A Travellerspoint blog

Photos


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Some of you have asked me for more photos. I admit, I´m too lazy to upload more, especially since the most recent towns have been advertising their 512kbps connections. But luckily Andrew is much more diligent...plus he is whipped so he spends hours at the net bar anyways chatting with his girlfriend, j/k. Check out his Flickr site - I will try to start one very soon too. Be warned that the creator of the site is the same person who broke our toilet last night.

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Posted by bchu 06:35 Archived in Argentina Comments (1)

Torres del Pain(e)

...and the search for pumas


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At around 9am, the bus had reached the entrance of the park, dropping off its load of eager hardcore hikers...and also us. Off they raced towards the first ascent, armed with trekking poles and space material gear. And off we went to the nearby hotel bar to have a couple beers and hang out with our friends who worked there. Only about 2.5 hours later, we finally willed ourselves towards the trail, thinking we had given everyone else a fair enough headstart. After an hour, we were gasping for air and sweating perfusely. How we made it across, up, and down the 76km in 4 days, I dunno. But I think it went something like this:

Day 1

Camp was somewhere up there.

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Sometimes the trail consisted of nice flat stretches through the valley...

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...although more often than we´d like, we struggled mightily climbing up rocks and mini-boulders.

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The goal was worth it however. These are the famous granite towers of the park. I swear everything was much more impressive in person. It also lightly snowed just in this little corridor.

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Despite our 5-star accomodation, sleep was hard to come by that night. And there was no puma to be seen.

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Day 2

Morning mist...

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...gave way to a glorious sunny day as we completed an 11km hike beside one of the brightest lakes I´ve ever seen.

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Along the way, we´d stop to admire the view...

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... and to also eat one of our many delicious meals. Truth be told, we gained a notorious reputation around the campsites for having the worst food around. But we earned some respect back for lugging around a 1 litre bottle of pisco sour (alcohol of choice in Chile).

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The next campsite was further than we originally thought but we powered on.

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And as night fell, we slept marginally better with dreams that we might see a puma the next day.

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Day 3

Back uphill alongside this glacier peak...

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as well as a raging stream...

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that occasionally required a small leap of faith.

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The trees at this height were bare yet beautiful...

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which is more than I can say for this chump at the mirador.

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Speaking of chumps, we were getting a bit delirious at this point. That can be attributed to aching bodies, lack of nutrition, sleep deprivation, the inhumane scent of Andrew´s feet, but mostly...

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...due to the fact that there were still no pumas in sight.

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Day 4

The final day was all about glaciers...viewing them...

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...holding trophies of them...

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...and stupidly climbing aboard pieces of them.

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We were running on fumes to the finish line, thinking of burgers and beds but still in awe of all the amazing scenery we were priviledged to see over the past 4 days.

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Along the way, we also got acquainted with some pretty cool people.

Team Holland

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Team Britain

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Team USA

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Team Denmark (he got really sick along the way)

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Team South Africa...

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And their grandparents! Ages 78 and 79. How inspiring! They even took the wrong route one day and hiked an extra 2 hours. The grandfather also once got lost in the Himalayas for 7 days without food and was too scared to go to the village for fear they might kill him! Nuts!

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We even ran into our buddy Christian. He´s the 16 year old son of a famous Chilean gaucho whose house we´re staying at. This kid is amazing. He works in the park in the summer as a horse guide and can zip around the circuit with his eyes closed. He´s also super connected with everyone around here...bus drivers, boat drivers, porters...can you say Chilean Mafia? Between him and Carlos, we´re set for the next 50 years in Chile!

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So that´s that. One of the highlights of this entire journey lived up to its billing and more. Except for the fact that we never did see a puma. Unless this counts...

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Posted by bchu 08:57 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Rock Bottom

geographically and almost literally speaking

overcast 10 °C
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With the rental Jeep in the safe hands of 3 guys who are less than expert stickshift drivers, we accomplished the mission of making it to the bottom of continental South America. Where that exactly is, I can´t tell you. We just kept going south until all the roads - paved, gravel, dirt - ended. Then we drove through herds of cows, across a river bank at low tide, and then through part of a beach for the sole reason that we could still see some land left. And also because we don´t know any better.

The endpoint was also to be our home for the night since it was quickly getting dark and we were starving. It´s fortunate that we stocked up on steaks and ribs before we set out. Oh wait, that´s right...we didn´t bring any food! And even if we did, there wasn´t anything to cook it on. We didn´t even have matches to light a damn fire. This planning business is really hard to get a grasp of.

Great Odin´s beard! Tramping out of the forest corner came 4 tough looking Chilean hiker dudes armed with rifles. No problem, being assasinated at the bottom of South America is probably one of the cooler ways to die. And then one of them reached into his pocket and pulled out...a video camera?! Oh great, these sick bastards are going to film our deaths too. But since I´m alive writing this, we were lucky they turned out to be just as awesome as everyone we´ve come across here. I can only imagine their hardcore hunting videos mixed in with the greetings of some lost foreigners.

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These guys also saved our butts by giving us a spare pack of matches. Except for the freezing cold that almost forced my nipples through my shirt, it was pretty surreal being out there, down there, on the continental tip amidst practically nothing.

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So that pretty much ended our voyage south. Let´s just say that the route north didn´t start out so hot. The tide had filled up the river we had crossed the night before so we couldn´t pass. We left the car to check just how deep it was. About half a minute later, I hear the sound of crunching gravel behind me. Believe it or not, seeing your Jeep rolling down a hill towards the river is not the most endearing sight at 6:30 in the morning. This was the aftermath.

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Looks kinda like my dad´s car I slid into the ditch last winter eh guys? So with the front corner of the car getting a nice bath, we set up camp again, lit another fire, and waited until the tide flowed out to assess the damage. And then some old guy wearing pink slippers walks out of the woods. I must be dreaming. He looks at us, looks at the car, looks back at us, shakes his head, and goes ¨No es buen¨. If it weren´t for my freaking car in the river, I would have enjoyed that moment more. Turns out he was just camping with his family, all 35 of them on the other side of the water. So at least there was enough manpower to do some heavy duty pushing, or lifting.

But alas, by some divine intervention, there was no need. The water level sank in just under a couple hours and no structural damage had been done. Engine ran smoothly. No secondary electronics were short circuited. The water had made its way out of the drivers side. The rental company didn´t even look at it twice. Only remaining effects were my wet socks, soaked boots, and bruised ego. Guess who forgot to put on the emergency brake? Cut me some slack though, my brain is occupied with this whole new business of going north.

Oh yea, we saw some penguins along the way.

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Posted by bchu 07:57 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Feliz Cumpleanos


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After discovering the only highway to get to Chilean Patagonia was inacessible at this time of the year, we were left with the options of A) waiting a week to take a 3 day ferry ride, B) a 35 hour bus through Argentina on a route we´d take again going north, and C) a cheap 2 hr plane ride. It was a pretty easy decision, which explains why we´re already in Punta Arenas, the major city down here.

And since it was Pete´s birthday, a surprise party was in order so me and Andrew got to work. Gag gift was easy. We got the most humiliating underwear we could find (see photo)...he wore this all night by the way. Real gift...a pair of goretex gloves for the upcoming camping trips. Supermarket covered the cake and all the cheesy spanish party signs, balloons, etc. Made a reservation to eat curanto (Chilean seafood and meat stew dish) at a wicked restaurant. All we needed were some other friends. That was a bit tricky since we didn´t have any. But using our charm and terrible Spanish, the two of us rounded up quite the collection of characters:

-the hostel owner (sitting down, 4th from right)
-her sister (white shirt, right side)
-a friend of theirs who works at Torres del Paine (middle, green scarf)
-girl at the car rental agency we got a Jeep for the next day (far right)
-waitress from the restaurant we ate lunch at (second from left, between Andrew and Pete)
-Israeli dude staying at the hostel (taking picture, not shown)

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It was quite a shame the barber who cut Andrew´s hair that day couldn´t make it. Regardless, I think Pete was pleasantly surprised. But maybe more so by where we went afterwards. In case you were curious as to whether a local Bon Jovi cover band can bring down the house in Southern Chile, the answer is a resounding (yet frightening) yes. And then the latin music hit and we once again shamed ourselves till near dawn.

Posted by bchu 08:59 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

3 guys walk into a bar...


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¨Hey, what about this bar?¨
¨I dunno, it looks kinda nice, prolly expensive. I mean, they have tablecloths!¨
¨Yea, let´s find something a bit dodgier¨
¨How about that one with the boarded up door?¨
¨Is it even open?¨
¨Yea, I can hear music inside¨
¨Then what are we waiting for?¨

Upon entering, each of the 10-12 grungy patrons turned their heads in unison as if they´d never seen a foreigner in their life before. Not deterred, we confidently grabbed a table and ordered a couple longnecks. Shortly after, we realized everyone was still staring at us intently, but this time with more of a friendly gaze than the preceding curious one. In fact, one guy at the end of the bar started waving at us so we jovially waved back. This incited some laughs from the other barfolk so we smiled and shared a laugh back with them too. When we had finished the first bottle, the guy that had waved to us earlier came over to our table and even bought us a round. ¨What a cool bunch of locals,¨ we thought. We were pretty ecstatic that we hadn´t gone to the other place.

The guy that sat down with us spoke really slurred Spanish. Usually I can pick out a few words and phrases but I had no idea what the hell this dude was talking about. But he had such a distinctive laugh like the Count on Sesame Street that it broke us into hysterics every time he did it. Things were going well. We kept drinking, saluting glasses, and we had just ordered some tasty papas fritas (french fries). Somewhere in that short timeframe, we even made a joke/remark along the lines of ¨Imagine he´s gay and trying to pick us up?!¨

And then he started to shake our hands every couple minutes.

And then he started inching his chair closer to Pete´s.

And then the other people in the bar started laughing harder and giving us a thumbs up sign.

And then he patted Pete on the shoulder a couple of times.

And then he drooled on the table.

And then he made a remark about how we were very ¨muy bien¨ and ¨inteligente¨.

And then he said he has another friend named ¨Rodrigo¨.

And then he drooled again.

¨Holy shit!¨ we yelled as we looked at each other with equal parts humour and terror (ok, it was 80% terror). I can´t recall the last time an event went from extreme high to extreme low so quickly. We frantically chugged the rest of our drinks, paid the bill, and ran our asses out of there and to the bus station. On the ride home, we purposedly chatted up some girls just to reassure our masculinity.

A couple days later and we´re still shellshocked. But looking back we should have seen the signs had it not been for the high (* see below) we were on at the current time. I mean, the boarded up door. The fact there were no females inside. The slurring was probably just a lisp. You live, you learn, you laugh. But maybe next time we´ll choose a bar with tablecloths.

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  • I must footnote this story by saying we climbed a volcano right before the incident mentioned above. It was one of the coolest hikes I´ve ever done, anyone of us had done, so we were admittedly still delirious from this. That´s my story and I´m sticking to it!

Four and a half hours through the snow and ice, equipped with crampons and ice axes, on a glorious sunny day. I´ve never been to the crater of an active volcano before and this one was shooting up lava like no one´s business. It was stunning from every angle and had it not been for the suffocating sulfur fumes and piercing wind, I might still be up there admiring the view of the snow, lakes, and adjacent mountains. To make the descent just as awesome, we slid down the snow for a few hundred metres on our asses.

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Posted by bchu 21:12 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

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