Bits n pieces
around the world in 11 months
14.12.2012 - 19.12.2012 11 °C
Monkey Man - the missing link?!!!....
The last 600m were sheer hell mainly due to the sheer cliff we were climbing. We had already been walking for 3 hours since 8am and Seamus said we should take the detour on the map. I looked up and said no way but decided to give it a go anyway. He took the rear and offered words of encouragement such as 'you're doing well' 'keep going' and other such Bull S***. It's a miracle we didn't have to call in the local equivalent of William O Brien crane hire. After an hour and a half of excrutiating pain we rounded the top of the moraine - I looked in front of me and thank god I was wearing sun glasses cos I burst out crying! Partly due to relief at getting to the top but mainly due to the sight that lay before me: the most perfectly turquoise, half frozen glacial lake, backed by a glacier and topped by the majestic jagged knife-like Mt Fitzroy. I was totally overwhelmed. We sat down and lay back and drank that view in.
Thanks to the 2 Canadians for telling us about Chalten. It is a hikers paradise. On arrival we tried to rent a little cabin which had views of the snowcapped mountains but it was only available for next 4 nights so we stayed in the hotel for 1st night. Of course for unfit Aine it was a baptism of fire. Walking as follows: day 1 four hour hike, day 2 seven hour hike, day 3 five hour hike, day 5 nine hour hike ( the tear producing one). (Below are photos taken on day 5 trek).
On day 5 Seamus decided to get up at 4am and trek an hour outside town to get a view of mount Fitz Roy as sunrise appeared over the horizon. Of course I was with him (in my dreams)...not. but I had brekkie ready when he returned at 7. That's when we did the 9 hour hike. "Mad fecker" but I suppose I love him. Photos below are pre sunrise and during sunup.
And at last we got to taste the lamb cooked on the wood fire. I was in carnivore heaven - you could have eaten that meat with with a spoon.
And then all too soon our time in our little paradise came to an end and then there was our 30 hour bus journey to look forward to.... yes that's 30 hours. For a change Seamus on arriving in El Chalten, decided to book our transport out of there with a bus company called Taqsa. All was well until we started reading blogs about our particular bus company, all of which said 'do not use this company' hmmm. One writer said that she was so hungry that she almost ate the bus driver, and then the passengers. As much of a carnivore that I am I didn't fancy eating our fag smoking, supersized bus driver.
Ushuaia to El Calafate
11.12.2012 - 13.12.2012 12 °C
Having checked out the bus schedules we decided to go for a two hour plane ride instead of a twelve hour bus ride for 100 euros each. No brainer. However, the plane on the local airline, Lade, may as well have been a bus. Of course we happened to get the seats along side the twin engines...loud or what! At least aine wouldn't have to listen to me moan for the trip..ha ha. About 30mins into the flight the plane started to descend and we landed at an airport. All of the tourists were looking bemused and decided to stay put but we were told in spanish that we had to get off the plane for an hour. None of the flight attendants spoke english so we were all helping eachother out. Off we get and no less than two hours later (!) we reboarded. This time the paddys were ready, we got lovely quiet seats up front( thanks partly to the fact that as we were last to get off we placed our hand luggage on some nice seats up front far away from the engine noise ) and finally landed at our destination of El Calafate- well kind of - the airport is in the middle of nowhere 28km from the town of Calafate(population of 8000). These are the small crosses to be borne on this 11 month crucifiction, I mean, expedition.....
Calefate - named after the local Berberis bush- took us by surprise seeming more californian ski resort than south american village. All very new. Found a nice hostel with cama doble con bano (spanish test at end of blog..). Went out for a scout around and of course I had to have (another) steak and then Seamus ordered what we thought was one 800ml of stout but two arrived and of course we couldnt send them back. Good strong stuff. When we Skyped Colm we had something to boast about as heś usually teasing us with his nightly pint of Guinness by the fire! ......HI everyone its me the other half, Well speak of the devil. Aine was just typing this and who skyped us with a pint in his hand only the bould Colm Ryan. Anyway we wont let him deter us from telling our update to the blog. Weather was quite satisfactory - prob in the early teens but when the breeze got up you were reminded very quickly that you were in windy patagonia where the wind can make a 12 degree day feel like 5 degree or less.
Yesterday we visited the Perito Mereno in Los Glaciars National park. The third largest ice field in the world. Nothing really prepares you for the majesty of this huge block of thousands of years old ice. It really is breathtaking. We now know where the term glacial blue comes from. Of course on arrival I (Aine - me again) had a tear in my eye. Must be the environmental scientist in me... (Seamus had one too but that was from me clipping him across the ear for eyeing up some argentinian babe) When we got to the face of the glacier which is 5km wide, 14km long and 70m deep, we really got a feel for the thing. It is truly a dynamic being and changing all the time. You hear a crack and then a roar as chunks of the ice face fall into the Lago Argentino. Awesome. A much overused word but totally appropriate in this case. You get the feeling that man is totally insignificant when confronted with such a brute force of nature. A good lesson for all methinks. Seamus was saying that Gerry, Mark and gang would have loved to do another Kili on it. Oh well, maybe sometime as I (Aine) was not brave enough to go walking on the glacier :-( The set up at the site is really good with KMs of elevated walkways and viewing points. We were there for 5.5hrs and it wasnt long enough. We didnt want to leave. Seamus was hoping for a massive iceberg to calve and create a tidal wave but thatś boys for you....
Today we took it easy and went for a walk around the local bird sanctuary where there are flamingos and all kinds of feathery delights. Booked our next trip to El Chalten for 5 days of mountain treking. We were supposed to go kaying amongst the icebergs tomorrow but the trip was cancelled so we had to drown Seamus' dissapointment with hot chocolate laced with rum. He was so looking forward to it i don't think a keg of rum would have been enough to compromise. Back to the hotel for round 2 of a massive chicken stew made yesterday with 4 chicken caracsses for 2 euro (yes - you heard right - chicken carcasses). May not look the best but are finger lickin good. Oh how the mighty have fallen. God be with the 5 star celtic tiger days. Much more fun this way. And there was I thinking I was going to miss cooking for 11 months! Needs must - life on the road is expensive with accommodation, food and travel. The cost of living here is on a par with Ireland and the excursions are expensive - the glacier costing 60euros each for example.
The photos of the glacier dont do it justice - you will just have to come and see for yourselves. Ciao for now amigos.
The Looders xxx
07.12.2012 - 09.12.2012 3 °C
I'd swear Aine had it all pre-arranged......the 2 sharing our room were not 2 hot brazilians babes but 2 French Canadian dudes, all suave and swarthy, hmmm!!! Everytime I left the room and came back the 3 of them were laughing and giving each other tips on how to enjoy their travels. Very Suspicious. Anyway I slept all night with one eye open, just in case!!!!! I was wondering why Aine was trying to get me to wear an eye mask.
As it turned out they were really ok and had good advice on what to do around Ushuaia. The 'city' is very like San Francisco in that the streets are very steep like and in a grid.
We used the morning of the 8 th December to get our bearings. One main street and lots of outdoor and adventure stores. Of course Aine was doing her utmost to keep me from spending this month's budget. After a light lunch we decided to bail out of the hostel ( not because of the french canadians but because Aine wanted to give me her undivided attention.
We took a sailing yacht out the Beagle Channel and visited one of the many islands in the channel where many rare birds were nesting. We also learned about the yamama people who were native to the area and of whom only one 100+ yr old woman is still alive. They ate penguin, seal, fish and shellfish and did not wear clothing but covered themselves in fat for warmth. Nice....
It was pretty cold on board the boat even with about 10 layers on but we were kept warm with coffee laced withe the local equivalent of baileys. On the way home we stopped by the local parilla where they cook meat - usally a whole sheep - over a wood fire. Aine was slavering just looking at it & had to be dragged away from the restaurant window! Must try it sometime before we leave argentina. Being on a budget we had to be sensible and eat the remains of a massive pot of bolognese sauce which we had made the day before in the hostel. Nice though and lacedwith garlic.
Today (Sunday) we went to the Tierra del Fuego national park and hiked for a few hours. Thankfully we arrived too late to climb to one of the peaks as I could see that seamus had that kilimanjaro stare in his eyes.....We had to suffce with a leisurely walk around a lake instead. Phew. A bit like glendalough surrounded by snow topped peaks. V beautiful. Feeling cold we bought a naggin of whiskey to have a hot whiskey back at the hostel. We had the hot water in thenglasses when we realised we had no sugar. Of course You can't have a hot whiskey without sugar. So off to the shop next door which is run by a japonese man who made me (aine) draw a map of ireland on some paper before I left the shop. Little did he know we were gagging for the hot whiskey never mind drawing maps! We are slowly learning the patience that is necessary when doing a trip like this. Manaña manaña as they say in these here parts.
Talk about blowing hot and cold!!!!!!
06.12.2012 - 07.12.2012 1 °C
Left the Tigre delta as the monsoon closed in around us. It started raining very heavily early in the morning. Thunder and lightening was explosive all around. It became torrential and as we finished packing, we couls see water coming in the coservatory at the rear of the house. There were two other couples and us waiting for the waterbus back to civilisation and I know the germans were getting nervous that they might not get off the island. It was bucketing down but to all our relief the waterbus was on time and we arrived back to Tigre and as luck would have it the rain eased sufficiently to allow us to get from river to train station without getting wet. After getting on the train (one hour journey to buenos aires) all the saints and angels decided to go to the toilet simultaneously... a deluge ensued.
Tomorrow we hope to go to the Beagle Channel & see penguins.
Been talking to dad (Colm) a lot via skype - a great way to keep in touch.