Saturday, April 28, 2012

An Ounce Of Prevention



I woke up this morning and heard raindrops on the tin roof. A pleasant sound if you're planning to stay under the covers. Not such a pleasant sound to hear if you want to ride some miles on a motorcycle.

My boots have not proven to be waterproof despite being marketed as waterproof with a gortex liner. I've tried protecting them with creams and waxes, but nothing has proven to work completely.

I thought that I'd make my own provision using duct tape.

I think it looks pretty diesel...what do you say?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Cueva del Milodón or The Day Of The Milodon

While staying in Puerto Natales I kept running into this figure


There was this wood carving


This painted mural


These street signs


This metal statue


And even a taxi company was using the figure. I really did not know what to make of it.


Then I ran into this couple, Marta and Alex. They seemed to be somewhat of experts on the figure. They told me that the figure was a milodon. Furthermore, they mentioned that there was a cave outside of the city which was reportedly where this milodon was first discovered. They said that they were actually going to visit the cave and that I could tag along if I wanted to.


After a 15 minute cab ride we arrived at the entrance of the cave. The entryway was huge...and the inside of the cave was massive. The cave could probably fit a entire football field inside. I was impressed. What kind of animal would need such a large cave within which to live.


I went inside the cave to explore, but really could not find anything except a few mounds of dirt, some holes dug into the dirt and... then... then... then I saw something at the entrance to the cave.


I could see a figure, but I could not make out exactly what it was.


Before I knew it something grabbed my head from behind. But, due to my prowess I was able to wiggle away.


It was the giant milodon! I grabbed a nearby stick to fend it off.


Marta and Alex who were nearby jumped into the battle. We were kicking, sticking and biting the giant milodon.


Then the milodon paused and said, "Hey, I'm just a giant prehistoric sloth. I'm vegetarian. I'm slow. You've got nothing to fear. I'm just a big sloth...dude."


I said, "cool". Then gave him a hug to make up.

For more about the milodon click on this link.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Torres Del Paine...Trekking The W

I met my friend Sarka in Puerto Natales.

I first met Sarka in San Augustine, Colombia and we went horseback riding. I saw her again in Quito, Ecuador and we shared a meal. Once again in Banos, Ecuador and we went out for a drink. Then in Ushuaia, we connected again. It's a small world.

It was in Ushuaia that we discussed that we were both heading to Torres del Paine and we decided to try to meet up and trek together.

Torres del Paine National Park is a park encompassing mountains, a glacier, a lake, and river-rich areas in the southern Chilean Patagonia. The park is located 112 km (70 mi) north of Puerto Natales. The landscape of the park is dominated by the Paine massif, which is an eastern spur of the Andes located on the east side of the Grey Glacier. Small valleys separate the spectacular granite spires and mountains of the massif.

Sarka and I met at the Erratic Rock Hostel which hosts a briefing every day with good info about trekking in the Torres del Paine Park. After the briefing, we assembled our gear, bought groceries and purchased bus tickets to the park. The next day we would start our trek.
Our objective was to hike the W... some say that the trek got it's name because the route resembles a W...but it was really named after me... W as in Wong.
Here is a satellite image of what the terrain really looks like...lakes, valleys and mountains.
Hopefully as we trekked the W we would have a chance to see the Torres del Paine, French Valley and Grey Glacier.
Was it a sign of good luck to come... a rainbow greeted us at the start.
There were refugios (cabins) in the park, but we elected to camp and pack our own gear.
I've always subscribed to the pack lighter hike faster philosophy... my pack is one the right. Sarka subscribed to a slightly different philosophy... her pack is the pack on the left. Her pack was easily twice mine in size and weight.
We started off at a nice and easy pace.
The first day of hiking would take us through this valley up to the torres...about 6 to 7 hours of trekking...all of which was uphill.
After about a quarter mile of hiking, I could sense that Sarka was struggling with the size and weight of her pack. Being the gentleman that I am, I offered to switch packs. I estimate that her pack was easily 25 kg or 50 lbs. I had a feeling that I'd be carrying it for much of the journey.
I was motivated... I could see the torres in the distance.
It was Autumn in Patagonia and it was starting to show
Count the colors if you can.
After about 6 hours of hiking we reached the Torres del Paine.
A pretty clear day and an unobstructed view. There was a glacier lake at the base.
I felt good.
We made it.
The majestic towers...what a first day. We would camp at Campamento Torres.

The second day started off with warm weather and clear skies.
No stylist needed... I let the wind style my hair.
The park really is a combination of wood, scrubs and thistles... it's beautiful and brutal at the same time.
The paths were pretty clear.
We traversed many rivers which provided our source of water.
The water was so clean that we drank it straight from the river without purifying it. Typically a wilderness no-no, but in Torres Del Paine the river water is safe to drink.
It's amazing how God can plant a seed and make a tree grow even on top of solid rock.
The second night we would camp at Campamento Cuernos. There was a nice refugio to rest and rehydrate ourselves. I ran into another friend and traveler named Alex (Germany). We were actually cabinmates during my trip to Antarctica. It's a small world.
On our third day we were greeted by another rainbow.
We would ascend into the mountains.
Pass the French Valley
The French Valley lookout... yeah, the views were alright.
Bright and clear day...amazing weather.
These trees were like bonsai trees... only they were crafted by mother nature.
The Britanico Lookout
Okay... these views were getting ridiculous. Snow covered mountains on one side.
And a kaleidoscope of colors on the other.
As far as the eye could see.
We passed through this area with old dead trees... beautiful in it's own way.
Strangely still and peaceful.
We would spend the night in Campamento Italiano. This is an example of one of the refugios within which we would cook.
The third day we would pass by an area that had been recently be burned by a forest fire in December 2011.
The trekker that started the fire said that he was trying to burn some paper to dispose of it.
He ended up burning 12.795 hectares, two thirds of which were grasslands and steppes, and a third native forest. About a 10% of the entire park.
Kids...don't play with matches.
Undeterred, we continued hiking.
I spotted this rock formation and do not know if it has a name. I'm going to call it the Jesus rock.
The outlined figure kind of looks like Jesus preaching... doesn't it?
A Hawk
We hiked along Lago Grey and spotted these icebergs. If you look close you can see a polar bear sitting on top of the iceberg on the right.
Another great day...another great hair style. This stretch of hiking was extremely windy.
Clouds in the sky and the light shining through produced incredible shades of gray.
A Woodpecker
We hiked to see this lookout
To see Glacier Grey
Glacier Grey.
We would camp nearby at Campamento Grey.
On our last day in the park, we hiked down from the mountains and saw these wind blown trees which had adapted to the environment by growing at an angle.
We neared civilization and Lodge Paine Grande
We boarded a ferry which would take us back to the bus stop.
Six days of beautiful scenery, up and down hiking, cold camping, lots of pasta and a bit of wind in our faces.
Chile... Patagonia...Torres Del Paine
This short 30 second video clip just about sums up my experience in the park...there were beautiful views, mountains, valleys, rivers, wind, rain, snow and sun.