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Celebrating Monica's birthday (December 2007)

This year I was able to make it to Chile in time to celebrate Monica's birthday and we invited a few friends over.

Monica and her close friend Selva getting ready for the party.

Photo (left to right): Gentile Zabalaga, Dina Labbe, Paula Katz, Selva, Herrera.

Photo (left to right): Chago Ferretti, Ana Maria Aguirre, Cecilia Aguirre, Gonzalo Aguirre.


Monica is excited about her birthday and eager to blow the candles!


Then she hesitates and wonders whether blowing the candles is a good idea after all. What the heck, she blows the candles and makes her wish!


Trip to the south of Chile

On December 25 we started our trip to the south of Chile where our primary destination was Chiloe. We drove straight to Valdivia where we spent the first night.

We stayed at this hotel overlooking river Calle Calle; it was nice to see the rowing teams go by in the morning from our room.

The next morning we drove to Niebla, which is a town on the coast where river Calle Calle meets the Pacific ocean. This is Port Niebla, a beautiful site of the Pacific ocean when it is not foggy ("Niebla" means "fog"). We had not been back to this area since 1977, so it was exciting to see the same place after so many years.

 Same place in 1977


From Valdivia we drove further south. We stopped in Puerto Montt on our way to Chiloe, our primary destination. We were disappointed with Puerto Montt since it is no longer the nice quiet town where you can have great seafood. You can probably still have excellent seafood, but it is now very crowded and trying to be a big city with the infrastructure of a town. As a result, we decided to keep going to Chiloe and spend the next night in Ancud. For a map of Chiloe so that you can better follow the places we visited, you can click on the following link.

Map of Chiloe

On the way to Ancud, we stopped in Caulin, to check out the local oysters recommended by our friend Luis Rojas. They were wonderful and we had a feast!

Chilean oysters from Caulin.

Fairly close to Ancud, on the northwest coast of Chiloe island, there is a penguin colony that we visited. We got on a boat with a few other tourists and saw lots of penguins, which come to this region to breed.

Penguin colony on the northwest coast of Chiloe.

From Ancud we drove to Quemchi, on the eastern coast of Chiloe, which is one of many picturesque towns.

This is the typical contrast one could see in Chiloe; in this case a home that is almost falling apart, but with their DirectTV antenna.

  Our next stop was Tenaun, a tiny town with a beautiful church. Churches seems to be the big thing in most of the island, since every town seemed to compete to have the nicest church.

After getting our first flat tire driving from Tenaun to Castro, we managed to make it to Castro and spent the night there. The next day we explored Lemuy island.

This is the coast in Liucura, a small town in Lemuy island (part of the Chiloe archipelago). At this time it was low tide; in this region the tide can go up and down several meters throughout the day.

Liucura cemetery, typical of many small towns in this region.

Aldachildo is another small town in the island of Lemuy; its church being the most significant site, which was currently undergoing renovation.

The main reason to take the ferry to Lemuy island was to visit the town of Puqueldon. This is because we wanted to see the place that our niece Amelia Benavente and her classmates would visit a few weeks later to do volunteer work. This is the town square, where Amelia and her team worked to make it look much nicer!

From Puqueldon we continued south to Queilen, another typical and nice town in Chiloe.

As we drove back to Castro, we had another flat tire while parked in Chonchi. This time the tire could not be repaired, so we were lucky to find the right tires to buy in Castro the next morning.

After getting two brand new tires, we left towards Cucao, on the west coast of Chiloe. As we were getting there, a couple of local fishermen had been stranded with all their supplies and could not get home in Huantemo. We offered to take them, which meant crossing some small rivers and driving several miles on the beach since there were no roads. It was exciting and great to have a 4WD. You have to hear Monica tell the story since she wasn't too thrilled with the adventure (even though she is waving on the photo)!


This is where the local fishermen lived. They invited us to a traditional local "curanto" the next day, but that required taking the drive through the beach again, which Monica was a bit hesitant to consider, and that is putting it mildly.

As we drove the local fishermen to their home, we learned that there was a beached whale in the opposite direction, an event that had taken place fairly recently. Monica did not want me to keep driving on the beach so I had to walk a few miles. The whale was already decomposing but it was pretty large and impressive.

Before returning to Castro where we were staying, we drove to Quellon, where the highway ends in Chiloe. This is a view of Quellon from the south side.

The last day in Chiloe, we visited Quinchao island. This is the famous church in Achao, built in 1730 without a single nail. It is now considered a national monument!


New Year's Eve in "Termas de Chillan"

After leaving Chiloe, we called our friends Carlos Saure and Marlene Roeckel to see whether we could stop by to visit them in Concepcion. They were at their vacation home in "Termas de Chillan" (Chillan Hot Springs), which is a popular ski area in winter. They convinced us to get there that night even though it was a pretty long drive. We made it in around 1 AM.

This was summer time so skiing was not an option. Instead, we joined Carlos and Marlene on the golf course. Look at Marlene's technique; what a perfect swing...

We had a great time enjoying the scenery and the friendship. In the photo from left to right: Monica Veliz, Fernando Aguirre, Marlene Roeckel, Carlos Saure.

On New Year's Eve we decided to go to a party at the nearby hotel. This is right before cocktails were served.

The ladies got a bit excited and sometimes out of control. Carlos is trying to handle the noisy atmosphere!

Carlos and Marlene took their own lentils to the party; it is a Chilean superstition that you must eat lentils immediately after New Year's eve if you want the upcoming year to be a lucky one! I tried those lentils but they did not have salt, so they were awful!!! It was a wonderful way to end 2007 and look forward to 2008.