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Day Two at El Calafate: “Cabalgatas” means “horseback riding” in Spanish!

Another great day in Patagonia!

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Day One El Calafate: settling into the estancia…

Feels great to be way down south again in Patagonia!  We arrived mid-afternoon to El Calafate, just a bit northeast and across the border from Torres del Paine.  The flight was pretty short but I had a good seat on west side of the plane and watched the parade of volcanoes and gigantic glacial lakes go by.  A shortish ride in the remise brought us 20 km west of El Calafate, to the Hosteria Galpon de Glaciar, part of an old estancia and where they have agricultural demonstrations of sheep herding and shearing etc.  A very friendly and funky place – free bikes to ride, lots of birds and friendly dogs around, good Patagonian food and Malbec from Mendoza, power goes off at night and no TV but nevertheless wireless in the lounge.  The kind of place I really like!  Tomorrow maybe some horseback riding but our big trip on Perito Merino glacier is on Saturday.  Let’s hope for some decent weather and a good sighting of the big peaks: Cerro Torre and Fitzroy.

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Student team needed for film about Cuatro Cienegas!

So, I am now gearing up to make the film about Cuatro Cienegas that we promised as part of our last NSF grant. I need a place to send interested students too, so here’s the scoop.

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Volcano lake, noodles, and ASLO

We arrived safely to Sendai to visit Jotaro and Mayumi. We spent two lovely nights in a mountain onsen near Zao Lake, a spectacular crater lake with a pH of ~1.7! We then took the shinkansen and were met by Michio, who took us to a lovely Japanese inn (ryokan) in eastern Kyoto. We had a fabulous tofu-based dinner last night. It’s a bit rainy but we are hoping for a nice today touring some temples and sampling more noodles and great Kyoto food. Tomorrow I need to join the ASLO Board meeting and Sunday the meeting starts.

Pictures HERE.

A trip to “The Thunderer” (Tronador)

{Yes, we’re back in USA but not quite caught up on Argentina blog posts!}

Towards the end of our stay we were keen to be sure we had seen the main sights of Bariloche area and of course on of the best is the Pampa Linda area of Nahuel Huapi National Park, where you approach the big (extinct) volcano El Tronador quite closely.  So, we had a good day and headed out for a visit.  The road is narrow and so they only allow inbound traffic in the morning and then you need to wait til later in the PM in order to leave.  In any case, we enjoyed spending several hours exploring around, enjoying Ventisquero Negro (the “Black Glacier”) which deposits strikingly striped icebergs in a yellow lake.  Apparently this one has been receding at an alarming rate.  In any case, the waterfalls all around were impressive and once in a while a snow avalanche “thundered” from above (hence the name).   The weather turned for the worse on the way out but we did get a good view of a Martin Pescador (kingfisher) before the rain really came.  Full pics at LINK.

Chile, including Chiloe Island: Penguins, rain, and more rain.

We needed to renew our Argentina visas (which only last 90 d) so we headed over to Chile for a week or so, retracing some of my steps from long ago (1983) when I first saw the Chilean lake district and fell in love with Patagonia.  Our first night was in Puerto Montt, where we visited Angelmo to sample the famous seafood “curantos” dish I remembered from my first trip.  It was good this time but in 1983 it had a giant barnacle as a centerpiece!  We had intended to go first to Pumalin Park to the southeast but learned that the ferry you need to take was fully booked and not available for another five days.

So, we changed our plans and headed to Chiloe Island (visited by Darwin during his voyage of the Beagle), taking a short car ferry.  We spent two nights at the Chepu River Ecolodge, which was really great.  The rain let up long enough for what turned out to be the highlight of the entire Chile trip, a spectacular (but muddy) hike along the coast to the small penguin colony at  Ahuenco.  Along the way we passed a shipwreck along the beach.  It began to rain at the end of the hike and continued heavily for at least another 15 hours.  (Video from this hike later, I hope)  We had hoped to do some kayaking but instead just headed out to the town of Castro where we stayed in a very cool hotel (Palafitos 1326) which is in a restored “palafitos” (house on stilts, for which Chiloe is famous but most palafitos were destroyd by a tidal wave several decades ago).   The pictures show the famous Castro church, which is kind of a wreck on the outside but hand-crafted gorgeous alerce woodwork inside.  The next day we headed to Chiloe National Park to try a hike.  It was raining so we only had a short one.

After some more seafood dinners we had a second night at 1326 and then headed back towards the mainland, stopping at the charming town of Quemchi with its colorful boats.  Our destination was Puerto Varas, on the shores of Lake Lllanquihue.  I remembered this location vividly from my previous trip as it has spectacular views of the Osorno Volcano and the Calbuco Volcano.  That is, when it’s not raining.  Clouds prevented us seeing any of the volcanoes but we had a nice walk around town including the quirky museum of Pablo Fierro, who we met and from whom we bought a painting.  We celebrated Thanksgiving with a curantos (no turkey but it did have chicken!).  The next day it was raining but we headed for a drive around the lake, reaching Lago Todos de Santos and the amazing Salto (rapids) de Osorno; the volcano peeked out of the clouds for a few minutes.  We also had a damp walk up to La Cascada.

After a final night at P Varas hoping the clouds would lift (they didn’t), we headed back to Argentina over the Samone Pass, passing close to the Puyahue Volcano and the impacts (ongoing) of the Cordon Caulle eruption.  This included a view of Lake Puyahue itself (with huge amounts of floating pumice), a waterfall with massive amounts of ash and pumice, some small lakes 100% covered with pumice, and then a good overlook of our study lake, Lake Espejo.  All in all, a nice but damp trip.  We will be through Puerto Montt/Puerto Varas several times more (coming and going from USA and coming and going to Torres del Paine) so we still have hope of seeing the beautiful scenery.

Pics HERE

Magellanic penguins on Chiloe Island

Back from Salta! Buried under Gigabytes of movies and pictures.

Our 10-d trip to Salta was so incredible and mind-bending that it’s taking a long time to get caught up! But watch for an update with the first installment (about El Rey National Park) soon.

Ticks AND Tapirs AND Toucans!