Thursday, June 27, 2013

We arrived in Buenos Aires after an 18-hour bus ride across Argentina from Bariloche.  The city was a busy one, much different from the serene nature in Patagonia, and felt similar to the European cities I have visited before.  Being in a large city, I rarely take photos and am often too distracted by everything around me.  I want to take time to reflect on the history, on the architecture. and on the people.  And to be honest, most of my time was spent searching for the next ice cream stand — I think I ate an ice cream cone at least once a day!

We took a small history tour and visited the Casa Rosada, toured Cathedrals, explored the neighborhoods of La Boca and Palermo, got up close and personal with animals at the Buenos Aires Zoo, and even ran into a friend of Nora's from Switzerland!  We made friends with a skydiver from France, had coffee and tea at the oldest coffee shop in the world (Café Tortoni), went to a ballet in Teatro Colón, and watched people dance Tango.

Buenos Aires is a huge city that needs to be experienced over a long period of time, rather than the five days we had there.  And as much as I loved the city, my heart was left back in Patagonia.

LOCATION: Buenos Aires, Argentina
DATE: March 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

 After Villa La Angostura, we traveled to Bariloche to hike up to Refugio Otto Meiling.  Nora had heard great things about this hike from her friend Theresa, who she'd met in Southern Patagonia. We decided we would make the trek with Nora's friends, Theresa and Mariela, starting from Pampa Linda at the base of Mount Tronador.  We began with ease, then ascended the mountain by switchbacks that took us higher and higher and made it much more difficult to hike with packs on our backs.  We  stopped occasionally, filling our bottles with stream water and removing or adding clothes as temperatures changed with the altitude. There were plenty of moments where we were able to stop and appreciate the scenery.  

Every now and then, we would hear a rumble from Tronador, aka "Thunderer",  due to the falling ice blocks from the glaciers that capped the top. As we hiked closer, our view of these glaciers became greater as the terrain changed from dirt to volcanic rock.  There were moments where my body became  paralyzed with fear. I could see how easy it would be to slip on a rock and tumble down below.  With the help of my hiking buddies, I pushed through it and we finally made it to the top.  

We unloaded our packs outside the refugio and went inside to claim our beds for the evening.  Single mattresses were lined side by side in the loft of the shelter. We unrolled our sleeping bags, changed our sweaty clothes, and hurried downstairs to get warm in the common room.  Some of us sipped on tea, and others on maté.  We were tired and our muscles were sore. It felt good to be finished for the day.

A perk of staying at the refugio was being able to eat dinner there. As we rested, a meal was being prepared, and as we waited, we made friends with some locals from Bariloche. We all played cards and joked around. I listened intently, trying to understand the Spanish being spoken. Finally, dinner was served and after an amazing meal, we celebrated Mariela's 40th birthday.  Nora and Theresa surprised her with cake and wine and we all joined in for singing "Feliz Cumpleaños".  It was a perfect evening, full of joy and laughter.

Before going to bed, I wanted to have a look at the stars.  The stars in Patagonia are like no other and I wanted to capture them with a photo. I took a step outside and zipped up my jacket.  The wind was fierce and cold and I knew I had to be quick. I tried my best to get a focus, but could barely keep my hands out long enough to focus perfectly.  I took three or four shots and ran back inside.  I was thankful to be warm again and needed sleep.  I crawled into my sleeping bag and fell asleep quickly.

The next morning we woke up, had breakfast, and explored the glacier before heading back down to Pampa Linda.  I had never been so close to a glacier, let alone touched one before, and took as many pictures as I could. 

The trek back down was much easier and we made it down quickly.  I felt like I could do anything and was ready for another amazing experience. 

Total miles: 36 RT

LOCATION: Mount Tronador, Argentina
DATE: March 2013

Friday, June 21, 2013

After Puerto Montt, Nora and I left Chile, crossing over the Andes and into Argentina.  We arrived in Villa La Angostura, a beautiful mountain town that's popular for vacationing — especially during the summer months where you can hike, mountain bike, and swim in the lake nearby.  Huge homes are found nestled in the forests and on the cliffs above the lake.  It's almost a surprise when you arrive by just how nice it is.

We decided to mountain bike, but first needed to take a boat ride to Los Arrayánes National Park to start our 12 kilometer journey.  The national park is famous for its Arrayán trees which grow up to 39-40 ft tall and are around 650 years old.  Once we arrived, we took a quick hike through the beloved trees and started out for the bike trail.  I'll be honest, I've never gone mountain biking and am no expert. The trail was difficult and I seriously considered crying.  I did not, however, and pushed through it with my arms burning and legs throbbing.  There were so many ups and downs and I kept asking myself why people liked this sport.  Nora was amazing and took the hills with ease.  She's used to this kind of terrain — living in the Alps — and kicked my butt the whole time.

Once we finally reached the end (we had to get off our bikes for the last mile or so and walk it downhill over rocks and roots), we crashed on the beach and soaked up the sun with our toes in the sand.  A friendly stray dog came to say hello and we made an attempt to get into the freezing water, but could only last a few seconds before laying back down to get warm.  

LOCATION: Villa La Angostura, Argentina
DATE: March, 2013