Wednesday, September 06, 2006

the 18hr bus trip which took 1, followed by the 30hr bus trip which took a week

although there are some cool turist stops in southern argentina between bariloche and ushuaia, i didn't feel the need to see another glacier or go whale-watching. it all just seemed a little too unwintery for me, and besides, i'd seen the same glacier on it's western front, and i didn't think they changed too much from side to side. the night before i left i started to do some research ( aka i asked the hostel lady where the bus station was ) and found out that it was more than 18hrs to the next city ( the damn glacier city ). she mentioned that the bus left at 5am, that a plane ticket was about the same price, took two hours and i could buy the ticket directly across the street. well, yeah i was sold, and i didn't even change out of my snowboarding boots before i went over and bought the ticket for $72. don't worry, i borrowed their calculator and determined the bus ticket was $54. i left the next day no problem, and planned on going directly to the bus station from the airport and sidestepping the glacier. the plane ride was actually only and hour and ten minutes, and we flew to another planet, so it was pretty impressive. remember, this is ushuaia i'm flying out of, with the impressive clouds. now, it was a pretty cloudy day, and as we took off i figured i wouldn't be able to see anything. as we took off we passed through my beloved clouds, and they were as thick and juicy in the middle as they seemed from below. as we slowly lifted above them, we landed on heaven. we flew directly above these clouds, so thick that you couldn't see anything below, as the sun set onto a whole new world. there were new clouds, and the bottom layer had swirls and hills and valleys just like the bottom layer of earth we are used to. but this was a double sunset because the colors reflected off the clouds in the sky and the clouds which made up the ground. no, my camera was checked. yes, i am dumb. i plan to return there not just because it was a favorite city, but i'm just gonna sit down there and wait for a cloudy day to buy a cheap ticket to boring glacier city so i can go to heaven again...more patagonia magic, man. anyways, i landed and when they told me how much the taxi was to the bus station i hollered at a spanish couple from my flight and they shared the ride with me. we listened to some mellow spanish guitar and spoke in some lispy spanish spanish, r-less north american spanish and j-filled argentine spanish. yeah it was me with the ugly accent, which led my taxi driver to accompany me everywhere i went, as i believe he thought i was totally inept at verbal communication ( can't imagine why ). he informed me that the bus ride to bariloche was 30 hours and left at 4am. oh? oh yeah? wait are you serious? a las cuatro? para trienta horas? trienta? and why did i fly to this godforsaken place? and he assures me: well, to see the glacier! everyone's confidence in the glacier led me to the first time i went against my own better judgement, and i bought the bus ticket for the next day rather than that night, so i could see the wonderous glacier. i went back to the hostel with the spainards, and the taxi driver made sure i was in the same room as them, which i was soon very sad about. they were incredibly smelly people, just so stinky it was really quite impressive. when i packed up the next morning i seriously had to hold my breath while i crammed my toothbrush and dirty socks in my bag and ran out. i really don't know how the guy did it, although i suspect his wool sweater was the root of the problem. i payed my bajillion dollars for the tour bus and whatever to the glacier, and then my other spanish friends from ushuaia showed up and offered me a place in their car for half the price, although i had to refuse as i had already paid for the turist tour with all the other dumb people. i walked to the store and bought a big steak, big beer and big bag of chopped veggies. i made some rice and when i took the steak out of the bag, i realized i didn't really know how to cook it. luckily, i know how i like things cooked, so i stole some butter out of the fridge and slathered it on the steak, along with salt and pepper ( while i don't carry butter, i sure do carry black pepper, juice mix and bullion cubes ) and fried that baby up. oh man was it good. rare, but good. i ate enough for at least three people, and the group of 20 or so british who arrived in a bus all stared at me with my rare steak, pound of veggies and 2 liter beer, but hopefully i entertained them at least. i got harassed by a french guy for a while while i sewed ( yes, sewing. with a needle and thread. my jacket was proving to be very fragile and i kept having to sew patches onto it. ) but i found i could sew better on a bus than while being questioned about my life in terrible spanish by a drunk french man, and i went to bed oh so exited about the glacier trip i was to embark upon at 8am. i set my alarm for an hour before i had to leave so i could shower, as wow this room really stinks, i wonder if this outfit which i have worn for more days than i think is really safe is starting to seriously smell. ( it was the goodbye hug to my spanish friends which finally assured me i had nothing to do with the stench, and i continued on my regular bathing habits - which do Not include morning showers - and travel clothing-wear patterns after that. ) the tour bus to the park was the usual bullshit, we left late, stopped fifty times, and listened to the same stupid speech about the ice and the rocks in both english and spanish. i slept until the tour guide woke me. excuse me, excuse me. i open one eye to a terrified looking blonde argentine man. what? he just looks at me. good morning he squeaks out. what do you want? i grunt ( and feel guilty about once i wake up and realize what happened a few moments later ) he looks some more. que necesita? money for park he finally replies. ya pague. i already paid. ( at this point i tend to speak in both languages to turist leading people, as they never speak to me in spanish, and i have come to believe that they refuse to understand you if you have an accent. but ugh i hate speaking in english here. ) no, he says, it's to get into the park. ok ok here. that's when i woke up and remembered what my roomate tells me about how scary it is to wake me up. i put on my sweetest smile and gentlist hand to give him the park entrance fee, but the whole rest of the trip he wouldn't look me in the eye and i was the only female he didn't help off the bus. not to brag, but purely for understanding about the seriousness of this situation, i should explain that my one true talent in life is sleeping. i sleep like i'm dead and i can do it anywhere. honestly people tell me they are afraid to wake me up because they say not only do i literally jump up and throw my eyes open, but i look like i have no clue where i am or what is going on or who they are, and worse, that upon being woken, i am generally quite unhappy about the event. especially when coupled with an already expensive old-person/family tour to a stupid glacier i didn't want to see and a hand out for more money without a mouth to explain why. i got over the shock, even if my blonde friend did not, and i even paid another katrillion dollars for a boat ride to get up close to the ice chunk later in the day. well, the excitment was building as we motored closer and closer to the glacier. every few minutes blondie told us where we were and how far we were from our destination. finally, we stopped and the bus doors swung open. oh my god we ran towards the boat dock. as we looked up, the old spanish ladies and asian family, the fat men, the young children and i all saw the glorious feat of nature: good lord jesus it's just like the other one. the other one i spent four days and half of my human strength walking to. the other one which i didn't pay for a luxury tour bus or to stand on a boat deck to fight skinny teenagers for space to take pictures holding a glass of whiskey with a small iceburg in it. this was when i realized that i would not take advice i didn't believe anymore, and this was when i knew i had reaaaally messed up. i wandered around the park that day, slowly ate my beautiful and well meaning lunch, for which i earned no appitite sitting on the various vehicles or even walking between them. that night i went home and ate another rare steak with the leftover rice and vegetables, but today it wasn't as thick, and it kinda sucked. i shared a bottle of red wine with all of my spanish friends together, and talked to an italian guy who was funny even in english. it was all very distracted and half-hearted so i took a long walk, and it snowed. my first snow in south america, which gave me a bit of a spark, but doused it when my spanish friends were all sure my bus would be cancelled. by some miracle it wasn't and there was another girl from the hostel going on the very same trip. we left at 315, because the taxi company decided it only left at quarters, and we sat in the bus station for 45mins before we finally took off. we were the only ones on the bus, and they turned the heat on i think a hundred degrees. it took all my strength not to take my pants off ( i had long underwear on. jeez, i haven't totally lost it. ). we got to the next bus station around 7 and waited for an hour for the next bus, which went to comodoro rivadavia. this name gave me a lot of trouble and if i hadn't have asked four times what it was, and then proceeded to stay there for four days, i never would have grasped it, but now it sounds like a short poem in my mind. i mean, that is quite a name, comodoro rivadavia. and boy does it hold up to it's name. when we got there the bus driver told us we could not go to bariloche, that "la ruta esta cortada" or in a nice literal translation, the route is cut. there was too much snow. woohoo i thought! snow! we looked at each other ( although my argentine friend and i didn't hit it off, she offered me all the food she ate and stayed by my side, and now we both realized why. ) and i read her the comodoro rivadavia story from my book: has the uglyist cathedral in the world and a petrol museum. oh yes, a petrol museum. the bus driver offered us a room in a senora's house and he told us someone would be there soon to pick us up. we tried not to get blown away by the remarkable wind, and sat between all the double-decker buses and stared at all the people who got to leave. finally a stringy young boy grabbed us and managed to fit not only my snowboard and her luggage but the three of us in his sweet lowrider hatchback, and we were soon home. we walked in the door to four loud men drinking red wine with coke and we kinda ran to the back room where senora showed us our beds. again, we looked at each other, and this time we sighed. after a while the cold back room started to scare us and senora offered dinner, so we ventured out and accepted some wine. the men were all bus drivers, and they made me show them pictures of california. their favorite was a picture of nicole richie i have among my own photos, because i liked her haircut, ok. i explained that it was lionel richie's daughter, but she was adopted and oh wow did they love it. oh so beautiful they say! come look senora, it's lionel richie's daughter! woohoo! but they also thought my roomate was just lovely. ( yeah steph! ) the next morning we slept late and as we got a mate ( yerba mate, a strong tea they drink all the time in every place in argintina. my friend - and most everyone else - travelled with a thermus, a small gord and a big bag of the stems, stickes and leaves so the tea could be drank whenever one had the desire. ) goin and ate some cookies, we frantically asked senora where the bus drivers all went. oh they left this morning. for where? for bariloche. without us? y nosotras??? porque nos dejaron? why did they leave us?! the one remaining driver came out and kinda said they tried to wake us, then said that they thought we wanted cama ( classy class ) seats and they were driving semi-cama and then said don't worry, they got stuck in a little town anyways. we looked at each other and i could tell she agreed she just wanted to be closer, like me, and we were a bit dejected at the thought that they left us there. luckily, our driver was close by, and for once i felt like i had the real story of what was going on, because who, oh who, could know better than the actual driver of my bus. my driver who i ate my meals with and shared mate ( the last e should have an accent on it. ) with. i at least could be at ease that he wouldn't leave us, as he drove the cama bus, and as far as he knew, we were the only ones with tickets. still, we couldn't leave. we walked around the city, picked up rocks on the desolate beach and looked at the mounds of sand from where they mined petrol. we found the ugliest cathedral and it was pretty ugly, but since she was catholic, a national and a lot more comfortable with the whole situation than i ever could have been, she just walked right in, during service, and we found that it was a very beautiful church on the inside. senora taught me to cook empanadas and milanesa, asada and argentine salads. luckily we ate enough that i remained happy. we just sat, ate, drank mate, and talked. talk talk talk. well i should say they talked. after this trip, i successfully made it through 5 days without speaking english, although it came at a strange time. i had just had a breakthrough in ushuaia with my argentine friend, and i had picked up the ability to say pretty much anything i could imagine, at the expense of my listening comprehension. i somehow could barely understand a damn word anybody said, and the i kid you not 10am to 6am talk sesh with senora, argetine friend and bus driver left my head spinning. the repeat the next day left me practically mute. i did understand their general topics of conversation, although very few details. they talked about marrage, money, gays, love, kids these days, politics, sex, drugs, rock and roll, you name it. everything we talk about with our closest friends, these perfect strangers discussed in excruciating detail. they told stories of their families, gave relationship advice and made fun of each other. no word spared, and they even asked me questions some times, which i only understood if my friend translated them ( they never really got that i didn't need translation, just someone who spoke slower, and i never really felt the need to say it. ) finally, on the fourth day, at 9pm, after a casino adventure, an in-house model search, a rediculous amount of food and a bizarre array of characters and conversations for every morning noon and night, we left. the trip was painless, and we were practically giddy when we boarded the classy class bus with el turko, the driver, and got to watch the new pirates of the carribean, although sadly i was still inflicted with my word-deafness and i could only understand johnny's body language. the time flew by and before we knew it we parted ways, and i'm still waiting for the amazing pictures from that short stint in real life on my two month surreal vacation. one week after i left ushuaia, i finally made it to bariloche, and boy was i in a bad mood.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

penguin update

now i forgot something in the last post. at around puerto montt i started really asking about los penguinos. i got a lot of responses that i didn't like, so i figured i just needed to keep heading south, towards the larger penguin colonies. but, to no avail. i got to the end, and what they had told me is true: penguins migrate north in the winter. why you ask? it's too cold.

Monday, August 07, 2006

the end of the world

after a long internal debate, i decided to head down to tierra del fuego, as i had originally wanted to do. once i got to puerto natales, and found out it was another 18hr bus ride to ushuaia, the southern-most city in the world, i started to wonder if it was worth it. all of my friends were heading east to see another glacier, which i knew i didn't want to do, but if i headed down south, it would add a week, minimum, to my southside trip, making a northside trip impossible. finally i said of course i want to go down and see the penguins and snowboard at the fin del mundo, so i bought my bus ticket and waited. we made a last supper of a rediculous curry filled with pretty much every type of vegetable available within 40hrs - cabbage, potatoes, onion, tomato, cilantro, red peppers, carrots, zucchini - we were still feeling a little starved from the camping. the next morning we all left at 7am, my bus turning towards the south. i slept for a while til i was awakened by a mute bus attendent offering me a seat by myself and a chocolate bar. woohoo! slept a little while longer and the same friend woke me up again, but this time i had no clue what he wanted. he led me off the bus, and across the street...what the hell is going on...i still don't know, but i got on a new bus and after 15 more hours on a dirt road - no the highway is not paved - i made it to the magical land of ushuaia. i had no argentine money, so i bought excactly 50cents worth of bread on my credit card at one of the bus stops and headed out to town. it was midnight ( although i thought it was only 11, not knowing of the hour difference between the countries ) but the city was packed. all the restaurants were still filled, families and all. this is a country that does not sleep. when i got up the next morning to snowboard, i found out i was an hour late, but i made it to the shuttle on time and anxiously awaited my arrival to cerro castor. it seemed like a normal enough place, til i got to the top. this place is unreal. and sadly, i only have 'real' ( and undeveloped ) pictures, so the visuals will have to wait, although i did steal this off a friend's camera so you can kind of imagine what i'm dealing with here. i am at the top of a huge, intimidating and treeless mountain, surrounded by even larger peaks and more intese clouds. the sky was bright, perfect blue and the clouds literally had silver linings. no, really, they were metallic, with pink accents. i swear. and since the mountains were so bare, you can just snowboard where ever you want. there are trails, but they don't really mean much, unless you are a baby ( strangely like most of the people around ) and stay on the packed groomers within the occasional pole. i definatly slept the whole ride back, and i had even taken a break during the day to eat my milanesa sandwich ( really thin beef, breaded and fried ) and finish reading lord of the flies which i picked up somewhere along the way. i made some friends at the hostel and we made homemade pizza and went out on the town. one of them was from argentina, and he wouldn't let us go out until 1am, when it's appropriate to be seen out and about, which means we didn't get home til after 5am, when it's appropriate to be seen going home. at around 1pm i woke up to my roomate ( a girl studying law in buenos aires from germany ) getting ready to go to the tierra del fuego national park, and she said i could come if i was ready in about 5minutes. i did it, but i was in my wool slacks ( the only pants i hadn't taken to the laundry ) and my chuck taylors, which i thought would be fine for the 'mellow' walk we planned. turns out we took the summer trail, and we hiked through the tierra del fuego neverland in a bit more mud than my outfit was made for. again, i really can't wait to see the pictures, the place was amazing. there was a lake ( well we thought it was a lake. then we noticed the purple seaweed and shells lining the emerald green beaches so we tried the water and it was salty. we later found out it was actually an extension of the beagle channel ) and a thick forest with mossy trees and blacker than black mud. everything was crazy colors, from the green shale sand to the yellow lichen to pure white quartz rocks. everyone says the patagonia is a magic place and you know, it surely is a bit unreal.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

torres del paine national park

well folks, it's taken me a while, but i've tracked down wireless again, and i am back in business. sadly, my camera decided it was done with south america, and after this post i am just borrowing others for pictures when possible. so on the the goodness! the navimag brought us to puerto natales, chile. i had found a pretty solid group of travel buddies, including a guy from colorado, a couple from germany and a teacher from thunder bay, canada. we all decided to go to the national park for a few days, and after a long consultation with the guy who ran the hostel, we decided on a hiking path and refugio to stay in. luckily the hostel guy was from the states, as a fellow traveller is always better to get reliable, coherent and applicable information. he still advised us to check out a travel agency to make sure the refugio was open. well, the travel agency informed us that the refugio was in fact, not open, and had no phone to call to make sure. seeing as how this means we are camping, in southern patagonia, in dead winter below zero ( farenheit ! ) weather, we didn't want to believe it, and decided to ask around at a few other places. after talking with five other agencies, we were thoroughly confused. each one said the refugio was closed, but each also said a different place was open to stay. we went back to the hostel to talk to our hostel man, only to find he had gone home and wasn't coming back til 8am the next morning, the same time as our bus to the park. we resigned ourselves to camping, and bought minimal provisions at the grocery store ( ie spagetti, chocolate, oatmeal and bullion cubes. seriously, that was it. ) and went to bed since we had nothing to pack, as we needed to rent all the equipment from the hostel. morning came, and i kinda figured we wouldn't be able to get it all together in time, but we did. i was last on the bus, of course, but we all made it and headed out to the park, about 2 hours away. little did we know, in the winter the buses only
do tours, not normal transportation. we stopped at a cave,a big rock, a frozen lake, another big rock, a fox, etc, etc. the tour guide insisted on giving his shpeal in both english and spanish, and repeated the 'key' points at least twice in both languages. little to say, i now know quite a bit about the flora, fauna and history of the area. as the hours passed by, we began to get nervous, and finally confronted the guide. oh yeah, he says, we'll get there around 2. the one thing we were sure of is the 5 hour hike we had to get to our first night's spot. 2pm + 5hrs = 2.5hrs after the sunsets the south patagonia, and we all kinda flipped. poor guy had 4 gringos yelling at him
in broken spanish, and 1 in canadian english. well, we weren't yelling, but we weren't using the most pleasent tones. everybody seems to keep pertinent logistical information to themselves and it gets really old after a while. don't worry, he says, you'll be fine, it's an easy trail...well we made it ok, but the easy part of the trail was the beginning. it ended in shale almost-cliffs, which we stumbled down with the sun. it was dark enough to see that there were lights on in the refugio, and the fatigue disapeared with joy that all the previous night's nonsense was void, and the refugio was indeed open. after much debate, we decided to camp anyways, since we now had a fire and kitchen for warming and cooking, we had already hauled and paid for gear, and it was a third of the price. we found not only a nice place get out of
the freeeeezing cold, but a few more friends from the navimag, two swiss guys, and some of the essentials we had left behind in packing for camping rather than refugio-ing, like soap, sugar, oil and food for an extra day. well, let me tell you, three pairs of long underwear ( lycra, silk then polyester ), a polyfill jacket and -12degree sleeping bag sealed off by a wool hat, body heat on both sides, and a ground mat still couldn't pull me out of that patagonia cold. 7am, bright and early, came sooner than 7am usually does, which, for me was quite a brutal shock. the germans woke us up to eat that oatmeal and get on the trail as we planned our trip to leave our stuff at the refugio and do day hikes, so we got the best of both worlds, but this meant careful planning and some fast walking. regardless, my fellow us kid and i left about 2.5hrs after the others, which became a regular trend. luckily, we turned out to be fast hikers, and we generally made it back just at dark, and on good days, we would do one better and beat everyone else back. the first day we went to glacier grey. we had only planned to walk to the lookout ( 2miles ) but it took so much less time than the map said, we decided to walk all the way to the glacier 5miles more, which looked like an easy little jump across a few mountains. it ended up being a rather brutal trail, and without much time left to get back, we did the whole return hike without stopping, leaving both of us ( but mostly my friend, talbot ) with some pretty gnarley blisters. i didn't think it was possible, but spaghetti never tasted better that night. we had carefully rationed a half package per person per night, along with one cup of bullion soup. well...let's just say it didn't exactly leave us groaning in fullness pains, but we were so tired, we didn't really care. now, over the course of the morning prehike hangout sesh with the guys who ran the refugio, it came out that the doors of the refugio were left open at night. at about 3am i gave in and crawled out of the tent to try to scramble my way into the refugio common room with a sweet leather sofa right next to the fireplace. outside i was greeted by the most amazing night sky i have ever seen. although there was only a sliver of a moon, i could see everything around me. the milky way was like a huge painted streak of white, and there were more stars than i could have imagined were out there. it actually kept me outside for about a minute or two, which, given the climate, is quite impressive. in the morning we hiked to valle italiana, which was in between the cuernos and the big scary snowy mountain. it was a mellow hike until the base of the bssm, which welcomed us with an avalanche, followed by a rather intense scramble up to the top of a hill inbetween the two peaks. during this scramble my sweet little camera decided it was done documenting my travels, and it remains in the same position it surrendered in, fully zoomed. from this point, i have managed to grab a few pictures from others...but none from the torres del paine trip. in all we hiked about 47miles in the 4 days, and talbot ( my buddy from colorado ) and i made no walking friends. we actually hiked the final 12miles in about 3hrs and 15mins, packs and all, and now everyone refuses to walk anywhere with us.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

the navimag

when i got back to the hostel in puerto montt there were a few new faces, and after an evening of talking and playing cards, all of them were going on the ship with me to puerto natales, just north of tierra del fuego. there was a swiss guy, who had already booked passage, and two girls from california who were looking for something to do, and once the swissman and i started talking about the ship journey they decided to come along. the next morning we dropped off our baggage and went to the store for snacks and drinks and cards, etc. we saw tons of gringos congregated in the alcohol isle - all of whom were gearing up for navimag ( the company who runs the ships ) like ourselves. by the time we were all in the boarding room, we had about 20 people hanging out talking about their journies. it's funny because, like anything else, everyone has very individual travelling styles. some people go to one place and stay for months, many europeans buy around the world tickets and wander around for a year, some are kayaking, or just hiking, i have my snowboard, it's quite a mix of people. one of my friends from santiago was there as well, so i actually kinda knew someone, which was weird. i haven't seen anyone i know in a while now! we boarded on time, but we were already bored of cards by the time we actually left port.there was a large eating and hanging out area, and i was in a 4person room with the two other girls from california - another thing about a big group of travellers, despite tons of mixing, people really tend towards people from their own areas, who speak their own language and know their culture. trying to explain card games to italians, in spanish, is very difficult. the bunks were teeny tiny, but they kept the rooms warm, and the food was plentiful, while not the best ever, totally satisfactory. my favorite part about chile so far is the actual freedom people have here - not like the american psuedofreedom we play with. for example, on the ship you can do whatever you want. you can walk were you want, you can sit where you want, you can go into the captians room and watch them steer the ship. i liked to sit at the very back of the boat and watch where we were leaving, which happend to be a cargo area, and just past where they weld stuff all the time ( i don't know what they were doing, but they didn't mind that i was there ). you can eat as much food as you want, and you can play beer pong in the cafeteria. there's just a level of trust that i have never really seen before. it's very nice, i have to say. i took tons and tons of pictures, but they don't really compare to real life of course, especially since all there was to take pictures of was sea water, mountains and clouds, so i think the pictures start to seem like they are all the same, although there were tons of different areas we went through. mountains, ocean, clouds. repeat. i did see a lot of seals and some dolphins in the water though...i didn't even try to get pictures though - you need some major zoom for that kinda thing. the sun rises at about 8 and sets a little after 5, so the days are short, but we had all sun the whole time after we left port, so the views were amazing. we hung out on the decks a lot, with all of the clothing on you can find, and talked to the fifty or so merchant marine students who were practicing on board. we went through channels most of the time, sometimes very small ones which you can't imagine the ship fitting through, except for one night we were on open sea - the gulf of pain they call it....let me just say there was only about 15 people at dinner that night, and only a handful at the nighttime movie showing. i felt alright all night - it was spaghetti so i couldn't miss it! - i mean i wasn't feeling 100%, but i thought i was fine. i stayed up till pretty much everyone went to bed, then went down to the bunks. once i stepped into the hallway i got a little lightheaded, the tunnel-like area enhanced the fact that half of your steps you feel like your floating, the ship is rocking so much ( it's a ferry, not a cruise ship, so it's flat and not made for sea voyages ). as soon as i opened the bathroom door and smelled that bathroom smell i threw up all that spaghetti. i learned that i think i need to chew my food more. so i guess i do get sea sick...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

and now, something a little different

i bought passage for a cargo ferry in puerto montt. the ferry leaves on monday, so i have 4 days to hang out. i found a nice little hostel, which although completely different from what was described in the guide book, was actually one of my favorite places i've stayed. i was dying for some rice and beans and guacamole, so i went to the store to buy everything i needed for fajitas...which proved to be quite difficult. now i understand why there are no mexican restaurants here - nobody eats mexican food. i had to buy dry beans and cook them all by myself...no cans! no tortillas! no salsa! no sour cream! i managed alright, and as usual, i cooked enough for a large family, so i invited the elderly couple and their friend, who run the hostel, to join me. they had never had black beans, or mexican food in any form for that matter, so it was quite fun to explain what everything was. they actually really liked it, and they even put plain yogurt and the works on top, despite the fact that that seemed incredibly strange to them. they let me leave my snowboard there, and i just took a daypack on the 6.5 hour bus/ferry ride to the 'magic' island of chiloe. it poured all day while i was travelling, and i wondered around the somewhat random town i chose to stay in, chonchi, until i found the hostel in my book which was supposedly ran by a very helpful canadian, which it was. he gave me some ideas of what i could do in town: walk. it's an interesting little town, everything is shingles, and nobody is around because everyone is at work. i was literally the only tourist in town; carl the hostel owner said a teacher from canada had just left, but i was pretty much it now. i got an entire cabana, with kitchen, etc, to myself, and wow was it cold. that damp, chill to the bone kinda cold. i walked down the beach a bit, then went home, and out of lack of anything to do or anyway to keep warm, went to bed ( this was around 7pm ). i woke up and hour later and realized i couldn't really go to bed yet, so i went and ate a very slow dinner ( fish and mashed potatoes, which i eat pretty much everyday ) while watching complices, the chilean soap opera which had been teaching me chilean. i have to explain that people in this country don't speak spanish. they have the strongest accent and an amazing amount of their own words that nobody else uses, so watching their tv has helped a lot. as i go further south the accent gets worse too. 'mas o menos' ( which means more or less, and is pronounced pretty much exactly how it looks in most of the spanish speaking world ) is said 'maa meno' here, 'buscar' ( to look for ) is 'buca', 'estas' ( you are ) is 'eta' and so on and so forth. they leave out 's' and often the first half of the first syllable and the last half of the last syllable. all in all it sounds cool, but makes it even more difficult to understand what the hell anyone is saying. anyways, back to chonchi. i got up the next morning and carl drew me a map of a small island that a free ferry which runs every half hour. i walked the 2.5miles ( i won't use km any more, it took me forever to figure out the conversions, i'll spare you. ) to the ferry, all through farmland. i guess this area has remained somewhat unharmed over the past few hundred years ( at least more than other areas ) and the traditional way of life has perservered. the next town was another 5m, which i walked to, it was beautiful, and somehow there was only a few little rain showers every 45 minutes or so. they have huge pussywillow trees all growing in rows as fences, grandma i thought you might like to see one. i made it to the 'town' which was competely empty, and turned around and walked back. this time i got a few rides, i was a little tired of walking...everyone who picked me up was kinda like, um, what are you doing here? why are you by yourself? i didn't really have much of an answer...just that i thought it was pretty. it started raining about 5 minutes before i got home, i had great luck!

Friday, July 21, 2006

pucon volcano


pucon is a large, active volcano with a small ski resort on it....supposed to be great skiing, but if you can see all the rain in this picture, you can tell that i went on the WRONG day. the next day, naturally, was gorgeous. so i went horseback riding instead, to a 75m high waterfall, which was in something of a temperate rainforest...amazing.














the next day i went back to the snow, but this time i didn't want to buy a $36 lift ticket so i just hiked up for an hour or so - oh my god i thought i was going to die - and took one really long ride down. the whole area is surrounded by amazing trees covered in moss. that night i went to the termas - hot springs - natural pool style, with all the brazilians staying at my hostel. the whole time i was in pucon i was hanging out with brazilians every night...i met a couple from sao paolo and another girl traveling alone from there, and we all had a wonderful time hanging out, and they were sweet enough to speak in english for me, as my portuguese is not very good...alright, i'm out of internet time...more tomorrow!