OK, so yes we've been having way too much fun and we are still way behind on the blog and getting way-behinder as the days pass. Here is my attempt to distill down the most awesome rocking parts of our trip, accompanied by photos, to get us up to current day. It's a strange thing how being so far behind disincentivizes one from writing more, versus wanting to catch up- oh the human pysche, and oh my laziness. I promise you faithful readers, friends, and family that we are having a blast and are very safe. Love you all.
Last we left you, we were bidding adieu to Bariloche, to our Peruvian passenger Maricel, and briefly to our dear friends Brendan and Bridget while we met up with another friend of the this blog- good 'ol French Paul, our passenger from Punto Choros to Valparaiso, Chile. We had kept in touch with Paul all this time, as he said he'd eventually be WOOFing somewhere near Bariloche and we hoped to see him again. Turns out, he was working at a farm (HUGE by American standards, but actually only a subplot by Argentinian/Patagonia standards) and helping to do some work on the 5,000 hectare piece of land they had- or about 12,300 acres.
We were all glad to see one another, we brought some food, drink, and stories to share, along with our crazy Welshman. Paul was living with another volunteer, Morgan (an 18 year old British girl taking a gap year), in a tiny cottage on the property- no TV, no wifi, only power during certain hours, and weekly there was a food drop of mostly fresh veggies from local farms (so many leeks). Shan1 and I stayed in Masi, while Gareth was gifted the broken down caravan camper that sat on the property- really cool use of an out-of-work vehicle: a stationary, small, apartment. The first evening, we played soccer with the farm family kids (there was a full time Argie family living on the property, a Swedish mom and Argie dad with three very rough tumble farm kids that we loved), cooked a great dinner together, and stayed up late drinking what we had brought. We planned on taking off the next day, but were really enjoying our stay there and I asked Paul if we might be able to do some work and stay another night. Given that we were self-sufficient, needed no food or assistance, it was basically work in trade to hang out another day. Along with Paul and Morgan, we three helped dig a long irrigation ditch, find, and fit the pipes that would be laid inside, as well as hack through some pretty hearty roots with an axe. Tough day of work that was rewarded by another great dinner, drinks, and the first time we played our now-constant companion game: Molkky. Simple, Finnish, fun, can drink while playing- instant hit. We stayed up way late drinking whiskey and playing with our headlights. The next day we all hung out for a bit after breakfast, then said our goodbyes knowing that we'd made a great friend in Paul and that we'd see him again somewhere else in the world.
Next! We set off to El Bolson to meet back up with Brendan and Bridget (B&B), and continue our mission down south to Patagonia. Just to prepare you...lots of stops along the way.
El Bolson is a town on the Argie side of the border on the way down/up from Patagonia, so it gets a lot of travelers and tourists and is 'appropriately' outfitted. The town also has a very 'hippie' reputation, which I can say is only due to people not understanding what the hippies were all about. I will get into this later...because I can't help myself. After spending one night camped at a brewery, beer was super average and expensive, we met up with B&B at their campsite- an apple orchard with plenty of space and few occupants...perfect for a sweet hangout and impending Thanksgiving day feast. After touring the town a bit, we spent a few days settling in, making preparations and then getting a shopping list together for Thanksgiving, American/Welsh/Aussie/Saffa/Argentinian style. Despite not being able to find turkey (although we had JUST fed one on the farm we stayed at days before...a scary, pregnant, female), we made an absolute feast for all of us. Two types of grilled chicken over the fire, corn, asparagus, potatoes, sweet potatoes, purple cabbage, and a freshly made apple cake courtesy of Bridget- all accompanied by a classic US of A playlist featuring The Boss, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, and anyone singing about the stars and stripes. A great meal, wonderful friends, and certainly an unforgettable Thanksgiving. Still to this day....thank you Brendan, Bridget, and Gareth for helping us two Yanks celebrate.
OK, on the back of gratefulness, I got to say a word about El Bolson and what I perceive as THE reason to skip that fraud of a town if you can help it at all. John Lennon glasses, hemp pants, dreadlocks, and an obvious + copious drug trade does NOT hippies make. Listen dear people of El Bolson, if you want to really be the embodiment of that movement, talk to my parents, and figure out that making crap 'artisenal' jewelry and dropping acid doesn't make you a hippie. Besides the generally bedraggled look of the denizens there that may lead you to erroneous conclusions, the attitudes are the give-away. Tourists are marks to be cheated, people to condescend to, and in one instance we know of, people to be robbed/attacked. Our friends Johnny and Ruby (climbing friends of B&B and generally great people) were robbed at machete point while hiking there, and although surprising, we can't say that we could put it past those guys in El Bolson. Anyways, those fake ass hippies with bad attitudes could not hold us cool cats down, so on we go.
Oh, quick shout (just for memory's sake) on Brendan and my epic adventure to get some floras in El Bolson, talking with a guy who couldn't comprehend due to acid, end up drinking with a pregnant lady who insisted on us buying her beer, finally meeting back up with a guy with a broken wooden staff, and then ending up getting a random dude with a chainsaw to cut us our very own Molkky set. Inside baseball I know, but it was an awesome errand.
From El Bolson, we took a gear-check overnight hiking trip to an amazing locale up in the mountains with an awesome glacial river running through it (El Cajon Azul, the Blue Drawer), that I gladly jumped into from a height. The hike itself was average, but the camp site was straight out of a fairy tale- complete with trees filtering sun light through leaves, a babbling brook, and enough errant firewood to make a massive bonfire for our meal.
After the brief overnight hiking trip we headed south again, but not before making several stops to get majorly awesome (think: four mountain dews at full extension type awesome). Just south of El Bolson is a world famous climbing spot called Piedra Parada. If you're thinking that Danny + Shan1 are not clkbers, then you are about 50% right- turns out that I am indeed terrified of heights still (confirmed several times over) and that Shan1 is actually a natural at both climbing and making me look bad. Bridget and Brendan are both avid climbers, wanted to hit this spot, and were gracious enough to let us come with them and lend us their gear, and more importantly, their expertise. We parked up in amazing camp site right on a lazy river, complete with rope swings for mega-sweet backflips, and spent our first night playing Molkii and cooking over a fire. In the morning we awoke to a herd of cows surrounding us and knew it was time to hit the mountain. I won't get into the actual adventure any more than to say I gave it the old college try, make it about 50-75% up both pitches that I attempted before falling off both times (on belay, of course). The second time I took a huge swing across the face of the mountain, to the delight of everyone below, and to the detriment of my lifespan. Shan1, as mentioned, was cool as a cucumber and finished out both pitches first time up, and did it such suave fashion that I think she should really join a gym when we get back home. Awesome experience, thanks B&B for the amazing time.
From there, we headed into (believe it or not) the WELSH section of Argentina- Trevelin and Esquel. Turns out, like a million years ago or something some Argie visited Wales and brought back a few of those gingers with him. Knowing the Welsh a bit, they took advantage and set up shop, propagating red hair, failing businesses, and ridiculous accents in another part of the world. True to the reputation though, we found an honest to goodness Welsh tea house, complete with Welsh speaking grandma, to have a tea in with our resident ginger Welshman Gareth.
The real treat though, was discovering Sergio's eco-vineyard camping just south of Esquel. Sergio is an Argie, went abroad to become a chef, came back to his motherland to start a vineyard and eco site. A truly magical place, super restful, and the amazing night stars (milky way, Sirius, shooting stars) kept us all up watching them for hours. We pledged to come back one day...which happened on our way back up from Patagonia.
Sergio's was only a stone's throw away from the Arg/Chile border crossing, so our next stop would bring us back to Chile and to one our favorite towns of the trip- Futaleufu (foot-a-loo-foo). Apparently, as we discovered just before getting there, Futa is one of the top five best places to white water raft in the entire world...some argue #2 just behind the Zambezi in Africa. We found a great, and deserted, camping spot to park up for a few days and then walked into town to see about food and white water rafting. We booked a trip with an affable guide named Christian after checking a couple places, and were set to raft the next day. We also decided to stick around for a few days as well, given that Bridget's birthday was 48 hours away and we didn't want to be on the road for it. We found the sleepy town (not yet high season) to be full of great locals that welcomed us in, an awesome little bakery/cafe that we stopped into at least once a day, and even a little pub/inn run by an Italian expat who worked on fly-making and running his inn.
The white water rafting was a blast, and with a mix of class five rapids, a great challenge for everyone. Our guide was great, the river was empty except for us, and the five of us had a ball tackling some big rapids together. After the rock climbing, it felt like we were becoming the a real exxxtreme mountain dew crew. I would've loved to stay a bit longer to re-do the river (although at ~$100 it wasn't cheap), learn fly-fishing, and hang out longer in Futa.
The next day we decided to hang out for Bridget's birthday, and go to the BBQ/sheep roast that we were invited to after white water rafting. I will remember this night for the rest of my life. We all bought Bridget some small trinkets for her birthday, strung up some party items in the quincho at our campsite, and played music while playing dice game all together- just drinking and having a great time. After we celebrated together, we headed into town with dessert and boxes of wine for our mutton roast locals party. The party started out tamely enough, with tons of meat being roasted, and only a pitiful tupperware contained of limp lettuce as the sole veggie representative, and we ate our fill of meat while drinking beers with the white water rafting guide crew and other townies. Soon after sun set though, everyone started loosening up, mixing all together, the music got turned up and everyone got louder and happier. I don't know how it started exactly, but Brendan and I found ourselves in conversation with our guide Christian (who also owned the rafting company we took) advising him to buy the website domain www.RapidosEpicos.com (EpicRapids.com). Somehow a chant got started and took over the entire party, "ole...ole ole ole, Rapidos...Epicos...". As funny as it was, it also turned out to be a signal for our gracious hosts to suggest we move the party to a local bar. Welp, in typical kind Futa fashion, we were the only ones really being asked to go to the bar, but we laughed it off and went to where they suggested. Arriving at the "bar", it was really just an odd looking karaoke/gentlemen club with no one in it. The bar tender/proprietor even let us put YouTube videos on songs on their big screen until more people showed up and they eventually asked us to leave as well. Great night, we laughed all the way home.
PHEW. Catching up now...just a few short business quarters behind now, as we write from Sao Paolo, Brazil. Shan1 is now joining the writing team as well, so hopefully we should be at least doubling our output. Until next time!