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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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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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I had an idea a few weeks back about what we can do when we meet people on the road who we’d like to keep in touch with.  I can’t wait to meet other travelers and hopefully be able to keep up with their travels, too!  If I feel like that, then they may feel the same way.  So, I created a little leave behind card.  It’s the same size as a business card, but with less information. 

Leave Behind

What do you guys think?  I’ve only printed a handful because I need some feedback.  Let’s take a vote:

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Almost every travel book, blog and message board that I have come across has suggested that bringing small gifts along is a great idea for your trip.  Whether you plan on doing homestays or not, it’s still good to have some trinket or memento that reflects who you are.  It shows respect for the people who let you stay in their home & appreciation for your fellow road mates.  Based solely on the experiences of other travelers I’ve seen a wide range of the type of gifts that people bring.  They seem to range anywhere from pens to key chains to cigarettes.  One guy, Erick Trinidad, even handed out a book that he helped write – of course he didn’t give that to every person he met on the road, but to the people who helped him along the way.

 Corey & I have discussed this briefly & the one thing that we both agreed upon was that we want it to have a personal touch, something that others may not think to give as a gift.  Don’t get me wrong, the gifts above are great, but we want to give something that might actually help people to remember us.  The gift can be given to someone who allows us to stay in their home, to a fellow traveler or even to some local kids. 

 So, what did we ultimately decide to hand out to our future acquaintances? 

 We both agreed that friendship bracelets/necklaces would be our main gift to give.  They’re small, light weight, easy to make & will give me something to do while we’re in commute on long train/bus rides.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t happy that someone gave me a friendship bracelet.  They have many uses: bracelet (duh!), zipper-pull, bookmark, hair tie, key chain accessory and the list goes on!  Plus, I’ve already got a stash in our apartment!  The only thing that Corey noticed is that I need to work on using more masculine colors.

 So, what do you think?  Would you want something like this as a keepsake?  Would you hate it?  To those of you who have done your trip already, what was your gift, if any?

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 We had our first couchsurfing (couchsurfing.org) experience last night.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it, couchsurfing is a way to meet other people who share their love for traveling and adventure.  There are 2 ways to do that: either travel to someone’s home or be a host.  Hosting can be offering up your couch for someone to spend the night(s) or you can just meet up for drinks.  At some point I think we will change our user settings so that our couch is available, but right now it’s just on the “meet for coffee or drinks” setting.    

Pauline

 

  So, it all started a week ago when a girl sent me a message asking if I wanted to hang out while she was in town.  I took a look at her profile, saw her references & decided to have her over for dinner.  Pauline is a student from Belgium who decided to come to Wisconsin for a bit before going back to school in a couple of weeks.  She arrived on August 10th & has already seen & done more than I have living here for 3 years!   

Pauline & I

 

  We had a good time talking to her about travelling, photography, biking & the weird laws that Americans have.  One example: getting in trouble for having an open container in your car.  If this same scenario happened in Belgium, as long as you weren’t drinking & driving, you’d be free to go on your merry way.  Here you’d go to jail for the night.  We don’t drink at all, which I thought she would find strange.  But Pauline said that compared to her hometown, people here hardly drink.  I found that funny, because people drink so much more here (in the Milwaukee area) than they do in Raleigh!  Anyway, it was just really nice to meet someone who was so nice & happy to meet new people.  Pauline said that it was refreshing to meet many Americans & be able to see that we’re not all loud, obnoxious & ignorant.   Overall, we had a great time & I hope that we’re able to hang out with her again before she leaves!   

Pauline, me & Corey

 

So, we have taken our first baby steps into the world of couchsurfing.  Pauline already knew the family she was staying with & they were having such a hard time understanding why she would meet with strangers in place she hasn’t been to before.  I think that Americans are taught not to trust anybody & always keep your guard up.  I’m not saying that every person we will encounter won’t be dangerous, but not every stranger is a criminal either.  I definitely want to have a few more visits like this before we decide to have people over for a weekend or more.  But, we have to start somewhere & in order to meet people we’re going to need to be more social.  Wish us luck!

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Like I said in our first post Corey was raised in Wisconsin & I was raised in North Carolina.  Corey grew up playing basketball & has always been a huge UNC fan.  His love for the team encouraged him to apply to schools in NC & that’s how he ended up going to Appalachian State University.  We met shortly after, dating on & off for a bit, always remaining close.  Once we realized that we were meant to be together Corey proposed, we had a short engagement, wed & got my things together to move to Wisconsin.

 

Corey still enjoys basketball along with football, baseball & golf.  We like to bike to stay active, but haven’t done it a lot this summer.  He loves finding new indie bands, reading & films.  

I played soccer for about 15 years recreationally, but haven’t touched the ball in a few years.  I love photography, reading, arts & crafts, indie music & films.

I went overseas in my junior year of college & fell in love with travelling & was happily surprised when Corey said he wanted to travel as well.  I started doing some research in 2006 about round the world travel & found that it actually could be done. 

Once we got settled in our new apartment in 2007 I had to find a job.  After several temp jobs – 5 in 2 years – I final found a good administrative job at a cemetery.  That’s when we began to save.  As long as our situation stays the same, no major car trouble, no major injuries, we’re on the right track to depart in 2012. 

Our biggest concerns are our cats, Norma Jean & Silverstein and saying good-bye to our family & our friends.  We don’t have to think about it now, but it’s a constant fear in the back of my mind.  

So, that’s a little bit about us.  If there’s anything else that you’re dying to know, please ask. 

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