Thursday, June 24, 2010

Catching Up: January, Part II

As I am sure you are now accustomed, I'm going with mainly photographs for the time being. I promise, though, that February will have more words than pictures. Well, I dunno. Maybe you like the pictures better.

When we last left our heroes, they were traipsing across glaciers in the Patagonia. From there, we headed even further south, to Tierra del Fuego. Our home base for the last three days of the trip was the town of Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world. Once again, click on any photo to embiggen. Here's what happened!

Old school photoshop. Just kidding. This was taken at the jail in Ushuaia. Originally there were nothing but natives, but the white folk, smallpox, and measles made quick work of that. Of course, given the harsh winter, nobody wanted to settle here, so the government decided the best thing would be to build a prison. Repeat offenders and harsh criminals were sent here. More importantly, people arrived to work at the prison, which built up the town at the southern end of the country.

We took the "Train at the end of the world," which had some nice sights along the way, but mostly got us from here to there. This picture was taken at the only (brief) stop along the way. Incidentally, the prisoners were the ones who built the railroad to begin with, often times in extremely harsh winter conditions.

The Wild Horses at the End of the World

The entire area is surrounded by the end of the Andes. This is the only part of Argentina on the other side of the mountain range. That led to spectacular views like this one.

Pan de Indio - literally translates to Indian Bread because the natives used to eat it. It's a fungus that attacks trees. The forest was loaded with them. Every few minutes we heard a "thunk", as another Pan de Indio fell from its perch. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, we tasted them. My two word summary of the flavor: malty watery.

Andrew and Belu at the End of the World!

The stream at the End of the World!

The entire city of Ushuaia. I know it's hard to see. Click to make it bigger. This would be an amazing place to live.* Just so peaceful and picturesque. (*only in the summer because in winter it would just be dark and cold all the time)

We ate loads of fresh crab. Heavenly.

Then we played with our food.

You can't tell by the picture, but these sea lions are hanging out on a big rock way out in the middle of the Beagle Channel.

I think I took about 23 pictures of Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse. This is the one you get to see.

The Birds at the end of the world!

I promised you penguins...

...and so penguins you have! Unfortunately, we didn't book the tour where you can get off the boat and walk around with them. We're not sure if that's even legal, but some lucky tourists got the up-close-and-personal view.

Lago Escondido. Well named because it pretty much just appeared out of nowhere.

An older couple on their dream vacation...

...and a younger one with many more in their future.

Belu shows off the latest in trans-lago fashion.

Natalia shows off... well, it's basically the same concept.

...which leaves Brad at a loss for creativity.

Note the Austrians on the left. They made fine companions.

What are these people laughing at?

This guy! A crazy dog who repeatedly jumped into the lake before returning to shed water on all nearby. We named him Blackie because we weren't feeling creative. But he was hilarious.

On board with Luciana, our fantastic tour guide. After taking this outboard across the lake, we hiked through the woods, saw a beaver dam (but no damn beavers). The next phase was canoeing on Lago Escondido. That would have been a blast except it rained the entire time - hard. But it made the asado that followed all the more fulfilling.

We finished up the tour at the serene Lago Fagnano.

Across the lake, you can see Chile (which boasts the southernmost village in the world, but don't tell the Argentines that!).

No, we didn't leave Ushuaia this way, but wouldn't it have been cool if we did?

I don't think I've given enough words to the sublime town of Ushuaia. While El Calafate boasted natural wonder, this was a place where you really wanted to be. Sure, there were still plenty of people looking to take money from the tourists, but you can see that there is a real town with real life here. I don't know if I'll return to El Calafate. Someone will probably want to see the glaciers, definitely a sight to behold. So I'll surely go along. But if I were to pick a summer home in the south of Argentina, there's no question that Ushuaia is the clear front-runner. Of course, I still have to check out Bariloche and Rio Negro and probably sixteen other places. Good thing this country is so wonderfully huge.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Catching Up: January, Part I

Just like last month's update, we're going with mostly pictures on this one. Also just like last month's update, Brad and Natalia were along for all the rides, but luckily Belu was able to escape the city with us, too. We sent ourselves down south to The Patagonia. Today's photos are all from El Calafate, where one can find various glaciers well worth one's time. Once again, click on any picture to embiggen. Check it on out!

The view from outside our hotel. This is Lago Argentino, the largest lake in the country. It may not look big, but it's got fingers and inlets all over the place.

The glacier Perito Moreno. It is 94 square miles of ice. Photos cannot display how impressive this was. Look at how small the people on the balcony are.

More Moreno. Note that the boat you see is pretty darn big.

The fearsome foursome! That may be a whole lot of ice, but it's summertime and we're not cold.

This one deserves a click

Belu is excited to get her crampon on...

...while I'm apparently nervous.

Since we were wearing crampons, we figured we would follow these people and hike on top of the ice.

Brad and Natalia, ready for the climb.

The crampons help keep your footing, but it's good to hang on to someone special, too.

Brad crossing a small mound of ice.

It was white everywhere, except for the blue patches where water was movin', and the black specks of earth that are trapped within the ice.

We had ganas to climb this sucker, but they told us to stick with the guides.

And after the hike was over? Some Famous Grouse with the world's freshest ice.

A few last moments to take it all in before we got back in the boat to head back to the hotel.

The next day was a boat tour of the glaciers. Brad and I found some time to clown it up a bit.

First up was a tour of small icebergs strewn all about Lago Argentino. this was one of the biggest we saw. That hole on the left? You could drive a golf cart through it.

We had gorgeous weather to match the gorgeous gente!

Pieces of the glaciers periodically fall into the lake. This is accompanied by a tremendous crash that breaks the serene silence. When this happens it is not uncommon for the chunky, drunken Brazillian guy on board to shout and point. That was also not so serene.

Belu waves goodbye as we leave Perito Moreno behind.

This is a picture of the sun setting behind a small hill. Time of photo: 11:15 PM.

And that finishes up our first stop on the trip south. Will be back with an update as soon as I can about with the rest. I promise you penguins!

Other writing from January:
A to B Back and Forth Review: (500) Days of Summer
Top 50 Albums #37: Crooked Fingers - Red Devil Dawn
Top 50 Albums #36: Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Top 50 Albums #35: Rodrigo y Gabriela - Rodrigo y Gabriela
Top 50 Albums - #34: Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand

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