The Desert For Dessert

It truly pained me to leave Patagonia.  As I’m sure you, my noble reader, are aware, certain places can strike a chord so to speak.  Patagonia is definitely such a place for me and high upon the list of places I want to go back to.  The fact that my last three days there were spent watching the rain douse Bariloche in no way diminishes my love for that storied and magical land.  Complements of surprisingly high airfare I hopped on a pair of buses for a whimsical 23 hour journey to Santiago before a quick jaunt north to the Atacama.

It wasn’t all bad.  I did get to watch the Chilean women’s team beat Uruguay in a rowdy bar at the Osorno bus station.

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It was a good time and a singular experience to be sure.  That being said the food there was somewhat terrible and so when I finally got to Santiago the next morning I figured a proper breakfast with mandatory breakfast beer. was in order.

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Lest I digress and wax poetic about a grand omelette and the corresponding out of focus photograph I’ll return to the point.  The Atacama Desert welcomed me with a grand sunset and an impressively rapid sunburn.

It’s actually quite hard to believe that this trip is over.  Today was my last day abroad ( I mean technically I’ll be in Chile for another day, but it’s a day that will be entirely on the road ).  I figured I should go out with a bang so I was like who needs to acclimatize?  Let’s go summit Cerro Toco.  Standing 5600 meters above sea level it would represent, by a fairly large margin, the highest mountain I would have stood atop.  Not gonna lie; when we got out of the beat up old Toyota pickup and I could really feel that elevation, I began to seriously question my decision.  But then I remembered the guide was playing Thievery Corporation on the way up.  I mean Thievery Corporation!!!!!! The Richest Man In Babylon no less.  Oddly enough, classic trip-hop seems to be really popular in the Atacama.  Who knew? It had to be a sign right? Not just trip hop, but 90’s grunge is also quite popular.  Since I’ve been here I’ve heard the Foo Fighters, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden and the Smashing Pumpkins.

That shit was hard.  It turns out that if you don’t acclimatize it’s challenging to hike at 18,000 feet.  Who knew?  Haahahaha.  None the less I’m going to take this opportunity to be all like 18,386 feet is more mental than anything else 🙂

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The right side of the background is Bolivia, for whatever that’s worth.  I think those mountains in the background might be in the film Baraka, for whatever that’s worth.  In any event the view from up there is pretty ballin’.  The buildings in the following pictures are some of the astronomical observatories for which the Atacama is known (including ALMA in the first one, for whatever that’s worth hahaha).

The real reason I came out here though was to see the stars.  Until now I never had a real opportunity to photograph the stars.  If you read my last post you know that my camera and I have not been on the best of terms lately.  However I believe this was an excellent opportunity to patch things up.  Sadly, the results weren’t spectacular.  Of course the little guy wasn’t really designed for this kind of thing and I suspect(or hope at least) that when I get home and use some photo stacking software the results will be a little better.  Anyway here is the Southern Cross and a bit of the Milky Way (Via Lactica).

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Well I don’t know what comes next.  I’d like to say that the principle reasons I came on this little jaunt have been sorted out or that I have found some sort of illumination, but that’s none of your damn business Dan and I’ll thank you to stay out of my personal effects!  Just kidding.  I will keep the site going after this, though I don’t know what it will become or what I will become.  Will there be some Cronenbergian Brundlefly thing, or something less grotesque?  Likely it will be some ranting and raving about whatever.  Perhaps it will become one with the cosmos and the universal divine that is beyond words.  HAHAHAHAHA freaking Austral Calafate.

I’m not sure what song to put on today.  I was getting coffee when I heard this for the first time;

 

Of course cruising to 5000 meters with Thievery Corporation demands some of this;

Somehow those don’t seem to fully capture the right mood.  I mean this is my last day before I return to the States so I should probably go out with something glorious right?  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Gonna have to go old school on this one.  It has nothing to do with anything regarding the trip or whatever but I think it satisfies the glorious requirement and “when the water breaks” is a metaphor for the beginning of new life as I return.  HAHAHA yeah that’s it.  That’s totally not bull shit 🙂  In any event I give you the madness and the maelstrom of Liquid Tension Experiment.  My only qualm is that the engineer for this album totally screwed up the mix.  You can barely hear the bass player and he’s doing some righeous thumping!

A Return To Patagonia

If that mountain looks familiar then maybe you own something from Ivon Chouinard’s collection.  If you don’t know who Ivon Chouinard is then I’ll give you a quick rundown.  He was preeminent in the golden age of Yosemite climbing and made first ascents with the likes of Fred Becky and Royal Robbins.  Later he started a some gear/clothing companies you might have heard of.  Most importantly he is proof positive that you don’t have to be a scumbag to become a billionaire.  His Patagonia clothing company donates 10% of profits or 1% of sales (which ever is larger) to environmental causes every year.  He is a shining counter example to the ridiculous notion that taking care of the environment is somehow bad for the economy.

If I seem a little bit soap-boxy it’s because I have been away from the internet for awhile and have been spared the nonsense from back home.  Ok fine there was internet, but not usefully.  This was me trying to download a podcast for the bus ride.

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Anyway, back to Ivon Chouinard.  He is pretty much a badass.  I mean, just look at the guy.

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I don’t know if he had that killer moustache at the time, but in 1968 he and three others made the 3rd ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy (Chalten) via a new route.  Fitz Roy is the peak I’m standing in front of in the picture above.  Reading about Chouinard’s ascent and other such climbs in Patagonia ( like Maestri’s controversial Kompressor route on Cerro Torre) filled my adolescence with dreams of adventure and madness in the far reaches of the world.

I  never really expected to climb or even see Cerro Torre or Fitz Roy.  So arriving in El Chalten and seeing them both within a few hours  was sort of surreal and didn’t immediately sink in.    Of course Cerro Torre made me wait a little bit.  At first it was shy

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just like the guy who sings my brother’s all-time favorite song.

So then I was all like

“How about just the tip? Just to see how it feels.”

And then, demurely, Cerro Torre was all like

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And then finally, about an hour later, in a majestic rapture, Cerro Torre revealed itself to me.

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In case you’re not familiar with the Torre group, the second highest peak to the right of Cerro Torre is called Torre Egger.   So it goes without saying that I was reciting the following

 

It was a beautiful afternoon spent with a pair of delightful French women. On the way back we were treated to the magnificent skies of Patagonia.

Sadly my companions and I parted ways not long after.  This trip has reinforced the notion that happiness is best when shared and I am grateful for the time I had with them.

I’ll get back to the Chalten region in a bit. For now I’ll take a moment to reflect on ice.  Aude had mentioned to me back at Lago Torre how much she missed icebergs after our trip to the Antarctic.  I didn’t realize at the time that I did too.  Seeing a bunch yesterday in Lago Argentina made me understand.  Since I probably won’t see icebergs or glaciers again for awhile I thought I throw in some pics of Lago Argentina and some of it’s icebergs.

Ice lamentations behind us it’s getting to the point that I need to wrap things up for today.  Coverage of The Masters is about to start and I have a bottle of Malbec that wont drink itself.  But don’t worry I saved the best for last.

One night in El Chalten, after too many cervecas tiradas I was walking back to my hostel when I noticed the skies had cleared and the nearly full moon was shining upon Fitz Roy.  I knew I had no choice but to leave the light pollution of the town and venture into the hills for a picture.  Now, with an old 35mm and junk film this would be no problem.  Just use the 500 rule and await the results.  Unfortunately my modern 24 megapixel piece of shit can’t differentiate between objects in low light unless the exposure is wicked long.

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After hiking, intoxicated, through the middle of cold night in puma infested hills, this was the best my camera could manage.  I mean it’s all right and all, but like seriously, when is the next time I’ll be in El Chalten on a clear moonlit night?  I experimented with every conceivable combination of f-stop, aperture, and iso and this was the best I could get…sigh.  I gave up around 2:30am and walked back to town the whole time telling my camera it wasn’t so much that I was mad, but rather

Later that day I went up into the hills and took the featured image for this post and a few others as follows.

The best part though was the sunrise.  I woke up 3 hours after getting back from the moonlit madness and checked the sky.  I’m not gonna lie; I was reeeeeaaaaallllly tired and part of me hoped that clouds had descended and I could go back to bed.  It was not to be.  The sky was more or less clear and it was obvious what had to be done.  So I put my coat back on, had a swig of stale leftover Quilmes and ventured to El Mirador De Los Condores.  The following image was in no way edited other than cropping.  If you have a bucket list then add seeing the sunrise over Cerro Torre and Cerro Fitzroy.  It was astounding and no photograph (certainly not one I am capable of taking) can capture the real power of that moment.  It lasted about five minutes and I was so tired it was hard to fully appreciate, but it will be with me to the end of my days.

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Well that’s about all for now.  I’ll probably get another post up about something sometime.  In the meanwhile enjoy this tasty track from Lemon Jelly.  They actually have a song called Return To Patagonia but I don’t like it as much.  Plus, this one actually talks about being in Patagonia.  One of my favorite memories of life is listening to this song while cruising from Ketchikan to Wrangell on a gorgeous late summer afternoon in the Clarence Strait back in my Forest Service days.  The little piano riff just fit the sparkling sea so well.  Enjoy

Feeling Antarctic

It’s odd being back in the civilized world.  The desolation and isolation of the frozen continent is unlike anything I’ve ever before experienced. That’s not to say that there aren’t signs of life out there.

Of course there are the penguins. On land they are about as goofy as any creature could be.  But once they get in the water they can really move.

Below is my favorite penguin pic from the trip.  I know one should be careful when it comes to anthropamorphising, but penguins do kind of act like people sometimes.  The little one down below looking off into the bleak, icy distance seems to conveigh a feeling of “meh” that I know so well.

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I suppose this picture is, as some have told me, a little sad.  I can see that.  Of course I tend to feel a little sad sometimes so maybe that’s why I relate to this little guy (or girl, I have no idea how to differentiate penguin genders).

 

There are seals as well.  Some of them are very cute.

 

Others…are sort of murder machines…

 

To be fair, leopard seals are also kind of cute.  When they aren’t tearing penguins to pieces that is.

Given their size and majesty it’s no “fluke” that whales are a major attraction in the southern waters.  Get it…fluke…hahahahahaha

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Anyway, here are some whale goodies.

Sometimes the seals and whales interact.  Like when these seals

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were hiding on the ice from this whale.

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It’s pretty rough and tumble out there. And if predation weren’t bad enough, the environment itself tries to get ya. But despite that, people have managed to make their mark down there.

 

Antarctica offers some great photo opportunities; like sunrises and sunsets,

 

and great portraits complements of the Parisian molecular biologist I befriended on this trip,

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oh yeah…lot’s and lot’s of ice.

 

The trick is that to get there, you have to cross the Drake.  Sometimes the Drake Passage looks like this

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but it also subjects you to days of this.

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Overall I would say Antarctica was pretty boss.  The trip was blessed by an awesome group onboard the Ortelius.  I made friends with Indians, Netherlanders, French, Chinese, Germans, English, Spaniards, Americans, Kiwis and probably some others I am not remembering at the moment.  It is my fervant hope that we all stay in touch as we proclaimed today that we would.

To finish, as always, there must be music.  I had a song I didn’t know thewords to stuck in my head the whole trip.  After like a week and a half I was all like

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Anyway, it turns out that the song stuck in my head for the last two weeks was a tune by good ole Justin Timberlake.  It’s not my style to put top 40 pop type stuff up here but in honor of having it in my head for so long (and for being a pretty good song as well) I give you the following.  Cheers

To The Ends Of The Earth Whoopee!!!

You probably be all like “Take it easy Jafar” or something.  Hahahaha I dunno.  Greetings from Ushuaia: the southern most city in Argentina.  They say it’s the southernmost city in the world but Puerto Williams, Chile, would beg to differ.  Whatever, I’m bored and have like 4 hours before I board my boat to the frozen wastes of Antarctica and am trying to avoid the typical pre-travel activity of imbibing fermented malts.  I suspect I shall fail in this quest because quite frankly there isn’t alot to do here with less than at least a solid half day.  No worries though. It turns out that the only place to get wifi not laughably slow is in the watering holes.

Normally I don’t care that much about wifi but I did want to upoload some photos from the last couple of days and after sitting in a coffee shop for 25 minutes and still waiting for one single pic to upload I moved on.  So I lift an Irish coffee to you readers and offer the following collection of images from Ushuaia.  The picture of Ronaldhino was hanging at this restaurant that serves the BEST empanadas.  BTW did anybody figure out which picture was not Real in the last post?

 

The song for today doesn’t really have anything to do with anything except that I heard it the other day and it was always one of my favorites.  I doubt there will be internet on the boat so I’ll likely be unreachable, except by perhaps short wave radio or a message in a bottle, til the 28th.  That reminds me I need to make one of those automated response thingys for my email on the off chance one of the jobs I applied for turns into somthing.  Be well all!

Patagucci Pics

Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales, mostly upon the Navimag Boat.

 

Spent some time in Torres Del Paine as well.

These are also from TDP/Natales.  One of them has a fox and one is not Real…my math peeps should appreciate it.

Finally some pictures of guanacos.  I got made fun of by the waitress in Puerto Natales when I called them guacanos by mistake.  I took a lot of pictures of them because they are all over the place but I’ll only post the best 3.

Tee Hee.

As is tradition there must be a song and so here’s one I heard while eating una hamberguesa de guanaco.

 

Achievement Unlocked!!!

Five Fingered: 5 Continents – North America, Europe, Africa, Asia, South America.