Hiking in Torres del Paine, Chile’s Best National Park

A thick black blanket steadily moved eastwards, threatening to block out daylight and announcing an impending storm. I took short gulps of air, exhausted from having legged it uphill to the 4000-foot John Gardner Pass. Instead of a postcard image of a snow-white glacier against a cobalt blue sky the weather gods presented me with a blurred world of grey with just enough light penetrating to vaguely see Southern Patagonia’s eerily blue, crevassed ice field and a couple of snow-covered peaks in the distance. Continue reading

Stargazing in Chile – Cerro Mamalluca

The sun was setting on my arrival; it was still too early to see all the planets and stars. Our guide suggested taking a look at the moon. One by one we moved behind the telescope and admired a half-full moon. It felt so close that if I reached out my hand, I could actually touch it. Especially the craters were clearly visible, among which the Sea of Tranquility, where the Americans planted their flag during the first landing on the moon. Continue reading

Visiting the Ghost Towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura (Chile)

A breeze carried the sound of squeaking hinges and creaking wooden panels. In the overwhelming silence of the desert the slamming of a metal roof plate echoed as if a gun had been fired. When listening carefully I heard voices from the past. Voices that told stories about promised fortunes and working yourself to death under the scorching sun of the Atacama Desert – one of the driest deserts on earth and, around 1900, home to Chile’s nitrate boom. Continue reading

5 Awe-Inspiring Landscapes in South America – Our Roles to Help Save the Planet

Tres Cruces, Peru

Tres Cruces, Peru

“An image of the earth, its landscapes, directly affects people. The beauty of the earth creates enormous emotion, and through that emotion, you can transmit knowledge and raise consciousness”~Yann Arthus-Bertrand

This quote spoke to me, which made me read up on Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s work and philosophy. He is known for, among other things, his book Earth from Above – aerial photos from landscapes around the world (more about that here). Yann Arthus-Bertrand is a photo-journalist , cinematographer as well as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations. Continue reading

Touring the World’s Largest Copper Mine in Chuquicamata, Chile

The Copper Mine in Chuquicamata.The tour bus stopped and I could gaze down the humongous hole in the ground: 1 kilometer deep, 3 kilometers wide, and 5 kilometers long. Can you even begin to imagine the size of this mine? Even while standing right next to it, it was hard to grasp.

Along the sides of the mine trucks slowly zigzagged up and down over unpaved roads that were constantly kept wet by other trucks to keep down the dust. Of the ninety-nine trucks, seven are permanently used to this end. The region has not seen rain for two years. I felt like I was staring at some futuristic stronghold that James Bond had to raze to the ground. Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Stand in Awe Before Forces of Nature

In South America we often feel overwhelmed by our surroundings, marvel at views, camp in grandiose terrains, and feel dwarfed by canyons and mountains. Among the well-known spectacular sceneries on the continent are the Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, the Lake District in Patagonia, the colored lakes of Sud Lipez in Bolivia, and Valle de la Luna in Chile.

Let’s explore some of the lesser-known forces of nature. Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Soak in Hot Springs

Hot springs in South America: Thermal Bath in Southwest Bolivia (©photocoen)After 2,5 year of Amazon tropics Coen and I are happy to have returned to the colder and drier climate of the Andes Mountains. During these past 10 years I have never written, “Boy are we glad to be back in the tropics so we can wear shorts and bathing suits again,” yet I have expressed that, “It feels great to wear socks and sweaters again and to sleep under our down blanket.”

We’re cold-weather people. Continue reading

5 Places in South America to Listen to Silence

Silence in Deserto do Diablo in Northwest Argentina (©photocoen)“The sound of silence”
~Paul Simon

My parents had an album of Simon & Garfunkel. I loved listening to it and when I started learning English in highschool, one particular song triggered me: The Sound of Silence. I loved the melody and although I didn’t understand much of the lyrics, the words ‘sounds of silence’ made me wonder: did silence have a sound? It started listening to my surroundings and I concluded that the world was hardly ever silent. Continue reading