Sunday, June 3, 2007


Here´s that link to the map. Forgot to include it in that last blog.

Adios for now

Hiking down from the Mapuche village I´d paid an early morning visit to I ran in to a pack of grazing alpaca on the rock face. I think we were all a bit startled at first. The alpaca stared at me, slowly masticating their sticks and grass, sizing me up, and I just stood there bewildered for a moment. "Oh, that´s right...I´m in the Argentine Andes...Ok then, this is fine...funny looking things...they´re in my way...seem friendly..." I walked right at the one blocking the way, he moved aside, and we all went about our business.
I´m leaving civilization tomorrow. I´ll be gone for about six weeks. This is my farewell blog. Here`s the plan. I´m catching a bus to a town north of here called Zapala where I am meeting one of my coworkers who´ll be in a truck that we´ll then drive three or so hours north in to an area called Colipilli wherein sits the ranch that I will be working on until at least mid July. I´ll be learning equestrian skills, grazing goats and sheep, building fences, learning to cook authentic asado and gaucho bread, and much more. I´ll have stories for you all in July. The crew is myself, occasionaly the owner of the place Ashley--an american from ohio--five gauchos who were born onto this ranch, and one girl from Utah who while participating in a project similar to what I`m doing some time back fell in love with the youngest of the gauchos Fabio and now lives there. She is a horse and leatherworks specialist.
Wish me luck. Take care. Come back in July. Adios.
Here´s a link to a map of Neuquen province. I´m just southeast of El Huecù.

A few salutations are also in order:
Mom and Dad, happy 25th anniversary! Well done!
Uncle Mark and Sandy, happy 1st anniversary!
And happy belated birthday to Sandy and my newest cousin Claire.

Take care friends.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Mas photos

Here are some pictures from a couple of the days that passed between Bariloche and the volcano trek on Sunday.
My first stop was in Valdivia, Chile. I took an afternoon bus through the Andes and arrived in Valdivia on an foggy night at about 10:00. After a bit of confusion and aimless wandering I asked for directions from a nice couple and found my hostel in no time. Valdivia ias a small college town that sits a few kilometres inland from the ocean on the banks of two tidal rivers. It is a quite but culturally rich little place with an excellent fish market on the banks of the river every morning. I bought a side of salmon and an assortment of the best vegetables I´ve seen yet down here and cooked myself an excellent meal. These shots are from right outside of the market, first looking south and then to the north where the lazy sea lions pass their time eating the scraps that the fisherman throw in the river.

The hightlight of my short stay in Valdivia was not the market but the the Kunstmann brewery. German immigration has left a positive influence on the city of Valdivia in the form of excellent Beer. I failed to take any pictures because I was to busy tasting all the brews and munching deliciuos cheeses and cured meats. Oh well. If you are ever in Valdivia, don´t miss the Cerveceria.
I was in Valdivia for less than 72 hours when I jumped on a bus to Pucón. Valdivia was a nice stop, and a place I might return to if I ever achieve fluency in the spanish language to pass my time in coffee shops with the local college crowd, but I wanted to get back to the mountains. I didn´t do much on my first couple of days in Pucón do to el gripe (a cold) other than meet some good people and sit in the thermal springs one night with some friends. But by Saturday I´d recovered my health and headed into the countryside on a bicycle. The following are a few pictures from that trip.
I took the main road out of town...

...into the hillside...

...over the bridge... Volcán Villarica. At night it glows red in the distance.

¡Nos vemos!

Monday, May 28, 2007

El Volcán

I looked down to see the clouds yesterday with my feet on the ground. It was about 12:00 and after close to a six hour journey we had reached the crater at the top of Volcán Quetrupillán. The group consisted of myself, Peter the owner of the hostel here, two of his friends from Pucón Jorge and Marcello, and his old friend from back home in Holland, Boudewijn. Most tourists here take the still difficult but guided tour up Volcán Villarica, the active volcano that I am looking at out my window as I write this. We went for the slightly smaller but more secluded and less traveled volcán. We began the hike in the dark forest an hour and a half before sunrise, following our small path with headlamps until dawn. The forests here are beautiful. An aqua green fungus of some kind hangs from the branches of the massive trees like silly string above the rich green of the forest floor. The streams are a mineral blue and the rabbits are as big as dogs. By the time the sun rose I was more or less awake, and just in time. We had lost our trail and decided to follow a dry riverbed up to the volcán. It was full of huge volcanic rocks, moss and fallen trees. We ascended with our helmets on using tele poles and ice axes to anchor us on the way. About three hours in, at 9:30 we had scaled the first sizable ridge and the Volcán was in site. We sat down to catch our breath and have a bit to eat on a snow patched perch from where we could see both the ground we had covered and what lied ahead. We had all the staples: chocolate, cheese, sausage, bread, fruit and water. The morning was brisk, probably in the upper 30´s to lower 40´s, but not yet even close to the temperatures and winds we´d face on the next leg of the trek. After we finished eating I was given a brief lesson on how to handle my axe and use it catch myself if I lost my footing on the hard snow. About an hour later we had to stop to put on our crampons, claws that we strapped to our boots to scale the peak. At this point the wind had started to blow and we put on all of our clothes and strapped down our helmets and hoods. The views were incredible. Pucón sits on Lake Villarica in a volcanic valley. I saw at least six volcanoes yesterday during the climb. Villarica was active, spouting smoke and flame behind us. The final two hours or so before we reached the top were exhausting. The wind bit my face and froze my fingers as I walked zig zags up the steep summit. But oh the reward when we reached the top. From the top we could see the Volcán Lanin, a huge volcano that sits in both Chile and Argentina, reaching above the clouds. It was spectacular. There was celebration. But we couldn´t stay long because of the wind. The decent was interesting. I was amazed how far we had come on the snow and ice. I had a better sense of my surroundings on the way down because on the one hand I could see the terrain layed out before me and on the other because of the relative ease of the decent I could focus my attention more broadley. I made it up the mountain by not looking too much at the peak. Rather, I would choose a rock 50 or so meters away and think only about it until I got there, where I´d pick another point. Later we were lost in the woods for more than two hours. That, I don´t need to do again. We were following a stream down the mountain and all was well until the waterfall. At some point we lost the stream and the wilderness adventure commenced. We trudged through anything that came in our way which was actually quite fun for maybe an hour. But then it was like being repeatedly smacked in the face and kicked in the shins blind. We were again ecstatic when we found the path and walked the last hour or so in peace on a beauty of an afternoon. On to the pictures.
These first two are from our first resting point. The first is where we had come from looking at Volcán Villarica. The second, the view in the other direction, our peak.

Just about to put on the claws and bundle up.

On the way up. That´s me in the distance. Oh, and by the way thanks to Peter for doing all of the photography on this trip.

Victory! Volcán Lanin towers over the clouds in the background. Foreground, me with an axe in one hand and bread in the other on top of Volcán Quetrupillán.

And the happy group atop Quetrupillán with Volcán Villarica in the background. From the left myself, Jorge, Marcello, Boudewijn, Peter.

Headed back down. The picture is cloudy because we are in a cloud.

An hour or so later...

The woods just above the tree line before we lost our trail.

And finally almost back to the truck. That´s Volcán Quetrupillán behind us in the distance.

Tomorrow I am headed back across the Andes to San Martin where I´ll meet up with the gauchos I´ll be living with next month. More on that later. Gotta go. Hope all is well in your worlds. Until next time...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Oops. At the end of my last entry I wrote the wrong city in Chile. I am going to Valdivia tomorrow. Valdivia.

San Carlos de Bariloche

Hola all! I´ve had an excellent couple of days here in San Carlos de Bariloche. Following a peaceful but tiring 20 hour bus trip from Buenos Aires I dropped my pack off at my hostel and headed out to explore the city. It was too late in the afternoon to venture out of the city itself and I was in the mood to hike so upon wandering across a street that went up up up into the trees I decided to embark on an urban trek. I ended up here.

Beautiful, a nice view of the lake, the town, the surrounding mountains; I was taking it all in untill...bark bark bark. I had the atttention of the neighborhood canine community. So I went on the retreat turning ack toward what I believed to be the way I came. Wrong. Before I knew it I was at a dead end. There was one medium sized dog that looked like a large coyote and behind a flimsy short fence a rottweiler and some other beast who seemed to be following the lead of the coyote, as if if the coyote decided to he could summon them both with one howl. I retreated into a wood and the dog stopped at the edge. He wasn´t going to attack, but neither was he going to leave. He backed down a bit and stopped barking so I decided to go for it. I picked up a large stick and went forth. As soon as I hit the street I turned right back around. I was stuck. Behind me was somewhat of a cliff that dropped into a thick pine forest. I spotted a ledge seven or so feet below me and slid down to it. I spent the next half hour descending into what ended up to be a pine grove so dense that I could hardly see. Long story short, I paused to let my eyes adjust to the light, enraged two other dogs and ended up in someones back yard on a highway that I walked into town. I got to hike after all...
That evening I grabbed a litre of beer and went to the shore to watch the sunset

Later that night I grabbed a bottle of wine and went back to the hostel where I met a guy from Berlin named Nils. We decided to climb a mountain the next day. And that was what we did. We hit the trail at about 8:30 at an elevation of about 700ft.

Behind Nils there is the low mountain that we had to go around and over to get to our destination, a valley at about 6500 feet, four hours least.

Here she is behind me in the distance

Two hours later we were both quite hungry and hadn´t reached our lunch spot yet, a small shelter at the mouth or our valley

We finally got there and had lunch: cheese, sausage, bread and chocolate. It took this shot from the rock we had lunch on.

Beautiful. We then decided to scale those mountains out there in the distance. And though the valley, the lagoon to be more specific doesn´t look that big, it really is. We were pretty sure that up over ridge there in the left of the picture there was another lagoon. There was only one way to find out so off we went. Follow the water...

...and sure enough, we found the second lagoon. It was frozen solid. Here you can see the frozen lagoon on the far left and in the distance the first one where I had lunch.

We went on a ways. Up and towards the center of the mountains as seen from that photo taken from the lunch spot

Then we took another break. While we were relaxing and sharing a chocolate bar I spotted an Andean condor. It was hanging out on the other side of the valley, to our right. I can´t desribe the gracefulness of that bird or the peace that it brought over me that afternoon. Once it disappeared in distance we knew I was time to go. It would take about five hours to get back to the trail head. So down we went

A few thousand feet down we were once again in the forest. An autumn sunset accompanied us on our way back to civilization.

We made it to the bus stop at dusk. I showered, ate a steak and went to sleep. I had climbed my first mountain.
Tomorrow I am off to Chile. Vilicaria, Chile to be precise. Gonna hang out with the sea lions for a couple of days. Cheers!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Adios Buenos Aires

I arrived in San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina this morning at about 10, after a twenty hour bus ride across the breadth of Argentina. I woke up to moonscape, predawn light just bright enough to make silhouettes of the few landforms on the horizon, most of them puffs of papmpa grasses. When I opened my eyes again the sun had peeked above the horizon and we were winding around dark lakes and the beginnings of the andes. I write this from my hostel surrounded by towering snow capped peaks, The Andes. The city itself sits on Lago Nahuel Haupi. I sat on the bank this morning and watched the waves wash the stones...the most cristal clear grey blue water I've ever seen. I watched the surging water rise and bend my vision of the colored stones it rushed over, I could see the bottom clearly through a four foot wave. I don't know what I'll do today, when I'll leave this place, or where I'm going next... But it is nice to be away from the city.