Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Broken in Bariloche

Ok, maybe broken is just a little bit melodramatic. My legs do really hurt though, and Marc says that he is sore too, though I suspect that he is just saying that to make me feel better about my sore muscles.

4 days ago we headed out to hike the circuito Chico just a short way away from Bariloche. We started at the base of a mountain where people ski in the winter, and made our way up 12km to our first camp site (named Frey). We made it all the way up that day, but the path was very easy with a gravel or dirt path gently sloping up the whole way. A little huffing and puffing considering the big 35 pound packs we were carrying, but easy non the less. And for this effort we were granted the gift of a camp site on a frigid beautiful lake surrounded by massive granit towers reaching into the sky. Marc and I spent the rest of the afternoon taking a very cold dip in the lake, setting up camp, eating, and watching rock climbers make their way up and down a granite spire that faced the camp. VERY entertaining.

The next morning we lazed around camp a bit, heading out by 11am. The first stage of our journey to the next camp site would be scaling one of the granite mountains that surrounded the lake. Up we clambered huge chunks of rock until we reached a plateau and another beautiful lake. These lakes are fed by the melting snow left over from winter so are chilly to say the least. Then of course, this lake was also backed by a rock wall which we had to clamber over to get to the top. Marc figures that in all we covered a thousand feet of vertical. We (ie, Marc)took some beautiful photos at the top, then, as we all know, what goes up, must come down. So on we went with the knee pounding descent. Trekking poles would have been great at this point. I spent a lot of time sitting on my butt and reaching my legs down rather than take the giant steps necessary that should I lose my footing, send me tumbling down a mountain side that I would rather not leave in that fashion.

Down down down and finally we reached a valley bottom, a kilomet or so on, the track started to rise again . Tuckered out me hoped that this final climb would bring us to the refugio, but no. We had another rock mountain to climb up over, and ANOTHER steep and long descent before we could reach the camp ground that we would call home for 2 nights. I was very proud of me.

We rewarded ourselves by spending 2 nights in this, the jakob campground. Our free day we spent hiking (WITH NO PACKS!!) to a beautiful nearby lake. We made the trip twice in fact. Very nice to have a day to clamber around with no weight on.

This morning we hiked out of the area only to find that the road on which we were supposed to catch a bus had a landslide blocking it. No busses.... So we had to walk 6 km to a main road where we hitched a ride with a lovely lady who dropped us off just at the right place to catch a bus into town. So now we are all washed up, spik and span again and getting ready for the next leg of the adventure. Out we head tonight to book a car rental for the next 5 days. Very exciting.

Take care

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Back on the grid, but leaving tomorrow!

Hello Everyone!!!

Marc and I are safe and sound in Bariloche Argentina. Packing up and getting ready to head out into the mountains.

When I last posted on my blog we were in Valdivia. After our hiking in Talca we spent a couple of days in Valdivia. Just like when Jill and I were in the same town 3 years ago, Marc and I headed off to see a series of islands near the town. This was the location of Spain´s last stronghold in Chile before chilean nationalists took it over. And yes, once again, I got to see students acting out the Chilean victory over the Spanish in full costume. It´s a great summer job for these kids as they act out the invasion...every hour on the hour during their summer holidays. Very fun to watch. We also spent a day heading out to a national park 40 k from town where we got to hike through temperate rain forest. Huge trees made us think of the movie Avatar and the magical land of Pandora. This seaside park had us walking through the forest for a few hours before coming back along an ocean view. Very beautiful.

The next day bright and early we headed on another bus, this time with a ferry crossing involved, to bring us to the southern island of Chiloe. Marc and I picked a small area that we wanted to delve into more deeply so ended up in CHEPU. This tiny farming community of about 250 people have recently been hit by falling milk prices, so they are very happy that tourists are finally finding out about their corner of the world. We stayed with a family on their dairy farm. The mom Sandra now makes cheese from all of the milk that their 12 cows produce. That´s 15 kilos of finished product per day. We got to learn all about it, very fun. Rafael, the dad was a fabulously welcoming fellow who randomly dragged us along for little adventures.
We spent a full day kayaking up one of the three estuary rivers in the area. Years ago an earthquake sank 120 acres of forest below sea level. the trees, now immersed in salt water, are all dead but make for an amazing kayaking experience. We spent 5 hours on the water, saw lots of beautiful water birds, and then 2 river otters rolling around in the water. They were either having an argument, or having an amorous encounter, but in either case they were too preoccupied to notice our presence for some time so we got a great look at them. And best of all, when we got home all tired and hungry, Sandra had a wonderful meal ready for us!!! Room and full board at only 30 dollars per person per day. What a great deal.

We spent our second day on a rainy morning hike out to a spit to see some penguins! Our guide must not have had us leave early enough, as we had to run through the quickly rising tide getting soaked up to our knees both on the way to and the way out of the spit. We had good timing however, as when we arrived, about 30 penguins were on the beach, taking a rest after fishing in the ocean. Lots of photos later, and another run through the rising ocean, we made our way back. Funnily enough, I though that with Marc along on this trip, i wouldn´t run into any of my usualy slough of silly men. How wrong could I be. Alphonso, our 60 year old guide, took quite a fancy to me...especially while Marc dissapeared for 10 or 15 minutes at a time to take photos. He kept flattering me, holding my hand, and trying to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek. Jeez! When we got back home Marc told Sandra and Rafael about Alphonso´s feelings for me....apparantly I´m in good company, as Sandra told us that Alphonso is a notorious womanaizer, and had made advances towards her as well. HA.

Day 3 in Chepu Rafael brought Marc and I to a friend of his place. This friends farm is on the edge of virgin forest, so has cut a small path through the bush, to the forest (1km or so ) and built wooden rails on which to run his home made train!!! So neat. Off we went for a ride in the train then a walk through some more amazing forest. The people here with their openness and quirky ingenuity really crack me up. Love it. We had such a great time.

Onwards we went, as Marc and I caught the bus to Puerto Varas. One night there before the bus over the border which today ended us up in Bariloche. We have been speeding around town like fools getting everything ready (including the last minute purchase of a multifuel stove as Marc´s white gas camp stove is useless here with no white gas to be found...nuts). Tomorrow we start in on a 4 day hike in the mountains...I can´t wait!

Take care everyone!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chillin´ in Chile

What a whirlwind first week in Chile this has been. Marc and I headed off on the 5th of Feb for a 18 hour journey to Santiago Chile. We arrived safe and sound in the city, though a little folded up from our long plane ride. We spent the first few days in Santiago getting money changed, checking out the sites, heading to the local market of course, and planning our next leg of the journey.

2 Nights in the big city was enough for us. We had been planning to head to Santa Cruz, the wine growing region in Chile, but last minute I found what I thought would be a better option. After learning the first lesson of the trip, don´t have too much wine the night before a bus trip day, we headed on a bus to Talca (Just 3 hours south of Santiago), then a local bus to a guesthouse called Biota Maule. It is just 200 meters from a biologocal reserve called Reserva Alto Lircay. We spent 4 nights and 3 days getting our butts in shape for the hiking to come. On our first day we hoofed over 26km up mountain sides to reach the most beautiful Laguna Alta. (high lake). As we trekked up the mountain with just our daypack (which the gallant Marc carried the whole way), we passed groups of kids who were apparantly part of a scout troup. They were heading to the same destination as us, but they were carrying full bags with pots and pans attached to the backs of them. Big bottles of water, and one poor kid had a full sized shovel strapped to the back of his pack. The whole bunch was wearing jeans and sneakers and looked like they were having the most miserable time. We met them on our way back down, and they got so happy when we told them that they only had another 15 or 20 minutes to go.
At the Laguna Alta, is where we learned the second lesson of the trip (I already knew this one but had to learn it again apparantly). South American sun is HOT! The ozone here is very thin so after a quick dip in the lake, Marc and I sat in the sun for maybe 15 or 20 minutes to dry off. When we finally slogged it home from hiking and had showers, we realized that we would be sore from more than just the exertion. You could see exactly where our hands had missed with the sunscreen. My butt where my bathing suit line was was bright red, and Marc´s back and calves got the worst of it. Lesson learned.
We were just knackered after our first day of hiking so went on a smaller adventure on day 2. We hiked down to the river in the park (4 k or so away) and spent the day playing in the cold clear water, rock jumping, Marc took photos, and we watched the humming birds dive around us to enjoy the fushia flowers hanging down by the river. At the cottage that night we got to witness 2 male carpintero negros (big black woodpeckers with bright red heads) squaking at each other. They made such funny laughing noises. Back to our place for an early night (which was thwarted by some very noisy small children who are staying at the same place we are), as the next morning would be an early one too.
Day 3. Up to be at the administration of the part (2 k away) at opening time. We got to hike in the cool morning which was great as we were heading a full 30 km this day. We passed several camping sights, and headed up up up before we turned a corner to see a huge plateau in front of us with snow capped mountains in the background. We climbed up onto a HUGE plateau (some believe this flat spot is a UFO landing site). It was made up of massive rocks that look like paving stones, but when you get to the edge of the plateau and see where these rocks have tumbled down, they are 5 to 8 feet deep. Very cool. We got to sit up there, have a bite to eat, and be mesmerized by the incredible views. A green valley below with a river running in it, backed by a huge range of massive mountains. Marc went snap happy while I poked around the rocks to see how many lizzards I could find. I found a lot. Back to our cottage for the final night in this beautiful place.
Friday morning we headed out early for Talca, booked the LAST 2 seats on a bus to Valdivia, and booked what seemed to be the last 2 beds in the town as well. We´ll be spending the next 3 nights here planning, laundering, and sightseeing before we head down to the island of Chiloe.
Marc´s Spanish is improving every day. It´s so great that he´s not shy at all about giving it a try. And everyone here is so friendly and encouraging.
Great country!
I´ll try to be more regular in these postings now.
Hugs to all
Erin and Marc