Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sparkling White Glacier - Pretty in Pink Plastered Skin

There was a slight mix-up with today's activity. i was supposed to do a glacier trek of Perito Moreno (picture to come). i did do a 'mini' trek, but it was child's play version of the one i expected to do.

we took a boat to the glacier. once again, it was a stunning day with cloudless, blue skies. the glacier literally sparkeled like a diamond in the morning sunlight.

Once we arrived, we literally walked 2 minutes and then we stopped for a 'break'. We then got cramp-ons and walked up a section of the glacier for 30 minutes and back down for 30. I will admit, i was a bit disappointed not to do the full trek. BUT it was such a beautiful day and i still got a lot of quality time by the glacier that it would be silly to be too bummed.

i spent an hour at the view point right next to the glacier and watched big chunks of ice break off and land in the lake. you know it will happen because this loud roar emits, almost like thunder striking or like a plane flying overhead, and then there's a loud crack and crash as the ice falls into the water. Phenomenal! (video to come where this woman keeps saying in the background, que hermoso, que hermoso!)

As a side note, i had a moment of wanting to strip off all my clothes and slide my bare, bedbug bitten body along the glacier to cool my 100 or so incessantly itching bites. The glacier is deceptively not a smooth block of ice, but rather a collection of small, diamond like ice chunks that would have literally torn holes into my skin if i attempted this 'alternative' healing remedy. Thus, i restrained from the urge and waited til i got into town to buy Calamine lotion at a pharmacy.

My pretty in pink plastered skin would have been a stunning, artistic contrast against the sparkling, white glacier.

NEXT STOP: Flight to Ushuaia - El fin del mundo (the end of the world) - and Tierra del Fuego

Sunday, February 26, 2012

5 Daily Discoveries During my 5 Day Hike in Torres Del Paine Patagonia Chile

5 days hiking in Patagonia by myself. i had the most amazing weather. it never rained and was hardly windy, which is pretty much unheard of for Patagonia. Also, although the first 2 days were crowded, the following days had way less people - perhaps because they just reopened the trail after the december fire? This meant i had countless hours of walking alone and sitting by myself overlooking stunning views. I had 5 days of good jeanne time and here are my favorite moments and discoveries:

Day 1: Las Torres Mirador

Hiking Time: 3 hours and 40 minutes

Favorite Moment: Sitting on the lake at the base of Las Torres, trying to figure out how to bottle up this feeling of pure stress-free relaxation. (Picture to come, but basically the setting was 3 huge granite rock towers, which normally are encased in clouds, towering in front of a blue sky and over a pristine, blue lake.)

Songs of the Day: wax tailer: How i feel, Que Sera

Discovery of the Day: Sitting by the lake at Las Torres mirador, I leaned against a rock for an hour or so with the warm sun shining on me and a cool breeze in the air. It was only a propos to put on Wax Tailer´s remake of Michael Buble ´Feeling Good´

´Sun in the sky - you know how i feel

Breeze drifting on by - you know how i feel

Its a new dawn. A new day.´

And how did i feel!?!? Well, after the next wax tailer song came on, Que Sera, which starts off with ´and now the moment we´ve all been waiting for is here´ I thought that captured it! i am in THIS moment! Here i am on another wonderful trip and i am so grateful to have this opportunity and so stoked to get this ´me´ time. i felt surrendered and at peace with the notion that ´the futures not ours to see.´

DAY 2: Sunrise at Las Torres

Hiking Time: about <7hrs (including a few breaks)

Favorite Moment: I woke up at 445 am to see the sun rise over Las Torres. I set out with my headlamp on up the hour and 20 minute climb with a Chilean guy and his girlfriend who worked at the refugio. I would have froze my ass off if they did not give me the insider tip to bring my sleeping bag with me to keep warm while I wait for the sun to rise. Upon arrival, I settled in next to a rock that blocked the wind a bit and wrapped myself in my sleeping bag. I sat there watching the transformation of the granite towers turn from a pinkish color to a deep orange to a bright yellow to a white. It was a stunning transition to watch and my description does not do it justice. It possibly was my favorite experience in the 5 days.

Songs of the Day: Goyte Somebody i Used to Know, Anna Rossi - Frame me Right

Discovery of the Day: Very easy day of hiking...a lot of time to think, listen to music and chill. Throughout various moments in the day, i was reminded that the 32 year old version of me is a LOT wiser than the 23 year old version of me..of course, one would hope so. :)

Day 3: Hike into Valley Frances

Hiking Time: 11 hours (includes breaks also includes me hiking out 15 minutes and realizing i forgot my hiking poles and turning around to get them. and then hiking out 25 minutes just to realize that the tips of my hiking poles popped off. I turned around and found 1 tip at start of the trail. The other lost forever. So there i was an hour and 20 minutes into the hike, but yet, right where i started :) Que Sera!)

Favorite Moment: There are 3 main view points in the French Valley. The first one was at the top of the peak where i honored the snow capped mountains in front of me with a headstand on a rock. The Brazilian who took my photo thought i was crazy. (picture to come!) The 3rd look out point had 3 other people there and then they left. I sat by myself for 30 minutes in the valley frances with a 360 degree view of of the lake, mountain face, snow-capped peaks, and the horn shaped (cuernos) mountain peaks). OM!

Song of the Day: i had a ´spiritual´ day and listened to a detox yoga speaker series by Seane Corn that i listened to when i was in indonesia. She has moments where she references God quite a bit, which is a bit too much for an agnostic - borderline atheist, BUT if you can put that aside, wow, this cd always centers me.

Discovery of the Day:

Bear with me here, because i am about to have a preachy moment. The yoga series i listened to today talks about how emotions, such as stress, fear, loss, sadness, unresolved grief, regret, anger, etc make our bodies toxic and effect our well being. We´re having an impact on ourselves with something as simple as being frustrated at someone for getting in our way on the street, causing us to miss our subway or something bigger like work stress, disappointment with friends, the end of a relationship, etc.

Instead of harboring these emotions, which will have a long-term toll on our mind and body, embrace the idea that every experience - both good and bad - becomes an opportunity. It does take a LOT of initial energy to shift your perspective - to let things go or to find the silverlining. BUT there is a sense of empowerment knowing that YOU have the responsibility and power in every situation to make it what it is. For example, that missed subway is now an opportunity to sit and relax for 10 minutes or that ´rejection´ is actually a gift necessary to get closer to knowing who you are and what makes YOU happy and what you deserve.

SO, in summary, each person and experience we encounter becomes instrumental in who we are today and whether they are for the better or the worse is OUR individual choice and responsibility. It´s up to us to shift that perspective and find the value in what´s happening.

Day 4: Hike to Glacier Grey

Hiking Time: about 6 hours (includes a walk / run back to a lookout point about an hour away that i saw in the morning to see it in the evening light. The Torres del Paine felt like one huge running trail to me!)

Favorite Moment: I dropped my pack at the refugio and hiked up to the next camp site where there was a mirador. I walked a bit along the side of the mountain and i found a flat section to sit on, perched above the glacier. I sat there for 3 hours and I also got to a witness a chunk of ice, about the size of a car, break apart and land in the it cracked, the noise, the falling motion, the impact, everything was amazing!!

Songs of the Day: Elbow Songs: Lippy Kids (Specifically, "Do they know those days are golden") and Weather to Fly (Specifically, "Are we having the time of our lives") and One Day Like This (Specifically, It´s looking Like a Beautiful Day. One day like this a year would see me right!")

Discovery of the Day: I love how it feels to be connected with nature. I miss this in NYC. And the next thing might sound a bit weird, but I really enjoy my company. haha. From running back and forth between look out points to just chilling by the glacier to doing about 20 self-timed jumping shots until i got the perfect picture of me jumping in the air above the glacier, I had a lot of fun with me today! :)

Day 5: Hike back to Paine Grande Refugio to the Catamaran

Favorite Moment: Sleeping in a room with 3 other beds but noone in them. This meant NO snoring and NO early morning rustling. It took a lot of motivation to get out of my sleeping bag this morning :)

Songs of the Day: wax tailer: How i feel, Que Sera - Only feels right to be full circle and leave Torres del Paine listening to these songs

Discovery of the Day: I think it is a Smashing Pumpkins song that says, all Good things surely have to end. Well, that´s kind of a bummer way to look at it. Yes, I am sad that my 5 days of scampering up and down the mountains in Torres del Paine has come to an end. However, when I think about all that i processed during this trip, the enlightenment i reached and the peace and tranquility i found, i can´t help but think of my favorite yoga phrase, ¨"how do i take this feeling of calm off the yoga mat and out with me into the world"...I have 22 days to work on this challenge :)

NEXT STOP: 5 hour bus ride back to El Calafate and then a Glacier hike on Perito Moreno Glacier

Saturday, February 25, 2012

First trip snafu

Every trip has its snafu. i hope i had mine and got it out of the way, but i am not holding my breath. i arrived to el calafate by plane with no hostel arrangements since i was hoping to catch a bus straight to puerto natales from the airport. i arrived, but my bag did not.

a few thoughts came in my head during my 24 hrs in el calafate:

1) ALWAYS build in a buffer time to your trip schedule

Luckily, i did this so i was not stressed about missing my bus and was resigned to spending the next 1.5 hours at the airport trying to figure out who can help me with my missing bag.

2) Bring a version of the Lonely Planet with you

I unfortunately did not bring this with me because i hate adding on the weight. next time, i really should just photo copy the pages of the places i am going to.

Luckily, there was a Spanish couple left in the airport who told me where they were staying so i had an address to give the airport lost and found office. This same couple rented a car and drove me in to town. nice.

3) ALWAYS have low expectations while travelling

Unfortunately, the hostel that the spanish couple were staying in was full. so was the hostel next door. so was the place next door. apparently, there was a festival in town to celebrate the baptism of the lake. since it was a 3 day weekend, every nearby Argentinean was in town on holiday.

as i walked to the tourist information center, i set my expectations reallly low. if worse came to worse, i have a sleeping bag and could probably convince one of the hostels to let me sleep in their lobby. The tourist center said there was one more place left in town with beds. it was shared accommodation. fine with me. she could not make reservations and it was first come first serve. so i beelined ´across´ town and i managed to secure the last bad in this not so fine establishment. but hey, it was a bed. AND my bags arrived at not too bad of a travel snafu after all.

4) ALWAYS travel with earplugs

earplugs will come in to handy when the drunk 20yr old Argentineans roll into bed around 330am and snore as if a steam train is perpetually stuck on the tracks under your bed. Earplugs don´t do so much in this circumstance, but at least they provide a partial protective barrier to the noise. THese same earplugs will also come into handy on a 5 hour bus ride to puerto natales where i unfortunately experienced a Guinness book of world records from the most obnoxious and egotistical american guy who talked for 5 hours straight - constant vowels and constants flowing from his lips. I did not think it was humanly possible to go on for that length of time, but trust me it is...however, i am getting ahead of myself here.

NEXT STOP: 5 hour bus ride to Puerto Natales and starting my 5 day hike in patagonia - w trek hike in torres del paine.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Less than 24 hours in Buenos Aires, Argentina

i don´t believe in fate, but i do believe things happen for a reason. I´m not sure if that is contradictory. Sometimes i wonder if there is a such thing as ´signs´ or do we just attach meaning to these ´signs´because it´s meaning we´re looking for subconsciously. Perhaps identifying something in the conscious world is the way to pull something out of our subconscious and into reality? I know the moments where i´m looking for meaning, like when i think my iPod knows how i am feeling at that moment and it is shuffling the songs accordingly OR when a bus drives by with a word on it, a word that describes the specific moment you´re in ( Bex, you will recall this circa 2002 in Australia). But, in reality, those are coincidences that happened to align perfectly with the moment.

But my question today is about the people you cross paths with in life. Is it circumstantial? Coincidental? Fate? or pure damn luck? I would call my encounter in my 1st 19 hours in Buenos Aires as serendipitous.

This post won´t be the usual Jeanne travel post. You won´t hear about dislocated shoulders, exorcist-like food poisoning, travel snafoos, bed bugs or any sort of off-roading adventures. In fact, this post might be utterly boring or maybe even too opaque or perhaps esoteric. But this post is for me because when you encounter serendipity you need to mark it and not forget it.

After a 10hr flight from DC to BA where the airline stewardist asked if i was writing a book since i was about halfway through my journal of non-stop, free-associated transcription of my half-baked, processing thoughts, I still did not feel any lighter. I continued my mad writing as i slowly shuffled through the custom lines for an hour. And upon exit of the BUenos Aires airport, i put away my ´book´and practiced my spanish during the ride with Marcel, my driver to Carlos´s place. I clearly need more practice.

Carlos posted his place on airbnb, like i did for my place in NYC for the month. Airbnb is my favorite company right now. I really should buy stock because i am their #1 fan. It represents many of my travel values - people deep down are good people and a travel experience is enhanced if you give them the local experience.

I brought Charlie back a shopping list of vitamins and health supplements he ordered from the US, who knew there were such exorbitant fees and taxes to ship vitamins to south america! I thought it was the least i could do for him since he was inviting me into his home. He thought that was beyond generous and called me an ´angel´. But if there is a such thing as an angel, i think charles might have been my angel.

The first sign came when i arrived to his place and we grabbed a coffee and limonada at the corner store. (as a side note, i loved the neighborhood feel. The waiters knew Charlie. Charlie knew the pharmacist across the street. Everyone was laughing and did not seem in a hurry. The fact that this stood out to me means i have been in NYC for too long! And the shop owner at the corner fruit market gave me a boquet of bright yellow flowers, just because. I like this city already. ) Anywho, Charlie is a london guy who has lived in BA for 15 years. He has traveled more than anyone i know, including me. His outlook on life is open and positive. When he referenced beliefs on one topic that was ciruclating in my head, i thought it was a coincidence. when he shared another statment that hit the nail on the head on another topic i was processing, i thought that was strange. When i experienced this for a 3rd time, I relized us crossing paths was not an accident. Call me out there. Call me loca. Call me mystical. But this just can´t be a coincidence. It´s amazing how things kick-in more when an absolute stranger says the same thing that your friends / sis might have said, but somehow it gives a different a-ha moment when someone says this after spending less than 10 hours with you.

So day 1 consisted of a neighborhood restaurant in palermo, a 30 mile bike ride through the city to el tigre, a pit stop on a swing set, an enlightening convo dining at el museo de eva perone, a traditional tango dance club and a sore bicycle riding ass (my own self-imposed ´sign´to not forget this day). Now at the Tango club, i did not attempt to dance. i was purely an observer. the women sit on one side of the room, while the men sit on the other, eying the women they want to lure out on the dance floor. I have to admit, something seemed oddly awkward about this dance, yet highly passionate. The women are angled with their face and chest pressed up against the man, while their stomach and ass are pushed at such a far and odd distance from the man it looks a bit uncomfortable. BUT, from the face of both partners with their eyes closed and their lips pressed tight, it looks like they are in a moment that can never be experienced again. There´s so much passion exuding from their facial expression that i don´t doubt that i am missing something really BIG here. And a moment of applause for Charlie for dancing til 5am, returning to send me off in my taxi. I turned into a pumpkin early, but I am pretty sure that in less than 24 hours in BA, I encountered an angel - or call it pure damn luck. Regardless, it gave me a perspective on thoughts that have been recently swimming in my head that made my mind feel pounds lighter. It´s a good start to the trip. i can only imagine how much at peace my mind will be on day 31. But don´t worry, i am not rushing to the end. Bring on Day #2!

NEXT STOP: El calafate - departure point for the 5 hour bus ride to Chile and the 5-day W-Trek.