Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Glacier Perito Moreno & Goodbye Argentina

I was trying to add a video here, but it wasn't working. Then I forgot to post this. I'll still try to get it up soon.

It was time for my last day of touring in Patagonia. "Austral" is a term used for the extreme southern part of Patagonia since it's such a large region of the continent.

Erratic Rock (erraticrock.com ) connected me with Carla at Austral Glacier travel to get a bus and tour to Glacier Perito Moreno by El Calafate, Argentina. She had also helped me get the van tour of Torres del Paine and Buenos Aires hostel in El Calafate.

On the 1-hour boat ride getting closer.

First of 2 amazing calving views. The glacier rises over 200 feet above the lake surface. The video I'll try to put up is of that next section falling.

Scene 1...

Scene 2...

Scene 3

View from up above at another vantage point. You can't even see a fraction of the entire glacier.

During my last night in Patagonia, I visited a couple museums. Sadly, this was the only condor I saw (big buzzard-looking bird). They had some neat photographs of old trucks carrying wool to the coast to be shipped to England.

This airplane was used for many years in the area.
At one point the pilot crashed into the lake. I can't remember more of the story.

They say if you eat Calafate berries, you'll for sure come back to Patagonia. Since there weren't any growing at this time, I settled for spending 10 of my last 50 pesos on Calafate berry ice cream.

I went out to a lagoon to catch a glimpse of some flamingos. On the way back these gauchos almost ran me over with their heard of horses. I had to step behind a bush off the trial in order to not get trampled! I guess that was their way of saying it's closing time!

picture of a lamb asado

photo of the lake and mountains as I flew out of El Calafate


and then a photo in downtown Buenos Aires where I got to see Laura and meet her sister since they were in the city for a week. We had Starbucks and shopped for the last few things I wanted.

Then it was a LONG flight home, but no rushing to catch flights.

People ask me when I think I'll go back. I always respond with, "Tomorrow." It makes them laugh but I would go if I had the chance.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pingüinos! Penguins!

We rented a car and headed south a couple hours through the pampas to get to the penguins. The colony lives near Punta Arenas and to get there you have to drive another 45 minutes on a dirt road off of the main route. Then we walked quite a ways on the boardwalk to reach the shore.

We were luck to see any penguins at all. All the adults had left long ago and most of the others were fishing at mid-day. We totaled up 25 penguins in all. They sure were smaller than I expected, too. Somewhere between 1 and 2 feet tall. But it was still worth it. We watched them for a while until we got extremely cold from the wind.

I took the long walk back to search for more. See my excitement when I found one more?!?

We headed into town to shop some. Andria bought a bit for Clos's bridal. I took a nap while they shopped. Mid-day we discovered one of the tires was flat. Juan Pablo had it off, changed, fixed at a store, and back on within about 45 minutes. Wow! By the way, Juan Pablo leads trail rides through parts of the park only a select few are allowed to enter. Check out photos of the treks (first album).

Andria and Juan Pablo took advantage of the long stretches of road to ride the longboard. Back in town I got my photo with the milodón (skeleton found in a cave nearby, type of ancient giant sloth). The actual skeleton is in The British Museum in London. Why I don't know. Museums tend to move artifacts thousands of miles from where they were found. I think it makes them less impressive. Thoughts?

For my last night in Chile, we went to a really nice restaurant El Asador Patagónico so I could have a big plate of lamb. I was a little nervous about how it would taste, but the lamb they brought wasn't too strong and was cooked to perfection. You can see more lamb roasting over the fire behind me. I went to bed early (for Chile, anyway, around 12) so I could be ready to leave on the tour bus to Perito Moreno glacier across the boarder in Argentina (left at 6:30am).

Until next time, Chile!

Rio Serrano (Part 2)

Here are a few photos of the house. This is the living room and dining room at the house. Also the couches where the family sits and stares out the windows, pondering life (at least that's what I did when I joined them). They make comments every 20 minutes or so. The rest of the time it is silent, waiting for mealtimes or for the radio to call to say someone from the hotel wants a trail ride.Also, below, is the wood-burning stove. There is also a gas stove in the house but Andria was the only one I saw use it. The generator (for electricity) is turned on from dusk to about midnight (2-3 hours). Some days the internet router also works during that time.

I love the simple decorations: Mi caballo y mi mate (my horse and my mate tea). Enough said.

Here we are pondering life shortly before I left. Adita is the mom/grandma and Gonzalo is her son. Aniseto, the dad/grandpa, was still sleeping (had a little bit too much "fun" at the party the night before). Many of the staff from the hotel were leaving since the season (about 3 months long) was over. They cooked up a great asado and had karaoke (in Spanish). We had already had some eggs and rice for dinner but they insisted we eat some chicken, beef, sausage (choriso), salads, and more. Hmm, hard to say no to that! South Americans love to have parties with a ton of food and music so loud you have to shout to be heard. Throw in trying to speak a 2nd language and I could hardly communicate anything. Thankfully they are very understanding and many knew some English thanks to all the tourists they get down there.

Since it was sprinkling most of the day, we got to see some amazing arco irises (rainbows). Thanks to the vivid color setting on my new camera, you can actually see the vibrant colors.

The sunbeams also make some spectacular displays over the pampa.

Here again is the forest with the Old Man's Beard moss. Like I stated before, it's so mystical that it seems like a different planet.

I wanted to take a zodiac boat (river-raft) back to Puerto Natales that cruised the rivers but I didn't get a reservation settled before the office closed. In the morning it was REALLY foggy and I was happy to save the US$140 and instead take the US$3 bus back to town with Andria.

[Photo left: mural of original inhabitants, Puerto Natales]
Back in Puerto Natales I spent some more time browsing the shops and bought a bombilla (metal mate straw). I also watched the fowl along the shore. Here is a family of black-necked swans.

We connected up again with Juan Pablo and had some great burgers at Baguales Brewery and then hung out at a little local bar listing to reggaeton and local hits.

Tuesday's plans: Off to the penguins!

Rio Serrano with Andria (Part 1)

Soon after I got to the house, Andria and I went out for a ride. Andria has lovingly embraced the look of a gaucho including bombachas de gaucho (Gaucho horse-riding pants) , boina (beret), and wool belt originally used to hold up the pants, but now most gauchos also wear a leather belt. Oh, and don't forget the boots!

The house is also shown here, along with a couple of the many pets. If I may quote my cousin's blog, here is what she said about the pets:

Horses (~30): mix of Criollo/Thoroughbred/Percheran/Quarter Horse crosses that make up a herd of tourist horses, working horses, and a few foals and youngsters yet to be trained
Sheep (~40): a band of nearly 40 ewes, with fewer and fewer lambs every week as the corderos are eaten for asados (barbecued lamb)
Cattle (~150): Hereford/Angus crosses for meat
Dogs (20+?): assorted collection of mutts that help on occasion to move the cattle
Cats (3): scavenge food, fight with the dogs and the chickens
Kittens (8?): they are hard to count, always hiding under the house)
Chickens + 1 Rooster: ~13, depending on how many the dogs have killed recently

I rode Fasha and Andria rode her horse Clos (name of local boxed (and cheap) wine) that she bought for about US$500.

This is the view of the river and mountains just a little way from the house. Amazing! To my left the Rio Grey comes bringing sediments of the glacier which makes the water milky. To my right is Rio Serrano. From this point on the two are called Rio Serrano.

Andria practiced some jumping and I practiced some photography. So cool!

I even tried a little on a small sand ledge going up and down. I was more willing than Fasha to go up and down. Andria said this is a horse's playground. Clos didn't hesitate at all and jumped up and down the ledge multiple times.

[Photo: me on the trail through the woods]

The trees have a green moss that kills the branches. It's called Old Man's Beard and hangs off the branches just like a beard. Since it kills so many branches, there are old logs scattered everywhere through the woods between the river and the house. The trees also grow more parallel to the ground than straight up, making a very mystical scene.

This is the view from the cerro (large hill) overlooking the pampa (large field). The hotel and cabins are off to the left of the horse's head. The house is off to the left of the photo.

Every night the horses that had been in the coral for trail rides are herded out to the pasture. Andria is on the 2nd to last horse (Clos). Breathtaking.

Andria said this was the first day she could see the outline of the snow-covered mountain. Most clear days it blends with the sky and the rest of time the clouds cover it. Today the clouds were just the right shade of gray that we could see it perfectly. Like I said, the best day to see the mountains. The rest of the weekend was pretty cloudy, as you can see in the last photo. That is the same mountain range as the one above overlooking the pampa.

Torres del Paine (Part 2)

It's so hard to choose just a few pictures! I took over 600 photos the week I was in Patagonia so be glad I'm sifting through them. jeje (haha)

[Photo: Salto Grande Rio Paine (waterfall)]

The water was such a brilliant light aqua color. Impresionante (impressive)

[Photo: rapids just upriver from the falls]

Since I was traveling on my own I made many friends asking everyone around me to take my photo. Sometimes I didn't know what language to ask in because not everyone knew Spanish let a lone English. They were always very nice and helpful. The other people on my tour were a couple from Bolivia with their 2 small children. The dad was German so they were constantly switching between German and Spanish. One thing that makes me sad is how many of us in the States don't know the language of our ancestors. It would be so much easier to learn more languages if I already knew a couple. In my case, I would have already known Swedish by now if my grandparents had learned it as children and then taught it to my parents. Children have such an easier time learning languages. If I have kids I hope to teach them English and Spanish from early on to give them the opportunity I didn't have.

[Photo: Grill where I had a delicious plate of grilled chicken breast and rice for lunch]

[Photo: mother and baby zorro outside the Grill]

[Photo: It's said the image of a gaucho can be seen on this rock face. The darker blue in the middle is the gaucho on his horse facing left. Let me know if you see it! (Click to enlarge)]

[Photos: Lago Grey with icebergs and melting ice. Glacier Grey is off to the right in the photo above.]

[Photo: I loved this suspended bridge over Río Pingo. It swayed so much!]

If you looked at the map, this path to Lago Grey is the thin red line going out to the lake. It was 1.5 hour walk out to the point and back. Note that the path was all large rocks left behind from the glacier that sunk some with every step. What a workout! But worth it.

The van was amazing and brought me right to the house in Villa Rio Serrano where my cousin lives. She had taken the cheap bus up the west road while I was in the park. On the map it says "Cp Rio Serrano" meaning campamento (camping area/hotel).

Link to map again (click)