Sunday, June 26, 2011

Puertoooooooo Maaaaadryyyyyyyynnnnnnn

Our goal may have been achieved, but the journey is far from finished. From Ushuaia, we still need to get back to Canmore AB. 

Sadly, we turned north and began our return journey. Being so near the winter solstice, we finally realized how far south we were. From morning till nightfall the sun never reached above our windshield.  We continued on, until we found our next little paradise. 

This was a spot Teresita told us was a must see so we decided to check it out and were not disappointed.

This is Puerto Madryn. In the months of Dec-Apr penguins frequent this area, along with seals, sealions and orca whales. Unfortunately, due to our timing, we weren't able to see any of these. Luckily, however, our timing was bang on for the whale season here. At times, we could see over 40 in the water at once. 

Shona takin in the view.


The million dollar whale-tail shot.

What did one gansta whale say to the other when he got too close?
Why you gotta be all up in my KRILL??????

This turned out to be a huge highlight on our trip up to Buenos Aires before we get ready to ship the van to North America.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Land of FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!

Certain mishaps with the van (gas, repairs and quite a few of them) have put us WAY behind schedule. Recognizing that we had a bit of a timeline to make a ship in Buenos Aires (still over 5000kms away) with just short of two weeks to go, we headed straight for Tierra Del Fuego. To get there, we had to take a ferry, as it is the southernmost island of Argentina. The night before taking the ferry we had an opportunity to see an awesome eclipse by chance.

A quick ferry in the morning...

...And we were on The Land Of Fire

However it was quite cold and the police were stopping EVERY car to see that they either had studded tires or chains. The roads looked fine but nonetheless we weren't allowed to pass without putting on the chains that Andrew had the foresight to insist on buying.

The drive into the southern part of the island was fantastic.

Actually, pretty epic.

Into The Great Wide Open... Thanks Mr. D...

One of Shona's favourite mountains of all time.

It turned out that there was quite a bit of snow on the roads after all.

The approach...

For those of you who aren't completely fluent in spanish like we are, it says "Ushuaia, end of the world". 

Even the graffiti punks are proud of their town.

If you do the math from the next two photos, it only took us 44,653kms to get here. No big deal.

We made it. 305 days later we made it. 15 countries, 44 653 kilometers and thousands of memories later we made it from the most northern accessible road in Canada to the most southern city in the world, Ushuaia.
There were no fireworks, fan fare or people cheering as we rolled into town, but there was a little celebration going on in my mind.
We weren't exactly sure how to act. There was a definite sense of joy and accomplishment that we had finally made it after all the difficulties and obstacles that had been thrown in our path. But for some reason there was also a small, tiny inkling of sadness. Although we have a long 2 months ahead of us until we arrive back in Canmore, there is no longer a solid objective. We achieved what I set out to accomplish 5 years ago on a training camp to Ushuaia. People laughed and scoffed at my idea of one day driving to the so called "end of the world" but for some reason I always knew it would happen one way or another.
Looking back now it was much harder than I had ever imagined. Dealing with car problem after car problem definitely brought on a few early on-set grey hairs, but I know that as time moves on I will remember only the great parts and the lessons learned. The friends made and the laughs shared. The waves caught and the walks enjoyed. I have met incredible people and caught up with friends from whom I had slowly drifted apart.
So all in all, Ushuaia wasn't mind blowing. For me it was great to relive some of the memories of ski racing with some of the greatest friends a girl could ask for, but more than that it was simply a dart in the bullseye of the statement; "Life's a journey, not a destination".
We are not changed people simply because we went to Ushuaia, but I do believe we are changed people because of the friends we have made, the countries and cultures we have experienced and the time we have spent exploring a small corner of the unbelievable world we live in.

And now as we head north we think of the 36 000 kilometers we have to travel before we get home. In the meantime, we'll just enjoy crawling out of large cans...

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Few along the way.....

So I think we must be getting close by now. There is snow in the mountains and we are starting to wake up to frozen water bottles again....

Not to mention animals we don't normally see further north - like Flamingoes....yes, its real.

 And gangsta Milodons....(otherwise known as a really big extinct sloth, think Sid the sloth)....

This is his lair. He loves checkin out the Patagonian mountains.

La renard, (ok we have those in Canada) but here, he is known as El Zorro....

Shona is such a big deal that they even name rivers after her here!!!!

Perito Moreno... The Good One

We finally got gas. 38 hours later at 10pm we filled up our tank and extra jerry cans, ready to leave first thing in the morning. Here is the ridiculous lineup for gas... it went on basically all around town.

When we left the town, Perito Moreno, we hopped straight onto the infamous Ruta 40. Known widely as a super gnarly road that eats tires we were a little apprehensive, but ready to take it on, as we have seen our fair share of gnarly roads. We were hoping we wouldn't come across some of these speeding trees. I'm sure they could do a number on your vehicle.

The road ended up being okay. A lot of the section we drove was newly paved although sometimes it was actually better to drive in the ditch than n the actual road!

We saw an unbelievable double rainbow that, although i didn't cry over, it was pretty spectacular. It was too huge to get all in one frame.

We were pretty excited to get to the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciers National Parque. Not to be confused with Perito Moreno the town... or Parque National y Reserva Perito Moreno. Luckily we ended up at the correct Perito Moreno and stopped to snap a picture of the first glimpse we got of the massive ice sheet.

From far away it was pretty impressive but for up close it was jaw-dropping. Pictures never do things like this justice, but I did my best. It quickly rose up on our list of highlights on our trip as we watched in awe as chunks of ice calved off and dropped forcefully into the lake creating huge waves and crazy loud cracking sounds.

We ended up poaching some camping within the National Park... Even though it is technically not allowed, no one bothered us and we managed to catch the glacier under a nearly full moon.

We awoke to the sun clipping the peaks of the snowy mountains and we walked down to check out the glacier for the third time. It was amazing to see the different shades of blue in the ice.

One more shot of the glacier. I couldn't stop snapping pictures!

We didn't end up going to the town of El Chalten which is the jumping off point for Mt. Fitz Roy as it was pretty bad weather the day we passed by. But we managed to catch it from a distance!

Man, we've come a long way. I can't wait till we can finally plot the end of the road on the map once we are there!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Perito Moreno

We are stuck in Perito Moreno right now. When you look up Perito Moreno,
Argentina on the internet, this is one of the many astounding images
you find of this amazing glacier, which is very high on our list of things to see in Patagonia.

I say IS and not WAS, on our list to see, because unfortunately, we are not stuck in THAT Perito Moreno and have yet to see it. We are stuck in THIS Perito Moreno which is slightly less appealing and about 500 km north of the glacier. 

Why, you might ask? No, its not car problems, and has nothing to do with our little stowaway... It seems there is an extreme shortage of gasoline in this area of the country and this town, along with any other town we can reach with our remaining fuel. We have been here 2 days now waiting for the gas truck to arrive, and its interesting what you see while you are patiently waiting for the truck to come to help get you on your way. One of the first things I noticed, was that the gas station is not in fact totally out of fuel. This I know because I saw many friends of the gas station attendants come up to the station with jerry cans, hand over the cans, the attendant disappears for a few moments, returns with full cans, an exchange of money for the cans are made, and the friends go happily on their way. When I inquired about this, I was simply told the boss decides who gets the gas, and apparently, we do not. 

This is the gas station that is supposed to get gas. We have been parked here since 11am waiting for the truck that should be arriving at 4pm today, and only now realized that we should have been in the line up of cars around the corner waiting. I just went and parked the car in the line which now has 104 vehicles ahead of us. COME ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Of all the things I expected to hold us up on this journey this was the last thing........

We can only hope that this truck will in fact show up today......

Ok..... so to pass the time and cool my mind, I thought I would include some shots of the great parts of Patagonia that we have encountered so far.

On our way south from Coyhaique, the road happened to be closed and they ushered us onto this ferry without a word. We could only assume it would take us where we wanted to go, so we went on without any questions. 

It turned out to be a cool ride and even saw a pod of dolphins - but missed the photo op. 

Further south along the 7 in Chile, Shona was lovin' the big leaves. I don't know what it is that she loves about 'em, but they are pretty big.

It's almost like west coast Canada. 

We were super stoked to get back up above the snow line. The mountains are amazing here!

If we ever get out of this town, the next blog should be pretty sweet!!!!!!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Best At Both Ends

I've known for sometime that I belong in the mountains. Don't get me
wrong. I loved the time we spent beach hopping through Central America
searching for the perfect wave. I loved exploring new cities, new
cultures and new landscapes that are not so familiar to me.
But sitting here in the middle of Northern Patagonia I fully accept
the fact that the mountains are, and always will be home.
Lately the trip has been stressful to say the least. If its not the
engines, its the shocks. If its not the shocks its the brakes. If its
not the brakes its the water pump... and if its not the water pump its
a... MOUSE? Come ON! As if this van isn't challenging enough to keep
on the road, a friggen MOUSE has to make our engine its home and start
chewing its way to the complete destruction of our motor! Unbelievable
I tell you.
But enough about our problems. I was talking about Patagonia.
We finally left the Ruta 5 endlessly making its way down the 5000
kilometers of Chile at the town of Osorno. We almost immediately
encountered greatness. Huge snowcapped volcanoes (one of which,
unbeknownst to us was to violently erupt mere days after we passed it)
and beautiful green forests with rivers that we could fish! We settled
right back into our northern ways, scoping out quiet spots near lakes
and rivers.

This I believe is Volcano Osorno... only about 60km from Volcano
Puyehue which errupted on the 5th of June spewing tons of ash into the
air and causing the evacuation of over 3000 people from their homes!
Luckily we passed a few days earlier!

Fishing again! Andrew couldn't be happier (at this point we didn't know about the mouse!)

Our first glimpses of the beauty that is Argentina!

First of all... We made it to Argentina!!! If only for a few days before heading back to Chile... But we made it!!
Our first stop was San Carlos De Bariloche. Home to the Simari-Birkner family. The entire family makes up the whole of the Argentine Ski Team! It was so awesome to see some friendly faces and they welcomed us with open arms. We were so thankful to catch them as they flip from from the World cup winter in Europe to the South American Cup winter in Argentina and Chile! We loved their little ski town of Bariloche... I loved it so much in fact that it was the VERY first place in the entire trip that I declared I could live there.
So thank you so much to all the family for being so welcoming and providing us with a long missed taste of home! Good luck this season!

An amazing wooden sculpture in the hippy town of El Bolsen

Nothing like a stopover at a brewery.

Mmmmm Beer tasting

Back out in the wilderness is where we love to be. Even with the endless rains we have been having, nothing can dampen our spirits!

Patagonia up close! Its gnarly like that

Just one of the many crystal clear rivers snaking through Patagonia.

A real campground! Seeing as it is the off-season here we didn't even have to pay. Bonus!

We have definitely been loving Patagonia and we know there is still another 2000 kms of big mountains, rushing rivers and massive glaciers. Crossing these two great continents from the far, far north to the deep, deep south, we truly have discovered the best at both ends.