A Small Adventure
04/09/2013 70 °F
I leave Tilcara this morning for Purmamarca, a town to the west. I go towards Chile now, not Bolivia, to see the famous Atacama desert before crossing back to Bolivia from its western side. I met a Colombian woman with the same itinerary as me. We will travel together for the time being.
Yesterday I toured a pre-Incan fortress, called a pucará, and went to a high altitude plant garden with many cacti. I love cacti. I also ate a llama steak. It tasted like venison.
Llama steak. Tilcara, Jujuy, Argentina. Lean and gamey.
I sit in a hostel in Salta, in northern Argentina. It's dry here, with cold nights and hots days. This area approaches the Incan cultural zone. I'm heading towards Bolivia. Below is a abandoned train station and a group of kids in Córdoba.
Torres del Paine Journal
The Torres del Paine is a national park in Chile. It is world famous and immensely popular. I decided to hike a loop that usually takes people 7 days, called the circuito grande. Torres del Paine translates to the blue towers, which describe a huge massif of mountains. From warrior of the mountains to whimpering invalid, here is my tale.
Day 1-Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013: wake up at 6:45, breakfast, coffee, shower, 12,000 peso bus at 7:30 from hostel. Arrive at park at 11. Park fee of 18,000 pesos chilenos. 10 minute video about fire safety. Employees are well dressed and professional. Most other hikers are older, wealthy as judged by their brands of gear. And inexperienced hikers by the gear newness. Some day hikers in less serious gear, Nikes, jeans, etc. International crowd. Begin walking at 11:50 from Campamento Los Torres. At 1:00, stop and eat cheese, salami, and peanut butter in tortillas. First camp, Campamento Serón, at 3:00, 30 minute break. Eat a bag of nuts. Arrive at Refugio Dickson at 8:00pm. Set up tent in 10 minutes in light rain. Collapse inside. Switched off leading with a Spanish speaking guy since Campamento Serón. We took turns passing each other lying trail side but he beat me here. I offered him athletic tape at one stop because he switched his shoes. He declined. Sun and wind for most of walk. My feet are extremely tired, my hips are sore, my shoulders hurt a bit. The rain is coming harder. I might not leave my tent again. 28km (30km is 18 miles) in 8 hours, with food and breaks, mild elevation gain. 40 lb pack plus camera. Ate 2 tortillas with peanut butter, salami, and cheese. Water. Applied arnica to sore spots on body, everywhere my body contacted the ground or my pack. Immediate relief. Amazing. Girls in the tent next to me talking. One wants to have convo with the boyfriend. The other two think she should be really serious about it and think carefully. Boston accents. Putting in ear plugs. 9:12 pm.
Day 2-Refugio Dickson. Woke up 8am. Tea, oatmeal with peanut butter for breakfast. Ate with Chilean named German from Santiago. Left at 10 west. Fly along trail. Arrive at Refugio Los Perros at 1pm. Eat sardine peanut butter cheese burritos, tea, almonds. Gave away or burned a couple pounds of lentils, rise, and oatmeal. Leaving at 3:30 for Campamento Paso. Forested alley, into barren rocks above tree line into areas of snow. Hardest part of trek. I see the pass marker from a kilometer away. Crossed pass at 6. Energy renewed. Magnificent view of major glacier and five smaller glaciers. Yell into the sky in triumph. Trail turned hardly down hill through beautiful forests. Followed cliff along edge of glacier. I slide down this trail, across steep wet rocks like a snake. Arrived at camp Paso just at 8:15. Ranger showed me last tent spot. I ate cold oatmeal and a salami cheese peanut butter burrito and debated whether going to the next camp, 10km away. Darkness arrives at 10 but the entire trail was forested, therefore dark. I have a headlamp, but the risk of needing rescue wasn't worth it and I pitched my tent. It's 9:50. 21km, 8 hours of walking. Total 49km, 16 hours of walking. (50km is 32 miles)
Day 3-woke up 8:30 with sore throat and the beginning of sinus infection, and pouring rain. Tea and oatmeal for breakfast. Inspected nasal spray: had not been administering properly. Took two squirts. Nasal swelling subsided. Left camp at 10:15 in light rain. Refugio Grey at 12:30. Lunch. Leaving for Paine Grande 1:00pm. Arrive Paine Grande at 4pm. Major camp, hotel, showers, etc. Balls of feet sensitive. Drop bag, buy mango juice and cookies, decide to stay, feeling exhausted/sinus infection. Make salami/cheese tortilla (no more peanut butter) and popcorn. Fiber. Camp set and in bed by 7pm. Exhausted/stuffed up/pouring rain. Feet feel a little swollen but sinuses primary cause for want of sleep. Current refugio is ferry terminal: considering thoughts of leaving park. Decision will be made tomorrow. Being sick, alone, in cold tent during rain storm is miserable. 21km, 5 hours. Total 71km, 21 hours.
Day 4-woke up 8:30, after light sleep. Uncomfortable. Feel miserable. Headache, sinus congestion. Tea and oatmeal for breakfast. Light rain and fog. Debate options. Press on, hope for good views of Massif. Or take ferry to bus stop and go to Puerto Natales. Hiking would be miserable, views today would be bad with this weather. How much torture to I want to afflict upon myself? I could do it, but it would not be enjoyable. Upset that my body is letting me down, but I accept it and decide to take the ferry across the lake. So ends my Torres del Paine adventure.
Ferry across lake. Two hour wait for collectivo van to Puerto Natales.
1) Don't be a spartan; bring a blowup sleeping pad
2) organize food more effectively, ie count days, etc
3) Bring medicine for sickness, Theraflu etc
4) Bring garbage bags for rain protection of gear
5) Arnica is a lifesaver
6) Trekking can be done in light shoes, but expect sore and wet feat
7) Eat more fiber
I sit in Bariloche Hostel resting my shaken body. Yesterday, I hiked a loop to Cerro Catedral (Cathedral Peak). The first half, I walked with two women from Manhattan and New Zealand. The second half, invigorated by the cold air, excited to be alone in the mountains, and inspired by the landscape, I moved rapidly for three hours over steep terrain, scree, and finally thickets of sticker bushes. A hot bath at the hostel followed. This was a valuable practice session for longer multi-day hikes I have planned, as far as pace, gear weight, and multi-day endurance sustainability.
The mountains, the mountains in the Cerro Catedral basin reach for the sky like claws. The landscape is raw and sharp. The air is cold and dry, the sun is hot. As I increased in elevation, forests gave way to windflowers and scrub, which finally gave way to broken stone and rusted creek beds. At the end of the loop, I walked through a ski resort, closed for the summer.
"I sit on a collectivo, seat number 2, top level, front row, Via Bariloche. Darkness surrounds me aside from a green aisle light, the light from my tablet, and the headlights on the road. Darkness stretches out window. Lightning flashes through the clouds a hundred miles away and lights up the entire sky. The landscape I have been watching since the bus left at 1:30pm<x-apple-data-detectors://0>is flat and vast. Farmlands, cow
lands, stands of trees. Granaries,
industrial depots, horses, donkeys. The bus has stopped at half a dozen towns, mostly small, humble places, much unlike the aged regality and grandeur of Buenos Aires. The bus is 11 hours from Bariloche.
I am wearing Levi jeans, a blue polo tshirt, merino wool ankle socks, and brown leather shoes. I have on headphones, playing my "I'm feeling awesome playlist" from my phone, which now streams Gaga, Gotye, and The Black Keys. I have a small backpack next to me, containing my camera, A Tale of Two Cities, face wash, a toothbrush, and a sweater. In the cargo bay below. I have a larger hiking pack with a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, a change of clothing, fleece jacket, camp stove and pots, and a bag of camp food. Rain now clings to the windshield and distorts the flashes of lightening in the distance.
I had farewell meals with different friends in Buenos Aires over the last two days. I plan to return to the city in a month. A song by the Heartless Bastards now plays. The chorus repeats, "I am going out into, out to the sweet unknown.""
I woke up the next morning to brown and yellow cliffs with sparse green vegetation. A desert. Much like eastern Washington. I arrived in Bariloche, caught a bus into town, found my hostel, showered, shaved, got info on hikes, set out to find food. This place is cold and windy and feels good.
"Overnight bus rides drain life from the body
Bariloche is beautiful
I met three Canadians who needed help with the ATM
The screen told them,
"Spanish Spanish Spanish 25% Spanish Spanish"
And they thought there was a large fee.
"We can cut waste in the world by 25% by using less,
Are you sure you want a receipt?"
I spent today at a water park called Parque Norte with a few thousand people with much more melanin in their skin than me. Even after aggressive reapplications of sun screen throughout the day, I sit in my room tonight with an unhappy epidermis.
I spent Christmas at my house, skyping friends and family and studying Spanish. I was present with the VanDevere's at Gramma's house for Christmas Day gift opening. I spent New Year's Eve also at my house, joining my roommates and Alana in a festive four course meal of Argentine food. Course one: nuts, preserved meat, home made cheese from Corrientes, deviled eggs and dates. Second course: salad of lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, and boiled eggs with bread and more cheese. Third: cold potato salad with peas, other vegetables, and no sauce, along with chicken breast stuffed with cheese and herbs, and preserved meat rolled into tubes with cheese, herbs, boiled eggs and veggies sliced into patties. For dessert: fruit bread and more nuts and dried fruit. Hard cider and beer was served through out. After dinner, we watched fireworks from my balcony.
I still spend most of my time studying Spanish, exploring Buenos Aires, and reading (in English, On the Road right now). My language skills still are thoroughly lacking, but the friends I braved the water park with speak very little English. Experiencing a new verbal conceptual system unfold and unlock, slowly but implacably, is humbling and powerful.
Three months out of the States, in Argentina. I took a hiatus from blogging after the northern hemisphere summer in Alaska. I'll do a quick recap of life life since September 20 when I landed.
My dear friend retrieved me at the airport, Ezezia, about 2 hours out of the city on a sunny afternoon. I want to emphasize dear friend because she came to retrieve me the day before too, but I misread my ticket and gave her the wrong date. The bus took us through the suburbs of Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city of Argentina, with 13 million or so people. These areas felt tired to me, with some trash in the streets, donkey carts, and aging buildings. I spent the next month living with my friend in her apartment in a neighborhood (barrio) called Barracas, on the edge of barrio Constitucion, a place who's name makes locals and tourists alike weary. Various adventures and antics ensued. My friend moved out and I stayed, sharing a room with a French woman named Elise, with another room mate named Issa who was from Colombia. Issa kept trying to change my rent contract and ask for more money, and when I refused, citing that we had already made a deal, she declared I was a gringo like all other gringos (gringo means white person, generally with negative or humorous connotations). During this time I found a job.
I left Barracas and moved to barrio San Telmo with a woman named Trisha and her five year old son Alex. This apartment was tiny, but I was often gone for work. I was a camp counselor at three day long English immersion camps for Argentine students, from 9-18 years old. This job was massively fun and completely exhausting. My company would send five or so counselors on a bus to a hotel complex or estancia somewhere around the province of Buenos Aires, and for three days we would lead the kids in games, activities, skits, and art. Only English was allowed to be spoken. Each camp had a theme, something like Superheroes or Hollywood. I learned a great deal about kids and I feel like I received excellent feedback. I tried to treat the students as adults, reasonably and firmly, and they loved me for it. Each camp had a a series of songs around a campfire and there were often parties. I often found myself in full costume and makeup dancing to Oppa Gangnam Style.
Now I live in barrio Monserrat with 6 artists and teachers that barely speak any English. My apartment is a massive old hostel with vaulted ceilings and marble tiling. It is beautiful. They put on an art show and party two weekends ago and I showed nine pictures from Alaska, with a theme of enterprise and solitude. I am now working hard to learn Spanish.
Buenos Aries is a great city. It has a feel completely unlike any other city I have been. Everywhere there are 100 year old buildings, statue monuments to the country's heroes, and green parks. There are small shops for vegetables, bread, groceries, hard wear, and clothing on most streets and families and children are ubiquitous. Like any large city there are dangerous places and desperate people, but the only time I have yet felt a tinge of fear was in the middle of a team Boca soccer rally at the Obelisco in the center of the city, where thousands and thousands of people gathered, partied, got drunk, sang, wrecked a McDonald's and set off bombs.
More to come. If you want to receive email updates when I post we a entries, go to cazvan.travellerspoint.com and on the right side there is a "subscribe" button. Enter your email here. Comments are always appreciated.