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  • Writer's pictureGregory T. Wilkins

Chile & Argentina (2014)

November 6, 2014 When I returned last year to the USA after spending almost two months in Australia completing global volunteerism from December to January, I began planning on where I wanted to go for my winter 2014 excursion. By March I settled on South America, Ecuador to be exact. I started reading and completing research on things I wanted to do, places to explore and experiences I wanted to share.

In April, I attended the Association of College Unions International (ACUI) conference in Orlando, FL to celebrate the association's 100th anniversary. In speaking with my friend, Dr. Michael Mironak at the University of Florida, he encouraged me to share with my colleagues how I plan each of my annual trips. Taking his advice under consideration, I returned back to Minnesota State Mankato and began plotting to write an article for ACUI's Bulletin. Long story short, I completed my draft and had it submitted to the editor for their August 2014 publicaiton. My piece was titled, "A Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins with One Step" from the  Chinese philosopher Laozi (c 604 bc - c 531 bc).

One great thing about my work in the student union and campus activities field, it teaches you flexability and how to create with sometimes ambiguous processes. Seven months of planning came to halt after speaking with my college buddy, Scott Norman, about the challenges of getting in and out of Quito, Ecuador's new international airport. Networking with undergrauates who I knew were recently there, they too echoed the same sentiments. On the spot, I decided to change countries (but not direction) and go further south to Chile. It is a country I have yet to visit, and one that would be rewarding.

I went to the Memorial Library on campus and began reading about my new adventure. My friends thought that I was crazy to toss out Ecuador after so much energy was placed on planning, but I figure I will use thisinformation in a year from now when I plan to return to South America in 2016 during my university sabbatical. With the internet at my figer tips, Couchsurfing as a resource, and the collegial network open, I began to set a new course.

Chile, officially the Republic of Chile, is a South American country that occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas, and Easter Island in Oceania. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square kilometres (480,000 sq mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty.

I had wanted to visit Chile in the mid-90s when Nestor Chardon and I visitied Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil. I was able to squeeze a peak from the Andes when I was visiting Bariloche, and I knew that it was going to be a place I would return. The great thing about going in December is the weather is going to flawless with high 70s. So, let the good times roll! December 1, 2014 -- Delta & the Standby Gods

Flying standby always leaves me a bit nervous. I get crazy in my head--worse than performing in front of thousands. I know there is not a guarantee to get on the flight, but my heart races with each turning page of the electronic, terminal board. Pacing back and fourth, I look up every other moment to see if my name has gotten further in the ranking. The words "will they like me" race through my head as if

'they" had anything to do with how I rate on seat selection...not. It's all about priority--pilots, years of service, etc. You would think I would get used to this ordeal--but no. I still go through this process of anxiety and always hoping for a different outcome. In the end it doesn't really matter as long as I get on the flight, right? Nonetheless, this game plays out in my head--smile more, say some nice words to the attendant behind the desk, don't appear too anxious. As new arrivals step up to the counter, I say a prayer that they are not potentially "stealing a seat" away from me.

In the end my flight went without problems, and I was able to meet my proposed itinerary. Here's to adventure! December 2, 2014 - Santiago

My flight to Chile went without any major problems. You never know flying standby if you are going to be stranded in a different city or not. I was fortunate and smart enough to take an earlier flight from MSP to ATL knowing that the later flight was almost booked. Lucky me, I was able to get on with only three seats left on the plane. Arriving to ATL, I had entire afternoon to myself to people watch and cruise the terminal.

There is only one flight from ALT to Santiago. I sit on pins and needles not knowing if I am going to get on it and only hope that there are not too many others on standby--afterall, how many people want to go Santiago, Chile? Well, there are more that one might imagine. The standby gods were in my favor, and I was able to get one of the two seats left. YEAH!

What always amuses me is that business class (aka 1st class) costs three ties more than coach but is always booked. To get to Chile from MSP, coach cost almost $3,000. You can do the math for business class. My guess that it must be business people who fly down often and have a trillion and ne flight miles for an upgrade. While I always covet going in style, I am just as happy to get on the flight at all nowadays knowing that I have in the last stayed the night for four days in AUS and India.

Chile has a very strict food policy for being brought into the country. Even peanuts are not allowed. You have to consume it before entering the country, throw it out or suffer the penalty of paying a hefty fine. They are very concerned about the health and safety of the agricultural crops hence he very strict rules. While a line forms at the trash can, I am able o get swiftly passed the chaos and into the line for tourists.

One thing I am very happy about is that Chile no longer requires USA citizens to pay the $160 reciprocity fee to enter the country. EU, Canada and AUS still have to pay it. Earlier in the year, the USA allowed for open travel for Chileans to come to the USA and hence the payment was reduced. I wish now the same would ha[pen to Argentina, but since I have already paid their $160 fee that is good for the next 10 years, what do I care?

I followed the directions that Joaquin sent me on Couchsurfing. I took the airport bus ($1500P) to Pajaritos, paid the Metro ($700P) and changed at Baquedano to other Metro line to Irarrezaval. I then hired a taxi ($3000P) to their address--Jose Domingo Canas 1980, Apt. 904. He and his wife live in Nunoa.

I am blessed that they responded to my Couchsurfing (CS) request! I am always amazed how travelers from across the planet that do not know each other offer their hospitality for FREE. They fell into CS when they traveled a year ago to Japan, Turkey, and Europe. Since being bitten by the CS bug, they now open their home to others.

Montse, Joaquin's wife, welcomed me with open arms. She knew I had ben traveling all day and offered me a shower and wanted to know if I needed laundry. I told her I was fine, and she walked me to my room. She gave me a glass of water and wanted to hear of my plans while visiting. I provided her all the juicy tidbits as she prepared lunch and answered questions from time to time by her maid. We ate a wonderful lasagna, and I then told her I was exhausted. She wanted to know if I wanted to go out and see the sites, and I refrained instead for a nice nap.

December 3, 2014 Santiago Metro is spread throughout the city. Some lines are better than others and not as packed. The green line for example is very full at almost all hours of the day. It is even more of a comedy routine when trying to manage a large backpack that is filled to the brink. I have to smile and say excuse me while trying to stuff in like a fat pig. The people are gracious as I give them a grimace and pray that they won't hate the gringo too much for taking up so much room. This is not always as easily said than done. As the train comes into the station, I check-out the cars. Are they packed? If so, I know my chances are slim of getting on. And if they are full but not stuffed I know I going to give it a chance. And when in doubt, wait. The stifling heat does not make matters better. I always pray that the Metro won't be too full and possibly have AC. This is usually not the case. My next rosary is that the train will at least have a small window slit along the top of the wall by the roof of the train so that when the train does go that it will let in some fresh air and keep things circulating. The one blessing is that the intercom is very clear announcing the stops along the way, and inside my head I count them down like race to begun--3, 2, 1 more stops before I have to dart. Arriving to the Santiago General Cemetery, the Metro leaves you at the gate. One could say that people are just dying to get in to the place. The cemetery is the largest one in South America with an estimated 2 million people buried here. And when you come, be sure to wear comfy shoes because you are going to walk for miles and still probably not see everything. What I enjoy about seeing a cemetery is how a culture honors its dead. Each pace is different, an arriving to the entrance I know I am going to be in store for treat. The place is located in a neighborhood called Recoleta--not to be confused with Recoleta in Buenos Aires. The general cemetery is not as glorious with mausoleums and statues, but rather more simple. The cemetery was started at the turn of the 19h century (1821). In its early days the place sounded like it was very magnificent with avenues of palm trees and sculptures. Today, the place is not as grand, but you are able to imagine how impressive it might have been. Some of the most influential people of Chilean history re buried here including presidents--all but two of the deceased Presidents of Chile, the exceptions being Gabriel González Videla and Augusto Pinochet. Several things that caught my attention were an area that is set aside for children. Families comes here and decorate the entire space for the holidays. For ex., at Christmas the place has a Santa Claus, holidays trees, strings of garland and tinsel with red and gold balls. The only thing missing is lights that twinkle. The other area that I fond intriguing was a 6 to 8 story building filled with created Italian Chileanos. There is a small chapel on a subterranean floor and floor after floor of the deceased. It is like an apartment building commemorating the dead. Art... Bellas Artes was established in 1880 (making it the oldest in South America). The current building dates to 1910 and commemorates the first centennial of the Independence of Chile. It was designed by the French-Chilean architect Emile Jecquier in a full-blown Beaux-arts style and is located in the Parque Forestal of Santiago. For 600 pesos you can see some of the collection. While the price was right the collection was disappointing. The best part of the space is the building itself. In 2010, there was a large earthquake tearing up the front of the façade. The government did a good job getting back into shape and open to the public. It should be noted that it is not ADA accessible. December 3, 2014

COSTS: 600P Admission to Bellas Artes Museum 5900P Artisan ring from the museum gift shop (black head) 700P Metro

December 4, 2014

COSTS: 22000 Roundtrip busfare to La Serena 300 colecivo to Metro 150 Bano at cemeterio 3000 Bipcard reload for Metro (700 or each ride) 5860 Augusto Marisqueria at Mercado Central--Veggie salad with sparkling water and tip 1500 taxi from Metro to Apt. December 5, 2014

COSTS: 22,100 bus to Pucon from Santiago, Pucon to Valdivia 10,000 tai from apt to bus station 1,000 locker at bus station 920 two danishes 1,000 2 waters with gas $180US-- 6 nights at Victrola Hostal in La Serena, Chile 3250 taxi from bus station to hostal 600 shishkabob from street vendor 1,000 2 scoops

December 6, 2014 - La Serena Leaving Santiago for La Serena during rush hour can be a bit much with a backpack so I decided to taxi over to the bus station from Nunoa to the Central Station. It was 10,000 pesos--a bit much more than I wnted to spend--bu at least I did not have to hassle the Metro and the throngs of people. I arrived early so that I could change my Cruz del Sur ticket from Temuco to Valdivia. There are two bus terminals--North and South. I left my backpack for 1,000 pesos so that I wouldn't have to hassle with the baggage and get me quickly through the neighborhood. I then returned to my original station to purchase a bus ticket from Santiago to Pucon and Pucon to Valdivia. I was able to exchange my original ticket and got money back minus 15%. La Serena is the capital of the Coquimbo Region. Founded in 1544, it is the country's second oldest city after the national capital, Santiago. It is one of the fastest-growing areas in Chile, witnessing a population increase of 32.6% between 1992 and 2002. It is a lovely colonial town with its neighbor, Conquimbo, just 20 minutes away by colectivo. In its early days it was looted and burned by pirates, including Francis Drake. December 7 - 10, 2014

Taking a colectivo by the grocery store, I headed to Vicuna, Monte Grande and Pisco Elqui. I had originally planned to do each one for one day, but after chatting with Carlos at Hostal Victrola he suggested I do them all in one day. I am glad that I listened because he was correct. If I had done one a day, I would have been quite bored. Vicuna, Monte Grande and Pisco Elqui are Chilean villages (pueblo) in the Coquimbo Region and located in the Elqui Valley at about 1,300 meters above sea level. The dry mountains rise majestically from the green floor of pisco vines. This was the area where pisco was distilled in the early history of Chile. The original name of the town of Pisco was La Greda. It was later changed to La Unión. In February 1936, the Law Decree 5,798 changed its name to Pisco Elqui to reinforce Chile's claim to have rights over the alcoholic drink, pisco. Each town is classic with a church, park, and surrounding business fanning out from the main central park. Vicuna is most developed of the towns with neighborhoods and restaurants. Pisco Elqui has emerged because of tourism with restaurants that surrounding the central church. COSTS: December 6 2000 bus from la Serena to Vicuna 1000 two homemade pastries lemon tart & strawberry tart) at Vicuna Park 2000 bus from Vicuna to Pisco 2000 coconut handmade ring in Pisco Elqui at the artisan market 6700 lunch-- salmon salad with sparkling water, artisnl bread with avocado puree at Hector Alejandro Rivera Miranda restaurant 650 Sprite soft drink 4930 groceries--caipirina bottle, 2 waters with gas, cookies 3000 bus from Pico to La Serena December 7 1000 shishkabob on the street 200 watermelon slice 1000 bag of cherries 600 bus to Coquimbo 800 caramel sundae 2990 beef sandwich with avocado, small Coke & fries December 8 1000 four Danish on sale at market 2990 groceries--3 waters with gas, 1 Coke, 2 packs of cookies 2119 mashed potatoes with 2 pieces of meat from market December 9 1800 chicken & rice from market 600 bus to Ocquimbo 600 return bus to La Serena 2000 chocolate cake & 3 apple tarts from market December 10 1899 rice with chicken & veggies 938 two waters with gas

December 11, 2014

Originally I was going to Chillan and Temuco. After speaking with Joaquin and Montse, they convinced me that my time would be better spent and I would be happier if I went to Pucon. I am glad I listened. When the bus went through Temuco, I was not impressed. The JAC bus got into Pucon in the late evening after an eleven hour bus ride. My hostel, Hostal El Refugio, was across the street from the bus station (down the street is Pullman). I rung the entrance bell and was greeted by a friendly, young woman from Boise, Idaho (Meg). She is working at the hostel for a short period, and this is her first time out of the USA. She was originally a Mormon, and after her parents divorced they left the church. She now drinks wine and drinks Coke. The hostel is very simple but clean and quiet in the evening. To save money I chose to sleep in the dome tent in the back. The hostel has lots of hot water, friendly staff and sweet vibe. I would recommend others staying here. The owners also own Chili Kiwi right on the lake, but it does cost more. Pucon is quite touristy with backpackers everywhere. (Because of the tourist influx expect to pay a little more for food if you go out to eat.) It is in the heart of Chile for outdoor sports--skiing in the winter, and in the summer rafting, hiking, volcano, horseback riding, canyoning, etc. The volcano trek is pretty awesome and gets a lot of traffic. It costs $70US to climb up and slide back down. It is a day trip and sounds like folks loved their experience. While it sounds awesome, it is more than what I want to spend. I opted instead to take a country hike to see Ojos del Caburgua por El Cristo. I spent 600 pesos for a bus and 500 pesos to see the falls. COSTS:

1500 taxi from Metro to Apt in Santiago

600 public bus to bus station December 13, 2014

Villarrica is the town next to Pucon that is 30 minutes away from Pucon. It is larger that Pucon and the original resort area for Chilleans. It has a more laid back than Pucon with a large beach and dock area. I went to check out the artisan goods but looks like I should have gone the day before for a festival. No worries, I roamed the streets and went to find graffiti covered walls along the beach. COSTS: 600 Bus to Ojos 500 Ojos entrance fee 700 return bus to Pucon 1000 artisan blueberry pie 4000 Chili BBQ with beer at the hostel

December 14, 2014 -

Villarica is about 20 minutes outside of Pucon. At one time it was a happening spot and now more laidback and casual though larger than Pucon. Pucon didn't even have a road until the 1970s and afterward it exploded overshadowing the town of Villarrica. I spent the morning here chilling out, walking the beach taking taking photos of the graffiti and watching the morning wake with the locals. It's nice to not do much for a change.


800 Bus from Pucon to Villarrica

1000 carton of raspberries from local farmer

1430 cheese empanada

800 Villarrica bus to Pucon

December 15, 2014

This is my last day in Pucon before I head south to Valdivia. I must admit that I truly enjoyed my time here at the hostel. The place is great, close to everything and very communal. I would highly recommend it to others who travel through.

COSTS: 2747 lunch at supermarket--mashed potatoes, chicken, Coke and large chocolate bar

December 16, 2014 - Valdiva

I took the morning bus from Pucon to Valdivia. It was a little over 3 hours because of road construction. The directions from the internet to Aires Buenos Hostal was perfect. It is about 4 blocks away from the main bus terminal and very close to the center of town--about another 6 blocks. Valdivia is named after its founder Pedro de Valdivia and is located at the crossing of three rivers-- Calle-Calle, Valdivia, and Cau-Cau Rivers. It is also known as the pearl of the South. Since October 2007, Valdivia has been the capital of Los Ríos Region and is also the capital of Valdivia Province. A little over 140,000 people call Valdivia home with 16,000 being students at the university. Austral University of Chile (founded in 1954) and the Centro de Estudios Científicos is based here. The city of Valdivia and the Chiloé Archipelago were once the two southernmost outliers of the Spanish Empire. From 1645 to 1740 the city depended directly on the Viceroyalty of Peru, which financed the building of the Valdivian fort system that turned Valdivia into one of the most fortified cities of the New World. In the second half of the 19th century, Valdivia was the port of entry for German immigrants who were given land and settled in the surrounding areas. The German influence is evident with beer, cheese production, and cafes. The city was severely damaged by the Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 — the most powerful earthquake ever recorded (9.5 rating). Tsunamis were felt in Japan and Hawaii. It is sad indeed as many of the old, classical architecture has been wiped away. The church is modern as well as many other buildings throughout the city.

COSTS: 1000 fish market in Valdivia-- ceviche 1000 slice of cake from supermarket December 17, 2014 COSTS: 550 colectivo to Niebla 450 back to boat on bus, went too far 800 boat from Niebla to Corral Island 1500 Admission to Castillo to Corral 800 boat to Niebla 550 colectivo to Valdavia 1000 fruit cup (mango and strawberrys)

December 19, 2014 - Bariloche, Argentia

I arrived to Bariloche, Argentina and already wonder if I should have come. I visited here in the 1990 with Nestor Chardon, and the place was much more quaint. It has grown considerably in the last 15 plus years. It is no longer the simple village of yesterday, but now hosts hordes of tourists. At least the cathedral and the civic center has not changed since those early days, but I wonder too how long some of that will even last. (The civic center looks like it could use some love.) You would think that the charm of what brought people here in the first place would be something that civic leaders would encourage versus becoming like any other village, town or city with the usual ho-hum of bland cement walls with an awning and some glass.

The name Bariloche comes from the Mapudungun word Vuriloche meaning "people from behind the mountain" (vuri = behind, che = people). The Poya people used the Vuriloche pass to cross the Andes, keeping it secret from the Spanish priests for a long time. But those pesky priests brought Jesus and Catholicism before long and a new beginning of European influence began its spiral downward in the name of slavery an capturing the local Indians.

It was in the 19th century that Germans and others from the Europe began to have its influence architecturally on what now know as San Carlos de Bariloche. In the 1930s the center of the city was redesigned to have the appearance of a traditional European central alpine town (it was called "Little Switzerland.") Many buildings were made of wood and stone. In 1909 there were 1,250 inhabitants; a telegraph, post office, and a road connected the city with Neuquén. Commerce continued to depend on Chile until the arrival of the railroad in 1934, which connected the city with Argentine markets.

Bariloche grew from being a center of cattle trade that relied on commerce with Chile, to becoming a center for tourism for the Argentine elite. It took on a cosmopolitan architectural and urban profile. Growth in the city's tourist trade began in the 1930s, when local hotel occupancy grew from 1550 tourists in 1934 to 4000 in 1940. In 1934 Ezequiel Bustillo, then director of the National Parks, contracted his brother Alejandro Bustillo to build several buildings in Iguazú and Nahuel Huapi National Park (Bariloche was the main settlement inside the park). In contrast to subtropical Iguazú National Park, planners and developers thought that Nahuel Huapi National Park, because of its temperate climate, could compete with the tourism of Europe. Together with Bariloche, it was established for priority projects by national tourism development planners.

One blessing is that the rest of the national park has gone unscathed for the most part and is protected. The lake separates nature from humankind which is a godsend indeed or I am sure it too would be swept up in the almighty pesos/dollar. I just hope that leaders will have the common sense to not develop it.

In 1995, Bariloche made headlines in the international press when it became known as a haven for Nazi war criminals, such as the former SS Hauptsturmführer Erich Priebke. Priebke had been the director of the German School of Bariloche for many years. People had always spoken about Nazis being in the area, but this just confirmed the rumor. There is also a legend that Hitler himself came here after the war along with hos lover, Eva Braun. This was never confirmed, but after the war their bodies were never found only to create more speculation to this as truth. We may never know the truth.


$1US = $12 Argentine pesos on black market (aka Blue rate) or 8.5 at the bank rate.

December 19, 2014


3300 Chile pesos for taxi from bus station to other taxi station

7 bus ride in Argentina to city center (actual cost was 6 but gave 7 to a lady who let me use her pass)

75 grocery--salami, cheese, cherries and Fanta

15 2 scoops of ice cream

$95US for 8 nights in a 4 bed hostel with breakfast

December 20, 2014 COSTS:

10 sweet Danish at artisnal market in Bolson

150 cow fur bottle carrier

15 ham and cheese pie from artisnal market

138 roundtrip bus from Bariloche to Bolson and back

December 21, 2014


20 2 Oreo cookie packs

23 Large (15 liter) bottle of sparkling water and a bag of sweet nuts

December 21, 2014

The last several days/nights I have had the same roomies in the hostel. TangoInn Hostel is relatively close to the center of Bariloche but up a long hill. It can be a real workout with a full backpack--especially if you go the wrong way and go down one more hill than needed only to have to haul your tired self up again. YIKES!

The hostel appears that it may have been a hotel at one time. The reason I state this is because each room has its own private bath. Removing the large beds and constructing bunks, the place is comfortable but not glamorous. The one real blessing is that the hot water in the shower is truly hot and also has good strength to it.

The lower level is the reception area with a computer, lounge, and a place to buy drinks and get information on things to do. The second floor hosts the kitchen where breakfast is served until 10 a.m., a small balcony overlooking the lake, a TV and billiards room, lounge, etc. The three floors above are sleeping quarters, a back balcony with BBQ, a massage room, and hot tub, etc. I am on the 3rd floor up from reception. My floor is painted BRIGHT pink, and I am in room 12.

Each day housekeeping makes the beds after feeding us a full breakfast. I always make sure I am up to get my fill to save some dollars and to hit the road before every Gringo in town hits the slopes.

The one minus about my room is that the boxes that secure your back are barely usable. The locks on them are so small and pathetic you cannot use them. Instead, I put my large pack in the box and choose to sleep with my computer and camera in my bed. It makes for an odd bedfellow but at least I know if they are fiddled with.

The other adventure, or in this case misadventure, is not knowing day to day who your bunkmates will be. Sometimes they are amazing folks who have spun themselves around the planet back and fourth, and other times they are toxic waste ready to spew their nasty selves into your sense of calm. My roomies the last few days have been the latter. EGADS!

At first I was delighted to have them as they were these olive skinned, dark haired, scruffy Israelis, but soon that all disappeared in a New York minute as they seemed to not know how to keep their things tidy in the room, how to talk softly in the evening, when to use a light or not, how not to bang the toilet seat, and worse of the worse was how not to make a ruckus when they come back to the room drunk and wasted at 5 a.m. without waking the entire place. While they may be handsome to look at, there is truth in the ol' adage that pretty is as pretty does. They quickly went from being delicious, exotic hunks of meat to tasteless morsels you wouldn't even give to the starving, street dogs.

It was GREAT to see them go last night. My new roomies last night arrived late, and we didn't have a chance to talk. I could already see that they were men of distinction when they tiptoed about and barely even moved in the night. It was good to have a solid night's rest.

Hostel or hostile--it all depends on who you bunkmates are from one evening to the next.


30 bus card with trip and return to/from Llao Llao

26.5 peanuts and large bottle of water with gas

20 3 scoops of ice cream

30 churassco

December 24, 2014 Waking and peering out the window to see Nahuel Huapi Lake, white caps bump into one another as the wind carries them across the national park. I know today will be cool and windy even before I step foot outside to greet the day just because of the visual forecast. I pull my down vest closer and zipper up the front. There are things open today but think I will stay close to "home". I was hoping to get to Colonia Suiza, but I am told that the buses are sporadic, and if I miss it coming home a Remis taxi is costly to get me back to town. It is 1.5 hours away and past Llao Llao. With a few Argentine pesos left in my pocket, I decide it is better to remain here than to fight the chance of missing the bus and getting back in time for the Christmas eve mass (Noche Buena) at the church down the street.

************************** My nose is stiff stuffy since my arrival to South America. Chile and the desert air dried out my nostrils leaving them scabbed. I keep hoping for a quick recovery but my guess is things will not improve until my return home to the States. Sleeping in particular is tricky as one and then the next nostril closes resulting with me sleeping with my mouth open and waking in the middle of the night because it is dried out. This has resulted with me sleeping with my Nalgene bottle nightly so I can quench my thirst and bring my mouth back to normal. I thought the other day my nose was getting better as I walked around the park. My nose was starting to run and I blew it. It was joyous! This was short lived however and figure the exercise of going up an down the hillsides got my body core to rise and opening up my sinus. I keep reminding myself at least I have not gotten sick from poor air quality. Usually when I go to developing countries, the air quality is poor and I get a sinus infection. I learn to count my blessings when traveling--hot water, comfortable bed, clean clothes, money for food and clean water, etc. I would rather have a stuffed nose even it is scabbed inside than to be sick from air pollution.

****************************** Whispers of music float down the hostel hallway as the lazy day passes before me without my recognition. The sun shifts and new shadows are cast on the tiled floor as hours pass and I sit waiting for the sun to shade the walk below. Once the sun changes and the wind retreats, I will venture outside. I have decided that I will make one purchase today at the corner gift shop. It is nothing spectacular but a little something that will be easy to pack. It is a round, silver, ring-like accessory that the men put their bandanas through. I wanted to buy it the last three days but each time I returned the place was closed for the afternoon and doesn't reopen again until the early evening. I have no idea if it will be open this afternoon or not because of Noche Buena, but I am hoping that it be so. If not, I will wait until December 26 after the Christmas celebrations. Next door is the most affordable ice cream in Bariloche. Single scoops are 10 pesos, doubles are 15 and for 20 you get three scoops, a waffle cone and chocolate sauce. I had a double scoop the first time I was here and had coffee ice cream with Bariloche chocolate. The second time I ate three scoops but no sauce--mint, coffee and the workers favorite which I don't recall the name she liked. It was all very tasty though the mint was not my favorite, and I think I will treat myself again to one as I walk down Mitre to the church service tonight. I figure if I leave around 6:30 to 7 p.m I will have time to buy the jewelry for the scarf, get an ice cream, and make it in time for the 8 p.n. church service. The service should be nice. If I read the poster correctly by the front door of the sanctuary, there will be holiday music. It will set my spirits right as tomorrow will be Christmas here in South America, while back at home friends are already celebrating. I packed a Santa Claus hat from the USA that is done in bright red sequins. I think I may wear it tomorrow to celebrate the holiday and to make a fashion statement. Santa a.k.a. as Papa Noel makes everyone smile a bit more no matter the age. It will look good against my black Patagonia jacket, black shirt and Lee jeans with biker riding boots. Christmas here I come!

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