Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Down South

It´s been a while since we´ve been in contact. After an extended stay in Puerto Madryn we headed down the west coast to Rio Gallegos, the furthest south anyone in our little group had been. That´s about the only thing memorable about the layover there, b/c an hour or so later we were back on a bus for a 4.5 hr trip northeast to El Calafate, home of the Perito Moreno Glacier. A couple days there doing a little trek on the ice (culminating with one of the most memorable scotch on the rocks I´ve had) and we were off for El Chalten, the national capital of trekking. Not sure what had been the capital of treking before because Chalten was only founded in 1985. Maybe 800 people inhabit the town, and I think that´s being very generous. Apparently not having had enough hiking, we laced up our boots and took off for 3 days, including one overnight. With that overnight, we officially entered the echelon of full-on backpackers. The scenery was nothing short of breathtaking as you can see below.

While on the map, the route from Chalten/Calafate to Bariloche looks straight forward enough, it isn´t. There are only 2 bus companies that operate that far south on the Routa 40, Argentina´s Route 66, that stretches nearly the entire length of this massive country. We chose one about which I had read a scathing review on another travel blog by some Brit. I chalked it half up to this guy being an insufferably pessimistic Brit, and half to a bit of truth. As we had gotten further south, our plush bus rides had gotten a bit less plush with the absense of hot meals (or any meals for that matter) and wine. And those were on the main bus lines operating well traveled routes. I was expecting the worst and the first day confirmed those expectations. The novelty of traveling up this legendary road where Ché once rode his motorcycle was not enough to make up for the cramped bus with no A/C, no bathroom, and a complete lack of scenery. True we had been spoiled with fully reclining seats, hot meals, movies and booze, and we were coming from the amazing scenery of Southern Patagonia so we were a bit spoiled. The only thing saving us from insanity on the first 12 hour leg was that Eric had brought with him a seemingly endless supply of books and when we weren´t reading, the combination of the constant jostling of the bus traveling on unpaved roads and the 90 degree heat knocked you out. We were either sleeping or reading for 12 hours that day, when we weren´t running behind shrubs to relieve ourselves. But we were assured that this wasn´t the ¨regular¨bus, and that the ¨regular¨ one had bathrooms. More than once I wondered why then we paid the ¨regular¨fare.
After a stay in Perito Moreno (town, not Glacier 12 hours south) we were greeted outside our hotel (yes hotel!! The first on our trip. Our room was noticably devoid of bunk beds and communal bathrooms) by a fully equiped bus, complete with TV´s, working A/C and reclining seats. The second leg of our journey would be better. An uneventful 12 hours later we arrived in Bariloche, toasted ourselves for having completed the marathon journey at the hostel bar with too many cervesas and passed out. We changed hostels after that first night being unimpressed by the big-company-run-hostel experience and opted for a smaller, unadvertised one on the top floor of a dilapidated apartment building close to the water. This place is amazing. Huge terrace overlooking the city and the lake and the mountains, huge kitchen equiped with 3 full gas ranges, large prep areas and (Cecilia´s favorite) prep bowls. We immediately booked all our remaining time in Bariloche, waiting for Camilla and Erik (Dec 15th) at this place.
After our 2.5 weeks down from BA to Southern Patagonia, we´ve been pretty pooped. We´ve taken it easy the last few days, making a trip to a little hippie town a couple hours south for a Jazz festival. Learned that hippies are hippies all over. Dirty dreadlocked parents with filthy little naked hippie children (Eric thinks the national pasttime is not fútbol, but baby-making, not only prominant among hippies, although more pronounced) drinking beer, smoking dope, selling ¨hippie crafts¨and generally being at one with the earth. Just like the hoards I would see at Phish concerts in my college days....only in Spanish.
We´re trying to get ourselves up for doing some more hikes while we wait, but the balcony view and proximity to the beach is making it difficult to get off our butts and do things. Enjoy the pics of our last couple weeks down here.


PS I finally shaved off most of the beard I´ve been growing for 3 months. I have a bit of post-partim depression, but I´m working on a Key West/Captain Morgan inspired number now. Still a work in progress, but you´ll see in our next group of photos.

View of Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate. Pieces the size of busses break off and splash to the water making quite a sight.

Cecilia treking on the Glacier
Brad trekking on the Glacier

The north face of the glacier (with enhanced blue function on the camera, which captures it more appropriately than normal settings)

2 happy kids on a boat by a glacier.
Eagerly anticipating the enjoyment to come...
Enjoying the enjoyment previously eagerly anticipated...ahhhh scotch on a glacier. I got a double since Cecilia doesn´t do brown liquor. Made for an interesting trip off the glacier.

2 kids outside a candy store...Patagonia style. That´s Lamb "al cruce" (Lamb on the cross)

The one horse town of El Chalten
Rock hopping towards another glacier in Chalten
By the glacier after rock hopping

Cecilia in all her hiking glory. Mt. Fitz Roy in the background.

All loaded up with camping gear. If Cecilia and I are backpacking, Eric is Plastic Bagging.

2 fun boys contemplating fun times.

2 fun boys having fun times
Breakfast at the Fitz Roy view point

Fitz Roy from the camp site

More breakfast by the peak. We took our camping stove up and made coffee. Fantastic.

Sunrise over Patagonia

The only time we remembered to take out our camera on Routa 40. Multiply this times 24 hours and you get the idea.

Ok, I lied. We did take out the camera one more time. Lucky shot this. We were cruising by on the bus and caught this guy just as he was waving by chance. If herding cats is tougher than herding sheep looks, I would love to see that.

View from the room of our hostel in Bariloche

Biking the Circuito Chico (little circuit) around some of the lakes close to Bariloche with a couple of Irishmen.
Outside a brewery in El Bolson where 70% of the hops grown in Argentina are grown. Perhaps the funnest of funboy moments on the trip so far.
Jazz fest in El Bolson. Surrounded by hippies. The naked babies are just out of sight.
Viewpoint on the circuito chico.


Schraepfer Harvey said...

Yep. Mis en place.

Jazz and hippies, America's finest exports.

Beautiful camping shots. Oh and glacier shots. Oh and glacier scotch shots.

No uke on the bus?
I hope y'all's trip never ends. Amazing!

Laura said...

I love all these pics!

David Armstrong said...

Those pics were excellent! More and more I am slipping into a deep depression in my tiny little apt. due to the amount of fun you guys are having.....I need a beer.

Joel said...

Whats up ya'll?!! i know it has been a long time. but i have been reading and keeping up with your blog. first off though i just want to say that i really miss you guys! you have been the best people to live "with". it just isn't quite the same at the ol' 1522 without you. what you guys are doing is really amazing. i am so happy for you guys. i know you have both traveled extensively but this seems like a very life changing experience. and your blog is really nice. you guys are doing a good job with it. and i like how you talk a lot about the cultural aspects of traveling where you are. it is a nice way to keep these memories with you always. i would like to write some more through email but i am not sure that i have either of your emails. so if either of you have mine write me a little something and i will write cha back. again, i really miss you guys. you brought such a warmth to this house that is still here. and i would like to let you guys know some more about me and the such. my new job is awesome. i really like it. if you are ever bored (right.......) and are searching on the net check it out: urbanhardwoods.com alright brother and sister..... peace out.... and i can't wait to see you here in january? i think? take care of yourselves and keeps it real!
lucia says hi too. she misses you guys the same. the little greek downstairs is slightly obnoxious... i wish sometimes he didn't overhear me talking about leaving my place!! oops.... laters