Location: La Cumbre monkey refuge, Argentina
This one will have to wait till we get home. We need to save some stories to tell in person!
Location: Ushuaia, Argentina
What better place to recuperate from the flu than at the bottom of the world? Southernmost city in the world, Ushuaia is full of tourists waiting for their boat to Antarctica or returning from Antarctica. Mostly middle aged - senior Americans. The US$3000 - US$15000 price tag tends to eliminate most backpackers. Not to be deterred, we head off in search of a garbage barge.......I'm just kidding. We enjoyed a week of R & R. We didn´t even venture out of the town, but when we flew out we were rewarded with a spectacular view that we hadn't previously imagined. Endless snow capped mountains. I imagine this is what the top of the world looks like. Well worth FLYING into Ushuaia if you're planning a trip.
Location: Glacier Viedma - Ice climbing, Argentina
Excited about our opportunity to experience our first ice climbing on a glacier, we awoke early to discover........snow! Yep it's snowing and we're wondering if our trip will be cancelled but get ready and hope for the best. While we're waiting, the snow turns to sleet but lo and behold, the trip is still on! Yippee! When we arrive at the lake the weather has eased a little and our ice climbing adventure looks promising. An hour later, upon arrival at the glacier it seems OK. Not too cold, not too windy. After our briefing in the base camp tent we are fitted out with our gear, harness, helmet, crampons, ice axes and we're off. It's a bit colder but not too windy and.....uh oh! We move away from the sheltered rocks and the wind & sleet is overbearing. Our gloves are quickly soaked, our pants are quickly soaked, our, well everything is quickly soaked. We are wet and freezing! And do we care?
You're damned straight we care! Just not enough to stop. Evidently, we care more about ice climbing. Navigating the glacier, crossing crevases, using the ice ace techniques we were taught, we're on top of the world! We are sternly warned not to stand near the edges as the wind is so powerful we could be blown off and I don't doubt our guide as I fight the force of the wind. After lunch we are treated to a sunny change in the weather. Stretched out before us like a river of sparkling diamonds, is Glacier Viedma in all her glory. Our view had been restricted to just a few feet in the earlier weather so witnessing the change was incredible. We left our first ice climbing experience, planning our next. But we'll tell you about that later.
Location: El Chalten, Argentina
Neighbour to El Calafate is El Chalten, an amazing National Park containing the most difficult climbs in the world. Mt Fitzroy, Cerro Torre and some amazing hiking through beautiful terrain. And all this from the luxury of your hostel! Yep! Stay in the tiny village of El Chalten and all the park hiking is accessible on day walks. Very comfortable indeed. I think we were due for a break from camping in below freezing conditions. And, I was coming down with the flu to boot. It really nailed me after our ice climbing at the end of our stay. I guess there is some sense in Mum's advice to actually rest when you're sick.
Location: El Calafate - Perito Moreno Gl, Argentina
El Calafate is a small town, not unlike Bariloche. It's quite touristy here due to it's proximity to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Although not the largest Glacier in the area it is certainly the most famous and most visited. So "why?" you may ask. Because it is the most active. Massive chunks fall from the Glacier regularly to form enormous icebergs and smaller shards break off constantly with an incredible deafening noise. I can only imagine how loud the larger chunks must be when they break! The Perito Moreno Glacier (named for the perito or "expert" Mr Moreno) is also situated perfectly in front of a peninsula for great viewing and an amazing spectacle that ocurrs every few years. Curious? Well, you´ll have to Google or ask us about it when we get home.
Incidentally the expert, Moreno had very little to do with the Glacier but did prove that rivers can change course. This enabled Argentina to force Chile to make the international border the mountain ridge. Result? More tourism for Argentina because they kept all the glaciers in the park.
Location: Torres Del Paine, Chile
Who did the 4 day hike in Torres Del Paine at THE EXACT TIME of the 30th Anniversary of mapping the park? And who ran into 2 of the climbing/hiking/exploring pioneers during their trip? Yep, that's right! During a leisurely conversation with 2 horsemen we bumped into, we discovered that said horsemen were in fact: John Garner & Torres Dickson, 2 of the pioneers who had clustered here to celebrate their 30th anniversary. Being the classy type non phased by celebrity, I quickly shouted "Wait, stay still..I'm getting my camera!"
Well, aside from meeting Patagonian Legends, Torres Del Paine was everything and more than you could hope for. Just check out the photos and multiply by 100 to try and capture the experience. There is surely nowhere in the world like Patagonia!
Location: Navimag (P. Mont - P Natales), Chile
Where in the world can you sail through a patchwork of icebergs and cruise past glaciers spilling into the ocean?
No really, I'm asking because we thought it was here...on the Navimag. Oh apparently that is not until NEXT month. Funny how they did not mention that on the website/on the brochure/in the sales office.
Still unaware of the lack of icebergs and foolishly excited about our cruise on the Navimag, we arrived for boarding only to be told it is now leaving tomorrow due to delays caused by weather. Oh well, I guess I have inherited the delayed cruise gene from Mum. (Thanks Ma!) Unlike P&O however, here in SudAmerica they just say "No. No leave today. Come back tomorrow"
And so we meet a pair of English travellers who, having also been turned away, are later to become our partners in Canasta crime for the 4 day Navimag journey, Torres Del Paine and beyond.......Hi Graham & Ally!
Location: Puerto Natales - Bariloche, South America
Not much to mention about Puerto Natales but we did have our first fish and chips since February. It is just a transit stop really, we have booked our trip on the Navimag for 1 week from now and take the bus to Bariloche in Argentina for some hiking.
Oops! The 1st thing we discovered when asking at tourist office about hiking in the area is that THERE IS NO HIKING IN THE AREA. Not now, anyway because everything is under heavy snow. It was suggested that if we were experienced in snow (Hmmmmm? How hard could it be?) and had our own gear (Drat! maybe we could try that tennis racket trick?) Oh well, a week of forced R & R is not so bad but did they have to open so many bakeries & chocolate shops? Seriously! There are loads........it is quite German influenced here and the street dogs show the effects of all this good food. Although throughout South America the strays are in much better condition than their counterparts in Asia, the Bariloche dogs are simply FAT! I've never seen such a thing, strays that waddle!!!!!!!
Location: Macchu Pichu, Peru
It was strange to start walking at 4am to reach this place, miss the view from the sungate at sunrise due to overcast weather and then slowly notice that some people were walking up to the sungate instead of down to Macchu Picchu. Yes, it's true we've walked 4 days to reach somewhere these people caught a bus to this morning! Some of them are carrying (what are those things again?) Oh yes, handbags! Some are wearing coloured stuff on their face and they all smell CLEAN! Well, this is a definite ocassion where the photos best tell the story. Macchu Picchu certainly is breathtaking, and seeing the craftsmanship up close is quite amazing. Of course, there are many tourists here and you quickly give up on trying to get photos without people in them, it simply is not possible.
The Inca Trail was more of a social ocassion than a trek but we had a lot of fun and met some fun people. We even met a nice group of Americans with whom we shared a beer in town after Macchu Picchu. They even offered us the use of their 4 star hotel shower. (we thought we'd best declineas we don't want to get used to these things. Otherwise we'll be home in 3 weeks)
Macchu Picchu is amazing and well worth seeing even if we did only stay a couple of hours.
Location: The Inca Trail -We made it!, Peru
Well, it turns out the most challenging part of the trail was getting our supplies the night before we left! It is a nice walk though and it's great to see so many people of different origin, age and capability can come here to do this. Some of these people may, however, disagree with us on the level of difficulty of the trail (especially Edna from Germany age 79) but I did my hard yards in Huayhuash & think I earnt the right to skip up the stairs, leaving puffers & panters in my wake while merrily singing "I love my Leki!" Leki, for those who are not familiar, is the manufacturer of our brand new trekking poles purchased in Lima in the aftermath of Huayhuash. Sure it may have been a LITTLE in-sensitive but if you want to make something of it come over here so I can poke you in the eye with my Leki! OK, so of course I am joking, now the proud owner of what I once considered an item for tools (Australian colloquialism for person of questionable intelligence) and oldies has not overnight turned me into a tool however witnessing some behaviour on the trail has compelled me to write the following Leki Etiquette Guidelines:
1. Thou shalt not try to explain to others how great it is; one must use it to understand so if you prefer not to part with it for awhile keep your mouth shut.
2. As a youngster/semi-youngster the use of Leki is smart, the use of 2 Lekis however, is strictly for the oldies
3. If one has a Leki, 1 looks the part, therefore should be able to live up to the fitness image (Huayhuash doesn't count as nobody saw me)
4. Even if you are an oldie please DO NOT try to block the young, fit, single Leki owners from passing you with your Lekis. We like that everyone can do the trail, we do not like that everyone has to do the trail behind you.
Location: The Inca Trail? Or Not?, Peru
We nearly missed the Inca Trail because someone (not naming names) rembered the start date as the 22nd instead of the 18th. Arriving in Cusco on the 17th after deciding to skip the Nasca Lines we were looking forward to a few days more of R & R before hitting the trail. And then it happened.....Derek was looking for the Tucan Travel address so we could dutifully check in a couple of days before the trek as was requested when he noticed that we were starting the very next morning. As it was already 4pm we literally ran to the office hoping they would accomodate us and well, got lucky. Now, just the supplies and pretrip meeting to take care of before we can hit the hay!
Location: Huacachina Oasis, Peru
Yep! You read right. What better way to rest after 8 days of trekking than kicking back at an oasis? Well, it's our first oasis and it's pretty cool. I mean we wouldn't swim in the water here but it is relaxing and WARM! Back in shorts for the first time in quite awhile. Here is THE PLACE for sandboarding and dune buggying and we are actually going to do neither. Yep, just relaxing in the sun and eating at all you can eat BBQ restaurants. We may have given the dune buggy a go but after Derek conducted a quick roadworthy test we decided eating 5 different types of meat in 1 sitting was much safer. We did meet a very fun couple from Germany here and had a ball at dinner with many languages being tossed around the restaurant and a lot of giggles with the staff.
Location: Huayhuash Day 8, South America
Last day today! Slow rise up a donkey trail which turns into a road in progress to our last high pass. Here we lunch overlooking the town where we will sleep tonight, IN A BED! AFTER A SHOWER! AND BEER! Just a loooooooooong winding road to get off this jolly mountain! Ali and his donkeys passed us during lunch and we're all a little over walking by now. Even Miguel was very tired last night, possibly because I have been using his trekking pole the last few days (or possibly because in addition to walking, he has to cook, make lunches etc etc etc)
Location: Huayhuash Day 7, Peru
Yesterday we were told that today is a walk straight out of the valley! All flat! Woo! Hoo! To learn how quickly "woo hoo" can become "boo hoo" refer to the excerpt below.
COLLINS "PERUVIAN MOUNTAIN GUIDE" DICTIONARY
FLAT: definition. any ground that lies under 4500 metres in altitude. Flat does not refer in any way to the actual incline of the ground regardless of how many hills or mountains are in the way of you reaching your destination.
Yes it's true, it was not flat at all, possibly more up and down than any other day but we're all feeling pretty good now and only a day to go. At lunch time we wait in a small village for Ali and the donkeys and notice as they arrive that Shaggy is even more perky than us because he has scored the food crates today (the nearly empty food crates). Bounding ahead of his mates down the Calle, he tries for a quick getaway when he realises that we have replenished some food supplies. But, alas, Lee is on the case and heads him off at the corner! So why was I so fast?? I am REALLY hungry!
Location: Huayhuash Day 6, Peru
Today was a GOOD DAY! After a nice rest yesterday, my headache has gone and I'm a much more sociable person now! 5000 metres straight up was sunny, windy, warm & cold and then all over again! But it was good and the view at the top, superb! Here is the money shot of us in front of Suila. Feeling better I see no reason now to keep the horse...I vote we BBQ it! (well it was not very friendly, unlike Shaggy the donkey)
An hour or so spent basking in the sun in a beautiful, unoccupied valley next to a beautiful waterfall framed by snow peaked mountains sure sounds like a lot more fun than going up another 5500 metres only to return to the same place, doesn't it Derek? Derek? Ha! Ha! Who's crazy now?
Location: Huayhuash Day 5, Peru
Woo! Hoo! Today is the day we've been waiting for! A half day walking followed by a afternoon soaking in hot springs. A very welcome treat for sore muscles and our noses. Uggh! Only 2 pairs of socks for 8 days trekking. Our trusty guide had informed us that it was a short, flat walk to the springs. Well it was short at least, and over the coming days we learnt the definition of flat in Peru.
Location: Huayhuash Day 4, Peru
I was given 3 options today: 1. Do the full walk around the lake & over the next high pass. 2: Take a shortcut bypassing the lake & straight to the high pass 3. Take the shorter trail with the donkeys. So guess which I picked? Yes, that's right - Number 1. So let's see how things turned out.........
Things went well, walking around the lake, the Ibuprofen has turned the pounding in my head down to a dull roar and it's a very pretty walk around the lake and through the valley with 3 lakes of different hues. Even starting up the pass began well, as today I decided not to try so hard at keeping up (which I might add is still allowing us to overtake other NORMAL groups who are not attempting the "pumped up steroid version")
Things took a little slide though, when I became lost. Had I not clumsily dragged myself up a steep and slippery path (OK, it was not a path) and found myself alone & needing to complete a sketchy traverse to get out of there, the afternoon would have been less icy. Now grumpy and exhausted, forgiveness did not arrive until evening even though Derek did come back to look for me. Unfortunately the night was icy anyway due to camping in minus 15 degress.
Location: Huayhuash Day 3, Peru
Guess how the day started this morning? Yep, you guessed it, over 1000 metres straight up! But wait, there's more! With 2 high passes to complete today we had to do it all over again! Unfortunately my pounding head progressed this morning to include some good old fashioned vomiting. Although it was very tempting to take the emergency horse (especially when it overtook us!) I am determined to do this thing on Shank's Pony so fortunately, the vomiting stopped by the time we reached the top of the first high pass.
Despite 2 high passes today and a solid 9 hours walking, we arrived at the next campsite in time to be treated by a glimpse of the infamous peak Siula (Joe Simpson, Touching the Void) behind a massive sparkling lake. Later we were treated to a feed of tasty trout, hand (yes bare hands) caught for us by our trusty guide, Walther.
Location: Huayhuash day 2, Peru
We set off early for our walk this morning and it came as no surprise that yet again the walk was straight up as there was no other way out of this small valley. Unfortunately my head has begun pounding today despite copious amounts of chocolate and Coca Cola (on Doctors advice, thank you very much!) There was a section on the walk today that was a bit scary, a steep gravelly slope over 1000 metres high. I teetered precariously up the slope trying (but to no avail) to keep up the pace with Derek and our guide Miguel, and near the top clutched desperately at a small rock about the size of a football that was the most sturdy looking thing I had seen in hours. Fortunately the walk from here was primarily downhill or flat and we arrived at camp with daylight hours left. I'm certain people were wondering why we looked so exhausted as this is normally campsite 1 after a half day walk along a flat road! Sure sounds good to me right now.