Archive for November, 2009

Chilling Out at a Chilean Spa

Even the best organized trips can become tiring if you don’t take a few days off so I’m chilling in a remote location hidden in the dripping rain forests on Puyuhaipi Sound. Five hours of cruising through the green labyrinth of the fjords led us to the area some call ¨South of Silence¨. Not exactly true. The rustling ferns and dripping rain, the croaking frogs and trickling water seeping from the steaming, thermal springs fills the jet black night.

At the Puyuhuapi Lodge and Spa there are three outdoor soaking pools, at different temperatures. I soaked and paddled under a waterfall in the fern and rock grotto.  Maybe after a glass of Pinot Noir I’ll return to the soaking pools and get up the courage to splash into the freezing sound.

There are also three tubs and an octagonal pool inside. Reputed to be one of the very best spas in the country. The lodge is a beautiful wood structure with shingle walls and roofs.

We hiked into the rain forest and saw a puma’s tracks, then heard a cat meow and the guide explained the wild, ring-tailed civet cat. White boots were given to us to navigate through the mud. After an hour of hiking the guide checked our boots for tiny leeches. I was the lucky recipient of a crafty little guy who had inched his way to my jeans. Now I know why you wear white boots in the Chilean rain forest.

Kayaked through the inlet and between islands. Water so clear you can see 6-feet down to the mussel and clamshells. An eagle buzzed overhead and we paddled by heron and cormorants.

Finished the afternoon with a massage and wine therapy: a soothing, anti-aging bath with a purée of grape seed mixed into the bubbling hot water to generate a new vitality and elasticity of the skin. It just made me want to find some cheese and drink the wine rather than bath in it.

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Perfect Days in Patagonia

I’m on the edge of beyond in Northern Patagonia, where the wind howls down the plunging valleys and ricochets between the imposing mountains, forests, rivers, and endless, barren steppes. Traveling through Patagonia is no small undertaking. Today I flew two hours south from Patagonia to an area renown for its fly-fishing and remoteness. I have trouble pronouncing the main town’s name, Coyhaique.

A half-hour out of the tiny airport we spotted condors circling overhead. They are impressive birds of prey with 12- foot-wingspans. As I snapped a photo four of the elusive, wild Chilean Huemules crept out of the forest followed by four Elk-like animals. The paved road ended after an hour and we continued on a dirt road for another four hours, through sun, rain, snow and wind tunnels. No cities, no telephone lines, banks, cell-phone reception or billboards.

I’m not roughing it though. After a soothing soak in the jacuzzi with a backdrop of the lake, ice fields and glaciers, I sipped Chilean Pinot Noir, dined on fresh water salmon and stoked the embers in the fireplace in my room at Tres Lagos (www.haciendatreslagos.com), a luxury lodge on the edge of nowhere. Tres Lagos means three lakes and it’s right in the middle of turquoise, black and dark blue lakes.

Think the area is unknown? Michael Douglas comes to fly-fish and get away from it all, Kevin Costner has a home here and Julia Roberts dropped in to drop out. I’ve been zip-lining through the forest canopy between 9 platforms, with glimpses of the lake, glaciers and the lodge below. One morning I went bushwhacking in a dense forest with the mountain guide and we collected morels.

The scenery is spectacular.

Every day has been, as they say here, a three or four-season day, warm sun, wind, rain and occasional snow. Patagonia is dramatic!

Green, Clean & Glistening Santiago

I arrived safely after a 21-hour trip and stop in Lima, Peru.  Only 4 hours of sleep in the past 24. I am enjoying the people watching in the lobby of the ultra chic W Hotel in the downtown financial area of beautiful Santiago. It is the first W in South America. The hotel is on the 4th and 5th floors of an office building, filled with business men in blacks suits, white shirts and ties. Conservative dress but very good-looking. By the way the women are beautiful too.

Santiago is GREEN, CLEAN and GLISTENING with new, modern shiny skyscrapers. Very prosperous looking. Building everywhere and little tree-lined neighborhoods with pastel-colored homes and outdoor cafes and charming restaurants filled with antiques. Bella Vista is my favorite neighborhood, filled with students, yuppies, art galleries, tree-lined small streets, flamingo clubs, and unique street sculptures.

I am really amazed by the cleanliness and prosperity of the city and how modern many of the buildings are. They’ve had an economic boom for the past 20 years. USA used to be their largest trade partner and now it’s China. Everything WORKS from cell phones to internet cafes. About every 3 blocks there is another park, all well maintained and green and filled with lovers on the grass. The guide said to me “Ah Seniora, it is spring you know.” The city has 6 million inhabitants and is squeezed between the snow-covered Andes and the sea, with a river that flows right through the middle of town. A freeway was built for 3 miles under the river and town so you can easily get around. Very progressive. The largest, most fortified building I have seen is the American Embassy.

What a land of contrasts. The fish market had the largest king crabs I have ever seen and people were playing guitars and singing as others dinned at 4pm which is the end of lunchtime. I was told not to bother going out for dinner until at least 9pm.

You get glimpses of snow-capped mountains and even a huge glacier between the skyscrapers.

Gotta run. Thanks for your good wishes.

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Packing Pains

Why do we obsess over what we pack? The worst things to forget are a cell phone charger, passport or photo ID, enough cash and the name and address of your hotel.

Nevertheless, packing can be painful even for an experienced traveler. The night before my trip to Chile I found myself in frenzy mode packing one small roll-aboard suitcase for 3 weeks and covering climates from Santiago and Buenos Aires warm and sophisticated, to Patagonia trekking, to Tierra del Fuego freezing and zodiac boat cruises right up to glaciers. Seems like I always need more time to pack and plan and research. It helped a lot to Google the weather for the next 10 days in all three areas of Chile (north, Patagonia and extreme south). So I packed 3 pairs of shoes…light sandals for the city, light but sturdy and water proof hiking boots, and very light tennis shoes. I’ll need the tennis shoes when I bike through the wine area. Heavy things I can leave at home: hair dryer and more than one reading book.

What does one do on a 16-hour flight? I’ve downloaded podcasts, news programs, music and my favorite CD’s, and I always bring my inflatable pillow and silicon ear plugs.

Now I’m euphoric. Packing done, boarding pass in pocket, good music, good book and time to relax and read the pages I copied out of the guidebooks. Adios!


About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.