Friday, March 31, 2006
Kevin & I have been leading some pretty routine lives the past couple weeks. Kevin's working on the porch construction project. I'm helping with the house chores which includes collecting fruite, shelling nuts, making lunch & dinner, etc. I've also been running & going to yoga. The unroutine part is all of the creatures we seem to find or see. This morning, there were four monkeys and a couple of their babies in the Grady's gauva tree. I was fortunate enough to get a close up shot of them. Not soon after I walked down near them, they swung off.
Today, Chebie (Floyd's employee) started on the lawn mowing. He did it the way my Dad used to; let the cows eat the grass. The only difference is that Chebie tied up the cows instead of letting them roam free.
Kevin has been keeping busy trying to keep our guest house clean, of creatures that is. So far, he has removed a moth as big as his fist, a spider the size of a half dollar that sprinted across the ceiling, and a frog that was able to jump from the ceiling to the floor and then climb his way back up the wall. Today, he unearthed a large poisonous spider from the bricks they were using on the construction project. I guess it was as big as a tarantula, but narrower. Marina quickly disposed of the nasty thing. I'm cringing the day that Kevin finds a snake in the guest house. I'm sure it won't happen, but I have an overactive imagination.
I haven't been nearly as lazy this week. I broke out my running shoes and have been running on the biggest hills I have ever seen. My first day out, I ran over the top of snake. Fortunately, it was dead, I think. It wasn't more than a 1/4 inch in diameter and was probably about one to 1 1/2 feet long. Kevin told me it was a coral snake that likes to play dead and then jumps at his pray. I told him if he keeps that kind of talk up, I won't be leaving the house. I asked Gail (Kevin's Mom) to send me two of her recipes to share with our hosts and their employees. I made Gail's cinnamon rolls on tuesday and her walnut (pecan in this case) spice cake on thursday. Both were huge hits and requests for a second batch have already been put in. The best part about making the cake and rolls was that I baked them in Marina's wood oven and didn't burn them! Kevin thought the icing for the cinnamon rolls was exceptional. I think because it was made from fresh milk and butter from their own cows.
The construction work that Kevin is helping with is coming along a little slower than expected. They are doing the construction a little differently than either of us would do, but it's getting done. Once the construction is done, we'll post the pictures. They are planning to work tomorrow, but Kevin will get a little break in the afternoon because we're heading out to watch a soccer game in Porto Alegre. We're both looking forward to it!
On Monday evening, we're catching a night bus (14 hour trip) to Foz do Igaucu Falls. There are 275 waterfalls at the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil. I guess it is considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world and makes Niagara look like nothing.
Kevin's out with the boys this evening playing Canasta. It's a great card game (I promise to teach it to my cousins, they'll enjoy it)! Even though everyone speaks Portugese, they all seem to find a way to tease each other about the game just as if they all spoke the same language.
Well, better be hitting the sack.
Love, Kristine (and Kevin)
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Construction of Château Lacave commenced in 1968 and was completed in 1978. The Castle is the work of a Spaniard that wanted to construct a 6th Century Castle in the city limits of Caxias do Sul. The Castle is constructed of basalt stone, native to the region. The stones were cut and fitted together without the use of any type of cement in the construction. The original owner died in 1987, and the Castle has changed owners through the years. The Castle is currently owned by the Basso Family.Ingrega Säo Pelegrino (Church):
One of the main urban attractions of Caxias, the Church of Is Pelegrino is the artistic control point of the city. In the interior of the temple you can appreciate the magnificent afrescos of Aldo Locatelli: laterally, they are the fourteen stations of the Way Sacra. In the ceiling, the "Creation of the World", the "Creation of the Man", the "Expulsion of the Terrestrial Paradise" and the "Final Judgment". In the forecourt, the "Rejoinder of the Pietà" of Michelangelo, donated for the Pope is displayed Pablo VI for occasion of the Centenarian of Italian Immigration. The bronze doors, in high relief, reproduce the epic of the settling and had been created by the August artist Mürer. The temple possesses one ' This Mortuária ' of only characteristics in Brazil, idealized for Rows Gianella, that also idealized the clock of the flowers.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Happy to say that we're both still well and alive. Marina continues to spoil us, particularily Kevin. She's making pumpking pie for us this week. The pumpkin was not an ordinary U.S. pumpkin. It was about one and a half feet long and only about six inches in diameter. I can't wait to taste the end result.
Today, the hired contractor arrived at the Sitio P.P. farm. So, Kevin was out in the sun working hard all day. Four men put up the steel frame work for the wall and posts for the new porch. They had to cut all of the steel, bend all of it, and tie it all together. I lazed around all afternoon doing ever so important research on the internet. I did join Marina this morning for yoga, so I wasn't completely lazy. Tomorrow, I'll be trying out my new running shoes and running up the insane hill to get out to the road. So, I still won't be too lazy!
Last weekend, we traveled up to Caxias do Sul to visit some old friends of Floyd & Marina. We got to do a little shopping, visited the Sao Perigrino church with some very dark depictions of Jesus and his crucification, and went to a winery. We had a pretty good time. Sunday evening, we went to a chuch service in Porto Alegre for some of Floyd's mission field work. We endured two hours of loud music and a very long sermon.. non of which.. either of us understood. I certainly enjoy our daily bible studies after dinner much more than the church service.
I have attached a link to the kodakgallery that has some of our photos at the farm. If you have troubles looking at them, please let me know by emailing me. My email link is at the left of the blog site.
Kristine (and Kevin)
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Their farm is absolutely beautiful and the scenery, tree colors, and huge hills (mountains to some) remind me of the black forest in Germany. Marina has a digital camera, so we may be able to post some pictures while here.
We've been enjoying the fruits and labor of their farm: cheese (from their own cows made in their own kitchen), fresh bananas, gauva, blackberries, pears, oranges, lemons, pecans, mango, corn, etc. Marina is making sure that neither of us goes hungry. She even hunted down some peanuts (because their crop won't be ready until May) to make peanut butter for Kevin. Today, she, her employer, and I made some banana bread. Kevin & I shelled the pecans to put in the bread and she added some of her own molasses sugar and bananas from their yard. The bread is being cooked in their wood oven. They have a wonderful sustainable farm. Floyd and Marina are really opening up our eyes even more to how to become more environmentally friendly.
We are certainly enjoying ourselves. Kevin worked hard on the destruction of one of the porches. Next week, he´ll help rebuild it into an area used to process their own meat. I think he's really looking forward to seeing the Brazilian way to build things.
Wildlife & Animals: Yesterday, we saw a family of monkeys in their yard. We also hear the monkeys off in the woods. THe sound is so loud and a few kilometers away but they sound like a bunch of loud machinery. We hope to see some more. Floyd continues to tell stories about snakes on their property and from his several years of living in Brazil. Kevin is just eating the stuff up while I sit their and cringe. Ick. We saw a large non-poisonous tarantula while they torn the porch. That was quite interesting and freaked me out. Kevin is in heaven because there are three adult cats, one larger kitten, and four new kittens to playwith. I've never seen such a frenzy until they know food is on the way. The rooster things that one in the morning is sunrise.
All is well and fair in the country side of Dois Irmois!
Cheers, Kristine (and Kevin)
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Kevin: Turns out that the British guy stocked up on peanut butter in Puerto Natales, as well.
Kevin: Yeah, he said that there was a minimum 5-year sentence if you are caught with peanut butter in Argentina.
Kristine: (looking surprised and wide-eyed) Really?
Kevin: Yup, and if it's crunchy it's a minimum of 10-years.
This conversation probably had something to do with the comment she made to me the next day. Something about not caring if I keeled over dead and my carcas was scavenged by the Pumas. I try to be mature and look past these sorts of comments.
We managed to get the tent relatively dry before heading out to a campsite just below the Fitz Roy peak (also quite famous). On our way, we transitioned from the British Winter to a Colorado winter. Yep, snow, wind, and cold. Didn't snow much, but my toes just finally thawed out. Fitz Roy refused to come out of the clouds. It did tease me. As we packed everything up the next morning, there was just a whif covering the peak. So...
Kevin: Hey! It looks like it might clear. Do you want to climb up to Laguna Los Tres (an 1.5 hour climb straight up the side of the hill, but with a great view of Fitz Roy).
We had a similar conversation about an hour and a half later when we passed by Laguna Capri on our way back to El Chalten:
Kevin: Hey! Do you want to go check out the lake?
And you'd think she was the one with the sleeping bag that lets out all the heat and keeps in all the moisture.
Quick update on the itinerary: tomorrow we rest and maybe go for a bike ride. The next day we bus to El Calafate. The next day we fly to Buenos Aires. The next day we (hopefully) fly to Porto Natales in order to arrive at the Grady's farm on the 18th. Lots of travelling, but most of it with a roof over our heads.
Hope everyone is doing well and thanks for reading the blogs!
Friday, March 10, 2006
Hopefully the good weather continues. We are planning on heading into the national park just outside of town in the morning. We plan to spend 2 nights in the tent at two different campgrounds. We lightened our packs a bit and the daily distances are relatively small compared to our last adventure. So...expect no communication for a few days. Hopefully we don't run out of film!
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Evening friends. Well, today was a spectacular viewing day of the Perito Moreno Glacier. It was also a wonderful day to see some mighty big woodpeckers in action. The day ended by news of the only airline in and out of El Calafate going on strike.
The Glacier was pretty amazing and watching the ice chunks fall off was pretty cool. I hope that the entire roll of film I used on it turns out alright. Kevin has calculated that at my rate of taking pictures, I´ll go through 42 rolls of film. I´m hoping that my picture taking lightens up once we hit Brazil and stay put for a while.
So the wonderful things about a woodpecker strike is that their fun to watch, have a cool sound ( we now really know where the woody woodpecker tune came from), magnificent colors (brilliant red heads), and inexpensive to see, hear, and enjoy. The wonderful things about the Aerolineas Argentina strike is... um.. oops.. there aren´t really any. It would mean, bussing it out of Southern Argentina for who knows how many days to get to Brazil, or bussing it to Chile, then fly up to Santiago and then fly to Brazil. Who knows!! What an exciting adventure we could be in for, which may be a wonderful thing? Kevin & I both hope that the strike will be over by the time we get back from our trekking El Chaltén. Wish us luck!
1. Chilean Milk: Doesn´t need to be refrigerated until you open it, expires about five months after you buy it, and you should drink it within 3 days after opening it.
2. Pharmacies: Can be a good experience. I had/have conjutivitus in one of my eyes as diagnosed by the doctor at the Pharmacy and by Kevin´s MOm. I was quite thankful they thought it was the same thing.. and that the doctor spoke english. I´m well on my way from recovery and my eye is no longer gluing itself shut at night!
3. Condiments, Yogurt, etc: All seem to come in plastic bags of sorts from the grocery store. You have to store it in your own containers once you open it at home. This makes it a little difficult to add to our sandwiches and to transport them.
4. When Kevin remembers it, we´ll add number four! :)
Love, Kristine & Kevin
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
We head to the Perito Moreno Glacier (see above picture) in the morning and can´t wait to see it because it should be quite awe inspiring. The following day we are headed to El Chaltén where we hope to do some day hiking. We orginally planned to backpack in, but Kevin´s knee is still aggregevated as all get out. We´re still going to play it by ear.
We are at a hostel that is supposed to have a kitchen... who ever heard of a kitchen that doesn´t have an oven? We didn´t know this before we bought all the fixin's for a pizza. Kevin ended up putting one stir fry bowl on the stove, placed a frying pan on top of that with the pizza in the frying pan, and finally placed another pan over the pizza as the lid. Fortunately, the crust was already baked, so it made things a little easier. It was one of the best meals we´ve had so far. Definitely beats the lamb mystery meat that Kevin had a couple weeks ago.
Looking forward to seeing the Glacier tomorrow and really can´t wait to see Cerro Fitz Roy and Cerro Torro near El Chaltén (pictured above).
p.s. First misconception.. we haven´t seen any "Mexican" food since we´ve arrived. Kevin says it´ll probably be the first stop once we get back to the States.
Monday, March 06, 2006
Kevin & I survived the Grand Circuit through the National Park of Torres del "Pain" as Kevin said when we slogged ourselves out of the park. The trip was absolutely beautiful, extrodinary, and a little painful. We hiked for six days and camped five nights. This is a long synopsis of our days trekking, please enjoy!
Day 1: Laguna Amargo to Camp Seron
We started our trek from Laguna Amarga with partially cloudy skies and little droplets of rain (nothing serious). Because of some miscalculations on my part, we started in the wrong direction. Fortunately, we were able to cut trail across the grassy plains to reach the correct trail. Neither of us were too concerned because we had some pretty good landmarks to go off of, and we had a pretty clear view of the entire surrounding area. We ended up hiking about 4 1/2 hours for about 14.5 km (kilometers.. not miles). We had little bit of rain that didn´t do much damage but for the most part it was pretty sunny and a bit windy. Most of the hike was through some pretty arid grassland areas and it followed the Paine River all the way to camp. The river was a cloudy grey color that seemed to be colored by the grey soil and the glaciers. About four kilometers from the campsite we hit some marshlands that was a real treat to get through. We finally arrived at Camp Seron and pitched our tent with some others doing the "hardcore" grand circuit and not the shorter "W" Circuit. (Sidenote.. The "W" Circuit is a shorter trekking distance that gets you to the major points of view in the park and is the most popular trek in the park.) We quickly (or as quickly as my stove would cook with wind gusting through the campsite) cooked dinner, took hot showers and headed to bed. It actually got pretty chilly that evening, but we pulled through just fine.
Day 2: Camp Seron to Camp Dickson
The day didn´t start out the best for me becuase I ended up having a soar throat and ear ache of sorts. Kevin made me stay in the tent while he cooked oatmeal with honey & raisins (w/ seeds) and made sure I drank some Vitamin C. I thought it was wonderful of him to take care of me while I was feeling punky. But, the laziness quickly ended when we broke camp. This is when I found out that double bagging your food is a good thing. We had to throw out some food because the field mice thought it was pretty tasty too. I will learn proper backpacking ettiquite one of these days! We were actually quite stunned to find that our legs weren´t nearly as tired as we thought they would be. The first part of the trail followed the banks of the Paine River pretty well and it was quite level. It was a great warm up for the climb ahead. We climbed out of the river bed and over some of the big hills that aligned the river. We continued to follow the river on an up and down trail all the way to Camp Dickson. For the most part, the flora and fauna was pretty similar to the day before, but as we got closer to Camp Dickson, the grass got greener, the trees bigger (or just simply more trees), and the mosquitoes were horrible. At times we would walk into these little mini forests that reminded us from scenes of the forest from Lord of the Rings or the Fire Swamp from the Princess Bride. They were kind of creapy! After about 6 hours of hiking 20 km, we finally hit a ridge that gave us a great view of Camp DIckson. We also had great views of Lake Dickson, the glacier that dropped into the lake, the incredible mountain peaks surrounded us, and the clouds were playing over teh mountain tops. It was absolutely beautiful. We took a few pictures and then dropped into our camp site. The mosquitos were in full force making Kevin crazy. At this site, they had eleven horses that were just walking around. Kevin tried to chase a couple of them down to pet them, but they weren´t too fond of the idea. There was also an adorable pony running through camp. We checked out the shower situation at this site, too cold and definitely too windy to even attempt a shower that was pretty much outside. Did I mention that it was windy ALL DAY?
Day 3: Camp Dickson to Camp Los Perros
Everyone in camp folded up their things as quickly as possible just to keep the mosquitos at bay. We ate a granola mix on the trail just to help cut down the time spent in the site. It was cloudy and muggy all day and the mosquitos loved it. AFter about 45 minutes of hiking, they completely disappeared, it was wonderful. We had a short day of hiking today and we booked it. I didn´t even think I could hike that quickly with my pack, going uphill all day. We passed the three germans, the german couple, the italian couple, AND the british couple. Kevin gave me a high five each time we passed another group of folks. Today´s hike was in the forest the whole time and made me feel more like I was in the woods of Wisconsin. The biggest difference was the size of the leaves on the trees. The trees had tiny little leaves (about the size of a dime). We followed the Los Perros River which was apparently named after the herder`s dogs that drowned in the river. Fortunately, they put up bridges to cross the rivers and creeks. About a half hour from our site, I about died. I made it, but Kevin was trying to figure out what happened to my steam. I think the wind was pushing it out of me. We headed into camp with a full head wind that knocked you around like you were a feather. We got some more incredible views of the surrounding peaks, glaciers, and ice chunks in the mountain lakes. The campsite had cold showers, a cook shelter, and NO MOSQUITOES. We hung out in the cook shelter most of the afternoon talking with the british couple we passed. Turns out they started their travels last May in Anchorage. The bicycled from Anchorage to the tip of South America in the Tierra del Fuego. They just decided to do some hiking before ending the trip. The gentleman, Paul, was a great social guy and has hiked the Pacific Trail twice, Appalacian Trail twice, the Colorado Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. He builds up a house for six months, sells it, and then travels the remaining six months. It was a real treat to talk with him and his friend Claire during our days of hiking.
Day 4: The BIG day.. Los Perros to Refugio Grey and over John Garnier Pass
Today was the longest day we had and it was a doozy. The funny part is that climbing up and over the pass was the easiest part of the entire day. Fortunately, the weather was on our side because the sun was out and the wind, for the most part, was pretty quiet. Before going over the pass, we went through about 1 1/2 hours of marshland. Kevin did an excellent job of navigating us through the marsh. Fortunately, we only dropped one foot each into the black muck. Once we got throught the marsh, we climbed over the pass through a bunch of rock scree. We ascended about 600 meters. The only thing I could say when we reached the top and saw the view on the other side was WOW!!! I cannot even express in words how incredibly impressive the view was. The pass overlooked the huge Glacier Grey (which is part of the third largest glacier network in the world, behind Anartica and Greenland) more mountain ranges, and mountain peaks. It was so stunningly beautiful. I cannot wait to have our pictures developed from this vantage point. AFter eating our lunch of rolls and ham pate, we started our 900 meter descent with NO switchbacks. Chileans do not know how to cut a trail. Every step downward was like putting our quads and knees through a minute wall sit. The descent is what did us both in. We finally hit the Camp Los Pasos which should have been our stopping point after about five hours. We sat for a while and decided to continue onward for another four hours of hiking to Refugio Grey. I´m not sure what we were thinking since we were already starting to hurt. This next segment was, I believe, the most gruesome part of the entire trip. We ended up dropping another 300 meters or so before hitting camp, but most of that was in the last hour because the first three hours were continousily up and down. The ascents and descents weren´t just a few feet either, we´re talking descents into ravines about 10 meters only to climb immediately out of them. The reason this part of the trail was so difficult for me is because I had about 2-3 considerable anxiety attacks along the way. We were hiking a couple hundred meters above the glacier with some pretty steep faces along the whole way with wind that liked to knock you around a bit. I kept envisioning the wind pushing me up, making me lose my balance, and fall a long ways only to hit a very hard glacier at the bottom. Then.. to top it off, two of the ravines we crossed were filled with torrents of water. To get to the supposed crossings, we either had to climb down or up wire and log ladders that were anywhere from 10 to 35 feet tall. One creek had a bridge and one didn´t. The one that didn´t we had to negotiate over a rock that dropped you to a stepping rock across the stream. Needless to say, was essentially on my but as I scootted across the rocks. Besides the rough trail and wind, the views of the glaciers and mountains continued and definitely made it all worth it. We even saw a fox way down below skirting it´s way across the glacier. We really didn´t see much other wildlife besides that. Kevin was very disaapointed that we didn´t see a Puma (cougar), I wasn´t! We were very happy to have hot showers once we ended our day at Refugio Grey. We hiked about 20 km and who knows how many meters of ascension and descension. The site was along Lake GRey which the Glacier dropped into. It was quite stunning to see the lake with the huge ice chunks in the water. I read that the ice chunks that fall of the glacier are as large as houses, I disagree, they are much much larger.
Day 5: Refugio Grey to Camp Italiano
Today, we awoke hearing large thunderous sounds that were the huge ice chunks falling off of the glacier and into the lake. It was quite impressive to hear, even though we didn´t get to see them. We started the day out very slowly becuase we were both in considerable pain from the day before. I was fortunate the whole trip because my knee didn´t bother me hardly at all. Kevin´s knee did get aggrevated pretty badly on the day before though. I, on the other hand, was still fighting my cold. My nose was so red, chapped, and stung so much it was horrible. The trail today wasn´t too bad because it was mostly just up and down with very small changes in elevation. The wind was the worst today and really pushed us around. Fortunately, we weren´t on too many steep exposed areas so my comfort level was a little better. We walked by a lake that was quite beautiful. It was actually a blue that you would see in the Colorado mounatain lakes or the lakes of Wisconsin (not grey or turquoise). The lake was perched by the rocks which seemed to just drop off a few feet on the opposite side down to Lake Grey. We eventually dropped into REfugio Pehoe and rested a while before heading on. The Lake from here, was a beautiful turquoise. It was really pretty. The last two hours of our trek the wind continued in full force as we hiked next to a different "windswept" lake. I kept praying to God that he would take away the wind. He finally did, the next day! We reached camp in the evening after crossing a suspension bridge. It was great to see some of the others we had hiked the back part of the circuit with at this camp site. Everyone was pretty sacked though and were busy just trying to eat and get to bed. Today we met an astonishing number of hikers and backpackers because we were now on the most popular part of the trail. Our egos were just slightly bruised when some of the fresh hikers passes us.. need I remind you of what we had already done, hurt knee, and fighting a cold the whole way!? :)
Day 6: Camp Italiano to Hosteria Torres
When I prayed for no wind, God came through for me. There wasn´t hardly an ounce of wind... but a whole lot of rain. We were supposed to hike up to the Valle del Frances, but it was completely socked in with clouds and there wasn´t any sign it would even change the next day. We missed one of the great sites of the park. I wasn´t too concerned because my cold had worsened, Kevin´s knee still didn´t like him, and I didn´t want to be in the rain for as long as I could stand it.. which ended up being all day. It was a great drizzle rain that you´d have in Seattle. We decided to hike out of the park today because you couldn´t see anything. Fortunately, we had seen the Torres on our first day in, so we didn´t feel we need to stick around in the rain another day in hopes to see it the next day. We ended up crossing a half dozen creeks along the way. Some of the creek crossings had you cross at the worst possible place with a couple pieces of wire as the "handrail" to help you across. It wasn´t the best day, but we were certainly happy to see the end in site. We met our friends at the Hosteria and we were all happy to be out of the rain and looking forward to the bus ride back to Puerto Natales. Once we arrived in Puerto Natales, we hiked it back to Hostel Patagonia only to find it was filled with 25 italians. We had arrived about 3 days earlier than they anticipated. So, Theresa, our Mom away from home, shipped us to another hostel for the night and told us to come back the next day and she´d feed us breakfast and take care of us.
We have been back in Puerto Natales for the last couple days trying to recuperate. My cold got even worse and I am now trying to recuperate. Kevin´s knee is on it´s way to recovery, but we´re rethinking what kind of backpacking or hiking we´ll be doing for the rest of our stay in Patagonia. In the mean time, we´re enjoying the lazy days.
I apologize for all the misspellings, I´m not sure how to do the spell check.
Cheers! Love Kristine & Kevin