An adventure of my life time!

Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

413. SA Trip (13): Birds around Lago Argentino


I love taking pictures of birds. It’s not easy—one needs to be at the right time, right place, right lighting. Sometimes it’s frustrating, like trying to take a picture of this flock of Chilean Flamingos. They must party very late last night and just kept on sleeping. I waited over half an hour. Only one of them moved briefly, not long enough for me to take a good shot.

It’s fun, though, especially when I get lucky and capture something unexpected. One nice picture can keep me beaming for hours.

(Black-faced Ibis)

(Coscoroba Swan)

(Yellow-billed Pintail)

(Southern Wigeon)

(Chilean Flamingo)

(Southern Lapwing)


412. SA Trip (12): A Boat Trip to See Glaciers

Recommended by the host of my hostel, I booked a cruise to see glaciers. The tour isn’t cheap, about $150. Most likely I’ll never come back here, so I booked it.

It was as lovely as the lady suggested. A boat took us through the Fjord of Ultima Esperanza. We saw a cormorant colony, a sea-lion colony, many waterfalls, and the majestic Monte Balmaceda Glacier (the mountain is 2035 meter high, and there are only a few cases of its ascent).

After 3.5 hours of sailing, we stopped at Puerto Toro and walked a short distance to the base of the Serrano Glacier. Both Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers are in the Bernardo O’Higgins National Park.

On our way back, we cocked at a ranch and had lunch there. The food was delicious. This boat trip reminded me of a similar cruise I took in Alaska.


411. SA Trip (11): A Day in Birds’ Paradise

Formerly a fishing port, Puerto Natales is a city in Chile’s southern Patagonia. It’s the gateway to Torres del Paine National Park and the Patagonian fjords.

There are a lot of birds along the shoreline. I spent more than half a day taking pictures there.

(Crested duck)


406. SA Trip (6): Tierra del Fuego National Park

Spent a full day in the national park hiking (Costera Tril) and kayaking.

(Black-necked Swan)

(A family of Kelp Goose)


404. SA Trip (4): Amazing Laguna Esmeralda

Unable to speak Spanish is very inconvenient. Most people don’t speak English, even the people in the tourist business. The Google Translate works for simple phrases but doesn’t work well for conversation.

I booked a tour bus ticket to Laguna Esmeralda (starting 10:30am and ending 4pm) via the hotel. There is one lady who speaks English. Later, another lady came by and tried to talk to me. After struggling for a while, I understood that the bus wouldn’t come until 12. By coming back at 4pm, how could I finish a hike that requires at least 4 hours? Via Google translate, she told me something like I could communicate with the driver to set the return time (now I know this is what she said, but at the time, it wasn’t clear). I was so frustrated that I canceled the ticket and walked to the bus station, hoping someone there could explain clearly.

No, the lady selling the ticket doesn’t speak English either. She tried to tell me the same thing that I could communicate with the driver to set the return time. If I had so much trouble understanding them, how could it be easier to talk to the driver? I imagined the bus left me and I was stranded at the trailhead. It was cold and windy at daytime (around 45F, but felt chilly). How cold it would be at night?

As I struggled with the decision if I should go and take the chance, a young couple showed up. The girl can speak English, and they were going to the same place! I was elated. I asked her the questions, and she promised to keep me informed. There was another couple from Canada who couldn’t speak Spanish. We did part of the hike together.

Laguna Esmeralda is prettier than the pictures I’ve seen. And the weather was really nice. I loved it.

By the time we returned to the parking lot, the young couple wanted to take another hike in the area. It takes about 1.5 hours, and the bus would pick us up at 7pm (they called the driver). It was 5:20pm. Well, no big deal. We started hiking. Up and up it went a steep hill. In an hour, we were so much higher than the other trail that we could see Laguna Esmeralda in the distance.

The trail became so muddy and wet that my shoes were completely soaked through. But we made it back at 7pm. And the bus showed up just in time.

Without the young couple, I wouldn’t have this adventure. Certainly I wouldn’t be at ease and enjoyed the whole time.

403. SA Trip (3): Martial Glacier

Martial Glacier was named in honor of Luis Fernando Martial, leader of the French scientific expedition in 1883. The trailhead toward the glacier is only a couple of miles from Ushuaia city center. From there, a trail winds through dense forest, crossing streams and bridges to a ski lift. Another steep trek will take you to the base of the glacier.

Under a red umbrella, I trudged

Up and up.

The wind howled

The rain fell

The snowflakes flew around me

Eyes half closed

Head hung low

Why did I keep going up when a few turned around?

For a sliver of hope to see the glacier in the mist?

A ray of sunlight fought through

For a moment, long enough for me to snap a picture or two

It brought no warmth

But a big smile—

Give me a bit of sunlight

And I will shine

(This is my third “poem” I’ve ever written if it can be called a poem 🙂 )



401. South American Trip (1): Going South, Way South

I’ve always wanted to go to the Patagonia area in Chile/Argentina ever since I saw the pictures of those jagged mountains, greenish lakes, and glaciers with blue ice. I’ve never taken the trip because traveling on my own was beyond my imagination.

Life changed so much since then. I’ve traveled a few places by myself—visited Costa Rico, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and drove to and from Alaska on my own. So it’s time to revisit my dream and make it come true.

Still, I’m anxious. All the other trips were in English-speaking countries, which are safe. This time, I’ll be in Chile and Argentina, and I don’t speak a word of Spanish.  Luckily I found Google translator, which allows me to download Spanish dictionary (and Chinese). This tool eased my anxiety somewhat.

Yet there are other things to worry about, like pickpocketing and bag snatching. I heard terrible stories (My sister’s backpack was switched in a hotel lobby in Mexico). No one will watch my back. What if I lose my credit cards? What if I lose my passport? What if…

“Bad” things have already happened before the trip: the tour company emailed me the wrong information (the trip was in the wrong direction as I booked), the airline didn’t assign any seats for me, which I’ve already booked (it was fixed), my laptop started to act out (turned out to be my fault—I didn’t plug it properly), the weather down south is rainy and cold…

Now that I’m sitting in the Phoenix airport, getting ready to board, I decided to let go of my anxiety. Part of the fun of travel is the unknown. I’ll take whatever comes my way and view it as an adventure. At least, if anything happens, I’ll have a story to tell here. Otherwise, I’ll just post some pictures with the name of the places that I can’t pronounce. 🙂

Oh, I hope the wifi is good enough so that I can post pictures. I heard it can be spotty and unreliable. We’ll find out together, won’t we?

Here is an overall plan:

Fly from Phoenix to Ushuaia, stopping at Buenos Aires for one night (layover for 15 hours so I found a cheap hotel to stay). Ushuaia is the southernmost city in South American; it’s called the end of the world. From there I’ll take bus from one city to another up north for three and half weeks, stopping 1-4 nights at each city. The last two weeks I’ll take a group tour, ending the trip in Santiago. The whole stretch will be about 1500 miles.

Wish me luck 🙂

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