Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Santiago de Chile

I unfortunately got really sick on my way to Santiago. I had a 13 hour night bus that I did get some sleep on, but not enough. I was pretty sure I was feverish by the time I arrived. I wasn't too happy then about getting on the subway during the morning rush hour and trying to find a place to stash my bag and myself, only 12 hours here. I don't think the morning commuters were too happy with me either. Found an amazing hostel in the Brasil neighborhood. It must have been quite a mansion at one point. It was huge with tons of public space, 2 courtyards, a huge kitchen, and a backyard with tiki bar and swimming pool. I was wishing I was staying longer. I felt horrible so I decided to go see the city ... you know the guilt of I am here I can't waste it. So I wandered around for a bit, slept in a really nice park for about an hour. I didn't really get to see much. There were places that looked interesting but felt they were too far for me to reach. I headed back to the hostel a bit early and found a couch to sleep on. And that was my sad Santiago adventure.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Puerto Varas

A small and beautiful town by a huge lake, Lago Llanquihue. We found a dorm in the middle of town that fit us all, excpet for this one other guy who we didn't know ... poor guy. The weather was great so on a walk around the waterfront we ran into Reg and Grayson. Apparently Reg's friend is Douglas Tompkins, who owned Espirit clothing, and owns the largest private reserve in Chile, Paque Pumalin. The park is open to the public. We decided to meet up with Grayson and Reg later for dinner at a locals restaurant with some of his friends that work in the Administration of the park (headquartered in Puerto Varas). We lazed the rest of the day in the sun, on the rocks, next to the water. Great small, chilled out town.
Top: Ana and Bel on the rocks (sounds like a drink) Bottom: Bel wading in the lake.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Disembark in Puerto Montt

That amazing PA system I mentioned earlier was working fine this morning, and even earlier than usual. The announcements began at 6:30 AM, beautiful indeed! It did give me the chance to get some nice pictures of Puerto Montt, a town I had not heard great things about. We were kicked off the boat at 9, graciously of course. I was surprisingly one of the last people off the boat and found the entire group of people we had been hanging out with hanging out on the docks. Cathryn was terribly sick so Cathryn and Claire were going to find a place in Puerto Montt for the day/night. Jon had gotten back on his motorcycle and was going to continue his journey. Reg and Grayson had to catch a flight back to the US after they dropped the kayaks they used at a friends. So Ana, Laure, Bel, Craig, Luc, Caroline, and I decided we would head to Puerta Varas, only about 20 minutes away from Puerto Montt and aparently incrediably nicer. We all swaped our email addresses and went our ways.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Last Night

Apparently, people were a little partied out by the time the official boat party rolled around and it would be an early morning in Puerto Montt. There was "Patagonia Bingo" which is really just like normal bingo, but it was like watching bingo on Telemundo. I realize that people may not have watched much Spanish TV, but basically there is the bingo game, and then all of a sudden for some reason there is load music and dancing. Pretty funny to see. So I do suggest watching some of those talk shows. Bel and I were luckily picked to pass an apple back and forth between the nape of our necks. You will be happy to hear that we trounced the competition, 13 to 4. We got 2 bottles of wine for that, that's right. The picture shows a great Dutch couple I hung with a lot drinking some Donkey Juice, don't ask and never try!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Lazy Days

Not much to do aboard the boat. The weather hasn't been particularly stupendous, much like the drizzly grey Northwest. But though that does mean that views and outdoor activities are a bit hampered, it does not mean that entertainment was at a low. These amazing people I have ended with are so fun and so funny. This picture of Jon was one of his not-so-rare moments. We have no idea what got into him at this point but he as well as us were all laughing so hard that tears were streaming down our cheeks.
We did hit some rough weather today, part of the entrance into the Penas Gulf and our section in the Pacific Ocean. We had to drop anchor for a couple hours to wait out a storm. Therefore we ended up making the transit at night. I decided to not take a sea sickness pill to see what would happen. There was one point where I thought I would get sick, but I was fine. I wish I could say the same for the rest of the boat. The bathrooms were definitely dangerous territory. Breakfast the next morning was pretty funny though. There were trays of food going everywhere. A particularly dangerous spot developed in the center of the room where numerous drinks had been spilled and created a slick lake. This poor Spanish guy fell with his whole tray of food on top of him, twice. The third time, he was escorted by the galley staff and the boat erupted in applause when he finally made it to his seat.

Friday, March 09, 2007

First Day

This morning at 6 am I found out that the ship is equiped with an amazing loud PA system, that is used quite liberally. They announced our departure, three times. I decided I might as well go look at whats going on ... but all I found was darkness with some small lights here and there. Figuring that climatic event of departure could be better experienced in my bunk, I returned below. Later in the day we navigated through some narrow passages with some small islands.
There wasn't much to do than read, write, and hang out. I met a Dutch couple who were very fun and I was able to amaze them of my knowledge of dutch with the hello and goodbye I had learned last week in El Chalten. Shortly before dinner we found my two cabin mates. Reg and Grayson. Reg is a kayak guide from Ferndale, Wa and Grayson is a reporter for Outdoor Magazine. Reg had got a grant from Gore-Tex to kayak to a glacier that has never been reached before. This was his third attempt (first by kayak) and was successful. Super interesting guys and I now felt like I was lame kid in the cabin by quiting my job and traveling by such conventional means such as bus and plane.

I ate lunch with some of the Swedes and was informed of a costume party in the evening. I was quite surprised the extenses that the Swedish will go for a costume party, especially when backpacking. The lounge turned into quite a little party complete with DJ and dance floor. You can't get much better than a sexy Swedish Nurse.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A day of chores

I took a bus back to Puerto Natales in Chile to catch the ferry. I had to check in by 9 PM, but got in to town on an early bus. I met a girl named Anna from Australia and we dropped off our laundry, caught up on emails, stocked up on supplies for the trip (aka cheaper drinks), lazed around in a coffee shop, and had a great fish dinner with the famous Pisco Sours. All in all a great day. They loaded us on the boat at around 9:30 PM. We walked out to the pier, our luggage had already been brought to our rooms, and walked on the stern ramp and took the cargo lift up to the main deck. I had been transfered out of the 16 bed cabin and into a 4 bed cabin. There is a group of 40 Swedes on board with us, so some last minute shuffling was necessary. I did not complain. On top of that, two of my cabin members would be picked up half way ... from kayaks. I met my first cabin mate, Jon. He is 58, from Luxenbourg, married to a woman afraid of flying, and motorcycling around South America for several months. Needless to say, a pretty cool guy. I ran into the people I had met before, Laure, Bel, and Craig as well. After a bit of exploring we all headed up to the lounge for some entertainment. There we met two girls from England Cathryn and Claire and two Frenchies as we called them, Caroline and Luc. Somehow I ended up with in the noisy group who was being asked to go to bed. I have no idea how that happened. Photos: Caroline, Craig, and Bel ... Bel and Laure.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

On the road again

The calendar dictates that I have to return to El Calafate. I don't like schedules, but must admit that I am excited for the ferry trip. I headed back early in the morning so I could visit the Portito Moreno glacier in the afternoon. It is spectacular. Apart from being just enormous, there are pieces that drop of quite regularly. The noise is quite spectacular. The smallest pieces (or at lease percieved as small) make loud sounds. I got to see an entire slab the full height of the glacier, 30 meters, fall into the the lake. It was interesting becuase it sheared off vertically and slid down into the water. As it slid, the piece fell away from the glacier creating a huge wave as it hit the water at an odd angle. With such great momentum, the whole piece submerged itself for a while and then came shooting back up in two pieces. Quite a dramatic display. The first photo is a pit stop between El Chalten and El Calafate.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Cerro Fitz Roy

The hike to Mt. Fitz Roy is an all day hike. We again had beautiful weather for it. The hike gave us some great views of the geological features that glaciers create, look mom I am learning something! Of course, all of the names are spanish names. The first picture shows the valley created by glaciers that have receded long ago. In the distance you can see where the head of the glaciers were. As the glaciers moved (snow compacting and becoming ice in the mountains advances the glacier below) they carved these valleys. The silt that filtered out of the ice and remained from the rock being carved creates a flat fertile land in the valley. The receded glaciers form morrones, which is a ring of smaller rock built up usually around a glacier lake. These are deposited as the rock is scoured by the glacier and carried to the lake where it is deposited. Thats the end of class today kids. This second picture is Mt. Fitz Roy ... amazing!

Monday, March 05, 2007

El Chalten

Having a set time to be back to Puerto Natales dictacted my schedule, so I figured it would be best to get to El Chalten first, before returning to the other glacier outside of El Calafate. I met two people on the bus from the Netherlands, Bert and Natalie. We looked for cheap accomodations together and found one place that was slightly resonable. We got some food and took off together to do some hiking. El Chalten is inside Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. The town is all dirt roads and just a hodge podge of buildings. However, a development that looked like it should belong in some US suburb was being constructed ... paved roads and all. The afternoon hike we chose was up to Lago Torre, where you can see the tall spires Torre, Egger, and Standhardt (left to right). The glacier to the left is Glaciar Grande.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Tourist Hell

With lack of good judgement I booked a tour on Lago Argentina (largest lake wholly in Argentina) that toured 5 glaciers. We left pretty early in the morning for the boat and found myself like cattle being ushered onto a catamaran boat that held around 200 people, and it was full. Not my best idea. I did get to see some great sights: a huge condor with it's chick in their nest, some impressive iceburgs, and some amazing glaciers. I did meet some pretty cool people as well. We ended up meeting for dinner and had a pretty good time. We laughed almost all the way through dinner.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Back to Argentina

I returned to Argentina today, to see the Portito Moreno glacier and Mt. Fitzroy before I headed on my boat trip. I took a bus to El Calafate, a town that reminds me of Whistler when it started to be up and coming. There is a pretty touristy main st. with trendy bars, cafes, and shops but two blocks off the main road and you will be on a dirt road. A lot of construction of large and grand hotels. Pretty weird, but seems to be a common theme in Patagonia. I met a girl on the bus from Austria, who was learning spanish and starting college courses in Santiago. I think I would be pretty intimated to start an MBA without being pretty fluent. Here is a picture from Puerto Natales last night, something about El Calafate didn't inspire me to take many photos.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Last day of the W

An amazing day today, beautiful weather ... amazing views ... I think I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

When we got back, Andy, Steve, I, and some others went out in Perto Natales ... as much as one can go out. Steve being a bit of a techno freak found a club to go to. I think we were the only ones older than 15, but we were the only foriegners ... it was a good time.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Lago Grey

We got up early to hike up into the French Valley. Again the snow came last night and again we had a bit of a cold night ... though a bit improved from the first. We saw an avalanche as we passed the French Glacier which was an amazing site. We hiked on to Lago Grey today, a long day. The weather seemed to repeat a bit of yesterdays craziness and we got some good views back on the French Valley. We took a break at Albergue Pehoe to rest and then forged on to Albergue Grey, getting to camp at about 6pm. We ran into Moritz from Germany who had been at all the same campsites as us again. I am surprised how social this trail is. You get there knowing no one adn by the 3rd day you feel like you know so many people. Incrediable. Tomorrow is our last day and we have to be back at Pehoe for the noon ferry to get us back to the buses to Puerto Natales.