Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Perito Moreno Glacier

The Perito Moreno Glacier in Parque Nacional de los Glaciares in Southern Argentina, was one of the reasons we decided to make the trip to Patagonia. It was as awe inspiring as expected. Just its sheer size is enough to impress. It is 5 km wide and 60 metres tall at its face.

The best part, however is listening to the glacier moan from pressure, and watch as it calves large chunks of ice from its face. The moreno glacier exhibits these traits because it is growing; one of the only glaciers in the world which is. Actually, on the way to Easter Island Leanna and I watched the Al Gore documentary about global warming which featured the glacier. It was very well done, but unfortunately used a video of the glacier calving to illustrate how glaciers are receding all over the world. Calving glacier means expansion Al!

The colors of the ice are spectacular, changing from a deep blue to brilliant white depending on the weather conditions and the density of ice. I had to include this picture, which looks like we`ve taken a picture in the dark with the glacier lit up, but is actually just the brilliance of the glacier causing a whiteout in the camera.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Hi Everybody,
We are currently in Puerto Natales, Chile, but leaving today for El Calafate in Argentina. Patgonia is beautiful. Cold, and windy but beautiful. The pictures I have here really don't do justice to the variety in the landscape, the colors of the tough, ground hugging plants that survive in these harsh conditions, and the commanding presence of the rock formations that interrupt the long strethes of flat prairie.

We took a tour yesterday to a national park, Torres del Paine. Along the sheep studded hillsides we saw rheas, condors and guanacos, passed through glacier carved valleys, and marvelled at the sheer expanse of the wind-whipped Patagonian steppe.
Unfortunately, our ride out to the park was a little too exciting for our taste. We got into an accident. It wasn't serious, but it could have been. The driver was going too fast along a road under construction and hit the cement base of a pylon which burst one of the front tires. The van then pulled sharply to the right, off the road and bounced off of a steep bank of a hillside which sent us the other way, over the foot high lip of the road under construction, bursting the other front tire. We swerved back and forth until the driver managed to stop. I thought for sure we were going to roll, which would have been very bad since the other side of the road went right into a lake. The van also didn't have any seatbelts so we went for a wild ride inside the van. Besides the shock of it all everyone was fine and we hitched as a group onto a passing bus which took us to the nearest town where the tourism company sent another van so we could continue the trip, only about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule. We really are so lucky.

The mountains at the tip of the Andes in Torres del Paine, shrouded in clouds.

Bits of neon blue ice floating away from the Lake Grey glacier.



Mike hugging a big friendly Milodon, aka a giant sloth whose remains were found in the that cave.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Punta Arenas and the End of the World

Not in the apocalyptic sense, mind you. In the we`re a really, really long way south sense. We decided to head to the Strait of Magellan to see some penguins, and some beautiful scenery. The first step came in the form of Sono Otway Penguin colony, an hour`s trip away from Punta Arenas.

When I think of penguins, I think of the Antarctic ones, which live on the ice, and have sweet ice slides into the water. It was a bit strange to see them in this environment, with no snow to be seen. Cold to be sure, but no snow. Also very interesting to know that they burrow... penguins have burrows? Yes, penguins have burrows.. who knew? They are just as cute and clumsy out of the water as I expected, however.

There were several hundred of them in this colony, which is made up of penguins from the falkland Islands and the southern coast of Brazil. So that means that the little guys come a heck of a long way to get here. They are out in the water hunting for up to 15 hours a day. They`ve got to feed their offspring, who are quickly the same size as their parents.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Easter Island

Couldn`t resist... really now, Easter Island was never going to get any closer than Santiago, so away we went. I regret nothing. Even the expensive flight on LAN Chile (the only airline that flies to Easter Island) was fun. It was on a Boeing 767, loaded with on demand media... screens for every seat, with remote controls where we could choose from several movies, tv shows, CDs and video games. I was impressed.

We could see some of the statues from the plane upon arrival, which was pretty cool. I was a little worried about how much hotels would cost, but they ended up being about the same as in Santiago, and included transportation to and from the airport. The statue I am emulating here is about 3 minutes walk from the hotel.

There were a few showers the first night, but the sunset was nice, and lots of tourists collected in front of the moais (statues) trying to get the perfect silhouette.

The next day we took a stroll 20 kms up to the top of Rano Kau, which is a volcanic crater where the Rapa Nui cult of the birdman would hold it`s yearly competition to see who could swim out to some little islands and retrieve an egg and become the birdman for the year. Spectacular views.

The day after that was a complete write off. Easily more rain in one day than the prairies see in a year. We would see rain like that in Brazil, but only for a short period, not all day. Luckily we planned enough time to let that day go. The following day we took a rather expensive, but worthwile tour with an Aussie named Bill Howe. He made a good tour guide, and in good aussie fashion pulled no punches. The tour went to some noteworthy Ahu (where the moais are erected), then to Rano Raraku, the volcano where the moai are sculpted, and easily the highlight of the trip. The slopes are littered with completed, partially completed, and broken moai from 2 to 12 metres in height.

The moais at Rano Raraku are not quite finished as they have no eye sockets. These were left until the end when they were erected on the Ahu. Each moai represents a tribal chief, and when the cheif dies his spirit is transfered into the moai through the eye sockets. Eyes made of white coral were used, and the spirit could not enter, or once inside, exit without the eyes in place. A few years ago some moai were restored with eyes and all, but the islanders made them take the eyes out, as they were scared of exiting spirits. The islanders are all descendants of the short ears, who wiped out the ruling class long ears, who erected the moai.... so they figure any long ear spirits exiting the moai might be mad...

The moai were also erected with large red topknots called pukao, which could weigh several tons by themselves and were carved on the other side of the island. There are many theories about how they moved these statues, but no one knows for sure. What can be seen is that it wasn`t a foolproof system, and many moai broke in transit to their ahu.

We had a really sweet 5 days, and now are in Santiago, preparing to head to Punta Arenas and the end of the world tomorrow at 10am!

mike and Leanna

Thursday, November 23, 2006

From Buenos Aires to Bariloche

Hi Everyone,
We are currently in a place called Osorno wasting time on a stop-over en route to Santiago, Chile. Since I wrote last, we travelled from Uruguay back across the Rio de la Plata to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Buenos Aires was awesome! I just loved it. It is an extremely sophisticated and bustling city with a European feel to it. The food was incredible...and incredibly cheap too. Mom, you would love it! The Darlings rented an apartment downtown for the 5 of us as a base for our exploring before Becky left from BA after 3 hectic days of mostly shopping.

The first sight we went to see was Rodin´s "Thinker" (a real one this time, unlike the one in Recife) where we met up with Trish and Dave, Mike´s aunt and uncle from Edmonton.

Mike thinking

Buenos Aires is the home of Tango and one of the highlights was going to a Tango dinner show with Ted, Donna, Trish and Dave. Ted and I even got some unexpected lessons as the show was going on with the dancers in the show. I guess I should have known it was coming when the singer winked at me. Next time that will be my cue to head for the bathroom I think...

Ted getting an impromptu lesson.

You have to learn fast when your first lesson is on stage.

Real tango dancers with all the drama and passion you could ask for in a free show on the street.

We also went to Recoleta cemetery, the place where the who's who of Argentine society rests in peace (people like Evita for example). The mausoleums there range from elaborate and imposing to ornate and obstentatious, although some are beter kept than others. Many have subterranean labrynths underneath to hold the urns or coffins of all of the family members entombed there. There was one dishevelled mausoleum containing a coffin that must have been jostled somehow explosing the occupant´s broken bones and skull. Some of them didn´t smell very nice either. Perhaps they were freshly used.


After a week in BA, we spent 24 hours on a bus headed across the Pampas (flatter than the trip to Winnipeg!). This bus ride was no ordinary bus ride though...we had a "super cama" meaning a big comfy chair that reclined all the way. Really and truly, Mike´s parents are spoiling us. We ended up in beautiful Bariloche in the Andes which reminded me a lot of Banff.

Mike being a fruit on Victoria Island

Lake Nahuel Huapi at Bariloche

That is all for now. Will write more soon.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Picture from the 4x4

For some reason the blog wouldnt let me put this one up with the others from Cabo Polonia. This is on the kidney bursting 4x4 ride, before our butts started hurting so much from the bumps that we stopped smiling...(Mikes sister, the infinitely-trendier-than-me Becky, assures me that the sun glasses she lent me are stylish...but I am not convinced they are quite the thing for me. Opinions?)

Also, if anyone is interested, I finally finished the blog entry about the favela tour we took. Go have a look.

Cabo Polonia

Hi Everybody,
Since we have found the cheapest internet as of yet here in Uruguay, we have no excuse not to keep the blog up date while we are here (probably only for 1 more day before we head back to Buenos Aires). Today we chartered a taxi and headed out for Cabo Polonia. After emptying out of the taxi like clowns out of a clown car (a continual problem travelling with 5), we hopped onto a 4x4 to take us out to the dunes and the ocean. The highlight was the sea lions. We spotted some pups out in the ocean and got to see them jump like dolphins. Then we ran into a whole...colony? Is that what you call a whole lot of them? They lugged their giant, hairy, flabby selves from the ocean onto the rocks where they barked and fought...and stunk. Fish breath I guess. We had a great day climbing the lighthosue and playing frisbee on the dunes, capped off by a harrowing ride in the 4x4 on the way back where we chose to sit on some benches way up above the truck itself not realizing that being up their put us at risk for bursting kidneys from all the sliding around and slamming into the bars holding us in.

The Darlings at lunch...best yet in Uruguay (sorry it is the wrong way).

Sea Lions!

Curious creatures these are...one appears to be basking in the sun, the others defending their territory and looking out for predators...


Nope, theyre not ants...just more sealions as seen from the near by light house.


Purty wild flowers.

Looks like an orchid.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Meeting of the Mighty Rivers

Hi Again,
These pics (along with the animal ones below) are from our day in Iguazu. We rented a van for a day and drove across the border to Argentina where we walked the metal walkways out to see the worlds biggest waterfalls. A sacred Indian burial place, they were incredible! We got drenched from the mist standing above them. We couldnt even see all the way to the bottom there was so much mist. Unfortunately I wasnt able to get any pictures of the largest and most impressive part of the falls (known as the Devils throat), it was just too wet to take out a camera. We also got to see a whole bunch of wildlife up close...surprising considering the number of tourists they have there. We also went out on a maid of the mist style boat to get a closer look. Closer doesnt quite describe it. We got UNDER a part of the falls...and soaked. Boat ride was fun though.

As I mentioned in the last entry, we are now in Uruguay and hoping to see some penguins and sea lions purported to be around here. Well let you know how it goes.

One small piece of the massive Iguazu falls.

Same small piece, different angle.


Coati doing his thing digging through the trash.

Downtown Montevideo.

Statue of Artiga, the national hero here in Uruguay.

Mike and Donna in Montevideo.

Mike in La Paloma.

The Darlings!

Hi Everyone,
Meet Becky, Donna and Ted (Mikes family). They arrived about a week ago in Rio to share a part of our adventure and we are having an great time. Actually, right now we are in La Paloma in Uruguay. After Rio, we intended to go to Argentina, but in hopes of catching some sunshine we decided to head here instead. No luck yet though. Nonetheless, Becky has somehow managed to equal our tans and did so after only a couple days as compared to our 6 months.

Before I get too far, let me apologize for not using apostrophes in this blog...I cant find them on this keyboard...

Anwyay, during the Darlings few days in Rio, we got to see a beach soccer game in the FIFA World Cup beach soccer tournament (Canada vs. Iran...Canada won!). Who knew we had beach soccer in Canada? As every tourist must, we went up to Christo Redentor, the 30m high giant Jesus statue on Corcovado (meaning Hunchback). We also spent a morning in the botanical gardens, looked at the Museum on the Republic (Mikes and my second time, see the earlier blog for info) and did lots of shopping...well at least Becky and Donna did. Unfortunately, for Mike and I, things dont seem so cheap anymore (even though they are compared to home...but not compared to Recife), so there wasnt too much buying going on for us. We are definitely in scrimp mode. Which means that we are living in comparative luxury while the Darlings are here. They have been spoiling us! Its been awesome!!!

Jesus loves you this much! The archetypal tourist picture on Corcovado...

Save me Jebus!

Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ!

Mike and I with a bit of Sugar Loaf behind us.

Sweet picture looking into Guanabara bay.

This is a picture of the shirt that Getulio Vargas shot himself in from the Museum of the Republic. Very creepy. See the blog entitled Her name was lola, she was a showgirl... for a brief explanation.

The blog seems to have a limit of pictures I can put up and stopped me after I put up these next couple so the pictures that belong with them will have to wait until next time. They are from our few days in Iguazu and were all taken on the Argentine side of the falls.

Cute little guy who was just about to get into the garbage. I think it is called a Coati.

Not so cute, not so little guy. Dont know what he is.

One of hundred of butterflies we saw at Iguazu. It is almost like being at the conservatory at the zoo there were so many. Just awesome!