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Archive for March, 2011

31st March
2011
written by Hazel
We were so excited to see my dad, Nigel, that we arrived at the airport really, really early.  It didn’t help that we had thought his flight got in an hour earlier than it actually did.  Everything went smoothly though and after a nice coffee at the airport cafe we met my dad and got our rental car!  I was amazed how much energy he had after a long flight and we set right off for Valparaiso, a town on the coast where we were spending our first three nights.

On the way we stopped off at a nature reserve for the first of many birdwatching expeditions.  My dad is an avid birdwatcher and we were determined to help him see as many of Chile’s birds as possible.  He was full of interesting information.  For example, there is less species variation in the southern hemisphere, so in all of Chile there are not many more species than on the small island near Seattle where he lives!  We took an informed bet as to how many species we would see in ten days.  I guessed 93, my dad guessed 115, and Justin was optimistic with a guess of 119.

This first stop was at the Reserva Nacional Lago Peñuelas and we had some good sightings.  There are additional bird photos if you click any of these for the link to the gallery.

Horses in the reserve

29th March
2011
written by Hazel

We’ve been really busy traveling for the past 2 weeks or so, but will gradually try and get things updated here!  When last I wrote we were in Buenos Aires, and from there we went on to Santiago, Chile.  It was a quick, pleasant flight and we had a few really nice days of exploring the city.

All of the photos link to our galleries which have more photos and I´ve started adding captions to explain them, so you can get even more about our trip if you click through to those!

Our first afternoon in Santiago we headed to the Museo de la Memoria, which is in memory of the incredibly difficult time that Chile has been through from the 1970s until the 1990s.  It was a very well put together museum and we learned so much about the recent history of Chile, despite not much of the text being in English.
Museo de la Memoria
28th March
2011
written by Justin

Well it has been a long time since I talked about the various libations that Hazel and I have tried.  Having been to both Argentina and Chile since we left New Zealand, we’ve gained even more of a perspective on how people around the world consume their beer.   Turns out that the pacific coast of the US has a different opinion about beer than most other places in the world!  (Sorry East Coast, Yuengling just doesn’t cut it anymore :) )

In Argentina, we had the realization that there just isn’t much in the way of beer.  The two main players throughout the country were Quilmes, a very light lager whose primary characteristic was that a liter cost US$1.50.  The other choice was Brahma, which costs less than Quilmes.  Neither had much going for them other than that they are cheaper than water around there.  I did enjoy the occasional Brahma (my preferred of the two) but the most interesting beers were found while we travelled around Patagonia.  We went to three Patagonian towns: Ushuaia, El Calafate, and El Chaltén (We also traveled to Chile’s Puerto Natales, but I’m saving that for another post).

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20th March
2011
written by admin

Our front page was down for a while due to an errant WordPress plugin. Removed the plugin, made it work again! Unfortunately our slick map is out of commission for now. Enjoy!

14th March
2011
written by Hazel

Justin has been doing an awesome job filling you in on our “W” hike, but we’ve been really busy since then as well, so I’ll try to catch things up!  We had a day of recovery after all of the hiking and two awesome nights at our favorite hostel in Puerto Natales.

The next stop on our agenda was El Calafate, Argentina which is known almost exclusively for its glacier.  We took a bus to get there and had a very easy 6 hour ride, spending only an hour at the Chile-Argentina border crossing.  We weren’t quite prepared for what El Calafate would be like since it was pretty different from Ushuaia and Puerto Natales.  Firstly, it was EXPENSIVE.  Especially the food.  Secondly, it seemed to be built just for the tourists and while the other towns had shops for tourists and tours for tourists, this place had a kind of Disneyland overpricedness to it.  We were very lucky though because we stayed at a wonderful hostel (Hospedaje Lautaro) run by an incredibly welcoming family who did masses to ensure that we could make the most of the glacier and the town.  They also provided a very tasty breakfast each day.  We were also able to save a bit of money by using the kitchen instead of the overpriced restaurants.

The first night in town we cooked dinner and then went and did a little beer tasting at the local brewery, Sholken. The beer was interesting!  We agreed that their pale ale was the favorite, but the dark beer tasted EXACTLY like beef jerky.  They must use hickory or something in the process.  I have never had a beer that tastes like meat before!

Beer tasting!

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13th March
2011
written by Justin

Camp

Check out Part 1 here!

Having awakened in camp fully rested, we had a nice breakfast of (you guessed it) oatmeal. However, we had a stroke of genius – prepare it using some of the apple flavored drink powder that’s left over from our water bottles! It was surprisingly good , given that we were just throwing apple sugar on top. Being equipped with our apple juices, we set off for the magnificent Valle Frances, the middle leg of the “W”. This is a day hike of about 3 hours each way, up from the valley floor to a mirador in the center of a circle of mountains.

10th March
2011
written by Justin

You might think that a two-day horse expedition was enough. We might have been ambitious to think otherwise, but in fact we began our next adventure on the same day that we had our second horse ride. We decided to trek in the Torres del Paine national park, a very famous place in Chile with some spectacular alpine and glacial scenery. However, one does not simply hike for a few hours in Torres del Paine! The park itself is a 2-hour drive from the nearest town (Puerto Natales) and is too large and varied to see even a fraction in a few hours. So we decided to do a 5 day trek instead!

El Mapa

El Mapa - The "W"

Before we departed for horseback riding, we made some preparations. Our backpacks are a perfect size for us, but our stuff is more appropriate for sleeping in hostels than for camping. We rented some of the equipment that we needed at “The Erratic Rock”, a hostel run by some Canadian ex-pats that runs an informational talk (in English) and rental shop.

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8th March
2011
written by Hazel

Check out Part 1 here!

After a good sleep in the tent we had a yummy breakfast prepared by Boris and then set off for our second day of riding. This day we took about a 3 hour ride around the Laguna Amarga which is a large, green, saltwater lake.

Flamingos on Laguna Amarga

The weather was overcast and really windy at times, but we still got wonderful views of the lake. These horses were so steady and we had an awesome time riding over all of the different terrains. A really amazing confidence builder for me since I had a really nasty crash off a horse a few years ago and haven´t ridden much since. The horses were so well behaved and took all of the wildlife and crazy terrain completely in stride. Justin was incredible even though he hasn’t ridden that much and even managed a long trot on one of the beaches on top of about nine hours in the saddle in two days!

7th March
2011
written by Justin

Throughout our trip, Hazel and I have been planning a few bigger trips to mix in with our more everyday low-cost hiking and hosteling adventures.  We’ve been keeping an eye out for a horseback ride that sounded exceptional, as Hazel in particular has wanted to get back on a horse again ever since her accident over two years ago.  Well, it took almost 3 months, but we finally found one in Criollo Expeditions.  They advertise a number of different trips on their website, but one in particular struck our fancy: an overnight trek at the fabulous Parque Nacional Torres del Paine.

The company turned out to be a family operation.  We called hoping to come to their office to talk about our possible riding options, and were surprised to be invited to the home of Magan and Boris Radich outside Puerto Natales where we got to see one of their herds and chat about riding.  We decided to depart in two days (Monday the 28th) and raced home to prepare for the other impending adventure – the 5 days of hiking in Torres del Paine known as the “W”.  I’ll talk about that in another post!

Monday morning arrived and Boris pulled up (right to our fabulous hostel “The Singing Lamb“) in his 4×4 truck with our box lunches and a happy greeting.  It was really wonderful that Boris drove us to the park, since he was able to point out the owls, eagles, foxes, guanacos (Patagonian llamas), ñandu (Patagonian ostriches, also known as Rhea), and caracaras that we saw.  This was just on the trip to the park!  We couldn’t believe how much we saw, besides the normal sheep and horses you might expect in a wide open landscape like the one that leads to the mountains.  Boris was raised in nearby mountains at a remote ranch and he knew all sorts of information relating to the history, flora and fauna, and geography of the entire region.

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