Saturday, February 12, 2011

Patagonia Update # 3



We just returned from a weekend in Chile, where we visited the hot srpings of Puyehue National Park, the cities Osorno and Puerto Montte. It was a blast! Below are some pictures I took and a few I scrounged from the internet to try and convey the beauty of these places.

Osorno, for me personally, was lack luster. I am sure the town has some amazing history, but it lacked the qualities that attract me to an area of high population density. The main themes were big malls and mega grocery stores, ''Am I back in the US?'' I had to ask myself... blah!

Puyehue, really nice. The hot springs vary. There are modern enclosed pool-type of hot springs, and there are outside flows of thermal waters cascading into human-carved pools. We opted for the indoor ones because they wer eless crowded. But, the next time around? We want the most ''natural'' looking that we can get.

I'd like to come back and visit the park itself more, do some hiking around the border of Argentina and Chile. In fact, I have found a new climbing goal - its called ''Pantojo'' or by some ''Pantoja''. It is a 1,000 foot volcanic plug. More on that below.

Puerto Montt was beautiful in many ways: It touches the Pacific Ocean (my first time to the Pacific in the southern hemishpere-the only other time was in Seattle visiting my older brother), it has houses and other buildings in a slew of pastels and other vibrant colors, these categories remind me of many a classic fishing town I have visited: Seward, Alsaka; Yellowknife, Northwest Territories; Kennebunk, Maine; Seattle, Washington. I have seen a few. The personal downside, which I won't spend to much time on, is that I found a lot of things representative of the yearning to be like Yankee Gringos. That's right. I said it. Their is a three level shopping mall with KFC, Pizza Hut, and lots of other stores that are similar to those we find in the US, but, instead of being a touch of home... it came off more as an urgent wanton of the Chilean people to try and emulate USA as much as possible for simply the comfort of their south-bound tourists from the north. It was almost like an attempt to immitate a land with an economy that they so desire, while forsaking their identity as a beautiful, tranquil little fishing town in the southern most reaches of the conitnental western hemisphere... So the store fronts in the mega mall and the urban planning of neo-shopping complex meets olde-towne fishing village remain dissonant in my mind, while I am still excited to return to eek out the parts of Puerto Montt that speak to me more... We were a bit rushed because we were 4 hours away from the Argentine border and they close at 9 pm. So, we had to boogie out of PMontt if we expected to arrive back safely in our own beds in Bariloche for work onMonday morning. Mission accomplished. I also found a cool hooded sweater, which was an un mentioned personal mission for me in Chile. The best hooded sweaters? Are made in Chile. Check.

TRONADOR. (album link)

I went to Mount Tronador (translation: The Thunderer), with three friends a few weeks back. We went as a team of four with the goal of summitting Peak Argentine. This was a true gift for me because I was able to hang out with three Argentine friends, all who speak fluent English, but who are also awesome at helping me hold myself accountable, so of course we spoke almost entirely in Castellano. Amazing. No, on top of speaking entirely in Castellano, I was on the sharp end of the rope- in the lead, route finding through the crevacced glacier fields and all.

We started our hike from Pampa Linda and made our way to Refugio Otto Meiling. The ''refugios'' (translation: Mountain Hut) are not some primitive escape from the rain. They are a fully stocked small-scale Andean hikers lodge sponsored by Club Andino Bariloche and the managers of each refugio receive a hefty concession for operating them. This ain't no tin roofed bivouac in the middle of nowehere. Ok, well, yes, it is in the middle of nowhere, but you can find sleeping accomodations upstairs, a full kitchen with amazing meals, local beer, Argentine wine, a candle-lit
intimate atmosphere where friends share stories of their day on the glacier, or the trek up from Pampa Linda, and where locals play the Argentine all-time favorite card game Truco.

The short story is... we didn't summit. We made it to a place called ''La Entrada'' or, the entrance to an area known as the ''Deprersion.'' No this doesn't mean we all became instantly very sad, and therefore had no cahrisma with which to summit, the Depression is a lower flat spot that scientists believe was part of the throat of the volcano that was once there. Tronador was three major peaks: Chilean, International, and Argentine. All three are right next to each other, thus stratifying the border between the two countries, and the trail to Picco Argentino stands where there was once a towering volcano, spewing ash into the air, with its approach trails that are now known as the arms of Lake Nahuel Huapi. more on this guy later...

We didn't summit because the snow was pretty ''blandito,'' or thin. It was like walking in medeival golf shoes (crampons on plastic double-lined boots) through a marsh of Mashed Potatoes. Can you imagine doing that for 5 hours? So, we could have made it to the summit, returned to basecamp as night was to fall, only to be wasted of energy, unable to cook dinner with only enough sense to lie there and hope that someone would make our feet feel better.
Or, we could call it an amazing experience in judgement and decision making after considering our then-currently delicate balance between exhaustion and ahtleticism (sometimes int he mountains the two can mix so subtly it is hard to tell which one you are actually experiencing). We returned to camp happy, hungry, and yearning to return the following spring (November, December) to give it another go.

I personally feel great about the outcome. We went for a walk on some glasciated terrain, roped up and everything, and we could practice what we all need to practice the most: Route finding and decision making skills. Was I a bit dissapointed that I didn't get to use my new Black Diamond Cobra Ice tool? Yes. Will I live to use it again? Yes. So, all in all it was an amazing trip getting to know Diego, Letticia, and Esteban and sharing some good times with them. Woohoo!

BUILDING A HOUSE. (album link)

Something I didn't mention
is that I helped some dear friends work on a strawbale house they are constructing here in Bariloche. Eric and Erica are my friends, and they invited three gringos: Dan, Scott, and Tyler to come help. Those guys own a company called BUILD IT GREEN in New Hampshire, USA. They have since become good friends, and I look forward to seeing them next year, when we install the bales of straw, or ''Fardo'' as it is called here. ''Well, if you're buildin' a strawbale house but your puttin' the bales in next year, what the heck did ya do THIS year?!?!?!'' Well, we laborously unloaded to semi-trucks full of fesh cut Oregon Pine from 60 km south in a beautiful little town call El Bolson (More on Bolson later). We then maticulously measure them and cut them to form the Tennon & Mortise structure that serves as the skeleton for the straw bales. This wat of building if a very antiquated form of building houses (and furniture too!). It is a shame that we don't build like this more often in the States. In the US, we have tons of culdsisacs with amazing houses. But the fact is, these houses are built to last 13 years and then they start to fall apart. The crime of it all is that development builders in the States ACTUALLY PLAN FOR THIS. They know your house will far a part somewhere between your second mortgage, kids going to college, and you gazing towards retirement.

The follwing has been flagged for being an aside and an environmental opinion. It has been flagged as such to ease your flow of reaqding. If you've got the time, give it a read... if not? Hope you'll be able to when you've got more time...
That span of 15-20 years is when your house is in dire need of an update, not to mention thats when you'll be making the most money you'll ever make in your entire life and coincidentally when you also want to switch from your laminant floor to a nice hardwood. You'll probably go to Lowe's and select a model of hard wood floor that came from Indonesia or Northern Canada, both of which are great options... the thing is that the amount of transport that flooring has seen from the time its timber was felled until your walking on it in your house is such that the carbon foortprint of your new floor that you could only purchase after selling your third vehicle to kid down the street for his 19th birthday has made a significant envionmental impact between your house, your neighborhood Lowe's, and its original plantation from where the mass-grown trees originated, that the sun now shines brighter over Patagonia because of carbon dioxide emissions from a saw mill in Japan that actually set the flooring to size. Sheesh! Globalized Economy means Earth-sized environmental considerations to carefully ponder!!!!! Pardon my rant...

The truth is that we do have a structure that requires us to find parts from really far away. Sometimes thats really a cool conept, like having really quality cars from Japan, or Diesel to fill them with from Saudi-Arabia, or Gold to line the particle boards that are in the computer that regulate your cars operations from South-Africa. All of this is really a step forward for society. AND, when we all start to realize that this is one model of commerce,and that it just might be creating excessive pollution for our world...hopefully we have thought of a back up plan?
Of course Global Warming is a natural cycle.... I mean, so are Glacial periods people, and believe you me- I love ice ages.... seriously. Without them? I could enjoy summitting Tronador... But, also, the natural reaction to a period of cold is a period of warmth, but we humans are adapting and evolving and developing our own technology at a rate that may just aid int he altering of our climates ability to regulate itself. Puede Ser.
I digress.....

Building the structure of the house was real fun, here is a link to some photos of the process...


Since moving to Bariloche, I have found some work as an assistant to the guide for a company called PURA VIDA PATAGONIA ( Technically, because I do not have a DNI (similar to seocial security number) or an Argentine ID, I can not qualify to take the exam with the Prefectura (Argentine Coast Guard), or the exam to be a certified National Parks guide. Therefore, for now, I am guiding, but with more of a helper's capacity in terms of final-call decision making. This is a really good place to be. I can gain more professional experience, I can observe others and their decision making process, and I can help out good folks who want to guide clients through an amazing Patagonian experience.

Pura Vida Patagonia conducts many types of Sea Kayaking trips, and for right now, I am helping with half-day trips (an excursion of about 2 to 3 hours). Clients show up, we show them how their equipment works, how to saely exit the boat if it flips over, and what do to afterward. This is conducted in English or Spanish or both. I have needed to give the safety talk in Spanish. So, as my spanish improves, the comedy of my safety talk will hopefully one day decrease (and at least I can still laugh at myself). We paddle about, have a snack and return and that is all in a day for me. it starts around 1:15 pm and we finish putting gear away around 5:30 pm. There are many more fine details to it, but we can talk about them in person when you come visit!

MERIDIES ( is the second business I have been helping. recently we completed a three day adventure with clients from an agency called Adventure Travel. We sea kayaked for a day, wnet on a day hike to Cerro Llao llao, and then we summitted Cerro Challuaco with 10 clients. I look forward to helping Meridies int he near future.

I also have a dream to conserve Patagonia through education. I will implement an education program to local kids here in bariloche with a dual curriculum. !) To teach chuldren of Bariloche how to conserve energy and reduce waste in an urban environment through common sustainable living techniques for energy, water, and waste minimization. 2) To teach children of Bariloche what natural world exists outside of their urban zone in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi through real-time experiences in the surrounding Patagonia wilderness. These experiences will include bridging connections between the urban and wilderness areas of Patagonia.

I feel that education is the key to resource management and through a carefully planned curriculum, we can all conserve this beautiful place together.


There are more adventures to come. Watch for photo albums and more! Such as my Outward Bound courses down here!...

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