Thursday, 27 August 2015

A video of my time in Patagonia

Well, I've been back in the UK for a week and I think I've finally knocked my sleeping pattern back into something tolerable. That being said, a couple of nights ago I just could not sleep and so went though my photos and videos from the last few days of my trip to Chile. I noticed I took a fair few videos and so thought it best to do something with them, rather than let them gather e-dust in my hard drive. So here's an attempt at a proper video. It's iPhone footage, and this is my 2nd time using iMovie (which I think is very uncooperative- I particularly dont like that it took an hour to 're-finalise' every time i slightly altered the edit, but this isn't a software review)...Hope you like it. Particularly watch out for the laser like sounds created by the ice lake! Plus the mountains! And dogs! Oh just watch the whole thing :)

Here's the video:

Music is by Stumbleine & Asa, which played in the breakfast room of my hotel most mornings. I went down everyday at around 05:45 (I'm not crazy, just wanted to make the most of the time) with my book, so as I nibbled kiwi, slurped tea, read my book, and enjoyed 'huevos' (eggs), Stumbeline provided a soundtrack. It's created music memories for me, as Crazy in Love by Beyonce reminds me of being by the pool in Turkey and Chop Suey by SOAD reminds me of sitting in my friends loft when I was 14/15.

Hope you like the video, I'm pleased to have done something with the footage. Now on to organising the 10 rolls of film I just had developed....!

Hasta luego amigos

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Host family love and a series of fortunate events

When I left Viña de mar, I sobbed silly wet tears.

I didn't come here expecting to settle into a family as I did. I knew I'd get along fine because so long as there's a bed/shower/book to read- I'm fine-- but I had no idea that I would feel so much love for the family whom took me in while I studied at the Universisdad Tecnica Frediderico Santa Maria. I am so grateful to have stayed with Claudia, Fransisca, Jaime and Tomas. Leaving them marked the midpoint to this Chilean adventure of mine, and I was nervous, excited, sad and jittery.

Myself and three others -who had also decided to stay on post-course- made our way to Chile's capital of Santiago, wherein we navigated the Metro to Puente Alto, the southern most tube station of Santiago...think Morden, or West Croydon- but with mountains. From here we had to catch a bus to our hostel. Which seems... So Simple but was so Not Simple. The bus drivers kept telling us that they didn't go where we needed to be, despite the road being entirely turning free and our destination being before their final destinations. This confusion led to....
  • hopping on and off the same bus 3 times
  • with 28kg on my back and front
  • broken spanish conversations with mad little old spanish ladies 
  • little old spanish lady insisting on hailing down a car for us to hitchhike in (...we didnt...we're not that stupid)
  • dead dog on road 
  • walking half a mile down hill to discover we're on the wrong road
  • so walking back up
  • still with 28kg on my front and back
  • i dont know how to use bullet points (i do....)

Eventually we get on a bus that leads us somewhere remotely townlike... where we decide it wisest to get a collectivo* to the hostel. So we bundle into taxi. We drive a few miles. The light is starting to go. Oh... what's that you say? The hostel appears to be closed? There's three bloody padlocks on the gate and the owner isnt answering the phone. Well, bloody brilliant. 

We all felt a bit sick in this moment, we were quite far from home and with no sign of refuge... things felt... dicey. 

Along comes Pedro... ahh... Pedro. The gorgeous uni-browed Chileno. Pedro's cycling up the hill, minding his business when he sees a group of stranded foreigners with a collectivo driver who really wants to be paid and leave. One of the foreigners (me) likes the look of his unibrow and decide he is Going To Help Us. Through Spanglish, we explain our situation and ask if he can help- and OHHH he does. He recommends Cascada de las Animas (roughly- The Waterfall of the Animals) and so we smoosh back into the taxi and head there. 

It's heaven.

Cascada is like an eco-project hostel. The entire site is surrounded by the Andes, and is around an acre in size. There are funky flinstone looking cabins for the posh-os, but we're just students so we plucked for the log cabin, which worked out at £15 each per night B&B. The cabins had a log burning fire, a very good shower, and a lovely big lounge. The cafe/information dome is a geodome with hanging plants, dream catchers and lovely details everywhere. The yoga classes and massages also took place in geodome structures. Yes, our hostel had massages and yoga.

After arriving we took advantage of the great weather and immediately went on a short hike to the hostel's namesake waterfalls, which were beautiful:

A video posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

We stayed there for 4 nights and 5 days, and I can't tell you how happy we all were to have found this slice of paradise nestled among the Andes. Big love to Pedro and his gorgeous face, who we'll never see again, but whom totally shaped our experience in the Andes. Funny how life works, isnt it? 

The point is, trips can be stressful, unpredictable- people can be unreliable (must complete Trip Adviser review of hostel number 1)...but without all of our bus miscommunications, without missing the first three collectivos, without joining the wrong queue in the metro station, without being slow due to all the 28kg carrying... we would never have seen Pedro cycling up the hill. We would never have been to the lovely Cascada de las Animas. So thanks, Pedro. Thanks good fortune.


Today I sailed through fjords, drank whiskey cooled by glacial ice, hiked alongside a lake made of ice, and saw a colony of Imperial Comorants. I'll catch you up. 

For a more immediate way of keeping up- follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @fifinicholls

Hasta luego, amigos xxxxx

*very clever Chilean taxi system where people share rides and consequently pay a fraction of the fare, saving money and the planet- a bit. 

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Developing film in Chile - some pictures of the trip

I had a mission the day before I left Valparaiso for the Andes: to get five rolls of film developed. I’ll start with this- ‘photo development’, ‘analog camera’ and ‘roll of film’ are not common Spanish phrases, let alone phrases learnt during a two-week beginners course.

After walking the streets of Viña del mar and Valpo, I finally found one- in the simplest of places, a mall! I pointed at my film, said ‘uno hora?’ (one hour) with no confidence that the shop assistant would understand what I wanted and to my pleasant surprise, she replied with a bored stare and said yes and would I like a disc? I meandered the hour a way by traipsing around the mall and finally the hour was up......Oh my goodness- my expensive little habit (film photography) would be much easier to sustain here in Chile!! In the UK I have 1 roll of film developed roughly every two weeks in a Snappy Snaps in Lewisham, this costs £15 for 36 exposures and a disc of the images (it’s horridly expensive I know, but I don’t smoke so shush), but in Chile.... it was £35 for five lots of 36 exposures plus 5 discs!!  I thought I’d mistranslated the amount and so asked her to write it down.

Anyway, why I’m telling you this is because I am so happy with the images. All of my classmates are so beautiful and the cities we visited were just...ugh...divine to take pictures of .

I’ll be updating my photography blog with the images over the next weeks, but for now, here are a few of my favorites:

P.s I’m in the Andes right now, but that’s a whole other blog post. 

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Chile: Well where did that time go, eh?

Two week ago since I left the UK- what!! I can't believe it...I'm borderline cross that this time has gone so quickly.

It seems like only yesterday I was biting my top lip in nervous anticipation of meeting my peer group, flying to Santiago and meeting my host family. Time flies- whoose. Or as I would say now (what with me being perfectly fluent in Spanish...) rrrrapido!

I've been keeping my instagram followers in no short supply of graffiti+stray dogs+sky pictures/timelapses. But for those of you who don't have instagram, here's some of my favourites from this last two weeks:

A video posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

A photo posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

A video posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

A photo posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

A video posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

I love that timelapse of Santa Maria university! Shout out to Emily for letting my rest my silly little phone against her fancy tripod. Oh! While we're at it, you really should check out Emily's blog (link here)- Emily is a photographer and budding videographer. Here's one of her videos, which stars mainly me. (Not really, but I am in it a bit, playing with dogs of course.)

Next I look to planning and finalising my trip south. I plan to visit Puerto Montt and Torres de Paine national Park, and if there is time- Punta Arenas, which I think is part of Antarctica, or shares the same climate and wildlife of there at least. Of course before I do all that- I'm going to the Andes with new pals- Rebecca, James and Anna. Dios mios!

It's the last day of university tomorrow...I dont know what to expect...but I do know there is a celebratory meal with the whole group tomorrow evening, including our Spanish teachers I believe! Looking forward to that. Anyway, buenos noches mi amigos! Take care


Saturday, 25 July 2015

Day.... in Chile (i give up with daily blogging)

Oh dear, I've been remiss haven't i?

Well, you missed a few days. I've had a cold, which I think I probably got from a sniffling Argentinian on the Amsterdam- Buenos Aires flight.....

Chile is gorgeous. The people are very kind, and really quite short on average. Learning Spanish is hard, but we're all progressing I think.

I'm going to give you a snapshot of a uni day.

In the mornings, I wake up around 07:00, lie there for 15 minutes, then I shower, dry off and put my (at first loathed) 'CHILE 2015' fleece on and have breakfast with my host mum and dad- Jaime (pronounced 'Hai-mer') and Claudia. Breakfast is usually bread with various spreads. I then get dressed and walk across the street to the bus stop...

Catching a bus in Chile is an unstructured art. In the early morning light you squint as hard as you can at the approaching buses, trying to read one of the twenty million little hanging signs in the windscreen which state varying destinations. You spot the sign you are looking for and so thrust your arm into the air, and hope that it wasnt too this point the bus either stops or doesnt (in which case you squint again). You are now stepping onto the bus... oh!! what's that? the bus is moving despite one of your feet still being on the pavement? Well- welcome to Chile, mi amigo. As you hold onto the bus- shocked that the door is still open and the bus is going at 40mph now- you are presented with a probably grumpy Chilean bus driver with whom you now have to attempt simple Spanish phrases which will enable you to pay him and get a ticket.  Done all that? Go on then, sit down, you've earned it.

The university, Technical University Federico Santa María, is up a million steps- which at first felt pretty awful but after a couple of days weren't so bad. The days are split into two: in the morning we have Grammar + Vocab with Mariana, and in the afternoon we experience Conversation + Culture class with Felipe. Mariana is good natured, sweet tempered and patient, teaching us the bare bones of Spanish as we blink at her with our bleary morning eyes. Felipe is also patient, but a little bit more physical in his approach... tables are slapped, voices are raised, and his Chileno eyebrows rise a little as he listens to us stumble through common Spanish exchanges. Both teachers are kind, competent and are educating us thoroughly in their respective areas- if through very different teaching methods. My only critique of these lessons would be that due to Chile's predominantly (but not always, crucially)  hot climate,  the university does not have any heating facility, and the architecture of the building dictates that the distinction between indoor/outdoor is pretty fluid- I suppose this would be good in summer, when you would want lots of fresh air and ventilation.... However, in July/Aug (winter for southern hemisphere, remember) this means it's ruddy freezing indoors, distractingly so. Again, shout out to the Greenwich fleeces.

At lunch/break time, all twenty-odd of us ascend to the roof top, where we get cups of tea and natter to the backdrop of a spectacular panorama of Valparaíso. It's a nice time of day and I look forward to next week where we have a three and a half hour break for lunch, we're planning to pop into Valpo for lunch.

Anyway, I'm tired now and we're going sandboarding in the morning so.... Buenos noches.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Day 2 of Chile

Ok, so first I will round off Day 1. On Sunday, my Chilean family had a party to celebrate Tomas's 13th birthday- it was so fun and lovely to have all these aunties, uncles and cousins descend upon the house. I was quickly pulled into the kitchen to sit with the girls of the family- they couldn't believe how 'simpatico' (nice, friendly) I am. Apparently most foreign students are shy and don't talk to the families when they stay, which is a shame. The whole point is to muddle through the language barrier and communicate, through shared jokes, or asking where the loo is.

At the party they fed me and fed me and gave me so much Chilean wine. At one point, one of my adopted Aunties came out with a tray of steaming mugs, I took one and to my surprise it was lovely mulled wine- sweet and orangey. I said we drink this at Navidad (Christmas) in the UK and between us we worked out it must be a cold weather drink, as it is winter here in the southern hemisphere. It's funny how many common food and drinks you can find across the world. Por ejemplo (for example), here in Chile, and in a lot of Spanish speaking countries, empanandas are the go-to lunch/snack. They are pastry parcels filled with cheese, or meat and potato, or whatever... my point is that they are pretty identical to the Cornish or Devonshire Pasty (which isnt far off the Indian Samosa). People are people wherever, and putting things in pastry not only is delicious but also keeps the content fresh, so it makes sense that places across the world would come up with similar snacks. The same for hot wine in winter- it makes sense! 

SO, anyway. Yesterday (Monday 20th July), was our First Day.
The morning consisted of orientation, a quick tour of the glorious university campus and a short conversation in Spanish to identify which classes we should attend. In the afternoon we attended our first conversation and culture class, which was exciting and odd- the tutor told us to learn like babies, through necessity- not through study. I like his approach, but I may study a little--- the verbs in Spanish take some getting used to and aren't the kind of thing you inherently know.

A photo posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

A photo posted by Fi (@fifinicholls) on

As you can see, the uni is pretty spectacular- I cant wait to study there daily. In fact, it's 08:03 and I need to get going. I'll catch you up on the first full day of classes later. Chau!