Miss This Place We Will

After having to abort our mission to the Piedras Blancas glacier after I put both of my feet into the stream, we took a day to try again. It wasn’t a particularly difficult hike, but it was a long walk mostly over rocks and there were small streams that popped up everywhere along the route. Continue reading “Miss This Place We Will”

The Fitz

Whoever said that photographs don’t lie is a liar. Photographs lie all the time. A photograph can tell you that the person that you met on Yahoo dating is nice looking, when he has actually been disfigured by an accident. A photograph taken from arm’s length can tell you that I have an enormous double chin which I don’t believe I possess. And a photograph can tell you that Mount Fitzroy is just another mountain that doesn’t have any special features to recommend it. No matter how hard I try, I cannot capture an image of Mount Fitzroy that tells the truth about it. Continue reading “The Fitz”

Getting Blown Away by El Chalten

When you ask my Dad where a particular place is, he will almost invariably tell you that it is right down the street. Dad, where’s Livermore? It’s just right down the street. Where’s Santa Rosa? Right down the street. Bakersfield? Right down the street. Bakersfield may be pushing it, but in a town like El Chalten, my Dad would be right 100 percent of the time because everything in El Chalten is literally right down the street. Continue reading “Getting Blown Away by El Chalten”

Ice Ice Baby

The cabin that we checked into in El Calafate at 1:00 in the morning was something that I would have dreamed about living in as a child. It was a fairly tiny A-frame cabin, but it was so cute with its little dining area and loft bed and it was situated in a small neighborhood of similar cabins amidst a garden of lavender—I couldn’t help being charmed by it. Slightly less charming was the shower which was one of those that soaks the whole bathroom so that you have to squeegee the entire floor when you are done. But did I mention how cute it was? The owner was nice enough to speak English with us after we had been awake for almost 24 hours, but in the morning we told him that he could speak Spanish to us since we could actually process thoughts after a good night of sleep. He replied that he would go ahead and continue with the English because it was good practice for him. This seems to be a running theme. Continue reading “Ice Ice Baby”

A Doll, a Cow, and a Mink Walk into a Forest…

Our best day in Ushuaia by far was the day that we went to Tierra del Fuego National Park. I was still hurting a bit from our climb to the glacier, but once we got to the park I couldn’t have cared less about a few sore muscles. We traveled to the park in a mini-bus, and as we were the only passengers, the driver chattered away about everything that we passed. There was the river, the golf course (it is so damn windy in Ushuaia that I imagine yelling “Fore!” is a requirement every time your club makes contact with a ball), and the “train to the end of the world” which he scoffed at quite heartily to make it known that this was one of the greatest tourist traps of all time. After a brief drive he dropped us of at the coastal trail and we headed out along the coast of Beagle Channel through beautiful beech forest which was again reminiscent of New Zealand. Continue reading “A Doll, a Cow, and a Mink Walk into a Forest…”

Why I Never Got That Presidential Physical Fitness Award in Elementary School

One of more inexpensive things to do in Ushuaia is to climb up to the Martial Glacier that overlooks the town. Since we had not been hiking since Germany, I was concerned that my physical fitness level may have suffered during our time in Buenos Aires (I had packed on about five pounds of ass which is difficult to haul around). Of course Adam had nothing to worry about. He eats these kinds of day hikes for breakfast. I mean he seriously could have been up and down that trail before I could finish an Egg McMuffin and hash brown meal. He started up the steadily climbing trail in his usual nimble fashion, but as soon as I set foot on it, I knew that most of the gains that I had made in strength and stamina during our time in New Zealand, Australia, and Scotland, had been lost. This was an incredibly frustrating discovery, but what can you expect when you spend three months in cities doing nothing but walking over flat ground? Continue reading “Why I Never Got That Presidential Physical Fitness Award in Elementary School”

The End of the World

Being in Ushuaia, one tends to forget that it is in South America. The landscape is remarkably similar to what we saw on the west coast of the south island of New Zealand. Of course it was winter in New Zealand when we were there and in Ushuaia it was the height of summer. The town is situated right on the Beagle Channel and in front of a mountain range that is host to the Martial Glacier which is visible from most parts of the town. It is apparent that the town has become incredibly wealthy from tourism. It shows all of the signs of having enough wealth to be frivolously adorned: shining statues of prominent figures, immaculate public parks, painstakingly tended flower beds along the main streets (one in the whimsical shape of a whale). All the house fronts and businesses are clean and tidy and you get a bit of a storybook feeling as you pass through some parts of town. Just by looking around at the tourists who frequent Ushuaia, you can tell where all of the money comes from. One day as we walked along the waterfront, Adam went on a tirade about the type of tourist who comes to Ushuaia in the middle of summer decked out in outrageously expensive clothes that were made less for taking a stroll in slightly inclement weather and more for an Antarctic ice climbing expedition. Shaking his head in disbelief he said, “It’s like putting on a costume to go shopping. Jesus Christ, we’re not even that far south.” He continued in the voice that you use when mocking the dunderheaded: “Oh, I’m going to Ushuaia, I better put on my crampon compatible stiff boots and my waterproof Gore-Tex in case we get hit with a blizzard between the gift shop and the restaurant. Watch out Stella! I’m going through this puddle!” Continue reading “The End of the World”

Paradise by the Dashboard Light

Our first problem with leaving Puerto Madryn was knowing what time the bus was going to arrive. Since the little daylight savings debacle, we were unsure whether the tickets that we had bought in Buenos Aires stated the earlier or later time. Rather than trying to puzzle it out in Spanish, we just went to the bus station an hour early. What’s another hour of waiting when you have 36 hours of bus travel coming up? Continue reading “Paradise by the Dashboard Light”

It Was the Best of Tours, It Was the Worst of Tours

Puerto Madryn could be a stand-in for just about any other beach town in the world, but after being in Buenos Aires with no beach to speak of except for the aforementioned brown river, we got much more enjoyment out of it then we usually would. “Look!” we would cry. “Water is blue!”

Then, “What is that strange smell?”

“It’s air minus the smell of diesel fuel! Will the wonders never cease?”

We only had two days in Puerto Madryn just to break up the time traveling from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia. Since it took 22 hours just to get to Puerto Madryn, I would come to see this as a wise decision on our part. Continue reading “It Was the Best of Tours, It Was the Worst of Tours”

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…and Round…and Round

Even though I didn’t really want to stay in Buenos Aires any longer, as we packed up our possessions in our backpacks that hadn’t been touched in two months, I started to get a nervous feeling. I was ready to leave the big city and get back to the small towns, wilderness, and hiking every day (and so was my waistline), but we had gotten so accustomed to being in a big apartment. There was nothing that we ever had to do. And the feeling of uncertainty and apprehension of being in a new place had vanished long ago. Now we were facing smaller living spaces, places that we had to get to on time, and an uncertain future involving long bus rides, new towns, border crossings and recrossings, and the certainty that we were going to have to speak Spanish to communicate. So as we left the apartment on that last day in a taxi bound for the bus station, I felt almost the same feeling that I did when we left the United States. But our bus ride to Puerto Madryn was all that we needed to remind us that there was nothing to be nervous about. Annoyed and disgusted perhaps, but not nervous. Continue reading “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round…and Round…and Round”