El Calafate sits at the south of Lake Argentina and was our next stop on our journey south from Fitzroy. El Calafate is a big tourist town known for it’s proximity to the FitzRoy park, the Perito Moreno glacier and the bigger Los Glaciers National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site).
In which we climb to a ridge for a view of ‘The Fitzroy traverse’ at dawn, and meet the mountain’s legends.
Another weather check, another pensive look exchanged. 24 hours. We pack bags, check food, water and waterproofs and set off in light rain from the far end of Chalten in late afternoon. The plan is simple: a 10k hike to the foot of a ridge ascent that promises panoramic views of the Fitzroy skyline.
In which we wait for the weather….
You know the score, pride before fall, the concept of irony and all that. So the opening sentence somewhat gives the rest of this story away.
“Y’know Daphne, this tent is a three season mountain tent, we’re gonna be fine in this weather”…
It’s now been a month and a bit that we’ve been travelling and we have almost perfected the art of in car entertainment. Two people, spending every waking hour together, stuck in a small confined and dusty place… it ain’t easy. Here are our tips for long drives and how to survive them.
They are life saviours and tend to give rise to interesting follow on conversation (i.e. More entertainment opportunities). Our favourites are
- The Tim Ferriss podcast where Tim interviews a series of people from all walks of life, some of them famous, some of them not who have something to say. One of our favourites is the Alex Honnold one (obviously) though one of this latest on “Tools of Titans” also generated quite a lot of conversation.
- The My Dad Wrote A Porno podcast. Does what it says on the tin. It’s probably the worst porn book out there but the commentary from the son and his two friends is legendary. Loads of laughs, some of them tear-inducing.
- Desert Island Discs. A classic though for some reason the recording is not loud enough so on gravel roads (ie most of the time) we can barely hear what Kristy and her guests are saying.
- The Moth and The Story Club. Podcasts where storytellers (professionals or not) narrate stories from their lives in open mike events. Random content but always very interesting.
Old school game, we play it often on long journeys to Font. Think of someone (dead or alive, real or fictional character) and the other person has 20 yes/ no questions to guess heir identity. We have recently narrowed down the scope to “people of note”; people that we think each other should know for their contributions to humanity / history. Choices have included Ansel Adams, Ada Lovelace, Lord Elgin.
I have become a master of spotting interesting pictures and Andy is always up for shooting things. Admittedly this often adds an hour or more to our drive or results in me posing barefoot with a flimsy dress in the middle of a muddy path – but it’s fun and yet another topic of conversation.
A lot of it and across all genres. From Diplo to Daft Punk to Beethoven and Verdi. Anything goes. Actually that’s not entirely true – my UK Top40 Spotify playlist was recently vetoed.
If anyone’s got any other ideas please let us know. Two of us in a van for another 4 months. And no, debating the weight of depleted uranium is not an option. That’s a cherished topic reserved for Orestis and Justin when driving to Font.
In which I share a series of images, for the love of sharing images.
In which we seemingly spend 24 hours on different trips…
Cerro Castillo in Chilean Patagonia is a striking set of rock spires, above a glacial lake. It is a 6km, 1200m trek to reach a ridge, affording grand views of the range, the first 4km of which can be done via horse. We got into the tiny three-block town that serves as a base for the peak mid afternoon, planning to make the trip the following day. Time and tide, and indeed weather and horses, wait for no man. So things took a turn for the spontaneous. The following internal narratives cover the ensuing twenty four hours. Turns out they were quite different experiences…
The Marble Caves lie in the Chilean side of Lake General Carrera (or Buenos Aires Lake if you are in Argentina). It’s a Unesco heritage site and the next stop on our journey south.
In the month or so that we’ve been travelling we’ve met a series of very interesting people.
One that got us thinking the most is the Benson family. We met the Bensons at the end of a 1,5hr hike in Queulat. We had spent a good half hour at the top admiring the glacier, eating copious amounts of cookies and waiting for the light to change so as to take THE picture of the glacier when the Benson family strolled in.
A family of five, with three boys, there was just something about them. We first bonded over cameras and had the obligatory chat about how long we’ve been travelling, where we are heading to next and exchanged tips on places to go to / avoid.
And then we ventured into unchartered waters. “Why did you decide to travel?”, a very non-British question from Andy.
The Bensons have three boys between the ages of 16 and 10 (I am guessing here – our questioning was not that detailed. In any event they are a quiet, very well behaved and social-media savvy bunch). Dwayne and Rebecca were very open with their life journey and we wish we could have grabbed a beer / dinner with them.
Dwayne had always wanted to be a firefighter, his father is one and he could not think of being anything else when growing up. At the age of 17 he prayed and consulted with God about his future. Dwayne says that God asked him if he would give up his dream for Him and he could not come up with a comprehensive answer. So Dwayne became a pastor; settled a church outside Santa Barbara in California, worked a lot with youth programmes but eventually had to move back in with his parents (and his growing family) as the life of a pastor is not lucrative. Dwayne continued to pray and in his early 30s sat his exams and joined the San Antonio (TX) firefighters with God’s blessing.
Dwayne accumulated all his holidays from 2016 and the family started their long trip down Central and then South America at the beginning of the summer. He still works and flies back to Texas for an couple of weeks every 3 weeks to cover his shifts. Rebecca and the kids stay back, the kids are still in school; Noah (the oldest) seems to have quite a bit of homework to do. Whilst they are heading back for Xmas to see family they intend to travel for another 6months or so in 2017, probably around South East Asia.
We left the Bensons at the top of the hike, looking at the glacier. On the hour-long hike down, Andy and I talked a lot about faith vs intuition and how we come up with excuses for not doing things. Does praying to God feel the same as a long solitary walk when you think about your problems and come up with a plan? Does believing into something bigger than you bring with it hope that things will be ok? That someone out there is looking after you?
Huge thank you to Dwayne and Rebecca for their candour. We follow their adventures here: beforewefinis.com and their Instagram account (kudos for an awesome site name 🙂 ).
In which we stumble into a small town rodeo and head-butt a cow…
Juan is nervous. Though his dad is with him, this is his first time. As he hands his soft broad brimmed chupalla hat to his sister and puts on the helmeted version he conspicuously makes the sign of the cross before him.
In which we take up an unexpected offer…
“Do you want a salmon?”
A man in a yellow football shirt, jeans and sandals is standing in front of us. He is holding a black bin liner, which, given the shape of its sag clearly contains a large fish.
We are not in a fish mongers, nor by the docks. In fact we are outside a repurposed single coach from around 1975, parked, or possibly left, on what passes as the main street in a small coastal town called Chaiten, in northern Patagonia. The bus is now a cafe, of sorts, selling German cakes, obviously.