Saturday, January 31, 2015

Border Crossings and North-Central Chile

Our trail up Argentina from Bariloche continued to Mendoza, Argentina and a great view of Mt. Aconcagua as we exited Argentina!
Aconcagua is the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere, and what an incredible sight to see as we exited Argentina and headed back into Chile!  We arrived too late to hike the lower trails in, so a view from below had to suffice this time.  We need to return for this big boy!

The border crossing road between Argentina and Chile is a crazy, winding road.  Crossing the Andes here is rated as one of the best drives in South America.  I have to agree!  The dry desert mountains loom all around and gradually grow into snow covered ranges.  In Argentina, we drove along a nice 4-lane highway, then we suddenly reached a sign that said “zona de curvas peligrosas” - dangerous curves, and we started to go DOWN, straight down. It was mesmerizing watching the cars zigzagging up the hairpin turns, seeing the white and red lights like tiny ants on the mountain below us. There were 28 curves in all and it took us almost 45 minutes to cover the 7km to the bottom.

Big Blue camped at the base of the curvy road.
Our friend, Ernesto, is a pilot who gets to fly the Dreamliner, and shared these aerial views of the Andes.  Beautiful!

Buenos Aires seminar - The MEAT seminar at CrossFit EMOM!  Pablo and his partners treated us to a TRUE Argentinian BBQ in their home.  We learned that a true grilling virtuoso scrapes the fat of the meat with his knife, checking for texture and a certain sound that scraping makes, to know if it is done perfectly or not.  Alejandro is a virtuoso!  The man knows his meat and it was ARGENTINIAN BEST!
Puente de la Mujer (Spanish for "Women's Bridge") is a rotating footbridge crossing over the Rio de la Plata to Puerto Madero district. 
A wonderful care package arrived from home!  So many great things here!  We had a WONDERFUL evening tasting treats, reading messages, and feeling the love from home!

Back in Santiago, after a new set of tires and another weld-job to repair the broken back storage box, we waved good bye to Ernesto, our ever-helpful friend who we are eternally grateful to!

From Santiago, we head North to Copiapo and the Pacific Coast, seeing the giant mountains change to the sands of the desert.  The open land was such a change for our eyes, after the last couple of months of rain and jagged peaks slicing the sky!

We thought for sure that all our van troubles must be over after our final repair in Santiago.  But, we forgot to knock on wood! The van is so heavy, not even 4-wheel drive would plow through the sand, and gunning it in reverse served to slam it into a ditch and smash the tail pipe and knock the muffler loose!  Aaaargh!  Thank goodness for those functional leg movements Mike trains all the time - they helped him leg press the muffler back into place and pull the tail pipe away from the tire!

A peaceful night was spent camped out on the Pacific Ocean at Bahia Inglesia, watching the sun set over crashing waves.  And dolphins to welcome us to this beautiful place!

Time to do some work - so back to Santiago we fly!  Great weekend spent with Gabo and Pablo at CrossFit 1810!  Our Latin staff is awesome.  In character and bicep size!

The community that CrossFit is never ceases to warm my heart and get me excited all over again to teach another awesome group of people!
Northward to Antofogasta - Chile's second largest city and capital to the Atacama region.  It is a city full of one-way, gridlocked streets where there is more interesting graffiti and street performers at every light to entertain you while you wait in all that traffic.

Thankfully Antofogasta has muffler repair shops - but also lots or rules.  Sometimes it's hard to know what you CAN do around here!

We flew to Parana, Brazil to teach another seminar and had the pleasant surprise of a unique art installation welcoming us to the Antofogasta airport.

Brazilians helped us experience roasted hearts of palm, gymnastics work with the trainers, and an awesome seminar at CrossFit High Pulse!

To finish off this awesome month, we received exciting news from home!  Congratulations to Tara and Kevin on their engagement!!!!!  And NICE JOB on the ring choice, Kevin!  Couldn't have picked better myself!

See the entire North-Central Chile Photo Album HERE

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Headed North!

From Torres del Paine, we put our focus on the road ahead of us.  We have some MILEAGE to cover!  Did we really say we'd be home in Flagstaff in JUNE?  We are at the near bottom of the world and we need to be North of the Equator in 5 months!

Let's DO this!
We decided to try to avoid some of the rougher roads of Route 40, which is a common North/South route through Argentina.  Instead, we headed East for the Atlantic coast and a change of view. 
Once we hit Rada Tilly, we felt like we'd had a nice taste of the Eastern side of the country and wanted to be sure to catch the recommended sights of Trevelin, El Bolson, and San Carlos de Bariloche in the Andes, just as one exits Patagonia.
As we make our way from the rugged beauty of the knife-edge mountains of Argentinian Patagonia, across the more arid flatlands to the East Coast, bright pink catches our eye.  Flamingos!  What an incongruous juxtaposition!  What we think of as a tropical bird, is found in the dryland lakes near the Andes.  This is a rare flamingo, the Andean flamingo, and is one of the rarest flamingos in the world.
This Andean flamingo is native to the wetlands of the high Andes mountain range from southern Perú to northwestern Argentina and northern Chile. The Andean flamingo is a migratory bird with the ability to travel up to 700 miles in one day. In the summer, they live in salt lakes and migrate to the lower wetlands for the winter. The cause of this migration from summer to winter is possibly due to the extreme aridity of salt-flats during the winter. The path of migration is unknown, but it is thought to occur between the Chilean breeding grounds and the wetlands of central and western Argentina. - wikipedia
 PARQUE NACIONAL MONTE LEÓN - we had the pleasant surprise of finding this place, noted on an Overlander camping app as a nice place to camp.  It looked so barren and dry at first, but upon further exploration, we discovered hundreds of birds, beautiful sandstone cliffs, and a hidden colony of penguins off a great hiking trail!

Burrowing Magellanic penguins.  The park holds Argentina's fourth-largest colony.
From Monte León, we headed North and took a detour off the beaten track and onto a side road, labeled as Circuito Costera to Playa Mina.  Millions of years of life create the cliffs and trails here.  Layers and layers of marine fossils and sand, bond together to form the cliffs sheltering this cove at Playa Mina.

Mike couldn't resist the temptation to check out the beach under this shelf, so he dropped down to investigate as the tide came in.  Thankfully his fitness and a form of a cliff-edge muscle up allowed him to get back out!  ;-)

Puerto San Julián, along the Circuito Costera, was an interesting abandoned mine or factory.  We weren't sure of it's history, but enjoyed poking around and exploring and making our own story about what must have happened there.
We leave the beaches and head inland, back to the mountains!
Desert camp.  Sometimes we just pull over in the middle of absolute nothingness.  And it's awesome.
A workout incorporating our camp site of the base of a bridge, tree branches, and a walking bridge.  3-2-1 GO - make your workout happen, using what you have!

Esquel is a hub for Parque Nacional Los Alerces- and beautiful sunsets!
We drove from the drylands of Argentina, West, back to the Andes to enjoy the mountain towns of Esquel, Trevelin, and El Bolson.  The drive from Esquel to El Bolson through Parque Nacional Los Alerces was gorgeous.  This national park was established to protect the alerce trees. The alerce is among the longest living tree species in the world, and there are some specimens in the park over 2000 years old. They grow deep in the Valdivian rainforest of the mountains, beside vivid blue Lago Futalaufquen and emerald Lago Verde.

SAN CARLOS DE BARILOCHE- Beautiful mountain town surrounded by lakes, which all provide an incredible availability of multi-season sports!  We loved it here and hope to return to do more exploring, hiking, skiing (snow and water), you name it!  The largest ski resort in South America resides here, with incredible views of the Andes on all sides.
View of San Carlos de Bariloche and Lago Lake Nahuel Huapi from the refugio Cerro López.

Awesome natural infinity pool dug into the mountainside next to the pink refugio!

Glissading and ridge running up on the ridges above Cerro Lopez.  The views from anywhere along the summit ridge are spectacular.  The northwest side of the ridge is dominated by Cerro Tronador with Volcan Osorno and Puntiagudo clearly visible in Chile in the distance.  The southeast side of the ridge is dominated by Lago Nahuel Haupi, with Lago Moreno and Brazo Tristeza also in view.
   Our journey North will continue, out of Patagonia and on to the dry deserts and mountains!  Stay tuned for further updates!

Click HERE for the "Headed North" photo album for more pics!