Friday, May 23, 2008

Torres del Paine National Park

Wednesday May 21, 2008 6:45 AM the alarm sounds... rise and shine. It´s time to head 2 hours west to Torres del Paine National Park. We eat breakfast and then proceed to wait for the next hour for our tour guide and jeep. Eric and I are sitting in the living room, waiting, until finally the phone rings. Gloria (the lady whose hostel we´re staying at) answers the phone and tells us that the jeep is running late due to a flat tire. That´s fine, they should be here soon and only an hour late at this point. I could have slept in much longer than 6:45, as many of you know how much I like to sleep.

So, about 15 minutes later we hear this car screech around the corner, do a 360 in front of the house, and T-Bone into the curb. It screeched again, and continued into a 180. Eric says "Here is the jeep." I looked at him and said "I am NOT going in that....!!!!" and he started to laugh of all things. Laugh at me becuse I was scared to death that that was the car that was going to drive us 2 hours on icy roads to the national park. The car ended up driving away and left me to think about who really was going to be picking us up. It ended up being a nice man named Hector with a Dutch couple in the back (who were headed to the park as well). Quite an exciting morning!

The Torres del Paine National Park was breathtaking. Mountains, rivers, lakes, glaciers, icebergs, waterfalls, and lots of wildlife. Guanacos, which are related to the Llama, foxes, and condors just to name a few. We were at the park from 11AM until 6PM with a private tour guide. Some of the pictures from the day are posted. It was a wonderful day that took us from gazing at the Torres del Paine (which one of Eric´s friends has climbed)to holding 1000 year old ice from the Grey Glacier. Every now and then throughout the day, Eric would start laughing to himself, recalling the look on my face from that morning and I would just look at him, shaking my head. Oh well, it makes for a good story I guess...

We are now on our last day here at Puerto Natales, Chile and will be getting on a ferry tonight at 9, called the M/V Puerto Eden to head north to Puerto Montt. We´ll be on the boat until Tuesday. We have plenty of cards, dice games, books and what I´m sure will be amazing views as we head north to keep us occupied as they don´t have internet on board.

The week in Puerto Natales has been very relaxing, other than the rush of anxiety and fear the other morning from the screeching car. We have enjoyed the hospitality of Gloria and her family at this hostel and she even taught me how to make empanadas from scratch, dough, and everything. I hope to try it out when we get back home. Anyone up for homeade empanadas? We won´t be writing again until late next week when we´ll have pictures of the ferry trip and more stories to share.

Until then, ciao!


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Update from Punta Arenas

We posted a "Guest Posting" from Eric that gives an update on the past week or so and now I just wanted to tell y´all what we are currently up to. After leaving Ushuaia on a bus for 11 hours, we have been in Punta Arenas, Chile (Sandy Point) since Friday. We leave tomorrow, when we´ll take a 3 hour bus to Pureto Natales and spend the week. A National Park called Torres del Paine is near there, so we´ll be sure to hike a few of the days. After that we´ll catch a ferry from Puerto Natales to Purto Mont in which we´ll be on for 4 days and 3 nights. We´re working our way north through Chile and then head into Peru after.

We are doing well and experienced a beautiful snowfall the other night here. It was like out of Charles Dickens´ story set in London. White covered the city and people were hustling and bustling throughout the town. Simply lovely! I know it´s kind of hard for some of y´all to visualize due to the 90 plus heat where you are, but it has been nice.

So that´s about it. Hope you are all well. We´ll put up more pictures sometime this week!


Guest posting: A Southern Perspective‏

Hola from el fin del Mundo! Well, not literally the end of the world, but that´s what they call this area of Argentina, the tip of the South American continent. The end of the world seems to be happening in other parts of the world, though, with floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and volcanoes. Last week, we were inBariloche, near the Chaiten volcano in Chile while it was erupting. One morning we awoke to a thin layer of ash covering everything. It had been 9000 years since it last erupted and we picked the week it awoke from its slumber! The ash, which dispersed eastward, played havoc on the transportation system ofArgentina, cancelling flights to and from Buenos Aires and buses to and from Bariloche (buses that would takeus to our next destination of Comodoro Rivadavia.)

But the day we picked to head south to Comodoro, the bus left as scheduled and we made it (luckily) to theAtlantic oil port city 13 hours later. Tired and achy, we explored our two options, another 20 hour busride leaving at 2 pm or a possible plane ride south to Ushuaia Monday morning, for just 4 hours and a little more cash. Hmmmm... plane ride!

Monday morning found us refreshed and ready for a more relaxed journey than countless hours on a bus. At the stop for the number 8 bus that would take us to the airport, we found out our plans might be changing. A taxi driver had been robbed the previous night and this morning there was a protest. All the town´s taxis, remises, colectivos, buses, etc, were striking to demand better protection from the police... thus there was no way to get to the airport without a private car.

Short of stealing a car for the quick ride, our options were limited to hitching a ride, which Erika was open to (despite requests from back home to not partake in my favorite travel pastime). We started walking on the protest-blockaded main highway out of town (which happened to be the road to the airport). Our future seemed bleak since the road we needed a ride on was empty of any vehicle, filled only with locals in the same situation as us, walking to where they needed to go. Ahh, Latin America, if it´s not a volcano disrupting your travel plans, it´s a protest the morning you really want to (and need to) get out of town. But good for them, in the states, it seems, we´d have a cow because we couldn´t get to HEB for the 8th time in a week.

After about 15 minutes of walking, we neared an intersection where cars from town had found a way around the blockade and were heading north. We quickly set up at the best spot and stuck out our thumbs. I had Erika move to where she was a bit more prominent... more likely to get a ride with beauty than with my suspect looks. Within minutes, a car stopped, and our hopes raised. Alberto was heading towards the airport and we could ride along. And, as you can see in the photo of the Fokker F-27, we flew south, and for that matter, on the only plane out of Comodoro Riviadavia that crazy Monday.

And now, now in Ushuaia. "Tierra del Fuego" and "El fin del Mundo" it´s called. Exciting names for a town that reminds me of Juneau, Alaska... plus 3 hour afternoon siestas. At 54 degrees south latitude, the sun rises late and sets early, and skirts low across the northern sky, just above the mountain peaks that frame the city... the entire day filled with a photographer´s best lighting.

It was here, in March 2003, in the middle of my South American travels, that my Antarctic escapade began. A Russian painter who was on an Antarctic research/tourist ship in port was staying at the same looney casa de familia (Hilda Sanchez and herwild-haired husband Pedro) that I was staying at. She invited us to tour the ship and that´s where I began my inquiry on how to get to Antarctica. This time around we didn´t stay with her, but Erika and I did see her one day and we ended up having dinner with her at her house.

It's an interesting feeling to be back in a place where so much started. Where a simple thought turned into 3 seasons in Antarctica and one in Greenland. I never thought I´d return, but as always, things change! Erika was intent on getting as close to the Ice as possible, so Ushuaia it is. With cold blue skies and snowy mountains as our backdrop, it is easy for her to understand that if we hopped a boat headed south, we´d hit the Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica, or an iceberg, and either way it´d be much colder. At least there would be no strikes or road blocks to hinder our journey.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Bariloche con Mis Padres

So we have just finished a week of meeting up with my parents in Bariloche, Argentina. It is a beautiful lakeside town in West Argentina that is reminiscent of Switzerland. It is set amongst various mountains and lakes with picturesque views. We were able to partake in a time share hotel with them, which was nice to be able to do. It certainly helped on the pocket book...more to spend elsewhere I say, but I´m sure Eric would disagree.

We have gone on Gondola rides and chairlifts up to the top of some peaks to get a better view of the lakes, rented a car to drive to surrounding cities such as Colonia Suiza, La Angostura and have even done a little bit of fishing along the way. My dad brought his fishing pole from the states. Only him...

The highlight of our time here has been the eruption of Volcano Chaiten in Northern Patagonia (which happened in Chile) and the ashes from it have drifted as far as Buenos Aires if not farther. It appeared one morning this week almost looking like frost on the ground, but on further investigation we discovered it was ashes from the volcano. Quite a site! It hasn´t erupted in 9,000 years!!! Can you believe our luck? The airport is closed here but thankfully we were already planning to take the bus south towards Ushuaia.

It has been a nice visit with my parents. They even have backpacks (although much bigger) like we do and seem to be doing quite well with them. I am quite proud of their vigor and love of experiencing new things. We have added some pictures of the trip so far and hope that we can share a litle bit of our travels with you. We hope this finds you well and in good spirits!


Sunday, May 4, 2008

¡Estamos en Argentina!

We have arrived safe and sound in Buenos Aires, Argentina! The flight was 10 hours long from Dallas and we weren´t able to sleep much during the flight, but uneventful enough. After being awake for more than 24 hours, at 8 AM Thursday May 1, we took a taxi to the Hostel Tanguera in a section of Buenos Aires called San Telmo. It is a lovely hostel! Once here we waited for our room until 10:30 and then took a 2 hour nap. We then tried to wake up enough to see some of the city. This is a beautiful capital with lots of people to see, food to eat and things to smell... some good and some not so good.

We saw La Casa Rosada where Eva Peron made some of her famous speeches while married to Juan Peron in the 40´s. We also went to her museum yesterday, which was very impressive. The Congreso buildng as well as the Obelisk are very interesting sites. The Museo de Las Bellas Artes was filled with Van Gogh´s, Picasso´s, Monet´s, Degas´, Renoir´s and many other amazing artists.

We have had some empanadas, churros and hot chocolate to wash it all down. We were able to see some Argentinian Tango last night along with fantastic singers and musicians. All for only $10 US each. It was a 2 and a half hour show! ¡Muy impressionante! We leave for Bariloche today where we will meet up with my parents for a week stay. We´re looking forward to meeting up with them for awhile.

I hope that ths update finds you well. We will try to add pictures when we get to a place where the computer has the capability to do so. The internet at this hostel is free so I´m just happy to be able to use it.

¡Hasta Luego!