Friday, January 31, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day Five - A Day Of Rest Was Exactly What We Needed

The long halfway to our room.
Since we'd canceled out two main events for the day (New Year's Eve day) we only had a relaxing drive into Puerto Natales for a cultural tour.  We were the only ones in our van so we got a quick talk about the history of the area and city with all it's European connections.

A mural in Puerto Natales.
We stopped at a small museum that held artifacts from the native people as well as the European families that colonized the area.  It was nice but small.

We walked along the central town square and stopped at a place for coffee.  The Wife and I do not drink coffee but fortunately the place was connected to a large gift shop.  We turned the cultural tour into a shopping spree.  We visited three different places looking for handicrafts, and magnets. By the end of our two hour cultural tour, we'd bought nearly 80% of the things we were looking for.

The rest of the day we relaxed in our room or in the bar.  I wandered around and took pictures of some of the historical building and machinery.

Relaxing ripples.
We'd hope to have fireworks but there were none planned for the night.  Past fires in Torres del Paine national park (including one caused by a camper turning toilet paper) may have been one reason for not having fireworks. The hotel was having a special menu for dinner that night followed by a cocktail party and dance.  When I travel I do not pack formal wear.  Neither of us were interested in the party.  We did enjoy the special menu - the most interesting part of the meal being Guanaco carpaccio.  I can't say it was anything special.

Historic machinery in our historical hotel.
After dinner we retired to our room.  The Wife watched college football with Spanish announcers.  Since we were so far south, there was still some twilight until nearly 11:30pm.  At midnight the ships from the nearby port began blowing their horns in celebration.  Despite being in patagonia, the New Year's arrival seem very low key.  I imagine this was not what we needed and the quiet before the storm that I expect 2020 to be.

A ship lit up with the lights of Puerto Natales in the background.
Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day Four - Patagonia Ain't Easy

On day four of our Chilean Patagonia adventure the Wife and I went our separate ways.  The Wife would take a tour of the historic hotel and a half day bike ride to see caves with mylodon fossils.  I would do a full day hike on the Water Path Trek.

The mountains of Torres del Paine national park.
I met the group who were going for the trek in the concierge area. The people in the hotel were from all over the world including Lithuania and Slovenia.  We got on our bus and road the ninety minute drive to the trailhead in the Torres del Paine national park.

Guanaco.
The bus stopped several time along the way to see condors, guanacos (a cousin of the llama), rhea (an ostrich like flightless bird), grey fox (with a mouse in it's mouth), and vistas of the park's mountain ranges.

Rhea.
At the trailhead we followed the Water Path that passes lakes and streams.  It was a little chilly and the wind was strong but the sun warmed me up most of the time.  The hike was about 8 miles (12.9 km) long with around 1,435 ft (437.4 m) of elevation drop. Half way we stopped at a viewpoint that overlooked a lake with mountain vistas beyond.

As I ate my hotel provided bag lunch I sat on a log in the sun but exposed to the wind.  Looking down at the lake you could see the chop on the water.  I was also very tired.  Up to this point the trail was relatively flat and at an altitude lower than my backyard. I guess I've been too sedentary since i returned home from the Appalachian Trail ... or perhaps I was still recovering.  Most likely it was a bit of both.  At this point I decided that the kayak trip I'd planned for tomorrow was starting to look less desirable.  I decided to cancel the kayaking trip once it dawned on me that there were better places in this world to kayak ... like Belize, Bora Bora, or Bali.

The reward at the end of the hike.
The highlight of the hike was near the end.  We climbed up to a viewpoint with a spectacular view.  From there we hiked down what I would consider a strenuous - even dangerous - steep trail down over a thousand feet to our waiting bus.  I would normally consider an eight mile flat hike to be moderate as this hike was classified but the steep descent at the end should have upped the difficulty to hard.  We had a snack before we returned to the hotel.

If you turn your back on the vista in front of you, you often see another.
As I was waiting for the Wife to get back from her biking excursion I received texts from her.  She had fallen twice.  The bike ride (on mountain bikes) was way too hard for her and others in her group.  She texted that like hell she would be doing her hike the next day.  That sealed the deal for me.  I went to the excursion coordinators and canceled my kayak trip and the Wife's hike.  Sadly, age is catching up with both of us a bit faster than I expected.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Days Two And Three - Patagonia

Day Two:  We arrive in Puerto Natales airport mid-afternoon.  Our hotel picked us up and drove us the five minutes to the Singular Patagonia hotel.  The hotel is in an old livestock slaughterhouse and cold storage facility once run by the British. It was the primary source of meat for the British soldiers during World War I.

The pier in front of our hotel with the sun setting behind the clouds.
To get to the check-in desk the Wife an I took the thirty to forty foot funicular ride from the concierge desk.  A picture I took of the Wife riding the funicular nearly broke her Twitter feed.  Apparently there is a funicular group hashtag on twitter.

A view of our hotel from the tour boat.
There were no activities scheduled on our first day so we had an afternoon to
familiarize ourselves with the hotel.  We spent some time in the comfortable bar/restaurant area and we met with people to set up the activities for the next few days.

The view from our bed.
The hotel is divided into two parts.  The lobby, gift shop, bar, and restaurants are in the original slaughterhouse building.  The rooms are in a newer section built where the cold storage building once stood.  The rooms are arranged along a long corridor in such a way that all rooms look out over the water (ocean waters that connect to the strait of magellan).  Each room has floor to ceiling, wall to wall windows looking out at the water and mountains.  I'm not sure I've ever stayed in a room with such a nice view.

Day Three: Our first excursion was an all day boat ride with stops at a glacier and a ranch. We got on our boat and went out on the choppy waters.  Patagonia is known for its windy conditions.  Our guide said that the wind we were experiencing was not as strong as normal but that the tide was causing most of the choppy water.  By the time we arrived to the area of the glacier we'd been bounced around and all shook up.

The glacier seen from the tour boat.
Our boat was supposed to dock near the base of the glacier and we were to hiked up to a view point where we could get a good look of the ice.  The Captain of our boat consulted with another tour boat and decided the choppy water made it too dangerous to dock so we saw the glacier from the boat and missed out on the hike.

A colony of cormorants.
The boat turned around and headed towards the ranch.  Along the way we visited waterfalls, colonies of Cormorants, and the earliest European settlement along the Patagonian fjords.

At the ranch we got off the boat and had a wonderful lunch.  We toured the ranch facilities and played with a local sheep herding dog.  After lunch the group divided into two groups.  The Wife went with one group for a horseback ride around the ranch.  I joined a smaller group who did a short hike up to the top of a ridge to enjoy the views.

The view from the top of the ridge.
We returned from our activities and enjoyed some drinks before we returned to the hotel.  It was, with the exception of the choppy water and the inability to dock near the glacier, a great first full day in Patagonia.  Tomorrow the Wife and I would go our separate ways on two different activities.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Chilean Patagonia: Day One - On The Way ... Via Santiago, Chile

I'm a bit late at documenting our winter travels to Chilean Patagonia.  I haven't been much in the mood to write lately.  But this needs to get done so here goes.

Our dog/house sitter drove us to the airport mid-afternoon on the day after Christmas.  All our flights on this trip were at great times - mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or evening flights.

We flew from Omaha to Dallas then on to Santiago, Chile.  Our connecting flight gate in Dallas was changed twice.  The first change took us to another terminal and the skytrain, which would have made it easy, was out of service.  Fortunately we had lots of time to walk to the new gate.  It's interesting that the stores in the international terminal are so much more upscale than those in domestic.  Hmmm ...

In Santa Lucia Park.
We arrived in Santiago an hour late.  Customs went smoothly and we were picked up by a guide.  We knew we would have the afternoon to ourselves and had planned to see if we could set up a tour of the city.  This turned out not to be necessary as our guide had anticipated this and had already setup an afternoon tour.

We got to our room some five hours before check in time and had a half hour to freshen up before our city guide picked us up.  We started with a list of places the Wife and I had visited the last time we were in Santiago so the guide could change his plans a bit to add things we hadn't seen.

Santiago had changed a bit since the last time we were here.  Every wall we saw was covered in graffiti related to the recent ... and continuing ... protests.  A lot of the graffiti was violent against Paco, a nickname for the police.  Our guide took us to a church, past the historical district, and  a small hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop when we mentioned we hadn't had anything to eat for nearly twelve hours.  The restaurant served the local favorite: Chacarero.  The sandwich was good but a bit too spicy for my tastes.  I only finished half of it.

Black Neck Swans.
We visit San Francisco Church with it's connected colonial museum, several parks including Santa Lucía Hill.  We visited with the black neck swans and flamingos.  We took a gondola ride up to the top of San Cristóbal Hill (we visited here before but last time we took the funicular).  In between the stops the Wife talked to our guide about politics.  Based on his comments about the protesters, we decided our city guide was a fascist. In general, despite being a bit tired, I enjoyed the tour.

Words are not necessary in this example of protest graffiti.  The 'nose' through
the eye represents a protester injured when a rubber bullet hit his eye.
After they dropped us off at our hotel we walked to our favorite ice cream place (Cafe de Opera).  Our hotel was not far from the one we stayed at last time so we roughly knew the area.  The ice cream was just like we remembered it - delicious.

Resist ... with a heart.
As we were returning to our hotel, protesters began to gather in a park a few blocks from our hotel.  We knew something was coming when we saw people calmly strolling down the street carrying gas masks.  Next came the police vehicles (water cannons).  As it got darker the protesters began banging pots and pans (the Casseroles).  While I would have loved to take pictures of the protest, I was a bit over-cautious.  We had a meal of tapas in the rooftop bar before the Wife and I retired to our room on the eighth floor.  We opened our balcony door and listened to the well coordinated banging of pots.  Occasionally there were explosions - either tear gas or fireworks, hard to tell.  You could see smoke in the distance.  I wondered if we should be experiencing this in our nation's capital as well.

I think we are becoming birders.
Our flight to Puerto Natales left late next morning.  We had breakfast, were picked up by our airport guide, and we took the flight south.  Patagonia ... here we come.

Pictures can be found in my 2019-2020 Chilean Patagonia Google Photos album.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Time To Say Goodbye To Facebook

I opened a Facebook account nearly eleven years ago. I was reluctant at first but, like a bad fungus, it grew on me and it soon connected me with family, internet friends, Camino friends, ex-coworkers, and high school classmates around the world.  But over the past three years or so I have visited Facebook less and less.

I just found less and less interesting things on Facebook and more drivel and propaganda.  Facebook mismanagement of people's information didn't help.  I started to wonder if I should walk away.

I'd been thinking about quitting Facebook for awhile.  On the Camino, Facebook was how we kept in touch.  On the Appalachian Trail (AT) Facebook was never mentioned.  The AT hikers ran away from Facebook and followed each other's Instagram instead.  Kind of ironic since Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Lately, the only reason I go to Facebook is to check out the memories page to see what I posted years in the past.  In a way Facebook kept me from moving on.

So I've made a decision.  I will be deleting my Facebook account on the second of February - eleven years after I opened the account.

For those who still want to keep in touch, there are a couple of options.  You can visit Homer's Travels directly to see what I've been doing.  I have added a link in the sidebar that allows you to sign up for email updates when I post.  The second way is to follow me on Twitter (@homerstravels).

Yes, I'm still on some social media.  I have come to prefer Twitter over Facebook.  Twitter seems less cluttered with junk and they have decided not to take Political campaign money ... a plus in my book.


P.S. Happy Birthday Gv!

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Best Photos Of 2019

Continuing my annual tradition of posting my favorite picture of the year, I am ending up with the same situation I was in last year.  Last Year we were in Iceland and, since I wrote the post before leaving, I could not predict if my best picture would be one I took in Iceland.  This year I once again am writing a post over a week before the end of the year and once again it is because of travel.

The Wife and I are spending the last week of 2019 (and a few days beyond) in Chilean Patagonia.  Obviously I can't predict if my favorite picture of 2019 will be taken there so I will only consider photos taken upto Christmas Day.  I will include Patagonia pictures when I select my best picture of 2020.

This year I am posting three pictures: My best picture, my best Iceland picture, and an honorable mention.  My best picture of 2019, in my opinion, was a picture of snow on the Appalachian Trail outside of Franklin, NC.  The trees and ground are white with snow except for the trail itself.

"Trail through the white"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 20th of April, 2019)
My favorite picture from Iceland shows waterfall Faxafoss with the sun low on the horizon.  The river winds its way to the horizon chasing the sunset.


"Chasing the Sunset (Faxafoss)"
by Bruce H.
(Taken on the 31st of December, 2018)
The last picture would have been my favorite picture of the year if I'd taken it.  The picture was taken by an anonymous hiker who was kind enough to take my picture that day.  The picture is me sitting on the edge on McAfee Knob.  The day had started of cloudy but the skies cleared before I reached the overlook.  A friendly hiker asked if I wanted my picture taken and I said yes.


"Contemplation of Things"
by Anonymous Hiker
(Taken on the 13th of June, 2019)
I hope you all had a safe and fun New Year's Eve with family and friends.  Onward into the new year, 2020.