My blog updates were seriously lacking after my DSLR and goPro were stolen. Luckily Dave had his go pro and iPad for video. So here’s a highlight reel of some of our adventures in Patagonia. Enjoy!
After 6 days in Pichilemu we headed south east into the Lakes District to the adventure capital of South America – Pucon. Our main objective in Pucon was to do as much cool stuff as possible. In five nights we managed to go whitewater kayaking on the Trancudo River, take a dip in some thermal hot springs, go mountain biking, swim underneath an 85 m waterfall in the middle of nowhere, hike a trail in a nature sanctuary filled with Arrucaria trees, aka monkey puzzle trees, and then to top it off we ski mountaineered on split boards to the top of Volcano Villarica, a 2800 m glaciated active volcano, and then we snowboarded down.
Sorry there will not be any photos because my DSLR and GoPro have been stolen… Luckily I had most of my pictures backed up on an external HD but I lost almost all the pictures since Pichilemu…
Pucon is in the heart of the Lakes District, just north of Patagonia, in Chile and Argentina. When we arrived I felt as though I could be in Switzerland’s Lake Geneva or in the Alps. The influence from German settlers that the Chilean government invited from Europe in the 1800’s to settle the lands in the region is undeniable, complete with timber frame buildings, beer halls and delicious beer. After getting our fill of different adventure sports we once again turned the compass 540 degrees south, this time towards Argentina.
Crossing the Andes is similar to crossing to coast range back home in BC. We left the temperate coastal forest, passing seemingly hundreds of lakes amongst the refreshing mountain air. After crossing the border with no problems we arrived in an arid climate similar to Kamloops or Princeton. Bariloche is a large town in Argentina. Once again the European influence was obvious but this time the town had a similar feel to Vienna or Salzburg in Austria. Bariloche is best known for its beautiful lake scenery, amazing steak and nightlife. We weren’t there to partake in nightlife however, so after a day of getting food and supplies we packed our bags and headed for the hills.
Cerro Frey is a well known alpine rock climbing destination in Argentinian Patagonia. The hike in is four hours covering 10 km and 800 m elevation, if everything goes according to plan that is. 3/4 of the way up the hike with our 50 lbs packs I realized I left our precious meat, butter, eggs and cheese in the hostel fridge. At that point we decided there was only one option really… So I dropped my pack and ran back down the trail and caught a bus back in to town to get the goods. Dave hiked his pack up and came pack down to bring mine the rest of the way and set up camp. I managed to get into town in two hours, grab the food, bus back to the trail head and enjoyed a beautiful trail run up to the camp. Needles to say I was bagged after covering 37 km and 1500 m of elevation in a day. So we cooked up the sausage and hit the sack.
The red granite spires of Frey rise out of an alpine cirque lake to an elevation of 2400 m. The climbing routes were endless. To scratch the surface of possible climbs would require months. We spent three nights and four days getting our feet wet with some sport climbing and some traditional multi pitch routes. We managed some pretty nice climbs and thoroughly enjoyed some exposure to proper Patagonian climbing.
The hut, Refugio Frey, offered rooms and meals for pretty cheap but we decided to camp and endure the howling winds, somewhat frigid temps and most unfortunately; an unhealthy dose of blowing sand that invaded every nook and cranny of our gear and ourselves. So after some epic climbing, a close call with some rockfall resulting in an injured foot and our patience for wind and sand beginning to crack we hiked out and began our journey back to Chile, specifically Cochamo Valley; another renowned climbing area.
Yeah so chile has been great so far. We stayed a couple days in Santiago which is a pretty cool city. It’s neat to see old Spanish conquistador architecture juxtaposed to modern glass skyscrapers. The people have been truly friendly. In Santiago we did a free walking tour, hiked San Cristobal hill that overlooks the city which is backed by the snowcapped Andes, and slept a lot.
Mi espanol es muy malo. Aka my Spanish is really bad and next to few people speak English here, only hostel staff and other travellers usually. So I’m on the steep curve of learning Spanish. Chileano Spanish has a crazy accent too. They drop s’s all the time and even people who speak Spanish can’t understand because of all the slang etc. While it’s been a challenge it’s also very rewarding to come to an understanding with someone using sign language, broken Spanglish and patience.
After a few days of adjustment and a slightly difficult, but hilarious, attempt at the purchase of bus tickets we began our 2 month long journey south to Patagonia. First stop was Pichilemu, an unassuming coastal surf town with dirt roads, long black sand beaches and few people. Since we are here in the shoulder season we were the only ones staying in our hostel and most of the shops and restaurants were empty. That was a bit weird but not a concern as the weather was in the mid 20’s and the surf breaks weren’t crowded.It was nice to relax here and get some sun and surf. Punta del Lobos — translated to peak of the sea lions named for the two massive rocks that rise out of sea — is a point break that produces massive waves (10 m) all winter and surfable waves the rest of the time. It was here that I surfed the longest wave of my life.
One day when the waves were the heaviest I’ve ever seen, Chilean surf legend Ramón Navarro was towed beyond the Punta del Lobos on a jet ski to ride these gargantuan waves. We watched from the point with a humbling appreciation for the power of the ocean and with respect for the skill and guts these surfers have. As a set of waves rolled in they rolled over the top of these eight story waves like rubber duckies in an angry bowl of soup. As the perfect wave rolls in Ramón starts to paddle into the wave which picks him up as if a giant hand reaches up from the sea to push him forwards down the wave.
As the wave breaks the surfer is faced with looking straight down 10 m and drops in as if falling off a building. Unfortunately this one wave was too steep and as Ramón drops in, the board comes out from under his feet. He bails while near the top and falls into the face of the wave which continues upwards and breaks, dropping Ramón over the 10 m water fall and god only knows how far deep under water as the wave slams back into the Ocean. He’s underwater for at least 15 seconds until he emerges to catch a breath, only to have 3 successive waves of the same size crash on top of him while the jet ski stands-by helplessly until Ramón is pushed far enough to where the jet ski can come rescue him… The jet ski rips in to grab him quickly before the next wave swallows them both up and then bolts towards shore. Curiously the jet ski stops for a few seconds once out of the break and we all wonder if he is conscious, but after a few seconds you see that he’s fine and then… the jet ski heads out towards the waves again and drops Ramón off as he prepares for another wave.
Our last adventure in Pichilemu had us riding horses north of the town along the rugged wind swept coast towards a ‘ruggo’, a simple home built on the beach. The owner is an artesinal fisherman living a subsistence lifestyle. When we arrived we were introduced by a friend we met in town and were greeted warmly by a man in his forties wearing a ball cap and smiling brightly at the site of an old friend and new visitors. See, Phillipe lives by himself, doesn’t have many neighbours and doesn’t see people as often as you or I.
We were immediately prepared an amazing seafood soup of the days catch, some sort of barnacle/mussel and squid. It was served cold and raw in an amazingly delicious broth. Actually, it was delicious until I added a minute amount of his home made hot sauce. As soon as I put it in the soup Phillipe shouted ‘oh!’ and began to watch me very intently. As I drew the spoon to my mouth I nervously wondered what I had in store. Dave asked me if I was ok as all the blood drained from my face and my sinuses began running immediately. That shit was muy picante.
That night he toured us around his property, showing us his garden where he grows all the vegetables he needs. He showed us his stables where he keeps his horses, his collection of 10 different wetsuits that he uses for diving for fish and kelp and lastly the spear gun he uses to catch fish in excess of 10 lbs.
Phillipe is a self-proclaimed pirate and anarchist. He lives off the grid with solar panels, and lives a traditional lifestyle. Selling kelp that he dives for is his main source of income, which is apparently fairly lucrative. His house was completely destroyed in the 2010 tsunami that brought the ocean 10 m higher than normal, washing away everything. Since then he has completely rebuilt his house on the beach, so close to the ocean that a really high tide floods underneath his porch. Phillipe left a lasting impression on me, his traditional knowledge and audacity to live such a lifestyle forces you to ask questions you didn’t think to ask. I could see the appeal, as Phillipe and I looked out at the ocean and beach and he said “todos para mi”
The Hozameens, viewed from Manning Park, B.C. last winter.
“We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes, and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men”. -Aldo Leopold
Here’s a video of a snorkel survey we completed as a part of an ecological inventory at Lost Lake in the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve. No fish detected, but definitely some cool plants and amphibians.
This past year I spent many days on a bus with 28 of the most friendly and like-minded people on earth. We’re an above-average class of students in British Columbia Institute of Technology’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Management program. Our purpose is to visit Yellowstone National Park. The world’s first national park, established in 1872 and home of many of the continents most amazing wildlife.
This is a trip of a lifetime. To be accompanied by some of the greatest people I’ve met in my life and to be instructed by some of the most professional professors in BC is something to to take note of.