Chile 2008 Travelogue

03 October 2008 – day 1 - Friday

As I've done in the past, I'm writing this first entry from 33000 feet in the air, on a plane destined for South America. This time our destination is Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

It's been a long time since our last trip; about eighteen months if I remember correctly. So the trip is long overdue and I feel burned out from going too long since the last one. The trip is supposed to be two and a half weeks, going from today, October 3 to October 23rd.

If you read my Ecuador travelogue, you may recall the story where I was standing in line waiting to buy train tickets for the Devil's Nose train ride in Ecuador and I asked a fellow tourist where was the most beautiful place he had ever seen in his life. I have seen a lot of beautiful places in this world: the stunningly beautiful hills of Guilin China, the Three Gorges of the Yangtze, the painted desert and Grand Canyon in Arizona, the untamed wilderness of Alaska, the Black Forest of Germany, the paradise of Hawaii, the rolling green hills of Ireland. I've seen a lot of this world's most beautiful places. And so far for me, the most beautiful was Machu Picchu in Peru, and I told the man so.

The tourist said in a matter-of-fact way that Machu Picchu was nice—I almost wonder if he yawned at that point—but nothing compares to Torres del Paine. Where's that? He said Southern Chile. Talking with that man, I knew in my heart that I had to see Chile. Some day.

Several months passed. Kathy and I had been brooding about not having any vacation plans, but we couldn't decide where to go. We discussed going to Jordon to see Petra. We discussed going to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat. We talked about Russia. We talked about going back to Italy so we could see the ruins of Pompey. Or the Fjords of Norway. But nothing seemed right. Nothing stood out as a high priority trip, especially since we've been saving our money to buy a different cabin in Northern Minnesota and didn't want to spend a lot. Then one day we got a brochure in the mail from OAT, a travel company we've used before. It touted a trip to Chile—including Torres del Paine—that was greatly reduced in price. I was thrilled and impulsively told Kathy “Book it!” I was only half-joking but the bottom line is that she did book it and now I'm on a ten-hour flight from New York's JFK airport to Santiago, Chile.

A long time ago I told Kathy and I wanted a new camera for our next “big” trip. When we returned from Ecuador I had the huge task of sorting through all the digital photos we took. We took some good ones. As part of that process, I had to compare several photos of the same site. So I'd look at Kathy's photos, for example, of the train ride through the Devils Nose, and I'd compare them with mine. In most cases, Kathy's photos turned out better. I don't think I'm that bad of a photographer, but I think a big part of it had to do with the cameras we were using. I was using a Konica/Minolta Dimage Z6, which is a sophisticated point and shoot with lots of bells and whistles. Kathy was using her Canon Digital Rebel XT, which is a digital SLR, and considerably more expensive. The bottom line is that the DSLR took photos that had beautiful rich blue sky with lots of depth, color and texture. My Z6 had washed-out pale blue sky with no texture, monotone color and no depth.

So I told Kathy I wanted a new camera, and I told her that long ago. Especially because we've going to Chile, home of Torres del Paine. So I bought a Canon EOS Xsi, a 12.2 Megapixel DSLR. I tried to get a new lens that just came out; the Tamron 18-270 lens with Image Stabilization, but the lens is too new and only the Nikon mount version is available for sale. So I settled for a third-choice Canon lens that is 55-250 to supplement my 18-55 lens that came with the camera. Sigh. I'll see how well it performs when I get back home.

I guess that's all I'll write for tonight. It's nearly 11:00pm in Minneapolis time, so I'm tired and need to sleep.