Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mud stripes on your back aren't so cool

Ah, California, a place where your bike just doesn't need no stinkin' fenders. Alas, those days are gone, and our touring bikes, a pair of Dahon Tournado, were in need. Enter Woody's Custom Fenders in Bend, OR. Custom mahogany, maple and wenge. Cody even signed them. Problem solved.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Alps - go there

Some photos from a recent visit to the Swiss Alps. Fall is a beautiful time to visit, and it is far less crowded than summer. In some villages, we were the only ones there...





...since they knew the snow would soon come. But no matter; it is a good excuse to eat more warm rosti.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Torres del Paine (part 2)

The next part of the trip involved going up the Valle Frances. Most people do this as a day hike but we elected to stay a night up at Camp Britanico. Ours was one of only two tents up there. I could tell you why we wanted more time there, but its easier to just show you-





Monday, February 6, 2012

Torres del Paine (part 1)


Well, that was a bit more of a delay in posts than anticipated. In between the last post and this one, there were some major file movements, operating system upgrades, photo management changes, etc. So in the interest of moving forward, I'll proceed directly to the part where we backpacked in Torres del Paine.

So we backpacked in Torres del Paine.




Getting there is easy. Get to the airport in Santiago. Fly to Puerto Montt. Stop. Then fly to the end of the world, Punta Arenas. Get off the plane. Get back on the same plane, then fly back to Puerto Natales. Land on a runway that surely can't be long enough, but magically is. De-plane, and fight for one of the 2 or 3 cars waiting to pick up any passengers. Note that this place seems sort of windy.

Puerto Natales
We spent a day and a half in Natales, home to nearly 20,000 people, getting some last minute supplies and making arrangements to get to Torres del Paine. The weather had been very wet for weeks prior to our visit, and forecasts showed more of the same. In addition, the night before we left for the park, the wind was howling. While poor weather wasn't necessarily a deal-breaker, we really hoped to be able to see something while there. Twelve hours later under blue skies, we were on foot, climbing up Valle Ascencio, loaded for seven days of fun.

Torres del Paine park
The route we took is known as the 'W', due to the shape of the journey when looking at it on a map. Most guidebooks and websites I saw said that the traditional way to do it is east to west, so they all advised going west to east instead, finishing with the viewpoint of the Torres themselves. Funny thing is, nearly everyone we talked to was going west to east, so if the primary argument for doing this was to avoid crowds, well, scratch that. Still, we too planned to do this until the last minute. At one point, you have to board the bus which will take you one way or the other, and with a unpredicted break in the weather, we decided to go to the Torres first, then go east to west, in case the weather prevented us from seeing the peaks the rest of the week.

Valle Ascencio
The clear weather continued and we had great views as we hiked up the valley. This valley sees a lot of dayhiker activity, so we saw a lot 'people variety'. Apparently, 80% of park visitors are international, so we enjoyed seeing all the different fashions and packing methods. More on that later. The first night would be spent at Campamento Torres, about an hour below the viewpoint of the famous Torres themselves. We set up camp away from other tents (note- you MUST camp in the designated campgrounds, period, at Torres del Paine), then climbed up to see the Torres that evening, reaching the viewpoint around 6pm. Most come up in the morning, so we were shocked to have it to ourselves, under cloudy but accommodating skies. A truly stunning, and humbling place.

Torre Sur, Central and Norte
We came back to camp to find three tents set up next to ours. As in a less than two meters away. Lots of other empty campsites where they could have been by themselves were available, and they were noisy. What is wrong with some people? Mosquitos were heavier over breakfast. Breakfast burritos. We broke camp and returned down the valley, with Refugio Cuernos as the next destination.

This was a long day, about 6-7 hours not counting any breaks, but thanks to continued surprising good weather, the views made it easier. After descending out of Valle Ascencio, the trail is pretty flat until about an hour away from Cuernos. Upon cresting one of these ascents, Lake Nordenskjold and entrance of Valle Frances become visible, and its hard to believe what you are seeing is real. From here, its a long descent down to Refugio Cuernos.

Punta Bariloche, Cuerno Principal, and Lago Nordenskjold
What is a refugio? Think of it as a hut system that offers room and board. They all serve meals, some even have stores where you can buy supplies. They accommodate tent camping as well, which is what we did. In the case of Cuernos, there is little alternative; the next campsite was another three hours away, it was getting late, and we were getting hungry. So hungry, in fact, that we decided to get dinner here, just to say we tried it once.

Anticipating dinner under Cuerno Principal
It was here we finally discovered the great Chilean invention, the Pisco Sour apertif. They are fabulous, and potent...one is plenty. Dinner was delicious, with perfectly cooked chicken, red wine, and two American couples next to us who were heatedly trying compare with each other who had travelled more. Yawn, we stayed out of it.

More to come.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Santiago

Last weekend, we returned from a two week visit to everyone's favorite skinny country, Chile. Really, flying over it, you can see the ocean out one window, and the Andes out the other. And that's it; it is all Argentina from there.

We'll focus on Santiago for this post. But first, a little information about getting there. Because we used miles to get our tickets this past summer, we had a pretty wacky flight routing: San Francisco -> Toronto -> Santiago, making for seventeen hours in the air total. This makes for a good time to catch up on movies. And by the way, Air Canada has good equipment and service these days, so check them out. Too bad they fly through Toronto airport, which tries to foil this good experience at every turn. Anyhow, as an American, landing in Santiago means $140 before customs will let you out of the airport. This fee covers the life of your passport. Bionica's passport expires in three months. Oh well. Fifteen minutes later via taxi, and you are in Santiago.

                                                                                                                                                      Santiago is modern. If you are expecting to get there and find what most Americans think a South American city looks like, go back to the airport and fly to La Paz. Apparently, the city has really boomed over the past fifteen to twenty years, which means a glass highrise sits next to a 200 year old church. We had three days in the city, and tried to find some diversity. If you want boutiques and all general things foo foo, there are neighborhoods for that. If you want to just eat street food and find sidewalk vendors selling whatever fell off a truck, there are neighborhoods for that too. We tended to gravitate towards the latter. But whatever you choose, the Metro rail network can get you there pretty quickly, so don't bother to rent a car. One thing: you can get away with English in many major cities in the world, but not so much in Santiago. Practice your Spanish.

                                               

We saw many of the sights, like the Plaza de Armas (the original 'town square' from the city founded in 1541) and La Moneta (the presidential building). In addition to being the current executive office and residence, La Moneta is also where Pinochet carried out his military coup and overthrew Allende. A brutal regime followed. This was only 38 years ago, and is more evidence how far Santiago, and Chile, have come in a short amount of time.

Although we did not come to Chile specifically to see the cities, we enjoyed our time there. Beautiful weather (90 F / 32C everyday), incredibly friendly people and surprises around every corner.  




Friday, November 25, 2011

Highlights

Wow, it is nearly December. Sorry about that; here's a recap of what has been going on around chez small adventure:

September - Bionica and I flew to Seattle to meet up with my work mates and Bionica's sister for a 3 day backpack trip in the Cascades. The idea here was to get photos that could be used for work material in the future, so we were relieved to get good weather for most of the trip. Day one to Gravel Lake. Day two was a dayhike to lunch atop Alaska Peak, which must have made the Alaskans in the group happy, or furious that such a wimpy peak was so named, not sure. Day 3 back down in a light rain.


October - The annual Swiss trip. After some serious work during the week, my coworkers and I had the opportunity to visit the Alps, this time staying at a hut in the above Meiringen belonging to our workmate and friend, Claudia. Claudia puts on quite a show for visitors: we were fed and entertained like kings with homemade breads, cakes, meats and cheeses. It [just barely] wasn't all eating, as we hiked from her hut in Selialp to the Tschingel, high above the valley. From here you can see over Grosse Scheidegg to the Eiger and more. Great weather for being so deep into fall...this was a fun experience.

Happenings for November/December to come. There are some good ones.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Crowd Control

We tend to stay home over three day weekends. I admit that some of it is due to my inability to make plans far enough ahead of time. However, the other part of it is due to the crowds: let's face the fact that the weekends to get away from it all are typically anything but. Every cute town, campsite, trail, paddling area, bike route and more is inundated with people looking to live it up.

This year, we were no different. Bionica had a rare full three day weekend so we made a backpacking trip of it. Not knowing a lot about the Sierras still, the places I found were likely the places everyone knows about i.e. Desolation Wilderness. After some research, it seemed our best bet was to enter from the west side of the area and not the Tahoe side, if we wanted to avoid crowds. Got a permit online (good sign) and made plans.



Fast forward weeks later, and we are at the trailhead parking area. There's a swarm of kids running around, one boy telling another that HIS dad brought a hatchet. More cars are pulling in. The prospects of low-key are not looking good. Still we left for our destination, Rockbound Lake and hope for the best. The trail itself is pretty easy overall, but certainly rocky over the last third of the hike.



By the time we get there, all was quiet. Campsites were not immediately obvious, but we found a good one eventually. An hour later, after some searching, we figured it out...we were the ONLY ones there. The entire lake was ours. Dinner above the lake shore, clear skies, and a light breeze. The next day was lounging, snacking, exploring, reading, etc. Back home the third day. Turns out that this three day weekend really was about getting away from it all. Who knew?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dog days



Summer is chugging along here in small adventureland. Work life has meant some travel for myself, and some big hours for my better-half, but we still manage to get out and about when we get the chance. Marin, the East Bay hills, Pescadero/La Honda - nice places to have nearby. Weekends, for now, are a rare and precious commodity.


As some of you already know, we have picked out the location of our next adventure, and have the tickets in hand. We leave for Chile on US Thanskgiving day and will spend 14 days checking it out. There is amazing variety there, and we haven't quite committed to an itinerary yet. If any of you have been there and have suggestions, I'd love to hear them.

Last, Kaj and myself made an experimental podcast recently. This is more of a proof-of-concept exercise for round one, but now that I know how to do it, expect more (and better) episodes to come.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travelling with Josh - Iceland

As seen recently on Facebook-

Friday, June 3, 2011

Iceland - Blue Lagoon



Blue Lagoon - If you are wondering what Iceland's biggest tourist attraction is, here it is. This is funny for a country that is known for its natural beauty, as the lagoon is a by-product of a geothermal plant. Water from underground is naturally heated and brought to the surface to drive steam turbines and generate electricity. The runoff water, still hot, is piped into a lava field, creating the 'lagoon'. That color comes from an algae, silica and mineral mash up, and at some point, a local jumped in for a swim and decided it made their skin feel better. Fast forward to now, and you have a spa, nearby hotel and lagoon-side bar. The silica mud is sold in boutiques in small, expensive tubes.

We had a stop and soak on our way to the airport. So what do you get for your 30 EUR a head? Well, not a towel; that's 8 EUR extra. But the lagoon is roomy, with plenty of space to find a spot and soak in the water. The temperature averages about 100 degrees F but varies depending on where you stand; wood structures on the side of the pool pump new hot water in. The nearer you stand, the warmer it gets. Also along the side is the famous silica mud, white in color. This is supposed to be good for the skin, so everyone takes a big scoop and puts it on their face. In case the scene was not alien-looking enough.

There are plenty of other ways to get your heated water fix in this country (future post soon), but we found it worth a visit, staying in for about two hours. And fear not, you can get a hot dog at the Blue Lagoon; it is Iceland, after all...




Monday, May 23, 2011

Iceland - Snacks

Hot Dogs - Iceland has a thing for pylsur (hot dogs), and think they make the best ones in the world. "One with everything" is a national phrase, and every gas station in Iceland has a special wave-shaped metal rack designed to hold a hot dog securely. The mecca for hot dogs is a small stand in Reykjavik that has been there since 1935; it is open until 3am, always has a line (see below), and everyone insists they make the best pylsur there is. The dog adds lamb to the pork and beef you're used to, and one with everything comes with ketchup, a tangy remoulade, a little mayo and crispy onion bits.

The Guardian UK calls it Europe's best hot dog. I don't know if Michael Pollan would like it, but I'm a fan.

Lamb - A traditional dish when roasted. Here's a before and after shot:


Fish - Snacks to go...

...and fish and chips (the malt vinegar cost extra; welcome to Iceland)...

...and lobster soup. Happy eating.