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Argentina, Destinations, Patagonia, Photography

Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier: Inspiration on the Rocks

March 22, 2012

Confession: I’ve harbored deep skepticism about the value of a visit to Perito Moreno Glacier.

Perito Moreno Glacier is El Calafate’s claim to fame; companies send buses, arrange lavish day trips and tour boats, and every store in the Argentinian city sells the same twelve post cards depicting the great ice wall towering above the chilly waters of Lago Argentino.

Truthfully (bear with me, here), I’ve rarely given any glacier a second thought. When living in New Zealand, I didn’t bother with a visit to Franz Josef, and even in Torres del Paine and Parques Nacional Los Glaciares, I was only beginning to come around when we saw Grey and Grande Glaciers. (Hold the rotten tomatoes, please. I’m just trying to be honest.)

Perito Moreno Glacier is hyped by every tour operator and guidebook in El Calafate, and I worried that we’d be cattle-herded past a hunk of ice, and I’d be playing the Emperor’s New Clothes Game, saying, “Ohhh, how lovely. Very nice,” while thinking, “Um. It’s frozen water. In a large amount. Cool. Why did we pay all this money again?”

Ted began the mission of winning me over. He’s been fascinated by glaciers for a long while, and his giddiness has been palpable each time we’ve rounded a bend to encounter a massive field of ice.

The moment we began walking down the elevated trails toward the lookout points and heard the creaks and groaning of this enormous mass, my attention was captured, too. Continue Reading…

Argentina, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Patagonia, Photography

Growing Pains in El Chalten

March 20, 2012

What started as a Netflix DVD date-night-in a few years ago culminated in a February visit to El Chalten, Argentina, the quirky little “Swiss Village of the Patagonian Alps.”

On a sunlit morning, we bussed across the invisible line separating Chile from its Eastern neighbor and began the second half of our visit to the lower lands of South America. Following a short mid-afternoon stopover in the lakeside tourist city of El Calafate, we zoomed another several hours to the north and came upon El Chalten as the sun set behind the stunning mountain range.

At this moment of dusk, the grand peaks of Cerro Fitz Roy called out, “Congratulations, tired travelers! You’ve reached the land of mountain climbers, wildlife, and majestic peaks: the remote frontier of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.” Continue Reading…

Chile, Patagonia

Tips for Trekking Torres del Paine with an “Indoorsy” Spouse

March 16, 2012

Scale Model of Torres del Paine: Making 50 kilometers of trekking trails look deceptively simple.

My traveling sweetheart is self-proclaimed as “Indoorsy,” more at home in coffee shops and brew pubs than in swaths of nylon draped over steel poles and staked to damp earth.

After successfully wooing him into a grand five day, four night tent-camping adventure in Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park, I had a tall order to fill in making the adventure worth the sacrifice.

Here are my best trekking tips for keeping his outdoor experience as comfortable as possible:
(Ha! Wink, wink. Ted, you are such a good sport!) Continue Reading…

Chile, Destinations, Landscape Architecture, Musings, Patagonia, South America

Trekking through the Ashes

March 12, 2012

“μ” Trek, Day 1: The western lands of Torres del Paine greeted us with smells of charred wood and scenes of black ash, remnants of a tourist’s mishap when burning waste at a campsite at Grey Glacier. To the south, we could see smoke rising in the distance. Our route was safely finished smoldering, but remote areas of the Park still suffered in flames.

Continue Reading…

Destinations, Patagonia, South America

Torres del Paine: The “μ” Trek

March 11, 2012

Torres del Paines’ recent forest fires altered the face of the landscape and changed the availability of Refugios and campgrounds along the common trekking routes, prompting us to explore Chilean Patagonia’s 598,338 acre natural wonderland on an alternate to the Park’s famed “W Trek.”

The traditional “W” is commonly traveled in five days, four nights from East to West or West to East, depending on preference, and includes trails up and back to three main points in the park: Grey Glacier, The French Valley, and La Torres.

Since Refugio Pehoe on the West end and Campamento Italiano and the in-lying campsites in the French Valley were closed and temperamental weather dealt us clouds on day designated for the middle fork, we let go of the French Valley trail and created our own “μ” Trek. Continue Reading…

Chile, Destinations, Patagonia, Travel Plans

Paying Respects to Torres del Paine: Planning A Visit After the Fire

March 8, 2012

We were dressed in high-tech mourning clothes, attending a funeral for the landscape, all but a few square inches of our bodies covered in black rain-proof, wind-proof, sun-proof zippers and Velcro, laces and glasses. The acrid smell of disaster burned our nostrils, a reminder of the recent tragedy that swept its fiery way across Chilean Patagonia…

We’re sharing our Torres del Paine tales this coming week, but first, a flashback to set the stage: Continue Reading…

Chile, Destinations, Featured Places, Patagonia, South America

Birthday Magic in Patagonia

March 7, 2012

La Casa Escondida: “The Hidden House.” With less than one day to spend in Punta Arenas, Chile between arriving by plane and departing by bus, we put our trust in a quick bit of internet research, made a booking, and hoped for the best.

It’s a tall order to ask to visit a region and get a feel for the people, the food, the architecture, the industries, history, and unique beauty of the place in one week, let alone a twenty-four hour whirlwind visit. It’s a taller order still to ask for a meaningful birthday celebration in the midst of transportation flights, connections, and transfers.

What a gift when outlandish travel hopes and wishes come true!

Our stay at this charming guest house nestled in the woods between the airport and the city perfectly kicked off our eleven day adventure in Patagonia. Continue Reading…

Destinations, Musings, Patagonia, Photography, South America

Patagonia Preview: Thanks to the Princess Bride

February 4, 2012

“Roberts had grown so rich, he wanted to retire. He took me to his cabin and he told me his secret. ‘I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts’ he said. ‘My name is Ryan; I inherited the ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from is not the real Dread Pirate Roberts either. His name was Cummerbund. The real Roberts has been retired 15 years and living like a king in Patagonia.’

I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit that my fascination with this crazy region at the ends of the earth began with a little line from the Princess Bride. Little did I know the first time I watched it (while home sick from summer camp), that all these years later, I’d be flying to the tip of South America to explore a place that’s captivated my imagination for so long.

Since we flew down to Punta Arenas on my birthday, Ted gave me the window seat (aww….), and I spent blissful hours watching the world of volcanoes, lakes, glaciers, and mountains pass beneath our wings. Take a peek, and enjoy the view!

Departing the hot desert of northern Chile…

Active Volcanoes

Beautiful islands on decent into Puerto Montt

Snow-capped Beauties

I have a thing for setting the scene with music. It’s a good soundtrack, I promise…

Enormous Glaciers!

The tip of the world, across the Straight of Magellan from Tierra del Fuego.

Yes, I’m officially geeking out. Best. Birthday. Ever.

Tomorrow, Ted and I leave bright and early to begin a five day, four night adventure on the “W” Track in Torres del Paine National Park. Gratefully, the area has re-opened to trekkers after the enormous forest fire that began on December 27th consumed more than 50,000 acres in the south and eastern portions of the park.

While we’re away from the computer this week, I’ll leave you with a few tidbits and pre-scheduled posts. Can’t wait to share the photos and stories that this coming week is bound to supply!