A Travellerspoint blog

The Adventurer Chronicles 3

Day 3

sunny 25 °C

19/2
I was shocked to find myself sharing a dorm with a millionaire whom has already retired at the age of 30. He was really just living the life travelling the world and exploring new places and doing new things. I wondered when he will get bored, if ever.

Today, I will have to double back to Las Torres and head uphill towards my next checkpoint at Chileno. It wasn’t going to be a strenuous hike, or so I thought. What was planned to be a leisurely stroll back turned out to be a painful uphill hike with my backpack, through the blazing heat. I took a shortcut to Chileno that brought me through the hills and muddy soil. I should have known shortcut doesn’t always mean the easy way. At least I didn’t have to hike back the way I came and a new route would be more exciting.
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The scorching heat made it difficult to hike for long periods of time and the route didn’t have as many streams to replenish my water supply. I found myself constantly stopping to take a break and felt weak as I didn’t have much to eat. After an arduous climb uphill, I finally arrived at Chileno, which was nestled between the mountains and the river. It was a very pretty site, with the massive river and lush forest surrounding the area. I barely could stand on my feet when I arrived and immediately asked for something to eat. That night I had the most satisfying dinner I had in those few days, a warm lamb chop with rice on the side. I really needed that meal.

Posted by dmak 13:14 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

The Adventurer Chronicles 2

Day 2

overcast 15 °C

18/2

The entire refugio was almost vacated. No more sounds of rustling bags or people walking in and out. I was pretty much one of the last few to leave that morning. I had a speedy breakfast of leftover tuna and bread and bolted off. It was 1100hrs when I left the refugio. I was worried I would not be able to make it back in time before dark because the hike today would be a long hike uphill and back down again. I would have to hike for 5 hours to the lookout to take some pictures and another 5 hours back to camp. Fortunately, the hike today promised to be less gruelling without the added 20kg backpack behind me.

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The hike today proved to be more interesting as well. From the get go, the weather was already proving to make my day a challenge with strong winds blowing in from the west. Sea spray peppered the trail as I walked by the lake with the winds blowing me off balance more than once. I walked along the lake while being buffeted by the gale storm, then hiked through foliage in the jungle as I went deeper into the mountain pass. Then I had to hike up loose rocks that were quite treacherous because one loose stone would have dislodged the whole side you would be climbing on. The views and surroundings were amazing; as I walked pass the different faces of the mountain. I felt like the mountain was alive as each time I looked at it, something seemed to change and happen, from the distant rumbling of an avalanche to the clouds that kept hovering and changing above it, the raging streams and waterfalls that flowed down the side to the glaciers on the skirt of the mountain, every aspect of the mountain was living.

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The trail brought me close to the side of one of the bigger mountains, Cero Paine Grande. At the bottom were the glaciers and the raging rivers splitting the valley into two. I finally reached the lookout after a steep climb up by the side of a waterfall. I don’t even know if that was the proper trail but it was a fun climb. The lookout did not disappoint, but the clouds around Paine Grande prevented me from taking any good photos of the peak. The lookout was sandwiched in between Paine Grande to the left and the peaks Cerro Norte, Mascara, Hoja and Espada. The peaks were what I was walking beside yesterday while hiking to the campsite. It was quite majestic looking upwards at it from a close distance.
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On the way up I met a guy named Clayton from Colorado. He was a professional climber and told me many interesting facts about mountains and stones. He was the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to mess with as he climbs up mountains with his bare hands and even sleeps on the side of the mountain! It was not entirely a free style of climbing with no safety but it wasn’t Aid Climbing which they use steps to move around, he explained. He mostly just uses his own strength to climb the mountain and told me he wanted to climb one of the Cerro’s which basically were the tower type of mountains which were a vertical climb.

After bidding Clayton goodbye at the campsite I continued my hike back to my camp. The hike back was surprisingly quick as it was mostly downhill. It was good as the sun was still quite high in the sky. I made it back to camp and had the usual tuna and bread for dinner. I am honestly not planning to eat any more tuna for awhile after this. It was then I realized I had run out of rations for the trip as the customs into Chile confiscated my bananas and some other food I brought in. It was torture just smelling the aroma of food being cooked wafting in the air by some of the campers and inside the refugio where people were eating the hostel food. The thought of a warm meal made me think of home and of my family and friends. I ended the night with a little taste of home with an instant Old Town White coffee.

Posted by dmak 13:12 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

The Adventurer Chronicles 1

Torres del Paine

sunny 27 °C

Day 1
I groped around in the dark trying to make sure I had sorted everything out and packed all my stuff. It was 0500hrs and I had about 3 hours sleep that night. The bus ride to Torres del Paine took about 7 hours. I managed to make up for lost sleep time on the bus. I finally crossed the border into Chile. The bus ride took us through empty plains and flatlands that belonged in a Western movie. Patagonia was pretty much a desert.

The tour guide into the park was giving us some information on the types of wildlife that you would expect in the park. Guanacos, emus and condors were just some of them I could remember. Guanacos are what they call the llamas there. We stopped at a couple of spots to take some pictures of the mountain and the three peaks. I finally arrived at my drop off point at Laguna Armaga and bid the rest of the group farewell as they continued on with the tour. I picked up my backpack and started my first hike to the first checkpoint at Hotel Las Torres and then to my checkpoint at Las Cuernos. The entire journey was estimated to be about 6 hours. Not the nicest thought when you have to carry with you a 20kg backpack going uphill and through streams.

The journey brought me through hills and flatlands for the most part. Horses could be seen grazing in the distance and if you were lucky, maybe you would spot a condor flying overhead. The hike gradually got steeper and I found it more difficult to keep my balance as I hiked over lose rock and sandy ground. The view was not as amazing as I expected but I still marvelled at the massive lake to my left and the towering mountains to my right. Being excited on the first day of the trek, I literally took pictures of everything till I realized, they were all the same face of the mountain and the same lake! The trail took me across raging rivers and small streams which was pretty cool as I had to cross these obstacles with my huge pack. I was very impressed with how well my shoes held up against nature. I really love my waterproof shoes.

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I finally arrived at Refugio Los Cuernos at 2030hrs. The sun only sets at 2200, so it was still very bright when I arrived. What a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when I finally set my backpack down on the floor. The campsite was tucked away nicely in a small valley between the mountain. I stayed at the refugio which was basically a hostel at the campsite. The camp was full of people setting up camp or lining up to use the bath or inside the cabin grabbing a bite or just hanging out with friends. I walked down to the lake and opened my can of tuna with my blunt can opener from my Swiss knife and had my dinner watching the sunset by the lake overlooking the Andes in the distance.

Posted by dmak 20:03 Archived in Chile Comments (1)

A turn for the worse

Wednesday 16th February 0500hrs

We would never have seen it or expected it. Here we were, walking down the street to our next accommodation which was with a couchsurfer named Alan. It wasn’t some dodgy small lane and neither was it at night. It was in broad daylight down a main street on a sleepy Saturday afternoon. The only problem was, there were very few people walking up and down the street. Suddenly, a man stopped Justin, telling us we had some dirt on our back. As we were carrying all our belongings with us, we couldn’t really see behind so well. Our huge backpacks were in the way and the guy was ‘trying’ to help us wipe it off.

He got Justin to reluctantly put down his small backpack. I could see him hesitate for a moment but gave him an assured look that I will watch it as I stood behind the man, wary of anything suspicious he might pull. Little did I know, I had been blotched with the same gunk that and Justin offered to wipe it off while he moved me out of position. At that point I thought Justin would be watching his own bag because now, I was in the front and couldn’t see anything while the man was behind me helping me wipe the stuff off.

My guard was still up and I was still wary. I quickly took a quick glance behind to see what was happening but I couldn’t see the man but saw a stumpy woman wearing a cap walk towards a car parked on the sidewalk. My eyes immediately reverted back to the spot where the bag lay and noticed something different. I quickly asked Justin if that was his bag. His bag had been switched and even Justin took no notice of it. I had to ask him again for him to realize that we had been robbed.

Everything of value he had had been lost. His passport, camera equipment, netbook and all his money. EVERYTHING! We stood there with our jaws on the floor. What the fu*k! We didn’t know what to do at that point. There was no one in sight but some lady and a kid asking us some questions in Spanish. As if we know what to say and at that point, we really didn’t know what to say. We look at each other with disbelief and tried to grasp the situation. I was trying to keep a cool head the whole time as it would be bad if both of us panicked. Justin was remarkably cool and kept his head as we both planned our next course of action. If it were me I would too distraught and possibly have had a breakdown at that moment. Really respect the guy but at the same time felt terrible for him. The trip had already been lost the moment he lost the bag.

We decided the best thing to do was to quickly reach Alan’s place which was just a street away and ask his assistance. What a way to greet someone you’ve just met for the first time. However, we were thankful for his help because without him at that point we would have no idea what to do or how to do anything.

After a very quick hello and a brief chat, we set out to make a police report at the police station. It took us 2 hours to make a simple police report. That shows how efficient the police in Argentina are. Even Alan says he hates the cops because of their incompetence. Even the police report that was given to us was WRONG! We had to go back the on Monday to change the report.

We had to also arrange to go to the Malaysian Consulate to process a new passport for Justin. Unfortunately the embassy was closed on the weekend and had no hotline to call to help us out. We were shocked there was no emergency contact for the embassy. When we went to the consulate on Monday, we had to wait 5 hours to be told that the officer in charge is not coming in on that day. What shitty service! Luckily, we managed to bring forward our situation to another person who was there. Even so, we received even more disheartening news when we were told that Justin could only get an emergency certificate which was only valid to exit Argentina. That was another big blow as that would mean he had to go back and could not continue his travels. My heart sank as well knowing that I had to make the decision to either travel alone or go back with him. We tried to keep a positive attitude and asked for exceptions or some other consideration. We wouldn’t know if Justin would be able to continue until today when he has to go back to the embassy to hopefully get some good news. Even so, both of us are pretty much mentally preparing for the worse that can happen.

So here I am at the airport at 4am in the morning, trying to catch a flight to El Calafate without Justin to hopefully salvage something out of our plans only to be greeted with more bad news at the airport which informed me that there were no reservations for our flight that we missed on Monday and all other flights were full. I was supposed come to the airport to be on standby for any flight out, paying a fee of 100 pesos from the same airline, Lan Chile. That was what they told me to do but here I am, without a name on the registry, not booked into any flight. The only thing I could think of was, do I give up and go back or try other options. I decided to purchase another ticket from Aerolineas which cost a lot more and be on standby again. I would try for all times for the day until 2pm because they are all full. At this point I am not looking very optimistic about anything. What a holiday this has been so far.

On a brighter note, we visited a small town outside of Buenos Aires called Tigre which a town in the middle of a delta. We took the train from Retiro station which only cost 3.50 pesos for a return trip. One thing is for sure public transport here is ridiculously cheap.

Once there, you could take a boat down the delta to see all the houses and hostels on the side of the river. We didn’t get to move around the town much, but we felt much safer than in the city. We took quite a lengthy boat ride up the river to a small island called ‘Tres Bocas’ which we just walked around seeing the fancy houses and watched the boats go by. People could also be seen kayaking and enjoying the day along the banks with family and friends. The town also had an amusement park which looked pretty decent and was pretty full of people even on a weekday. We missed out seeing the casino and the fruit market which were the other attractions but it wouldn’t have been anything spectacular. It was a good breather to take our mind off all the bad luck we been having. It was not spectacular but at least we were still trying to enjoy ourselves. Even so, this is already a holiday I’m sure I won’t forget.

Posted by dmak 11:44 Archived in Argentina Comments (0)

Let's all dance the Tango

A holiday doesn’t really feel like a holiday when you have to wake up at 6 every day to go to catch the bus or take the subway to go to school. Well…that’s what it has been like for the week. Getting shoved onto the bus or the train every morning, worrying if there will be enough space on the bus to even get on or getting squished so tight you feel like you are breathing directly from someone else’s breath. Yeah….im gonna miss these good times. Just when you start feeling like this is your home, you have to pack your stuff and move on.

I have yet to try all the famous foods here in Buenos Aires. I took a walk down one of the main avenues near our homestay and couldn’t help sneak a peek into the many food stalls, bakeries and restaurants I passed. The avenues here are main streets which stretch very far and most have the subway system running directly beneath it. The most famous avenue in Buenos Aires is the Avenida 9 d Julio which is the widest avenue in the world spanning a good 4 lanes on each side making a total of 8 lanes. They avenues branch off into smaller lanes that were mostly one way streets. It reminded me of abit like Melbourne’s lanes and grid system. Most lanes branch off into small cobblestoned streets with aged trees and quaint shops lining the sides, showing off some of the city’s French renaissance heritage. The rich architecture brought a lot of diversity to the city, bringing the historical background of Argentina to life, even though I don’t know much about it. I’ll have to read up more about it. The main streets were always lively. People can be seen queuing up at bus stops where the line never seems to get any shorter. On the street, petty vendors and people giving out flyers are almost everywhere.

The food I have been eating has mostly been home cooked food for dinner and simple fast easy meals for lunch as we have only a short break. We did try some very nice empanadas, which was one of the things you must try when you travel to Argentina, which were fancy curry puffs that you could choose different fillings. Another dish you have to try is their grilled beef. Thick, huge slabs of meat grilled to perfection, tender and succulent….. yeap the steaks here are a gastronomic explosion.

There is also the tango. What else can I say about this sensual and alluring art? That’s exactly what it was. The way the man presses the girl close to his chest, as both partners glide across the dance floor, feeling the passion of the music and each other…that’s tango. They are so immersed in their dance that they are closing their eyes and just feeling the music. It’s a wonder that they don’t dance right into another couple. Music and dance is truly part of the Argentinian culture. Night carnivals and dancing in the street is not uncommon. Anytime you can hear a beat, there would probably be people grooving out to it. We went for a tango ‘class’ of sorts but it turned out to be more of a night of people just bumping together and stepping on each other’s feet as there were so many people but so little room. The following night, we went for a supposed tango show which turned out to be more of a skit, which was organized by the school. Was not something I was expecting and was quite disappointed. Still, it was good to be out with everyone and meeting more new people along the way. The school does organize daily activities for the students which could be anything and everything from bicycle city tours to football matches and even clubbing events so it really is sort of like university and it allows you to broaden your network of friends whilst you study. I wouldn’t mind doing this in other countries as well.

The night life in Buenos Aires does not disappoint, with heaps of food to gorge on until the wee hours in the morning and bars and nightclubs with the party only starting at 2am. Don’t the people here ever sleep? Partying, drinking, and tango. What a way to live.
By next week, we would have left Susanna, our homestay parent and our other friends we have met at the homestay. It was quite a saddening feeling to be leaving the people there that made the place feel like home for a week.

Posted by dmak 11:42 Comments (0)

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