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.