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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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Week 16 - Lago Argentino - El Calafate, Argentina

Week 16 – Lago Argentino – El Calafate, Argentina

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As most of you already know, our first Workaway experience didn’t go as we had hoped. So when we heard back from Susan, a writer, & Dave, a former alternative radio host, documentarian, and lifelong musician in San Rafael, we were excited, but also a bit apprehensive. They were going to be fine with us staying as long or as short a time as we wanted, so we entered San Rafael knowing that if things didn’t quite work out we be able to get out. Fortunately, things with Susan, Dave, & their 13-year-old daughter Tivoli could not have worked out any better.

Tiv, Susan & Dave

Tiv, Susan & Dave

From the moment that we arrived till the moment that we left, we were treated like a new part of the family. We spent the days working and the nights getting to know one another, either at dinner or just hanging out on the patio talking about anything & everything. Susan & Dave could not have been more accommodating hosts and our living situation couldn’t have been more ideal (especially after our previous Workaway situation). We had our own house separate from theirs. It had two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a gigantic kitchen, and a sitting area where we could hang out, read or watch movies. (We apologize for the grainy images of our accommodation – our cheap point & shoot camera was acting up on our last day & the nice camera was charging.)

DSCF1308

Our house

The kitchen

Our kitchen

Our bedroom

Our bedroom

Kind of like our last Workaway, Lisa & I had different responsibilities and expectations. I was needed to help Dave with the long list of outdoor projects that he was simply unable to keep up with given their vast amount of land. Lisa, on the other hand, was given the tough balancing act of being a teacher/friend to Tiv. During the mornings they did several fun projects from photography & blogging to bracelet making & painting. Tuesday & Thursday nights, Lisa & Tiv took to the kitchen to cook dinner for the 5 of us. At times it proved to be a bit of challenge for Lisa to keep Tiv focused, but all in all it was a good experience for the two of them.

TivSmiles

Our Painting

Collaborative painting by Tiv, Susan & Lisa

Their pets, who we love almost as much as we love Norma & Silverstein!

Their pets, who we love almost as much as we love Norma Jean & Silverstein!

 I spent most of my time outside doing a number of different tasks. Dave and I started off doing most of our morning work together, cutting up logs for splitting & cutting/clearing out quick-growing saplings. As time went on, Dave kind of just let me do my own thing. Some days he had a specific task that he wanted me to get done, other days I was left to my own devices. I did everything from weed-whacking, cutting down trees, splitting wood, & hanging chicken wire (they had a bat problem in their cabana). I also cleared out all the weeds & silt build up in the small canal that ran across their property.

DSC_3184

We usually worked until around 12:30 or 1:00. In summer it just gets too hot to be working outside & plus you would be disturbing your neighbors during siesta. In Argentina & South America as a whole, businesses and people pretty much shut down around 1:00PM to take a break from the day and relax. They don’t start up again until around 5:00PM. It is a bit of shock at first to go into a big city or small town for that matter and see no businesses open, but you eventually get used to it and come to expect it, especially when the afternoon temperatures are pushing 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Triumph

 Susan & Dave were also gracious enough to take us to almost all the social gatherings of their friends. On Friday evenings they had a few Expat friends over for a friendly, low stakes game of poker. It was a pot luck so everyone brought food. There wasn’t a bad cook among them so we ate some great food. Sunday afternoons, we did pretty much the same thing at a friend of theirs house. Expect the game on Sunday wasn’t poker, but Ba-Chi-Ball. Even though we didn’t have our AARP cards, they let us play. They also took us to a few others parties, including a New Year’s Eve party where was had a great Asado (Argentine BBQ) which included a goat roasting over an open fire and some great people.

Us, Malcolm & Sue At Poker Night

Us, Malcolm & Sue (British Expats) At Poker Night

The Circus - Yeah, that's right!

The Circus – Yeah, that’s right!

New Year's Eve 2013

New Year’s Eve 2013

White water rafting in Valle Grande

White water rafting in Valle Grande

Our time with Susan, Dave, & Tiv was outstanding. They couldn’t be nicer people & they defiantly couldn’t have treated us any better. Our time in San Rafael flew by, but we couldn’t stay there forever. We’ve left San Rafael, but we have more now than when we first arrived. We’ve added 3 new family members that we can’t wait to see again.

SR Family For now, it’s goodbye to San Rafael & hello to Bariloche, the gateway to Patagonia!

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Week 15

Week 15 – Speechless – Bariloche, Argentina

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Week 14 - Skyline Drive - San Rafael, Argentina

Week 14 – Skyline Drive – San Rafael, Argentina

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