Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Logbook: Fin del Mundo I

Findelmundoi2After being on board ship for a month I was feeling ready to stretch my legs and do some serious walking, so I arranged to have my first exploration be a “glacier hike.” I was picked up pretty early on Friday morning by a van carrying about eight “twenty something” passengers -- this detail will become relevant soon -- and driven about 20 kms out of town to the tour company’s mountain lodge. We were told that the first part of our hike would be across a “little muddy part”, given rubber boots to put on and instructed to tie our hiking boots to our packs for use “in a little while.” (We were not, however, issued any of the crampons that were available in the lodge -- another detail that will become relevant soon.) In truth, the “little muddy part” was mostly an ankle deep bog -- like a plowed farm field after a heavy rain -- and the “little bit” was about 5 kms. I’m not going to rant about it, but the combination of the uncomfortable rubber boots and the heavy going made the trip just a bit of a grind. Nevertheless, we were treated to some lovely scenery of snow capped rocky mountains and interesting beaver dam lakes.

I was pleased to be in the company of a young Swiss man named Christian with whom -- because of his fluency in English, fine intellect and good humor -- I was able to more happily spend the time talking than swearing at the trail. Although we all walked pretty much as a group across the level part of the trail, I will admit that I was a bit slower than my much younger comrades on the steeper ascents. I didn’t really seem to slow them down -- their ten minute rest breaks were simply shortened to seven or eight for me -- and we all had some good laughs about me being “maybe a little old for this kind of thing.” As we approached the snowy spot you can see in the photo above, our guide informed us that we would not be about to go all the way to the glacier due to icy conditions. This, of course, did not surprise me. (Due to our lack of being issued crampons, I suspect they knew all along the conditions were not amenable to reaching the glacier.) We were able to see the glacier, but even that was a little disappointing due to its rather small size. After a few minutes of enjoying the view, talking about geo-politics -- It turns out I am not a typical American after all! -- and eating the tasty bag lunch we were provided, we headed back down the steep incline. By the time we had walked back through the bog to the lodge, I will admit I was pretty tired. After the ride back to town I was ready for a hot shower and dinner. I met Christian a little later for a beer and another lively conversation, then crashed pretty hard for the night. All in all, my first exploration was only marginally satisfactory -- fair in terms of “interest” and poor in terms of “enjoyment.”

The next day, Saturday, was entirely different as the “4x4 and Canoe” day trip was a complete delight. Our first activity was a very pleasant, hour long canoe ride on a lovely little lake. The scenery and wildlife were very enjoyable, but the good humor of our guides made it really fun. With just the right amount of racing, splashing, etc., we all had a good time. Next, we left the paved road in our 4x4 Land Rover Defenders and had a blast cruising along old logging roads. We stopped in to see a local man who had just skinned a recently caught beaver and were entertained by his tales. From there, it was on to the serious 4x4 experience where steep hills and deep mud were all handled with skill and humor. You really have to see the Report to get the sense of it! In due time, we stopped on the shores of Lago Fagnano where our guides cooked us a truly outstanding Argentine barbecue lunch -- consisting of meat, wine, meat, wine and meat! With our bellies full, it was time for a wild ride along the lake shore then back onto the road toward town.

Findelmundoi1Along the way, I learned that the tour company runs dog sled trips during the winter so I begged my guide, Seba, to stop and visit the dogs. We did, and I went totally nuts! I ran into the lot of about 50 sled dogs and hugged and loved every one of them. Within minutes I was completely covered in dog hair, saliva, mud and everything else you find in a dog lot. Plus, there were puppies! Anyway, I had such a good time and made such a fool of myself that the nice Brazilian couple with me had a really good laugh. From there it was back to town after a great day -- fine in terms of “interest” and fabulous in terms of “enjoyment.”

On Sunday I took it pretty easy -- still recovering, I will admit, from my trek on Friday -- and spent the day reading, napping and talking to folks on Skype. Yesterday was mostly occupied with some pretty major website maintenance, and today I did some iLife plus some “other” work. I have arranged some more exploration for the coming days, so stay tuned for whatever is next on The Voyage of Macgellan!

No comments: