Rena and Wade Around the World

Our first Round the World trip from Jan 2006 - July 2006.

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Location: Regina/Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

The adventures of living and working abroad. From Cayman to Europe, a break year and side adventure travels, this is our story.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Andean Lakes Crossing

After kayaking, we ended up back in Puerto Varas (Chile) for a day. It was a beautiful lakeside town with a breathtaking view of Volcano Osorno. This is a picture of Volcano Osorno. In the winter people actually ski on the volcano (there is a chairlift going up one side of the volcano), although we were told it is not ideal for skiing as it is not "powdery" snow. Puerto Varas was a different place in that it was a German village in the Andes. There was a mix of German and Spanish food, language and architectural design. We really enjoyed this cottage country little town.

After spending the day in Puerto Varas, we went on an all day transfer to Bariloche (Argentina). Now when we say all day transfer, we are serious. We took a bus, a catamaran, another bus, a ferry, another bus, another ferry and then another bus. It was called the Cruce de Lagos and is one of the only ways to cross the Andes in this region between Chile and Argentina.

Here is a look at the scenery from the last ferry we were on. It was a fabulous trip until Wade and I were sitting outside enjoying the ride and I saw Wade take off like a bolt of lightning. In an instant I had become the toilet for a seagull flying above. It´s always nice to count on the man in your life. Especially when you look for empathy and all you get is roars of laughter. I never liked birds and this just confirms it. I´m still deciding on Wade.

We spent the next couple of days in Bariloche. Bariloche is the Whistler or Banff of Argentina. It was a charming place. Perhaps the most charming thing is that it is world famous for its chocolate. I was in complete heaven. Pretty much every 3rd store is a chocolate store. Better yet, they are chocolate mega superstores! Entire supermarket sized stores devoted to chocolate. If it wasn´t for the 10 lbs I gained in about 2 days from the chocolate, not to mention the ice cream, I would have thought I had died and gone to heaven.

As it was summer, we were not able to ski in Bariloche, however we did take the Gondola and then a chairlift up to one of the ski hills at Cerro Catedral. Here is a view from the chairlift.

Friday, January 27, 2006

International Incident

Uh oh! This could be trouble. Casey decided he was more skilled than our bus driver.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Kayaking Reloncalvi´s Fjord (Chile)

After disembarking the Navimag Ferry in Puerto Montt on January 23, 2006 at 8:00 a.m. we were picked up by Ko Kayak for a 3 day kayaking adventure. Everyone agreed that next to the Ice Hiking, this 3 day adventure was one of the highlights of our trip so far. Our guide Peter was a very experienced kayaker and we felt very comfortable. In addition the Company ensured a support boat met us for days 2 & 3 in case we were getting too tired to paddle on our own. Click here on Ko Kayak if you are interested in seeing their website. Here is one of our favourite pictures from the trip.

The first day we paddled about 9 kms down the river with the current (this made it much easier than days 2 & 3). The trip would have been perfectly enjoyable if we had not been incessantly bothered by Tabanos (massive flies that bite and are in peak season in Chile in January & February). We found out that they are attracted to dark colours and as Casey was wearing a navy blue shirt...he had the most painful experience. Thank goodness that it was too windy on days 2 & 3 and we were not bothered by the Tabanos.

We also hit a mini rapid on day 1 (the only one of the trip) and were all feeling a little alarmed as we were each in our own kayak and responsible to get ourselves down the river. We followed our guide down the rapid after some instructions and had a 50% pass rate. Both Casey & myself hit one of the waves the wrong way and it tipped our kayaks over. As such, we were pretty wet & cold for the next hour until we got to our camp site. Here is a picture of the river on the first day.

Speaking of camp sites....we were not really at a "camp site". Rather, we pulled our kayaks off to the side and asked the permission of a local farmer to set up tents on his land. Here is a look at us "living off the land"

Day 2 was the most exciting day. The river was like glass when we started out in the morning. We kayaked approximately 15 kms before lunch time. The most excitement came when I spotted something surfacing about 30 feet from my kayak. Of course, no one believed me until the monster surfaced again. It was a sea lion! This was the first of many that we would see in day 2. They were very quick and so we were unable to get any pictures, but it sure was a neat experience. One got as close as about 10 - 15 feet from our kayaks. We also saw two pods of dolphins! Unfortunately, they were not very interested in us and so surfaced a few times and disappeared.

By day two we were out of the river and in the fjord. We had transitioned from fresh to salt water. After lunch the water became unbearably choppy and so the support boat had to take our kayaks and transport us to a local farm where we were staying. There was no camping though, we actually got to stay in the farm house with the family. Here is a picture of day 2.

Day 3 involved approximately 8 kms of paddling in the morning. We paddled from the farmhouse to Sea Lion Island. Unfortunately, we did not see any Sea Lions on the rocks on Sea Lion Island as it is mating season and they were all out in the open water searching for a mate. Apparently that is why we saw so many on day 2 when we were kayaking. Good thing they didn´t think we were invading their territory and tip one of our kayaks! Although we didn´t see any sunning Sea Lions on day 3...the scenery was still great. Here is a picture of our support boat...probably not what you were expecting. It did make for an interesting ride though.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Navimag Ferry (Chile)

After our stint in Argentina we crossed the border back into Chile (a 5 hour bus ride) to Puerto Natales. We met up with Shari & Eamon for a few well deserved bevies after our hiking adventures before boarding the Navimag Ferry. Once again, we parted ways with Shari & Eamon. Here is a picture of the Navimag Ferry. It originally was exclusively a cargo ship, however, now has been partially converted to transport tourists. Click here on Navimag Ferry if you are interested in seeing their website and an interactive map of the journey we took.

We boarded the Ferry at 9:00 p.m. on January 20, 2006, however, the Ferry did not leave port until 4:30 a.m. As such, we heard them boarding the cargo all night long....including cattle & sheep. Boy are we traveling in luxury! Once again, quarters were cramped. I think this picture tells the story. The story this picture does not tell is that our bathroom smelled like a barn as the cattle were right beneath our berth. Nothing like showering and coming out of the bathroom smelling like a cow.

The Ferry takes 3 days to sail amongst the fjords from Puerto Natales southward to Puerto Montt. At one point in the journey we were out in the open Pacific Ocean. Both Tanis and I did not entirely have our "sea legs" and felt miserable for many hours as the Ferry swelled up and down. This was of course my own fault as I declared to everyone that I do not get sea sick and refused to take motion sickness pills when both Wade & Tanis did. I think Wade may have slightly enjoyed saying "I told you so" when I was feeling very ill and he was fine. Ah well...another lesson learned on this trip. Here is a picture of the fantastic scenery.

We were hoping to see blue whales and dolphins on this Ferry ride...unfortunately, we were not lucky enough to see the whales but did get to watch a pod of dolphins play in the wake of the Ferry until finally disappearing. Unfortunately, it is very hard to see them in the photos we have so we have not posted it on the blog.

We were all a little uneasy when the Captain allowed Wade to take over the controls for a while. Luckily there was a lot of open water around us! Here is a picture of Captain Kenny.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Around El Chalten (Argentina)

On January 17, 2006, the four of us rented a Volkswagen Polo and drove to El Chalten. El Chalten is approximately 215 kms from El Calafayte, however, due to the poor road conditions it takes about 4.5 hours to get there. Wade, having grown up in rural Saskatchewan, claimed that he is an expert at driving gravel roads and so he became our chauffeur for the trip...and he delivered! Wade got us there in 3.5 hours, although by that point we had grit in our teeth. One word to describe El Chalten is DUSTY! I think it must be the dustiest city on earth...although I have no official stats to back this up. Dust was literally billowing out of the air vents as we were driving. Once we got there, there was no reprieve as we were in the midst of dust bowl. Here is a picture of the typical buildings in El Chalten.

El Chalten is a town of approximately 400 people. The main draw for tourism is the entrance to the National Park - Los Glaciers. There are many hiking circuits around El Chalten and the hikes in Fitz Roy to see Mt. Fitz Roy are the most popular. Here is a picture of the backdrop to El Chalten.

On January 18, 2006 we started a 15 km hike including an hour detour to the best lookout point for Mt. Fitz Roy. Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate with us. Around lunch time clouds were rolling in, wind was picking up and it was beginning to spit rain, but we are expert hikers by this this doesn't stop us...yet. Plus, after making our painful deviation and getting lost in Torres del Paine, we now are the wiser (or so we think). When the path seems to run out, there are no footprints and it doesn't seem reasonably probably isn't. Well once again, our path ran out and there were no footsteps, although it was traversable until Mother Nature intervened...thank goodness. We eventually got stuck between two streams with no way to pass, plus the weather turned nasty. We were wet, the rocks we were walking on were very slippery and so we finally conceded and turned around. On the way back we found the proper sign which had a path leading in a different direction! Although, by this time we were behind schedule and the weather was nasty so we decided to continue back to El Chalten. Here is a picture of us as close as we got to Mt. Fitz Roy.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Around El Calafayte (Argentina)

So we arrived in El Calfayte at 10:30 p.m. on January 15, 2006. We were stuck at the base of Torres del Paine for most of the day until we could catch our 4 hour bus transfer to El Calafayte. El Calafayte is a pretty small town, but very nice. It looks like a mini alpine village with all the stores built like little log cabins. Although it looks like an alpine village, there are no ski hills around this area. Lots of mountains though. As we arrived late and did not have accomodation booked we struggled finding a place. This was our first true "HOSTAL" experience. Pretty cramped quarters as you can see from the picture. Good thing we knew our bunk mates!

One of the main attractions around El Calafayte is the Perito Moreno Glacier. It is one of the only advancing glaciers in the world. It advances by approximately 2 metres a day! Although you may not be able to tell by the picture, the height of this glacier was about the size of a 15 storey building. As the glacier is advancing, there is a lot of pressure exerted and thus massive chunks of ice fall (or calve) off the glacier.

We sat around the glacier and drank wine for about 2 hours just listening to chunks of ice calving into the glacier lake. The sounds they made were unbelievable. It was almost defeaning at times!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Torres del Paine (Chile)

We arrived in Puerto Natales late on January 8, 2006. Took most of the day on January 9, 2006 to sort out our travel arrangements to the National Torres del Paine Park (also an UNESCO world heritage protected park).

Getting to the park is not easy. It involved a 3 hour bus ride from Puerto Natales and then a half hour catamaran ride to our dumping off spot, the Refugio at Lago Pehoe.

Here is a picture from the catamaran ride. All of the lakes (or lagos) that we came across in the park were this aquamarine colour due to all of the minerals and glacier run off.

Here is a picture of our home for the next 5 days of the trip. This picture was taken at the first Camp site at Lago Pehoe. We opted for proper sleeping bags (good to minus 7 degrees celsius), but cheaped out on the tent. We thought we did not need a $300 tent. Turns out we would come to seriously regret this. The first night we discovered that the fly on the tent caught the wind and as such flapped all night making a horrendous noise. As such, we did not get much sleep...well that and we were beside a bunch of partiers who were done their hiking circuit and celebrating.

So our first day on the trail involved hiking to Lago Grey in the morning and then going ice hiking in the afternoon on Glacier Grey. The hike to Lago Grey was supposed to be 3.5 hours or 11 kms...but we soon discovered that when you have a 30 pound pack...okay well Wade had more of a 40 pound pack...on your back, that those times were just not achievable (we did it in 4 hours 10 minutes). Well that and that we are four unfit accountants that had gotten pretty soft in the Caribbean. I am going to blame some of it on the elevation though!

As you can see by this was not exactly the easiest of trails either.

Here is a picture of the first ice berg that we saw.

This is at the ice trek and Wade & I are jumping over a crevice on the glacier. Some of the crevices went down about 300 feet or so. This one was not so deep and thus the guides allowed us to jump it. The guides told us that this particular glacier loses about 10 cms a day...thus new cracks are continually forming. The Company we went with was very professional and we thoroughly enjoyed it (one of the highlights of Chile so far) and would recommend it to anyone. We were on the glacier for about 3 hours. Click here on Big Foot Patagonia if you are interested in seeing their website.

Here´s the four of us as we´re getting started on the ice hike. You definitely do not want to get your toes stepped on when somebody is wearing these bad boys.

This is also at the ice trek and Wade is scaling the 50 to 60 foot ice wall. It was a little unnerving. Especially when you got to the top and then had to lean back, dig your feet into the wall and try to descend with your sharp ice axes behind your back. One of the girls almost got an ice pick in her butt cheek. There was a big ooh and aah from the rest of us. We ended up pretty unscathed apart from terrible blisters from the crampons...which really did not bode well as we still had 4 days of hiking ahead of us.

So the second day of hiking involved going back the same 3.5 hours that we did the day before and then trying to go another 2.5 hours or 7.5 kms. Given our aching & blistered feet, sore backs & knees...we opted to push the 2.5 hours into the next day.

Day three started off not so bad. We went the 2.5 hours or 7.5 kms, then took a lunch break and went another 2.5 hours or 5.5 kms (harder section than the first 2.5 hours). This ended up at Camp Los Cuernos. After lunch we experienced the wrath of Patagonia. If we thought it was windy before...we had much to learn. We rounded a mountain and the wind was so fierce that it was picking up sheets of water off the glacier lake and whipping them back at the mountain that we were on.

Here is a picture of the sheets of water coming off the lake.It was miserable trying to walk and sometimes we would have to take shelter behind a tree until the latest gust died down. At one point Tanis and I were literally knocked off our feet. It was crazy. The wind was so strong that it even caused a waterfall coming down the mountain to temporarily defy gravity. The winds were easily tropical storm force winds and we are not joking when we say this. It was impossible to set up our tent and in the midst of it we got rained on. This is where we really regretted not purchasing the expensive tents. Our weekend leisure tents were not cutting it. The wind just lifted them like kites, even when we got them pegged. What were we thinking? We basically took a leisure tent to the equivalent of the Arctic.

As such, we had to rent tents that night from the Refugio at Los Cuernos. We were pretty grumpy the next day as the tents leaked and we all had either wet clothes or wet backpacks.

Meals were pretty meager as we had to carry everything we wanted to eat. We had to cook with gas stoves as wood fires are not allowed in the park. I am sure all of you are jealous of our fine dining.

The fourth day involved making it to Camp Chileno which was 6 hours or approximately 15 kms. It was a pretty uneventful day...scenery was beautiful, but we were getting pretty tired. We were very happy to get to Camp Chileno and find out that the Refugio there had full service meals and accepted VISA! It was a fun filled night of beer, wine & our first meat meal in four days!!!

Last day, or 5th day was supposed to be easy and one of the highlights of the trip. We were to hike to the granite towers of Torres del Paine. We had been advised that it is most impressive to see the sunrise at the Towers and thus we headed out on the trail at 3:30 in the morning in order to make it there by 5:45 am. In hindsight...setting out on a trail that is not very clearly marked in the pitch black was not the brightest of ideas. How we all came back in one piece is still amazing. There were lots of drop offs and narrow paths...but we did not really know better until we were walking back in the daylight. To make matters worse, the batteries on Wade's headlamp gave way and he had to walk between Tanis & myself.

The last 45 minutes of this trip involved scaling a never ending rock pile, and by rocks I mean boulders, to reach the summit. Unfortunately, the path was not very clearly marked and we were obviously not paying close enough attention, as we headed in the wrong direction. This resulted in us turning 45 minutes into 2 hours and 15 minutes and thoroughly exhausting and alarming ourselves. By the time we realized we were seriously off the trail...we had no idea which way to go. Eventually we had to climb another bolder pile (well actually Casey & Tanis did) to try and see where the trail was. It was slightly relieving and depressing at the same time when we figured out where the trail was. Casey & Tanis saw flashes from people's cameras at the bottom end of the lake...but we were so far away that we could not actually see the people. To put things in perspective...we were on the other side of the mountain and did not even realize there was a lake on the other side and to top it all off we were at the wrong end of the lake. So we had to trek back, climb another mountain of boulders and then scale down to get where we were supposed to be.

Here is a look down at the end of the lake where we should have been...we are about half way there at this point.

Here is a picture of what I am calling boulder piles...although I don't think the pictures do it justice.

And here we all four our at the target destination with the Towers in the background. We were pretty happy at this point.

Our 4 hour morning hike turned into 7 hours and then we had another 2 hours to go after that to get out of the park and to the end of our hike. By the end of our trip we had hiked somewhere between 75 & 80 kms and although it was a fabulous experience...I think we were all glad when it was over!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Around Punta Arenas (Chile)

On January 8, 2006 we flew to Punta Arenas (the southern most city in Chile). We flew there with Casey & Tanis (Shari & Eamon are on a different travel circuit). The four of us rented a car and started driving Northward. The first thing we saw out of the airport was the Strait of Magellan.

Here is a picture of the Strait of Magellan.

More exciting is this picture of the Penguin Colony. We spent about an hour here (70 kms past the airport) watching the Magellan Penguins. They were pretty cute to watch making their way from the water to their burrows in the muddy grasslands. Their chicks were losing their fluffy coats and just had little tufts of fluff left. They were still relying on Mom & Dad to catch squid from the ocean and bring them the leftovers.

After this we drove onto Puerto Natales. This was about a 4 hour drive ( a majority of it on gravel roads). Ended up cracking a hubcap on the car.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Santiago (Chile)

We arrived in Chile via Santiago. We spent 2 days in Santiago (January 6 & 7, 2006) catching up with friends from Cayman (Casey & Tanis and Eamon & Shari). Spent some time in the Plaza de Armas (every South American city has a central city center) eating and watching street performers. Also, took some time to get ourselves situated and ready for upcoming travels.

Here is a picture of the 6 of us (minus Wade who is taking the picture) enjoying our first Cervezas of the trip!

This is a picture in the Plaza de Armas. case any of you are worried about the safety of our rest assured that the police do not mess around in Chile. Check out this cop car!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Chile/ Argentina So Far

Posted Jan. 19, 2006

Hi everyone.

Sorry we have not been updating the blog. The first part of our trip has been mainly spent out in the wilderness of Patagonia (the southern region of Chile & Argentina) and as such internet has not been very accessible. We are planning to post pictures and experiences when we get back to Santiago (approximately 10 days). Below is a quick run down of where we have been and what we´ve been up to.

Arrived in Santiago on January 6, 2005. Met up with our friends Casey & Tanis who came from a month of travels in Guatemala. Also met up with our friends Shari & Eamon who came from Ireland. Spent 2 days hanging around Santiago getting situated for our travels down South. Shari & Eamon are on a different travel schedule than us so we left them in Santiago and Wade, myself, Casey & Tanis continued down to Patagonia.

We flew into Punta Arenas (the southern most city in Chile) on January 8, 2005 and rented a car to drive Northward. Saw the Strait of Magellan...looks like any other Strait! Drove to a penguin colony. They were pretty cute to watch. Got some great pictures and videos that we´ll share soon. Learned that penguins are cute...but stinky. Continued on with our car to Puerto Natales. This is the jumping point to get into the national park Torres del Paine. Spent a night in Puerto Natales and the next day...then boarded a bus and got the park entrance (about a 4 hour bus ride and then a half hour ferry ride).

Once in Torres del Paine we began our hiking circuit. Ended up doing 5 days of hiking with 30 pound packs on our back. Well...Wade´s was more like 45 pounds! We nearly died...but are the stronger for it. Breathtaking scenery...brutal climate. Literally we learned that 4 seasons happen in a day in Patagonia. Our minus 7 degrees sleeping bags left us a little chilly at times. We ended up hiking approximately 75 kms in 5 days. Needless to say we were pretty tired. The coolest experience on the hike was when we got to hike a glacier. We had crampons, axes and harnesses. Somehow we all came back in one piece even after scaling a 50 foot ice wall!

Once finished our trek we took a bus to El Calafayte in Argentina (approximately 4 hours). From here we did a day trek to Perito Moreno Glacier(one of the only advancing glaciers in the world). It is continually calving into the glacier lake and thus we saw pieces fall into the lake. The crash they made when hitting the water was unbelievable...the cracks were almost deafening! El Calafayte was a really nice town...somewhat like an Alpine village.

We then rented a car and headed up to El Chalten. A 215 km drive that takes approximately 4 hours due to bad roads. We gave that Volkswagen a run for its money...they sure are sturdy cars. At one point thought we might have broken the wheel axel. Had to stop the car and drive slow...everything was okay and made it back in one piece! El Chalten was a dust bowl. We were covered in dirt and grime and so was our was literally coming out of the vents. Ended up doing a 15 km hike yesterday in El Chalten in the National Los Glaciers park in Argentina. Hiked to see Mt. Fitz Roy, but we got rained out and clouds blocked our view. Turned out to be a pretty miserable hike as we were cold, wet and windblown. Drove back to El Calafayte last night.

Today took a bus back into Chile to Puerto Natales (approx. 5 hours). Met up with Shari & Eamon for a few well deserved bevies. Now Casey, Tanis, Wade & I are boarding the Navimag ferry for 4 days sailing Northward to Puerto Montt in Chile. Hoping to see some great scenery through the Fjords. Learned today that the ferry we are on is not strictly a passenger ferry and we will be traveling with livestock! What luxury!!!!

After we disembark in Puerto Montt we are on a 3 day kayaking trip in the Fjords. We have bepromisedsed that we will be kayaking with sea lions & dolphins. Wade fears that we could get capsized by a killer whale!!!

Once complete...we are taking another ferry (this time a luxury one) to Bariloche in Argentina ( a famous ski resort...although we will be there in summer). Then back to Santiago to rent a car and head to the vineyards.

Sorry this has been brief...the rest of our trip should be more in blog posts will be more frequent.

Happy trails!