Me Embracing the World

Me Embracing the World

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Colds in the Cold (Punta Arenas, Chile)

Well here I am now, sitting around, lazying if you will at the bottom of the earth. I´ve been recovering from a cold for a few days now in Punta Arenas, Chile... on my way to Ushaia, the true southernmost city in the world tomorrow, but I get ahead of myself...

When I last wrote, I had just arrived into El Calafate, Argentina, and everthing went pretty much as planned. The next day I headed out on the "alternative" tour to Perito Morreno Glacier, which didn´t really mean anything more than it took a different bus road to get there, but such is life. It didn´t really matter that I think I overpaid for the tour, because it was really amazing. The Morreno Glacier is one of those things that you just can´t deny its grandeur, and you forget about the touristy stuff when you get there.

What is it? Its a glacier, 70m high, several kilometers long, that actually cuts a lake in two at a small channel. The two sides of the lake thus have different water levels. This, among other things, contributes to it being one of the most constantly evolving glaciers I would think in the world. For me, this meant that by midday, every few minutes you could see a chunk of ice a few stories tall fall off the face of the glacier, land in the water forming a tremendous splash, and an even more tremendous sound. Unfortunately, I didn´t get any of it on video, but the sound was really the amazing part. Like gunshots. Explosions. And it came after the sight of the fall so if you looked when you heard it, all you would see was the huge wave and icebergs emerging from the splash site. My tour include a boat trip up to the face, and a nice walk along the channel where the glacier meets the land. Very touristy, but quite spectacular as well.

But after hiking in El Bolsón, I was really feeling the urge to get out and use these new leg muscles I had discovered, thus I decided to head up to El Chaltén. 4 hours north of El Calafate, El Chaltén is a small town litterally at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. You walk out of the town directly into Parque Nacional Los Glacieres. Funny fact, before coming down here, I thought there were only a few glaciers in the world, but then I found out that the park alone holds 360 glaciers, of which I ended up seeing about six.

I decided to take a tour to El Chaltén as well, because I´m going alone at the moment, have no tent, wanted to stay inside the park, and it just seemed to fit all of my needs. Glad I did, because it was a great trip! I think officially called "SuperTrekking", whatever that means, the real kicker for me was that we got to climbing on a glacier. We took the bus up early in the morning, a group of 4 (Lovely and active old couple, and a late twenties girl traveler, all from England.), and met up with our two guides (Lucho and Jorge) once we arrived. I really enjoyed talking with them, learning slang, how only foriegners say (uh... es possible..), and joking around as we walked. We hiked up to a lookout on Mt. Fitz Roy, but it was clouded over! Luckily the clouds lifted after about a half hour and we were treated to a stunning veiw of the truly magnificent mountain. Hiking over the mountain ridge, we decended to our campsite near the Mt. Torres, and its glaciers and lake that rest at its base.

The next morning we woke up early for what was, all told, a really long day. We woke up at 6am and, under the veil of clouds, climbed up to the Glacier Grande at the base of the mountain. To get there we needed to pull ourselves across a river on a rope hand over hand, and hike along its beautiful glacial lake. Once there, we strapped on our crampons and got a lesson in glacier hiking (Flat feet, legs apart, side step on steep surfaces, always align your feet to the ice grain). Hiking on the glacier was absolutely fantastic. I had done it before with my parents in New Zealand on the Fox glacier, but this was less travelled, no set route, with steep falls to either side, really quite an experience. We made our way up to a flatter section (I learned there are two types of sections V´s (that we were hiking on earlier, which are steeper but safer because you can see the bottome) and A`s (that are up much higher and more dangerous because the drops are covered by a thin bit of ice)). Once actually, when we were walking along, we heard an ominous booming sound with each step, and carefully moved ourselves off the hollow ice. So we walked our way up to an ice wall a bit up on the glacier, and had our lunch there, while Lucho climbed up it and attached a bolee to the top. We then proceeded to get our 5 min lesson in ice climbing,(left ice axe, right ice axe, left crampon, right crampon) and each had our turn trying out our new skills on the wall. Tirirng, but really fun. On our way off the glacier we saw about 20 people getting on, from the 5 other companies, so it was wonderful that we got up so earlier and really had the glacier all to ourselves for several hours.

From then on it was a race to hike out of the park and back to El Chaltén in time for the 6 o´clock bus. We busted our butts and got there with 15 minutes to spare before being wisked away back onto a 4 hour bus ride to El Calafate. As fate would have it, I met a musician(guitarist) named Daniel who lives with his family in El Chaltén and was on his way into Calafate to play with his band that night. Calafate was just beginning a 4 day festival of Argentinan music (Rock Nacional) and all the famous bands of Argentina were coming in to play a big open air concert. Daniels band had just won a battle of the bands in Buenos Aires, and was set to play right next to the festival in a popular bar. We talked about all things music, and ended up with him asking me if I wanted to stop by and help his band setup before the gig. Of course I said sure. When we got back I ran back to the hostel, dropped off my stuff, picked up my earplugs and headed to the festival. When I got there, I found they had A LOT of equipment (I´ve forgetten how it is with Rock bands...) but also a LOT of people to help setup, so I just sat back and enjoyed. I caught a bit of the large concert outside and had a long cold walk home to my hostal, planning to get up at 7 the next morning and catch a bus to chile.

But life had other plans. I did indeed wake up the next day, to find myself with a big fever, and there were no bus tickets till tomorrow for chile. So I slept, and rested, and nyquiled, and rested. I cooked myself some chicken soup, imitating my moms recipe as best as I could remember and I think I did a descent job. Did make me remeber that I want to learn every little recipe she knows when I get home, because they would have been so helpful on my trip :).

The next day took me across the border to Puerto Natales (still sick). Playing it safe, I decided to continue down to Punta Arenas that night to get checked up on the next day. When I arrived, I found myself straight up pampered by the loving chilean couple in charge of my hospedaje. The dad is a judge and took me to the best hospital in town where he knew the doctors and stayed with me to make sure I got the translations of everything right. Turns out I´m ok, just a little bronchitis that I´ve spent the past few days recovering from. My travel fatigue wears at me and I feel the urge to get to warmer environs of Buenos Aires, a change of pace, so I think I will save Torres del Paine for another trip.

All said, I´m still very happy I came to Chile, because I got to see a side of Chile other than Santiago, one much more friendly, casual, still expensive, but also filled with people that I can actually understand. I thought it was because I was getting better at spanish, but I watched a TV show last night and I just think its that people from Santiago speak a rare breed of spanish. In fact I´ve found that in all the countries, that the cities have their own languages which are always more difficult to understand... no difference with the US either....

Ok, Love to all, and hopefully I´ll write again a bit sooner this time :)
Oh and Pictures are coming! Many many pictures, as soon as I find a good connection.



Jerome said...

thanks for the tour! D:-)d

Shirley said...

Wow, Jesse! From the steaming jungle to the spikey glacier. What a trip! Looking forward to the pics. Enjoy your greatest latitude!

Ben said...