Sunday, February 7, 2016

Getting a Chilean Driver's License

The Municipal Building in Osorno
We received our permanent residency about a year ago and by law we should have gotten our Chilean driver's license but you know how life can be and the time just slipped by. Despite the rumors we had heard of expats being taken to jail and fined for not having a Chilean license and despite the fact that we could study and take the test in english (effective in 2015), we just kept procrastinating. We were banking on the idea that the local carabineros don't know much about foreigners and maybe don't know that we should have our chilean license. So we haven't had any problems yet! If you are just visiting Chile, you need a valid US driver's license and the Embassy recommends an International Driver's license which you can get from AAA but when we were pulled over the officer was not at all interested in that just the South Carolina license.
This week we went by the Municipal Building in Osorno to see what we needed to do.

The line was short- no number needed. I think the line is always short- most Chileans don't own a car. only 230 out of every 1,000 according to Wikipedia for 2013 (the US has 809 per 1,000 for comparison). Cars here are expensive and so is fuel and there is an extensive, reliable, and cheap bus system.

But here is what you must have:
1. Your RUN card aka carnet or cedula.This is your national ID card which you should receive when you are approved for temporary residency.
2. A document proving you have received at least an 8th grade education.

For us this was Jim's Bachelor's degree which had been notarized, legalized by the Attorney General of Florida, stamped by the Chilean Consulate of Miami, stamped by the Foreign Relations office in Santiago, and should have been stamped by the Education Ministry also in Santiago but the director of the office gave us a break since we didn't have this stamp and just had the document notarized again! by the local notary office next door.  It didn't matter that Jim has been driving for 40 years including cars, trucks, tractors, airplanes, and submarines. They wouldn't just issue another license. He has to go through the process which includes a written test, driving test, and vision test.
So Jim signed up to take the test on March 1. He will be taking the test for the Class B license for private car owners. Class A is for public transport drivers and Class C is for motorcycles. We paid 29,221 pesos around $40 USD

Check back next month to see if Jim passes his driver's test!
Here are some links of interest
the New Drivers handbook in English
 a government services website called Chile Atiende - this link goes to the page on driver's license

Monday, February 1, 2016

Crime & Safety in Chile

The Carabinero station in Puerto Octay. You can find these offices in almost any small town always in green and white.We personally know several of the carabineros in our town and find them to be friendly and helpful. We heard that in Ecuador the police don't care about crime against gringos but it's not that way here. Our local guys stopped by our farm to welcome us and help us robber proof our farm. And you never try to bribe a carabinero. They pride themselves on honesty and integrity. It's not uncommon to find checkpoints in front of the carabinero station. They pull over every 3rd car and just check your license and to see if you have paid your local car tax. In the US, I always felt that the police were out to get you good or bad but I don't get that feeling here. Speed traps are uncommon and non-existent off the main highway and the carabineros don't engage in high speed chases to catch the bad guy.

Crime, especially theft, is notoriously bad in South America. In the cities, all the houses are behind bars. Pick pocketing and purse snatching as well as car theft are common.

We personally have not been affected by crime in the 2 1/2 years we have lived here. And honestly, I can only remember one instant in which I felt unsafe here. It was night and we were driving through a not so nice area of Santiago. There were parts of Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina we wouldn't dare go through even during the day. Jim had been almost attacked on at least 2 or 3 occasions doing appraisals in dangerous neighborhoods in the US.

Even in public housing here in our little town in the south of Chile, we feel safe. The atmosphere is different. There aren't gangs of kids hanging around with bad attitudes.

I joke that criminals in Chile are the non-confrontational kind. They may want to rob you blind but only behind your back!Violent crime is low and kidnappings and random shootings are almost unheard of.
Here are some statistics for you taken from this government website linked below and wikipedia.

For the year 2012
Murder rate is 3.1 per 100,000 and the USA is 3.8 per 100,000
That totals out to be 550 murders in Chile and 12,253 in the USA
This is the lowest homicide rate in South America.
So if safety is a concern, as it is for most of us, Chile is one of the safest places in South America.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snakes in Chile ?!?!

Snakes in Chile?
Some city slickers believe there are no snakes in Chile!
Well, guess what?
There are.
Go to this link

and find out the real truth about snakes in Chile ....

File:Red milk snake.JPG
Photo borrowed from Wikipedia

Monday, January 25, 2016

Volcan Casablanca

In the Parque Nacional Puyehue are hot springs, a ski resort, and great trails for hiking. You enter this area through the town of Entrelagos. A very nice little town that welcomes Argentinian visitors through the mountain pass.

Heading east on Hwy 215 there are great views of the lake and Volcan Puyehue which erupted about 6 years ago. Here also is Termas de Puyehue, a fancy overpriced resort. You can find them on Trip Advisor with mixed reviews. But behind them is Aguas Calientes. I've done a post on this more affordable option to enjoy the hot springs before. If you continue on the road into the park, you can drive the 18 km on a dirt road up to Antillanca, the ski resort. We were up there in the summer so I'll leave a post about the ski resort for another time. In the off season though, for only 10,000 pesos (about $15) you can drive to the top of Volcan Casablanca and it's crater.

Here is part of the ski lodge and at the right is a gate and a sign that says "Al Crater" 10,000 pesos
To the crater, 10,000 pesos per car

A panorama of the crater

The road looking back towards the ski lodge

Our Toyota Prada  does great off road

The boys being adventurous and energetic as they are hiked out to that point to the left of Andrew in the above photo. And the rest of these pictures were taken from that view point.

This is looking south towards Volcan Puntiagudo and Lago Rupanco

This is such an awesome place! You feel like you are at the top of the world. And the funny thing is no one is ever here! I have never seen it mentioned in any guide books as a tourist attraction. We just found it by chance and the first time we weren't even sure if we were allowed up there as the gate was open and we just drove in.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sendero Desolacion

Desolation Path
Sounds pretty intimidating
24 km of rocky trail up to 5600 ft on the side of a volcano
and down to the lake along the beach
to add to the fun - inches of ash from the last eruption (Calbuco in April 2015)
horse flies from Jurassic Park (fortunately they only live for 3 weeks in January) and the blistering sun which is particularly intense here as the ozone layer is a bit thin.

The journey starts at the Refugio in La Picada which is on the north side of the Volcano Osorno in the Parque Vicentes Perez Rosales There is free parking here and sometimes a little cafe is open.

Here is the start of the trail - not for the faint of heart

The first 4 km is all uphill and very rocky - impassable by car though I think it once was. Jimmy told me they carried their bikes up to the top of the trail at 5600 ft. The sign says high difficulty and walking it would be 10 hours down to the lake and back.

Typical terrain on the way up

At the top!

Worth the work to get up here! A fabulous view of Lago Todos Los Santos and east to Argentina

  You can see Samuel & Andrew on their bikes on the bottom center right

On the right you can see the river heading out of the lake to the sea and there at the head of the river is the small town of Petrohue which is the end of the Sendero.

They made it to Petrohue in 3 hours sunburned and fly bitten but happy for the challenge they conquered. Not much in Pertrohue but a beautiful lodge, a museum, post office, and an office for the ferry and boat tours. More on that in another post!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Penguins on Chiloe

Last weekend we took the ferry out to Chiloe (pronounce chill-o-way) to see the penguins. We took Ruta 5 (the PanAmerican hwy)south to the end in Pargua to catch the ferry over to the island of Chiloe.

You just drive right on, pay the toll of 12,000 pesos which is about $17 US and enjoy the 30 minute ride over. You can go up top for better viewing. We saw lots of seals swimming in the waves. This is currently the only way to get to the island so there are usually lots of buses and trucks. Sadly, the government is putting in pylons across the Chacao Channel for a bridge. I hope that it doesn't ruin the mystic of this beautiful island.
You then drive to the city of Ancud about 30 minutes away on the north end of the island. It's a pretty fishing town on the bay.
                Once you get into Ancud just follow the signs for about 28 km to the Pinguinera. The views                                                                   along the way are spectacular.

At the end of the road, you just drive on the beach and pick your tour boat. There are 4 or 5 services plus a restaurant or 2 and a couple of gift shops.

Tickets are 6,000 pesos for adults and 3,000 for kids for a 30 minute boat ride.
You climb up the cart and they roll you out to the boat tethered in the surf.

These are either Humboldt or Magellanic penguins. Both live in these waters.

And here are the babies waiting to be fed

We also spotted a kelp goose, some steamer ducks, seals, and kelp gulls. The gulls were catching urchins, dropping them on the rocks to crack them, and gobbling up the yummy slime inside.

On the way home we stopped at our favorite beach for biking and fishing. It is miles and miles of beach with few houses or people. You can access the beach by car just a few kilometers from the Pinguinera. It also has some interesting rock formations and caves.

Coming down the road to our favorite beach

This cool rock has a cave in it

Looking to the south - this cliff face has another cave in it

Miles and miles of empty beach
It's so much fun to drive on!
Another magical, mystical day on Chiloe

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Saltos de Petrohue

 Our oldest son is visiting for the month so we have been giving him the grand chilean tour of the Lakes region. We went to the Saltos de Petrohue which is the rapids on the Petrohue river which runs out of lake Todos Los Santos to the ocean at the bay of Reloncavi. You can access this area at the southeastern end of Lago Lllanquihue at the town of Ensenada taking the partially paved road to Petrohue, a small village on the shore of Lake Todos Los Santos. This area is part of the Parque Vicente Perez-Rosales which is a 977 sq. mile national park which includes the lake and 3 volcanoes.
The entrance to the very nice visitors center which includes a snack bar with outdoor eating area, several gift shops, and free bathrooms. When we went the admission was free but it is not normally. Last April. Volcan Calbuco erupted dumping ash over this area and damaging some of the paths and lookouts so there was some construction being done.

Inside the visitors center

The main falls are not very high but the amount of watering rushing through this basaltic lava chute is impressive.

This bridge was closed during our visit for repairs

The green-blue crystal clear water is spectacular

Trails and bridges make for easy walking throughout the park with views of the river and falls

The end of the trail with a nice view of the river and places to sit on the rocks but no swimming here as the water is moving dangerously fast over the rocks. There is white water rafting on this river but a guide is recommended as they know the best access locations which are not publicly marked and some areas are just too dangerous