Sunday, February 26, 2006

A Day of Rest

A quick one. We decided to rest it today in Puerto Natales. I slept for 13 hours and think my stomach troubles are mostly over. Probably just a touch of the stomach flu. We had a nice quiet day reading books and occasionally trying to speak spanish with our lively hostess. We should catch a bus tomorrow morning to the trailhead around 8am and should be hiking before noon!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

A Mangy Drug Sniffer and Peanut Butter

So now you know that we didn't catch that bus to the trailhead. The bus ride from El Calafate to Puerto Natales took longer than expected due to fun stuff at the Argentina-Chile border, which I'll elaborate on below. It turns out that it's probably better that we didn't catch that bus since I'm having some digestive track difficulties which may require a little bedrest. You do not need to worry for two reasons:

1. We have found a nice hostel with private room and bathroom and very nice hosts. Shouldn't be a bad place to stay extra, if needed. Also, Puerto Natales is not the tourist trap that El Calafate is, so the room costs $15 American a day which includes laundry, use of kitchen, and other benefits. It is also very clean.
2. We have some Cipro--a nice antibiotic that will kill most any bacteria. If things don't get better, I'll hit it with the big stuff.

We finally found some peanut butter! Not a staple here in Argentina and Chile, but I wouldn't want to go backpacking without some.

Puerto Natales is on the ocean and has a great view of the surrounding mountains. One could easily spend a great deal of time hiking around here. We'll take lots of pictures.

Onto the business at the border. It was easier to enter Argentina than to exit Argentina. Everyone unloaded the bus at the border and crammed into the border shack. I immediately sought out the restroom (see above problemas), but found that the bathroom contained only urinals. That was bad since I was not able to use the toilet at the bus station in El Calafate due to the fact that not only was there no TP, but there were also no toilet seats on the toilets. There is striking evidence in Argentina that nobody every needs to sit down or wipe to use a toilet. So, we all pass through the line, show passports, and fill out a little form, and then return to the bus. We wait on the bus for 10 minutes or so, before the bus driver gets on and instructs us to exit the bus again. They brought out a small, mangy yellow lab on a leash and proceeded to have it sniff through the luggage area and seats. Now here's the funny thing: the dog didn't want to have anything to do with sniffing the bus. It kept looking away and trying to head back to wherever it came from where, apparently, there were better things to smell. The border police had to keep tugging on the leash to get the dog back on track. In what might have got me an extended visit to a backroom at the border station, I laughed openly at the scene which brought on a few grins from other passengers. I told Kristine that we would have been there all day if Aspen had been the border dog. Once you got her away from all the people she would have not only sniffed every square inch of the bus, but probably would have given it a good cleaning as well. Anyhow, once the bus was clear we drove 5 minutes to the Chile border station and got off to do the same thing. This time, however, the bathroom had...urinals AND toilets...toilet seats...and...wait for it...toilet paper. I was relieved, and in appreciation I proudly admitted that we were smuggling across some dried fruit, and some sandwiches. The Chilean didn´t seem to care. They even let the mangy mutt who was out on the sidewalk keep his peace.

I'll let you go. Thanks to everyone who writes. We'll be posting more soon if I don't feel better, otherwise it might be a while.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Howto Escape A Tourist Trap

Hola from El Calafate. We arrived via Aerolineas Argentinas at 9:15pm last night and crashed at a Hostel. I wanted to try to get to Puerto Natales as soon as possible, so we left the hostel just after 6am to hike down to the bus station to buy a ticket. Two buses were going to Puerto Natales today and I was told that both were full very curtly by one bus line and much more patiently by the other. Needless to say we have two tickets for tomorrow morning from the second company.

We found the local campsite where you can stay for approximately $3 a night and has bathrooms and running water (the hot water has yet to materialize in any useful amount). I sleep just as well in my sleeping bag as on a strange bed, so this seemed like a good bet since hostels range from $25-30 a night and offer little more.

We've spent the majority of the day buying food and a couple of other supplies for backpacking in Torres del Paine (see link at the left). The packs will be heavy to begin with since we are packing about 10 days worth of food. Maybe as much as 40 pounds. I'm not overly concerned since the hikes do not appear to be too arduous. I suspect that we won't have to hike more than 6 hours a day unless we really want to.

El Calafate is somewhat of a tourist trap. That is, it is probably just as obnoxious to Argentinians as Vail (or a million other little such towns) in America. However, to the weary traveller who has a step up on the Argentinan peso because of a kind exchange rate, foreigners seem to agree that the small town atmosphere and clean streets (not to mention the stray dogs) are worth the extra cost. We even paid a laundrymat about $3 to wash, dry, and fold a load of our dirty clothes.

So far the most dissapointing thing (amongst the many many fun aspects) about South America is the pervasiveness of American enertainment. Argentinians watch American T.V. shows, movies, and about a quarter of the music I hear is American (or British). Sometimes they have over-dubbing on the movies and T.V., but often they just have subtitles.

So, here is the plan to escape El Calafate: we leave here at 8:30am tomorrow morning on bus for Puerto Natales (approximately a 5 hour ride). We must then scramble to get some Pesos from a Chilean bank (Puerto Natales is in Chile) before we try to catch a bus at 2:30 to the trail head of the park (that bus ride is about 2.5 hours). If we get all that done we may try to get a few hours of hiking in before camping. Otherwise, we may have to stay in Puerto Natales for the night and ride to the trail the next morning. If we get started hiking you may not hear from us in another 11-12 days or so. I told Kristine that I wanted to see a Puma before we came back. She was not impressed :)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Buenos Aires by Day.. El Calafate by Night

Buenos Dias! Well, we are now somewhat rested after about 12 hours of sleep. Oddly enough, I (Kristine) am still sleepy.

Yesterday afternoon we walked around the city center to do a little sight seeing. We saw the Casa Rosada where Evita rallied Argentinians in the 1940s. The building was a very pretty pinkish red color and I could actually visulize her standing on the balcony speaking to the crowds. The building was really quite beautiful. We then walked into to Churches, the Basilica de San Francisco and I can´t remember the name of the second church. They were both impressively large and were quite beautiful. The second church is trying to gather funds to manage the upkeep. It is unfortunate to see, but it appears as though all the ceiling murels and wall murels were painted over and now they are just trying to fix all the chipping concrete on the ceilings. They had a netting that caught everything that was falling from the ceilings. The bare concrete was showing and I can only hope that one day they´ll be able to put the murels back up. Overall, Buenos Aires is definitely a busy crowded city. It certainly isn´t clean, but there are parts of it that are quite beautiful. Several people add beauty to their window balconies with beautiful plants and flowers.

Our first meal in Argentina, sadly enough, was italian food! We had spaghetti and ravioli. Hey, it was one of the few specials for $1 per meal. My orange juice was more than the meal I had. It was good food though! Speaking of which, we haven´t eaten yet today.. so my tummy awaits!

Oh yes! We will fly to El Calafate this evening so we will be one step closer to the trailhead for te Torres del Paine trek. I am really looking forward to it. I´m also hoping that it is a little bit cooler down there. With all this humidity, I feel like I´m in Wisconsin during the summer. My hair is BIG! May have to do something about that!


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Buenos Aires and the Columbia Recap


We have arrived at our hostel in Buenos Aires. It is 9am here. We have been traveling for over 24 hours and are waiting for a room so we can crash for a while. Had some intermitent sleep on the plane rides...from mere exhaustion. Despite this, morale is good.

Let us discuss the Columbian airport. Neither of us recommend getting a connecting flight there if you can avoid it. After arriving in Bogota we were escorted through a metal detector which looked like 1970s vintage. There was armed police there. So, we naively thought we were in the clear once past that checkpoint only to be frisked down again at the top of the stairs. Apparently, the Columbians do not think Miami has a good enough security screening. Once in, we had a layover of about 3 hours. No vending machines, or stores. The main attraction in the international terminal was the smoking lounge, but since the smoking lounges walls reached only part of the way to the ceiling, the entire rest of the terminal is not smoke free. The ventilation system appeared to be non-operational. Another oddity was the lack of English speaking personnel at the airport. Everywhere else we have gone so far has had a good number of bilingual workers.

O.K. Enough about Columbia. Service here in Buenos Aires has been great. We bought some tickets to fly to El Calafate tomorrow at 6pm, found an ATM machine, made a phone call, bought some waters (I accidentally gave the cafe a rather large tip since they have large coinage here...oops), and negotiated a taxi. The taxi drive was fun. Lines on the road are (at most) suggestions, and nobody uses their blinker. We just swerve in and out of lanes and bully our way through uncontrolled intersections. Wow.

Well, there is probably a lot more to say, but we need to find some breakfast. Email us if you have any specific questions.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006


We've made it to Miami and had a burger at Chili's. Already feels like we are out of the country (somewhat) since there are a lot of people speaking spanish in the airport.

We are doing great. I (Kevin) haven't had any motion sickness due to these "sea-bands" that I am wearing. This is the first time that I've ever traveled without having those sort of side affects. Kristine says she is tired...which makes sense since we got about 2 hours of sleep last night and 1 or 2 more on the plan this morning.

Next stop: Bogota, Columbia. We have a 2.5 layover and will definitely stick close to our gate. Look for another post soon!


We've made it to Miami and had a burger at Chili's. Already feels like we are out of the country (somewhat) since there are a lot of people speaking spanish in the airport.

We are doing great. I (Kevin) haven't had any motion sickness due to these "sea-bands" that I am wearing. This is the first time that I've ever traveled without having those sort of side affects. Kristine says she is tired...which makes sense since we got about 2 hours of sleep last night and 1 or 2 more on the plan this morning.

Next stop: Bogota, Columbia. We have a 2.5 layover and will definitely stick close to our gate. Look for another post soon!

Monday, February 20, 2006

Less than 24 hours!!

We leave tomorrow morning at 7:13 a.m. and have less than 24 hours to get everything done!


Most would think that everything is in order and we can just relax today. Nope! Fortunately, we moved all of Kevin & Keith's things (excluding the kitchen sink) into my tiny place yesterday. I thought we were officially cramped when Keith set me straight.. 'I don't think so, there is still places to put your feet to get through the place.' We put a lot of things away so that it is now an organized chaos! We (along with Adam & Annie's wonderful help) cleaned their apartment to the point that it is cleaner now than when they moved in.

Today, is a day of errands, meetings, paperwork, getting last minute prescriptions, and yes.. Kristine still hasn't figured out what clothes she's bringing. One would think this is a simple task, but I still haven't been able to get it done! To put things into perspective, please imagine trying to fit all of your travel belongings (e.g. tent, sleeping pad, water filter, sleeping bag, clothes, books) into a bag that is about 2-1/2' x 1'x1/2' big (for those backpacking junkies, ~5000 ci). That is what we are living on for FOUR months. Makes buying all of my goofy baking supplies seem non-essential these days! In my defense.. you never know when you'll need a tart pan!

So, today will be just as busy as last week. Hopefully my memory will serve me better today than it did yesterday. I got a phone call yesterday afternoon from a good friend to make sure Kevin & I were still alive. In the excitement of cleaning Kevin's apartment, we forgot to visit our friends as we had scheduled two days prior. Doh!

In case you're wondering, Aspen is hanging in there pretty well. She has been nervously excited. Right now, she's waiting for me to get off my bum to go running with me. I'm glad that she will be able to stay with Keith in my place while we're away. That will make the transition a little less stressful.. I hope!

Well, errands await!


Thursday, February 16, 2006

Preparation continues...

ETD: 4.5 days.

Keith and I have moved most of our earthly possessions into Kristine's two-bedroom townhouse. One bedroom is now designated as storage and the couch in the living room still theoretically exists under the huge pile of backpacking miscellanea. We would like to take Aspen (Kristine's dog) as a pack animal, but she refused (the dog, not Kristine).

I have given word to the Colorado School of Mines that I will attend in the Fall! Actually, I should be able to start ramping up on research topics almost as soon as I get back. No rest for the wicked. I must have an attraction to the Oredigger mascot. I will be working with Dr. Tissa Illangasekare:

and Dr. Tom Russell:

to try to do some useful mathematical and computational modeling for a problem in Environmental Engineering. Dr. Illangasekare is eager to have me collaborate with other researchers around the world as well. The clincher was when he promised me whatever computing equipment I needed. I was unable to wipe the drool away from my lips fast enough.

Kristine has been very busy getting things squared away (things I probably should be doing as well...) so that nobody sends a debt collector down to South America to find us. Still, these last 108 hours will quite probably still be frantic.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Here is our "Rough" yet detailed itinerary. Can't expect much less detail from an engineer and a mathematician!

  • 21-Feb: Travel to Buenos Aires, El Calafate, & Puerto Natales
  • 25-Feb: Begin the Torres del Paine Trek in Chile
  • 09-Mar: Travel to El Calafate
  • 10-Mar: See the Moreno Glacier
  • 12-Mar: Begin Trek around El Fitz Roy in Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
  • 18-Mar: Travel to El Calafate, Buenos Aires, & Porto Alegre in Brazil
  • 19-Mar: Assist "Dad" and Marina Grady with their sustainable organic farm for about one month.
  • Sidetrip: Foz Do Iguacu, Brazil
  • 22-Apr: Assist Weldon's Sister with street children in Brasila, Brazil
  • 29-Apr: Take a tour or two in the Amazon
  • 10-May: Stay in Rio and visit a friend of Weldon's (retired preacher).
  • 17-May: Travel to Cusco, Peru
  • While in Peru: Trek the Choqueuirao Trail and either the Salcantay Trek up to Machu Picchu or the Ausagante Trek at insane elevations!! :) We may just take the train up to Machu Picchu and save the trekking for some of the cooler hikes in the area.
  • 11-Jun: Return to Denver & await the arrival of Peanut (Adam & Annie's little one)
  • Other possible side trips: Visit a friend of Weldon's in Bolivia.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Welcome to Our Site

Welcome to the Blog Site for Kristine & Kevin!

Starting at the end of February, we'll be heading out for our trip to South America. We will be there until mid-June. We CANNOT wait to get started! We probably won't be able to post any pictures (unless someone wants to lend us an old digital camera), but we'll update you with our travels as best we can!

More to come soon!

-Kristine & Kevin