May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

South America and Patagonia

Mountain Bliss?

Buenos Aires

Cristina at home

Cristina y Sue
January 1-3, 2012—We were thrilled to see Cristina as we arrived!  She brought us back to her (and kitty Brisa’s) home and gave us the big bed to sleep on.  What a welcome sight: her smile, abrazo, energy and warm soul!   
You can't see that I'm looking at my Chaco sandals
Tango Coffee

We spent some days walking around the neighborhood, going to the city center to see if we could find someone to fix my old Sony Bloggie (they only fix ones that were made in Argentina), and to see why the phone I got in Turkey doesn’t work (apparently it doesn’t have the right waves to work in South America).   
We ate empanadas, had real espresso, enjoyed the warmth, watched a group of drummers (candombe) and dancers make their way slowly down the block, and I got to spend some precious down time putting movies onto flash drives to make my computer work faster.

Gobbling down nuts and fruit we couldn't bring to Chile
January 4-Upon arriving to Chile, they were very clear about not bringing fruits and nuts and such over the boarder, so we stood at the gateway eating almonds, dried pears and an apple before passing through.   
Punta Arenas

Three-tiered coffee
Our room
We arrived at Punta Arenas at 5AM and saw the sun rise over the ocean on our way to the home with rooms and little stand-alone tin sheds that are rooms in the back called Hotel Betty.  Betty is also starting a jewelry boutique in town.  The first day it sprinkled rain with no clouds in sight.  The wind was severe.

 Finally the clouds came in and we hunkered down into coffee shops or our beautiful green and orange and yellow room with huge towels, warm shower water (it took us days too figure out the heater and in the meantime we bundled up and even saw our breath in the morning) run by nice women and a 12 year old boy.  Typical hostel breakfasts include bread, marmalade, maybe cheese and hot drinks.  You serve yourself, as no one wakes up before 11 or so.
PERFECT avocados for cheap!
The neighborhood


We went to the Braun museum where the home was displayed beautifully—we even had to wear fabric overshoes to protect the floor.  There was a pianist and violinist practicing in the center hall.  I loved hearing live music as we perused the artifacts from the home’s heyday and from the far past of this area.  The music reminded me of Youngmin’s playing at Emma Willard, especially her work with the dance company.  It made me nostalgic for her.  Also the collection included old canoes, tools, décor, and beads from the native people, weapons and jars from the western occupiers, and bones from the animals long forgotten.

Flowers in january!

One day, I walked a couple of hours up the coast and played on the exercise stations, and with a German shepherd who wanted us to chase him on the beach because he had a stick.  Sometimes it takes some days of being sedentary to get the drive to explore again.  I read books, caught up on the blog and we watched a movie that I got in Jordan that turns out is NOT in English (except at the beginning) but in Arabic. One night we got up at 4AM, after the moon set, and watched the Southern Cross HIGH in the sky.  I was very surprised.
The Port, Punto Arenas

Black Necked Swans: Nice place to live
January 9—We hopped on an early bus to Puerto Natales, checked into our room and went to find out how we can see the Torres Del Paine the next day.  After walking along the beautiful straight with glaciated mountains on the other side, sitting and watching the black-necked swans preen and float, enjoying the company of a couple of lively dogs chasing cars L, butterflies and birds, and drinking coffee in a café chock full of climbing and other adventure magazines and books, we ate empanadas and went back to the hostel.  I finished The Catcher In the Rye before bed.

View of the torres (towers)

I lichen this

The skinny part of the trail

January 10—took us in the morning to the northeast section of the park Torres Del Paine.  On the way, a guide came on the bus to go over rules of the park and to talk about the fire that still needed managing and closed about ½ to ¾ of the park because of a careless [Israeli] camper who [didn’t want to pay for a campsite, so he] was out of the mandated camping area and he illegally started a campfire and accidentally burned down a huge amount of a national UNESCO park, maybe killed some firemen and spent tons of money to manage it.  Later she also talked about how the consequences of this kind of action had been very small in the past, and not much has been done to reinforce rules or maintain the wilderness of the park.  She said that they have let folks come in and build huge hostels in place of the simple refuges, and the rangers are not trained in low-impact techniques or how to maintain trails.  The guides have bonded together to see if they can make a difference in enforcing rules and helping to educate those who enter the park.  Anyway, we finally got on a transfer bus that takes a little further, and started up the trail toward the towers. 
View from our highest point
I must say that they and the moraine surrounding the area, and the lakes and silty grey streams were stunning.  The clouds and sun were playing chase with the wind and we climbed for about 2 hours before the trail got too skinny.  Les is acrophobic and the steep sides down thousands of feet into the stream made his knees weak.  Ahead was a scree field with an even more exposed section, so we went up the hill, enjoyed getting out of the wind and relaxed in the sand amidst the spiny pink berry plants.
Heidi, one of the park's guides

 Through the binoculars the glaciers were breathtaking, and we could hear the ice falling off the cliffs; they sounded like jets.  It was a little like Alaska because the trees were all so low and gnarly, and the groundcover was little scrub brush of berries, so you could see far, far away!  Lovely.  There were tons of people with backpacks and boots going up to camp.  I missed backpacking, but not the weight; and I looked like the furthest thing from an past-professional outdoors woman with my large pink purse over one shoulder, roomy cotton pants with Indian embroidery on the sides and sneakers on my feet.
Steppe through the binoculars
Lunch part way up

 I learned from the Heidi the guide that not many people are educated in camping; it’s just what you do when you get down here.  I’ve never thought about just how popular backpacking has gotten since I got my degree in Outdoor Recreation and Adventure Education.  It’s a bit sad, because she said folks don’t really care about keeping the wilderness clean.  Sigh.  
Cheese sandwich at the bottom

Lodge for coffee
We had coffee in the restaurant, and not wanting to miss our ride back to town, we walked to the shuttle area.  Turns out the shuttles don’t run all day; then next one ran in two + hours.  Imagine being in one of the most beautiful places on earth with “nothing to do.”  Pathetic and shameful.  On our way out, we saw flamingos (in the Andes!??), something that looked like a miniature ostrich, lots of ibis and cam… animals that looked like a cross between a camel and a llama.  Also sheep and one cowboy and his dog covered the moraines topped by grass and low shrubbery, as the towers got smaller and covered in clouds.
Les LOVES flamingos

 After sleeping on the bus, I felt crummy and had a headache.  I craved something healthy to eat, (and a shower) so we bought peppers, onion, tomato, cilantro and some soup stock of garlic and onion to make into a little soup.  I was surprised that it turned out at all. 
Dogs lined up in town
December 10—we spent walking by the bay, drinking beautiful cappuccinos at the café with a view, and writing on exceptionally beautiful postcards of this area.  It was cold in the wind and the sun was hidden more than it was out, so I put on all my layers.  We went to a small restaurant and I asked for the menu.  But “menu” means the special of the day; “carta” is the menu.
Front row seats!

Fish Soup
So Les and I had really good fish soup (with bones) and typical thin piece of breaded and fried steak with mashed potatoes and raison butterscotch like pudding by accident.  Yum.  Three hours bus ride in the VERY FRONT of the double decker bus was a panoramic thrill.
Dry dock: boat with copper bottom
Coffee Wow

Coffee art

Coffee triple wow

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