Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chilly weather, hot chillis...

...that's right, we're in Chile!

Exiting Argentina, we had to transfer buses in Punta Arenas, Chile, a couple of hours south of our final destination. We ended up with a couple of hours to kill in Punta Arenas, and I was glad, because I had read that there was a huge statue there featuring Magellan, a mermaid, and two native people. Indeed, there was.

Then it was on to Puerto Natales, the self-described "capital of adventure tourism in Patagonia!" Now, for a while, Andy and I had the bad habit of arriving into a new city on Sunday, when everything was closed. This time, we made it to Puerto Natales on a Friday...and it turned out to be Chilean Independence Day, and everything was closed.

But we did get to catch army regiments parading in the street...

...and go to a "fonda" of folk dancing, music, and food in the square right outside our hostel. Not bad!

And we took a long walk around the harbor in town, spotting several fun birds. Too bad Andy is not writing this post, or maybe he could tell you something interesting about them.

On our way back, it was really windy and cold and I really had to pee. Luckily, a kind older lady was driving down the road back to the town and asked us if we wanted to hop in. Continuing our fine tradition of hitchiking in South America, of course we did.

(Fun aside: We chatted a little in Spanish and told her our names. When she heard my name was Tara, she exclaimed at what an unusual name that was. Then we asked her name and it turned out to be Freesia, like the flower. Nothing like a lady named Freesia telling you you have an unusual name!)

Anyway, we eventually did find a few places inPN that were open to book trips and buy some provisions, so all was well.

But there were no Rocklets for sale in Chile, so we decided we had to turn around and go back to Argentina the next day. Oh, yeah, and there was also this glacier we wanted to see...

That was the Perito Moreno glacier in Glaciers National Park outside of El Calafate, Argentina. The glacier is enormous and has a crazy, spiky surface as you can see. While most glaciers in the world are receding due to global warming, Perito Moreno is in equilibrium, growing in the center as fast as it melts on the edges. We were lucky enough not only to see a HUGE chunk of it crash off into the lake but to take video footage of it as well, which we will try to post online soon.

Note: The town of El Calafate, Argentina, appeared to be really overpriced and touristy, so if you want to go to the glacier, you may want to do it as a day trip from Puerto Natales, Chile, like we did. Although it was a looong day trip (7AM to 10PM) with border crossings in both directions, but you see wildlife like guanacos, rheas, and of course plenty of sheep on the drive.

Note 2: During the drive back, we reached a sheep grate that had not one, but two sheep stuck in it! It was dark and rainy, but our driver immediately jumped out of the bus and lifted each sheep out on his own. The sheep ran off into the darkness, apparently unhurt, and we cheered for the driver when he got back in the bus.

Note 3: With the number of times we have exited and reentered Argentina, I think we have an even dozen stamps from that country in our passports now!

OK, enough notes. Back to Chile!

The next day we set off for Torres del Paine national park in Chile. The day started with a stop at the cave where skin and bones from the milodon, or extinct giant sloth, were discovered. And what do you know, we encountered a real milodon! He was very friendly.

Then, en route to the park, we saw TONS of guanacos (the llama-like mammals that are common in Argentina and Chile) and finally got some good pictures of rheas (nandu in Spanish), the elusive emu-like birds that run around in the same areas.

Finally, we reached the national park. It is a stunningly beautiful expanse of mountains, lakes, and glaciers. You can see the pointy, pink-hued granite peaks that the park is named for ("torres" is Spanish for towers) sticking up in the center of this picture.

Our first day we spent on a full-day tour of the highlights of the park, which only encompassed a couple of little hikes. The best one was to a beach on a lake from which we could see Grey Glacier in the distance and loads of wind-sculpted icebergs that had broken off. You can see the glacier in this picture behind the lake, toward the right--it looks like a river of ice, which is exactly what it is.

Glacial ice is blue because the water is packed into it so densely.

We found this sign beside a road in the park. Andy thinks that it means "watch out for people who have one leg shorter than the other."

The next day, the real fun began. We stayed over in the park and left our hostel at 5:15AM to start the hike to the base of the Torres del Paine themselves. It was dark when we left, but soon the sun started to rise...

We went over hills and through valleys, hiking on dirt, through forest, and over rocky scree. It got snowier as we gained altitude.

Just four hours later, we were rewarded with this close-up view of the Torres!

We didn't see another soul the whole way up...but, then, who took this picture???

Here at the end of the trail, Andy kindly let me rest for 10 minutes and eat the rest of the Rocklets I had acquired in Argentina the day before. Then, it was time to hike all the way back--and quick-like, because we had to make the 2:30 bus at headquarters, which was an additional hour and a half walk back beyond our hostel.

We calculated that by the end of the day, we had hiked 17 miles in 8.5 hours. We have agreed that that is our longest hike ever in one day. We also agreed that, considering the circumstances, my amount of complaining during the hike was pretty moderate!

Today, we are sore. Guess that's why they call them the Towers of Pain, yuk yuk.

Finally, we leave you with this sign, which we encountered before a rather rickety-looking bridge on the hike back to the admin center. Guess if the bridge collapses, the driver is screwed!

Now, we are off on this boat for three days. Hope that the tales of seasickness are greatly exaggerated...


  1. Wow! The glacier pictures are amazing They look like blue-raspberry snowcones! Hope the boat ride went well. Hope you're planning a trip to the top of Macchu Picchu? We're studying the Incas in social studies. Where will you be on Thanksgiving? Matt and Heidi don't know what to do, you should try to get them to meet you for dinner!!

  2. i like thoughs glaicer pics they are amazing