Sam Floy

Interesting posts about start ups, East Africa and fried chicken

Author: teabp_user (page 2 of 7)

11.6 San Rafael

Reading Time: 4 minutes

San Rafael, Cuyo, Argentina
Monday, February 25, 2013

Before arriving in San Rafael, I’ll quickly mention the bus journey.

It was the most luxurious bus I’ve been on yet. We had two meals, watched films, and I was able to remain fairly horizontal throughout. The conductor even ran a game of Bingo for everyone, but when he said “ochenta ocho” (eight eight) I didn’t detect a reference to “Dos gordo señoritas” (Two fat ladies, I think..)

I also had my first glass of wine in Argentina. Albeit from a polystyrene cup, but can’t complain really.

Once in San Rafael, I spent two days seeing the city and the surrounding areas.

On the first day, I visited a large canyon (Atuel) which I would be able to tell more about had the guide not spoken rapid Spanish. The scenery was impressive, and hopefully some photos will give an idea.

Of note were the hydroelectric power stations throughout which power the surrounding areas. Quite impressive. But more so are the huge diversity of rocks. Geologists would have (probably already have had) a field day.

A lot of the time, from what I could discern, when we stopped to observe an interesting rock formation, the guide would say something along the lines of “And if you look really closely, you can make out Jesus’ face” or the like. I’ll leave the reader to try and see what they can see.

On the second day, I just woke up and saw where it took me. This ended up being to a winery (classic).

At first I was struck by it’s proximity to the centre of town after walking only 10 minutes or so. Although upon talking to someone there who gave me a tour she said that this winery was in fact the start of the town. Before, there was nothing. A french immigrant came over as he’d heard it was a good place to grow wine and begun setting it all up.

The main building is the first bit of bricks & mortar that would later become San Rafael. He needed to a train station to transport the wine (he figured) so brought over a load of other immigrants from France to set up a colony, and to work on the land.

Once a critical mass of people were established, it became a serious enough town to warrant a train station and his wine business flourished. Consequently the “centre of town” was built around it, hence why it was so close.

The lady gave a brief walk around of the place and how they still use the same equipment that was originally shipped over from France in 1882. Brushed up a bit on the bare essentials of wine making (no need for Fun Facts though) and saw the cellars, fermentors, and barrels needed to go from grape to glass.

The tour ended trying a few of their house wines (this time out of a real glass). The lady had only broken English, but was still able to give some decent descriptions. Nonetheless I think I need to brush up on my adjectives before the next tasting. You never know who could be listening…

With that, I left the La Abeja winery and also left the tranquil life of the vineyard. There will no doubt be more to report in the coming week.

That’s about it for San Rafael. It was somewhere I had written on my phone from 11.1.1 and am glad I made the slight detour to visit it. The people continued to be very friendly and (perhaps because the weather was much better than other places I’d recently visited) I departed for Mendoza city having had a very pleasant couple of days.

Lake

Blocking lake

Power

Daym

Bus for the canyon

Can you see Jesus?

Taste of home

Impulse herbs and porridge

Old school wine machinery

Champers being made

Winery

Inflation and wine

More old equipment

11.5 Bariloche

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Bariloche, Argentina
Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bariloche is seen as the city as the gateway to Patagonia. It also seemed similar to Switzerland.

The centre was affluent, and there was chocolate, medical centres, and even St Bernhard dogs. The streets were full of craft stores, with local people selling their woodwork and other particulars. There were also families selling bags of lavender, and berries on the street corner.

Bariloche is also where I had my first bit of Argentinean steak. Picked it up from the local supermarket, yet with a distinct lack of decent frying pan, I outsourced the cooking to a local guy at the hostel who was firing up the barbeque. It was very decent, and was followed the next night by another in a local restaurant.

It was on the second day that, with another bloke from the previous town, I went for an explore of the Lake a little out of Bariloche. On alighting from the bus, we were met my a small dog who undertook himself to be our guide – trotting ahead and checking back on us all the way to the waterfall a few kilometres up.

He left a little disappointed at not joining the spoils of the food in our rucksacks.

The weather was pretty miserable which meant staying out longer was not really viable. On the way back to town, we had to take an extended walk back to the hostel after a bus stop mix up. This allowed an insight into the less touristy life of Bariloche. Lot’s of shacks and (more) wandering dogs.

Back at the hostel got chatting to an Argentinean economist from Buenos Aires. He gave a concise breakdown with what was happening in the country at the moment, especially with regard to the ban on people buying US Dollars.

It all stems from the Argentinean inflation being 25%. Consequently, if people have savings in pesos, they will lose a quarter of their value over the year. Therefore they would rather own Dollars, which are more likely to hold their value. This however, would affect the exchange rate and, it is supposed, would cause further inflation.

The result is an official rate of 5:1 and a black market (though here it is a “blue market”) of around 8:1, as locals want to get their hands on the greenback.

There are a number of knock on effects that we went into (Argentineans spending their pesos more readily, and so not saving etc.), but he then had to go catch his plane.

That’s enough with economics for the time being I suspect…

Being the gateway to Patagonia, it was also my last chance to find a coffee shop called “The Old Patagonian Espresso”. But unfortunately it was not to be.

In the morning it was a case of filling up from the extensive breakfast laid on each morning, completing some admin, and again packing up before another night bus north.

Lake by city centre

Bernhard

Rainy view of lake

Local guide

Local guide disappointed

Street crafts

Switzerland

Waterfall

11.4.1 Cueva de las Manos

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Bajo Caracoles, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Wednesday, February 20, 2013

To the day, exactly 9,300 years ago*, a man, named Samwell*, placed his left hand on the side of a cave in Pinturas River valley, and began to spit out a dark red paste which he’d been ruminating. He took the bone of a small animal, began etching around the contours, and left a clear outline upon the rockface. This practice caught on, and soon Samwell’s friends began to join in, also drawing pictures of what was around them, and recording their lives as prehistoric hunters. Caveman Samwell was such a trendsetter, that the paintings, and art of imprinting a hand on the rock continued for a further 8,000 years.

I think that is the bit I can’t quite get my head around. People had been living in this Valley for so long, that even at the time of the Egyptians, Samwell’s first handprint would have been considered “ancient”.

I had been persuaded to take a detour in my journey to visit the cave from seeing a poster in a bus station. I have genuinely never seen anything to compare it to, and had the tour lasted more than a couple of hours, I would DEFINITELY have Found Myself.

As stated above, the cave is within a valley; formed from volcanic rocks which began from the separation of South America and Africa 150 million years ago. “More recently” (1.7 million years) there is evidence of a glacier running through. It now follows the northeast-southwest fracture along the volcanic rocks.

Even now, it is quite remote, requiring nearly two hours by road and gravel track to get there from the nearest town of significance. It seems to be one of humanity’s primary art galleries.

The hunter-gatherers of the time survived by following the herds of “guanacos” (a bit like a llama) and took refuge in the caves up on the Valley. It is not only hands on the walls; these guanacos feature heavily, and there are further scenes of the beasts being hunted. Some show them as pregnant, giving archaeologists all sorts of material to speculate its meaning.

Amongst the many hundreds of imprints that have been added throughout the millennia, there are a few that are of note:

1. A chief’s – known from the amount of red encircling his hand

2. A man with 5 fingers and a thumb (though I was trying to work out if this was a Neanderthal practical joke)

3. Footprint of a great hunter

There were also children’s hands, and reverse prints to add to the diversity.

The method was to take different plants, blood, and water, grind them, chew the mixture in the mouth, and spit out. Reverse prints were directly onto the palm, but the majority were around the hand stencil, and then tidied up with animal bone.

The pictures of prehistoric life were fascinating – how they drew humans, animals and 9 moons (thought to symbolise pregnancy) were incredible, and (hopefully not boring you with repetition) they were done by an ancestor thousands of years previous. That we in our modern way of life can still make interpretation of their meaning is quite an achievement for the species.

UNESCO agrees also, and granted it World Heritage status in 1999, nearly 60 years after archaeologist/priest Alberto de Agostini first wrote about his discovery. Due to preservation efforts, the paintings are guarded by metal railings, however this in no way withdrew from the experience.

Our guide led us along a path, and explained the above (plus probably a bit more) for around a couple of hours, though I slightly lost track of time.

With the significance of what I had just seen still not fully sunk in, it was back along the dusty roads to Perito Moreno. As we drove and left the guanacos galloping on the plains, it felt like a timely reminder of ‘the Big Picture’ of where we were.

* awaiting verification

Cueva de las Manos

Joining the party

#1

#5

#6

Chief

Odd one out

Valley

Guanacos

Guanaco on the run

Sold

The cave

The cave again

The crib

11.4 Perito Moreno

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Perito Moreno, Patagonia, Argentina
Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Travelling up Route 40 deserves mention in itself.

This part of my trip is the most unplanned and, to an extent, each day comes as it comes. Not to worry though, furnished with an introduction of Argentinian roads from 11.2, I have studied the propaganda and found a few places worth visiting along this route..

On the other side of my window seat has mostly been a barren landscape, stretching for miles until reaching the mountain range. Many times it has been more like a desert with nothing but vast, utter openness, save some shrubs, and hills on the horizon. I could probably count on one hand the other vehicles we see every six hours.

Taking this long road by bus necessitates pit stops along the way, and this leads me to the peculiar establishments that reside by the roadside..

There have been several ‘cafe-cum-hotel-cum-service station’s which have an eerie feel similar to that League of Gentlemen scene about the “Local shop for Local people”

(see link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meF7NmfnXZ0)

The places are desolate, and would seem fit as locations in a horror movie. In one, there was a skinned wolf on the wall, and framed homages to past Wild West bandits: Butch Cassidy, the Sun dance Kid etc.

Locals in these communities must spend their lives serving tourists in 15 minute episodes, but still appear suspicious whenever they begin to wander through the front door.

These stationary points are every 3-4 hours on the bus journeys, and we are mobile in between on a combination of tarmac and unpaved surface. Mounds of gravel often serve as roadblocks where the work is incomplete, and the heavy machinery is often visible by the side of route.

It was therefore pleasing to reach the town of Perito Moreno (namesake of 11.2.1) in one piece.

Not possible to reserve ahead, it was a case of finding somewhere to stay once I arrived. The only place with rooms was warm in temperature (due to housing a family of smokers), but frosty in reception: “No breakfast. No internet. No cooking facilities. There’s your bed.”

With no other option I sucked it up and got on the top bunk and waited til morning.

During the night, it was as if the guy in the bunk below me had smuggled a piglet into the room and was methodically undertaking the process of strangling it; such was the extraordinary melody of squeals, hoots and wheezes he was producing as he obliviously snored through the early hours. The rest of the dorm were all tearing their hair out at the prevention of sleep.

The morning was spent doing the rounds of the Perito Moreno tour agencies, and I eventually confirmed a trip to 11.4.1 in the morning. With that I then had the day to kill in the town, and soon discovered the dearth of activities there.

Tourist Information suggested I visit the Laguna, and perhaps it’s because I have seen many beautiful lakes recently, that this one didn’t quite match up (see photo). So I circumferenced the town, nipped to the bakery and settled down in the park to pass the hours.

On return from the Cave, I was dropped at the bus terminal with two other guys (one German, one Argentinean who lived in Italy) and we had a good chat waiting for the bus that was due in a couple of hours. However 18.30 came and went, and we eventually embarked at just gone midnight.

Despite this extended 6 hours, conversation never ebbed and after finding our seats a half-decent night’s sleep was achieved. After another unexplained break on its outskirts, we finally arrived in Bariloche at 13.30.

PM town

Wolf

Owner’s heroes

Desolate shack

Smokers’ self-made bin

Unscenic laguna

Nothingness #1

11.3 El Chalten

Reading Time: 4 minutes

El Chalten, Patagonia, Argentina
Saturday, February 16, 2013

The journey (in relative terms) was a short one across the other end of the National Park of Glaciers, to El Chalten.

t sits in the shadows of a mountain range, and being technically within the borders of the Park meant we stopped en route at the Park Ranger centre for a quick pep talk about how to behave – “don’t even think about dropping litter”, “respect the animals” and the like.

The town itself still seems to be in relative infancy. The streets are quite wide and the architecture is pretty shack-like, save a few plush hotels and restaurants to serve the more well-heeled travellers.

My hostel however can’t take that accolade, as it was without a roof.

On the street in front, a car was also missing three of its wheels (see photo).

The main day in El Chalten was spent trekking up to near Mount Fitzroy: the tallest in the range. Luckily the weather was amicable making the walk that much more pleasant. Such is the proximity of the town to the trail, it was only 3 and a bit hours to the foot of the final ascent. Again, the streams along the way served as sources of refreshment, and the trees, lakes and lookouts were far from eyesores.

At the top of the trail I got chatting to a bloke from Buenos Aires over some trail mix who gave me some suggestions for when I visit, along with a recommendation that I follow his football team: Independiente. Bruno and I then climbed around some rocks to look at the lakes up there, and exchanged a few photos as the clouds began to disperse.

I then began walking back to town (he was camping) and left him to his “mate” (pronounced ‘ma-tay’: a hot, herby drink taken through a metal straw). It’s pretty common around Argentina.

Along the way back there were intermittent stops by a lake or two, and my day took another huge bound into middle-agedness as I snapped a picture of a bird prancing by one of the campsites.

My status as Grumpy Old Ornathologist has a way to go however, as I am not able to name our feathered friend. 10 points to the first who can…

As the sun was setting, my feet hit the pavement once more. Slightly parched on the walk back to the hostel I serendipitously found the town’s microbrewery, and nipped in for a swift half.

Whilst my glass of Pilsner was being poured, I popped my head around to see where the magic happened: about 8 steps away from the tap. The place had quite a German feel to it: warm and woody, and despite having free (salty) popcorn, receiving the bill was more akin to London.

It was then back to the hostel to cook some dinner and pack up for the next bus trip in the morning.

Perhaps heading up north would mean I would rediscover my youth…

Fitzroy peaks

Forgetting knitwear again

Mid-afternoon snack

Refill station

Name the bird…

Hostel and car missing something

Beer

Bar

Brewery

View #1

View #2

View #3

El Chalten town

Glacier on right

Lakeside view

Peaks again

Ranger talk

Clouds were out

11.2.1 Perito Moreno Glacier

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Colonia Francisco Perito Moreno, Santa Cruz, Argentina
Friday, February 15, 2013

Part of the National Park of Glaciers in southern Argentina, Perito Moreno is a titanic glacier refusing to shrink, despite the rise in global temperature. For the day, we not only viewed it from afar, but spent around four hours walking on the surface, seeing all sorts of nooks and crannies carved and formed into the monumental slab of ice.

I’ll begin with some Fun Facts as a bit of background, and then go ahead and explain the details of the day.

Fun Fact #1: Perito Moreno is 1 of the 3 major glaciers within the National Park

Fun Fact #2: the icefield is the third largest fresh water reserve in the world after Antarctica and Greenland

Fun Fact #3: it became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981

Fun Fact #4: the length of PM is over 30km

Fun Fact #5: the largest glacier in the Park has a greater surface area than the capital city, Buenos Aires

Fun Fact #6: PM is expanding (or at least not shrinking) as its area is 70% ice accumulation, and 30% melting, #mathematics

Fun Fact #7: this means the glacier moves forward every day, roughly 2cm. From the pictures you’ll see rocks on the glacier, these tumbled down from the surrounding mountains and have been on the surface for over 100 years

Fun Fact #8: the lakes the glacier sits on have their greyish colour from the sediment also brought down from the mountains

Now that I’ve transferred the extent of my glacial knowledge to you, I’ll give a run down of how February 15th 2013 panned out.

The bus journey from minivan, to bus, to National Park went smoothly, and began at 7am. Our guide told us a few Fun Facts on the scenic route in. We were given time to walk around to the Look Outs and get a good view of the glacier. Despite being an overcast day, it was still possible to see the glacier receding far back into the valley.

A couple of years ago, a big piece of the glacier broke off in Hollywood fashion (it was caught on camera) and even now there were creaks and crashes as clumps came off the outer edge. Similar to the avalanches of 12.1.1, it sounded a bit like thunder.

This was the first proper DPP opportunity, and cameras duly did the rounds. It was then a quick ferry across to nearer the glacier.

The group was split off into Spanish and English speakers and we layered up before making an hour’s hike to the ‘base camp’ and final preparations. The main bits of kit were sunglasses, a harness, and crampons.

Firstly, the sunglasses. The guy at the hostel said they were necessary, however I didn’t have any with me. He kindly offered me his, so amongst the action-ready, ergonomic glasses of the group, this unSerious Adventurer was sporting a pair of aviators (see photos/ outtakes)

Secondly, the crampons. These were metal outer shoes to facilitate grip on the ice. They reminded me a bit of the old-fashioned bear traps from cartoons only with the spikes facing down.

These were fixed on, and then we took our first steps. Across the white landscape there was lots of blue where caves had been made, rivers were flowing, or simply holes had formed in the ice.

As with the glacier in Torres del Paine, the spectrum of blues was stunning. At one point we observed one of the epic ‘drain holes’, where water crashed down to the base of the glacier. To be on the safe side, we were led up one by one and held secure as we peered down (see photo)

All the water was drinkable meaning we were always refreshed. Walking past a small lagoon/ lake I enquired whether it would be possbile for a quick dip (similar to 9.5.1) but Diego, our guide, said it might be a bit nippy. And besides, I’d forgotten my trunks..

Lunch was had at a spot protected by the breeze, then we continued our hike across the ice dunes to good vantage point across the front part of PM. Diego advised that this was probably the best DPP spot so the camera exchange began again.

Mine ended up in the hands of a burly Austrian who insisted (voluntarily or not) on pulling funny faces. This resulted in a few more snaps in the Outtakes folder (see photos) with the ice desert as a backdrop.

On the walk back we took in the last of the sensation of having ice under foot and crunched back to the edge. Upon taking off the crampons and stepping once more on dry land, my chunky boots in comparison felt like slippers and I glided back to the base camp where we were given cake.

This was not the end of the treats though, as on the final boat back to the bus, we were all given a whisky with a chunk of ice in it from the glacier. It was almost fizzy with the bubbles it held within it, and was probably the first time the “scotch” part has been less interesting than the bit “on the rocks”.

With the sky cleared, the bus back allowed some pleasant views of the sun setting over the glacier. It was then an hour’s journey back in El Calafate where we got dropped by the supermarket. For some reason I found myself looking for the Fox’s Mints..

The Glacier

Chilling

Perito Moreno

Glacier cave

Whisky on the rocks

Walking on PM

Blues

End of day

Looking down drain hole

“Not allowed to swim there”

From afar

Crampons

PM when raining

Walk back

Outtake #1

Outtake #2

Outtake #3

Outtake #4

Outtake #5

11.2 El Calafate

Reading Time: 3 minutes

El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina
Thursday, February 14, 2013

There were no real surprises from Calafate which wasn’t a bad thing at all.

The main street was normal enough: restaurants, banks, clothing outlets. Food was a little pricey, though I may still be adjusting to life away from the $1 dinners of Peru/Bolivia.

The hostel I stayed at was up on the hill and overlooked the town and lake. All very scenic, but a bit of a walk.

On the second night (after 11.2.1) there was a festival in the town. Or at least I went to the week-long festival on that night.

There was a performer on stage and surrounding was a number of arts and crafts stands.

This was a bit like a Christmas Fair – handmade chocolates, wooden statuettes, and even a puppeteer.

Food stands were on the other side, and from what I can gather each was being run by/ raising money for local sports clubs.

There were rumours in the hostel that the President was in town. However despite seeing what looked like her lorries, they turned out to be promoting the work of the National Highways.

I even got handed some leaflets detailing the wonderful work gone into constructing the Argentinean road network.

This also showed me the first example of the Argentinean body clock being out of sync with back home.

Even at 11pm there were coddled toddlers being brought to the Fair by their parents, and the whole family seemed wide-eyed as the festivities began properly.

It all stems from the siesta, which pushes back finishing work, dinner, and hence going out.

Leaving the kids to stay up and party, I headed back to pack and continue the journey north in the morning.

High street

Concert

Presidential lorry

Road presentation

Not a real dog

Food stands

Berry description

Good morning

‘Christmas Fair’

12.1.1 Torres del Paine

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile
Saturday, February 9, 2013

Torres del Paine (TdP) is a National Park in the south of Chile, and I ended up living on it for 5 days.

The scenery was truly stunning.

Mountains, glaciers, free-flowing rivers, forests, lakes, wildlife. Though to save many multiples of a thousand words, I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking.

For me, it was the diverse blues of the forms of water which were particularly awesome

A lot of people on the Park were native Chileans taking a week’s break from the city. There were also a lot of French, German, and English people, some of whom were on tours.

I felt a bit a bewildered in the early parts because I was seeing Happy Snappers, but out in the relative wilderness wearing all kinds of professional looking hiking gear.

Was this some sort of cross-breed of the people on the plane?!

All a bit confusing, but in the serenity of the scenery I soon re-found myself and could carry on walking.

The accommodation on the Park was very impressive I found.

In addition to typical campsites for those lugging a tent around, there were also Refugios.

These were pretty much hotels were weary travellers could have a bed for the night. In addition though, they have log fires, sofas, and serve hot food that can be enjoyed over a glass of Chilean red.

For those less at ease with the at times harsh Great Outdoors, they offer a pretty luxury way of seeing the amazing location.

My time in the Park was spent completing the ‘W’ circuit, and camping 4 nights in between.

This took me along a central-ish route, making three trips up to the peaks. More or less, each of these trips took a day to get there and back.

After an afternoon bus from Puerto Natales, I decided to make inroads and head up to a campsite near one of the peaks.

I arrived at the same time as a couple of guys who were travelling together, and the three of us received the low-down on the rules etc of the site.

The Ranger asked if we had any preference where to stay, to which the lads quickly responded “where the chicks are at”, clearly keen to dispel insinuation that this was a Brokeback getaway.

Food was brought in from PN, and water was never an issue as it could be drunk directly from the stream, and was always cool, clear, and refreshing.

That first evening there were unpredictable gusts of wind, as evidenced by someone trying to put up their tent.

Day 2 was a big one. In total it was around 32 kilometres with tent etc and was due in part to a mix up of one of the campsites being closed.

It began with a 5am start to reach ‘the Towers’ for sunrise.

There was a clan of others making the early morning ascent, and I looked a bit out of place not having a headtorch, such was the Seriousness of the other people there.

It was then a case of choosing a spot, and watching the sky turn all sorts of different colours.

By 7am, the light was shining on the towers, and everyone began assembling for their Decent Profile Pics (DPPs). See photos.

Then it was back down, pack up, and on with the hike. The weather was glorious, and with navigation not an issue (all paths are very clearly made out) it was a case of absorbing the surroundings.

Looking at the map, there was an ideally located campsite I was set to arrive to at 5pm. Once there though, I was told it was closed, so needed to walk another 2 and a half hours to one that was open.

I had to suck it up therefore, and keep on trekking.

Once arrived, I negotiated a good price for staying 3 nights, ate some food, and duly retired.

After a relative lie in, it was up the left-hand side of the W; to Glacier Grey.

I’m pretty sure this is the first glacier I’ve seen, and
the sights really were incredible.

As mentioned before, it was the array of blues which were really interesting.

Fifty Shades of Glacier Grey, if you will….

As a memento, picked up a bit of the glacier floating near the shore and put it in my pocket. On the hike back though I must’ve dropped it, as when I got back to camp I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it.

After paying for the campsite, dumping my bag, getting a shower and drying out my trousers which had somehow got wet during the afternoon, I tucked into dinner.

It was another day with a lot of ground covered, so after chatting to some other diners, the evening was spent attempting to put my feet up. Although in a cramped tent it is easier said than done.

On the final full day I did the middle part of the W. This was up through the ‘French Valley’.

It began walking for a bit with a tour group also completing this section today. All were English speakers and it was good to generally chat to a few different people.

One was a lady who played the piano for a living. The minute she sais she was from Wales it started raining which was quite amusing

On the way up, the many mountain streams flowed into the dense river gushing through the valley.

At the top of the trail, there was an impressive “Mirador” (lookout) to take in a view of the surroundings.

On the way down it sounded like a thunderstorm was happening, but in fact it was a series of avalanches up on the other side.

Back at camp it was the end of my walking experience, save going to and from the kitchen.

The night was unbelievably windy, and I am surprised the tatty tent made it until morning. However save a few loosened pegs, come sunrise, packing up the next day was unproblematic.

After eating up the last of supplies, it was on the catamaran across one of the Lakes, hopping on a bus and then onto Puerto Natales to return to normality.

Seeing the dreary roads was a bit of a come-down, but the knowledge of a warm and peaceful night’s sleep made this perfectly acceptable comprise as I thought about another night amongst the gales of TdP.

Looking at Lake Pehoe

Glacier Grey

Sunrise by the Towers

Mountain river

View from French Valley

Late afternoon

Laguna en route to Grey

Grey blues

Lago Pehoe

Sunrise

Valley

World’s most dangerous stream

#birdwatcher

Home for 4 nights

Avalanches

Up French Valley

Bits off the Glacier

Lunch spot: Day Three

Refilling water bottle

Morning by the Towers

Walking: Day Two

Refugio #1

Refugio #2

Forest fires

More blues

French Valley

Laguna

12.1 Puerto Natales

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Puerto Natales, Patagonia, Chile
Thursday, February 7, 2013

From Ushuaia it was an easy border crossing into Chile and to the town of Puerto Natales.

Waking up at 5am in the hostel, I ended up having breakfast with the only other guy up at that hour. Turns out he was making the same journey, but (much) more interestingly, he was another Samwell.

The two Samwells took a minivan, short ferry and two buses to get to Puerto Natales by nighttime.

Time was passed conversing in a combination of Spanish and English (the other Samwell is from Spain and here for a month), and also football – a pretty universal language.

The lady beside me on the bus offered me her magazine to read after we shared some biscuits. No prizes for guessing it´s English counterpart..

After sitting for many hours I was keen to get mobilising to Torres del Paine National Park as soon as possible, and arranged for a bus the following afternoon. This meant the morning was spent with the mentality of “T minus x hours until departure” so went into town buying supplies/ renting camping equipment for the excursion.

All was sorted in time, and it was then off into the (relative) wilderness for 5 days (see 12.1.1)

Upon returning my first destination (after giving back the tent) was to catch up on my 5-a-days and went straight for the nearest fruit & veg shop.

There was a mix up at the hostel meaning I had to find another, but Hostel Dumestre ended up being just what I was after.

It was a building(s) that housed around 50 people, I was told: a mixture of families, lodgers and travellers. The owner had one of the most impressive moustaches I´ve ever seen, and all the residents were exceptionally friendly.

They found it particularly amusing how many times I returned to the soup pot (I think it was 6) when I was in the process of refuelling on the first night.
.

On the final day it was a case of figuring out a bit of a route north and generally acclimatising to having some walls for surroundings for a change.

Jose, moustache, and stove

Bus reading material

Hostel backyard

First hostel street

Getting veg post-hike

PN High Street

11.1.1 The Beagle Channel

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Almirante Brown, Tierra del Fuego, Argentina
Tuesday, February 5, 2013

OK so it was more to the ‘right’ than ‘down’.

The Beagle Channel (named after Darwin’s boat) is a passage of water with Argentina to the north and Chile to the south.

The boat trip we took was for four hours and completed a good tour of the region.

We saw wildlife (see photos), of sealions and a penguin-like animal called a
comorant. There was also a Lighthouse. Indigenous people once lived here, but were pretty much wiped out after a number of missionaries in the 1800s convinced them to wear clothes (as opposed to rubbing on sea lion fat on their bare skin) which got wet and caused them to die of hypothermia.

The passengers on the boat were mainly the first set from the plane.

The company clearly predicted this as we were well supplied with tea and biscuits.

In between stopping for snaps and having a walk on an island where indigenous people used to live, I got chatting to a couple from Buenos Aires.

As their son is also 21, they listened with interest to my stories and reveled in telling me where to go in their country.

Most of the rest of the boat were Argentine, and also keen to offer up must-sees.

It ended up with most of the people there shouting names of places which I attempted to note down.

My phone now has these suggestions.

The experience made me feel a bit like Ian (see 9.4) – being the token foreigner not speaking the language too well.

Only I am not as witty. And have a less impressive camera.

Our tour guide spread out the map of the area during one of the talks, and I noticed The Falklands (or Malvinas) were listed as Argentinean territory.

Assessing my company, I thought it best to keep quiet.

There was a quick stop for DPP opportunities though with my rucksack (and hence llama knitwear) still being Lost in Transit, the exposed islands were all the colder. Once complete, and after a brief talk (no noteworthy Fun Facts) we headed back for the mainland.

Feet back on Ushuaia it was a short walk to the hostel to start actioning all the recommendations that were saved in Drafts on my phone.

Argentina left/ Chile right

Wildlife #1

Missing my knitwear

G (randparent) Adventures

Catering for the Gs

Wildlife #2: in motion

Getting a DPP

Don’t mention the Malvinas…

Wildlife #3

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