Wednesday, July 22, 2009

oh, read this too

Jeremy had a great Samoa post recently

St. Patricks Day 09

So the day after our bike ride was St. Patrick's Day. We spent the day hanging around town mostly. Towards the afternoon. Naomi realized she lost her ATM card. She was pretty upset about that. Combine that with it being St. Patricks Day and that the hostel in which we were staying was owned by Irish, and the local vodka population was trembling.

Vodka? That's not very Irish, you say. Well, no, I agree; I stuck to good old green beer. It was fun. A bunch of the owners' friends from Ireland had planned it so their trip through South America would land them at Pudu for St. Patricks Day.

I woke up on my bed the wrong way with my clothes and shoes still on.
I was by FAR in better shape.
We caught a local bus to the Catedral ski area the next morning. From there, the plan was to take the ski lift to the top and then backpack from there.

Above is Naomi and the ski area. Not feeling so good.

She is pretty damn tough though. She started feeling a little better.

And the top of the ski lift view was impressive.

Really nice there.

But we had to get moving so we could get to your camp spot before dark. And Naomi still wasn't feeling that great. I'm not sure how into backpacking I would have been if I felt that bad.

The hike was one of the best I've ever done. It started out along the top this ridge which was pretty much straight up and down. We just followed the crest for a few hours. It was a spectacular area and being on the top of the ridgeline made it even more fun and exciting. It was rarely scary though because there were huge boulders everywhere keeping you from having the feeling that you might fall all the way down a 2500 foot cliff to your death.

After hiking for a long time, we got to a junction to hike down to Refugio Frey, which was our destination. We had to hike down a really steep rock cliff.

Going up would have been awful. Another guy at the hostel had recommended just hiking up from the bottom instead of taking the chairlift. The chairlift was $7 each. That is well worth an extra 3000 feet of elevation gain to me.

Picking our way down was still really time consuming. But, again, it was just beautiful there.

By the time we made it to the small lake, we figured we were almost there. It took another hour to make it down another big rock cliff and then to the lake where we would camp and Refugio Frey.

I took a lot of pictures on this trip, but this was a big omission. I don't have any of the actual refugio. Way out in the middle of nowhere is this cabin where you can rent a room (we didn't) or have lunch or dinner. We had dinner there. It was superb. Really, not just for camping, but for anywhere. The ranger/cook guy took his job very seriously. We had a fresh basil, avocado, and tomato salad that was one of the best salads I've ever had. The key was his terrific citrus poppyseed dressing. It would be good anywhere, but in South America, you get oil and vinegar or no dressing. To have something this good was shocking. Then there was fresh pasta with a fresh tomato and vegetable sauce, and a homemade dessert. We had lots of fantastic meals in South America, but this was one of the 5 best.
Also it was a really impressive location. If you go to Bariloche in the summer, make the hike to Refugio Frey, and make sure you eat dinner there.

In real time, Naomi is finally here. That's really cool.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Punta Arenas to Bariloche

This place is pretty far south:

It is the very south tip of mainland South America. To celebrate, they made a copy of Aberdeen, Washington and stuck it there. Except they made it more dreary, dirty, and cold. Punta Arenas is a pretty ugly town. It also was cold. We got there in early March, which is the same as early September in the north. It isn't usually 50 degrees in early September. It was there. To compensate for the cold and general unpleasantness of the town, they entertained themselves by making up local delicacies. (you'll have to click on these and enlarge them to really see)

Like Suck of Seafood:

and Potatoes Sauteed with Butter and Merkin:

They have penguins there, and that is pretty cool:

They are all over out by their nesting grounds.

These are Magellenic Penguins. Their other name is the Jackass Penguin. Check out their noise:

We saw an ad for a pretty nice looking casino on Punta Arenas on the flight down to El Calafate. We figured out where it was and walked across town to it. But when we got there, the place was still under construction.

On February 13, we flew from Punta Arenas to Puerto Montt. On that flight they had the same Punta Arenas casino ad. Upon further inspection, I could see that the picture in the ad was a computer drawing. Thanks a lot bastards.

We were plenty happy to be leaving Punta Arenas and its miserable weather. It was about 43 and pouring down rain on our way to the airport. It is about 2.5 hours flight north of Punta Arenas.

We got to Puerto Montt and checked out their downtown. It was bad weather that day there too, but it was a much much nicer place, and much less cold. They have tons of seafood there and we each had a wonderful huge bowl piled with clams and mussels for about $3.50 at a nice restaurant. Then we headed back to catch our bus. Except they screwed us.

They canceled our bus from Puerto Montt to Osorno (about an hour away) where we had to transfer to Bariloche (about 6 hours from there). Finally, they got us on another bus, but once we got to Osorno, it was too late; the bus had left and there wasn't another one til the next day. I was pretty damn irritated. The bus company paid for us to stay in a hotel, and it was AWESOME. Awesome is Chilean for 'smells like you are in a diesel tank'. It was so strong that it was pretty hard to handle. They clean floors in some places in South America with diesel. They must have cleaned the shit out of this place.
Another bonus about Osorno is that there is nothing to do. It isn't a bad place really, but there's nothing to do. I was debating whether it would be better to be stuck in Osorno or Longview, WA for a night. It has to be Longview. At least in Longview there are types of restaurants other than BBQ and pizza. Plus, there are bowling alleys. Osorno is 3 times the size of Longview, and it has 1 movie theater. We had read that that was a big deal because for several years it had none.

The next day we got out of Osorno and were on our way to Bariloche, Argentina. The ride was mostly nice and through a beautiful landscape. There are nice big lakes with resort towns and a few cool volcanoes once you get a little east of Osorno. The only bad part of the trip was the border crossing. Chile has the stupidest border crossings. They search you going out and make you go through a ton of red tape. Why? You are leaving. Even the US doesn't do that. The border crossing took over an hour and there was no line of cars.

Finally we made it to Bariloche:

It is nice there. Really really nice.

Here's the view from our room at Pudu Hostel in Bariloche:

The next day, we rented some bikes and rode around this local circuit that was recommended. It is pretty spectacular.

Naomi was excited they had roadside blackberries:

Bariloche is in western Argentina right up against the Andes. Also it is on a humongous lake. It is kind of like Chelan but the lake is way way bigger and so is the town (120,000). And it is nicer there (though I do like Chelan). The town is really nice and clean and there are tons of outdoor activities year around.

Living in Bariloche from January to May would be a great setup:

The place we were staying was owned by an Irish couple in their 30s. The next day was St. Patrick's Day.

Movie review
10,000 years B.C. 2
Some ok effects. Dumb, boring storyline. Lots of boring fighting. Bad.

Here's Naomi torturing a giraffe and pissing it off:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Torres del Paine Part II

Well, that was a bit of a break from blogging. Thought I gave up, huh? Where was I? OK, when last I did something on here, we were heading up to Campamento Britainico. We just kept going up and up forever.

We passed really close to a huge set of hanging glaciers that would regularly calve off and crash down the cliff.

Naomi wanted to quit.

It was getting close to dark and we had to make it all the way back down the hill, so we agreed to stop after 10 more minutes.

And we were there in about 7:

From up there you can see the back side of the Torres and this huge valley surrounded on all sides by cliffs.

When you are planning your hike around Torres del Paine, I recommend not camping at Campamento Italiano. Why? It is shitty.

Literally. The sewer had backed up and the whole place smelled like a sewer. Most of the campground had been closed due to the sewage, but the part that was not was conveniently infested with mosquitoes. Also the actual campground is just a bunch of dirt in trees without a view.

Just across the river though is a pretty nice bug-free spot where we had dinner:

The next day we headed towards Cuernos Camp.

I think I had a Trapper Keeper with a picture of the Cuernos in grade school or middle school. I know for sure I had a Trapper Keeper with a cool looking mountain on it, but didn't know where it was until the Jeff Barrow-No Snowshoes- Almost Die of Hypothermia-Snow Cave trip in college. It was Mt. Shuksan. Anyway, I'm sure you are happy to know that, so here are a few pictures of the hike to the Cuernos Camp.

Another reason why you should push on to Cuernos and not stop at Italiano is that the Cuernos camp is awesome. It is a nice campground with a lodge, but the setting is spectacular.

We only had time to stop at Cuernos for a little bit because we had a really long way to go. 19k with packs on is hard. The hike was really beautiful and for quite a while that made up for the constant up and down.

But after several hours of this, it was getting pretty hard.

After hiking through a windstorm and a giant rockfield,

we could see the campground.

My feet and one knee hurt worse than they ever had before and I was pretty much hobbling into camp. But it was a really really nice campground.

Naomi found some crazy yellow branches that she was hoping to make a potion from that would cause a heavy downpour the next day so we could stop hiking.

I would have been disappointed if it rained the next day because I really wanted to make it to the Torres. But, my legs were incredibly tired, and the thought of not hiking 22k the next day was pretty attractive. It didn't look like it was going to rain, anyway.

It was really nice the next morning. So we started up towards the Torres. This is the only picture we took on the way up the first super steep and pretty long section of the hike.

That's because when we stopped it was to catch our breath to avoid passing out. If you started with this hike as your first day (which is possible) you could make it up with a pack, but it would be brutal. On your 5th day, it would surely be your worst hiking day ever.

We drank all of our water in about 45 minutes. Luckily, you can drink the water in streams down there. There are no little animals to deposit giardia. There are just birds and guanacos.

A steep, but spectacular hike:

After a long time, we could see the Torres:

Here, we were just .75miles from the top of the trail.

But that 3/4 mile had 3000 feet of elevation gain. The map said it would take an hour. After about 20 minutes it looked like we'd make it in 25. We made it in about an hour. There are no pictures of that part.

But it was easily worth the effort. There were lots of people with guides up there. One of the guides said he does this all the time and that day was the clearest he had ever seen.

Pretty cool.

Team Puppy!

Guanacos hang out all over the lowland areas of the park. Orange camels:

We stayed at the same campground after the hike. The next day we headed back to Puerto Natales for a day of relaxing and then hopped on a bus to Punta Arenas.

Movie Review: Hot Fuzz 3
Tonight (in real time) I watched this movie. Isn't horrible really and there are a few funny parts. One part in particular has a really funny ridiculous graphic scene where a guy has a church tower land on him. Mostly it is just sort of boring. I stopped paying close attention and started working on this blog post.