Wednesday, February 01, 2006

January 10-23, 2006: Buenos Aires - We arrived in the evening of the 10th around 7,8, or 9...I can't remember. I still wasn't feeling well, so I couldn't really get out and see or do as much as we wanted. poor Ziad. We only had 1 full day in Buenos Aires and I happened to get usual;-) We did walk a little bit around the main center. What a beautiful city. The architecture is so detailed and there's just the feel of great energy that comes naturally with a large city. Luckily, Ziad managed to get in some shots of the city. Here are a few photos of the buildings, including the one where Eva Peron stood on the balcony and expressed her love to Argentina.

A few more random shots of buildings:


Later that evening we went to a tango and dinner show...This was fun. We really enjoyed the those women can dance with those shoes and that speed is beyond me. Very passionate and beautiful. There was a 4-person orchestra (is that the proper word for only 4 people??) and 2 singers accompanying the performance.

Think any of you men could do this move...??

There were 3 pairs of dancers and many beautiful costumes, but I'm still not the best at taking all these fast-moving shots with my camera, so not too many shots came out. But, here is the encore:

Sooo, that was our 1 day in Buenos Aires. We'd love to go back again and take more time to explore the city and enjoy the excellent food. For now, we leave for Colombia tomorrow morning.....and so ends our trip to Patagonia (Chile and Argentina) and this blog.....finally:-)

January 10, 2006 - Penguinitos

The tour of the penguin colony was excellent!

We drove for about 2 hrs. to reach the penguin's breeding ground. Over 1M penguins, including their babies! These were the Magallenic penguins and not the Emperor penguins (Antarctica). A little smaller and patterned differently from the Emperor penguins, but amazing. The only difference between the Magellenic penguins and the Emperor penguins (as we understand) is the Magallenic penguins will breed with the same partners for life, or until one dies and they will give birth to 2 babies. Whereas, the Emperor penguins will mate with a new partner every year and pop out only one baby.

Since the babies were born in November, they were almost as big as their parents, but they still had their grey fur coats.

We watched as the parents took turns to walk to the sea to get food and then bring it back to the nesting grounds to feed the babies. For some of them, it was a long walk.

These guys let us have our photos taken with them:

....And this little guy was just begging to have his photo taken!

Too soon we had to leave, but it was a memorable visit. If you haven't seen the documentary film "March of the Penguins", we really reccomend it. The film will give you great insight and respect for the penguins.

Same day - We visited a Welsh community thereafter, which was really interesting. It was fascinating to learn about how the Welsh came to settle in this region. I believe it is now the 4th generation of Welsh inhabiting the area. The Argentinian government recognizes the Welsh language and so the area is officially considered bilingual. If I remember, this is a photo of the school in the community - bilingual: Spanish and Welsh.

Went to a "Ty House" where Princess Diana visited (or, we think she visited this tea house).

The tea was excellent (they really know how to brew their tea) and they give you homemade bread and jam/butter and an assortment of baked goods. So good. We ate most of the goodies before we took the photo, but you can still some of the good stuff.

It was a very good day. We left that evening for Buenos Aires.

January 7-9, 2006: Puerto Madryn - We arrived late in Puerto Madryn on the 7th. Our flight brought us to Trelew and we caught the last bus to P.M. around 11/11:30 pm. We decided to rest the next day instead of going right away on the wildlife tour to Peninsula Valdez. We arranged to go the following day.

Peninsula Valdez is a wildlife Mecca and is located on the eastern coast of Argentina. Whales, sea lions, elephant seals, few penguins, etc. We were excited to go and is the major reason why we came to this area. We rested the Sunday - visited the marine museum (excellent)and walked along the beach. A very lively and fun beach life. It's a nice summer town. Had dinner at a wonderful restaurant. The seafood was excellent and served in a way different to what we were used to.

The next day, it rained and, unfortunately, the tour operators cancelled the trip out to Peninsula Valdez. Poor road conditions. We were upset, but what can you do? We would still leave for our visit to the penguin colony the next day. This was what we were really looking forward towards anyway.

Another day of rest:-)

January 6-7, 2006 - We missed the last bus to the park yesterday, so we stayed in Ushuaia. It was windy, chilly and rainy. Visited the local museum and took a tour of the Beagle Channel in a quaint old style boat "Barracuda". Saw plenty of sea lions and comodores on the little rocky islands. Those sea lions are brutal! Unfortunately, Ziad's digital camera decided to retire and we were left with my SLR....these photos will have to be updated later.

Our last day in Ushuaia - we went up to the National Park for the day and hiked around. Very pretty area. We walked through a UNESCO Heritage Site. The photos don't really capture how lovely it was,...well the "photographers" couldn't, but here are a few shots anyway.

There were so many beautiful white flowers.

We leave for Puerto Madryn tonight.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

January 5, 2006 - Tierra del Fuego Ushuaia
We are taking the bus up to the National Park, Tierra del Fuego tonight. We will camp for a couple of days. We miss the parks already. Not sure what to do when we're in the city. We eat a lot.

Tierra del fuego = "land of fire". The first of the explorers arrived during the fall season when all the trees and plants were turning colours. The area was coloured in reds, gold, orange and yellows and it looked to the explorers as if the land was truly on fire...thus, the name. I think it was Darwin who was among the first of the explorers, but don't quote me on this.

We heard another funny story - In one part of the park, some brilliant (or idiot) person transported about 50 Canadian beavers to the area for reasons of starting a leather industry. That failed. But, the beaver population has since flourished and now beaver dams have become a real big problem here. There are no natural predators to keep the beaver population in check. The area is identified as a tourist spot "Canadian Beavers". Don't think Joe Canada should be raving to loudly about our proud Canadian beavers.

January 4, 2006 - Ushuaia "fin del mundo" (end of the world)
We were supposed to leave for Ushuaia around noon today, but our flight got delayed until 3:30. We tried to get breakfast in El Calafate, but we finally realized that breakfast or the North American concept of "brunch" doesn't really exist here. Everyone is up late and nothing really gets going until late morning. We finally found one quaint cafe (gourmet chocolate store) where we were able to get a breakfast sandwhich.

The flight took only an hour and a quarter and we went with LADE. At one point, the plane shook violently and I think most people had a slight heart attack...myself included. When the plane stabilized, you could hear all the "click clicks" of the seatbelts.

We finally made it to Uhuaia. This is the most southern city in the world and its name stems from the Yamanas, which was one of the 4 indigenous groups that once lived in the area: "Bay to the West". Most of the indigenous people died from the diseases that were brought over by the Europeans.

It is a beautifully situated city surrounded by mountains and water. Very windy. Walking along the waterfront, it reminds me a little of Victoria.

Not sure what our opinions are yet of this city.

January 3, 2006 - Back to El Chalten
It was a good thing we decided to hike the last hr. to Mt. Fitz Roy yesterday, because the weather looked pretty crummy today. There was a thick cloud over Fitz Roy's head. Quite grey and overcast. Looked like it would rain, so we took down our tent pretty quick and ate our oatmeal. Our bus for El Calafate was leaving tonight at 6pm from El Chalten, so we decided to get an early start to our hike out....well, "liz's" idea of an early start...we left camp by 10:30 or so. It was a 3hr hike back to town and very easy terrain. Mostly flat and downhill. Fine by us.

There were a lot of day hikers coming to view Fitz Roy that day. Hopefully the weather would clear up for them. But, by the time we reached town, the rain started coming down and it got cooler. The rain didn't last long.

We met up with the same Indian-American from yesterday and went for lunch at one of the more popular little restaurants. Homemade pasta. Very tasty. Ziad's been enjoying the popular Argentinian beer "Quilmes". Light taste. I think he liked the coffee here as well. Strange, you would think that you'd get excellent coffee in Argentina and Chile, but everyone (foreigners) hasn't been too impressed with the taste. Mostly instant stuff. Evidently, the good coffee is exported to other countries, while the not-so-good stuff is kept in-country.

The bus picked us up at the main hostel and it took us 4 hrs. to get back to El Calafate. By the time we got there (10:30pm)very lively with tourists and Argentinians. January/February is Argentina's holiday. Since Argentina's economy has weakened over the last few years, many Argentinians can't afford to leave for other countries during their vacation time. Instead, many of them head down to Patagonia. We liked the fact that the tourist industry was not only catered to the foreigners, but also affordable to the Argentinians. This is different in other countries, like Peru where the locals can't afford to eat in the same restaurants as the foreigners.

There was still a lot of life on the streets when we went for dinner around 11:30pm.

January 2, 2006 - Camp Poincenot
Ziad woke up to try and catch a photo of the sunrise on Torre. Think he woke up at 5am...I don't know how he gets up so early, but he did get a great shot of the Torre...there was a lot of cloud cover, but otherwise, the shot looks great.

Each of the towers are named after its respective founding explorers: Fitz Roy, Egger, Stanhardt.....It's amazing how all these explorers navigated their way with simple equipment during the early days. Here we need our gortex and thermal polypropelene clothing, thermarests, and toilet paper to survive the evenings. Not sure how much stuff these guys had with them.

We set off for our hike to Poincenot (3-4 hrs), which is at the base of Mt. Fitz Roy. Pretty terrain and good weather. Once we turned around to the other side of the mountain range (where you get a view of Fitz Roy), the wind really picked up.

We set up camp and left for the 1hr. steep climb to Mt.Fitz Roy. I don't think either of us were into another steep climb at that moment, but we went. Had to burn off all that meat we'd been consuming in town. It was overcast and there was a wicked glare off of Fitz Roy's glacier, but we got a good view of the tower. Fitz Roy is the largest tower (torre) in the park and since the weather is ever-changing, you're lucky if you get a good view of the peak. We did. We relaxed up there for an hour or so. Met a very funny Indian-American who trekked in from El Chalten for the day.

Got back to camp around 7pm or so and had a gourmet meal of plain pasta and tomatoe sauce. We did have creamed corn soup for appetizers...may not sound like much, but it was actually really tasty. like i said, everything tastes good when you're camping:-)

January 1, 2006 - New Years Day, Cerro Torre
Day 1 of our 3 day trek. Today we head to Laguna Torre, where we will camp. Took us about 3.5 hours and it was a nice moderate hike. Lots of vegetation in this area and we had good weather. Before I forget, here is a shot of El Chalten....

We arrived at our campsite early in the afternoon. The granite towers are beautiful...nice lake at the base of the Torre from the glacier melt-water.

We've been eating very well....ever notice how delicious camp food is? Doesn't really matter what you eat, it all tastes like the best meal you´ve ever had. Pasta with plain tomatoe sauce never tasted better! We had tea and chocolate up at the Laguna as the sun was setting. It was a bit cold, but lovely.

We met a nice American couple who are traveling around the world for one their honeymoon. What a great idea. They've been traveling for 7 months now and had some interesting stories to tell. Nice people. Nice conversations. It was a good day.

.....btw, Ziad and I got engaged:-)

December 31, 2005 - New Years Eve, El Chalten, Argentina
We spent New Years Eve in a small town about 4hrs drive north of El Calafate. We will start our 3-day trek around the Los Glacieres park and make our way to the well-known Mt. Fitz Roy.

The town is not much to look at when you first arrive. Tin roofs, run-down looking shacks....but, when you enter any of the little buildings, it´s so very different. The interiors are well decorated, cozy and very charming (cabin-like feel to them). There are quite a few hostels, cafes and restaurants....good food and good drinks. The Argentians who work in the hostels/restaurants only live here for 6 months of the year. The winters are too cold and there´s not that many tourists who come to the area to make it worthwhile to stay open year-round.

We enjoyed a nice steak dinner tonite. When they serve steak, you pretty much get the whole cow minus the head. So much meat. I felt like a waster, since I couldn´t eat even half of my dinner. Like I mentioned before, any meat lover would love this country.....Should've taken a photo of that steak.

The main hostel had a New Years Eve party, so we went and checked it out. Very lively and fun.

Well, Hapy New Years everyone. Wishing you all the best in health, love and all that other good stuff in 2006!!!