Posted by: Bert and Tania | March 20, 2011

Did I mention that I went to San Marcos…

A few weeks ago I headed to San Marcos with friends Ana Lisa and Noe to stay for a few days at Noe’s Mum’s house. Bert and I had visited San Marcos before, back in August when it was dry and cold but this time it was green and hot… but just as spiky! Noe’s friend Sebastian came along too. It was FUN.

One night we packed up some food, water and blankets and headed to the ‘Casa de Piedras’ (house of rocks), a big, round rock cave on top of a hill. There was a storm a coming and just after we arrived the wind picked up telling us we should get some firewood collected pronto. A fine fire was built (er, I have to admit I did nothing to help in the fire construction, I did however collect some firewood) and we cooked goats cheese bought from a local farmer, mmm. The rain she came a pouring down and the sky turned a salmon pink colour… Luckily it didn’t last too long and the storm soon passed further down the valley. As the sun went down we climbed up onto the ‘terrace’ (another massive rock) and watched the electrical storm flashing in the night sky. The night sky was amazing, a few clouds being lit by lightening flashes down the valley, but clear blackness above dotted with stars of both twinkly and shooting types, the milky way, satellites and who knows… maybe the odd UFO! Ha. T’was gorgeous.

We went to sleep at the edge of the cave opening, just as the moon came up over the side of the valley. Not a bad view. Noe had somehow carried a giant inflatable mattress, so we slept in relative luxury. We woke with the sunrise and spent an hour or so soaking up the first rays of sun to peek over the valley. I made friends with a cute little snail, called Brian.

We packed up and headed back to where we were hopefully getting a lift back to town. Not before a quick swim in the river though. Ah, the first time I’ve been swimming in ages. It was GREAT.

Noe’s Mum, who is lovely but unfortunately wasn’t actually there at the house whilst we were staying, had the most amazing book I’ve ever seen. I loved it for 2 reasons:
1. It was about making clothes and adapting patterns,
2. It was from the seventies and the illustrations, layout and styles were fab.

On our last day we headed to Cordoba and then on to an ‘Eco Barrio’, a hobbit-like housing development where all the houses have to be constructed using eco materials etc. The houses all had ‘living’ roofs and windows made from old bus windscreens amongst other things. The people living there were passionate about their unique houses, rightly so… some of the systems and construction techniques were fascinating, clever and at times unbelievably simple. Not sure I would want to live in one of these houses, but I loved some of the ideas… and the project in general.

Thanks to Noe, Ana Lisa and Sebastian for a fab few days. It was so good to get out of the city for a bit, shame Bertrum missed it but there will be many more adventures I’m sure. In the meantime he’ll just have to put up with me and my “when I was in San Marcos… ” stories.

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As if we needed any more natural disasters – this Saturday an ‘Extreme Supermoon’ is coming. The moon will be closer to the Earth than it has been for 18 years and at the same time will be a full moon. It’s going to be massive. Super extreme.

According to this article, a noted astrologer Richard Nolle is certain that “Huge storms, earthquakes, volcanoes and other natural disasters can be expected to wreak havoc on Earth.”

We just wanted to say in public that there is no link between a Megamoon and an extreme supermoon, although we can see how people could be confused. If any of the aforementioned disasters take place this weekend, then it is Richard’s fault, not ours.

P.S. Thanks to our friend Ruth for alerting us.
P.P.S. I stole the photo from the internet.

Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 27, 2011

El Chaltén Panoramas

The views we had on our trek were so amazing, I wanted to share them with the world and quicktime panoramas are the best way I’ve found of doing this. These are high-resolution and so might take a while to load, but this means you can zoom in a long way with the SHIFT and CTRL keys. You can move around with the mouse.

EDIT: You need quicktime to view these files. Please make a comment or email me if you’re having difficulty..

Lago and Glaciar Torre

Perito Moreno Glacier

Shore of Laguna Madre

Lago de los Tres

Lago Sucio

Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 26, 2011

Trekking in El Chaltén

As promised, here’s some more info about Tom and Bert’s trek in El Chaltén which was hurriedly arranged as an alternative to the planned Torres Del Paine trek (see why).

In the end, it was amazing. When we arrived in El Chaltén, there was no hostel space but three campsites in the town. It rained a lot but we camped OK and set off the following morning. I (Bert) wished I’d done a bit more exercise as within an hour of setting off it felt like I was still carrying all my Christmas dinner around.

From our base, we did a reasonably leisurely three day trek – being rewarded at the end of each day with spectacular views of:
1) Lago Torre with Glacier Torre’s snout at its far side
2) Lago de los Tres with Mount Fitzroy behind (one of the 5 hardest mountains in the world to climb) and the Lago Sucio (meaning ‘dirty’ but it wasn’t) with vertical cliffs up from lake with glacier at top.
3) Glacier de Los Piedras Blancas after climbing over a massive boulder field

Tom left his (mum’s) hiking pole at our sandwich stop-off one day and had to go back for it. On the way, he happened across a male and a female woodpecker. He says they were doing a mating dance but George said they were eating. Click here to see Tom’s video and judge for yourself.

Amazing amazing amazing. Before this trip I’d never seen a glacier. The Perito Moreno glacier, which was a half-day trip out from El Calafate, was possibly the most literally awesome thing I’ve seen in my entire life. A piece the size of a house fell of its 65m high ‘snout’ as we watched.

Panoramas to come!

Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 20, 2011

Escape from Chile

Bert here reporting on how Tom and I escaped from Chile:

Tom’s been over visiting for three weeks and we planned to do the ‘W’ trek in Torres Del Paine National Park in Southern Chile. We flew from Buenos Aires to El Calafate in Argentina as planned on Monday 10th Jan. El Calafate is a small town in the middle of nowhere next to Lago Argentino, an incredible turquoise coloured lake, the colour coming from extremely fine particles ground by the Upsala and Perito Moreno Glaciers which feed it.

On Tuesday 11th Jan, we’d booked a bus to Torres del Paine. At the border, the queue for passport control was so long that we missed our connecting bus from Puerto Natales into Torres Del Paine by 15mins. So we had to book into a hostel in Puerto Natales and rebook the bus for the following morning. At this point the receptionist warned us that there was a fuel price rise protest about to start. The protestors, opposing a proposed 17% increase in gas prices, were planning to block roads to Torres del Paine and out of town and our bus might not be able to get into the park. This is exactly what happened, so we were trapped in Puerto Natales unable to go trekking or leave. There was also going to be a general strike so we stocked up on four days worth of food in the supermarket. Many others were doing the same as we’d got there just before the supermarket was about to close indefinitely. A lot of the shelves were emptied as people scrabbled ‘supermarket sweep’ style to get the food they needed.

On Wednesday we hung around in Puerto Natales wondering what was going to happen. On the news we saw that two girls had been killed as someone tried to drive through the road block and 34 people had been arrested. All businesses were closed and protestors were driving through the streets beeping their horns with black plastic bags tied to their cars.

By the following day, we realised that it was unlikely we were going to be able to get into Torres Del Paine to do our trek. 1500 tourists were trapped inside the park unable to get out. If our bus had not been slow going through customs, we would have been amongst them. 25km North of Torres Del Paine, just over the border, is the ‘Glaciers’ National Park of Argentina which has also got amazing trekking and we decided to try and get there instead.

We had heard that tourists had successfully got out of Puerto Natales and into Argentina by walking 25km through the road blocks to Rio Turbio in Argentina. We packed up and at 2.30pm walked along the main road out of town towards the first road block. We got a lift the last km or so. It was easy to walk past the block and we asked the Police on the other side how to get to Rio Turbio and were filmed by a journalist. We carried on walking for about three hours out of town towards the border. The roads were almost completely empty of course but the Police picked us up and took us a short distance while they were out of sight because of a dip in the landscape. They asked if there were many other tourists trying the same thing and I said only a few – we’d seen around ten.

After a few more kilometres, we got picked up by some of the protestors themselves in a camper van and taken to the second roadblock on the Chilean side of the border. They were very friendly and posed for a photo so we got through that blockade pretty easily too.

We’d made it to the border and walked through passport control. Our hitch-hiking on empty roads was going very well (better than it would have done in the UK) and we got another lift for the few hundred metres to the Argentinian border control. After that it was a short hike to Rio Turbio where we were able to actually buy things for the first time. We bought a coffee. A German couple who had driven down from El Calafate that day to go trekking in Torres del Paine stopped and asked us about the situation and we recommended they turned back. We made hiking signs saying ‘El Calafate’ and stood by the side of the road. After 10 minutes the couple, who had obviously taken our advice, picked us up and drove us the 350km to El Calafate. We arrived by about 10pm, having cut 80km off the distance by driving over a gravel track and immediately went for a beer. The hostel we stayed in before had space in a dorm so we stayed there again, playing drinking games with Americans until 4am to celebrate our escape.

In the end, we got to do some amazing trekking from El Chalten in the Glaciers Park (details to follow) and only lost one day of trekking compared to our original plan. When we got back we heard that tourists trapped in Torres del Paine had been running out of food. The Red Cross was there and the Army had been sent in to get people out. This story has now reached the BBC and the dispute has been resolved with the Government agreeing to reduce the rise to only 3%. It seems that people in Chile are as vocal as the Argentinians when they’re not happy with what the Government is doing. Obviously sometimes, it works.

Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 19, 2011

More visitors!

The visitors and the fun just keeps a coming and the pace of life in BA has certainly picked up in the last few weeks!

Some of the highlights so far:
– A sunny afternoon at the races with George and Rosie
– Tea party with George, Rosie, Mercedes, Cecilia, Guillermo and Tom (and Ruth’s amazing cupcakes)
– Korean BBQ and karaoke in Korea Town with Tom, George, Rosie and Viviana
– Dinner at El Obrero in La Boca (great restaurant, dodgy part of town)
– Tour of the River Plate stadium with George and some of his Argentinian relatives


Plenty more photos on Flickr too! Click here to visit Tania’s Flickr page.

Posted by: Bert and Tania | January 19, 2011

New Year’s Eve in Uruguay

Happy New Year to you lot and your kins…

Tom arrived from the UK to visit on 30th December, the day after Inga and Alison left us. That same day we got a ferry to Uruguay and then on, via bus, to the up-market beach resort Punta del Este to celebrate the New Year. Punta del Este is full of very expensive and interesting cars, houses, hotels and people.

Highlights included:
– (Inflatable) whale surfing on the beach
– Amazing BBQ at George and James’s house
– Incredible fireworks displays across entire waterfront of Punta del Este at midnight
– BBQ on arrival at San Rafael campsite on first night provided by George, Rosie and Tania
– Conga dancing on a dual carriageway while the lights were red and the traffic had stopped
– Cars speeding over wobbly bridge

Amazing.

The photos below were taken by who-knows-who so thanks to George, Rosie and Tom for any that you took!

Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 30, 2010

Visitors

Happy New Year everyone and we hope your Christmas was as fun as ours.

On 7th December Tania’s mum Inga and Bert’s auntie Alison arrived and headed straight off for an adventure in the South of the country. They made friends, rode horses, saw glaciers and then on 15th Dec they came back to Buenos Aires to spend Christmas with us.

Highlights included:
– Having Rosie, George and Viviana round to help eat Tania’s Christmas ‘Pavita’ (small turkey) and the Beagley rum custard Vs. Brown brandy sauce competition
– Home made decorations and yogurt pot bell making competition
– Bert’s first ‘asado’ (Argentinian BBQ) on our terrace on boxing day with massive steaks and ‘chori pan’ (bbq sausage in bread).
– Four hour car tour of Buenos Aires with our friend Mercedes including Plaza de Mayo, Catedral Metropolitano, La Boca etc.
– Tango show and massive steaks at ‘La Ventana’ in San Telmo
– Massive steaks at La Cabrera
– Trip to Museo de Bellas Artes in Recoleta
– Eating experimental food and meeting odd Americans at ‘closed doors’ restaurant Casa Saltshaker run by New York chef Dan Perlman and Henry Tapia.
– Eating llama stew in a bun and watching the most amazing classical tango guitarist ever at La Paila in Palermo
– Chilling in our lovely new apartment and using Ian the ice maker in the fridge door to cool us down (it went up to 37 degrees C on Christmas day)
– Inga and Alison’s trance party on Christmas night (click here for video!)

Alison and Inga have just left us and tomorrow Tom arrives and we’re off to Punta del Este in Uruguay for New Year’s Eve. Marvellous, although the thought of camping in extreme heat is scaring us considerably. Sure it’ll be fine…

Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 21, 2010

Megalunar Eclipse

Thanks to Cecilia last night for letting us know there was a lunar eclipse in Buenos Aires. We got up at 3:30am when the Earth’s shadow started appearing on one side of the incredibly bright moon. I stayed up taking some pictures for the next 90mins, hoping that the eclipse would be complete before the Moon went too far down behind our neighbour’s bathroom. Well, it did require a stepladder, but I managed to just about get the whole thing. Fascinating.

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Posted by: Bert and Tania | December 11, 2010

The Mother Land

We have just got back to Buenos Aires after what we refer to as our ‘Intermoon’… a 6 week visit to the UK. We swapped Palermo’s cobbled streets lined with trees just coming into bloom and the late spring days of Buenos Aires for a late October arrival into Heathrow. Er… Actually we didn’t live to regret it (much) as someone somewhere had ordered us some beautiful Autumn weather, glorious!

We packed a lot into our time and very much enjoyed:

  • Staying in Woking, our old flat, Hammersmith, Wiltshire, Swanage, Bere Regis, Taunton, and Hackford Road again
  • Meeting new little people who had arrived since we were last in the UK; Curran, Oscar, Harry, Daniel and Arthur to name but a few
  • Celebrating Jane and Davids’ (Bert’s folks) Ruby Wedding Anniversary
  • Hanging out at the recording of Dadso’s debut album (music video to be released soon!)
  • Attending the BCWWWW (Brew Crew (With Wives) Winter Wonderland)
  • Eating bacon, proper tea, baked beans, minstrels, good cheese and many more British goodies, mmm.
  • Building the Tower Bridge out of lego (click here to watch it on youtube)
  • Baking focaccia bread, chocolate bread and butter pudding and lemon drizzle cake for Sian’s birthday
  • Screamadelica-ing
  • Celebrating both Dadso and Emma’s birthdays and therein learning that grape scissors DO exist
  • Massive thanks to everyone for hospitality, your time, support and general marvellousness.

    Here is a selection of photos of fun November times:


    As ever, there are some people that we didn’t get to see and things that we didn’t manage to do… but next time, next time. We are already looking forward to seeing you all again in April/May/June/July time next year, a mere 5 months away…

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