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Iguazu Falls, Argentina

16 Feb

Next morning we made way to the Argentinian side.  We had to scramble as our plane to Salvador was due for later that day.  Talk about cutting it close.

Collected my laundry, my first since the camping trip, and it was great to smell clean again.  Packed up.  Grabbed food.  And took a bus trip to the falls where we met a Russian family of three from New York.

Then we practically ran to the different view points so we could take it all in.

We also grabbed a speedboat that took us straight under the falls. More negative ions.  Mmm, good.

To get to the really big falls (pictured below), we had to take a train.  But after waiting on a really long line, the ranger informed us the people in front of us would be the last ones to board.

So as soon as he turned, I made a run for the train and despite his blowing of a whistle and stomping his feet, I slipped into an open seat and Danny found one as well.








It’s Where Superman Lives

8 Feb

We arrived in El Calafate on the 7th, and I had a strong lean going after boozing with an extra large bottle of wine.  I blacked out and apparently cooked up a mess in the kitchen in the middle of the night.

On Feb 8th, we saw one of the last moving glaciers in the world. Periodically, it would shed a large piece of ice that would come crashing into the water, unleashing a thundering sound.  The glacier was beautiful, and it glowed a bright blue.





Chillin on a Glacier, Chalten Argentina

6 Feb

Date of Events: 2/6/2009

Hiked for about three hours to a river.


Ziplined across to the other side and hiked some more (really steep) to get to the glacier.


Put on crampons (those spiky things that go over your shoes and stop you from sliding on ice) and made way to the glacier.

The glacier was melting and dirty, but still really cool.


We had lunch in between some iceberg looking things and after practiced a bit of ice climbing.


Then we did it all again.  Except in reverse.

12 hours and 35 km.

I was tired.

Chalten part deux

4 Feb

A receptionist of two personalities (I managed to win her favor but she was rather cold to a lot of the others), recommended an 8 hour hike that would produce a unique panorama of Fitz Roy and its surrounding mountains. We decided to take her advice, especially because the weather seemed just right. It would be a steeper climb that day, and for longer. We would also tire quicker as we were still hurting from the previous day.

The trail began its ascent through green hills and though I’ve never been to Ireland, that’s how I would imagine it. The Dutch couple were also on the trail and we saw them often throughout the day. They were practically the only other people we saw. It was a much less frequented trail than the hike to Fitz Roy and we truly felt like we were in the middle of nowhere.

One of the highlights was when we were led out of the forest and onto a fertile green valley with the mountains rising sharply beside us. We continued on the path, which was always ascending, and we did our best to find the path markers, which were thinly sparsed.


The view on top was just as the receptionist had described. It was a panoramic of everything we had seen the day before and more. You could also see the glacier that I would hike on in a few days. We grabbed lunch and after a brief rest, decided to climb the looming hill to our left to truly get to the top.

We were joined by the Dutch for the final ascent and we made it up the mountain with no clear path in sight.

Zigzagging all of the way up, we were more than relieved to be done with the 45 degree angle before us. And man was it worth it. The view was spectacular, levels better than what we had just seen no more than thirty minutes prior. And we were the only ones up there, which made it even better.



We hung out on the peak for as long as we could. It was already evening and we calculated we needed about three hours to get back into town before nightfall.


We started on the way back and I practically ran down the mountain with my ipod blasting in my ears, keeping an eye out for the first market. The same descent might have also been the final straw for Danny’s knee and by the time we got back to the hostel, it was clear I would be going it alone in Torres del Paine. He trooped it out and even though he was obviously hurting, he never sounded a complaint.

We never did find the first marker, nor the second or third. And pretty soon we were walking down the hill with a clear feeling that we might be lost.

We had two ideas for directions. I wanted to steer the group right and Danny and the Dutch woman were pretty confident that left was the answer. The Dutch guy, Dolph, tended to side with me I think. We made our way down, walking around evergreen shrubs that were definitely not part of our walk up. Sometimes they would produce a dead end for us and we would have no choice but to cut through.

Eventually I thought I saw our path to the right. But Dolph suggested to keep going down and only go right once we’ve reached the valley. I can’t say I was thrilled with the decision, but I deferred to his opinion as he was much older, and I wasn’t too sure myself.

The terrain then quickly turned from mountainous rock to fertile wet grounds. Our feet sunk (and stunk) with every step and I was glad to be wearing Gore-Tex sneakers. It turns out the fertile valley was home to immense herds of cows which went to the bathroom wherever they pleased!

Dolpf scoured the horizon for markers and nothing came to view. We had been zigzagging some, being pulled in different directions by the group’s different views of where to go, and it was time to make a decision.

I wasn’t positive we would find the path if we went right. But I really did not want to go left! And I was prepared to argue the group if that’s the decision we would reach.

Danny normally has a sense of direction that rivals mine. But I think it dissipates outside of city limits. I asked him why he thought we should go left and his reply was that there was a forest to the left.

“Danny, do you think its possible that there is also a forest to the right, especially since we are in the mountains with a lot of trees?”

I don’t remember how he answered, but the group was still indecisive and finally I just started to walk. At first I walked straight, and then gradually I steered right. We agreed that any decision was better than no decision, especially with daylight under a tight deadline.

We wandered through the cow field for a while. Gradually we began to spread out from each other as we walked. While the others kept a steady diagonal, walking simultaneously downhill and rightward, I hugged close to what I can best describe as a plateau, on which I thought was the true destination of the path.


There were trees on the horizon, just a few, something of an oasis it seemed. I was feeling stubborn and instead of veering left to cross the trees on the same side as the others, I ventured the other way thinking we would see each other in just a few seconds.

The oasis turned out to be a forest and suddenly we were separated by a dense field of trees. I kept going and stumbled upon a field of geese, which scattered at the unusual presence of a human. When they cleared, I spotted a path!

It wasn’t the right one. It was too unkempt to be the same path travelers use every day. But it was a path nonetheless and I figured it had to lead to somewhere.

Meanwhile, I started yelling for the others and using our voices, we soon joined up again.

The path never actually lead us anywhere. It ended all of a sudden by another field of cows and our motto soon became to just follow the cows. Hiking was as fun as it gets at this point. Far off the trail, we had to make our own way by ducking under branches and cutting down others. But as long as we kept heading downhill, we knew we were at least getting closer to home.

Eventually we came across another cow field (filled with the same cows we kept chasing away, who were really intimidated by us at that point). We wandered across and bam, we saw the path we had come from.


It was nearly three hours since we had begun our descent, but as it turned out, we didn’t actually lose that much time. We had gone mostly parallel to the real trail. Our route just happened to be filled with an abundance of cow poop and thorny branches.

That night we were invited to dinner by the Dutch couple, which as it turned out, would mean they would pay for dinner. We uncorked a bottle of champagne, and then followed with the bottles of wine. It was a really fun dinner. Go Holland.

El Chalten

3 Feb

Day of Events: 2/2/2009

El Chalten was an amazing little town.  Set between a dramatic cliff and the motif of Fitz Roy, it was founded in 1985 and marks one of our favorite destinations thus far.  It’s growing fast though, and hotels and restaurants were being constructed everywhere.  If anyone wants to open a bar down there, I’m all ears!


We stayed at a family run hostel that was both welcoming and awkward.  We spent most of our days hiking so we returned tired and bed-bound and after whipping up a pasta dinner, we usually hit the sack pretty early.  It was when we took a day off to recover that we felt like intruders, bothering a family at home.  Nevertheless, we were paying customers and tried to ignore the feeling.  They had a flat screen tv in their small living room and we put a mean dent in their bootleg DVD collection.  10,000 BC was pretty good, I couldn’t stay awake for Awaken, but Unknown is original, and worth seeing. 

We arrived early February after a 34 hour long trip split across three different buses.  The next morning we woke up as early as we could, and set out to tackle Fitz Roy, or at least its base camp anyway.  It was a beautiful hike from the very first steps. 


Then, after a tiring three plus hours, and an ascent that was both breathtaking and painful, we were finally there with the Fitz Roy and accompanying glaciers in full view. 





It was cold there and I was really happy with the layers I bought from Eastern Mountain Sports.  Apparently reading through Lonely Planet forums instead of studying for the GREs paid off.  We sat on the peak eating our sandwiches, trying to take it all in. 

But I get restless easily and soon we were walking again, this time to a small glacier being emptied into the lake.  We made our way slowly, slipping and sliding from the angle of the bank and the millions of small rocks that weren’t lodged into place.  It vaguely reminded me of walking on the rocks in Manhattan Beach.  Of course something you can’t do in Brooklyn is snowboard down a large mass of snow that might be thousands of years old.  We made it to the “glacier,” but I’m not sure that’s exactly what it was.  It was a large blanket of snow, not ice, and it seemed to be melting.  My leg fell through the snow more than once.  We hung out for a while, amused that we went to South America, during its summer, only to find ourselves in the middle of a mountain of snow. 



We were full of adrenaline and decided we wanted to hike around the lake instead of going back the path we came from.  But we realized quicly we were afraid of heights and the ascent was too steep. 


We headed back and climbed to another view point instead.  There we met an entrepreneurial couple who had recently sold off their bar in the Netherlands, and were taking some time off to search for the next new thing.  We joked that instead of doing the 7 lakes tour in Argentina, they were here to do the 7 hotels tour.  They had been to a number of real estate agencies that specialize in hotels (those exist?), and I guess they were seriously contemplating buying one up.  Cool couple, much older than us with signs of grey hair, but we got along great. 


We shared a few beers with them and that night we slept well, even if we had a room of 10 people! 

Puerto Madryn

29 Jan

Date of Events: 2.10.2009

Back tracking a bit, the next few entries will fill in the gap between San Martin de los Andes and Torres del Paine.

Puerto Madryn was never supposed to be more than a stopover en route to southern Patagonia.  It was also a chance to go scuba diving and see some penguins.  We ended up staying longer after I contracted a virus and my memories of Puerto Madryn consist mostly of my bed, which was actually really nice.  The down comforters were awesome!  I’m not sure what brought about the violent reaction from my stomach.  It could have been from the penguin colony.  I suppose I touched the same rocks the penguins walked on and never washed my hands before eating.  But the penguins were too cute to blame and I’d rather cast doubt on the ham and cheese sandwich I bought from the jaded café outside of the colony.




This small Welsh town was listed in the guidebook as an excellent place to drink tea and get stuffed on pastries.  Luckily it was part of our Penguin tour and after stalling on the highway due to an overheating engine, we finally made it to Wales.  I was too busy wrapping up my biography of Che in the backseat and I truthfully didn’t care how many times we were going to stall as long as I could keep reading. 

Gaiman is an immigrant community that’s dated back a long time but it’s seemed to have lost most of its charm.  We were picturing something quaint and European but what we found was far more bucolic than we wanted.  We felt a bit deceived as there was truly nothing to do there.  I do respect the community board for finding a way to sustain its little economy by getting on the tourism map. 


Five grown men drinking tea…


29 Jan

It’s another Monday, another week, and as of today, I’ve been on the road for two months.

I haven’t updated the blog much; at first because of a brief fight with food poisoning, and then because we went to a town so small, nestled so high in the mountains, that they didn’t have internet.

Since San Martin, it’s been an amazing few weeks and Patagonia really is a beautiful land.

Puerto Madryn, our first stop after the lakes, was a cool ocean-side town. It reminded me completely of Ocean City, only difference was here you can drink on the beach in any of the dozens of restaurants and bars that were right on the sand.

The best part was a trip to the penguin colony nearby. Unlike a zoo, the colony is all natural and penguins stumble around everywhere.  Some are looking for the opposite sex, others are trying to steal nests from older more defenseless penguins.

We witnessed such a fight and one poor penguin walked away bloody and wounded from the situation.

There were also a bunch of new little guys, who actually didn’t look like penguins yet because they were grey and furry and wouldn’t grow into their penguin tuxedo for another few months. They were fed straight from their parents mouth, who brought back fish from the ocean.

The penguins swam a lot faster than they walked.  But watching them enter the ocean was really funny.  They were really small compared to the massive waves and had to dive under each one to avoid being swept away.  It didn’t always work and the picture below shows a penguin who changed his mind at the last minute, and paid the price for its indecision when the wave sent it flying.