Worrall Travel R's - Kicking the Bucket List

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Following our Dreams and Kicking the Bucket List.  Started on a yacht, now it's planes, trains, Trailblazer 5th wheel, camels, rickshaws.  Exploring our wonderful world.

Our Mantra:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

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Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Walk About in Patagonia - February 8-11, 2016

Monday, February 8, 2016, WRTD 31, On to Patagonia

We leave with our group at 8:00 am.  Russ and I leave our larger bags in the storage room at the hotel, and each take a small duffle and a day pack, as we will be returning here at the end of our walking adventure.  We are in the van all morning and travel from El Calafate and El Chalten.

Chalten is an indigenous people's word for "smoking mountain".  The early people thought the clouds that appeared from behind the prominent mountain was smoke from a volcano.  Argentina's scientist hero Pietro Moreno, renamed the mountain Fitz Roy after the captain of the Beagle that brought Charles Darwin to this part of the world.

We get a glimpse of Fitz Roy and the town of El Chalten after a three hour drive from El Calafate.  Our hotel is a cozy two story chalet.  Our ground floor rooms have a nice view of Fitz Roy.  Luck is with us, the mountain is often shrouded in clouds, but today the clouds whisp by and the mountain fades in and out.

Once we get settled in our rooms, we set out for lunch, and then a 3 kilometer walk up the first small mountains to get a better view of the Andes.  They are tall, jagged, and the tops slightly dusted with snow, but little sticks because these jags are nearly vertical.  

Tomorrow, we will take our first trek up and back to  Laguna Torre. A glacial lake at the foot of the most recent moraine. 

Tuesday, February 9 , 2016, WRTD 32, Laguna Torre

Although, I felt prepared, I was a little concerned about a 14 mile trek up to the most recent moraine left by the glaciers.  We would be doing a lot of uphill and downhill trekking.  The coming down part is the most difficult for my knees and hips.  But I have two walking sticks and this will help as we go up  ancient moraines and down into now dry lake beds revegetated with scrub bush.  

Trees and older growth are on the ancient elevated, lakebed shores. The path winds through these treed forests and through the lakebeds.  We glimpse the Rio Fitz Roy from many vistas high an dlow.  As glaciers advance they push rubble forward making mountain size moraines and dams, then they retreat and the dams capture the glacier melt forming glacial lakes.  Again the glacier advances pushing up another moraine and once again retreats. This glacial dance repeats for tens of thousands, millions of years.  Our hike is through a wide valley cut by glaciers, up, down, across, up, down across several times until we reach the last moraine, and lakebed filled with latte colored water.  There is another moraine at the back of the lake that has been deposited by a now retreating glacier.  The glacier walls are behind the lake, and behind that rises the glacier and the Cerro Torre Mountain.

We collapse on boulders and eat lunch.  The day is warm and beautiful.  We are in short sleeved shirts.  Our mountain guide tells us how lucky we are to see the mountain, and luckier that there isn't any wind at the moment otherwise we couldn't have made it this far or could only be here long enough to take a quick photo before retreating and sheltering behind the moraine.  No sooner has he spoken and we feel a puff of wind.  Our guide puts on his parka.  He knows.  It's coming!  

The velocity from calm to full gale force is a matter of minutes, as we struggle to get into warmer clothing and pack up our belongings before they are blown away forever. The dust is kicking up, and I tuck the camera in my back pack.  The glacier winds descend on us and clutch us in its frigid claws and tries to tear our hair from our heads.. Wow!  We hurriedly retreat from the lake and make our way to the back of the moraine, where we find relief.

New comers hiking to the lake shelter behind boulders to  eat their lunch hopeful the wind will subside and they will make it all the way to the lake for at least a photo.  We trek back to town, and find a torrent duck in the glacial river flow.  It must be paddling 10-15 miles per hour to stay in place and to swim upstream in the glacial rapids of the river.  It disappears and resurfaces farther up river.  Our guide tells us that the duck eats small crustaceans.  There are no fish in the glacial river.

We return to El Chalten around 5:00 pm.  My pedometer informs me that I have walked 30,600 steps, 13.7 miles, and have burned 1,100 calories.  The group plops down in chairs. Beer first, showers second, dinner third.  It's been a good day; exhausting, brutal on our feet and knees, but the scenery was spectacular.

Tomorrow, the hike is harder, longer, steeper.  Oh boy!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016, WRTD 33, glacial lake Laguna de Los Tres at the base of Cerro Fitz Roy and fresh water Laguna Capri on the Rio Blanco.

Our muscles ache as we pull ourselves out of bed at 630 am.  Is it morning already?  How easy it would be to just pull the covers over my head and sleep some more.  We prepare ourselves for the day, layering with clothing, putting on sunscreen, bandaging hotspots.  Yesterday as the temperature rose, I peeled off my thermals when I had the chance.  In so doing, I took off my boots and socks.  As I redressed, I accidentally pulled on one of the socks inside out.  By late morning the the rougher texture of the sock created enough friction that a hotspot developed.  

Mary, one of our hiking companions, offered me some New Zealand Hiker's Wool.  You place the soft light weight wool agains the hotspot.  The texture of the sock holds the wool in place.  It worked quite well in lessening more damage, but some of the damage needed to be bandaged this morning before we started off again.  Of all the hiking we have done, I wish I had known about this hikers wool before.  I seem to be prone to blisters regardless of how comfortable my boots feel.

By 8:00 We were boarding our van for a 30 minute ride up the trail head   where we would start.  Unlike and up and back trail of yesterday, we would be walking one way and back into El Chalten.  The first part of our hike was along a stream that paralleled the Rio Blanco.  

The first part of the path was rounded rocks that shifted under our feet and rolling unsuspecting ankles and knees.  Before we had traversed 1/2 kilometer, one of our group knew that this was too much for his knees and that the promise of 13 more miles was not going to work for him.  He and our tour leader returned to the van and back down to the hotel.  Leila, took a taxi back to the start and caught up with our group led by our Mountain Guide Pablo, a little bit later that morning as we were trekking through a lovely forest.  

We could hear the rushing of the river, the chirping of the birds, the swish of the persistent wind and the low rumble and thunder of collapsing ice and avalanches on the mountain. I could also hear Leila leaping and panting behind me as she caught up with us nearly an hour and half into our hike. She must have run most the way.  

Our group reaches an option point about 1/2 way through the hike.  Pablo explains we can split up into groups if we wish.  Those who want to hike up to the upper lake, and those who wish to continue the walk to the lower lake.  The first option will had about three hours to the hike and about 2 more kilometers straight uphill and back down again.  The second option will return to the hotel 2-3 hours earlier, but the downhill trek back will be difficult.  Russ is eager to find a geocache at the upper lake, me not so much!  

It turns out, I am the only one not wanting to go up the hill to the lake.  I just don't think my left knee and hip or my toes on the steep downhill will thank me.  So I continue on my trek with Leila toward the fresh water lake, Laguna Capri, while the rest of our group pushes upward to Laguna de los Tres with Pablo.

Leila and I continue our trek to Laguna Capri and enjoy birds and beauty while eating our lunch on the beach.  The water of Laguna Capri is the drinking water for El Chalten.  There are no signs posted, but Leila tells me that the couple who have just stripped down to their bathing suits and taking plunge in the cold water, really shouldn't be doing so.  We continue our hike downward back to El Chalten and arrive about 4:30.  My pedometer is at 26,000 steps, 991 calories, and 11.58 miles.  I feel a bit like a wimp not going the distance with the rest of the gang, but 11 miles is decent, and I have a blister the size of a large bean on the top of my middle toe. The wind kicked up at lunch time and is blowing like crazy once again pushing dark clouds ahead.  The mountains are becoming less visible.

I spend the rest of the afternoon, washing dusty clothes, showering, packing, and backing up photos on my travel drive.  Russ and the rest of the group return about 7:00 pm and have just enough time for quick showers before we gather for dinner at 7:25.  They had a great time, and found the geocache.

Thursday, February 11, 2016, WRTD 32, On to Chile and to Torres del Paine National Park.

We get to sleep a little later this morning as we do not leave until 9:00 am.  One of our group is not feeling well today, the rest of us are a bit creaky after we sit too long.  It is nice though to sit still as we drive along to Chile.  So far this morning, we have seen a fox and some rhea (big birds like Imu).  There is another strike by workers and border control between Argentina and Chile is going to be slow and tedious.

No organic (fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat) can pass over the border, so we are eating our lunches and organic snacks before we arrive.  
It takes us a couple of hours to get through border control.  First we check out of Argentina, go through no man's land, and check into Chile.  We unload our baggage and empty the van for inspection.  Our bags are run through a scanner.  One of our group has probiotic pills in her baggage.  The scanner picks them up as organic.  The officials look them over and pass her through.

We arrive at our hotel around 4:30.  It may be the rough road or the snacks we have eaten, but my stomach isn't feeling all that well.  I pass on the alcoholic welcome drink and get hot tea.  Our hotel looks over Pacific Ocean water.  It is a fjiord in Chile.  We are in Puerto Natales  for the night.  Tomorrow we will take boats up the fjiord into Torres del Paine.  

The weather has turned.  The sky is dark and it has rained a bit.  We can expect wetter weather the next couple of days.

Check the blog later for photos.  We had poor internet and some computer difficulties in El Chalten, so I am a little behind in photo editing and posting.

All is Well with the Worrall Travel Rs in Port Natales, Chile.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

No Gas in El Calafate, Argentina WTR Days 28-29

Friday, February 5, 2016, Worrall Travel R Day (WTRD) 28

Today, we have nothing special on our agenda.  There is a small golf course associated with a hotel in town that we might check out, a natural history museum, and also we would like to return to the bird preserve.  The skies are clear and the temperature is warming up to upper 70's.  We need to turn our rental car in tomorrow, so we plan to gas it up early, as we will not be driving after this afternoon.

Since the town is small, we thought we should get our gas first.  The stations are government owned, and there are two of them, one on each end of town.  These are mega stations that serve tourists and commercial vehicles (tour busses) that travel the length of Patagonia.  The first station only had diesel and it looked liked their regular gas pumps were being repaired, so we could not get gas there. Next we traveled across the little town to the station on the other side.  We could not believe our eyes; the queue into the station was not moving and several miles long!  Well, we would try again later.

We checked in with the Spa that operates the golf course.  Yes, the course was open to the public not just the hotel guests; we could rent golf clubs.  This course is an 18 hole, par 3 course on perhaps two acres of land.  How is that possible? There are only 6 holes, but 9 tee boxes.  The golf manager drew lines on our course map to show how we would zigzag around.  We could play 18 holes if we wanted, but we weren't eager to play more than 9 as we knew we would be spending most of our time figuring out where to go.

Originally, Russ wanted to play on Saturday.  But today, we would be the only ones on this little course.  Tomorrow there were six filled tee times starting at noon.  If you look at the map and the way the balls fly from every direction through the middle section (the death circle) and my history of being hit in the head by an errant tee off, you can imagine my reluctance to want to be on a course like this with other players.  So we opted to play on Friday, right there and then, skipping lunch and settling for an apple and a couple of granola bars.

We spent a couple of hours on "our private" and challenging little course, having a great time.  

After our game, we went to the Natural History Museum and spent a couple of hours learning more about the geology, dinosaurs, ice age, and indigenous people of Argentina.  It was very interesting.

My head is as big as his eyeball.  This dinos were gigantic.
By now, we were parched and hungry, so we headed back to a little cafe across from the bird preserve, where we drank a bottle of wine and ate empanadas (little meat and cheese pies).   We asked our waiter what was going on with the gas stations in town. Apparently, there is a blockade "workers strike??" on the roads coming into town preventing the gas trucks.  Yipes!  What a nightmare.  Glad we aren't traveling north on Route 40 anytime soon.

After our dinner, we took another 3 kilometer walk through the bird preserve. The weather was so warm and the air so still, most of the birds must have been hiding.  We saw few compared to the first day, but never the less enjoyed the walk.  

Before we returned to the hotel, we tried again to get gas.  No luck, no gas.  The queue was longer, and I think people were starting to camp in line.  We returned back to our BNB and got ourselves packed up, as we change accommodations in preparation for our Patagonia Adventure Tour.  Lights out at midnight!.

Saturday, February 6, 2009, WRTD 29

We bid farewell to our wonderful hosts, brother and sister team Javiar and Andrea, at South BnB.  By 10:00 am we are on the road, we deposit our bags at the new hotel, and check out the gas station situation before returning the car. One station is still not working, the other the queue goes on for as far as the eye can see.  Cars are in line, locked, and vacated.  People must have gone home for the night, or are taking turns sitting in the family car waiting.  We give up, bite the bullet, and return the car with a half full tank, and pay $50.00.

We enjoy one last day walking around town, shopping, eating at a cafe, returning to our new hotel to relax, read, and nap.

Tonight we met our group on the Patagonia Adventure tour.  Their are 8 of us walkers, and our tour leader.  We leave tomorrow morning for the Pietro Moreno Glacier.

All is Well with the Worrall Travel Rs in Patagonia

Friday, February 05, 2016

The Bad Lands - Bosque Petrificado La Leona, Argentina

Thursday, February 4, 2016, "Bad Lands" near the Rio Leona, WTRD 26

Yesterday, was partly cloudy and windy as rain clouds passed over the desert.  Today, we awoke to beautiful clear skies.  Unlike the summer desert in Las Vegas, today was cool and windy, in the high 60's.  It is a perfect day for hiking in the Bad Lands.   And that is where we are headed.

Russ and I were picked up at our BnB around 9:30 and driven about 130 kilometers out of El Calafate, to an interesting geological valley where we hiked for three hours in the Bosque Petrificado La Leona.  Before we turned off the main road, we stopped at the La Leona Hotel where Butch Cassidy, Sundance Kid, and Edith Place hid out for a month before leaving for Bolivia where they were ultimately killed in a shootout with the police.

Our guide explained that this was not a Shakespeare moment of 
To Pee or not to Pee, it was a must pee because the area we are in which we will be hiking has no facilities.  Cute!  So our little group of about 15 people all did our thing, and had some snacks as well before heading into the Bad Lands in our four wheel drive.  

We climbed up a mountain and came to a stop high atop a plateau.  The sight that met us as we peered over the plateau was vastly different than the area we were standing on and had driven through to get here.  In many ways it has the erosive qualities of South Dakota's Bad Lands or Bryce Canyon, but without the immensity and color.

Approximately 75 MILLION years ago, The west coast of South America, Chile and Argentina were flat river valleys, receiving 300 centimeters of rain a year and was lush, wet, and jungly and the home to dinosaurs.  When the Pacific tectonic plate collided with the South American Plate, the the Pacific plate pushed under, the South American plate pushed over on top and curled forward creating the Andes mountain range.  With the collision and pushing, magma oozed up from the depths pushed down by the Pacific plate and covered the region in iron rich basalt approximately 15-20 feet thick.  

This dense metallic like covering provided a protective covering over the rich valley plains before the ice age began. The Andes as they rose, began to capture the rain fall as snow at the higher elevations.  This snow built up to make the beautiful glaciers that can be seen today.  The eastern slope of the Andes is dryer, and the flat areas east became dry windswept deserts, subject to freezing cold temperatures. 

As the snow and glaciers were laid down and eventually started to crush their way downward, those areas not protected by the basalt eroded away more quickly, creating deep canyons and new valleys.  The original river valley that was  protected by the basalt did not erode as quickly and eventually became mountains and flat high plateaus as the unprotected areas washed away around them.

The area was eroded first by glaciers, eventually crushing  through the basalt towards the end of the ice age.  Subsequent erosion, began too expose the underlying treasures of trees and dinosaur bones captured under the protective basalt layer.  Today, what is visible is this fragile mud and sand stone sculpted mountains, valleys, and caves with fossil finds making their way to the surface.  We were reminded of Cappadocia and the Fairy Chimneys in Turkey.  However these mountains are more fragile and mud like rather than sandstone. The caves were never inhabited by indigenous people.  Pumas are usually the only inhabitants when birthing cubs.  This puma had a lama for supper near the caves.

On our hike today, we saw broken, rounded, jagged basalt moraine,

unusual eroded formations, 

Looking down on Mountains, not Mole Hills
biodiverse plant life that has grown in this inhospitable environment, 

Looks like moss covered rocks, but it is all plant that is hard like brain coral
petrified dinosaur bones and trees. 
Cow femur on left, petrified dinosaur femur on right

Petrified Wood
 We learned today as we examined fossils, rocks,

and petrified wood that you can quickly differentiate between dinosaur bones and rocks, because the dinosaur bones are hydrophilic (attracted to water).  If it is a dinosaur bone, it will stick to the inside of your inner lip.  I think I found one!

Another first...kissing a dinosaur fossil.

Too bad, all finds had to be left behind, no souvenirs.  It's been a very interesting day..  We loved it.

All is Well with the Worrall Travel R's in the Boscque Petrificado La Leona

Thursday, February 04, 2016

Birds, Lamas, Cattle, Horses, El Calafate, Argentina

Tuesday, February 2, 2016, Laguna Nimez, WRTD 25

Our first full day in El Calafate was laid back.  We slept late, ate breakfast in the South BNB resto downstairs from our room, tied up our hiking boots and set out for the downtown area to explore and then towards Lake Argentino and the Laguna Nimez a bird preserve where numerous species of birds nest and summer here, including flocks of pink flamingos.


We have been to numerous bird preserves, and this was by far the most beautiful and active. El Calafate is the recipient of federal funds from oil drilling and love by one of Argentinas presidents to build a beautiful infrastructure for tourists, broad streets, underground utilities, parks, malacon (waterfront walk way), and investment in environmental protection and an encouragement for international investors. Tourism here has increased from 35,000 to over 400,000 people per year.  Glacier viewing and exploration is of course the primary reason people come here.

Night Falls on El Calafate

Wednesday, February 3, 2016, Gauchos We are Not, WRTD 26

We decided to exercise the rental car today and headed  toward the Pietro Moreno Glacier, not to go all the way today, but to visit a cattle/sheep ranch and to go horseback riding on the Pampas.  Gauchos we are not, but we had  a spectacular morning riding along the Moreno Glacier melt lake.

Along the way to the Rio Mitre Ranch, we found a geocache at Elephant Rocks, a large formation that looked like a stand of facing elephants. 

The turn off from the main road was washboard gravel for a couple of miles until we reached the ranch. 

We were greeted by the owner Estephan and the many pet animals. Estephan's family have lived here for 150 years and hold 2000 hectares of land.  Lamas, a blind calf, and lots of long horned shaggy goats introduced themselves to us by rubbing noses, nibbling on our clothing, and untying and chewing on our boot laces.

Today, Estephan's brother operates the cattle ranch.  Estephan operates the restaurant and horseback riding. Martin and Tally were our guides. They are students working at the ranch for the summer.  

We were introduced to our horses, both old and slow by our request.  

Tally helps me mount
The saddles were not western with saddle horns and were covered with thick lambs wool.  It seemed to me they had very short stirups that were chest height for me. Even when lowered, the stirups were above my belly button and while my foot may have reached that high, without the saddle horn to hang on and pull my self up and over, I needed some assistance!  Fortunately, a large flat boulder was a great platform.

Once we were mounted, we were on our way for an hour ride.  The cattle  stood up, and moved out the way often running ahead of us as we followed in their dust and their mooing.

It was challenging to take photos while riding, but we did our best to capture the ride. The air was cool and fresh. We enjoyed the birds, 

ranch horses, 

and meandering around the edges of the glacier melt. 


When we returned from our ride, the Patagonia lamb was on the grill,

and we feasted our stomachs and our eyes on the lunch and view.  

After lunch, we tried the Argentine drink of matea, like tea, but quite bitter.  It looks like pond scum floating in the water (tastes like it too), and one must drink it through a filtered straw. We are not fans of this drink.

While we visited with Estephan, he shared with us his family history, and the artifacts his family had collected from their land over the years, including a fossilized dinosaur egg, 

and a dinosaur bone fashioned as a bola by early indigenous people.  We couldn't have had a better morning!

On our return to El Calafate, we spent a couple of interesting hours at the Glaciarium, a museum dedicated to glaciology, and once again walked along the lake ponds fronting the lake enjoying the bird life.  

Tomorrow, we are taking a desert tour to the "Bad Lands" by the Rio Leona.

All is Well With the Worrall Travel Rs in El Calafate, Argentina