Saturday, February 28, 2009

PN Torres Del Paine: Rocks

We hiked the big circuit in seven days. Torres has some of the most amazing alpine scenery I've ever seen in the ranges that I've known and loved: Cascades, Sierra, Rockies.

Monte Admirante Nieto. Maybe skiable, but not this aspect...
From Torres Del Paine

Los Cuernos del Paine. Cody, has anyone ever enchained them?
From Torres Del Paine

The Torres have to be one of the most incredible escarpments I have ever laid eyes upon. They are like rocketships shooting up from the cirque, so abrupt it's hard to believe. These pictures do them poor justice. You really should try to make it to the mirador some day when there is clear weather. You will hike up a the remains of a moraine for a few hundred meters with little view of anything except the crest of the talus, when suddenly, WHAMMO! The torres.
From Torres Del Paine

Torres at the end of the hike
From Torres Del Paine

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Puerto Natales and el fin del mundo

We had a nice hike around Torres Del Paine. The scenery lived up to expectations; there were hordes of people in places; it was windier than any other place I'd ever tried to hike. More on that in another post later.

We took the bus back into Puerto Natales and got in a few hours before dinner. I was jazzed for dinner. We had eaten at La Picada del Carlosito a week before when we got into Puerto Natales and it was incredible. I had the most delicious Salmon a lo pobre, it almost brought tears to my eyes it was so good. The following week as we hiked with our meagre rations, I had fantasized about the meal I was going to consume at La Picada when we returned triumphant. There would be piscos sour, fanschop, helado, the whole tres metros.

It was with dismay, then, that I was full after eating hardly half my lasagna, and was medio entonado after half of a fanschop (for the uninitiated, fanschop is fanta--orange soda--mixed with schop--draft beer. It's much better than it sounds.) Human food just wasn't going down as well as envisioned.

I was, however, getting off lucky compared to poor Erin, who already was suffering from some kickin' gastroenteritis. I went off to try to internet, while she went to nap in the tent, with the unevitable coda of trudging to the bathroom every hour or so. Pobrecita. The next day she was feeling slightly better, but we had already decided that a rest day was in order.

Now, we had been camping behind a restaurant that was pretty centrally located
in Puerto Natales. Consequently, every stray animal in the city, simpatico or craven, made the rounds during the day. There was Scraps, the theatrical begging dog. Scraps walks on his hind legs, rolls on the ground and moans, and almost tries to bolt into the tent when we are eating.

More unsettling was Gimps, the priapetic mutt. Gimps came into the camping one afternoon chasing a fine-looking lady-dog around lustily. Slightly mangy and with a cronic limp in the front right paw, Gimps is no looker; yet did not want to take no for an answer. We grabbed a couple of stones from the ground as we ate, just in case.

However, the highlight of the stray (or at least migratory) menagrie was Gatito, the kitten. She was pretty much the most adorable kitten I had ever laid eyes upon. Now, I'm not one to cuddle with weird cats, adorable or no, especially after an experience with un tal gato boliviano en un tal carpa de un tal Chris A., but we had seen her off and on for almost a week, so I guess there was a bit of a repoire built. So when she invited herself into the tent right as we were going to bed and curled up on my sleeping bag, we were sunk. Despite our weak and flagging protests, Gatito remained there for the night. She ended up nestled between Erin's bag and mine, enjoying a fine down beg made of $300 feathered friends sleeping bags.

Now we are Ushauia, Argentina. The end of the world. Even though that is not true (Puerto Williams on the Isla Navarina, across the Beagle Channel is further south), it certainly has that feel to it. I like it so far. Tomorrow we are catching a dingy across the channel to Puerto Williams where we will see about doing the trek around the Cordon de los Dientes, which might take 4 or 5 days, even though it's supposedly only 50 km. Incidently, Ushauia looks like a kick-ass place to take a ski vacation. Plenty of cross-country to be had, as well, Mom.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We have traveled to Puerto Natales, Chile via Rio Gallegos, Argentina. We are minutes away from catching a bus to PN Torres del Paine to do the circuit. See you in a eight or nine days!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Buenos Aires, part dos

I started this post in Buenos Aires, but I´m a bit behind on posting it (by about a week). I´ve got to learn to keep up with this blog stuff...Anyways, sorry Mom...and anyone else that has been awaiting new posts.

One of the last few days in BA we got to go to a free concert near the Ecological park and hear some Argentinian music (Julian Roos). It was a good time. Although we didn´t know any of the lyrics weren´t able to sing along with any of the songs, we could take in some good music and enjoy being some of the only extranjeros around.

On Sunday we rambled over to San Telmo for the huge street vendor/antique fair that takes place every week. We again scored some good music to listen to from a street band in San Telmo and got to see some free Tango dances in the street. San Telmo is the center of Tango culture in Buenos Aires. It is also an older part of town with alot of cobble stoned streets, old mansions, botiques, and antique stores. We then walked down to La Boca to check out El Caminito, a street with brightly colored tin facades. La Boca is also home of one of the areas most popular soccer teams in an area where soccer reigns supreme. The caminito was overwhelmingly touristy, and not as interesting as other areas that we had been. We grabbed a beer from a cafe across from the area, and watched as the streets went from hopping with hundreds of tourists to being completely empty within the course of an hour. We had read (in guide books), and heard that La Boca was a rough area at night, but it was only about 530, and it was amazing to see a place clean out so fast. As we were paying our bill, the waitor let us know that everything closes down at 6 PM, as this is the time that security leaves the area. Business owners and others in the area rush to try to get everyone out of the area, as tourists are a large target for crime. We payed our bill and caught a bus back to our hostel. We also had the most amazing ginger ice cream I´ve ever had (in my entire was that good) at an organic vegetarian restaurant in Palermo that night.

Street band at San Telmo. Las hormigas negras.

From Buenos Aires

Some interesting graffiti on the streets of San Telmo...the only church that illuminates is the one that burns
From Buenos Aires

We spent the next day at MALBA wondering at the depths of contemporary art in Palermo. We caught a plane out to Rio Gallegos later that night where we would be off to Patagonia for some trekking.

A city park in Palermo Area.
From Buenos Aires

A few failed attempts at me being creative with my picture taking while we waited on the rain to stop at MALBA.

From Buenos Aires

From Buenos Aires

You hear about how Buenos Aires is the ¨Paris of South America¨, and there was a definite similarity in the sidewalk cafe culture of the city. It also reminded me a lot of other Spanish cities with the laid-back-close-around-lunch-take-your-time kind of atmosphere. I felt there were also some tropical climate, dress. I enjoyed getting to know the streets of Buenos Aires. However, it is a huge city, and we found ourselves seeking out the green spots - parks - in the city. I am ready for some real green...headed to Patagonia!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Transporte a lo porteño

We have been walking lots the last few days and so have had ample time to observe and participate in bus-car-pedestrian-bike (yikes) scene in Buenos Aires. A few observations:
  • The most prominant threat is feeling like you are going to be hooked by right-turning cars when crossing with the light. Consequently, I feel like I got to bring my A-game even if I am in a crosswalk with a green light.
  • Ironically, turning right on red here is no different than cavalierly running straight through a red light, so it doesn´t seem to be done. Hence it is often less cruxy to cross against the light, when I know my enemy. Sure, cross traffic will murder me if it can, but I can see that coming.
  • The bicyclists that attempt to exist on the roads frighten me to death. I constantly think I´m about to witness a tragedy. They ride (probably out of necessity) on the busiest avenues. Think Aurora, but with 12 lanes rather than 6. They ride on the left and traffic closes on them 30 to 40 mph faster than they are riding. On the smaller streets, some have no compuction against squeezing within inches of cars that are temporarily stopped, only to have the line of vehicles start again and pass them all the faster and closer out of spite.
  • The above observations are probably due to different cultural expectations of personal space. Even when walking on the street, it´s common for people to pass each other at a distance that would perceived as threatening in the US. So if your personal bubble isn´t so big, it´s not so threatening make yourself intimate with speeding traffic constantly. This only holds if you proceed with the currently effective, but hardly tested assumption that drivers actually would prefer not to murder anyone, so proximity doesn´t immediately indicate threat.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Buenos Aires, part I

We arrived after an uneventful, but exhausting flight from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. Instantly assuming cheap-bastard mode, we noted that a shuttle bus to the centro would set us back US$15 per person, whereas an adventure by municipal bus would cost us only 60 cents. After a nearly two-hour tour of the outskirts of Buenos Aires, we finally arrived at the hostel, pleased with our ingenuity and thrift, and nearly hallucinating due to jetlag and sleep deprivation. Fortunately, the hostel came with beds for sleeping, which we did.

Later that day, we ventured out for a walk. We passed by the Plaza San Martin.

Many Argentine flags, taken from the plaza de mayo. This plaza was made famous by the mothers of the desaparecidos who continue to march with photos of their lost sons, daughters and husbands. There was also a small demonstration about the Falkland Islands, which a vocal subset of Argentinians still see as part of their homeland.

We visited the cemetary in Recoleta. There´s no more room there now, but for many years members of high society were enterred there. It´s like a miniture city, with wider avenues in places as well as smaller "side streets." A small contigency of cats keep company with the dead.

Later that day we visited Palermo, which has a botanical garden (also replete with cats!) It was a very pleasant place to lounge. I had asked Erin if she thought that anyone ever brought food for the cats, since we had seen people feeding the hordes of diseased pidgeons in the plazas and it seemed unfair that the healthy-looking cats should go without. No sooner had the words escaped when I saw a couple of women with bags of cat food and a cloud of cats. They turned out to be ex-pat Americans living in Buenos Aires.
Later that night we made a grave error. As most know, Argentina is famous for its beef. You can visit a parrilla and eat a dangerous amount of beef for US$7-8. We knew that we had to visit one eventually if we were to have said to have been to Argentina. We went out at a appropriately slovenly hour with no specific plans to subject ourselves to beef poisoning that night. However, we settled on a restaurant with a very reasonable parrillada and next thing we knew, this pile of flesh was before us. Don't get me wrong; it was delicious. It sat, however like so many kilos of delicious, grilled lead in the stomach for 12-18 hours afterwards. And we didn't even come close to finishing the whole mountain.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Excitement and Walter

Repacking the explosion of gear/clothes/guidebooks that found itself onto the floor and dropping off the remainders of my possessions at storage last night made me finally realize.....IT'S SO CLOSE! Tomorrow, actually. I'm stoked. A little anxious (for some unknown reason/s), but mostly just really excited. I'm excited about all of the things that inherently come along with travel - sights, tastes, smells, problems to solve, people to meet. I'm also excited to be traveling at this point in my life. Not that I have any unique insight for why getting out on the road will be good for my soul at this exact moment, but I really feel the need for some revival of passion after feeling a bit burnt out. In the words of Walt Whitman, in one of the only Whitman poems I can still remember by heart....

Afoot and lighthearted, I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me, leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune - I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road.

The earth - that is sufficient;
I do not want the constellations any nearer;
I know they are very well where thy are;
I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens;
I carry them, men and women - I carry them with me wherever I go;
I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them;
I am fill'd with them, and I fill them in return.)

It goes on from there, but you get the picture (and I've filled my corny quotation quota). I am excited, and I the next time I post it will be from the open road.