Archive for the ‘South America’ Category


Saturday, March 22nd, 2008

Pantanal 329 I suspect many of my friends in the U.S. are focused on rapidly-changing bond ratings.  And if I were plugged into my former life, I’d probably spend time thinking about it as well.  But in remote Western Brazil, in a region called the Pantanal, we were immersed in a AAAA-rated instrument — Anteaters, Anacondas, Armadillos, and Antwrens.  I take the animals anyday!

Pantanal 444 I’m sure many of you will be aghast that we decided to blow off Morocco to take in part of Brazil, and have more time in Egypt, but that’s what we decided to do.  After Antarctica, we flew to Sao Paolo, Brazil, South America’s largest (but not nicest) city.  We spent an overnight in this city of XX million, but really saw almost nothing of it.  We then flew west to a place called the Caiman Lodge in the Pantanal.

Pantanal by Gibson 357 While there are no icebergs, glaciers, or mountains in the Pantanal, it has its own special beauty.  It’s a blend of many ecosystems, combining aspects of all surrounding areas.  It’s not a jungle, though, which actually makes it easier to observe the surroundings, including some spectacular wildlife.

Pantanal 397 We spent four great days at the Pantanal, which probably gave us a good preview of coming times on safari in Africa.  We would get up early and either hike or explore the area by truck, but be back at the lodge by 11:00 a.m.  Then, after a mid-day break and lunch, we’d be out exploring again in the late afternoon, including once by canoe.  After dinner, we’d do a night hike or spotlight safari.  So we were busy, and took in a lot.

Pantanal by Gibson 261 During our time in the Pantanal, we saw lots of great wildlife, including 12 reptiles/amphibians, 11 mammal species, and 120 bird species.  Our favorite viewing was the famous Yellow Anaconda, and Gibson got some great videos of this snake.  At night, we’d see 20-30 caiman (South America’s version of an alligator) lying in a river, jaws open, and snapping down on passing fish. 

Pantanal 384 Our mammal highlights were the bizarre Giant Anteater and a local Armadillo.  Honestly, the Anteater, a nocturnal animal (and no decent night pictures — sorry!) is the most improbable of animals.  Even if I had a decent photo (and the one at left/right is the best we managed), you can hardly make head nor tail of this odd creature.  We had other great sightings here, including the world’s largest rodent (the Capybara).  It’s possible to see some other great mammals here (Tapir, Ocelot, Jaguar, River Otter), but we weren’t able to track them down during our stay.

Pantanal 292 There was some great birdlife in the Pantanal, and we loved watching the Jabiru Stork (below right), the Wattled Jacana  (left), the Rusty-backed Antwren, the Burrowing Owl, the Greater Rhea, and the Hyacinth Macaw.  Lots of brilliant birds, and they were everywhere.  What was most memorable, though, wasn’t a particular bird sighting, but how the most exotic birds were just everywhere in this great region.

Pantanal 515 This destination isn’t for everyone.  If you don’t love wildlife, there are probably better places to explore.  And the Caiman Lodge was fairly basic, but we found it delightful.  For us, though, it was a great end to our South American stay, and a good basis for planning a future trip to Brazil.

Check out our Pantanal photos.

The Really Deep South

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Falklands 018 Before leaving for our trip, we had lived in Charleston, South Carolina, for four years.  So we felt really prepared for Ushuaia, the world’s southern most city.  It’s in the very bottom of Argentina, with a population of 65,000.  We had a great couple day stay there as we prepared for our departure to Antarctica, combining last-second shopping with some hiking and nature exploration. 

Ushuaia 147Our trip received a bit of a challenge when the box we shipped from the U.S. with all sorts of cold weather  clothes, books, and other key supplies got held hostage in customs in Buenos Aires.  With almost a month of lead time, and lots of effort, we flat out failed to get the box liberated from Argentinian customs, and finally gave up.  That’s one thing we’ve learned about traveling abroad — getting anything through customs in a nightmare.  Fortunately, the shopping in Ushuaia was pretty good, and we were able to replace most everything that didn’t come through.

Ushuaia 187 There’s an Argentinian national park right in Ushuaia, and we spent the better part of a day hiking through it.  We took a great route along the Beagle Channel, and it was gorgeous.  We got some spectacular views (see photo in paragraph above) of the southern Argentina coastline, and some great looks at wildlife.  The highlight, for sure, was the Magellanic Woodpecker.  We actually got great looks at three of them — two males and one female — and they are spectacular.  Anyway, Ushuaia was supposed to be just a stopover point, but we left with fond memories.  Now, it’s on to Antarctica!

I’ll get our photos up from Ushuaia at some point, but our internet connection from the Southern Ocean is pretty limited. 

Breath-taking Torres

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Torres del Paine 045 If you like nature, especially hiking and geology, you’ll love Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile.  It’s not easy to get to (one of its redeeming features), but it’s just an amazing place to be.  The views are stunning, the mountain peaks superb, and the glaciers breath-taking, and the guanacos ubiquitous (too ubiquitous?!?!).

Torres del Paine 015 We flew into Puerto Natales on a small plane, landing in winds gusting up to 60 mph.  It’s the first time I’ve ever hit my head on the ceiling of an airplane, despite having my seatbelt on.   We landed safe and sound, though, and were off to the Explora (great place to stay) in Torres del Paine.   On the way, though, we stopped at a cave where paleontologists had discovered milodon fossils less than 100 years ago.  The milodon is a large (3 meters high) sloth-like creature that is almost as frightening as the four more modern creatures recently sited at this cave.  Apparently, Patagonia was quite a hotbed of dinosaur activity millions of years ago.

Torres del Paine 125 I had been to this park in 1991, and still recall the great hikes.  The interior of the park hasn’t changed much since then, although there are many more lodges here (including where we stayed), more developed roads, and more guanacos (smaller versions of a llama, and a relative of the camel).  In 1991, there were about 250 guanacos in the park, and the current population is more than 4,000.  The natural predator of the guanaco is the puma, which must be enjoying the guanaco surge, although we failed to spot this elusive cat.

Torres del Paine 088 We spent three+ full days here, full of hiking and, for the girls, horse-back riding.  The best hikes were to Gray Lake, with great views of the Gray Glacier, and several large icebergs that had broken off.  We also went on a hike to get a great look at the three towers that from the Torres.  BTW, Torres del Paine is a multi-language amalgam, with “torres” meaning towers in Spanish, and “paine” meaning blue in the native language here.  And while the towers didn’t strike us as particularly blue, the glaciers certainly were.

Torres del Paine 224 We got some great views of a Gray Fox while out hiking., along with some nice views of Andean Condors flying not too far overhead.  We had some other nice animal sightings (no snakes or other reptiles, to the chagrin of our kids!), but the real appeal of Torres del Paine is the spectacular geology.  The Andes are the world’s youngest and most active mountain range, and the southern tip of them occurs where there are layers of granite and shale quite visible in the peaks.  They just rise straight up from their bases, and tower over the glacial lakes in the valleys.  The glacier activity here was fierce historically, and several large glaciers remain active in the area.

Torres del Paine 235 Make no mistake about it, Patagonia is the land of the wind.  Several of the vans driving around the park had broken windows — not from rocks or vandalism, but from gusts powerful enough to shatter the glass.  We had times when the wind was blowing so hard that it would knock us off our feet.  And all of us had fun at times leaning against the wind, which was so strong that we couldn’t fall down even if we wanted to.  The wind was often blowing 50 mph and the gusts could go up to 80 mph.  Torres del Paine is at the same southern latitude as London is in the northern hemisphere, but the climates couldn’t be more different.  Of course, being located at a latitude where no other land masses exist, and having a current running by directly from Antarctica, can create unusual circumstances.

Torres del Paine 028 There’s something of a selection process that affects the people who come here.  It’s not an easy place to get to, and you have to really value an outdoors experience to make the trek down here.  We found the people staying at the Explora (photo of the lodge on the right) to be fascinating, and had almost as much fun in the restaurant area or on vans chatting with the other guests as we had when we were out hiking around.  If you go to Torres del Paine, stay at the Explora; it’s such a great place, it’s worth planning your visit around its availability.

Torres del Paine 023 On our last day, Sterling went for a swim in the river running by the Explora,  This river is fed directly from glacial melt.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have a camera to record this swim for posterity, but the rest of us were reminded of two summers ago, when she went swimming in a glacial lake in Alaska, complete with icebergs.  Somehow, she inherited some polar bear genes!

All in all, an awesome destination, and our last stop in Chile, a country we’ll be very sad to say good-bye to.  But we’ll definitely be back, since it has so much to offer.  Click here for more photos.

Watch Out For That Tree!

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Puerto Varas 462 We had a wonderful time in the Lake District of Chile, which is emerging as my favorite country on the trip to date.  The Lake District is mid-way down the country, in an area featuring the stunning Mt. Osorno volcano.  This volcano really is as spectacular as the photographs suggest, and we were lucky to get some clear views while in the Puerto Varas area.

Puerto Varas 018 A highlight for us was something with no educational and cultural merit.  We spent a morning on what the Chileans call a “canopy,” and which we’d call a zipline in the U.S.  None of us had ever done a canopy before, but we had a blast.  I have to admit to having some questions about the engineering skills of the designer as they hitched me to a 600 foot long cable stretching across a very wide, and very deep (about 200 feet from line to bottom) canyon.  Well, all of us survived, none of us slammed too hard into the trees at the end of each line (thoughtfully padded), and we enjoyed the heck out of it.

Puerto Varas 150 We stayed at one of the nicest places on our trip, El Quincho Lodge, in Puerto Varas.  The people there was just unbelievably nice, and helped us with our stay.  The lodge had a spacious backyard, rooms with views of the volcano, and some of the most spectacular sunsets we’ve seen all trip.  We also went exploring near the Osorno Volcano, as well as visiting a local farm.  And we spent a day exploring nearby Chiloe, the second largest island in South America (find out below what is the largest!).

Puerto Varas 352 Chiloe sits right in the Pacific Ocean, and seems far more European than South American, having been settled originally largely by Germans.  We had to cross a fun ferry to get there (including having the sea lion on the right swim up to us), but had some great spots we visited while on the island.  It was terrific for some very scenic beaches, and gave us some great birding spots. 

Puerto Varas 423 While on Chiloe, we drove to explore a local penguin colony.  Although we’re about a week away from setting off to Antarctica, where we’ll see tons of penguins, we thought it would be fun to see some warm weather penguins.  These mid-sized penguins nest on a small island about 100 meters off the Chiloe shore, and are interesting since the dig holes in the dirt with their wings and nest high up on a hill.  Their nests look like a penguin version of a high-rise apartment complex (see left).  The Magellenic and Humbolt’s Penguin were both there, and it was a fun spot to see on many fronts. 

Puerto Varas 371In all, we had a blast in Chiloe and the Lake District, and it was one of many highlights from our stay in the great country of Chile. For more on the Lake District, feel free to check out our photos.


Sunday, February 17th, 2008

Bariloche 115 This posting will be brief, as there’s precious little to report on from Bariloche.  Bariloche is a ski town in western Argentina, nestled at the foot of the Andes.  I can imagine the draw of being here in winter for skiing, but February is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and unlike ski towns in the U.S. (e.g., Aspen) with lots going on in the summer, we didn’t find much to do in Bariloche of interest.  It’s beautiful, but a dull summer venue.

Bariloche 097 We did have one fabulous day when we drove a couple of hours to go on a whitewater rafting trip down the Mansa River.  The landscape here is beautiful, and there’s no better way to see it than from a raft.  The river this time of year is a Class 2+, which meant we had a few good rips through current, but were never at any risk of falling out of the boat.  The kids did manage to find and catch a Mountain Slope Lizard (picture below a few paragraphs), and we got in a great swim. 

Bariloche Other than the rafting trip, our four days in Bariloche were largely restful and uneventful.  We got a lot of homework done and had a lot of relaxed family fun.   At dinner on Friday night, though, we ran into good friends from Charleston — Wally and Bev Sensheimer — and it was great to catch up with them.  They were spending a couple of weeks in Argentina on a business/fun trip involving the YPO organization.  It was only the second time on our trip we had run into people by coincidence that we knew already. 

Picture 317 We did follow the primary returns on Tuesday night from my native state of Virginia, as well as DC and Maryland — more exciting results.  For good luck on Tuesday, I wore my Barack Obama tee-shirt, and had many strangers approach me (mostly from South America) telling me how much they hope the United States elects him President.  Amen!!

We’ve loved South America, but our trip has — perhaps in keeping with Latin America — run hot and cold.  We’ve spent time in places we’ve loved, but we’ve also visited places that combine being a) hard to get to, and b) not that interesting for us.  As I type this, we’re on our way back to Chile, confident that our next destination (Punta Arenas and Puerto Montt, Chile) will be more engaging than Bariloche. 

Bariloche 087 Our stay in Bariloche was not enhanced by our hotel.  We stayed at the Llao Llao, a sprawling hotel, with beautiful views and horrible service.  Our room was ten minutes and three elevators away from the lobby and restaurant — so at least we got our exercise.  The best example I can provide of the service here is when a hotel staff person knocked on our door after midnight to deliver a non-urgent message.  As they say, the elevator didn’t go to the top floor frequently at this hotel.

I suspect that anyone else visiting here could come up with a more interesting set of things to do than we came up with.  Apart from the rafting, we chewed up most of a day on  a long drive to a short hike around a lagoon.  We took a short hike by the hotel on a road and a crowded trail.  And that was pretty much it for four days in Bariloche.  And, on the morning of our departure, we got a call at 10:00 a.m. that our noon flight would be delayed by five+ hours.  Oh well.  All part of life on the road.

And, although you won’t find much of interest, feel free to check out our Bariloche photos.  There are some nice shots of the lake and mountains here.

Beautiful Buenos Aires

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

We had a fabulous time in world-class Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital.  BA is a strikingly-beautiful city, with lots to offer.  We were there for four days, with lots of highlights, and one clear “lowlight.”  Elizabeth came down with something pretty nasty while we were in BA, meaning she got to spend lots of time in our hotel room.  She eventually recovered in time to enjoy some of the sights and fun of this city, but two days on her back, unable to eat anything, won’t go down as a trip highlight. 

Buenos Aires 344 Our clear highlight in Argentina was getting a chance to see long-time friends Barbie Van Buskirk deJesus and her fabulous husband Marcelo.  They now have three really cute children, ages 8, 4, and not quite 3.  We were able to spend Sunday afternoon with them, and then Barbie and her oldest son, Nicholas, spent the day touring the city on Monday.  They’re doing really well, and it was terrific to catch up with them.  Barbie deserves partial credit for Elizabeth and my meeting, since she was a close mutual friend of both of ours while we were in Boston. 

Baseball in BA 599 We started our time in Buenos Aires with another really fun baseball outing.  To our surprise, a senior reporter for covered the get together, and wrote a terrific article about our baseball activities during our travel year.  We actually got to spend a fair amount of time with our hosts here, as well as with the reporter, which was a lot of fun.

Buenos Aires 358 A real highlight of our stay in BA was a visit to the Recoleta Cemetery right downtown.  Evita Peron is buried there, so we took in this mandatory tomb.  But some of the others were remarkable.  It’s an unusual cemetery, built from farmland in 1820, and reserved for BA’s blue blood.   The cemetery has no grassy areas, just sidewalks and elaborate stone graves.   Many were elegant and impeccably maintained, others were in various stages of disrepair.  It was a great place to spend a couple of hours, and learn a lot about Argentina’s history.

Buenos Aires 013 While in BA, we went to a neighborhood called La Boca, which is unique in the world.  Elizabeth was sick all weekend, so we didn’t go on Saturday or Sunday when I’m sure it’s really hopping.  But even on a Monday afternoon, it was fascinating.  Many of the houses are sided by corrugated metal, painted in fanciful colors.  The streets are full of life, including couples dancing Argentina’s famous tango.  Elizabeth and I also tried our skills at the tango while in La Boca.  Elizabeth, as you can see (photo on right), was dressed perfectly for the dance, and I held my own.  She didn’t seem to show any ill effects from the bug she had, and looked terrific in this lovely red dress :-)

Buenos Aires 393 As we spent time with our friends here, it made us realize how much our lives have changed in the past fifteen years, and how quickly our kids are growing up.  Somehow, this photo in a park in Buenos Aires was somehow symbolic of what’s happened to each of us over the past several years.  As our kids go from toddlers to young adults, we’re hoping they resemble sturdy oak trees, able to stand strong against the many strong winds they’ll face in the future.    But for now, on a sunny day in a lovely park in Buenos Aires, it was great to spend time with friends and enjoy life.

BA, like Santiago, is filled with great park areas, which we took full advantage of.  We made a quick visit to a Museum dedicated to Evita Peron (not that exciting), and did a fair amount of walking around the city.  The city has all sorts of interesting neighborhoods, and looks like a great place to live. 

For more on Buenos Aires, check out our photos.

Baseball in BA!

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Baseball in BA 540 Normally, baseball people think of “BA” as Batting Average.  From now on, though, we’ll think of it as Buenos Aires!  We played ball today with two great teams in the capital of Argentina, and had an outstanding time.  Our point of contact was Jorge Marcelo Ramia, who heads Little League Baseball for Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay.  He and a wonderful woman named Lucia Garcia Labat pulled together the get together, and did a great job of setting everything up.  Not only did we have two teams, a field, and a light lunch, but we ended up with some great surprises at the end of the game.


Baseball in BA 618 The two teams that played were the Nichia Gakvin team (a team from an interesting school here that focuses on Japanese culture) and the Club Independiente.  The players ranged in age from eight years old to fourteen, and included both boys (mostly) and girls.  The clouds threatened rain at one point during the morning (we started at 10:00 a.m.), but cleared to give us a beautiful day.  We couldn’t play on their normal field, which is in the same park as the tennis stadium that was the site of the Argentina-England Davis Cup match that same day.  But we managed to turn a nice soccer field into a decent baseball venue.

Baseball in BA 491The game got off to an exciting start as Nichia’s first batter hit the very first pitch over everyone’s head for a four bagger.  It was clear these kids understood the game.  Things settled down after that, and we ended up playing a five inning action-packed game.  They were kind enough to let Gibson pitch the last two innings.  He hasn’t pitched in a game since an inning in New Zealand in November, so I was hoping he wouldn’t plunk one of their batters with a hard inside pitch!  But he pitched really well, including striking out the side in the last inning.  His team, though, got the short end of the bat, in a game that no one seemed to care about the score, and everyone seemed to care about having fun. 

Baseball in BA 629 We’ve found over and over that these programs really take off once there are some expert, enthusiastic coaches (entrenadors, in Espanol), and the BA program had such coaches.   Marcelo, our host, has a complete passion for the game, even though he only began playing five years ago.  And Coach Walter was terrific with the kids, and gave Gibson some great advice.  The Nichia coach was also very on top of things. Baseball in BA 532 Argentina has a number of very good younger players, but my bet is that their baseball program takes off as soon as one makes it into the major leagues (a la Manu Ginobili in the NBA).  It’s a very athletic country, with world-class athletes in many sports, and baseball may be next in line.

Baseball in BA 555 At the end of the game, Marcelo was incredibly kind.  He presented several of us with framed certificates of thanks for helping their program (including the team’s coach Walter, in red shirt at right).  Mine will have a special place on my desk (assuming at some future point I have a desk again!).  And he gave Gibson, Sterling, and me hats.  We presented each of the players with Red Sox hats (ones commemorating their 2004 epic World Series win over the St. Louis Cardinals). 

Baseball in BA 657 We had an unexpected surprise set of visitors at our game.  Justice B. Hill (left, between two brothers on the team), a senior writer for, came to learn about baseball in Argentina and about our little Baseball Ambassadors program.  And he was joined by Bob Payne of the Seattle Times (below).   Both were really interesting people, and it was great to get to know them.  Justice was in Argentina for four weeks attendingBaseball in BA 464 an intensive course on Spanish, and Bob comes to Argentina  every winter for a couple of weeks to take a break from Seattle’s cold and rain in the winter.  These gentlemen know their baseball inside out, and really added a lot to our experience here.  And watch for a story on the day in!

For more on baseball in BA, check out our photos!

The Cordoba Countryside

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Colibri 098 We left Chile, temporarily, to head to Argentina, and we started our stay in this fabulous country with a visit to the Argentinian countryside.  We flew to Cordoba and stayed at a ranch called El Colibri.  We’ve had some great experiences on our trip staying at ranches in the middle of nowhere (Bullo River in Australia being a real trip highlight), and El Colibri was a blast.  The food was terrific, there were great hiking trails, some great birds, and lots, and lots, and lots of toads!

Santiago 233 On our first hike, alongside a the local river, Sterling found a toad hidden on the riverbank, which we were thrilled to discover.  We thought, naively, that we might not see any more toads during our stay.  Ha!!  I’ll come back to the toads later.  But we also saw some great birds, including the Guira Cuckoo, the Burrowing Owl, the Brown Cacholote, and the Double-Collared Seedeater.  It was reminiscent of Australia to be in the countryside where amazing birds were whisking by every second. 

Baseball in BA 010 We got a great tour of the ranch’s farm area by one of the farmhands.  He spoke not a word of English, though, so my paltry Spanish skills were put to the test.  We at least didn’t end up locked in the pen with the sheep, so my grade in Spanish avoided the embarrassing “F.”  But we got a surprise when Mauro, the farmhand, presented our kids with “un regalo” (a present) — a young Monk Parakeet hBaseball in BA 009e had caught by hand.  Even though the bird couldn’t  accompany us further on the trip, our kids were all over the idea of having a pet, even for just two days.  They named the bird “Feathers Loro Dintersmith” (above), and she was soon parked safely in an elegant home-made cage (right) and fed every piece of fruit and vegetable that our kids could turn up at El Colibri.

Colibri 320 Gibson continued his assault on the Guinness Book of World Records in El Colibri, losing yet another tooth.  He has now lost teeth in four different continents — North America, Australia (the outback), Asia (the Taj Mahal), and South America (El Colibri).  And, best of all, he has two or three loose teeth now.  In coming weeks, we will have a few days in Antarctica, a few hours touching down in Europe, and almost three months in Africa on the remainder of the trip.  How many continents can he cover?  Four down, three to go!!!

One night, our kids snuck off to an area in the front of the hotel, andSantiago 121  seemed to be having a blast.  Elizabeth and I could hear lots of laughing and giggling, and just smiled at each other, knowing the joy our little, devoted children were having as they explored the countryside of Argentina.  Little did we know that they had found a place on the grounds that seemed to specialize in the mass production of something Colibri 262that we believe is a Cane Toad.  After seeing these toads, I can only think that “Cane” must be a word in some language meaning “hideous beyond belief.”  And, best of all, our lovely, well-behaved children were catching these toads, sneaking them into the hotel, and hiding them in our bathtub, eagerly awaiting our surprise upon discovering a tubful of 17 big, ugly Cane Toads!!!  Well, you can imagine how thrilled we were to be on the receiving end of such creativity and thoughtfulness :-) !!  At that point, we approached the owners of El Colibri and asked if they’d consider an arrangement where we’d leave the kids with them, and take the toads!!

Colibri 121 On one afternoon, Elizabeth and Sterling went horseback riding, and had a great time.  Meanwhile, Gibson and I went for a great hike, including a great bird spot he made, where he saw two fabulous birds at once — the Scimiter-billed Woodcreeper and the Spot-backed Puffbird.  Either one of these birds would be a treat, but to see both in the same tree at the same time was terrific.   El Colibri was just this kind of place — not a lot of structured stuff to do, but some great areas to explore and terrific food and accommodations.

Feel free to get a better sense of this great region of Argentina from our photos.

Laying Low in Santiago

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Santiago 087 We had a relaxing couple of days in Santiago, Chile.  In addition to playing baseball, we explored some of Santiago’s downtown, got a lot of errands done, had lunch with a nice family (dad a chef) with an eleven-month old, and drove up into the mountains on a fun excursion from downtown.  We also took in Santiago’s top museum, the Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art.  We weren’t expecting to like Santiago, but found this city of six million people to be remarkably agreeable, full of lots and lots of well-maintained city parks.

Santiago 078 The downtown area has a lot of nicely-architected buildings.  We didn’t spend a lot of time touring the city’s sights, but did manage to swing by most of the important buildings in Chile’s capital.  We were struck by how clean and livable the city appeared to be.  It helped to be visiting on a weekend, when none of the commuter traffic was an issue. 

Santiago 061 One thing we did in Santiago, though, was to take a fairly relaxed approach to exploring the city.  We’re having a great time on our trip, but the pace in the first four weeks was fairly intense, and we decided to re-structure our itinerary for the rest of our time in South America, reducing our number of destinations and spending more time in each.  So instead of one packed day in Santiago, we had two leisurely days, caught up on errands, did lots of homework, and just hung out as a family, all of which were fabulous.

Santiago 106 Santiago is wedged between the Andes and the Coastal Mountain Ranges.  We wound our way up the Andes side one afternoon.  We knew we were in for some twists and turns when, after a half hour, we asked our driver how close we were to the top?  He then told us we were on curve 9 out of 45!  Ouch!  But we climbed slowly, got some great views, and even got a decent view of  the Andean Condor!!  As we got higher, though, it got colder and started to rain, so it was great to return to the sunshine of Santiago.

For more on an interesting South American city, Santiago, feel free to check out our photos.

Baseball in Santiago

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

Baseball in Santiago 044 On a sunny, warm Super Bowl Sunday, we had weather like Glendale’s but a completely different experience from our friends rooting for the Patriots in Arizona.  We played Sunday morning baseball in Santiago, Chile, with a great group of young boys and girls.  Their coach, Luis Hernandez Olmedo, was a terrific host, and brought lots of enthusiasm to his teams in Santiago. 

Baseball in Santiago 006 As best as I could gather (I speak some Spanish, and none of the coaches spoke any English, so I may be off on some of these points!), they have two younger teams (12 and under) in the Little League, one team for older kids (15 and under) and an emerging league for adults.  They seem to be picking up momentum, and there were players at our practice session showing up for the first time (besides us :-) ).   We caught them during their summer vacation, and they adjusted their practice time to better fit into our schedule, so we played from 10:30 a.m. to a bit after noon.

Baseball in Santiago 047 The gathering had the feel of a great family picnic.  Several parents were there, and there were sets of cousins on the team.  They came from all sorts of different backgrounds.  About 1/3 rd of the players all went to a nearby private school, and had parents who were in professional occupations (doctors, engineers, lawyers).  Another 1/3 rd all went to the same public school, and came from fairly poor backgrounds.  And the final third came from all over, and were friends of others on the team, or just had an interest in baseball.

Baseball in Santiago 027 We were dragging a bit this morning, and poor Gibson was running on empty.  Our flight from Easter Island was delayed by about four hours (no reason ever announced), and we got to our hotel in Santiago after midnight.  He got to bed around 1:00 a.m. (normal bedtime is 9:00 p.m.), and so the wake-up call this morning seemed especially early.  As I write this blog at 5:00 p.m. from our hotel room here, he’s asleep in the other room taking a catch-up nap.

Baseball in Santiago 002 The practice started with some stretching drills, a run around the field, and proceeded to shagging fly balls in the outfield.  After that, they focused on infield drills.  As far as I could tell, they didn’t have batting helmets, and only had a few old balls.  So, at least during our practice time with this group, it wasn’t possible to do real hitting practice.

Baseball in Santiago 054 There were a number of young girls at the practice, which was exciting to see.  The team only practices once a week, but it was clear that some of the players were practicing a lot at home.  The big sport in Chile is football (soccer, for those in the U.S.), and baseball is not on many kids’ radar screen.  However, these coaches were terrific, they were excited to be playing Little League baseball, and the players brought lots of enthusiasm to the practice, despite playing on a hot Sunday morning.

Baseball in Santiago 009 The one negative about this gathering was that several of the participants had New York Yankees hats :-) .  We quickly saw to it that they were Red Sox-ized, and we hope to make them long-term converts to Red Sox Nation!  Feel free to check out our pictures from this fun day in Santiago, Chile, with an up and coming baseball organization.