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Monday, February 28, 2005

::[cumpleaños]::

oh yeah! happy birthday, tony! from the heart of the andes, no less. have a good one. -sis

::[glacial]::

alvaro, stef, and i spent the afternoon gawking at the perito moreno glacier, a monstrous river of ice so vast, it swallows up an entire mountain range. visiting the glacier was an incredible audio-visual experience: enormous chunks of ice cleave off the main body and crash into the river, then bob back up with such force, equally spectacular secondary and tertiary splashes are produced. even when the falling ice is out of sight, the continuous deep thunder of their breaking and impact can be heard from afar, resounding somewhere in the pit of your stomach. the glacier is almost hypnotizing in its immensity; it is far more vast than the eye can fathom. to add to the otherworldly experience, the tremendous shards of ice that splinter off seem to fall in slow motion. whenever you catch one being swallowed up by the water, the ground and air itself seem to shudder, and all your senses can't help but focus on that single movement as if it was the only living thing in the world. really, i can't think of anything more to say that can even approximate such a mindblowing experience. so this will have to do.

Friday, February 25, 2005

::[parque nacional]::

the geographical highpoint of our trip thus far: scaling guanaco peak in parque nacional tierra del fuego. the park covers the stretch of land where the andes mountain chain finally dives into the ocean. fantastic. i would hesitate to say that this was the emotional highpoint, however...since the grueling trek was a bit more than we should have undertaken as our inaugural hike. it involved a steep and twisted uphill climb for four hours. the last third of it soared above the treeline, where biting cold winds howled across the sheer stone face where the trail wound. let us say, scary.

it was the three-hour downhill trek, however, that did a number on our joints. my entire left knee, for instance, is all sorts of lovely shades of red, purple, and blue as a result of a big skidding fall. our bodies are pretty much made of pain at the moment...but at least we have the following sights to show for it.



success!! stef and i finally claw our way to the top of cerro guanaco.


see that lake down there? yeah, the one 970m down. that's where we started our hike. ow.


even though the stunning lago roca is a simple crater lake, the winds are so fierce, they whip up tiers of whitecapped waves.


the midway point of the trail...where we probably should have stopped, it being a beautiful enough vista for us. don't blame stef. it was me. stupid curiosity.


after camping (i.e. passing out) at our base camp at lago roca, stef and i oozed back to town and took it easy for a couple days. today, for instance, we took a 4x4 out for a canoeing trip in the nearby lago escondido (instead of hiking up to the ice caves as we had originally planned). there, we picked wild rasberries, watched the waves and trees in the wind, and relaxed. in the few days since we've been on tierra del fuego, i've already noticed a change in the color of the forests as autumn nears: many leaves are now tinged with bright orange and yellow. i'm sure this place must be amazing once the season fully sets in.

sadly, however, our stay in ushuaia is coming to a close. tomorrow, stef and i are taking an early bus out to punta arenas to meet up with her boyfriend, alvaro. if the fires in torres del paine are still raging, we will have to switch around our schedule and head to the glacier parks at el calafate and el chalten, argentina, first, then hope that either rains or firemen will have brought the blaze under control by the time we swing back to chile. keeping our fingers crossed...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

::[patagonian pix]::

welcome to the end of the world.


ushuaia, argentina
southernmost city on the planet



fuegian scenery


crossing the strait of magellan


sign says: welcome to the island of tierra del fuego


a sea lion roars


penguins!


my waddling friends


another sea lion colony


land of fire

...just a few glimpses of the trip thus far. explanations to come when i get back from the national park. big hike tomorrow, though...so it's time to sleep!

Monday, February 21, 2005

::[tierra del fuego - at last]::

after planes, buses, and boats (we had to take a ferry across the strait of magellan), we've finally made it to tierra del fuego! the landscapes of its northern half were undulating and sparse, carpeted with low-lying shrubs and dotted with occasional flocks of guanaco deer, sheep, and geese. hours of tumbling down dusty dirt roads eventually brought us to the southern reaches of the island, where the sun-bleached terrain abruptly changed to reveal dark, craggy mountains and dense forests. we reached ushuaia as the sun was setting; its golden light cast pristine reflections of the surrounding mountains across the surface of the beagle channel.

ushuaia is a quaint and lively little town...so lively, in fact, that stef and i had trouble finding a hostel with a free room. we finally hunted one down and are soon heading out to roam the town in search of some tasty eats. tomorrow we plan on taking a boat tour to nearby islands to ogle penguin and sea lion colonies, and the day after that, we will leave ushuaia for parque nacional tierra del fuego, where we'll finally get to do some hiking and camping. the weather thus far has been rather pleasant, so hopefully it will keep. i'm really looking forward to getting out there...if the inspiring scenery on the way down is any indication of the beauty of the national park, we are in for an amazing hike.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

::[only you can prevent forest fires]::

The flight to punta arenas is an experience in and of itself. flying the length of chile is like taking a one-day tour of the whole country. chile is so skinny that sometimes you can see the entire breadth of it from the plane---at once. today was an exceptionally clear day, so to the left, we were treated to some stunning views of famous peaks, like the steaming villarica volcano and the lone spire of mount osorno. they stood out against the backdrop of the rugged andean spine, with its maze of placid rivers and its isolated calderas cradling green-blue lakes. to the right, we could see each of chile's major ports and cities pass below us, strung together by long white strands of beach.

as an unexpected bonus, we even flew over the vast ice fields of the moreno glacier (which we will see close up later on), the fitz roy mountains, and the torres del paine national park, six thousand hectares of which is currently ablaze because some idiot tourist thought it was a brilliant idea to use a camping stove in a restricted area. the fire has been raging out of control due to the park's 80km winds and the national fire brigade has been called in. hopefully, it will rain tomorrow and the flames will be contained soon.

right now i am writing from a hostel in the coastal city of punta arenas, where stef and i spent the afternoon exploring and gathering provisions for our 12-hour bus trip to ushuaia tomorrow morning. for dinner, we stopped at a colorful cafe where i ordered a delicious king crab stew. i couldn't stop eating even though i had consumed way past my limit. this may explain why i am feeling a bit drowsy now...so i guess i should get some rest before we ride to argentina. till then!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

::[on the move]::

check out my new toy! by clicking on the "find me" link at the top of the page, you can track where i will be at any given point in time as i backpack the southern cone. cool, huh? i'll do my best to keep this blog more or less updated as i travel.

(note: the program works best with updated versions of flash, firefox, or safari. IE is sketchy.)

before heading out, though, gotta give props where they're deserved. first off, thanks so much to everyong at wri's info program. their kickass goodbye presents (an REI backpack and leatherman knife) are definitely being put to good use. a heads up also to quiltro, who set me up with his camping stove and cookware; to sam and nat, for mailing me real granola bars and all sorts of dehydrated comfort foods; and most of all to my lil' brother phil, for bailing on me at the last minute by breaking his ankle. sorry about your leg, phil, but jeez, talk about bad timing. get well soon, though, yeah?

well, i'm off...first stop: tierra del fuego. more specifically, ushuaia, the self-proclaimed end of the world, by way of punta arenas, chile.

Friday, February 18, 2005

::[rss etc]::

at the behest of the masses (i.e. kyle,kip, dan...), i've added a site feed to this blog. for you efficiency fans out there who refuse to make more than one stop for all your blogging needs, you can subscribe to my atom feed here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

::[the plan]::

three more days until stef and i begin our patagonian backpacking trek! our itinerary:

we begin at the island of tierra del fuego, the southernmost tip of the americas, where we will hike the region's bays, rivers, and coastal forests, with a possible stop by some penguin colonies (it's hatching season). from there, we'll move up the andean spine to parque nacional torres del paine. the park is known for its sheer granite peaks, brilliant blue lakes, powerful winds, and unique wildlife. after a camping along its five-day circuit, we will cross the border to el calafate, argentina, and spend a few days in nearby glacier parks, visiting one of the world's largest active continental glaciers: the magnicificent calving "el perito."

after the southern leg of this trip, i will immediately head to the north of chile, where the atacama desert hosts an entirely different experience. desolate martian landscapes, boiling geyser fields, colorful altiplano lagunas, vast salt flats and the like. is there an ecosystem that this country doesn't have? anyway...more on those plans later. gotta start packing...

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

::[año chino a lo chileno]::

in honor of the year of the rooster, i hosted a dinner at my apartment this weekend. friends whom i'd met through work, roommates, and the fulbright all responded to the call of homemade chinese food. well, maybe they were just responding to the sex, drugs, and hollywood celebrities i recklessly promised while making invitations. either way, it was a grand success.



clockwise: a) naty, pancho, me, andres, claudio, emily, patrick, and javiera pause for a pose; b) matias, gaby, and pancho keep it real; c) chatting with licelot & andres; d) the feast is set and the guests dig in. more random amigo pics here...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

::[help?...anyone?]::

i just installed a new commenting program but i think the code might be a little buggy. if anyone reads this thing, can you try leaving a comment by clicking the link below?

if there's a problem...please email me with details. i'd love you forever. thanks!!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

::[gung hei fat choi]::

happy chinese new year!

a word of caution for you lovebirds out there...apparently it is bad luck to marry during the year of the rooster. according to the china daily, "this year the lunar cycle begins relatively late, which means it will not contain 'lichun,' the auspicious day that marks the start of spring, earning it the dubious distinction of being a 'widow year,' or unlucky for wedlock." for the past few days, marriage registrations across china have been soaring because people are rushing to get hitched before the year of the monkey ends. thus ends my golden year...in a frenzy of love and desperation. now i just have to wait till 2016 before my zodiac sign gets another shot at the limelight...

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

::[the commute]::

i am finding that i actually look forward to my daily commutes. half of santiago is stuck on buses during rush hour, so vendors take advantage of the situation by hawking goods to captive audiences. my ride home from work is thus populated by a string of animated bus vendors, all promoting products in the same singsong cadence that most everyone here adopts when trying to sell something.

it's pretty entertaining, the variety of things you can buy on buses: popsicles, bandaids, recipe books, bra straps, writing utensils, medicine, sewing kits, flashlights, socks, breath mints, cell phone accessories, chocolates, CDs, jewelry, and, of course, live entertainment. take your pick of talented and not-so-talented guitarists, clowns, poets, singers, pipers, and comedians.

once, a man boarded and performed a series of uncannily realistic birdcalls using only his mouth and hands. he pretty much covered every native bird in chile. the passengers were impressed. strumming ballads seems to be the most popular musical act, but sometimes kids start beatboxing, rapping, or holding impromptu drum circles in the aisles. surprisingly, this is taken in good humor by the older commuters, who may not necessarily appreciate the entertainment but always seem to be disposed to hand over a coin or two. as an obvious foreigner, i was once the butt of one clown's entire standup routine, which was thankfully good-natured. i even witnessed a mock exorcism at one point. that was the best.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

::[dis shiznit be hilarious]::

search for anything --- anything --- on gizoogle, and get pimpin' results. try entering your name...or something serious like the state of the union address. i guarantee you'll crack up.

thanks to seang for constantly trolling the internet for quirky distractions. dude...where do you find the time??

Friday, February 04, 2005

::[for sale: hot bods]::

one of the more popular advertising strategies here, from products ranging from lotion to beer, is as follows:

hire a group of young, hot chileans (both men and women), dress them up in bright, flattering outfits, then send them out to the streets to roam about, pass out samples, and basically draw the eye of any passerby with their dashing good looks. i have to say, it works. earlier, i passed a group of chilean studs in muscle shirts with silver wings strapped their backs, supposedly promoting a toothpaste. they were just hanging out on a street corner, but the flow of pedestrian traffic clearly revolved around them. and just yesterday, i bumped into a young woman wearing a bright orange minidress---part of a group of other orange-clad men and women---all done up to the nines. she was meticulously coiffed and a picture of perfect cosmetics application. you just had to gaze at her, and before you knew it, there was a sample of some kind of shampoo or another in your hand. it's not like using hot young people to promote products is anything new, but encountering them in the flesh is another thing entirely.