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We just wanted to let all of our readers know that we are safe & sound back in the states.  Most of you guys are family and close friends, so you already know that we’ve been back for about 2 weeks. We’re currently on a job hunt & looking for a place to settle, which may or may not be stateside. We’re still re-acclimating to be home and evaluating all the pros and cons our potential destinations.  Even though we’re back home, we’re going to pick up right where we left off in the blog.  Thank you to all of family & loved ones for supporting our dream & we hope you all enjoy the rest of our travel misadventures!

On our last night on the ferry, I (Corey) had a little too much fun & subsequently had a rather rough morning when we had to disembark the boat. Despite some tense moments and with me smelling like cheap rum, we were able to make it safe and sound to our hostel in Puerto Montt. After a few hours of sleeping/sobering up, I was finally able to get it together enough that we were able to take a walk around this new city. We quickly figured out why most of our fellow passengers & friends on the ferry were immediately getting out of Puerto Montt to head to their next destinations. There really wasn’t a single aspect of the city that was attractive. The food was especially terrible.

One day/night in Puerto Montt was enough so we booked an evening bus north to Valdivia, Chile the next day. We decided to kill time the next day in Puerto Varas which was just 30 minutes away from Puerto Montt. Located on a large lake and surrounded by several towering volcanoes, Puerto Varas was definitely much, much prettier. We spent the day walking around the town and along the lake past famed teacher/author Paublo Freire’s old house, now a small museum. It was a very nice & relaxed day which included our first run-ins with fellow NaviMag passengers. We got back in time to catch our bus North to Valdivia.

Valdivia

 ValdiviaII

  When you’re traveling and visiting a bunch of places & cities like we are, there is a tendency for these places & cities to start blurring together. Sometimes the only thing that separates a bad place from a good place or good place from a place that you absolutely love is that people you meet, spend time with & get to call your friends. Aside from the sun bathing sea lions on the river’s edge, Valdivia, Chile was pretty average. What made it a fun place and a place that we’ll remember was getting to become friends with Travis & Micheline, a couple from Oregon looking to teach English in Valdivia.

Travis & Micheline

The four of us hit it off from the start & ended up hanging out for most of the time that we were there. I’d have to say my fondest memory from Valdivia was the night that Travis, Eddie, Andreas (two other really great guys that were in the same dorm as us) & I went out for a guys Terramoto night. Terramoto or Earthquake is a very popular drink in Chile. It is a very strong, but sweet drink, much like woppatoee that can put even serious drinkers into a bad state of affairs. Before things kind of fell apart we really had a great time and truly got to know each other. I don’t know if it was our comfort with each other or the drinks, but we all opened up & told each other things that I don’t think any of planned to share when the night started. Apparently Lisa & Micheline had a similar night sans alcohol.

After 4 terramotos each, Travis & Eddie both ended up spending some quality time in the bathroom & Andreas disappeared (I assume to try to pick up girls). I only suffered a bit of headache the following morning. All in all in was a great night, one of the more memorable ones of the trip for me, & a great few days in Valdivia thanks, in part, to Travis & Micheline.

Travis & Micheline - Road Trip

Lisa had been doing to research on Chile & she wanted to go to two National Parks a few hours north of Valdivia, Huerquehue National Park & Villaricca National Park which was home to the Villaricca Volcano. So, naturally we assumed that the place to go would be Villaricca located on Lake Villaricca. Upon arriving in Villaricca, we soon found out that assuming can get you in trouble. Apparently, unless you have your own car, there is no way to get to the Villaricca Volcano or any of the other cool stuff in the area from Villaricca. You have to go to Pucon, a small tourist town across the lake. So after two unproductive days in Villaricca, we took a short half hour bus ride to Pucon.

Villaricca Volcano

Parque Nacional Huerquehue

We really liked Pucon from the moment we arrived. The town was peaceful & quaint. On top of that the surrounding views couldn’t have been more amazing. Looming off the area is the huge, towering Villaricca Volcano. On our second day in Pucon, we went to hike in Huerquehue National Park. It was a beautiful day and we were lucky to get great views of the volcano at every lookout point. The hike itself was a bit challenging, not made any easier by the mud & muck on much of the trail.

PNH - grazing

grazing

Surprisingly, I managed to stay upright while Lisa had a bit of a spill on our way back down the mountainside. In her defense, she was let down by a bamboo tree that gave loose when she tried to use it to keep her from falling. In addition the getting great views of the volcano, we were also able to see two beautiful waterfalls. It was definitely worth the work.

PNH - Cheese

PNH - creek

tranquil

made it

Since we arrived in Pucon there was one thing that I wanted to do more and more as each day passed, to climb the Villaricca Volcano. Lisa pretty much had no desire to, but after a few days of convincing & meeting several people who told us that the hike to the summit really wasn’t that hard, Lisa relented. This would turn out to be one of our biggest mistakes on the trip.

*Valdivia photos courtesy of Travis & Micheline . . . Miss you guys!*

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Can’t believe we’ve been on the road for exactly 6 months today!  We’re currently in Arequipa, Peru about to do a 3 day trek through Colca Canyon!

flippin

Happy May!!!!

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We weren’t quite ready to leave the beauty of Patagonia, but we knew staying any longer would throw the budget off.  So, we started looking for the best and cheapest way to head north. Originally, we planned to take a plane from Punto Arenas (PA) to Santiago, Chile. But, I suggested that we look into other options.  Obviously, we didn’t want to take a bunch of buses north; that would be exhausting & a waste of money.  I really wanted to take a boat at some point on the trip & why not look into our options during this portion?

Navimag Ferry

Eventually, I was able to convince Corey to head to the tour office in PA.  As it turned out, there was a ferry, but it left from Puerto Natales (PN) & it didn’t leave for another 6 days. That meant we’d have to divide our time between two Podunk (two-horse) towns in the coldest part of South America! Yes, it was a long time to wait, but it was worth it in the end!

Navimag Mapa

Top Deck

The NaviMag Ferry (not luxurious enough to call it a cruise) is a 4 day boat journey through the fjords of Patagonia from PN to Puerto Montt (PM). For the most part, it’s navigated through channels, but there are 2 portions where the ferry goes through the Pacific Ocean for a chance to see some cool aquatic creatures.

Our Cabin

Our Cabin

Our buddy Desmond in the cafeteria

More Chilean Fjords

Before leaving PN, we’d made sure to stock up on supplies: mostly snacks & drinks, since these items can be a bit more pricey on the ferry. It was also suggested that we get seasick pills, because the 3rd day on the boat is known to be very rough, since it navigates through open seas. But after stopping at 3 different pharmacies & coming up empty, we decided to risk it & go without them.

Our first night on the NaviMag - hanging out in PN Harbor

Our first night on the NaviMag – hanging out in the PN Harbor

On February 25th, we departed Puerto Natales at 4:00 am after already boarding the night before around 9:00 pm. I realize how cheesy this sounds, but you could feel the excitement in the air the night before. Everyone was taking pictures of the sunset our last night in PN & travelers old & young were anxiously waiting for what would come on our first full day of the journey.

Sunset

We had a 6:00 am wake up call that Monday to watch the captain navigate a difficult maneuver. I would like to say, that if you ever take this journey, unless you’re big into photography, just sleep in & go to the late breakfast! We got some nice photos of the sunrise, but since I know nothing about navigating a boat, it didn’t look super impressive to me or Corey or any of the other travelers who got up at the butt-crack of dawn to watch our navigation through this “narrow” passage.

Chilean Fjords II

Chico Glacier BW

For the next 3 mornings, there would be an early wake-up call over the loud speakers & every time fewer & fewer people woke up to see what was going on. As each day passed we made more friends & as a result we stayed up later & later every night. I got up early the last day because I wanted to see one more unobstructed view of the sunrise, but it was just me & one other girl that day.

Photo Buddy

My photo buddy on the last morning

Every morning after breakfast, the crew would show us the path of the ferry in English & Spanish. In the afternoon they would offer lectures and activities related to this region of the world. My favorite was knot-tying class on the 3rd day. The evenings consisted of dinner, a movie for all ages in Spanish (with subtitles) in the cafeteria and adult activities on the top deck in the bar.

Ricardo in Plain Clothes

Ricardo, one of our favorite crew members!

Karaoke Night

Karaoke Night (I sang too & we do have video, but not sure if I’m ready for that kind of exposure!)

Nubles de Chile

As it turns out, we got very lucky in that the Pacific Ocean was extremely calm on the 3rd day. Normally, the boat is rocking back & forth uncontrollably and most people are seasick for 12 hours (more or less). We spoke with a couple who’d taken the ferry south to PN & the husband said it was, by far, the worst 12 hours of his life. I was so happy that the most we had was a gentle swaying back & forth and the few times I felt queasy, I just sat on the deck & watched the horizon wearing my motion-sickness armbands.

seascape II

It also helped that we had a Brad Pitt look alike on the boat - Utaw, one of the travelers that we KEEP bumping into post-NaviMag!

That day would also bring the chance to see dolphins & whales. We didn’t want to get our hopes up, but as it turned out, we didn’t need to. We actually got to see 2 whales & one of our friends got a great shot as it was they dove below the surface! This was the first time either of us have seen whales in their natural environment & words can’t describe just how amazing it was!

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Photo by our friend Ainara

Cards

Claudia & Corey playing cards

BINGO night & I actually won!!!

BINGO night & I actually won!!!

Boat Buddies

Last night on the boat with Dirk & Naoya

We knew from the start that the ferry would be 1 of 2 things: 1) a horrible experience & waste of money or 2) one of the best experiences of our trip so far & something we’d always look back on with fond memories. It was definitely the later & I can’t believe we contemplated for a moment taking a plane north! There was lots of laughter, dancing, singing, card games & memories! Since arriving in PM on Friday, March 1st we’ve bumped into other NaviMag travelers more than a dozen times, including last night at a restaurant in Sucre, Bolivia, 50 days later! We’re so happy that we took the ferry north & know that we’ll be talking about it for years to come!

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Week 21 - Little One - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 21 – Little One – En Route to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 22 - .j.u.m.p. - San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 22 – .j.u.m.p. – San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Week 23 -  Untitled - Sal de Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 23 – Untitled – Sal de Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 24 - Pinky - Salt Flats Tour - Uyuni, Bolivia

Week 24 – Pinky – Salt Flats Tour – Uyuni, Bolivia

 

 

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A map of the world, in my opinion, doesn’t do justice to just how big a country Argentina is. This sounds kind of silly considering it is the 8th largest country in the world.  If you turn it on it’s side, it’s just as wide as the United States. We ended up spending a little under three months in Argentina, crossing the Bolivian border to enter at the beginning of December and finally exiting Argentina on the 19th of February. We spent in the neighborhood of 100 hours on buses working our way south from the Bolivian border all the way to El Calafate in the southern portion of Patagonia and eventually crossing the border into Chile at Puerto Natales, Chile.

Iceberg Reflection

All in all we had a great time in Argentina. We made a number of friends staying in hostels throughout the country that we still keep in contact with and then there is the close friendship we made with Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael. Along with the incredible sites that we’ve seen, it’s the people that we’ve had an opportunity to meet that have been the highlight our trip and will, most likely, continue to be.

Our buddy Joe from England

Our buddy, Joe, from England

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

Another friend, Tina, from Germany!

When we tell people that we’ve meet on the road our plans to find a home in South America the first question they always seem to ask is, “Have you found any candidates yet?” Our immediate response is Salta, Argentina. We spent 2 weeks in Salta and really loved it. The people there were extremely friendly, despite being a big city it has a small town feel, & it has the prettiest square that we’ve seen in South America, by far.

Architecture in Salta

Outside of Salta, we really enjoyed our time in Patagonia. Words and pictures really can’t encompass just how incredible nearly every view is in Patagonia.  Although we really liked Patagonia, it’s just too cold most of the year for us to even contemplate making it our home someday.

Kevin in Bariloche

Kevin in Bariloche

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

Bus ride to Perito Moreno Glacier outside El Calafate

El Calafate

El Calafate

Our six weeks in San Rafael was another highlight of our time in Argentina. Outside of all the previously mentioned reasons why our time there was so great for us, one of the best aspects of being there was the opportunity to meet many of Susan & Dave’s ex-pat friends. Talking with them and getting the chance the listen to them talk amongst themselves, we got a real world insider look of what’s really going on in Argentina. One that we wouldn’t have gotten just hanging out and talking to fellow travelers. As a whole, we really didn’t like what we heard. Comparatively speaking, Argentina is light years ahead of Bolivia, but it still has a lot of work to do. It doesn’t help that the current government has been very interventionist in the economy in a number of negative aspects. In some ways completely erasing the work that Nestor Kirchner’s administration did to push Argentina forward. It’s ironic and kind of sad that the current president, Nestor’s wife Christina, has been such a disaster.

San Rafael

San Rafael

 Despite all the positive aspects of Argentina, it’s the negative ones (the inflation/struggling economy, bland food, & lack of an adequate build up of local industry) that really gives us pause with regard to making it our home.

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

Overall, the food was bland & not very inspiring, however, we loved Argentine asados!

image[5]

It is, however, an amazing place to visit. It has something for everyone and even though we spent almost three months there, we would love to go back someday to see all the places that we missed.

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One of the animals I’d been dying to see were penguins, so we decided to head further south.  Here are some of our favorite shots from our trip to Isla Magdalena in Punta Arenas, Chile – Patagonia!  It was pretty cold & mostly because of the wind, but we managed to enjoy ourselves for our brief stay in Punta Arenas.

Isla Magdalena

sunbathing

bathtime

penguin blues

strike a pose

amigos

ornithophobia

the gang

vogue

We also got to see Tonina dolphins, as well as sea lions!

https://i0.wp.com/filmatidimare.altervista.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/62-tonina-overa2.jpg

Tonina Dolphins – Photo courtesy of Bing (these cuties were too fast for me!)

Sea Lion Lookout

Sea Lion Lookout

sealions

We even got some footage of the sea lions making some crazy noises . . . but, we’re having issues uploading the video.  We couldn’t stop laughing at these funny critters!

mista sealion

It was dreary, windy & cold, but we’re really happy we traveled so far south to see these fun animals!

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Week 19 - Serenity - Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, Chile (Navimag Ferry)

Week 19 – Serenity – Somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, Chile (Navimag Ferry)

Week 20 - Marble - Villaricca, Chile

Week 20 – Marble – Villaricca, Chile

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Patagonia is the region that encompasses roughly the bottom third of the countries of Argentina & Chile. It is an area of the world that has attracted travelers & bandits alike for centuries. Butch Cassidy, the Sun Dance Kid and Etta Place spent time here trying to escape the law and make an honest life for themselves, as is documented in Bruce Chatwin’s (a fellow traveler) timeless classic “In Patagonia”. Unfortunately for them, that didn’t last too long. What attracted us, along with countless others, to Patagonia is the regions beautiful scenery. From snow-capped mountain peaks & glistening lakes to the towering plateaus & vast expanses of wind-blown desolateness, Patagonia is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and unpopulated places on the Earth.

 Bariloche View

 

Thistle

Our first stop after leaving Susan, Dave, & Tiv in San Rafael was Bariloche, Argentina. Located on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi and home to countless chocolate shops, Bariloche definitely had the feel of a town in the Swiss Alps. We had only planned to stay two nights in Bariloche, so we figured what better way to spend our one full day there than taking a nice hike. A woman working at the hostel that we were staying at recommended an “easier” three hour hike that would take us up and over one of the surrounding mountains to a smaller lake that would be warm enough to swim in.

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

Notice how happy we are at the beginning of the hike!

What she neglected to tell us was that the map the hostel gave us was horrible and that the “trail” had zero signs that could give us even the slightest idea where to go. After several hours of hiking we reached what we assumed was the end of the trail. We could see the lake, but had no idea how to get down to it outside of summer-salting down the mountain.

Bariloche Hike

After 6 hours of hiking and attempts at 4 different side trails proved fruitless, we finally decided to abandon our mission and get off the mountain.

This is Kevin - who turned out to be a girl, but we'd already named her - she followed us for 4 of the 6 hours!

This is Kevin – who turned out to be a girl, but we’d already named her – she followed us for 4 hours!

This is probably around the 5 hour & 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

This is probably around the 5 hour, 45 minute mark, when we finally had to throw in the towel!

Unfortunately, for me there were two ways off: hike 8 km back down the way we came or take the suspended cable car. Despite my debilitating fear of heights, Lisa finally talked me into taking the cable car down and we lived to talk about it!

Cable Car Drama

Bariloche was great and we wish we could have spent a little more time there, but we already made plans to head south to a small mountain town called Esquel, Argentina with plans to camp at the Parque Nacional de los Alerces.  As we all know, sometimes the best of plans can get dashed out. In our case rain was the main culprit.  After 3 days of straight rain we decided that it just wasn’t in the cards for us to camp in Esquel.  At this point we had two options, head south again or end our time in Argentina.  In the end we decided that El Calafate, Argentina, in the Southern third of Patagonia, was going to be our next destination.

Sepia geese

 

life aquatic II

Like pretty much everywhere else in Patagonia, El Calafate proved to be a really beautiful city. With a population of around 100,000, it plays host to many thousands more during the high tourist season of January & February. During this time prices are very high for food and lodging. Despite our best shopping around, every restaurant ranged from kind of expensive to really expensive. Nevertheless, we had a great time in El Calafate after we changed hostels to one that was a little farther our of town, but had a great atmosphere, where we met a handful of fun travels along with a great staff!

Blue Skies

 

reflection

After a few days of hanging out around town, we were finally able to get on a tour to El Calafate’s main attraction, the Perito Moreno Glacier. One of the world’s fastest moving glaciers, creeping along at a little more than 2 meters a day & dumping 4 story building size pieces of ice into Lake Argentina all day long, Perito Moreno stretches some 35 plus kilometers back through the mountains and across the Chilean border.

Glacier Perito Moreno

Scenery - Puerto Moreno Tour

Black chested eagle

Our tour took the back roads to the National Park allowing us to see falcons & eagles at close range as well as stopping at a large estancia (ranch) that was home to horses, cows, goats, and a milk hungry cat.

Bull Skull

According to Lisa, my photo skills are improving – I took this shot!

frontier

Glacier Perito Moreno - Cobalt

Lisa even had a good time, despite that fact that she was freezing!

Lisa even had a good time, despite the fact that she was freezing!

We admittedly had some reservations about spending money to see a giant block of ice, but it was one of the most impressive things that we’ve seen so far on the trip. All in all, El Calafate was one of our favorite places so far on this trip, despite it’s Wisconsin like cool/cold weather.

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Week 18 – The Lookout – Isla Magdalena, Punta Arenas, Chile

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Week 17 - Grandeur - Perito Moreno Glacier, outside of El Calafate, Argentina

Week 17 – Grandeur – Perito Moreno Glacier, outside of El Calafate, Argentina

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