Category Archives: camping

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New Directions : Argentina

I’m so glad that our most southern campsite was close to perfect, it seemed fitting somehow. Stepping out of the van in the morning, our breath was visible in the air and the frozen grass crunched under our feet. It was time to finally head north, the race was on. We had to get Oscar to his new owners in Uruguay, and pronto.

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Back in Argentina, the driving days were relentless.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADriving, driving, driving

Still, we found some pretty nice spots to pop the top.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Bridge camp – Rio Chico

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Route planning

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA gallant effort, but the wine to workout ratio is still about 100:1

The days weren’t without incident. We had our first legit flat tire in over a year. Changing the tire with our tiny jack, in the blustering wind and with trucks ripping past, was a balancing act to rival my high school gymnastics prowess.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALong days

We were ooohhing and ahhhing when we were finally reached the coast again. The startling blue colours of the ocean were a sight for sore eyes, after the monotonous landscapes along the Ruta 3.

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The Peninsula Valdés was a well timed reprieve from the boring miles. The marine animal life in this nature reserve is amazing! The magdalena penguins had just starting arriving for their mating season, so we were lucky enough to catch sight of some of the early birds.

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The elephant seals were a crackup. The big fellow in the photo below was making his move towards the little lady, but it took at least five attempts. He had been cruising past, hooting and hollering and flaunting his masculinity, but no one really seemed to care. He was left to try a more direct approach. From what I could gather though, she still wasn’t very keen. In the animal world, I guess size does matter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Big ol’ poser

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe called these guys (Rhea) ‘moo moos’ because they look like the aussie emu. Not to be mistaken for cows.

After dinner we drove in the dark to a deserted carpark just outside of Puerto Pirámides. When we got up in the night to wee, we could hear a hollow blowing sound coming from the ocean… could it be the whales? In the morning, just as the sun was rising, we walked with our breakfast and coffee down to the viewing platform. We watched maybe 10 southern right whales with their babies cruise past, I have never seen so many whales in one place. It was a very special moment.

There was also a very noisy, and very entertaining colony of seals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToo early!

As we were walking back to the van, Mark suddenly took a knee. He was a bit wobbly and off balance, so it was a very cute and funny moment! After I stopped laughing and realized it was actually a proposal (in Spanglish) and not a joke… I said yes. After spending everyday (and almost every hour) together for over a year, I love this guy more than I thought possible. We are so happy and excited to be moving onto the next chapter of our lives.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFiancé’s

As we gradually edged closer to the Buenos Aires city limit, the scenery changed dramatically. After a long night of driving in the dark, we awoke surrounded by the welcomed greenery of the Argentine pampas. We were a bit shocked to see so many people out and about, the Ernest Tornquist Provincial Park seems to be a popular hiking getaway for people from the big city.

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It was hard to believe that we’d be back in Australia in just over a week, and that we only had Oscar for a few more days. I was definitely aware of feeling sad, but we were mainly preoccupied with selling the van and filled with excitement about the things to come.

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Lake Days : Bariloche, Argentina

We were welcomed back into Argentina like old friends. We both agreed that the border crossing in the shadow of Volcán Lanín was the easiest and friendliest that we have come across so far. The staff were happy to chat, fixed up some paperwork issues that had been giving us problems and even boiled some hot water for our thermos… having water for a mate break is a big deal to Argentines.

The Lake District of Argentina has been a paradise for wild camping. It seems that we can take any random road alongside a lake and find a perfect spot for the night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHitting the snooze button. Lago Lolog. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA morning at the gym, Lago Lolog.

Bariloche 23 Bariloche 24 Bariloche 25Honey, I’m home. Lago Gutiérrez.

Our good luck didn’t end at the border crossing. We arrived in San Martin de Los Andes and checked our emails to find that Manu and the La Chanchita Bus were also there. Manu has just finished his project and it’s a real beauty. A 1966 Mercedes Bus that was once used as public transport in Buenos Aires, he’s fitted it out as a six berth camper ready to take snow seekers wherever they want to go in the area.

We met up with them at the Chapelco ski resort and followed them back to Bariloche along the amazingly scenic Ruta de Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Drive).

Bariloche 01 Bariloche 02Is it a bus or a cabin?

Bariloche 08 Bariloche 09 Bariloche 10 Bariloche 11In convoy with La Chanchita

Once in Bariloche, Manu welcomed us into his home and showed us around the area. We had a great time throughout the week, hanging out with him and his friend Lu (and his dog Bengoa).

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Manu also knew of a hidden lakeside beach, perfect for a dinner party around the campfire.

Bariloche 19 Bariloche 20 Bariloche 21 Bariloche 22A lesson in asado

We couldn’t have hoped for a better week. All thanks to the kindness and generosity of this one guy. There was only one downside. Argentina didn’t get much snow this winter, so the ski resorts were either completely closed or not worth skiing.

But not to worry. Manu had a plan for that too…

Posted from: Coyhaique, Chile.

PS: for some amazing photos from this week see the La Chanchita facebook page.

Mountain Porn : Hiking the Cordillera Huayhuash Peru

Most people who hike in the Cordillera Huayhuash have a guide, a cook and a donkey train to carry their gear. We decided to do it self-guided, which is generally our preference and better suits our budget.

Initially we thought our packs felt pretty good loaded up with 10 days worth of food and gear, that is, until we started to climb. The first day began with a hot and sweaty, up-mountain slog. A local man kindly directed us off course onto a less traveled route. We soon lost the trail, got stabbed by cactuses and eaten alive by massive flies. The morning was not going well, but there is nothing quite like snow covered mountains and phenomenal glaciers to brighten my mood. Laguna Jahuacocha was a beautiful, although crowded, place to spend our first night.

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Every day we hiked for between 5-9hrs, roughly 150 km in total and over 11 mountain passes between 4,000 and 5,000 m in elevation. The circuit passes through picturesque pastural land, dotted with beautiful alpine lakes and follows one of the most magnificent mountain ranges I’ve ever seen. My lasting impression of these mountains is their incredible size and just how close we were able to get to them. I felt completely insignificant, but in a good way.

The farmland is governed by local communities, who we had to pay at intervals throughout the hike. Our fees totalled 145 soles each, but we heard of people paying more. It seems to be a fairly mismanaged system, and unfortunately if you are not on the ball you might get ripped off, like we did once. In one community we were sold two tickets for the price of one, so they were able to pocket half. The worst part is, that these individuals end up short changing their communities.  Overall though, the locals were very welcoming, friendly and happy to help. Coming from hiking in the National Parks of North America, there is an obvious lack of wildlife which we found a bit sad. The land has been well and truly taken over by domesticated animals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHuayhuash 06 IMG_2201 newSearching for Cuartelhuain campground, where we spent our second night. 

Huayhuash 10 The stone fences in the background could have been built a week ago, or hundreds of years ago.

Huayhuash 11 Huayhuash 12 Huayhuash 13 The view on our third night. At Laguna Carhuacocha

Domingo writes mountain poetry. We gave him way too much money for his book, and thought we might run out of cash before the end of the hike. A lovely fellow hiker kindly lent us some money, just to make sure that we made it. Huayhuash 15

Living in Canada for nearly five years has left us with pretty high standards when it comes to mountain lakes. The Cordillera Huayhuash however, has produced some serious beauties. One of the reasons we love to hike is the amazing views at the top. In that moment it’s possible to forget our heavy bags and aching bodies, if only for a while.

Huayhuash 16 Huayhuash 17 Huayhuash 18Huayhuash 20The weather cleared momentarily on the pass (Siula Punta). Also, which end of this dog is which? 

This the longest hike that either of us have ever done, and we definitely experienced all the moods of the mountain. We got it all… rain, hail, snow, wind and sun. Still, there is nothing quite like mornings in the mountains, even when it’s miserably cold and everything has frozen. We tried to hit the trail early each day and would celebrate when the shadows finally receded and we could thaw out in the sun.

Huayhuash 22 Huayhuash 21Huayhuash 23Huayhuash 34Huayhuash 24 Huayhuash 25 Huayhuash 26 Shaking the ice off at Huayhuash campground, after night 4.

Our morning at the Huayhuash campground was brightened by a group of Canadians, who coincidently live in Edmonton. They warmed us up with hot milo, jam rolls and friendly conversation.

That day we pushed on quickly, arrived at our campsite for lunch and then had plenty of time to relax and soak in the hot springs.

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Finally the hard miles and altitude started to take a toll and by day six we were absolutely wiped. We made seriously slow progress, and finally set up camp in the Cuyoc Valley late in the afternoon. The stars were phenomenal that night. All we wanted to do was lie on our backs on the grass and stare at the sky, but it was way too cold and the grass was frozen.

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Now for my favourite couple of days on the hike. We hiked up to the San Antonio pass to be confronted once again by Siula Grande, the mountain made famous by Joe Simpson’s harrowing mountaineering story “Touching the Void”.

Huayhuash 35 Huayhuash 36 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We loved having a detailed topographical map, purchased in Huaraz before the hike.

We thought that if we went around the the other side of the San Antonio peak, we’d get a better look at Lake Jurau. We’d also spoken to a guide who said that the descent from that side would be easier. Unfortunately we lost a lot of elevation and then had to climb AGAIN to make it back. I was not a happy camper, but the view was worth it when we finally made it back to the top. It was a long way down to the lake, which just looked so inviting in the warm sunshine. We braved the chilly glacial water for a quick dip and once the shock wore off, definitely felt better for it.

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We saw a bunch of tents and set up nearby thinking and that it must be the official campground. Lucky for us it wasn’t, but rather the base camp for a group of five Italian mountain climbers. They were on a three week trip attempting a number of climbs in the area, including Siula Grande. They were super nice guys and kept inviting us over for tea in their nice warm cook tent and gave us lots of tips for the remainder of our hike.

Huayhuash 42 Base camp.

Huayhuash 43 Quinoa curry, with fresh peas and soy protein. One of our staple dinners using supplies from the Huaraz markets.

Huayhuash 44 Sunset – day 7.

On the advice of the Italians, we hiked without our packs up to Laguna Sarapococha, the “Touching the Void” base camp. It really was an idyllic morning. The lake was sheltered from the howling wind, and we watched as the early morning sun gradually illuminated the magnificent colour of the water.

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From this point on, it was all about getting out. It was home time, but we still had two and a half days to go. Arrrgggh! We had a long valley walk to get to the little village of Huayllapa, where we caved and booked into a cute little hostal, Bodega de Yerupajá, also recommended by the Italian climbers. We had warm beds, almost hot showers and the Peruvian classic lomo saltado (stir fried beef) for dinner. It was just what we needed.

Huayhuash 48 Huayhuash 49Jack Kerouac was right. Salami, cheese and crackers is the only hiking lunch. After 10 days, we weren’t sick of it.

Huayhuash 50 Huayhuash 51 Rest stop on the long valley walk.  

Huayhuash 52Luxury.

We saw a lot of different birds on the hike, and also Viscachas, which look like a cross between a rabbit and a possum. On our second last day we saw lots of these guys bounding around the rocks, however for the most part, everything was just a blur of changing colours and landscapes.

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On our last day we were pretty down and out. That is, until Berta and her sons invited us over to their casa for some fresh milk (warm and straight from the cow) and some of the best fresh cheese that we’ve had since Mexico.

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We rolled into Llamac late on the final day, toes screaming from the last brutal descent. The family who has the secure parking lot in town were still out in the cornfields, and we couldn’t bare the thought of walking any further to find them. So we just collapsed at their door, cracked a celebratory beer and waited for them to return. In case there were any doubts, I carried my pack the entire way, even resisting the offers of a very nice German man who wanted to carry it for me.

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