Trip Map

Saturday, March 29, 2008


A few catch up photos... I only have a few thousand more to go through!

From the Copeland trek in NZ

Routeburn trek in New Zealand

Another Routeburn, just over the pass

Flying over the Andes, Santiago to Buenos Aires (business class, somehow!)

The Fam in Buenos Aires: me, Brunella, Paula, Franco, and Antonella. The best!

Part of Iguazu Falls in Northern Argentina. That is Brazil on the other side.

More Iguazu

Fitz Roy in El Chalten

Cerro Torre in El Chalten

Successful ice climb in El Chalten

A GIANT condor soaring over my head on a peak above Ushuaia... 6-8´wingspan!

Savoring the sights at the 'end of the earth', Ushuaia

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Well, A TON has happened since my last post, so I will try to give a quick rundown. I am in El Calafate, Argentina (Patagonia) at the moment, waiting to catch a flight to Ushaia (sp?) in Tierra del Fuego this afternoon (waaaaaaay south- as far as you can go on land anyway). The internet connection speed here is circa 1985 or something so no photos, and no checking spellings of words, sorry! :)
When I got to Buenos Aires, I stayed 2 nights in hostels, toured around and did the skydiving trip. After that I met up with Antonella and Brunella whom I originally ran across in Florence, Italy, and actually met in Thyssonecki, Greece. We travelled together to Istanbul, Turkey back in January (seems like ages ago!), so I took them up on their offer to show me around their hometown (Buenos Aires). Paula (their mother) totally took me in and gave me the royal treatment for 3 days, even on short notice!! It was like being part of their family and they were personal tour guides to the city, the food, the nightlife, language, history and culture of Buenos Aires and Argentina! I had a really fantastic time as it is an amazing city and I really enjoyed those few days with them. I would highly recommend anyone to take a vacation there (well Argentina in general!). Briefly: I was able to see many of the famous monuments and streets, sample the nightlife (local custom is to go out at 12-3 AM to a bar, 3-4AM to a club and stay out until 7,8,9 or whenever you feel like going home - crazy!), had an amazing asado lunch with many of the local foods (including pate and blood sausage), took a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay, ate a LOT of delicious homemade food, visited an Argentinian art museum, got the inside scoop and city tour of many local construction projects from Antonella and Brunella's father (he is a Director for a large local construction company so that was really cool!), and spent a lot of time enjoying the generosity, friendliness, and company of everybody! Hopefully someday they can make it to the Idaho to visit so, but its hard with the 3 pesos to 1 dollar ratio!
They insisted that I had to go to Iguazu Falls in the far north of Argentina, and they were so right! I took a 20 hour bus ride (not actually so bad- the seats are like Business or First class on an airplane and lay almost flat, really quite comfortable) and spent 3 days there. The first night I was fortunate to catch a full moon and no clouds and did a moonlight walk to the falls- very impressive!! The mist from the falls rises like a cloud of smoke and is illuminated by the moonlight. Really a unique way to see the falls for the first time! The falls are massive, larger than Niagra and one of the natural wonders of the world. I spent the next two days walking all over the park and took a boat ride under a portion of the falls, that was an experience!
Instead of taking a 68 hour bus ride, I caught a 4 hour flight here to El Calefate in Patagonia. The landscape of the high steppes here is quite barren despite the glacial rivers and lakes running across it. El Calefate used to be a remote outpost town, but has grown greatly with tourism and now reminds me of the touristy side of Jackson Hole... so I left as soon as possible for El Chalten. Part of the road is still unpaved so it still has a very remote feel. Unfortunately paving and constuction work is in progress to develop access and the town, and I can see it being much different in 5 years. As you get closer to El Chalten, the peaks begin to rise higher and higher, similar to the way the Tetons stand out in Wyoming- spectacular is the only way to describe them. The town is nestled under Mt Fitz Roy, and Cerra Torre (along with many other spires and peaks, but those are the 2 big ones) and is still very much a dusty trekker and mountaineer town. I loved the atmosphere!
Antonella and Brunellas cousin, Sofi, lives there, so the first night we hit up the local microbrewery (delicious Bock and Pilsner made with glacial water!) for beers and pizza while she gave me all the local scoop. After some good advice and some sleep, I rented a tent and hiked up to Mount Fitz Roy. Along the way, I met 2 great Irish guys and we ended up camping together and spending a few hours waiting for the clouds to clear from Fitz Roy. Everybody else gave up and hiked back down to camp, but we stayed and were rewarded with solitary views of the peak for the last few hours of the day, fantastic!!
Split with the Irish fellows the following day after promises to drink Guiness in Dublin with them at a later date and spent the day leisurly hiking to another glacial lake before ending up below Cerro Torre to camp again. It was very cold camped below the glacier (its all glacier after the camping areas!) so I had to wear everything I had but I survived. The following day, I met up with a group to go glacier trekking, and we hiked to the glacier. We had to take a zipline over the glacier river (very cool), then don crampons and, after walking over the glacier for an hour or so, climb a 30' vertial wall- iceaxes and all!! Its really quite easy to walk on the ice once you get your balance figured out, and get the gait down. Lots of fun, and I would like to try ice climbing again... more for the todo list!
Closed out El Calafate with a few more bocks and then back here to catch my plane. I am planning on finishing with Ushuai and Bariloche in Argentina before ending up in Santiago to come home. I have booked my return ticket and will be home April 6... so really soon! Looking forward to seeing you all and catching up. Hope you have enjoyed my blog so far, and if I get a better connection I have a TON of great pics, clear back to Australia and New Zealand that I havent posted.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skydive Lobos, Argentina

Its easy to be cocky on the ground...

but not at 10,000'! second thoughts ???

Just out of the plane

30 seconds of free fall! If you listen closely you can hear me yelling at the top of my lungs!

Something is wrong here... the chute develops a knot and wont open fully. I knew something was wrong after he pulled the parachute and we floated on that for a bit, and all of a sudden we were falling again! He had to ditch it and use the reserve... the only really scary part was falling the second time, because I hadn´t expected it! My guts were definately in my throat!

Coming in for a landing with the backup chute! glad we packed 2... !

Glad to be back on terra firma!

Friday, March 14, 2008

I will try to catch up a bit as my last posts have been cut short by lack of computer time!

Coral (on Stewart Island) was in her late 70´s probably and was super friendly and also very witty and full of humor, and very enjoyable to chat with. Her house has the premier location in the village, as it has the best views of the harbor and the town. I got to watch the sun rising over the bay through a huge single pane window in my bedroom, and that was pretty hard to beat! I planted some plants, pulled some weeds, made myself as useful as possible and let her win at scrabble (yeah right... she whooped up on me! they were using a lot of scottish and irish words that I found questionable... but they were in their ´English´dictionary so I had to allow it!)

Her daughter and son-in-law have a B&B called Jo&Andy´s and they were originally from Idaho so we swapped a lot of stories especially about hunting and the outdoors as Andy used to tramp all over the state. They also took me to have the best fish and chips and then to the local indoor lawn bowling league... I had no idea such a thing existed, but they are all over NZ and I suppose Great Britain as well! Basically 2 teams of 3 or 4 people, each person has 2 balls (like bocce balls, but they are weighted offcenter so they roll in a curve). A small marker ball is rolled out about 20´and then the players take turns trying to get as close as possible. Somewhat like shuffleboard and its quite tricky but a lot of fun! Im not sure I actually scored any points, but I sure did some damage to others balls!

I left on the 11th and the boat ride back wasnt nearly as bad, and I took her advice of eating a whole bag of Ginger snaps and that worked great - no problems! I took the next 2 days to drive up the east coast back to Christchurch, stopping in Dunedin for a bit (where Jamon spent time in University) and generally taking the scenic route. It was quite a nice drive as the land changed from wet, forested hills at Invercargill to flat, farming and much drier land at Christchurch.

Took a plane to Auckland on the 13th, then to Santiago, Chile, then to Buenos Aires where I am now! I flew out of Auckland at 5:30 pm and got to Buenos Aires at 6 pm on the same day! It was pretty cool having the same evening over again, even if I was too tired to really enjoy it. I had a business class seat from Santiago to BA for some reason... not sure how that happened but it was a world of difference, and I didn´t say anything! Had a great view of the Andes - what an amazing mountain range! it only takes about 10 mins to fly over them and it is basically flat on both sides. Incredibly rugged peaks, desolate and much drier than I anticipated. Even Santiago was really dry, as I had assumed it would be wetter and greener being on the west coast...! East from the Andes, it is still dry but it looks somewhat like southern Idaho - towns here and there with irrigated farmland. Closer to the east, the pastureland seems to go on forever. It kept getting greener and it was nearly all pastureland its no wonder they are known for their cattle!

I took today to wander around part of the city and it is really nice! Friendly people so far, probably 70´s, some really nice parks and the sky is a beautiful pale blue, like their flag (Santiago was very smoggy). Tomorrow is skydiving! A bit nervous about that, but I had planned to do it in NZ and ran out of time, so... ! I met 5 people in the hostel that are going, so me too! Also meeting up with 2 local girls I met in Athens, Brunella and Antoinella, tomorrow so that should be fun! Then Im heading south to Tierra del Fuego and whatever else is on the way...thats all Ive got for now, let you know what happens next!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

NZ update

Spent only 2 days on the Routeburn and Caples track/loop and ended up finishing much earlier than I expected because there arent many available spots to camp! I hadn't booked with the park service as I was planning on free camping (they allow it if you are 500 meters from the track and out of sight) but I didn't realize they also had no camping restrictions in all the area above the treeline so there wasnt much left that was flat, dry, not rainforest, and far enough away! I ended up hiking to the top of a mountain the first night and actually found a decent spot, but it was 3/4 of the way through the routeburn track so I finished the trak the next day and linked to the Caples track which I hiked most of the way down. I got a ton of great pictures of the area, and it is as beautiful as expected! All in all, under 48 hours to do the trek that I was planning for 4-5 days, so I got to see it all, but just had to hike a lot! My feet were definately sore, so I decided to head to Stewart Island, at the very south tip of New Zealand. My spanish teacher in Boise had given me a contact of a nice older lady there (he had helped remodel her house 15 years ago). The 1 hr ferry ride over was crazy rough - the waves were probably 10' tall, and at times the top of the boat was lower than the wave tops! it was like a roller coaster all the way over and fun for about 10 minutes... then about half of the boat got sick and it that was the end of the joyride! I had almost missed the ferry, and in my haste packing I ended up forgetting my camera which I regretted as soon as i saw the size of the waves but the trip is definately burned in my memory!
The island itself is almost all a nature preserve and the town is only 300 residents or so, so very quiet, quaint and beautiful. Its an old fishing, whaling, Maori village and some of that remains along with lots of B&B's and enough tourism to keep it alive. It was very nice and I did a few walks, spent some time in the fantastic local cafe, and relaxed while trying to avoid the rain. Had a really nice 2 days there and Coral (my hostess) was really great. more on her later.
Gotta run, but now heading back to Christchurch, then to Auckland and to Buenos Aires! will be there on the 14th, so a BIG change coming up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cairns and New Zealand

I'm now in New Zealand, and getting heading out for a 5 day trek on the Routeburn/Greenstone track in a little bit. A quick update of what I've been up to:

Just when I think it cant get any better, it does ! I spent 2 days in a classroom and pool learning to dive in Cairns, Queensland, Australia and then had 3 days, 2 nights on a dive boat! So sweet! The 35 people on board were all tons of fun, and we did 9 dives total - the deepest to 30 meters! The fish and coral are just unbelievable! It is just like you have seen in the pictures, except it goes on and on... ! Some highlights - a BIG Morey eel, huge turtle (probably 4' + diameter!), Lionfish, Nemo, a Whitetip shark (on our night dive!), thousands of of other fish, all types of corals, etc. etc... I have a cd with pictures that I have to download if I get time (isn't that always the case?)

The only problem I had was adjusting my ears to the pressure; I was always the last one down, but it got easier as I went on more dives. Once down about 15 meters, it gets really easy to go down further because the relative pressure changes the most in the first 10 meters. Unfortunately, I now have ANOTHER sport I am stoked about, and I have my Open Water and Adventurer certifications, which means I can dive to 30 meters... now, just need more ocean near Idaho... damn!

I rented a 1994 Toyota 4Runner when I got to Christchurch, NZ (actually the rental company owner's hunting rig!) after chatting with they guy for about 2 hours. He has actually been to Idaho, Colorado, Alaska and trekked all over this country and he ended up lending me his tent, sleeping pad, stove, and gave me some good tips! Really swell guy!

I did an overnight, 20 km Cumberland trek on my way here, and got to sit in a great hot springs and watch the stars come out... that was pretty special!

The Routeburn is one of the most famous and popular treks in NZ, but I plan on camping out so hopefully I can avoid most of the people. Its raining and not planning on letting up, so it should be nice and wet for the next few days... ask me in 2 days how much fun I am having!

Anyway, all for now, more when I'm back in town!