Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Travels Continue

The bro and I have been traveling for about 3 weeks now. Since our time in Torres del Piane, we headed up to Pucon. We stayed there for about 3 days. While there we hit up some hot springs, took a quasi horseback ride to a waterfall, and climbed the Villirrica Volcano. Unfortunatly there was not liquid hot magma at the top, only really nasty gasses spewing from the caldera. Pucon was really chill this time of year and we enjoyed our stay there for sure.

After Pucon we had a marathon travel day. We took a bus 9 hours up north and were dropped off on the side of the interstate wondering how to get to the next bus station. We followed some people onto the next exit and caught a cab to the bus station. From there it was another 3 hours to Pichilemu, a dusty surf town on the coast. We stayed there 3 days taking advantage of the nice weather. We surfed both days and did some serious beach relaxing. We also got some uber delicious freshly fried cheese and chicken empenadas. Those puppies were delicious.

Now we are in Santiago. We met up with the sis and toured around town today seeing the big sights. We are definitly enjoying our time together.

Friday, April 25, 2008

In Patagonia

Well, my time in Puerto Williams is finished. My chilean friends wished me off with two nights of partying chilean style including two lambs grilled asado style over coals, plenty of drinks, king crab, and of course one last horrah at Micalvi yacht club. Since then, I met up with my bro and did some trekking in Torres del Piane National Park. We were treated to the true Patagonian gauntlet of weather including soaking rain, deep snow, tent pole bending winds, and flash floods. Despite the weather, a good time was had. For now we are headed north to Pucon to climb a volcano.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Dientes de Navarino 3: Brian 0

Wellp, Patagonian weather and the Dientes de Navarino chewed us up and spat us out once again. We got started nice and early, but to cold and rain. As we made our way above tree line, snow from the previous night covered the ground and heavy winds came up. The rest of the "trail" to Laguna del Salto is above tree line and is very exposed. The wind picked up as we made our way and it started snowing some more....almost blizzard conditions. We decided to try to bypass a section of trail by traversing a scree slope but it soon became apparent that it wasn’t working. We decided to descend the scree slope down to Laguna del Salto.

As we started down the slope rocks and boulders started tumbling below us. Andres was ahead of me and I looked down to see him stumbling down the hill at a running pace. He quickly loosed his footing and tumbled into some rocks. I yelled out, "Are you OK?" He quickly answered "yeah" so I took his word for it. After a minute I noticed he wasn’t moving so I booked it down to his position. It was clear that he wasn’t very OK. He took a pretty hard fall and really rammed his shins on the rocks.

After I made sure he hadn’t broken anything or had any very serious injuries, we made our way down the rest of the scree field. When we got to the bottom, we took another look at this leg, and we were surprised to see a large, very deep cut on his shin. I patched the cut up with some butterfly bandages, gauze, and duct-tape. Luckily it wasn’t bleeding much and he was able to walk without too much trouble. The storm was still raging as we turned down the valley back to Puerto Williams with about 5 miles ahead of us. Luckily I had walked the trail a few times and knew the route given the conditions. I booked it on ahead and made it back to the hotel before Randy and Andres, and met them at the trailhead with the truck. The doctors at the hospital were impressed by my butterfly bandage work and they stitched him up. (Note to self, buy more butterfly bandages). So now we are back in the hotel enjoying the warmth, but feeling a little bummed Patagonia triumphed again.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Strangers on this road we are on,
We are not two we are one...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Very Special Excursion

After a few days on the boat, I quickly leaned what it meant to be the 3rd crewman on the boat…it meant I got all the most undesirable and more dangerous jobs. While sailing north on the Drake Passage one afternoon, a strong gust of wind ripped the clew of the jib off leaving the sail flopping in the wind. Our efforts to save the sail were futile and it quickly started ripping in the strong wind. We rolled up the sail, hoping it would be stay rolled tight to the jibstay.

Later that afternoon while laying in bed listening to some music, I was startled out of boredom to the ever popular shout “Brian, where’s Brian.” I rolled out of bed and Carsten said to me, “Brian, we have a very special excursion for you at the front of the boat.” “Oh great,” I thought, “what next.” I put on my gear and wet outside on deck. The weather had calmed a little in the late afternoon, and the sun was shining on the waves. Carsten was holding some sort of seat harness and the sail was completely unrolled off the jibstay but was stuck half way up. Carsten explained that we had to get the sail down before the wind got stronger.

I put on the seat harness and tied myself in to two thick ropes that went up and back down the main mast. Silke and Carsten attached the other end of the ropes to two winches. I walked to the very front of the boat and attached myself to the jibstay. As you may have guessed, the bow of the boat takes the brunt of the waves and moves up and down considerably more than the stern, making it nearly impossible to even stand up without holding on to something. I gave a thumbs up, threw my legs and arms around the past-vertical jibstay, and they started cranking the winches, slowly pulling me up.

I eventually reached the part of the sail that was jammed, about 30 feet above the churning sea. Being up that high and attached to the jibstay, every movement of the boat was magnified. I was flung back and fourth as the boat bobbed and swayed in the waves. I tried to free the stuck sail, but it wouldn’t budge. My only option was to cut it away. I pulled out my trusty knife and made quick work of the rope that held the sail to the jibstay…mission accomplished.

The picture below shows me once again on the jibstay, but this time in the calm of port in Ushuaia.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Antarctic Wildlife

OK, here is the rundown on the Antarctic wildlife. It is everywhere, and completely ignores humans. For example, it is possible to walk among thousands of penguins in the middle of their rookery and watch mommas feed babies, mommas “exercise” the babies (running around on the rocks), and general penguin life. There is a downside though. Yep you guessed it…these guys smell. I would even venture to say that one can smell them from a mile away if the wind is right. Plus when visiting the rookery, you are constantly stepping and slipping around in their guano. Cleaning the boots in the ocean is a must after the visit. Despite this, the babies are cute and the adults are just pretty ridiculous, especially when hopping around on the rocks with their wings out for balance. When in the ocean, they also swim in flocks (is a group of penguins called a flock???) and regularly jump out of the water like a spawning salmon.

Whales: also abundant throughout the Antarctic Peninsula. I am not sure what species we saw though, but we saw many, some only 15 meters from the boat. We also had a pod of dolphins ride the waves off the bow of the ship, leaping into the air as we cruised south across the Drake Passage. One of the highlights of the trip for me occurred just as we left the Peninsula and headed north. I was sitting alone looking back towards Antarctica when the dorsal fin of a killer whale silently rose and sank back into the ocean about 50 meters away. I intently scanned the ocean for the next few minutes and saw 2 or 3 more orcas break the surface of the water for air and then they left as quietly as they came.

Fur seals are also everywhere. I was impressed how well the can hop around on the rocks. We also saw crab eater seals and leopard seals.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Antarctica part 1

I´m back and alive after my amazing trip to Antarctica. Hmm, where to start. There is so much to say… I think I will try to write a few of the better stories in the following days. I will premise these stories with a general account of the trip. Here goes…

I joined the Santa Maria Australis, a 60 foot ketch sailing yacht, in Puerto Williams. I was the third crew member with a German skipper and first mate. There were 5 guests aboard, 2 Germans, 2 Russians, and 1 Spanish. Luckily everyone spoke good English. Our first day was spent sailing East, down the Beagle Channel. We spent our first night Harberton Bay, the sight of one of the first missionaries, Thomas Bridges, in the area. The next day we said goodbye to the calm waters of the Channel and entered the menacing Drake Passage…

For the next 4 days, our heading was due south, behind moderate wind and waves. We lucked out and had relatively good weather. I don’t think the waves ever grew bigger than 15 feet, but I did get a little sea sick. I am proud to say that I did not throw up though. Life at open sea was a bit monotonous and boring. We drew straws for watches and I ended up having the 2:00-6:00 AM & PM shift with the Sergi, the Spanish guy. During the watch, we took turns at the helm, keeping the ship on course. The graveyard shift was pretty hard sometimes, especially as we neared the Ice (Antarctica) and had to be on iceberg and growler (small chunks of ice) watch. During these watches, one of us steered and the other stood outside the cockpit in the wind and snow, peering into the dark, foggy gloom. One couldn’t last long outside in those conditions (especially at 3:00am) so between the two of us on watch, we switched every 15 minutes. When not on watch, there wasn’t much to do…I did a lot of laying in bed, listening to music.

We finally reached Antarctica bringing with us poor weather that never really left. Nearly every day was cloudy, cold, rainy, or snowy. Despite the weather, we still had a great time.

Anyways, once we reached Antarctica, we spent one night in a spot and moved through the channels and islands the next day. At each spot it was my job to go out in the zodiac and secure 4 or 5 shore lines from the boat to large rocks. This often proved to be a challenge especially when trying to pull 75 yards of 1 inch thick line from the boat. On the bright side, I became really skilled with tying the bowline knot.

We were able to stop at many Antarctic bases of different countries and visit them. Also, we saw many ruins of old waling stations and such. We reached our furthest south point just south of Vernadski Station. From there we turned north and headed back.

Well, that’s the quick and dirty of it. Stay tuned for more details…