Reflections on the Journey Home

This morning wasnt too stressful surprisingly – the airport in Santiago is certainly not as chaotic as Juliaca up in the Andes or Lima in Peru and we were flying Qantas which was departing on time unlike almost all the Lan and Aerolineas flights we had taken. We managed a visit to the American Airlines lounge at the airport and purchased some pisco sour to help us come down slowly on our return home…

I almost burst into tears when I boarded the plane with my smiling hola and the nice man grinned back at me with a big “G’day!” It was so unexpected and I think I was both exhausted and overwhelmed with everything we had done and everywhere we had been. Muchas gracias may stay on the tip of the tongue for some time me thinks – but that G’day greeting was more welcome than you can imagine!

My beloved was happy too but not quite as emotional as we sat in our beautiful big new Qantas jet ready to head home, but as soon as we were in the air his emotions were a little different. The older Spanish lady in front of him reclined with her head almost into his lap and stuck her feet up on the seat in front! TThis was before the seatbelt light had gone off! Reminiscent of the Macchu Piccu bus ride without the knee cap problems! Fortunatemente she was disturbed by the fact that husbands tv screen kept bouncing her seat back (I cant imagine why?) and she relocated to a spare seat on the other side of the plane which was left by passengers stranded in Buenos Aires through some sort of strike in Argentina – obviously they dont just put rocks on the road over that way. Ironically her seat was then no longer reclined!

Anyway all is well in the air somewhere over the Pacific between Antartica and the South Pacific Islands. (dont worry I’m not going to send love messages through the fancy little messaging system this time (might end up going to the lady who just moved) – I’ll just stick with telling him personally!)

What interesting and or useless things have we learned?

There are eucalyptus trees all over the place – originally imported from Australia (at least we saw a lot in Valparaiso and Peru (where they are used a lot but also considered pests) – I noted the locals in the Andes like to sniff Eucalyptus to keep their airways clear.

The pre-Inca language spoken by the locals on the floating islands of Lake Titikaka has a lot of similarities with Japanese and many tourists come from Japan solely for that reason.

Wild pigs left by early explorers and settlers are a problem in Patagonia just like they can be in Australia.

The dogs I originally thought were starving and too tired to move are actually fed by everyone making them too lazy and too fat to move!

Condors only prey on the dead – so dont stop for too long in remote wilderness regions lest you be mistaken for the dead!

Flying from Juliaca to Lima over the Andes was interesting and bumpy (read frightening) and we still dont know why people decided to climb them and live there (post Inca and pre Inca included).

I dont think anywhere really looked like Julia Creek but then, I’m not the expert on Julia Creek so maybe husband was right everytime.

If you really want to try roasted guinea pig (cuy) you should ask for it without its head as the mouth roasted open suggests the poor little thing was screaming as it was cooked (dont worry we didn’t eat them).

Watch out for dog poop everywhere you walk, and I mean everywhere! – only the national parks are safe from this problem.

Vegetarians and people from some Asian countries have more trouble with Altitude sickness than we did because they are picky eaters and dont eat enough red meat. (That is according to one of our tour guides and may or may not be true – maybe you can check wikapedia again).

Much to the horror of my beloved I may have exposed myself to future imprisonment – I have become a law breaker – yes I admit it – I crossed at lights that didnt say walk – many many times! (even when police were present with big guns and battons!). I accidently took some photos when I wasnt allowed – and last but not least – This may or may not result in breaking laws – I signed things that were in spanish and I had no idea what I was signing! But if we wanted to stay in those hotels – or go on that tour – we had no choice. Someone had to sign!

Husband is confident that either speaking Spanish or being with someone who speaks some Spanish is mandatory for many of the places we visited particularly if you are not on an organised tour! In my opinion even where we had organised things it is useful knowing how to say “necessito bano ahora!” (I need the toilet right now!) Or “Help – Ayuda my wife has just been sick on the floor!”

So what was great about the trip and what experiences were the best?

First of all I think the fellow travellers we have been fortunate to have come across have made the trip so great – mostly sharing experiences in Patagonia, Argentina and Peru. Firstly Marilyn and Lloyd both in the bus and at Ushuaia, and all the Canadian adventurers, Ginger and Gail and Carol whose hiking prowess and friendship made Torres del Paine and Cape Horn such a pleasure (and who donated a great Steinbeck book to the library in my pack), particular credit to Carol whose patience and photographic eye inspired us to stop every now and then to smell the roses metaphorically speaking (and photograph the smaller things), (hopefully we will hear from one or two of them soon as they visit downunder), Stacey and Lorena who we need to thank with a big dinner in Oz or Hawaii some time.

Ulrich and Heike also stand out for hiking prowess and great company (must be because they’re German lawyers) it may well also be the French Valley hike and the sharing of the heirloom brandy made by Ulrich’s father which ensured they will always be remembered! Only sorry we didnt have the stamina to stay longer at the bar at Iguazu and keep up with them!

Of course the tango girls Cassie and Stacey who hiked the Inca trail were inspiring and great fun and numerous others who sat and chatted with us on trains, boats and buses (and in bars and restaurants) giving us tips and patiently listening to our stories over and over and over (especially the one about the lost gopro!) (actually maybe I was the only one who heard that one over and over). I think it is fair to say that fellow travellers develop a unique bond regardless of where they are from and its nice to sit and have a drink and a chat and debrief after some of these experiences or to share tips for future destinations.

Due to the nature of the trip it was difficult to get to know the locals well – especially when my basic spanish did not extend to Glaswegian or Swaheli dialects and husbands Spanish was non existent! Nevertheless there were some great moments communicating with people all over the place – often when ordering one thing and receiving another! The young boy at the airport in Buenos Aires and the little boys practising English on the plane to Puenta Arenas also stand out.

As far as tour guides go Juan Adriana and Diego stand out in Torres del Paine and for much of our journey as being helpful, entertaining and filled with enthusiasm. (And for ensuring I did not fly to Antartica like Mary Poppins would have if she was there!) For most of the Argentinian adventure we were our own guides although Ulrich and Heike’s driver “omar” in Iguazu was a great catch. Cusco saw us being passed between a few different guides that followed script to the letter teaching us about the Spanish and the Incas. The pickups and dropoffs in Peru were always on time and well organised although these tours, while being informative and, at times, necessary, were usually quite strict and with minimal humour (a bit of laughter goes a long way when you are faced with such horrors of history and physically exhausted). Macchu Piccu was, thankfully on our own! We would say the diving team and Scuba duba in Puerto Madryn were great too and I am thankful fear did not prevent me from playing bait to the orcas for that one day. My beloved tells all it was the best diving experience he has had so that’s saying something for someone who has had so many dives! And finally of course one must learn to tango in Buenos Aires without question! A failure to partake in this dance of love is to deprive ones senses of the electricity of one of lifes great thrills (especially if your beloved is as hot at tango as mine)! lol.

For me must sees in these parts of world are Valparaiso, Torres del Paine, Cape Horn, jumping in with the sea lions in Puerto Madryn, both sides of Iguazzu, Cusco and Macchu Piccu – I’d head to Titikaka to see the floating islands but I’d try and find a private driver and check out some not so touristy stops up on the altiplano. Husband would say Puerto Madryn diving. There are obviously many other places we did not get to and others will suggest Antartica (it was so close) or the Argentinian Glaciers and hikes near the border to Torres del Paine – we were challenged quite enough given anyway that we live at sea level and rarely see a mountain at all, let alone the ones they have in South America! And frankly our trip to Cape Horn was fantastic and we were pleased to have made the landing!

We genuinely feel so privileged to have been able both physically and financially to have partaken in these experiences knowing there are many less fortunate who may never have these opportunities – although I will say with a backpack and a cheap hotel or hostel (and an uncomfortable bus) – its surprising how far the money can go if you at least have the physical capacity. Hopefully sharing the stories and a few of the photos might give some pleasure to those at home (especially those who should have been looking after the animals and mowing the lawn) and to others who have taken the time to read and follow this blog.

We hope that if you’ve met us along the way or even if you just enjoy the blog you will put a comment up and keep in contact with us! Editing and photos will be uploaded when we return home so stay following to ensure you catch the updates.

We will also be back soon with more adventures – next time the Camino – until then Adios!

 

Our sea lion trip – Was it the calm before the storm?

I do hope not. But since we disembarked from our sea lion trip the wind has steadily increased throughout the day. I have also received a message from the airline saying our flight was leaving earlier than planned. Fortunatemente (my second most favourite spanish word) this will be our last Aerolineas flight as the rest are with LAN. Aerolineas seem to like changing schedules and might be this continents answer to Jetstar!

Anyway another lady informed us that it is going to be very cold tomorrow so I guess we were more than lucky to strike the perfect day for boating and snorfelling.

I am just reflecting back again and forgot to mention that we bumped into our favourite Canadian couple again in Ushuaia (you know Lloyd and Marilyn who caught the bus with us from Punta Arenas up to Torres del Paine). It was like meeting old friends – when we went to find our luggage there they were looking like the professional hikers they are, lighting up the room with their smiles – they were checking in to head to Antartica – they had caught the 12 hour bus across from Chile a day or two before and by all accounts we didnt miss too much flying out of Ushuaia on the day we arrived – we had a few hours to walk around town and check the joint out. We still hope to see the German hikers again at Iguazu Falls and to catch up with our other favourite single Canadians Ginger Gail and Carol in Oz and or Canada and might even visit Hawaii and catch up with Lorena and Stacey one day. Who knows whether Adriana and Diego will ever make it to Oz but that would be great too.

Anyway another night has passed in Puerto Madryn, after the sea lion adventure we explored around town a bit. Rather than the touristy spots we headed out on foot to see a bit of the real town. Not overly attractive i have to say and since leaving the far South there are notably a few shady looking characters hanging about. I remember when we arrived in Punta Arenas our taxi driver Roxanne told us that the people in her town were “muy amable” very friendly and she was right. So for a while since flying out of Santiago we have been able to relax a little and enjoy and the broken zip on my pacsafe bag has not seemed such a problemo.

On our walk around we also dropped back in to the dive shop (Scuba Duba) – the nice people who had taken us out to the sea lions and found out that this town has a very unique celebration on and under the pier during holy week. They do the stations of the cross above and under the water. The priest gets decked out in dive gear and says the prayers from lit up crosses underwater and his voice is heard on the surface – it sounds like the whole town gets involved so if anyone is really looking for a unique way to celebrate their Catholicism we may have found it! Get your scuba gear on and get into it! (or apparantly stand on the pier with thousands and watch from above!)

 

This morning the wind is still up and I am glad that our boat trip yesterday was on the perfect day. Husband did not contract my tummy bug fortunatemente however he awoke in the middle of the night with rather severe coughing and seemingly a chest infection. He was whinging a bit yesterday but it wasnt too obvious because our morning with the sea lions was so good. Anyway out came the medical cabinet again. Hopefully he chirps up soon – we are flying to Buenos Aires today and guess what! Its time to tango!!!!!

believe it or not this is me with sea lions behind

a quick scratch on shore

 

Dont Cry for me Argentina!

The truth is I never left Chile! Yes that’s right, I think I’m having Chile withdrawals. We disembarked in Ushuaia yesterday morning and, due to Aerolineas schedule changes, had to fly out the same day to Trelew. There we thought we’d get to look around a bit but the transfer to Puerto Madryn was almost immediate. We caught a toyota coaster bus, not unlike the one Mum did tours in Cooktown in when we were kids, the bus followed a long straight highway past massive wind generators and local jails it seemed  to be without so much as a turn for at least an hour and a half. Would you believe it – husband thought this country also looked like Julia Creek. Julia Creek isnt sounding that unique anymore is it?

Anyway checked in to our hotel and, to be honest, we were glad we didnt have all three nights reserved. We immediately set about finding something a little more comfortable and after finding a nice little place just down the road to move into tomorrow, we found a dive shop to make some reservations and a pizza joint for dinner and went back to our not so good room to sleep.

Today was a little brighter – there are two lovely girls at reception and we managed to get into our room almost as soon as we had checked out of the other one. On the down side, for siesta this afternoon it sounded like mum and dad had left the kids to create havoc in the room next door. I called downstairs and the noise soon abated! Dont mess with me little Julio! Perhaps he was sent to one of those lovely prison farms we passed on the way here from Trelew. We never saw him again!

So what do I miss about Chile? The fact that cars actually stop when you are standing at a crossing, (whether you want to cross or not); in Magellenica the people smiled at us when we walk into the shops and one lady who served us something kindly gave me a penguin with a missing beak! I love that he is the underdog so he sits on my table each night keeping watch as we sleep; the fact that we have endured some of the most extreme weather and made some great friends whom we hope to see again soon also made it a little hard to leave. During these extremes we still managed to sight see and hike (that includes the heat in Santiago and the horizontal sleet in Torres del Paine, and the freezing rain on the steep climb at Cape Horn). I also miss the language would you believe – suddenly we have left Glasgow and landed in the middle of Welsh Patagonia where the menus are different again! I think this time we could compare the language to Country Irish (with a mixture of Welsh) and we even went to a Welsh bar (unintentionally) last night. In addition to missing Chile I still miss my salad and vegetables from home. It seems that vegetables are seen as an unnecessary evil in these parts. I almost have to beg for some greenery on my plate!

You may recall that this stop in Puerto Madryn was necessary so that my beloved could scuba dive with sea lions. Personally, I was on again off again about snorfelling with them. That documentary we saw showing the orca’s teaching their young how to swim into the beach and eat the sea lions at Peninsular Valdes may well have had something to do with my trepidation. We were afterall on the South side of Peninsular Valdes! Then that mantra I had repeated played in my head one more time – and I remembered the regret I had after I didnt go on the ride in Disneyland and everyone said how much fun it was. So, orca or no orca, I signed myself up for a dip in the freezing cold Patagonian waters so I could snorfel with sea lions whilst my beloved blew bubbles from below. I would not regret sitting this one out!

We were up early which surprised me given the fact that we couldnt get our dinner last night before 10pm. After wandering aimlessly seeking an open restaurant I had purchased a nice little handmade leather bag at the night markets we had stumbled across (concerns were raised by husband that I may not have a need for another bag when I return home as I have so many – good grief has he learned nothing in our 23 years of marriage – one can never have too many bags (oh thats right thats meant to be shoes!) Oh well.

Anyway we made it down to breakfast in time to view a vast array of cakes and sugar coated cereals, hiding amongst the pancakes and sweetened fruit. We both managed a te negra con leche (black tea with milk) and I snuck in a sugar coated croissant. Off we headed along the shorefront on one of the most beautiful days we had struck. If we could have planned perfection we would have planned this day. So at the scuba shop I found myself a little hot once suited up in double layer 7mm wetsuits. We climbed a manmade sandwall and climbed into the boat for a trip across beautiful calm waters passing the comerant colonies and large caves in the fairly desolate looking coast line. Yep you guessed it, if Julia Creek was on the Ocean apparantly this is what it would look like! We were glad we hadnt bothered to go driving around here yesterday as we could see the lookout where all the tourists were taken to view the sea lions from the land.

Finally we dropped anchor and I found myself swimming amongst schools of sea lions. The trouble is they were better at holding their breath than I so they would pop their heads up and then go down very rapidly, I would tread water with my mask off wondering where the head was going to pop up again. To begin with while this is going on I can here the jaws music in the back of my mind and I could see the orcas in my imagination. As a few minutes went by I could see my husband below and I started to relax a little, the sea lions kept brushing past me rubbing my leg like a puppy dog would if I was sitting on the lounge. One finally decided to lay down in front of me and let me rub his belly. I do not regret this trip at all!

On the way back the divers had another stop at a shipwreck which was in reasonably shallow water. Rather than sit out and get bored I was offered another snorfel. This seemed all right but alone again I could hear the jaws music playing in my head – in addition to seeing Jeffrey Rush come swimming up in Pirates of the Carribean! So the nice young lady driving the boat said hold on, I’ll come with you it can be a bit scarey swimming around a wreck alone. She quickly grabbed a snorfel and mask and fins and jumped in and escorted me all around the circumference and over the top of the deeper parts of the wreck – so now I have not only snorfelled with sea lions I am also an experienced wreck snorfeller!

My beloved was thrilled, the sea lions loved him, they may have found him quite attractive I feel, they were biting his hand playfully and throwing somersaults in front of him as he cruised along below me. This was definitely a day to remember! Thank you Argentina!