Mar 27, 2008

Difunta Correa

During the Civil wars of the 1840’s in Argentina, Deolinda Correa became lost in the desert while attempting to follow her husband's battalion. When her food and water ran out, she died of thirst and exhaustion. However, in passing, someone discovered her young baby nursing on the dead woman’s breast – still alive. It was proclaimed a miracle. Now, many decades later, she has become Argentina's favorite soul, unrecognized by the church, yet worshipped by many Argentineans.

Her shine is located in Difunta Correa, a town that has grown around the site of her death. People visit from around the country both thanking her and asking her for their own special miracle. Whether it is a scale model of a newly acquired hotel, an ultrasound image of their unborn child, a wedding dress, a photo of a new vehicle, or a bowling trophy, hundreds of thousands of offerings now litter the shrine.

As Easter is one of her biggest days, the Argentines flocked in droves to thank Difunta Correa, as she is now called, for her deeds. Whether by bike, horse, truck, foot, or even crawling, they came to pay homage to this giving soul. Smaller shrines dot the Argentine highways with stacks of bottled water. These offerings represent the water she needs to keep her soul alive in the desert.

Amanda and I strolled through the town for hours, observing this incredibly vibrant religious ceremony. It was a surreal experience not to be forgotten and certainly the most interesting Easter Amanda and I have ever had.

Mar 22, 2008

Argentina: Tango, Wine, Ruth and Rosie

We love traveling. The feeling of placing everything you own on your back and heading to a different new and exciting place every few days is certainly a thrill. We taste new food, drink strange beer, see odd animals, talk to foreign people, and spend our days worrying about where to go next or which hotel to sleep in. However, Amanda and I also love our families, our country, our familiar surroundings, our friends, our belongings, our jobs, our TV shows, our Targets and Best Buys. These are gone when we travel. Sure, every now and then we can catch a TV show in English, or scarf down a cone from McDonalds. We talk on the phone to our families and email our friends. We listen to our ipod and get excited when we meet other Americans. Yet, no matter how many things we can find that remind us of home, nothing is better than a visit from our mom.

Guess who was waiting for us in Buenos Aires with a beautiful hotel room and a bag of Chocolates? That’s right Amanda’s mom Ruth and her aunt Rosie.

It was great to see them and we had some amazing adventures in the past week. We strolled through the massive avenues of beautiful Buenos Aires taking in the smell of diesel buses and general commotion of this ever –so-European city. We saw the grave of Evita sitting among the wealthiest tombs we have ever witnessed in the Cemetario de la Recoleta. It was “Keeping up With Jones’: After-Life Edition” as every monument was grander than its neighbor. Marble buildings rose in spires 60 feet high with elaborate busts, statues, and manicured landscapes guarding the wealthy families contained within. It was a fascinating way to spend a few hours roaming through the maze of this wealthy, yet very quiet city of tombs.

We added a country to our list – Uruguay. It was a 1 hr ferry ride so- why not? For obvious reasons I spent the day looking for a shirt that just read “Uruguay” but had no luck.

As Buenos Aires is the birthplace of Tango, we stopped into the famous Tortoni Café for a late night Tango show. That is one sexy dance.

On our 5th day we rented the smallest car ever made with 4 doors and a trunk and drove for 14 hrs straight to Mendoza on the opposite end of the country. Go ahead, look at a map. It was fairly uneventful aside from the massive demonstrations blocking the highway every 100 km or so. Oh and we also got lost on a dirt road for an hour while trying to avoid a demonstration, almost got stuck, and thought we might die. Other than that, the girls, Amanda, and I kept up good conversation and the 14 hours flew by! Not really but we did make it to Mendoza.

Being the lover of wine that she is, Ruth wanted to come to Mendoza as it is the wine capital of Argentina, known around the world for its Malbec red wines (they are excellent if you haven’t tried one). We took the Chevy for a wine tour stopping at about 4 vineyards and having a delightful lunch in a lawn under the shade of a massive tree. Because we were feeling so at home with Ruth and Rosie providing excellent company, we decided to have a taste of home by dining at an excellent Mexican restaurant. Believe it or not, good Mexican food is extremely hard to find in South America.

We took a road trip to the mountains yesterday and had young goat for lunch, a very hairy meat.

We’ve really loved visiting with Ruth and Rosie the past few days. The conversations have ranged from “what kind of meat are we eating” to “when are we going to finally get married”. It was excellent indeed to have a slice of home delivered to our doorstep in Buenos Aires.

Thanks for visiting Ruth and Rosie, and thanks for the wonderful food and hotels.

Now that they are gone its back to the budget and back to dorm rooms. We have a car, a tent, and 18 days left in Argentina before we head to Southeast Asia. Home is great but right now the open road is even better.

Mar 16, 2008

Landscapes of Chile

Click here to view slideshow in a larger window.

Torres Del Paine


After stepping off our bus at 11:00 AM, We began our grueling trek to the famous Torres (towers) of Torres del Paine national park. As we reached the summit, we found the three towers suspended from the low clouds. The melting glacier below fed hundreds of small water falls that opened to a milky-blue lake below. We didn’t have much time to enjoy as we had to get back before dark. The Refugio was truly beautiful: an eco-lodge of perfect proportions. The food was great, the bunks were comfortable, and we were absolutely exhausted after just one day.

The park is incredible. Around every corner is a view more spectacular than the last. This was our easy day. The lodge is more rustic with gas lamps and solar electricity.

TIME: 10.5 HRS
Now things are really getting interesting! After the rising sun cast its deep orange glow on the towering Cuernos above our lodge, we ate a quick breakfast and began our most challenging day. The French Valley did not disappoint. The massive Cuernos (Horns) guided us into this ancient valley littered with active glaciers. It was hard to hike for more than 20 minutes without hearing the thunderous moans of the French Glacier as it constantly deposited massive sections of its low hanging ice to the valley below. We never thought mountains could speak! These spectacular avalanches were just one of the many highlights of the valley. The 360 degree views often stopped us in our tracks. We had to move fast to finish this section in daylight, but not too fast to miss the beauty of it all. We ended the trek with some Pisco Sours in the lodge – a Chilean drink made from pisco alcohol. Amanda and I have officially put Torres Del Paine on our top 5 list after today’s hike. We highly recommend it!


We took our time this morning as another short hike lay ahead. We arrived at the glacier awestruck by its presence. The north end of Lake Grey is met by towering columns of jagged ice shooting up from the surface to form Glacier Grey. Massive chunks of ice radiating a magnificent blue light floated down the lake after separating from the glacier. The winds were constantly making us lose our balance as we stood to take photos and admire the glacier. It is a different world in Patagonia. The earth is alive with shifting ice, violent swings in weather, and magnificently jagged cliffs and mountains. We’ve spoken little Spanish lately; Patagonia is littered with Americans, Europeans, and even the occasional Chilean.


I took a dip in the glacier water today. My “macho juices”, as Amanda calls it, got flowing and I joined a friend from Norway for some ice swimming. After stripping down and wading knee high into the water for about 2 minutes, I looked to Morten and thought: ‘What am I, a guy from the Arizona desert, doing in a glacier lake with hundreds of ice cubes bigger than my last apartment accompanied a guy who probably took showers colder than this as a child in Norway?’ I suspect Morten was more concerned with hypothermia as he stared back at me. Whatever the case, we both dove in head first followed by a fast sprint back to the shore. I finally gained feeling in all my toes again about an hour later. It rained all morning. We took a chance by skipping the early bus and taking the bonus side hike for another view of the Cuernos from across the lake. This paid off tenfold as the clouds parted and gave us some spectacular skies.


Incredible and highly recommended! Now we are in Argentina, the final country on our list in South America.

Mar 6, 2008

Sailing Patagonia

Our 410 ft long vessel, the Navimag Evangelistas, is first and foremost a cargo ship. However, above its two floors of produce, vehicles, goods, and containers, are three levels of fairly comfortable guest accommodations. In this particle sailing, 180 passengers from all over the world have gathered to take part in what could be the most visually interesting boat ride on the planet from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales in Southern Patagonia. Please keep in mind, however, that I have not had the pleasure of partaking in many boat rides in my life. Nonetheless, the last four days have been a bit mystical, completely relaxing, and altogether amazing. We spent many hours standing on one of our three viewing decks as this fantastic scenery glided past us at the perfect speed; not so fast that you miss the details, not so slow that you’d rather watch Happy Feet in the cafeteria (it was an option!) The rugged terrain of Patagonia and the southern tip of the almighty Andes spill into the channels and fjords about 100 yards from either side of the boat as though they are wearing their best outfits and displays for this parade of giants.

We came prepared to spend our days writing or reading books, editing the thousands of photographs we have acquired in the last 70 days, sleeping, relaxing, studying Spanish. Yet, here we are on the last day of our voyage and mostly we’ve just stood in awe of the amazing scenery as it marches past our sturdy ship. When the scenery is not changing, the weather is. Yesterday, when we started to grow a bit bored we looked off the starboard side to see an old cargo shipped parked on a rock. It was an attempt at insurance fraud in 1963. However, once the investigation ensued on the Cotopaxi Vessel, it was discovered that the cargo was not lost in the wreckage; instead it was sold off in Uruguay the week prior. The captain spent some time in prison. Getting back to our sea story though, from the ship we have seen dolphins, whales, penguins, cormorants, sea lions, and a fat Chilean guy sing Italian love songs with his keyboard playing backup. Yes, this is the entertainment on a cargo ship.

We then set our course for Poi XI, the largest Glacier in South America. This 3 mile wide earthmover spills into the ocean like a massive lava flow. It averages 300 ft high and stretches for 10 miles through the Chilean southern ice flow that divides Chile and Argentina in the south. We were sad to hear that this behemoth, much like 80% of the world’s glaciers, began retreating a few years back, finally ending its many-decades long battle with global warming.

We are now on the final stretch of the voyage. We have passed the narrowest strait - just 260 ft wide. As I sit in the lounge and look right, all I see is clouds through the window. As I look left, ocean. It is very windy today and boat likes to lean. The next five days will be spent on the trails of Torres Del Paine; one of the most famous parks in South America. You’ll recognize the pictures when you see them on our blog next week. Until then – bon voyage.

Mar 3, 2008

Muy Rapido

It’s been a long while since we last posted to our Blog. Some may blame it on laziness; others may call it the natural progression of things as excitement fades. However, the true culprit of our lengthy interval is simply a lack of time. Unlike Peru and Bolivia, we have been moving at an incredible pace in Chile. Entire towns are seen in one morning as we wait for our bus to the next. We are now sitting in a café in Puerto Montt awaiting the departure of our 4 day ferry headed for Southern Patagonia. We are extremely excited. The Navimag (our boat) spends only a fraction of its trip on the open seas. Three days of our journey will be spent threading the needle of the hundred of fjords and glaciers that spot the landscape between here and Puerto Natales. And though we are on the edge of our seats with anticipation for the next 12 days, much has happened in the last 12 days.

We have completed two 8 hr day hikes. The first hike was through the Reserva Nacional Altos Lircay near the town of Talca. This grueling trek was certainly worth the nearly 1 mile vertical with stunning views of multiple volcanoes. The dust and dirt have permanently deposited themselves on all of our clothes from this hike. The second departed from the mountain tourist town of Pucon through Huerquehue National Park. This stunning jaunt passed 4 beautiful lakes with a massive, smoking, perfectly conical volcano (Volcon Villarica) off in the distance.

From Talca, (the dusty town) we took a wine tour as this is Chile’s largest wine region. We were able to taste 26 varieties of grapes and tour the entire process from grape to bottle. March is the month for harvesting; making our grapes perfectly ripe and absolutely delicious. The wine was good too.

From Talca we stopped in Chillan for the markets. Amanda snapped over 200 photos of the largest fruit, vegetable and meat market we have yet to witness. We then bussed it to Pucon. This town lives at the base of the aforementioned smoking volcano. Tours depart for the crater every morning but Amanda and I thought we’d avoid the boulders that are constantly rolling down the mountain and head to the national park instead. This very active volcano is reliably emitting its sulfuric gases, occasional lava flows and earth- shaking rumbles but the tourists just keep coming to the beautiful lake side town of Pucon.

After a two night stop in Puerto Varas, we rented our first car with another couple from Vancouver. The last four days were spent on the Islands of Chiloe. This community of fishing villages is a glimpse of Chile’s past. With a nearly 100% employment rate and some absolutely beautiful beach and village scenes, it truly captured our attention. On the island we were able to see 2 species of Penguins and dozens of different birds off the town of Ancud. These colonies head South or North in March. Though many had already left, it was by far the closest we have ever come to these quirky creatures.

And now I bring you back to were we started – sitting in a café waiting for our boat. We have a 5 day hike planned for Torres Del Paine in Patagonia. It’s going to be an incredible 12 days.