Poor weather in Pucón

Written 27 Jan, 29 Jan

I only decided to go to Pucon because Marcel mentioned that he would be there for the New Year, and I didn’t have any other plans. In the end, I’m really glad I decided to go, because it turned out to be quite the adventure. To put it simply, if Bariloche was the highlight of my trip so far, Pucon was the most exciting.

I arrived in Pucon from Puerto Montt in the afternoon and checked myself into the hostel Marcel was staying at. Hostel Arauco – not a very fancy hostel, but it was very cheap (7000 pesos a night) and the lady who runs it was absolutely adorable. She didn’t speak any English, but she definitely understood it and always had a smart comment for whatever we said.

I didn’t do much that day, just wandered around the town checking out the various excursions being offered. One of the most common/popular ones was the climb to the summit of Mt Villarica, one of the most active volcanoes in Chile. Pucon has a great view of the volcano, but it was just my luck – the first five days I was in Pucon (let me assure you I didn’t intend to stay that long, but I’ll explain that in a bit), I didn’t see the volcano at all. Neither did I take any pictures, because who wants pictures of fog and mist and clouds, right?

First glimpse of Villarica on day 5 in Pucon Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

First glimpse of Villarica on day 5 in Pucon
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Day 2 in Pucon was cold and dreary. As usual, I had no idea what I was doing, so I tagged along with Marcel to wander around the town for a bit and check out some excursions. Marcel was really into going bodyrafting (they called it hidrospeed) and although I was rather concerned about how expensive it was, he eventually managed to convince me to sign up to go for it the next day as well. After that, we went to sit by the lake for a bit, before calling it a day.

Pretty decent lake would have been much prettier in better weather Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Pretty decent lake would have been much prettier in better weather
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Last day of 2013. A time for reflections, and looking back on the year and reminiscing. OR. A time to go bodyrafting! We turned up on time at 11am at the excursion office only to be told that they didn’t have a guide for us to go then, but that we could go at 3pm. What a waste of waking up early! We left the place in disgust, only to stumble upon another tour agency (Pucon Tours) offering bodyrafting AND the climb to the summit of the volcano at a much cheaper price. We quickly switched allegiances and went get provisions to tide us over the new year vacations.

Super supermarket is super with super stock of Milo! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Super supermarket is super with super stock of Milo!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Bodyrafting turned out to be really fun. We has these floats to cling on to as we paddled down the river. We were given wet suits and flippers but after two minutes in the freezing cold river, I thought gloves would have helped a lot.

Adrenalin does not keep you as warm as they say it will Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014 Photo credit: Pucon Tours

Adrenalin does not keep you as warm as they say it will
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014
Photo credit: Pucon Tours

It was a lot of fun, especially since the river was pretty tame, and it was quite enjoyable being in the river after I lost feeling in my fingers. After we got out of the water though, I had a fair amount of trouble putting my clothes back on because my fingers refused to function properly. After that, it was back to the main town to prepare for the evening festivities! Marcel and I made a simple dinner before heading to the lake to usher in 2014 by watching the fireworks! So pretty, and it felt like it went on forever. Great start to 2014 (:

Explosive 2014! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Explosive 2014!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It ended there however – when I woke up in the morning, it was cold and rainy, so I ended up spending the entire day in bed, enjoying the warmth under the covers. It was an absolutely lovely way to spend the first day of the year. Anyway, everything in town was closed, and I didn’t want to tire myself out before the climb to the summit of Mt Villarica the next day. We woke up at 5ish the next morning and headed over to the tour office at 6, only to find that they were postponing the excursion to the next day due to poor weather. -_- such a disappointment, but even if we had gone up, we wouldn’t have made it to the top. So it was back to bed for a couple more hours, before I headed out to the Cañi Sanctuary.

The summit is...somewhere there Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The summit is…somewhere there
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It was a three hour hike to the top, but it was a steep ascent for most of the way, so I kept stopping to take pictures.

I saw a cow hanging out, and wondered if there were goats too Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

I saw a cow hanging out, and wondered if there were goats too
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

And indeed there were! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

And indeed there were!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

I met a fellow trekker (I think his name was Martin) midway through the hike and we continued hiking together.

First rest stop where I met Martin Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

First rest stop where I met Martin
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Second rest stop where we...rested Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Second rest stop where we…rested
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

He told me about these prehistoric Araucaria trees which were pretty cool

Baby, adolescent, adult, prehistoric Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Baby, adolescent, adult, prehistoric
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The view at the top was pretty incredible, and worth the trek. It was also nice that it was relatively quiet, being one of the less popular attractions in Pucón.

The top! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The top!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Me at the top! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Me at the top!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The clouds cleared suddenly and BAM, there was Villarica! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The clouds cleared suddenly and BAM, there was Villarica!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After the hike down, it was back to the city, and early to bed to wake up at 5am again the next morning. Thankfully, our efforts at waking up early weren’t wasted, because this time, we managed to set off to the volcano. It was quite a sight at base camp, not just because of the gorgeous view, but because over a hundred people were waiting to make the ascent with various tour groups.

Let's ALL climb the volcano! Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Let’s ALL climb the volcano!
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

From base camp, we had the option to take a ski lift up some distance to save ourselves an hour of walking, which was a pretty fun experience in itself.

View from the ski lift Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

View from the ski lift
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Us on the ski lift Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Us on the ski lift
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The hike up from there was entirely over snow and ice (not to mention freezing cold), so we strapped on our crampons, geared up with our ice picks and put on our gloves and jackets and set off.

All set to conquer the volcano Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

All set to conquer the volcano
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Or maybe not, if I can't even keep my balance on solid ground :/

Or maybe not, if I can’t even keep my balance on solid ground Pucon, Chile, Dec 2013/ Jan 2014

It was slow going, with 24 in our group, so we kept stopping every 10 meters or so.

Hordes of people starting the ascent Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Hordes of people starting the ascent
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Eventually though, the group split into several factions depending on their pace. It was smooth going from then on, with breaks every now and then to rest and eat some snacks for energy.

Break time is time to take silly pictures  Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Break time is time to take silly pictures
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

But also to admire the view Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

But also to admire the view
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After climbing for about 3hours, the wind suddenly picked up and we couldn’t advance any further because the snow had frozen over, making it impossible to walk, and there was also the danger of being blown off the volcano because of the strong winds. So we sat at a little rest point, trying not to freeze and hoping the wind would die down soon.

Our trusty guide who led the way was very surprised that a Singaporean had made it to Pucon Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Our trusty guide who led the way was insistent that I was the first Singaporean to climb Villarica
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It did, and we managed to continue hiking up the ridiculously steep volcano after waiting about 45 minutes. By this time, there were only 7 of us left in the group, the rest having fallen turned back for various reasons. It was a really steep incline, about 70 degrees, and we were going quite slowly, when I almost died.

I was second last in the group, and we were all walking along the same trail. The thing about snow and ice is that it can look quite solid, until you step in it and realize it’s become almost nothing but water. Which is something that happens when a bunch of people step in a patch of snow. So. 200m short of the summit (roughly 2700m above sea level), I stepped in a patch of loose snow, and started sliding down the side of the volcano. In the event that something like that happens, we had been told to dig our ice picks into the snow to stop the slide, but I somehow managed to lose my ice pick when I fell, and I started sliding down the side of the volcano. I slid 10-15m down, all the while thinking that I was going to die, but luckily, the guide was almost directly below me, and he managed to catch me. We continued sliding down another 5m or so before he stopped our fall, barely 100m short of the edge of a cliff on the volcano.

After the fall - getting back on my feet on a steep incline was not easy Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

After the fall – getting back on my feet on a steep incline was not easy
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The nothingness that should have been my grave Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The nothingness that should have been my grave
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The peak was not to be mine to conquer. At least not on this trip. Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

The peak was not to be mine to conquer. At least not on this trip.
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

It was, in short, the most terrifying few seconds of my life, and if the guide hadn’t caught me, I would not be alive today. I don’t know what guardian angels I have but I owe a huge debt to whatever forces of the universe that kept me alive. They say when you’re about to die your life flashes before your eyes, but I didn’t experience anything of the sort. As I was falling, and my body was desperately trying to cling to something to stop the fall, all my brain was telling me was that if this really was the end, it would be a good way to die – at least I was doing something that I really wanted to do, instead of being miserable that I was stuck in some boring job somewhere.

I wasn’t injured from the fall, just slightly shaken up, but the guide refused to let me continue to the summit, for the safety of the whole team. So while the other 6 continued to the top, I was left with my life-saving guide to head back down. It turned out to be an awesome turn of events, because we were supposed to slide down the ice on the volcano on our butts, but while everyone else had to walk down some more dangerous sections because the guides couldn’t watch over everyone, because I had my own private guide, he let me slide down almost the entirety of the volcano, even pulling me along as he ski/slid down. It was supremely fun, and I had a really nice time talking to him about travelling and life and death and all sorts of other things.

My lifesaver, Rodrigo Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

My lifesaver, Rodrigo
Pucon, Chile, Dec 2014/ Jan 2014

Something he told me really resonated with me – that you should live your life in such a way that every day is a good day to die, and if you make it out alive, then all the better for you. Which is something I think a lot of us often forget, so it was a good wake up call for me. It’s something a lot of people have said – that if at the end of the day, you look back at what you did and feel like you wouldn’t have been happy to die, the next day, you gotta do something different. It’s all up to us, and sometimes we forget that we exist in cages of our own making, not in cages others have put us in. It may seem difficult, terrifying or even wrong to open our cages and fly fly flyyy away, but once you do, you realize that it wasn’t so difficult, that the outside isn’t so terrifying and that the only thing you can do wrong is not to live your life exactly how you want to. I’m glad I’ve opened my cage and flown away, and perhaps one day I will return, but that time is not now.

But, I digress. In any case, that was the end of the Pucon adventure, because when we reached the town again, I packed up my stuff and set off for the next city – Concepción.

P.S. Apologies for the excessively long-winded post. Props (and maybe a postcard!) if you actually read all that 😉 Haha this is how I bribe people to comment on my posts!

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Change and Aloneness

Change and Aloneness

Hmm. I’m in an odd sort of mood today. Kinda pensive, kinda unsettled, kinda sad. Not sure why, nor what brought this about.

Travelling is a strange thing. You learn so much about yourself – how you deal with stressful situations, what kind of person you are in different circumstances, what you enjoy, what you hate, and so on. But the more you learn about yourself, the more you come to the realization that you actually know nothing about yourself. Which is a unsettling and perhaps even terrifying realization, at least for me. To imagine that after all these years of being the person that you are, you really don’t know yourself at all. How can that be, you might ask. I don’t claim to know. I can only share with you how I feel, and it is up to you to agree or agree to disagree.

I think it might have something to do with how we are constantly changing, from day to day, even minute to minute or second to second. Things happen, and people change. The thing is, in the daily humdrum of things, the changes are small. Perhaps not insignificant, but small enough to go unnoticed. Small enough to disappear into the routines of life.

You wake up.
You have breakfast.
You go to work.
You kill time till lunch.
You have lunch.
You come back to the office and kill more time.
You go home.
You have dinner.
You watch tv.
You go to bed.
Day in, day out, everyday forever.

Nothing ever changes. Well, maybe it does.

You wake up late one day, and that throws off your routine.
You eat leftover pizza for breakfast and that messes you up the rest of the day.
Your boss yells at you at work,
you have a special farewell lunch for a colleague,
you get fired,
you go to a party and meet someone interesting,
you decide to read a book instead of watching tv,
you go on vacation.

Things change, but ultimately nothing ever does, and the next day, two days later, a week or two later, you’re back to your routine. And when things become routine, you stop changing, or perhaps the change is so slow and gradual that one day, you will just wake up and wonder “when did I become this person?”

Travelling, on the other hand, removes you from routine. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is routine when you travel. You go to sleep in one place, you wake up in another, and the next day you’re in a place you’ve never heard off, having lunch with people you’ve never met before and probably won’t see ever again. You forge many new relationships, transient but ever more so intense for their transience – the underlying sentiment being one of trying to make the most of the fleeting time you have together before it is time to pick everything up and move on. Every connection is painfully vivid, seared into your very consciousness and revolutionizing the way you look at things, but all too soon, it is gone. And at the end of it, you’re left with a feeling of profound aloneness. The feeling that each and every one of us inhibits a separate sphere of reality, with a separate past that existed without you, and a separate future that will exist, regardless of your existence. And sometimes, our spheres may overlap briefly, but too soon, we drift apart, to continue our lonely existence, each in our own little bubble, completely and utterly isolated and insulated from each other.

At the end of the day, we are all travellers. Some of us have suitcases and backpacks, and some of us don’t, but we are all travelling. Perhaps not around the world, or even to a different country or city, but toward some unknown destination. We have no choice in the matter, so we do the best we can, plodding along as best as we know how. And sometimes, we meet someone else who seems to be going the same way, or we stop for a rest next to some other weary traveller. We share a smile, a few kind words, or maybe even walk together for a time. In so doing, we find comfort and solace in the knowledge that while we each are profoundly alone, so is everyone else.

I realize this is a rather incoherent and rambling post, but I felt like I had to get this out. It’s been more than two months since I left home, and while I’ve called more places home in the last two months than I have in the last two years, perhaps what I’m craving is some sort of routine. A while to rest, to breathe, to be. We always get so caught up in what we have or want to do, that we often forget that it is just as important to simply be.

I’m going to find a place to be. I hope you do too.

 

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Chilly in Chile – First stop: Puerto Montt

Written 23 jan (because I am useless at documenting my life :P)

Pardon the lame post title, but it was pretty cold in Puerto Montt!

Chile was not off to a very good start, what with my ripped jeans and scraped knee. It meant I couldn’t get into a comfortable position to sleep on the bus, which I desperately wanted to do because I didn’t get much sleep the night before. Nevertheless, the immigration checkpoint was gorgeous, (if inefficient) so that wasn’t too bad.

Checkpoint in the Andes Argentina/Chile, Dec 2013

Checkpoint in the Andes
Argentina/Chile, Dec 2013

Coming into Puerto Montt also provided a great view of the volcanos Osorno and Calbuco.

Volcano Osorno Chile, Dec 2013

Volcano Osorno
Chile, Dec 2013

I arrived in Puerto Montt and met up with my host Margot before going to deposit my stuff at her place, 40 minutes outside the city itself. First impressions of Puerto Montt – not a very pretty city, with lots of businesses. I found out that most people (read: tourists) don’t visit Puerto Montt, but instead go to Puerto Varas instead. Ah well, no matter. I was there and had to make the best of it.

One relatively nice church in the midst of ugly buildings Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

One relatively nice church in the midst of ugly buildings
Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

That evening, Margot took me out to walk around the city. It’s really a small city, and not a very beautiful one either.

Christmas wasn't over yet Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Christmas wasn’t over yet
Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Quaint little bar Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Quaint little bar
Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Some cute little houses here and there, but that was about it.

Houses, houses, houses Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Houses, houses, houses
Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Another thing that really surprised (shocked/ worried/ dismayed) me was how expensive everything was. I though Argentina was expensive, but Chile was even more expensive.

In Bariloche, Argentina –
Me: Una botella de agua, por favor
Salesperson: 10 pesos
Me: Gracias!

5hours later, in Puerto Montt, Chile
Me: Una botella de agua, por favor
Salesperson: 800 pesos
Me: O.O noooooooo!

No joke.

Well, a small one. Argentina and Chile both use pesos, but the exchange rate is way different. In any case, 800 Chilean pesos (1.50USD) is still a bunch to be paying for water.

Anyways, we headed back quite early because I didn’t feel like limping around with my stupid knee for much longer.

A bit of background on Margot’s house. It’s not hers, and she lives with her elderly parents and brother, none of whom speak any English. It made for a very interesting experience, trying to communicate with them in my horrible Spanish. Obviously, because that wasn’t difficult enough, Chilean Spanish is a completely different breed from Argentinian Spanish. Yay for accents! -_-

Despite this, Margot’s family was absolutely delightful and were so welcoming that I felt like I was surrounded by my own family. They were so excited about meeting a person from Singapore and asked so many questions about it, and life there and things like that. It was great sharing about the different cultures, customs, traditions and I also got to learn a lot about Chile as well.

The next afternoon was spent sightseeing in Puerto Varas with Margot and her friend (whose name I have forgotten – horrible me). Puerto Varas is a much nicer town than Puerto Montt, quite picturesque and lovely.

Lovely garden Puerto Varas, Chile, Dec 2013

Lovely garden
Puerto Varas, Chile, Dec 2013

The weather wasn't too good but people were still swimming. Locos. Puerto Varas, Chile, Dec 2013

The weather wasn’t too good but people were still swimming. Locos.
Puerto Varas, Chile, Dec 2013

We also drove to the Petrohue Waterfalls (I think – I’m not sure because I wasn’t really paying attention haha) which were pretty cool and had quite a nice view.

Petrohue waterfalls Petrohue, Chile, Dec 2013

Petrohue waterfalls
Petrohue, Chile, Dec 2013

Innocent looking thing is not so innocent Petrohue, Chile, Dec 2013

Innocent looking thing is not so innocent
Petrohue, Chile, Dec 2013

We also went to Lago Todos los Santos, which has a lovely beach with volcanic rock and sand. Super cool stuff.

Black sand beach Lago Todos los Santos, Chile, Dec 2013

Black sand beach
Lago Todos los Santos, Chile, Dec 2013

Very cool car parked at the beach Lago Todos los Santos, Chile, Dec 2013

Very cool car parked at the beach
Lago Todos los Santos, Chile, Dec 201

Dinner that night was prepared by Margot’s brother, Sady. It was something really delicious, and turned out to be prieta (a.k.a. morcilla a.k.a. blood sausage). Yums bloooooood. No picture cause I was hungry and finished it before I remembered to take a picture heh. We had movie night watching lame movies and then it was off to bed.

Top: Priscilla (Sady's girlfriend), Sady, and me Bottom: Margot and me Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

Top: Priscilla (Sady’s girlfriend), Sady, and me
Bottom: Margot and me
Puerto Montt, Chile, Dec 2013

The next day, it was off to Pucon for the last days of 2013!

I didn’t feel like doing anything in Bariloche, but I’m glad I did!

Written 30 Dec/11 Jan/18 Jan

So. How did I come to be in Bariloche? From Puerto Madryn, I was initially going to go all the way south to the southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, but Philippe, who had been there before he arrived in Puerto Madryn said that it was really cold and that there was nothing much to do there. As much as I wanted bragging (?) rights to say I had been to the southernmost city in the world, I am also deathly afraid of the cold, so it was off to Bariloche for me!

Getting to Bariloche from Puerto Madryn was an experience in itself. We couldn’t get the ticket directly to Bariloche, so we bought a ticket to Esquel, eleven hours from Puerto Madryn, instead.

Sunrise in Esquel Esquel, Argentina, Dec 2013

Sunrise in Esquel
Esquel, Argentina, Dec 2013

At Esquel, we managed to get a cheap ticket to El Bolson, a small town a couple of hours away from Bariloche.

El Bolson is full of odd structures El Bolson, Argentina, Dec 2013

El Bolson is full of odd structures
El Bolson, Argentina, Dec 2013

From El Bolson, we had to take another bus to Bariloche, but that didn’t leave for another three hours, so we wandered around the town for a bit. The Lonely Planet entry for El Bolson describes it as a hippie haven, and that’s exactly what it is. Very quaint, and we were lucky enough to catch the feria that happens twice a week so it was nice wandering around.

Hippie talking tree from Pocahontas makes an appearance El Bolson, Argentina, Dec 2013

Hippie talking tree from Pocahontas makes an appearance
El Bolson, Argentina, Dec 2013

We finally arrived in Bariloche in the afternoon, where we met Johana, Philippe’s CouchSurfing host. We headed to her place to sort out a hostel for me, and went to the hostel to drop my stuff off.

Carrying my backpack was much easier for Philippe than me Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Carrying my backpack was much easier for Philippe than me
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

After that, it was time for a tour of the city, made all the better by the fact that Johana is a tour guide for Bariloche! Obviously the centre of attraction was the Lake Nahuel Huapi, a massive lake that is only slightly smaller than Singapore, but the rest of the city was also very pretty.

Nahuel Huapi is super gorgeous Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Nahuel Huapi is super gorgeous
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Lovely old cross Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Lovely old cross
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Perfect view  Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Perfect view
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

We hung out by the beach at the lake for a bit, and made dinner back at Johana’s place with Zeb, her other CouchSurfer. This is why I love CouchSurfing so much – you get to meet so many cool people you wouldn’t ordinarily have met!

Being silly with shades over dinner Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013 Top photo credit: Johana Canessa

Being silly with shades over dinner
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013
Top photo credit: Johana Canessa

Anyway, the next day, Johana invited me to stay at her place so I met Marcel, Johana’s OTHER CouchSurfer (it was her first time hosting, and she had problems saying no to CS requests), before Philippe and I headed off to explore the area around Cerro Campanario. We rented bikes and off we went!

Forever roads Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Forever roads
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

I didn’t realize how out of shape I was but man, I had a tough time keeping up with Philippe. He spent a lot of time waiting for me to catch up, but the views more than made up for it I think!

False advertising - it was for a theme park Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

False advertising – it was for a theme park
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Fabulous view on Circuito Chico Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Fabulous view on Circuito Chico
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

The next day was a lazy day spent by the beach, partially influenced by Johana waking us up singing “today I don’t feel like doing anything” (Bruno Mars). It was very nice hanging out with Johana and chatting about a whole bunch of things. She really is a wonderful girl and I’m so glad I got the chance to meet her. The beach was lovely, although the water was freezing cold.

Lake and mountains Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Lake and mountains
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

After the much needed relaxation at the beach, it was off to do some shopping! I bought my first ever pair of hiking boots as a Christmas present to myself and my ankles. Besides, my Converse sneakers were kinda worn out already and I needed a replacement for them. That night, we had dinner and went to bed earlier so that we could get an early start for the trek up Cerro Catedral to Refugio Frey. Philippe, Marcel and I were supposed to catch the bus to the starting point of the trek at 8am (on the advice of Johana, who was convinced we wouldn’t be able to finish the hike if we left any later), but at the last minute, Philippe decided not to join us, so it was just Marcel and me doing the trek.

Virgin hike to break in the hiking boots! Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Virgin hike to break in the hiking boots!
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

We got to Cerro Catedral with the plan of buying some food and water for the hike before trekking up, but when we got to the town at the foot of the mountain, everything was closed. Lesson learnt: check opening dates and times, and when in doubt, assume that everything in Argentina will be closed between 12pm and 5pm, after 2pm on Saturday and all day on Sunday.

Closed on God's day of rest Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Closed on God’s day of rest
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

So. We had no choice but to return back to Bariloche with the hopes of getting some food and water before retuning to Cerro Catedral to do the trek. By the time we made it back to Cerro Catedral with provisions, it was noon.

A common species on the trails up to Cerro Catedral - the backpacker Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

A common species on the trails up to Cerro Catedral – the backpacker
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

So we started off on the trek, and the view during the trek was amazing.

My view up the mountain was usually punctuated with the sight of Marcel's back Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

My view up the mountain was usually punctuated with the sight of Marcel’s back
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Poor Marcel had to keep waiting for me to take pictures (but actually hiking uphill was super tiring and I was just catching my breath).

Lots of beautiful dead trees Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Lots of beautiful dead trees
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

The trek itself was still manageable, but I could not stand the horrid tabanos that kept biting me! They’re like a cross between a fly and a bee and they BITE. It’s a good thing they are quite daft, and by the end of the trek I had become quite adept at killing them.

Stop and stare Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Stop and stare
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Despite all of this, the view when we finally made it to Refugio Frey made it all worth it.

We (I) made it up! Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

We (I) made it up!
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

The trek back down was much more manageable (still plagued by tabanos), and when we got back to Bariloche, I discovered what I already knew – my shoes survived the hike a lot better than I did. I had giant blisters on both feet and it was awful (I have pictures, if any weirdo wants to see them).

(Free ad for Timberland!) Made for hiking. Unlike my feet :( Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

(Free ad for Timberland!)
Made for hiking. Unlike my feet 😦
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Philippe, Johana and I went to Cerro Campanario the next day. It’s only a 30minute hike up a relatively steep uphill, but the view is just about one of the most amazing views I have ever seen in my life.

Best CS host. And a great friend (: Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Best CS host. And a great friend (:
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

I could have stayed there all day, just looking at the amazing view.

Overlooking Nahuel Huapi Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Overlooking Nahuel Huapi
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Crazy beautiful stuff. The rest of the day was pretty much taking it easy and chilling out.

Feeling like I'm on top of the world Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013 Photo Credit: Philippe Torres

Feeling like I’m on top of the world
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013
Photo Credit: Philippe Torres

Christmas Eve! Johana, Philippe and I rented a car and set off for Cerro Tronador. The 90km drive to Cerro Tronador was also full of amazing views.

Fabulous views Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Fabulous views
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

For some reason, the horrible tabanos decided to pick me a their target, and I spent a lot of time and energy swatting them off. I even had a little cemetery for them in the car, because that’s what I do to nasty bugs like them.

Picture of a nice view instead of a tabano cemetery Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Picture of a nice view instead of a tabano cemetery
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

There was a really amazing view waiting for us when we finally reached Cerro Tronador. The mountain, a glacial lake, and black glaciers.

First glimpse of Cerro Tronador Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

First glimpse of Cerro Tronador
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

The angel on Cerro Tronador Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013 Photo Credit: Johana Canessa

The angel on Cerro Tronador
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013
Photo Credit: Johana Canessa

Cerro Tronador (literally, Thunder Mountain) got its name because of the thunderous sound it makes when calving glaciers. We didn’t get to see any glaciers calving, but it was incredible anyway.

Glacial lake and Cerro Tronador Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Glacial lake and and black glaciers of Cerro Tronador
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Then, it was time to make a mad dash back to Bariloche before everything closed for the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, we had some luck on our side, and the supermarket near Johana’s place was still open so we managed to get some provisions for that evening and enough food to last us till the 26th. Another thing to be grateful for – in Singapore, things are always open, holiday or not.

Christmas Eve night was spent in a very typical Argentinian way – making an asado by the lake Nahuel Huapi. I had a lot of fun hanging out with Johana, Philippe and David (new CouchSurfer who arrived while we were at Cerro Tronador) – my first Christmas away from home, but with awesome people who were like my family there (:

Silly being silly in the boot (!) of the car Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Silly being silly in the boot (!) of the car
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

So. When we were renting the car on Christmas Eve, we couldn’t return it on Christmas, so we ended up renting it for two days. Which was a good-ish thing, because David and I managed to take the car out to traverse Circuito Grande, but which also made it more expensive. Although forking out a chunk of cash for the car hurt at the time, I must say it was worth it for all the spectacular views.

First first pit stop on Circuito Grande Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

First first pit stop on Circuito Grande
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Second pit stop on Circuito Grande Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Second pit stop on Circuito Grande
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Long winding roads Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Long winding roads
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Fricking amazing stuff. And I’m so glad I got to see these spectacular sights – I would not trade them for the world.

Lord of the Rings IV Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Lord of the Rings IV
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Towering rock formations Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Towering rock formations
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Que lindo! Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Que lindo!
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

My last proper day in Bariloche I spent lounging around, getting my bus ticket to Puerto Montt and basically doing nothing because “(that) day I (didn’t) feel like doing anything” and I felt like I needed some time off to chill out. That’s the great thing about travelling indefinitely though- that if you feel like you need to just sit around and do nothing for a day or two, that’s perfectly fine.

A fine place to do absolutely nothing Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

A fine place to do absolutely nothing
Bariloche, Argentina, Dec 2013

Anyway, Bariloche would have been completely perfect, and the super highlight of my trip so far (well, it still is) if not for something really silly that happened just about 30minutes before I left Bariloche. So I was taking the morning bus, and was heading to the bus terminal with Johana. Being the lazy bum that I am, I didn’t tie the laces of my hiking boots properly, and less than ten minutes after we started out, I had a spectacular(ly embarrassing) fall. Stepped on my shoelace, and fell face flat on the ground. I haven’t fallen down like that since I was ten and I ripped my jeans as well. And scraped my knee and shoulder and bumped my jaw. Ridiculous stuff, really. I felt like an idiot, but now I’ve just decided that the scars from my scraped knee and shoulder will be good reminders of my awesome time in Bariloche. Always a silver lining (:

So. That was it for Bariloche, and Puerto Montt and my other adventures in Chile await in the new few posts!

Puerto Madryn was kinda meh

Written 23 Dec/ 26 Dec/ 29 Dec

If I were to sum Puerto Madryn up in a word, it would be “disappointing”. Very unfortunately. BUT, I still had a good time there.

Graffiti with insight Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Graffiti with insight
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

So I arrived in Puerto Madryn in the afternoon,

Back on solid ground Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Back on solid ground
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

and it was too late to do anything much, so I hung out with Ruud and Katherine, whom I met in Puerto Madryn. We made food and ate and talked and it was a very lovely afternoon, followed by an amazing sunset with such beautiful colours.

Such great colours Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Such great colours
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

The next day was quite quiet. I went to the city centre to do some research on tours or excursions to Peninsula Valdes. Unfortunately, it was a Sunday, so almost everything was closed. That is something I’m still having some trouble getting used to here – that practically everything is closed on weekends AND in the afternoons. It is also something I am very thankful for in Singapore. But when you’re in a foreign country, you learn not to sweat the small things and to just go with the flow.

Going with the flow means chilling out and watching the sun Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Going with the flow means chilling out and watching the sun
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Anyway, I asked for tour prices at the only place that was open and it was 420pesos for a 12hr tour, but not including the 490peso boat ride to see the whales. That seemed kinda steep to me, and it seemed more practical to gather some people to rent a car and go together. So I abandoned the idea of signing up for a tour and headed to the beach. The rest of the day was spent pretty much entirely at the beach with Rudd and some of his friends. Lovely people, Argentinians.

Beach time! Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Beach time!
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

The next day, Katherine and I decided to rent a car with Philippe, a guy I met in Buenos Aires who was arriving in Puerto Madryn that day, to go to Peninsula Valdes. Just our luck, we couldn’t get a car, and it was pretty late in the afternoon, so it didn’t make sense to go and have to rush back. We ended up going to the beach and walking around.

Beach buddies Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Beach buddies
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Katherine had to work the day after, but Philippe and I set out on a mission to go to Peninsula Valdes. It was just our luck that we had huge problems getting the car (again – our credit cards didn’t work because we needed bank authorizations) but we finally managed to rent a car (slightly over 800pesos not including gas with Wild Skies) and set out from Puerto Madryn at about 2pm.

(240) Miles to go! Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

(240) Miles to go!
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

It was a long drive to Peninsula Valdes (entrance 130pesos), but there was some amazing scenery,

The vast nothingness Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

The vast nothingness
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

And we spotted some guanacos!

Spot the guanaco! Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Spot the guanaco!
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

I even got to drive for a bit once Philippe decided I wouldn’t drive the car into a ditch or kill us.

I swear nobody got hurt Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

I swear nobody got hurt
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

In Peninsula Valdes, we saw penguins up close!

Entirely unperturbed Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Magellan penguins 
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Cute little critters who didn’t seem bothered by the fact that people were standing not two meters away from them cooing over their cuteness.

Check out my belly Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Check out my belly
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Whatchu lookin' at? Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Whatchu lookin’ at?
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Then it was off to find the sea lions, the elephant seals and the orcas! Being the delinquent tourists that we were, we obviously stopped where we shouldn’t have and took a walk down to the beach. We were greeted by some amazing views that made the trip pretty much worth it (:

Birds flying highhhh, they know how I feeeeeeel Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Birds flying highhhh, they know how I feeeeeeel
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Penguins taking to the sea Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Penguins taking to the sea
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

When we got to the official view point, the sea lions and elephant seals were lying on the shore, sun bathing.

Sun bathing sea lions and elephant seals Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Sun bathing sea lions and elephant seals
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

It was an amazing sight, no doubt, but I had been spoilt by my up-close-and-personal experience with sea lions in Mar del Plata, so I was pretty disappointed.

Nice view though Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Nice view though
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

I spotted a cute lizard Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

I spotted a cute lizard
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

And there were no orcas ):

Closest I got to orcas in Peninsula Valdes Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Closest I got to orcas in Peninsula Valdes
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

It was getting late by then, so we started making our way back to Puerto Madryrn, and we saw the cutest little guy running across the road, and found him hiding in a bush. (:

Armadillo butt! Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Armadillo butt!
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

After that, it was back to Puerto Madryn for dinner, and since we still had the car for the night, we drove out to the beach to look at the moonlight. So so so beautiful.

Full moon, but no werewolves Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Full moon, but no werewolves
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

We only had to return the car the next day at 2pm, so Philippe and I headed to Punto Lomo (entrance 50pesos) in the morning with the hopes of seeing more sea lions and elephant seals. But again, we were disappointed because the animals were so far away 😦

Over the cliffs and far away, sea lions come out to play Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013 Photo credit: Philippe Torres

Over the cliffs and far away, sea lions come out to play
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013
Photo credit: Philippe Torres

We left pretty quickly after that, and passed some sand dunes that were pretty, and pretty fun to run up and down and roll around in.

Me on a dune, for perspective Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013 Photo credit: Philippe Torres

Me on a dune, for perspective
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013
Photo credit: Philippe Torres

(I forgot to bring my camera out, so these are Philippe’s!)

We headed to the bus terminal to buy our bus tickets after that, and that was pretty much it for Puerto Madryn. It was disappointing because I didn’t get to make friends with the animals, but I did make some great people-friends and that made it all worth it.

Goodbye Madryn! Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013

Goodbye Madryn!
Puerto Madryn, Dec 2013