Condors of the Andes Mountains — Chile

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DSC_0720My first trip to Chile began with a trip to the snowless  Andes Mountain range, during mid summer. The road to the top of the Andes from Santiago had more hairpins than a Miss America contestant. Seriously, the road bent and turned, slamming us against each other or the van’s side panels. My insides felt like I had a load of laundry on spin cycle. After 90 grueling minutes the van finally reached the top, where two-mile high air did not DSC_0704-smprovide much relief for my sea level lungs. Our guide told us to watch the skies for condors, and I did. Updrafts swept up the steep valley sides to create a perfect place to watch several of the large South American Condors. Andean condor (Vultur gryphus) the Andean condor has a maximum wingspan of 3.2 m (10 ft 6 in) making it one of the largest flying birds on Earth. Only four seabirds  exceed the Condor’s wing span.

Best-Condor-2This condor is a female and lacks white on the feathers.

Condor-1This is a male condor getting ready to land on a building

Valparaíso Chile, Colorful Coastal City

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DSC_0320-smMy recent visit to Valparaíso, aka “Jewel of the Pacific” provided me with many photo opportunities, from street art to stray dogs, from steep streets to broken down buildings. One image shows a multi story building with laundry hanging in the breeze and three cars parked on the rickety structure. Chile is one of the most Earthquake prone zones in the world. Ask anyone who lives here and they quickly start rattling off the most recent “BIG” quakes. At one time the city featured 26 ascensores (funiculars), but after the major quake in 2010 only 8 currently work. Also note, several sources, including Wikipedia don’t agree with how man Ascensores are in Valparaíso or how many are in working condition. Valparaiso is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of these unique ascensores.

Be sure to visit My Cruise Stories for more about Valparaíso

DSC_0333-smEverywhere you look, sidewalks, buildings, hillsides, streets and parking lots, Earthquake damage can be easily seen. In 1960 a shallow Earthquake caused a Tsunami that sent a wave 13 km inland. But people here are resilient, rolling with the quakes’ destruction, and building, if you can call it that, on steep hillsides. Upon close inspection of many side hill buildings, I would not dare to risk my life literally living on the edge. But these residents do and with a smile.


Side Streets & Street Art of Valparaíso Chile

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DSC_0202-smValparaiso Chile sits on the Pacific Coast and offers an eclectic blend of culture that reminds me of a mix of San Juan Puerto Rico and Antigua. In 1969 art students from Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte began painting the numerous walls of the hillside city, often times called “Little San Francisco.” The original intent of these students was to create an “Open Sky Museum.” Their work continued until 1973 when a military coup began. When the coup ended in 1990, years past the “Hippie” era, local artists picked up their paint brushes and began restoring and painting new walls with the help of the city’s “big shot” artists and wannabe artists. Today the art adorns walls, sidewalks, stairs, and businesses to create one of the most colorful, eclectic must see cities in South America.

DSC_0349-smHere’s a few pictures from this quaint little city by the sea, where street art is perhaps the main attraction. Street art is so much part of the city the artist have an unwritten code, “Don’t ‘tag’ or otherwise ruin another artist’s wall art. The city also has a large population of stray dogs, that are well kept. No rabies, mange or fleas exist here, and locals seem to feed and water the dogs. Most of the local veterinarians also provide free services for these strays, when needed. When walking the streets of Valparaíso always watch your step, there’s lots of doggie doo everywhere. Also note, the southern end of the city, especially on the grounds of the Navy building, has dozens of stray cats that like to beg for attention.