Archive for March, 2013

After a couple of glorious nights in a three star hotel in Esquel, a small town in the Lakes District of Argentina, we headed off in to Los Alerces National Park.  It is a small park in northern Patagonia, not heavily visited as Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi NP is up the road a couple of hundred kilometres away.  The reason for our visit was to see the Lahuan or Abuelo tree, one of the oldest in the world after the Bristlecone Pine and the Giant Sequoia’s.  The oldest tree in the park is 2600 years old!  Trying to imagine the fact that this tree has been around since Roman times is staggering.

There were a few challenges to us seeing this particular tree.  The first was that we arrived in Esquel on the weekend, and nothing was open, so we were armed with little information (apart from what the Internet could tell us).  We knew there was a boat trip needed to get to the ancient tree, and that it ran on a Wednesday, and we also knew there was no bus to where the boat left from.  Other than that it was hop on the bus and see what happens!

Upon arrival at the park, the ranger at the information desk confirmed that we had hit a significant snag in our quest to see the old tree.  It was 36km up the road through the park to get to the beginning of a 4km walk to the jetty to take the 22km boat ride to the 650m walk to see the 2600 year old tree.

The issue was there was no bus to take us the 36km up the road, the rest was easy.

Mirella took the news well that she would be hitchhiking for the first time in her life in the middle of nowhere in Argentina, despite being taught at a young age (as most of us have been) to never, ever hitchhike as you could be killed and dismembered by a crazy person.

We spent the first day in the park doing some simple walks, the scenery speaks for itself.

Alerce National Park

Alerce National Park

So, up bright and early on day two, and out to the main road to hitchhike.  After 30 minutes or so, a man was kind enough to stop, a local kayak guide, who was going 33km up the road to work.  Fantastic!  We spent the next hour chatting away in broken English and Spanish, and things were looking great, the tree would be ours!

We spent the rest of the day hiking around a new section of the park, including a gut busting climb to this viewpoint.

Alerce National Park

Alerce National Park

Collapsing in to the tent that night, all seemed well for the next day and a boat ride to the ancient tree….

The last day in the park started well, up in the rain, packed up soaking wet tent (it weighs a lot more when soaked in water!), and a quick 4km walk to the boat launch.  We began to get nervous over the last 500m as we started passing hordes of Argentinians who appeared to be heading to the same place.  Upon arrival at the jetty our fears were confirmed, the boat was sold out!  The ticket collector said grab a seat, you never know your luck, 2 people may no-show.

So we sat for an hour waiting and hoping, and sure enough two people did not arrive!  On we went on the hour cruise, and finally we saw the ancient tree!

Tree hugger

Tree hugger

Although not officially allowed to be hugged, we figured if it can last 2600 years of human interaction, surely a hug from Mirella can only make it happier?

The rain poured down again at the end of the day, and a final soaking whilst waiting for 15 minutes for the bus back to Esquel could not wipe the smiles off our faces, we had an amazing time in Los Alerces National park!

The gallery below is a smattering of shots in the park, enjoy.

Upon our return from Antarctica, we were keen to stretch our legs, and Ushuaia was kind enough to provide an awesome national park just 12km from town, Tierra Del Fuego.  The weather was looking good, so we kitted up, and headed out for a couple of days hiking, and a couple of nights camping.  One of the options for getting to the park is an old steam engine that was used for many years to transport prisoners, so of course we were on to that in a flash!

Train to end of the world

Train to end of the world

After hopping off the hour journey, we set out to combine a couple of short hikes en route to our campsite at Lake Roca.  The weather was amazing, and the views spectacular.

Tierra Del Fuego

Tierra Del Fuego

Some of the coldest camping I have ever done ensued over the next two nights, with ice forming inside the tent on our second night, creating stalactites from the roof that rained down on us in sub-zero temperatures!

After a great couple of days hiking, we headed back in to town, organised a bus ride to Esquel, a mere 34 hours away, and then set out for one last adventure doing a cruise along the Beagle Channel.  The weather could not have been any better, the channel was a glass mirror and there was not a cloud in the sky, Mirella continues to work her magic on the Patagonian conditions!

Lift off - Albatross

Lift off – Albatross

We are now safely ensconced in Esquel, a small town in Northern Patagonia.  We will spend a couple of nights in this sleepy town, getting our clothes clean and drying out the very wet tent!  Our plan is then to head in to Los Alerces National Park, with a series of lakes and some of the oldest trees on the planet to explore.

End of the road

End of the road

 

 

 

The Final Frontier

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Antarctica
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When we first set out to plan our one year adventure, Antarctica was at the forefront of the wish list.  We knew it would not be cheap, and also knew it was a once in a lifetime adventure, so wanted to be sure we chose the best ship possible for our needs, and not to let a couple of dollars difference get in the way of an incredible experience.

A lot of research was done through the Internet reading through trip reports, blogs and Antarctica websites, and the fundamentals were clear.  A small ship (less than 100 passengers), expedition style hull (for breaking through ice), and an itinerary of no less than 10 days (as crossing the Drake Passage from South America to Antarctica takes 2 days in either direction).

We came up with a great find, a ship that had spent the summer season doing fly in, fly out trips for five days at a time (and therefore eliminating the Drake crossing on these trips) was doing a final voyage where it would cross the Drake for a 10 day trip.  An expedition ship, the Ocean Nova was able to take a maximum of 68 passengers aboard its 73m length, making it perfect for quick access to shore excursions and zodiac cruises once in Antarctica.

The Ship!

The Ship!

Of course, one of the trade-offs of such a small and maneuverable ship is that it will bounce around a little if the conditions are a bit rough.

Six metre swells greeted us upon entry in to the infamous Drake Passage, and the ‘Drake Shake’ was on!  Two days later, after not feeling awesome, we arrived in Antarctica and were ready to see what we could see!

Sunshine...just

Sunshine…just

Some magnificent icebergs were the start of our adventure, as we did a zodiac cruise through an ‘iceberg graveyard’.

Icebergs ahead

Icebergs ahead

Our first mammal (after a tremendous amount of Albatross and Petrels accompanied us on our 2 day Drake adventure) was a leopard seal, and was a great sight to see!

Leopard Seal

Leopard Seal

We even managed to win the on-board photo contest with the following shot (talk about right place, right time!)

Leopard Seal & Gentoo Penguin

Leopard Seal & Gentoo Penguin

Over the next four days we were incredibly lucky to have great expedition staff, super weather, and a plethora of animals all combining to make this one of the best travel experiences of our lives.  We climbed volcanoes, went on Zodiac cruises with humpback whales so close you could almost touch them, saw some incredible landscapes, and even managed to take a plunge in to the Southern ocean (for about five seconds!).

Whilst the photos can not truly show the size and grandeur of Antarctica, we have done our best in the very large gallery below to let you see just how amazing our journey was, hope you enjoy!

Antarctica

Posted: March 10, 2013 in Antarctica, Photos
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