Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Moving on

The next few days involved bussing back to Chile and smuggling illegal foods like honey and jam(all Tiffany´s idea I am totally innocent). We spent one night in a bigger but un noteworthy town called Puerto Mont where we saw Avatar(both liked it) and continued on to Puerto Varas where we are now. PV is a nice, quaint small town with a view of 2 volcanoes. Not too much to do here but we hope to get out and do some hikes near the volcanoes and surrounding parks. Weather is not looking too good, mostly overcast, cool and rainy for the foreseeable future. We´ll go anyway but where the heck is summer? Can´t say I miss the heat in Santiago though.

For those who are wondering when I´m coming back-it´s never. Just kidding. Im working on the logistics and hope to be back in the US around the 11th or so and back to work a week or so after that. Looking forward to being home but not to working so much.

One interesting thing: no one anywhere we have been says adios, they all say Ciao like in Italian. Ciao.

Christmas and beyond











The weather wascold and rainy so we were super lazy and laid around reading all day. A nice way to spend Christmas actually.

The next day the weather wasn´t much better so we were lazy for a while then took a hike to a mirador overlooking El Bolson. Later got some mediocre food but great ice cream. The tour book describes it as the best in the country and they may be right.

On the 27th we tried to take a bus out to a hike then realized that the bus doesn´t run on Sun. So we took a cab out to a trail leading to a place called Cajon Del Azul. This means the blue drawer and refers to a rock formation over the river(see pics).

After a bit of hiking, more questionable bridges and passing several horse riders, we made it to the Cajon. The river has an awesome, super clear aquamarine color and the views were amazing. Definitely one of the nicer hikes I have done. Lots of places where one wrong step would mean death. One bridge(over the Cajon) was made of logs and around 130 feet up but luckily it was short. We shared a cab back with a couple of German girls(we had the lady from a campground call).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas Eve







During our walk yesterday we happened on a massage place and had made appts for today. Our Christmas gifts to ourselves. Tiffany went first and reported having acupuncture and other unconventional treatments. Unfortunately, mine was boring old swedish but I guess I didn´t ask for anything specific. Still relaxing.

After lunch we headed out on our planned hike. After a couple of false trails, we found where we were supposed to be and made it to our first destination: Mirador Rio Azul, an overlook to the Rio Azul Valley. After that we made our way to a small waterfall called Cascada Escondida. We were told there was a trail along the small creek(fed by the waterfall) back towards town but ¨the guy¨ told us that some people can´t make it and turn around. We figured we could handle it.

So at the bottom of the waterfall, we found the trail. It involved a fair bit of scrabbling but we were enjoying it and did´t see what the big deal was. After a while when Tiff was in front she said that the trail ended in the creek and that it must go up and around. I foolishly listened and we headed up the hill at about a 45 degree angle which turnred into 60 and brambles. There was a trail but I was doubtful so I turned around to re-try the original trail. I found that you could hang on to the rock and go around and continue. I called for Tiffany but she was busy trying to cut new trail with her eyeball. She eventually made it down and we continued on. After a few more minutes and another questionable bridge crossing, we made it to the river that runs through town.

We walked along the river and eventually made it back to town. We went to the internet and phone place and she was able to make some calls. Mine were unsuccessful so I played in the internet some.

Our hosts planned on a 10:30 dinner so we could then toast Christmas at midnight. There were about ten of us from various countries plus Valadia and her husband Claudio. It was a great chicken and fixings dinner plus a toast of a drink from Argentina that tastes like Jaegermeister but worse. Wouldn´t recommend it and can´t remember the name anyway. A little unusual for Christmas Dinner but very nice. Time for bed.

On to El Bolson 12/23/09

We took a 2 hour bus on to El Bolson a small town about 2 hours away to the south. EB is described as a ¨hippy town¨. After a rainy ride we had a rainy walk in circles trying to find our hostal. The owners were a young couple with kids and seemed very nice. They invited us to Christmas Eve dinner. They gave us a newly built cabin for the price of a double. It was pretty rustic but did have a basic kitchen, which we were hoping for, to continue to keep our food costs down.

We headed out to walk around town in search of food and locally made yogurt which happened to be also where ice cream was being sold so we had to partake in that.

EB is about the size of Marietta, pretty small. You could walk from one end to the other in about an hour. The views out of town are of mutiple snow covered mountains.

We made dinner and planned tomorrows hike.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Cerro Lopez 12/22/09





Tiffany wanted to go shopping and play onthe internet which I had no desire to do so I made alternate plans. Bus schedule in hand I headed out to catch a bus to the the trailhead at the bottom of a Mountain called Cerro Lopez. After a 45 min ride, I got there. The map I had turned out to be completely inacurate but I did OK anyway. I kept running into an oldert couplwe that is staying in our hostal. They are quite ther hikers for their ages and managed to catch up to me when I stopped to eat or when I couldn´t find the trail. They also had a much better map which helped.

The trail was mostly at about a 45 degree angle and braided quite a bit in places. Half way up was a waterfall fed by melting snow. Towards the top I started wlking on snow and heard water running underneath. Not sure how safe that was but I didn´t break through. At the top was a refugio- a surprisingly well equipped shelter with rooms to stay and food etc for hikers. The altitude is around 1600 meters. Not sure at the start but a ways down as you can see fro the pic. When there is less snow you can make it from one to the next and not need to bring a tent. This year has stayed relatively cold and a lot of the trails are closed still. So I sat at a table and ate my sandwich and orange and then headed back down. I decided to take the road that was presumably built to supply and build the refugio. After finding that it was goiung to take forever going that way, I jumped back on the trail when they came close. I entertained myself by running the rest of the way down. The trail conveniently had many little banked turns to check my speed.

At the bottom I had to kill some time until the next bus so I checked out a cemetery apparently built for mountain climbers and then headed to the bus stop. There were some Israely girls there also waiting. They said they only made it to ¨the beginning of the middle¨ because they partied too hard the night before. They had worked and saved and planned to travel in SA for a year.

Eventually, the bus came and we ate some Pizza that Tiff made with gluten free crust. I loves me some pizza.

Kayaking 12/21/09






After messing around town looking for some things Tiff wanted, we got picked up to go kayaking in nearby Lago Gutierrez.

After a short van ride with a couple from (I think) Germany, we got to the lake. It is a relatively small lake somewhat protected from wind by mountains on almost all sides. We met our guides Chris and Pablo who spoiled us with their excellent English. Chris used to spend part of the year around Lake Tahoe teaching snowboarding. They gave us the instruction talk and we set off in double kayaks. We had no problems coordinating but it was 100 times harder to turn these boats than my whitewater kayak. Much more designed to go in a straight line than mine. It was beautiful although we didn´t seem to go very far. Scale is much different in a lake than I am used to. We stopped at a liitle beach area, got out and had a little picnic in the woods. We had somewhat of a battle with horseflies (tabanos-spanish word of the day). The way back was a little harder because we were battling wind and waves but we made it. The other couple needed a tow. Chris was nice enough to take some pictures.

After we ate at a Mexican restaurant that wasn´t very good and more expensive than at home. Luckily we have made(Tiffany made) most of our meals at home and have been able to save some money.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Circuito Chico 12/20/09











We were woken up by what must be Bariloche´s equivalent of a rooster. A couple of birds sat on the roof of the next building and squawked a wake-up call. They are pretty strange looking with 4 inch long, curved beaks. Tiffany wants to shoot them. She likes to sleep in.

After breakfast, we headed out by local bus to a mountain called Cerro Companario. While most of the rest of the people who got off thge bus with us rode the chair lift to the top, we hiked. It was dusty and steep and Tiff decided that her sandals weren´t the ideal footwear but we made it. The views were awesome. Lakes and mountains in every direction. We were able to plot out our coming bike ride from that bird´s eye perspective.

After we hiked back down we walked a couple KMs to the bike rental place. They gave us a map with the highlights on their suggested route and we were off. My bike shifted pretty well(I traded off because my first one didn´t)but Tiffany had some problems with hers. She managed well anyway and we had what had to be the most beautiful bike ride of our lives(see pics). Lots of hills that were challenging but not grueling, with awesome views to reward you at the top of most of them. At one spot there were several raptors that were doing great acrobatics with the updrafts. We were told they are in the falcon family. One flew right by Tiff´s head.

We continued on with continued lake and mountain views along the way. Stopped for a short hike. The trail was almost completely covered by a native bamboo which seems to have taken over but there were also some huge trees. One was labled as being over 350 years old. All told about 4 hours of biking.

While shopping for dinner, we realized how tired we were. Good day. video

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bariloche

We had to catch another bus in Osorno and had maybe 10 minutes to spare. This ride was some of the best scenery we´ve seen here and I guess this route is a tourist trip in and of itself. After a lengthy but painless border crossing we were in Argentina. Now it´s about 3.85 pesos to the dollar versus 500 in Chile so a little different math for us. They also pronounce their ll as a sh sound instead of a y sound. More challenges I guess. So after a beautiful intro to the lake district we arrived in Bariloche and found our way to our Hostal which is very nice as is the staff. The rooms are of new contruction and it has a very well kept yard with lots of nice plants and flowers. Much more relaxing than the settings in Valparaiso and Santiago.

After settling in, we found food. We had been warned that they are very big on meat and not so much on vegetables but it was still a bit surprising. Tiffany ordered a steak and if she hadn´t ordered a salad, it would have been nothing but a plate of steak. It literally covered the entire plate.

Off to bed and planning tomorrow. There are a lot of outdoor things to to here; much more my speed.

Last day in Valparaiso/ Viña Del Mar

We spent our last day lying on the Beach in Viña. It was the first time on this trip that we really spent time on a beach and it was nice although I managed to get a sunburn on my stomach in the 20 minutes before I rented a beach umbrella (I was on my back reading). The sun is very strong and I have quite the redneck tan (now with a red chest and stomach). It´s very sexy. Haven´t been walking the streets with no shirt enough I guess. I would wear mesh shirts but I would have to walk 30 feet behind Tiffany so none would know were together.

After that we rode the train back to Val. and jumped on a bus for the overnight trip trying to get to Bariloche in Argentina. We opted for the ¨Cama Suite¨ which is the mac daddy of comfort on the bus. You can fully horizotally recline your chair into a bed which is definitely the way to go. After a couple of cheesy movies we got some good sleep other than something beeeping in the middle of the night.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Pics from Trek































Unfortunately it was very overcast and cloudy a lot of the time and we could tell there were beautiful views out there but we just couldn´t see them. It was great trekking even though at time it was very wet and rainy. The change from barren rocky high altitude to Jungle trekking was pretty dramatic. All of our team were really great people but there was a wide range of hiking abilities.

Machu Picchu itself was of course awesome but it was late in the morning before we could see most of it. Wegot up at 4 am to start hiking up from Aguas Calientes. Tiffany´s blog is much more complete. tiffany3h@blogspot.com.