21 de març 2016

mountain, mountain, dedo, bus

To go to the South Pole I hitch-hiked the Austral Road southwards from Santiago. It is quite a simpático road to hike and meet people on the way. This is a picture of the famous Km 0, which I reached with Raquel, a Catalan I shared room and bed in Chiloé. And with whom we met on and off as we had a similar itinerary. A wonderful positive person to spend time with!

After the South Pole experience I started speeding my ascend towards Buenos Aires, which I saw as a social stopover, to meet friends and family. The trip to the Pole had been quite a shock to my budget and I had planned to stop my travels in the Argentinian capital.

I sadly left my white overall, my new Magallanic/European family-like environment (much love to Daniel and my  Romanian sisters) and 6 cats behind (with four kitties coming out of their kitty box for the first time, awww) to finally manage to see the Perito Moreno I missed on my way down.

I hitched a ride to Puerto Natales with a wonderful, energy-filled woman who was into hugging and I entered the town well loved and hugged up.

In Natales I stayed with a very well known family in the couch surfing community and despite the chaos of people and space, I felt quickly at home.
The highlight of Puerto Natales is the park of Torres del Paine. A well known hike to see a very curious mountain formation.

I was sure I wanted to hike the "Torres del Paine". After spending almost 3 weeks in an alpine area I had started to like going uphill and, oh  miracle! I reached one of the goals of this trip: Getting over the cold. I was ok with the cold! In fact, I quite liked the dry Patagonic/Magallanic cold.

I just wasn't sure if I was well equipped to hike in rather harsh weather conditions. No tent, no sleeping bag and worse, my backpack is pretty, but a pain to carry.
I could rent the equipment and do the short 3-day hike, I loved the space but the amount of mountain uniformed tourists was putting me off.  The forecast wasn't looking good, the wind was ferocious and it was also pouring rain.
I hadn't slept much, I was feeling a bit numb and irritated. After coming out of an informative evening for the hike and after seeing the place so packed I needed to take a walk and think. My walk included a visit to the bus station and to the grocery shops. After the station I went to buy some food for the hike and when I was about to pay I couldn't find my wallet. I swear I walked the same path 3 times back and forth under the rain and against the strong and loud winds, but the wallet was gone with the credit cards and the money I had withdrawn to do the whole hike.
So the answer to my doubts whether to do the hike or not dissipated quick enough. 
I was furious I had to stay in town to sort my situation and I hated my luck. From that point on a "yang" time began. I lost my right to a bed where I was staying although they were nice to give me a mattress to sleep in the living room. Fair enough. The bedroom was freezing cold, but not the living room.
But then more people came in and I was given the 2 seat couch. The town was 3-times above its normal capacity, the weather had turned even harsher and the tourist bus I was going to board to go to the mountain site tumbled, some cancelled their trip and were knocking doors to find a place to stay.
The reason to that craze of tourists pouring in was not only the school holidays or the weather. The park has recently become one of the 8 wonders of the world. So all those shop-uniformed hikers were box tickers. The park is now extremely popular. I had no idea of the wonder status, but after finding out I felt less bad about not going up those hills.
So I had a small couch to sleep in. Until another desperate tourist was given one seat to sleep.
Then I remembered I had the phone numbers of people from Natales I had contacted before and tried my luck to see if they had space for me that night. Hostels were booked out. With all that gushing rain, the stormy wind, no money, the door bell ringing and tourists pouring into the house, no bed to sleep... It all felt sort of apocalyptic.
Among that mess of people I got to meet a very corageous family who were crossing Southamerica by bike. It was so windy, they could only manage to ride 25km a day and, like many of us, had decided to take a break and wait until the storm ended. Here their blog, if interested:


But here comes one of the joys of travelling: a friend of a guy who knew about my luck sent me a message, picked me up and drove me to his home.
And my mood changed as soon as he said: "I just learned how to drive yesterday". It made me laugh so much my worries disappeared and I spent the night in a military complex. Too thankful to tell how nice it felt to finally get some sleep.
So, with no money in my coat and the idea of the hike ditched I went on the road the next morning to hitch hike to the Argentinian border. I had sent myself some money to the only card I had left, but I had to wait a couple of days for the transaction to complete. Since I had had one lucky strike I felt as good as those who have nothing to lose.
A couple of fishermen picked me up. As I told them the story they decided I couldn't leave without seeing the "big wonder", they drove me to see the mountain and then dropped me at the Argentinian border.
         ... Ready to go to Calafate and see the Perito Moreno!

13 de març 2016

From the Pacific to the Antartic

Aviam, buckle up. I can't seem to be able to process everything I am experiencing. And learning.
First of all, primer, the images, the experiences.
First of, quick photogram of the Antarctica experience in pictures. In Catalan.
Then a sensation-filled post with the learnings. Although I am already with one foot on the road!
Érem un grup de sis. Jo vaig arribar com a afegit després de negociar un preu especial. L'avió era un jet on cavíem just sis. Tots teníem vistes de finestra. No sabia que m'estaven fent una foto. Quan vaig començar a veure la terra del sisè continent em va agafar un nus molt gran i estava contenint el plor tontaina. No va durar molt. El plor tontaina va sortir a la vista d'algunes pannes de glaç.
Candid picture taken on the flight transfer. Holding the chin to contain the emotion after seeing the first icebergs on the sea.

Feia un temps atípic i vam poder fer i veure moltes coses. El primer que vam fer, després de menjar alguna cosa a la base científica xilena va ser anar a veure pingüins. És estiu així que en costa molt del gel està desfet i això ajuda a trobar més d'aquests ocellets cuquis. Perdó per la selfie, no tenia qui em fotografiés i estava al.lucinant de la quantitat i de com d'aprop hi eren. A terra, pedretes cagades. N'he portat de record si algú en vol! 


Gentoo penguin

Adele penguin (no puns intended)
Chinstrap penguin. Most elegant, it seems they have a mask on if you look closely
this is to show how close you could get. The scientists told us not to get more than 5metres from them and I respected it at all times although the felt safe among us. But there are always tourists who feel the need to attempt to touch. I took the picture on request, but I show it as a protest. I'll write a whole post on the learning after visiting the fragile place that cools us paradoxically with those who contribute quicker to its doomsday.

Vam fer una ronda més de visites a científics i explicacions de recerques a propòsit de la reserva d'aigua mundial (i els pronòstics que la quantitat d'aigua que queda al planeta no són exactament optimistes). Curiosament, aconseguir aigua a aquesta part de la terra és molt difícil. A l'estiu es desglen llacs i l'abastiment és possible per uns quants, però en quant gela. No hi ha manera. I ja que parlàvem d'aigua ens vam enfilar a un "dome", una duna gegant de gel i neu perenne. El nostre guia, Alejo Carpenter Staeding, va ser el primer sudamericà a pujar al cim del mont Vinson, el més alt de l'Antàrtica i el primer en arribar al pol mateix (centre) a peu. Va de cul coordinant tothom perquè es coneix el terreny com la seva mà. Si no hagués estat per això hauria volgut escoltar més batalletes.
Com que l'Antàrtica és només terra de recerca ell es considera el primer natiu de l'illa. Diu que en 15000 anys quan ens estinguim i busquin al continent les civilitzacions futures veuran que hi havia un poblador semipermanent.

We got up the dome on the "oruguita", very cool ride on tank-like wheels

Perdó pel titular groguenc, sorry for the yellow header. Dóna una mica d'info de l'Alejo.

Alejo, nuestro guia, our inspiring guide, click to learn more about this inspiring man
On the Dome. At some point I went full blast Antarctic high. I will spare you the pictures doing all sorts of silly things on, up and down the snow (angel included, believe it or not, for the first time in my life)

The day went on (days are long on the South Pole). Amb els llargs dies del Pol Sud vam tenir temps de veure més pannes,salts d'aigua des del cel i el blanc i blau intens del gel que s'esquerda. Els ulls no donen crèdit a la riquesa de tant poc colors vius però tants tons de blanc, gris, blau. L'aire gelat, el soroll del gel que canta, la pau d'una terra sense habitants, el territori inhòspit que ens regala dies de fresqueta i fa que aquest planeta sigui habitable. És que en que pensi em poso a sanglotar, ... Increïble. Em sento molt privilegiada. Gràcies món per regalar-me la curiositat de voler visitar-te. Val molt la pena!

Visita a fauna II. Elefants marins i lleons de diferent caire. Els elefants semblen un càstic diví, amb aquells cossos que s'esclafen contra la terra. Els lleons són una altra cosa. Són territorials i no els agradem (amb molta raó). Passant a prop d'ells ens amenaçaven i venien corrents a atacar. Com són territorials mai podem anar per la part de l'aigua perquè és el seu àmbit. Havíem de fer cas al guia. El turista ja esmenaat que creia i creu que pot fer tot (les seves paraules literals eren: "bah, si por una persona no va a pasar nada...") va intentar fer cas omís. Malauradament va esquivar el lleó mosquejat i jo em vaig perdre l'oportunitat de veure en viu un atac de lleó marí. Una pena.

Alguns dels bitxos.  
Sea elephant, male. See the trunk. Veieu la trompa?

the female. Those bodies spread out look to me like a bit of a nuisance. I am sure it must feel much better in the water. For mating as well. It must be complicated, come to think about it.

Two juvenile sea lions playing. See the whiskers? Their fins can keep them upright and they are relatively quick and agile on ground
Un cel de platja m'espera, un mes després d'aquesta visita única. I tinc unes quantes batalletes pendents a explciar. 
El dia va continuar visitant centres científics, aquest cop el xinès. El millor organitzat, més net i càlid de tots. No són molt amics de rebre turistes així que vam tenir sort que ens deixessin entrar als laboratoris. Vaig fer fotos però no vaig trobar cap secret científic. O sí???
specimen from the Chinese scientific research centre, last visit of the day.
I així en zodiac i en orugueta vam arribar al campament. Vam dormir a les tendes dels qui van a fer recerca. La tenda principal és la cuina/saló/lloc de trobada on pots estar en vertical, i les petites, les tendes. Com que som turistes i 5 d'ells han nascut i viscut a un món més primer que el meu (el first first world) les nostres màrfegues estaven escalfades amb una manta elèctrica. Com només estàvem a -3 graus (cosa inèdita) i jo no em vaig treure 'lo puto mono' d'esquí per dormir, vaig suar i vaig tenir una experiència biosàunica a l'Antàrtica. El silenci de la nit és esfereïdor, immens, magnífic. Les estrelles... Bé, sense contaminació de llum el cel et cau a sobre. Tot i que la nit a l'estiu no és del tot tancada. Una imatge única, mai atestimoniada. No tinc l'equip per fer fotos de qualitat però he tret una d'internet per tancar el post i donar una idea.
Antarctic hotel (or hot-tent) de nuit. Warmest tent ever, heated for soft-a**ed tourists
Una curiositat afegida serien els banys. Com tot el territori està protegit no volem deixar restes orgàniques a terra de recerca científica. Leave nothing but footsteps behind, take nothing but pictures.
Le toilette, the "take your crap with you" loo!, no human waste allowed on Antactic grounds.
Així que feiem pipí a una galleda i amb un embut la passàvem a un pot d'entrada més petita. I la caca era com quan li reculls la bosseta al gos. T'asseus a la cadira amb forat (la nostra versió era similar, però no la que es veu) i com els turistes només fem el que és divertit algun altre pringat et recull la caca. Jo no vaig gossar a fer nr 2, però una persona dels cinc sí que va deixar regalet. Podria ser el mateix qui deia que fer un pis a fora tampoc venia d'aquí, que per una persona no passa res... Sí, amics, vaig compartir tenda amb el malson troglodita d'una greenie (socioecologista) ...

Per no tancar l'article amb la imatge d'un wàter portàtil tancaré l'aventura antàrtica amb les paraules d'un dels  guies, un noi jovenet muntanyista, estudiant de biologia i ecoturisme:
"Som com els paràsits de la mare terra, per això ella, de vegades es sacseja per desferse'n d'alguns"

Visitant llocs com aquests la meva paradoxa sáccentua. Estimo la Pacha Mama, la Mare Terra. I conèixer els seus fills sempre m'ensenya, ja que som culturalment diversos i estranyament fascinants. 
Però aquesta fascinació, quan observo comportaments, dels de: "bah, si tothom ho fa! Es que no es pot canviar! És culpa del govern o és que és la nostra cultura" es converteix de vegades en un desig que la Mare Terra sacsegi una miqueta més fort i n'envii uns quants a fer d'estels al cel. 
taken from marthasyard.wordpress.com, the tiwlight starry night in Antarctica. My photo equipment is too precarious to be able to show this unique view, alas. But this is a very close approach!
Funny closing thoughts: During the excursion I got to meet two passionate Eco-sensitised individuals, in contrast to the group of accommodated, yet curious, tourists. I wonder if they will change any habit after meeting the cooling spot of Mother Earth. Ironically, this visit made me love the planet even more (and made me wonder what behaviour can I modify to adapt to it better) and at the same time, as I kept travelling made me feel less comfortable with acquired behaviours of those who think that changing habits to be more sustainable really doesn't change a thing. My respect to Mother Earth and the Earthlings grows and while I find humans, cultures quite fascinating, I can't help noticing habits and behaviours that make me despise humans at the same time. 
Our young naturist guide believes Mother Earth shakes us off now and then because we are like destructive parasite to them. 
Jane Goodall once said she wished something would wipe a great amount of the population out of the planet without causing great harm. 

Unfortunately, the more I care, the more these thoughts arise when watching crowded, dirty cities, the hopelessness of misery and the "it's our culture" indifferent attitude in the South American excessive meat eating society.
Walk, recycle, upcycle, share, reject plastic containers and bottled water, think aligned with the planet and eat accordingly. You won't need medicines if you listen to your body and try to connect to Mother Earth. She is teaching you lessons constantly.

                                               Love and breathe more and better!