Saturday, January 28, 2012

No hay mal, que por bien no venga...

It´s a popular expression that basically means, there is no bad that doesn´t have good at the end.

This is me (Lindsay) leg post bike ride accident. In Bariloche (on our map), we had planned to ride the very popular Circuito Chico, a half day bike ride around the lake area. We got, oh, 20 minutes into our ride before I was victimized by the off-road, downhill and rocky road we were on. I don´t know what happened, but I fell - hard. Luckily, a car pulled up right behind me and the woman spoke fluent English because I was in no condition to speak Spanish. Jesse came to my rescue soon after and saw the giant gash in my knee (I had noticed it too). We went to the hospital and I got stitched up (after cleaning all the rocks out...eeew) and sent away with a heavy prescription of antibiotics to prevent infection.
Now, on the 2nd day of recovery, the pain has really set in. Walking is a challenge, and the swelling in the general knee area has really limited my mobility. Therefore, we've changed our plans slightly.

Currently, we are in Mendoza. Mendoza is wine country and the thing to do here is ride a bike from winery to winery, tasting and tasting. You see my dilemma? My stitches come out in 7 days, and until then (possibly later depending on the internal healing of my knee), I'm not even thinking about a bike.
So with not much to do here in Mendoza, we decided to cut our stay here short and head over to Ritoque (just north of Viña del Mar) in Chile a little early. 
This tacks on a few extra days on the end of our trip. So instead of heading back to BA from Salta or Cordoba, we will head to Tucuman (south of Salta - not on the map) for a day or two...and then south to Mendoza to get drunk and ride bikes...on a paved road! Paved roads are much safer. So our return to BA will be from Mendoza, where I will conquer the bike.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Finally Some Pics!

We have finally managed to sit down, sift through and choose, and upload some pictures from the last few weeks onto the computer!
We´ve chosen one or two from each place/excursion we´ve been to. As of right now, you will only see 17 of the 1350 we you´re welcome. Under each picture, there will be a brief explanation of what the hell is going on.

Ushuaia - Sea kayaking in the Beagle Channel. We fought choppy waves, winds, cold water, and came out with salt-crusted faces. Great day.

Ushuaia, Parque Nacional Tierra del Fuego - Jesse taking in the view along the coastal trail. We took a 9 hour hike through the National Park. We walked along the coast and up a mountain, looking at clear blue lagoons, mussel beds, a couple different types of forests, and mountains everywhere.

Ushuaia - Bandera (flag) tree. Imagine it turned the right way. No, the wind was not blowing that hard. However, constant winds along the coast cause these trees to grow in the direction of the wind, so they always look like they´re caught in a windstorm.

Ushuaia - Isla Martillo. On an extremely cold day (remember we were only a couple hundred kilometers from Antarctica), we took a boat out to a Magellanic penguin colony. They were so curious, they´d walk right up to you.

More penguins. These were nests, and so most of them were guarded by at least one of the parents.

El Calafate, Perito Moreno Glacier. One of our favorite days thus far. This was our introduction to the glacier, which was a pretty spectacular view. Perito Moreno is one of two advancing glaciers in the world. Our guide told us that Perito Moreno glacier is 274 sq. kilometers, and the entire Patagonian ice field is bigger than Switzerland, the 3 largest in the world.

The front of the glacier - where we were able to see a huge piece of ice (like the size of a bus) calve and fall into the lake. The sound was like huge rolling thunder or an explosion within the ice.

We took a 4 hour hike ON the glacier! It was such an amazing experience. The cramp-ons (the spikes attached to our shoes) took awhile to get used to, but were easy once you got the hang of it. We had to wear harnesses just in case we fell into a fissure. We were able to fill up our water bottles from one of the streams flowing through the glacier and see all kinds of awesome caves, sink holes, streams, fissures and fissures. And we´ll never forget the color - clear, bright blue - that pictures could NEVER do justice.

In the ice cave on the glacier. The caves are formed by small streams flowing through the glacier. If you look at our feet, you´ll see that we have to walk with our spikes on the side of the cave because the stream had cut out the ice underneath us. And yes, It was THAT blue inside the cave.

Entering El Chalten. The Fitz Roy mountain range greeted us upon our arrival to the town. A very scenic end to an otherwise mundane bus ride.

El Chalten, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares - This was taken on our first hike to the bottom of Cerro Torre (Tower Peak). The weather could not have been more perfect and the views were stunning. Cerro Torre is obviously called so because of it´s tower-like appearance. It took us roughly 4 hours (with a rather steep, high, and narrow acsent towards the end) to get to our lunch spot, overlooking a glacier, it´s accompanying lake, and the imposing gray mountain.

El Chalten, Parque Nacional Los Glaciares - Our 9 hour round trip hike to the base on Mount Fitz Roy. We thought our previous hike to Cerro Torre couldn´t be topped, but we were very wrong. Mount Fitz Roy also made you work to get to it. The sign at the bottom of the trail warned hikers not to attempt if they were not in good physical condition, or if there was wind, which later made sense to us because it was around an hour long ascent, almost straight up a rocky hillside. If you looked bak and down, it was easy to feel some vertigo. However, the top was absolutely breathtaking. A clear, bright blue lake topped with this imposing monolith of a mountain. All the other hikers around us did the same thing - which was just stare open-mouthed in awe. Another one of our best days.

Ruta 40 - the famous highway, much of it still unpaved, on our way to Perito Moreno (the city, not the glacier). Jesse took this picture while our bus was stopped at a rest stop somewhere out side of Bajo Caracloes (basically the middle of nowhere).

Perito Moreno, Cuevas de los Manos (cave of hands) - Ancient hand paintings that are over 8,000 years old. The arid, desert-like climate and the location of the paintings underneath the canyon rock (protected from sun and rain) has preserved these very well. An amazing look at history.

El Calafate berries. The legend is, once you eat one of these berries, you are destined to return to Patagonia one day.

Perito Moreno - This was the highlight of our stay in Perito Moreno. For all intents and purposes, the town is super lame. We were stuck there for a few days due to bus and tour schedulings. We salvaged our last evening here by having a picnic in front of an incredible sunset. 

So that´s it for now! Hopefully we will be able to do this once or twice more before we return exactly ONE MONTH!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

So much to say...

Whoa!  It´s been a few days and the time has flown.  We´ve been on the road for nearly two weeks now and have been busy.  We finally had a down day though and will chime in to give a brief synopsis of the past several days of adventures.

After Ushuaia, we made a grueling 12 hour bus ride to the small port town of Rio Gallegos.  This ride was worthy of an adventure sticker on its own.  We left the island, Tierra del Fuego and came to the border of Chile.  This crossing took an hour plus before we were cleared to move on.  The next leg of the journey was on a dirt road.  In a big bus, dirt roads slow things down.  A lot.  After a couple of hours, we had a highlight: crossing the Strait of Magellan on a ferry boat!  We then crossed back into Argentina land, taking another hour, then we were home free to Rio Gallegos, which we couldn´t wait to leave as soon as we had arrived.

Fast forward a bus ride and day later, we got to El Calafate, which is a southern town hidden in the foothills of the Andes.  This is where we made on of the most incredible journeys of our trip.  We woke up early, caught a bus and headed west towards the mountains.  Here, we found ourselves in from of the Perito Moreno Glacier, one of two advancing glaciers in the world.  We first took a boardwalk stroll to gaze and listen to the powerful piece of ice from the front of the glacier.  It was incredible.  Listening to it groan as it moved sounded like dynamite or thunder.  We watched it calve several times, with a piece of ice breaking right in front of us, bigger than the size of a bus.  Amazing.  Next, we boarded a boat that took us to the south side of the glacier where we split into groups and trekked an hour west along the glacier in the woods towards a refuge.  There we got outfitted with crampons and harnesses (this saves us in case we fell into a fissure) so we could venture onto the ice.  For the next four hours, we wandered around the glacier, enjoying the blues of the ice, the magnitude of it´s size, the refreshing glacial water to drink, the dips and valleys, rivers on the ice, an ice cave, and the deep sink holes.  It was unlike anything we´ve done.  After, we hopped back on the boat, we were greeted with whiskey chilled by glacial ice.  Perfect.  Truly an experience we will never forget.

And to think that couldn´t be matched, it was.  We next headed north to another small town tucked away in the Andes called El Chalten.  Here we did some trekking around Patagonia, first visiting Cerro Torre, then the famed Mt. Fitz Roy.  The first day we hiked for 9 hours with a clear sky, hot sun, and a cool breeze.  A true blessing because usually the wind is so strong it can prevent you from finishing a hike on steeper slopes.  We made our way, going through woods, over streams (drinking the pure water, too, what a concept), and finally, making ascents to eat lunch near Cerro Torre and its glacier.  It is a tall spire of rock, that surveys its valley with an ever watching eye.  We had lunch in it´s shadow before heading home.  It felt like something out of Lord of the Rings, so it was best to leave before the orcs got hungry.  The next day we headed to Fitz Roy.  Everything was nice and easy until we came to the campsites at which point we made the ascent.  Essentially going straight up the side of the mountain, we climbed for nearly an hour.  But hard work was to be rewarded.  Mt. Fitz Roy is gracious with it´s hospitality as we came upon it´s glacier, awestruck by the vibrant blue of it´s lake, and how Fitz Roy is as majestic as it is imposing.  Our jaws were permanently ajar.  That night we headed to a microbrewery, had lamb and trout ravioli, washing it down with unfiltered, beer brewed with glacier water.

After enduring another 12 hour bus ride, we arrived in the small town of Perito Moreno two days ago. Yesterday we went to a UNESCO World Heritage site called Cuevas de las Manos, which is a series of hand prints and cave paintings from over 8,000 years ago.  It was really spectacular to see these wonderfully preserved remnants of life.  The location (under cover from sun and rain) has prevented deterioration.  The second half of our "tour" was super lame.  We walked along the canyon (the paintings now above us) along the Rio Pinturas.  Hardly a river, more like algae filled creek, we walked along sand, sidestepping cow pies and even a few dead carcasses.  Our guide did nothing but break some sticks and give us some Calafate berries.  We would have preferred spending more time looking at the paintings and less time walking in sand.

Tomorrow we head north again to a small town called El Bolson (not on our map, change of plans), just south of Bariloche.  We´ll hike and hang out, peruse craft markets, and drink local beer.  Eventually we will put up pictures, so stay tuned!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ushuaia - The End of The World (no, really)

I will confess now that we have not uploaded any pictures to post. The main reason I have been on the computer long enough to meander over to our blog is because Jesse was supposed to be retrieving an email address from our room...but I think he got lost or attacked by a penguin. You never know in Patagonia, amirite?

Anyways, we are here and long story short, Ushuaia, which is the Southernmost city in the entire world,  is the shit.

Yesterday we went sea kayaking in the Beagle Channel. We came home with sore shoulders and crusted with sea salt.

Today we wandered around Parque Nacional  Tierra del Fuego (National Park: The Land of Fire). And by wander, I mean we hiked for, oh, 6 hours. Needless to say, our feet are screaming at us. The landcape is absolutely gorgeous and dramatic. Mountains, glaciers and glacial lakes, rivers, and the sea. We are surrounded by imposing mountains topped with snow or dotted with glaciers.

Tomorrow we will embark on an off-road tour around Lake Fagnano complete with an afternoon asado (and if you have been following this blog, you should know what an asado is by now). We have heard great things about this tour, so we are excited.

Finally, on Tuesday, we will take a tour to an island in the Beagle Channel to visit and walk among a Magellenic penguin colony. I know, what you are thinking, and the answer is, yes, we have weighed the pros and cons of smuggling a penguin home for Tucker to play with. Turns out it would be a really big hassle - not to mention an international crime or something.

We are not sure when we will update next or when we will upload pictures, but it will probably be sometime later this week when we arrive in El Calafate.

Nos Vemos!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Here We Go Again on Our Own!

Here you are. A (mostly) complete map of our backpacking trip through Argentina and our detour through Chile. We will make some stops in between the major ones - but everything you see here in red is where we will hit between January 6th and the end of February. On average, we will stay in each location for a few days, some more than others. We'll be flying into Ushuaia, and then riding on a charter bus for the rest of the circuit.

We will update our blog the best we can, but we won't be bringing computers, so blogging and emailing will depend on the availability of computers at hostels and internet cafes. And also, we may just be having such great fucking time that we might not have time in between cool shit to check facebook and update the blog. On Facebook, we will try to update our current cities, so you can also track us that way.

It's completely surreal that this journey is finally here. We have been planning, working for, and saving money for this trip for over a year now. The hardest part of our 10 month adventure is behind us: the day-to-day living and working part. The fun part is here! Everything we need for the next 2 months is in our backpacks and all we're going to have to worry about is having a kick-ass time. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What Exactly is a Porteño?

As the end of our Buenos Aires adventure nears, and the traveling adventure begins, we've been trying to think of a way to describe the overall culture of people in Buenos Aires. People who live in BA are called Porteños, and people often ask us what the people are like here…and it’s become more and more difficult to explain. Porteños are somewhat of an enigma. They are different than people from outside Buenos Aires, and you can only find them IN Buenos Aires. Anyone who has lived here for awhile knows and understands porteño culture, but it’s difficult to explain. I realized in writing this post, that the more I tried to describe porteños in general, the harder that task became. So, instead of a long description by me, I have asked a few non-porteños living in Buenos Aires for their take on porteño culture, and made a compilation of their descriptions plus my own.

“A porteño is a European sold on a South American economy. A glimpse of the past in the uncertain present: always looking back but never looking forward.” – Nano Martello, teaching colleague, from Columbia

“They are friendly and welcoming. In the elevator they always talk with you rather than pretend they are alone. They are also lazy.” – Audrey, room-mate, from France

“They are the embodiment of tango.” – Jack, room-mate, from England
I really like this description, because tango is very beautiful and serious, and passionate and arrogant, but also quite neurotic.

I think at the root of many things Porteño is an underlying current of irony and contradiction. For example, I assume that an overwhelming majority of Porteños, or port people, have never set foot on a boat and have never been to a port. Or that a majority of people strongly believe in monogamous relationships, but admit to cheating. Or that the first city in Latin America to legalize gay marriage, is also the city where no straight couples get married until after decades of being together.” – Brian Athey, teaching colleague, from United States

“Porteño’s are Latin in most ways, but they don’t want to identify with their Latin culture, and instead believe in every way that they are Europeans. Therefore, the porteño culture stems from the rejection of Latin culture and the desire to be European; and the belief that they are the most unique and best population of people in the Southern Hemisphere.”  - Lindsay

In general, our experiences with Porteño's have been very positive. The people here have a tough exterior, as do most big city dwellers, but once you engage someone in conversation, porteño's can be very gregarious and warm. The fact that you kiss someone upon your first meeting with them speaks to their culture and the general passion there is for connecting with other people. In many ways, porteño culture has been infuriating, but we have also embraced just as much. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Estancia La Porteña

Kathy and Brock are in town and for our last hurrah, we jetted out to San Antonio de Areco (Read about our first visit here) for the second time to stay at an estancia - an Argentine ranch in the pampas.

Upon arrival, we were greeted warmly by the managers and offered empanadas and wine (it wasn't quite noon...). The weather was a chilly 95 degrees. 
Welcome drinks

a beautiful picture of our patio

the top one is our room

We had a country lunch, which was AMAZING. There was a plethora of salads - purple cabbage and carrot, orange and onion, marinated tomatoes and moazzarella, potato and egg. And then...the meat: oh, the meat. Everything has been cooking oven coals for a couple hours, seasoned only with salt and it's own fat. Chickens split in half, beef ribs, steak, and smoked pork shoulder. We washed it all down with wine. 
The only other people staying at the estancia was a family from the San Juan province. Turns out, Roberto, the father, is a sommelier at my Mom's new favorite Argentine winery - Trapiche. Small world, right?
lunch table

country lunch

the gauchos singing songs and drinking mate'

After lunch, we watched juegos criollos (traditonal games), where the gauchos had to thread a small piece of wood through a 1/2 inch diameter ring....while on a horse at a full gallop. Traditonally, the gauchos use this ring as an engagement ring or a declaration of love for female spectators. Naturally, mom Mom and I received one. 

threading the needle!

By this time, we were all really hot and sweaty because, remember, it was like 95 degrees. We took a dip in the pool. 
In the evening, we went on a sunset horseback ride. It also happened to be Jesse's first horseback ride, and he loved it! His horse was probably the most mellow and docile horse they had...and he named her Huffy after the one speed bike, because she only went one speed - slow. It was also different than typical horseback rides in the US. We had a lot more freedom and we didn't have to ride in a single file, close line. If I wanted to trot, I could trot or canter, and if I wanted to turn around and walk with Huffy and Jess, I could. It was a truly great cap off to a wonderful day. 

Honestly, dinner was pretty mediocre compared to the meat utopia we experienced for lunch. But, I will say, the gnocci's were delicious.
We had plenty of wine with the other family staying there, and then crashed into bed, exhausted from relaxing.

Tomorrow my parents (Kathy and Brock) leave and then the second leg of our vacation starts. It's a little surreal, but it's been amazing and we've been relishing every single minute. 
sunset across the pampas