 10:30 and there’s a paella party after, which is fun.

    I heard rumors of protestors marching in this area, but didn’t see any. However, walking back from the club I saw two policemen who were standing at the rear of the car with the trunk opened. One of them bashed his head on the trunk lid, which doesn’t bode well for their ability to protect citizens.

    A couple more photos from the club. You can see how near the tall buildings are to the club. The jacaranda trees are in full bloom.

    Santiago, Chile (Las Condes)

    First Practice in Santiago

    Practice Day 2, Santiago, Chile

    Practice Day 3, Monday, Santiago

    Santiago Tuesday: Last Practice Day

    Wednesday: Singles & Laundry Successes

    Santiago Tennis: Into the Final

  • Santiago Tennis: Into the Final

    Santiago, Chile

    It was another beautiful day in Santiago, perfect for playing tennis. I played Graciela Donoso early and won 60 62. Afterwards I watched some tennis and warmed up my opponent from yesterday for her mixed doubles match. There is a kiosk here for tennis clothes and now I have a new Chilean skirt at a very reasonable price, a good souvenir.

    The score cards here are interesting…the cards swivel so the score is always showing who is ahead correctly, and instead of having a marker showing which player won the first set, in the middle are numbers I-V, indicating which set is being played, 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

    Today the club was making good use of their multipurpose covered area. Tennis was being taught on one court; girls were doing gymnastics in the middle and basketball practices were on the front court, with music (for the gymnastics), shouts and whistles (basketball).

    I walked back to the club after dinner and matches were running about an hour late, with the lights coming on as the sun was setting.

    Potted plants on walls is a very Spanish way of displaying flowers…I found a couple of walls of potted geraniums today. The flowers and trees in general are very pretty here.

    I have a day off tomorrow since the other round robin group didn’t start till Wednesday. We could have played the final tomorrow…the #2 seed won both her matches so has won her group, but they have an awards ceremony on Saturday and play most finals then.

  • Wednesday: Singles & Laundry Successes

    Santiago, Chile

    Today I played my first match, against Austria’s Shirley Friedl. She is a nice lefty player, but I played pretty well and the altitude helped my high balls jump a bit and I won 60 60. It’s always an enjoyable, fair match. We played on Court 1 and again, the courts this year are playing much much better than five years ago. I don’t know what they’ve done but kudos to the grounds people for making them so nice to play on.

    After the match (and a short massage, $8 for 15 minutes and the guys working in the massage area are good and seem to be pretty knowledgeable physical therapy.

    After lunch I decided to see if the app I downloaded to pay for the laundry machine worked. What one does is open the app, give it access to your camera and then point it at the QR code on the machine you want to use. The laundry is in the basement, but there was some cell service there (this wouldn’t work without it), but it was slow. It took a few minutes but I managed to get both machines working, so I will have no more issues with a lack of coins for the machines.

    While I was waiting for my laundry to finish, I went to the Unimarc for some food and sunscreen. The packaging all has warnings (not the carrots I bought of course)…the chocolate says high in calories, saturated fat and sugar. As a result it’s quite good.

    I think I figured out why the stores were all closed early yesterday…buses stopped running at 5pm, and the metro shortened its hours, and there were more demonstrations at the Plaza Italia, and also in other cities in Chile. But there’s not much in the English language newspapers I can find. In Las Condes today, it was business as usual, and calm. But downtown, in the center, it’s a different environment.

    Santiago, Chile (Las Condes)

    First Practice in Santiago

    Practice Day 2, Santiago, Chile

    Practice Day 3, Monday, Santiago

    Santiago Tuesday: Last Practice Day

  • Santiago Tuesday: Last Practice Day

    Santiago, Chile

    What a match between Thiem and Djokovic! Incredible offense and defense. Pleasure to watch both players compete (thanks to atptennistv app…worth it).

    Onto info from Chile. I scouted tomorrow’s opponent (she won pretty handily), had a light practice in the morning and then watched some of the tennis, chatted with players, before heading back to my apartment. The street market by the subway was open, so I picked up some strawberries and blueberries, which are mostly missing from the grocery store. They smell good!

    Later on I walked over to the club to try and find a warm up for tomorrow. I play at 10:30 against Shirley Friedl from Austria, who won the ITF Grade A in Brazil last week. I did find a warm up partner, and stayed to watch the first match on TV of Thiem/Djokovic before heading back and watched the third set on a tablet.

    I saw a lineup of Lime scooters by the bus stop. I haven’t seen any Lime bikes…the scooters look like fun and I’ve seen a lot of people on various scooters, but I don’t think the time to learn to ride one is during a tournament (it was perhaps 40 years ago instead). There are docked city bikes somewhere but they aren’t so convenient.

    In the afternoon the stores in the subway, even the OK store (which is like a 7-11, but owned by unimarc, a big supermarket chain) were all closed early. I haven’t figured out why but the produce market was still going strong.

    The jacaranda trees continue to bloom and are very pretty. In the evening there were a lot of players watching matches; matches go on into the night with some starting around 7:30pm. It’s a really nice environment at the club, quite a yin and yang between the city life with it’s hustle and bustle and skyscrapers and the oasis around Estadio Espanol.

    Santiago, Chile (Las Condes)

    First Practice in Santiago

    Practice Day 2, Santiago, Chile

    Practice Day 3, Monday, Santiago

  • Santiago, Chile (Las Condes)

    Santiago, Chile

    I’m on the bottom half of the world now, in the Las Condes part of Santiago.

    The flight from Houston was delayed…not because the plane was late (it arrived around 5am; our flight was scheduled for about 10PM), but because no one brought it to the gate in time and when it arrived…it hadn’t been cleaned after the flight from Australia! It makes me wonder what the plane was doing…did it have an invisibility cloak? Did it decide to make a quick trip to Florida or Cancun? Anyway, we only arrived a bit late though it was a loooong walk from the plane to passport control. (Hint…there are about 10 restrooms along the way, so if there’s a wait at the first, keep walking). There were a lot of signs advertising this climate conference which has now been moved out of Chile due to the riots in late October.

    I had a taxi waiting, which I was happy about since several people approached me who weren’t official taxi drivers. There’s been a lot of vandalism here and rioting but honestly, we went through a lot of tunnels and I kept falling asleep, so didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary on the drive from the airport, but it was midday, not when the unrest has been occurring.

    I was able to enter my apartment and after putting my bags away, went to the bank (where there was an armed guard who was quite alert, by the door), and managed to get some Chilean pesos out of a machine which had instructions only in Spanish. Then I went to get a SIM card for my phone, in the subway area. It was humming, full of open shops in the middle and both sides of the passage. Then I went to the grocery store. The grocery seemed pretty normal. But there was a guard at the entry, and the entryway windows were covered with plywood. There was a very large area for avocados, another for citrus, and juice oranges, but overall the produce section was small. The refrigerated beverage section was huge and I even found bags of ice. Cookies seem very popular, chocolate bars less so.

    After I put my stuff away I decided to try and find the tennis club. Google took me to the parking garage. Instead walking a bit farther the same direction (which would have led me to the entrance), I walked around the opposite way which was over a mile, but I know now how to get to the club tomorrow for practice. (Turn right by the McDonalds).

    There were a lot of boarded up stores along Apoquindo Ave. but overall everything seemed here like business as usual. The area around the club had some really nice houses. A lot of them were in the half-timbered style of Normandy, and all had high fences with spikes on top. The club had a double fence.

    The weather here was nice today, warm but not humid and overcast so it didn’t feel very warm.

    Buenas noches.