Blind Dining Experience

We went to this weird restaurant for dinner tonight. On Saturday nights, they do blind dining. Yeah, that’s right, blind. When you get to the door, a person puts a blindfold on you, they ask you if you have any food allergies, and then someone takes you to your table.

At first I thought, what if they tried to put a rat in my mouth, or an eel? My attendant put his or her hand on my shoulder. I jumped about 10 feet in the air and knocked over my chair. I could hear the employees laughing in the distance. I felt really silly, but he or she helped me back into my chair. All this person wanted to do was get my attention to hand me a glass. I was so nervous, but I took a sip. It was just water. I felt even sillier after that.

We were sitting there for about five minutes when the first course came out. My attendant tapped my chin to tell me to open my mouth. I opened it a little and he or she tapped it again. I guess I didn’t open it wide enough the first time, so I opened up wider. This person pushed a spoon with something in my mouth. It tasted sweet yet savory. I could tell it had beef and I could taste something like raisin. It was good, so I waved my hands to ask for more. On the second bite I could taste corn and chicken. What kind of dish has meat, raisins, corn, and chicken? It was a strange combination, but somehow it worked. Yum!

Pastel de Choclo

I felt a breeze whish by me so I assumed my attendant went to get my second course. I was right, because the second breeze came about two minutes later. I could tell this course was something fried. It was cheesy and meaty and delicious. I was fed three of those things before I felt another whish. I wanted more, but I was starting to get full, so I had to save room for the main course and the dessert!

The main dish was the best! It was like a stew, just like my dad makes. It was hearty! I was sad when I could hear my attendant scraping the bottom of the bowl. The last bite was just as good as the first. I was feeling fat and happy. All that was missing was the dessert, and that came very quickly. Before I could pick the last piece of potato out of my teeth, the attendant was tapping at my chin, putting something sweet in my mouth. It was caramelly and gooey and just outright scrumptious.

Chilean Empanadas

After I polished off the last bite, the attendant took off my blindfold and gave me a menu. It was a guy. He explained everything I ate. The first course was a Pastel de Choclo, which is like a Shepherd’s pie but with a whipped corn topping instead of mashed potatoes. The second was Chilean style empanadas. The third was Cazuela, which is a Chilean beef stew. And for dessert, sopaipillas. They are basically pumpkin bread dipped in caramel sauce. I know I wouldn’t have ordered any of that stuff off the menu if I was looking at it, but I’m so glad I got to taste it all! Hats off to the chef and the person who thought of blindfolded dining. What a great way to try new foods!

Sopapilla desert

Read More...

Easter Island

It was finally here, our trip to Easter Island.  I was so excited I could hardly sleep.  We were all packed and ready to go.  Our plane left at 10 am.  All I could think about was how fascinating it would be to see the mysterious statues that cover the Island. There are more than 600 statues called Moai that are carved out of lava rock, and can you believe they are over 20 feet tall.  The carvings are all in the shapes of people and faces.   When we landed at Mataveri Airport we were greeted by the native people of the island.  They gave us a handmade shell and flower necklace and a van was waiting to take us to our hotel.

After about an hour, I was sitting in the lobby waiting for everyone else to come down. The whole time I was thinking, “get ready people!” We were about to take the most amazing tour and everyone was dragging their feet.  Finally after an hour and a half we left the hotel.

The sign on the side of the bus said “All Day Toor.” I thought that was cute, so I didn’t tell t he driver that his sign was wrong. So I got on the bus to take the “all day toor” around the island visiting several locations. First we went to Vaihu, a place surrounded by giant statues that have fallen face down. Then we also went to the Ruins of Akahanga where the statues were all in their natural condition; this is also where the first king of the island is buried.

Fallen statue at Easter island

During our “toor” I learned that the original name of Easter Island was Te Pito O Te Henua, which means “the navel of the world.” The original inhabitants wore tapa clothing, which is a bark cloth made on the Islands of the Pacific Ocean.  The Island gets over 46,000 tourists from Chile, Europe, the U.S., and Japan.  I was very glad to be counted in that number; we were having a great time.

The food on the Island was awesome but different.  I tried ceviche de pescado, which is raw tuna marinated with lemon juice.  I was scared to eat raw fish but once I tried it, it was great.  Rita ate a fish called nanue, which is an oily fish that was not very good.  I also had a completo (a hotdog) and my all time favorite sopaipillas (pancakes)!!!!!!!!

Easter Island Statue line

There is so much to see and do on this island. Thankfully we have three more days to try to see and do it all.  I can’t wait to get home and share this experience with my friends.  I got my best friends Donna and Gwen t-shirts with the statues on them and moai key chains.  I think they’ll want to come here after hearing how much fun we had.

Read More...

Sandboarding

I always thought of myself as an athlete. I’ve always picked up on any sport that I was introduced to, but sandboarding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We got up early in the morning to go to Valle de los Muertos, Chile’s version of Death Valley. The people who had been there the day before said we didn’t want to be out there when the sun was at its hottest, so we got up at dawn to head out to “Death Valley”.

As we were driving down the sandy road, the scenery was beautiful. Who would have thought that sand and rocks could be so amazing? Hot, but beautiful! I made sure to pack a couple of water bottles because I didn’t want to be like those people in the movies with dry mouths and scratchy throats from the heat.

We got out of the truck right around 8 a.m. It was already hot, and you could see the heat waves rising off the sand in the distance. I didn’t mind a little bit of heat, but I definitely didn’t want to be out there at high noon. The truck driver told us he would be back in four hours and he pointed to the top of the sand dune. I thought he must have been mistaken because that was the highest mountain of sand I’d ever seen. I thought to myself, “Is he serious? He really wants us to walk way up there?” But I didn’t want to be a party pooper, so I took a deep breath, took a swig of water, and hauled myself up the dune.

Going up a sand dune at the Atacama desert

I was the first one to the top, and when I turned around, I saw this endless desert. There were shades of brown, red, orange, and purple spread across the horizon. I was excited to be there and even more excited to try sandboarding for the first time. A few of us reapplied sunblock because we were sweating so much. I unpacked the sandboards and passed them around. They looked like a cross between a skateboard without wheels and a snowboard.

Sand boarder

After about 15 minutes we were all ready to roll, or rather, glide. We all lined up across the top of the sand mountain. Then we counted down, 3…2…1!, and pushed off. It was hilarious, because I only went about two feet before I fell! I looked up and no one had gone anywhere. We just assumed it would be like gliding down snow, but it wasn’t. It was much harder. By the time we got back up the dune to try again, there were other sandboarders. We watched their technique and tried to mimic it. By about 10:00, my legs and stomach muscles were on fire! By 11:00, my whole body was hurting. But I DID make it from the top of the dune all the way to the bottom without falling. At the bottom, I checked my watch and it said 11:27am. I figured there was no need to walk allllll the way back up, and I was HURTIN’! So I limped over to the meeting point and waited for the truck. All in all it was a great experience. I don’t know if I’d do it again, but it was great! J

Read More...

The Atacama Desert

We got to the airport really early this morning. I was half sleep, so when the lady checking us in for the flight asked, “Mountain or sea?” I was seriously confused. The only thing I could answer was “huh?” She laughed at me and said she gets that response all the time. Mountain or sea means, do you want to sit on the left side of the plane and have a view of the Pacific Ocean, or on the right side and have a view of the Cordillera, the Andes mountain range. Because there were so many of us traveling together, we will be spread out so we could choose both.  Personally I wanted to sit on the left side of the plane and see the Pacific Ocean.  I love to see bodies of water from the air. Oceans form different shapes, and from that high are so so so so so beautiful!

While we were on the plane I had some time to reflect on where we were going. Atacama happens to be the driest desert in the world.  Can you believe that some parts of this desert have had no recorded rainfall in over 400 years! Its geography is unique and includes lagoons, volcanoes, salt flats, geysers (shooting water/steam), hot springs, rivers and ravines, and saltpeter deposits. Earlier civilizations even left mummies, among the oldest in the World. I think it would be cool to see a real mummy up close. Of course, as you can tell, I did my homework on Atacama

Atacama desert

Once we arrived, we went straight to our tour (bags and all.) The first stop was the Tatio Geyser. Even though there are a lot of geysers in one area, none of them erupt very high.  The highest eruption observed has been around 20 feet high. The average geyser eruption at El Tatio is about two and a half feet. Wow, what a difference.  It is said that the best time to see these geysers is at sunrise when each geyser is surrounded by a column of steam that condenses in the cold morning air. The steam disappears as the air warms up. It is also possible to bathe in a small pool of hot geyser water. BUT, parts of the field are very dangerous with a thin crust over the almost boiling mud. That would be a cool experience as long as we know which pool is which. LOL!

Tatio Geyser at Atacama desert

I think this trip is going to be a true adventure and we will have tons of stories to tell when we get back.   But now all I can think about is the fact that the desert days are very hot and nights are very cold…WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR!!!!!!!!!

Read More...

Volcán Villarica

Ok, it’s one thing to tell me we’re going hiking, but it’s another to tell me we’re going hiking on top of a snow-covered, ACTIVE volcano. It’s called Volcán Villarica, and it is in central Chile. I was excited to go. I was interested to see this marvel. So many contrasts in one place, and we were on our way there. As we were in the van, we passed by several beautiful places. There was a lake where the water looked like a mirror. It was almost black, but you could see a clear reflection. Then there was another small lake with a waterfall. I rolled down the window so I could hear the tranquil sounds. So peaceful!

I started to feel a little chill, so I knew we were getting close. Five minutes later, we stepped out of the van onto a dirt path at the foot of the volcano. A lady named Angela was there to greet us. She was our guide, and she also had the coolest Chilean accent! We all hung onto her every word. Angela started walking us up the trail and telling us about the Volcán Villarica. She said it’s about the size of Mount Saint Helens in Washington State. It’s also only one of four volcanoes that have an active stream of lava inside. That means when there is an eruption, the lava shoots out of the top and melts some of the snow. And the lava also causes rainstorms from the sulfur ash going into the atmosphere. Pretty interesting, huh?

Snow covered Volcán Villarica

As she was talking, I heard a crunch, so I looked down at my feet. Apparently we’d gotten far enough up the mountain to reach the snow. Angela kept talking, and we kept trekking up the volcano. I could see a sulfur cloud coming out the top of the volcano. The cloud appeared to be getting closer and closer, and the climb was getting steeper and steeper. When I looked back, I could see for MILES in every direction!

Finally, after hours of walking, we arrived at the moment of truth . . . the cone. I was debating if I was actually going to look down at the lava or admire it from afar. One by one, everyone else peered down a hole. I was a little nervous; with my luck, I would get hit by steam be bald like Andy. But I mustered up the courage to creep forward and look down. I took a quick peek and jumped back. That’s all I needed to see! From what I saw it looked like someone cut out the center of a mountain and poured in a little circle of orange liquid. It was pretty cool, but it was cold. So we hiked back down and went to get hot cocoa.

Volcán Villarica crater

Read More...